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Antidepressant Addiction and Abuse

Antidepressant Addiction and Abuse

Antidepressants are medications for treating depressive disorders and other conditions. Learn more about antidepressant addiction here.

What Are Antidepressants?

Antidepressants are medications used for treating depressive disorders, addictions, and other medical conditions such as chronic pain.

Antidepressants work by altering the brain’s chemical makeup. Certain chemicals in the brain, known as neurotransmitters, affect mood and emotions. Antidepressants are used to bring the levels of these chemicals to moderate rates such that negative effects like depression, lack of sleep or concentration, and addiction to certain drugs can be corrected. 1

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Antidepressant as a Treatment Option

While antidepressants relieve the symptoms of certain conditions, they do not usually treat the underlying causes. Therefore, antidepressants are often administered in combination with other medications or therapy to treat the depression or disorder. 2

Types of Antidepressants

Antidepressant drugs are classified into different types based on how they work on the brain to relieve unwanted symptoms. The major classes of antidepressants are:

SSRI and SNRI

This class contains the most used antidepressants across the world. They are generally known to cause fewer side effects and have less likelihood of occurring overdose symptoms. Examples are Fluoxetine and Duloxetine. 3

Noradrenaline and Specific Serotonergic Antidepressants
These work similarly to SSRIs. They are prescribed to those for whom SSRIs may not be effective and are also thought to cause fewer sexual problems.

Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs)
TCAs are older kinds of antidepressants prescribed to patients. They are no longer recommended as the first
treatment for depression as they cause more unpleasant side effects. However, they are effective for treating severe depression. Examples of TCAs are amitriptyline and clomipramine.

Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors
These are also old kinds of antidepressants that are now rarely in use. They cause severe effects and are highly risky if taken in overdoses.

Are Antidepressants Addictive?

 antidepressant addiction

Medically, antidepressants are not considered as addictive in that sense as psychoactive drugs. However, users can become so dependent on them that they begin to experience uncomfortable symptoms when they withdraw or have not taken them in a while. 4

Since antidepressants alter chemical levels in the brain, not taking them can make users feel a loss of some of the effects they would typically experience. These may cause some other awkward symptoms as the body takes time to adjust to the new chemical levels.

Abusing antidepressants will further increase dependency and make withdrawal psychologically bearing.

Signs of Antidepressant Abuse

Like all medications, antidepressants present users with side effects when used for long periods or abused within a short time. Some of the most common signs of antidepressant abuse will be detailed below.


Bloodshot Eyes
Some antidepressants may cause the blood vessels in the eyes to become enlarged, giving the eyes a visible red color immediately after they are taken in large doses.

Diminished Appearance
Frequent use of antidepressants can cause obvious weight loss in the user. Some antidepressants cause weight loss directly, while others cause decreased appetite in users, causing them to become emaciated over weeks of use.

Financial Difficulties
One of the key indicators of antidepressant abuse is financial difficulties. As addiction makes it harder to concentrate, it becomes more strenuous to focus on work and make a living. Also, purchasing antidepressant medications frequently can have a major impact on finances.

Changes in Appetite
Depending on the class of antidepressants and the user, these medications can cause noticeable changes in appetite levels ranging from increased to decreased appetite.

Odd Sleep Habits
Antidepressant addiction can cause insomnia (inability to sleep) or a constant feeling of sleepiness.

Slurred Speech
Another sign of dependence on antidepressants might be slurred speech and other symptoms like drowsiness and dizziness.

Long-Term Side Effects of Antidepressants

The abuse of antidepressant drugs could bring side effects that are even harder or impossible to treat. Some of them are:

Sudden Cardiac Arrest
Long-term use of antidepressants can affect heart function, potentially leading to a sudden cardiac arrest and immediate death.

Changes in Heart Rhythm

Several antidepressants have been proven to dangerously increase or decrease the heart rhythm to dangerous levels.5

Decreased Sex Drive

Long-term use of antidepressants can cause decreased sex drive and trigger other symptoms like vaginal dryness and erectile dysfunction.

