Posted by: jedwardswright | June 27, 2011

Can I Become Addicted to Antidepressants?

The decision to begin taking antidepressants can be complicated by common doubts or fears. Many of us are hesitant to take medications of any kind, so we seek out natural remedies or non-medicinal therapies first.

 Unfortunately, those of us with clinical depression aka Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) often find these methods insufficient. If our brain chemistry is seriously out of balance, our doctors will suggest we try antidepressants and get out their prescription pads.

When faced with the possibility of taking depression meds, patients often ask two related questions. Are antidepressants habit-forming and will I always need to take this medication?

Question #1   Are antidepressants habit-forming? Can I become addicted to an antidepressant medication?

Before adding any new medication, it is always wise to ask about any possibility that the drug is habit-forming as well as what are common side-effects. This issue is particularly of concern to individuals who have experienced substance-abuse problems or who have a family history of addiction.

Antidepressants are considered to be non-addictive by the medical and scientific community.

Confusion about this matter has arisen because with certain antidepressants some individuals will experience withdrawal symptoms when discontinuing these drugs, particularly if the medication is quit abruptly and completely.[i] For this reason, most psychiatrists recommend that patients coming off of antidepressants cut back very gradually in order to avoid strong reactions.

However, since other signs of addiction such as tolerance and compulsive use have not been observed in patients taking antidepressants, they are considered to be non-habit-forming.[ii] Possible exceptions which should be avoided by anyone prone to addiction are Tranylcypromine and amineptine.[iii]

In my online counseling of people with depression, I have always strongly urged my web contacts not to quit medications suddenly and to only stop antidepressants under the supervision of a medical professional.  Sadly and ironically, one of the consequences of abrupt antidepressant discontinuation can be depression and suicidal impulses. For this reason, some individuals who discontinue their meds may be considered to be relapsing when in fact they are experiencing the symptoms of withdrawal.

This naturally leads into the second question: “Do I need to be on antidepressants forever?” which will be the subject of another A Darker Shade of Blue post. Stay tuned!

 

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Responses

  1. When people ask me the question I get annoyed and have to be careful. My brain doesn’t work the same as yours, I want to shout. Is a diabetic ‘addicted’ to their insulin? No, their body needs it to function. In the same way my body needs my meds to function. I understand that for some, their bodies may self regulate in the future and they may be able to come off of the medicine. I don’t forsee that being my future. And I’m finally fine with that. This is me. This is my brain. This is my brain on drugs. And it’s a beautiful thing. (and I’m soooo using that line I just thought of for a blog post!)

  2. I love it when someone else’s blog gives me an idea for a post. It is so much better than just sitting at the keyboard wondering what to say next! 🙂
    It is frustrating how little most of the public understand about depression, but I suppose the upside is that we get opportunities to educate others when they ask these questions. The comparison to diabetes is my favorite way to explain the meds situation as well.
    Jodi

  3. […] day I was reading a post about depression and anitdepressants by Jodi Edwards Wright over at A Darker Shade of Blue. As always she addressed the questions surrounding that issue so well. It’s about people […]


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