Antidepressant Addiction and Abuse

Depression is a common mental health disorder that affects millions of individuals all throughout the world. It often develops during early adulthood and can cause symptoms that make everyday life feel like a challenge. Depression is caused when certain brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters, are off-balance and need regulation.

Fortunately, there are many types of treatment options that can help ease symptoms of depression. Medications, classified as antidepressants are commonly used to help reduce these negative symptoms and help those battling this mental disorder to enjoy their life again.

Symptoms of depression can include:

  • Feelings of emptiness, guilt, irritability, and worthlessness
  • Lack of energy
  • Loss of interest in once enjoyed activities
  • Excessive crying
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia or oversleeping
  • Restlessness
  • Trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • Loss of appetite or overeating
  • Suicidal thought or suicide attempts

Antidepressant drugs can help reduce or treat symptoms of depression by balancing specific neurotransmitters in the brain, increasing feelings of happiness and well-being. However, when used incorrectly, these medications can cause harmful and even life-threatening effects.


Understanding Antidepressants

Antidepressants are prescribed medications used to help treat mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These types of drugs work by balancing hormones in the brain to enhance feelings of happiness and well-being, improve sleep, and regulate stress.

The most common types of antidepressants are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and bupropion. Each of these types of antidepressants works by affecting the chemicals in the brain, tied to mood and well-being.

SSRI’s work by increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is the hormone that allows for feelings of happiness and mood stabilization. SNRIs increase levels of serotonin and balance the levels of norepinephrine. Norepinephrine is the hormone that regulates stress. Bupropion works by increasing or balancing the levels of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, the hormone that allows for feelings of pleasure.

Some common antidepressant medications include:


  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Citalopram (Celexa)


  • Venlafaxine (Effexor)
  • Duloxetine (Cymbalta)
  • Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq)

Bupropion is most commonly known as the brand name Wellbutrin or Aplenzin.

There are several other types of antidepressants available such as tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), tetracyclic antidepressants, or dopamine reuptake blockers. It may take up to 6 weeks for the medications to work and in some cases, the medications may worsen the symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Antidepressants can greatly impact and alter the mental health of those suffering from a mood disorder. With the help of a doctor, you can find the right medication that works for your brain chemistry and start to treat any negative symptoms of depression.

Antidepressant Dependence VS. Addiction

Although antidepressants can be helpful for managing symptoms of depression or other mental health disorders, they can also have negative effects, such as drug dependency or drug addiction. When an antidepressant medication is prescribed for a long period of time, or when being abused, a person is likely to develop a physical dependence to the drug.

Antidepressant dependence can be described as when an individual’s body and well-being has adapted to using the medications to function. The individual may experience withdrawal effects if they abruptly stop using the drug. You should always speak with your doctor first when considering discontinuing the use of antidepressant medications to avoid any dangerous withdrawal symptoms or health complications.

While drug addiction often causes a person to behave in destructive and compulsive ways, antidepressant dependency does not typically carry those same risks. People are often unaware of their drug dependency due to their medication being prescribed and monitored by a doctor, however, in other circumstances, dependency can lead to an addiction.

Many antidepressants have a risk of being addictive, especially when used incorrectly. Addiction to antidepressants can be diagnosed as a substance use disorder (SUD), ranging from mild, moderate, or severe. Antidepressant addiction is usually in conjunction with other drug addictions such as alcohol or cocaine and typically starts after someone has continuously abused the medication.

There are several types of treatment options available for both antidepressant dependence and addiction to help suffering individuals treat their mental health disorders and find alternatives to living a healthy life.

Antidepressant Abuse and Addiction

There are plenty of ways in which antidepressants are abused. Although these medications do not typically produce the desired effects many other drugs can cause (feelings of extreme happiness or intense euphoria), because they are still mood-altering substances, they are often abused.

Signs that someone may be abusing antidepressants include:

  • Taking more of the medication than as instructed or prescribed
  • Taking the medication without a prescription
  • Mixing the medication with other drugs to enhance the feeling
  • Obsessing over the medication (drug cravings)
  • Continued use of the medication despite negative outcomes
  • Requiring more of the medication to reach desired effect (tolerance)

Abusing antidepressants often leads to the development of an addiction. Although antidepressant addiction may look different than an addiction to more commonly abused drugs such as alcohol or methamphetamines, it can still result in harmful outcomes and may require medical support to ensure a safe and successful recovery.

Effects of Antidepressants

Antidepressants work differently for each person but the effects of starting a new medication should always be closely monitored. Common side effects of antidepressants include:

  • Increased anxiety or agitation
  • Nausea
  • Weight gain
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Frequent dizziness
  • Drowsiness or feeling very sleepy
  • Insomnia
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Excessive sweating or night sweats

For most, the mild effects of antidepressants are worth the outcome of taking these medications. Speak with your doctor about any occurring side effects or possible concerns before stopping the use of the medication.

In more severe cases, antidepressants can cause serious health concerns such as seizures, irregular heartbeat, unconsciousness, psychosis, and thoughts of self-harm or suicide. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, seek medical help immediately.

Antidepressant Overdose

Engaging in any form of drug abuse increases the chance of experiencing dangerous and risky side effects such as seizures, difficulty breathing, cardiac arrest, black-out episodes, or overdose. An antidepressant drug overdose can result in several different health issues, and in the most severe cases, can cause death.

Seek medical help immediately if you or someone you know are experiencing any of these signs of antidepressant overdose:

  • Loss of coordination
  • Uncontrolled shaking or tremors
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Convulsions

Mixing other drugs with antidepressants increases the chance of seizures, blackouts, or overdosing. The most common drug mixed with antidepressants is alcohol. Doctors recommend avoiding the consumption of alcohol while taking antidepressants as it can increase the symptoms of anxiety and depression and cause serious effects such as overdose, or death.

Contact Quit Addiction Now (888 974-2973) to learn more about antidepressant abuse and addiction and to learn about the resources and treatment options available to you.

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