Inability to Orgasm

It has been reported that abusing antidepressant medication may make reaching orgasm difficult or make users unable to orgasm. 6

Nausea
Nausea is a common side effect of using antidepressants in many. However, the symptom may persist for weeks after the medication has been stopped.

Dizziness
Antidepressants alter sleep patterns, and may also affect coordination causing frequent dizziness, fainting, and confusion.

Signs of Antidepressant Abuse

Like all medications, antidepressants present users with side effects when used for long periods or abused within a short time. Some of the most common signs of antidepressant abuse will be detailed below.


Bloodshot Eyes
Some antidepressants may cause the blood vessels in the eyes to become enlarged, giving the eyes a visible red color immediately after they are taken in large doses.

Diminished Appearance
Frequent use of antidepressants can cause obvious weight loss in the user. Some antidepressants cause weight loss directly, while others cause decreased appetite in users, causing them to become emaciated over weeks of use.

Financial Difficulties
One of the key indicators of antidepressant abuse is financial difficulties. As addiction makes it harder to concentrate, it becomes more strenuous to focus on work and make a living. Also, purchasing antidepressant medications frequently can have a major impact on finances.

Changes in Appetite
Depending on the class of antidepressants and the user, these medications can cause noticeable changes in appetite levels ranging from increased to decreased appetite.

Odd Sleep Habits
Antidepressant addiction can cause insomnia (inability to sleep) or a constant feeling of sleepiness.

Slurred Speech
Another sign of dependence on antidepressants might be slurred speech and other symptoms like drowsiness and dizziness.

Long-Term Side Effects of Antidepressants
The abuse of antidepressant drugs could bring side effects that are even harder or impossible to treat. Some of them are:

Sudden Cardiac Arrest
Long-term use of antidepressants can affect heart function, potentially leading to a sudden cardiac arrest and immediate death.

Inability to Orgasm

It has been reported that abusing antidepressant medication may make reaching orgasm difficult or make users unable to orgasm. 6

Nausea
Nausea is a common side effect of using antidepressants in many. However, the symptom may persist for weeks after the medication has been stopped.

Dizziness
Antidepressants alter sleep patterns, and may also affect coordination causing frequent dizziness, fainting, and confusion.

Withdrawal Side Effects of Antidepressants Addiction

Because users can build dependency overtime, antidepressant withdrawal may cause unpleasant side effects such as:


Intense Dreams
Within the first few days of withdrawal, users may experience intense or vivid dreams.

Anxiety
Overdependence on antidepressants may cause anxiety feelings that last for weeks or months after withdrawal.

Fatigue
Withdrawing from antidepressant drugs may cause noticeable levels of fatigue. This would usually go away within a few days or weeks.

Irritability
It is possible to be very irritable within the first few days of stopping antidepressant medications.


Other symptoms of antidepressant withdrawal are:

  • Headaches
  • Chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Electric shock sensations
  • Mood swings

How Are Antidepressants Risky?

Antidepressant Addiction

Antidepressant Addiction

While antidepressants are very effective for relieving most symptoms of depression and other disorders, they pose several side effects with long-term use of overdose and can be very hard to withdraw from.

Note that some classes of antidepressants are more likely to cause side effects than others. Generally, antidepressant users should stick strictly to the prescription of their medical practitioners and report immediately if they notice
signs of dependence or strange symptoms in the body.

Get Help for Antidepressant Addiction and Abuse at Genesis Recovery

Thankfully, it is easier to get off antidepressant abuse than psychoactive substances like marijuana. Users should understand that there are several benefits of getting off antidepressants and should therefore be willing to stop taking them once they are done with the medically prescribed dosages.

However, in the case of addiction, the best way to recover quickly is to reach out to experts for professional recovery guidance.
Genesis Recovery is a drug and alcohol abuse rehab center fit for all abuse and addiction recovery needs, including antidepressant addiction. Finalize your journey to wholesome health by contacting Genesis Recovery today.