Are Antidepressants Addictive?

Sometimes people are wary of taking prescription medications because they fear they may become addicted to them. While it is healthy to be concerned about the potential risks of prescription medications, it’s unhealthy to avoid taking medications you need based on false assumptions and fears. If you’ve been prescribed antidepressants for depression, anxiety or another disorder, you should know the following facts about antidepressants and addiction.

Can you become addicted to antidepressants?

No. Antidepressants are not considered addictive because they’re not habit forming and don’t create cravings or drug-seeking behavior. Perhaps one of the reasons people falsely believe antidepressants are addictive is because abruptly stopping antidepressants can cause withdrawal-like symptoms, such as fatigue, nausea, dizziness and irritability. Even though these symptoms are sometimes referred to as antidepressant withdrawal, the proper term for these symptoms is discontinuation syndrome.

What is discontinuation syndrome?

Discontinuation syndrome is the name given to the set of symptoms experienced by people who come off antidepressants too quickly. These symptoms vary and can include fatigue, nausea, insomnia, anxiety, dizziness, muscle pain, blurred vision, irritability, hallucinations, tingling sensations, vivid dreams, sweating and electric shock sensations. The severity of these symptoms also varies from mild, flu-like symptoms to debilitating symptoms. No one knows exactly why discontinuation syndrome occurs, but it is believed to occur because of a temporary deficiency of serotonin caused by no longer using the drug and the down-regulation of postsynaptic receptors.

How can I avoid antidepressant withdrawal/discontinuation syndrome?

The best way to avoid antidepressant withdrawal/discontinuation syndrome is to come off your antidepressants slowly over a period of several weeks. Even if you feel great, you should never attempt to come off antidepressants without consulting your doctor first. Once your doctor determines that it’s safe for you to come off antidepressants, he can adjust your dosage level accordingly and taper it at a pace that allows your brain to adjust to the absence of the medication. During this time it is recommended that you continue psychotherapy to ensure the discontinuation syndrome symptoms don’t trigger a relapse. You can also try holistic methods such as yoga, acupuncture, meditation and herbal and natural supplements to help ease uncomfortable discontinuation syndrome symptoms.

If you’ve decided to come off antidepressants, the most important thing you can do is consult with a doctor or mental health practitioner. At Casa Palmera, we believe in a holistic approach to mental health treatment that combines traditional antidepressant and talk therapy with natural methods of mental health treatment. The result is a total mind, body and emotional healing. If you feel like you’re ready to come off antidepressants, call Casa Palmera today and ask how our holistic depression/anxiety treatment program can help you accomplish your goals.

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