Can You Become Addicted to Antideppresants

Are prescribed antidepressants a drug addiction in America?  There are a broad category of psychotropic drugs prescribed most commonly for treating depression and anxiety, and arguably, many get hooked.  Brains can become not only physically dependent on the drug, but those taking the medication over the long-term can become emotionally dependent on them as well.  So much that they can’t bear the thought of stopping due to this prescription drug addiction.  The fear is real and can sometimes be misleading.  However, some people truly need the medication to balance an imbalance in their brain.

According to the definition of a psychotropic drug is  – any drug capable of affecting the mind, emotions, and behavior.  They typically work by changing important chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.

Between 2011 and 2014, approximately one in nine Americans of all ages reported taking at least one antidepressant medication in the past month, according to national survey data about prescription drug addiction released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Three decades ago, less than one in 50 people did.  This is obviously a significant development.  More importantly, long-term use of antidepressants for five or more years has tripled since 2000 to 16 million Americans today.  More than 25 million have been on antidepressants for at least 2 years since 2010, a 60% increase.  Are all these users truly in need of the medication, or are they being used as a replacement for lifestyle choices?

Many illicit drugs, such as cocaine, crack cocaine, ecstasy, LSD, ephedrine, mescaline, also considered psychotropic and are known as psychodynamic drugs and highly addictive.

Frequently Prescribed Psychotropic Drugs:

  • Xanax (alprazolam), 48.5 million.
  • Zoloft (sertraline), 41.4 million.
  • Celexa (citalopram), 39.4 million.
  • Prozac (fluoxetine), 28.3 million.
  • Ativan (lorazepam), 27.9 million.
  • Desyrel (trazodone HCL), 26.2 million.
  • Lexapro (escitalopram), 24.9 million.

Self-medicating Withdrawal Symptoms

The drugs have helped millions of people ease depression and anxiety. Many are able to stop the medication without significant trouble and many develop an addiction to them.  The NY Times reports there are 25 million or more people in the United States who have an addiction problem for two years or longer as a result of withdrawal symptoms they were not warned about. The drugs were originally considered a short-term treatment for episodic mood problems to be taken anywhere from 2 to 6 months.

Your doctor may prescribe an antidepressant to help boost your mood or ease your anxiety.  But, as soon as you feel better, you might assume you no longer need the medicine so you make a unilateral decision to stop taking it.  When antidepressants are suddenly stopped, the body may respond with debilitating physical and emotional symptoms caused by the sudden absence of increased serotonin.  About one in five people who take an antidepressant for six or more weeks may experience discontinuation symptoms if they suddenly stop taking the medicine. Tapering down your medication gradually under the supervision of your healthcare provider can help avoid or minimize symptoms.

Symptoms of Antidepressant Withdrawal Include:


Prescribing Responsibly

Responsible healthcare providers will avoid getting their patients addicted to drugs and prescribe anti-depressants only as a supplement to therapy and not as a replacement for therapy.  All too often psychotropic drugs by themselves are not enough.  Social support from family and friends, structured therapy, lifestyle changes, and in-patient rehabilitation are some of the therapies which should be considered before prescribed medications. Some individuals who are prescribed psychiatric medications may prefer to not take them or they find that these medications do not improve their symptoms enough to outweigh any side effects and risk.

Medications that work well for one person may not work well for another and the key is to not develop an addiction to them.  It is critical to have an in-depth conversation with your health provider about your medical history, symptoms, diagnosis, any particular drug’s efficacy rate, and goals before beginning any psychotropic medication.  You cannot legally purchase psychotropic medication without a prescription.

Be mindful of prescription drugs like anti-depressants given freely to treat situational anxiety or feelings of sadness.  Those feelings might otherwise be appropriate and important to feel for the circumstances, and which would likely taper off all by themselves over time, especially when good lifestyle choices such as cardiovascular exercise, a healthy diet, and social support are on board.

If you feel that you or a loved one is addicted to psychotropics, call our inpatient medically assisted drug treatment center  Get Real Recovery for help.  866-983-3651

Written By Barry Diamond, Writer/Comedian/Actor

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