Although your primary care doctor can prescribe antidepressants it’s unlikely that he’ll do so effectively.
As such, they might recommend that you visit a psychiatrist that can prescribe you the necessary medicines.
Each expert has a different approach to the subject of mental health.
Some focus on your current problems while others dig deeper, searching for past events that might’ve caused your situation.
That being said, unless you have informed them of significant substance abuse problems in the past, the topic of antidepressants is bound to come up sooner or later.
Antidepressants can change the way that the brain functions, alleviating the symptoms of anxiety and depression and making it easier for you to overcome them.
Many people would tell you that they can’t live without their antidepressants, but is it a tool for them to live their lives normally or a substance that they can’t live without?
Antidepressants are common, maybe too common
Many people believe that antidepressants are the best, and possibly the only, way to treat depression and anxiety.
In fact, many of them will not take you or your condition seriously if you don’t take antidepressants.
This view is shared by mental health professionals as well to some extent.
As such, it should come as no surprise that antidepressant prescriptions are very common.
In fact, some resources suggest that in the U.S up to 13% of the population take antidepressants.
That isn’t to say that the only, or even preferable, way to treat depression and anxiety is with antidepressants, for from it.
Antidepressant prescriptions are on the rise, having grown by 65% in the past 15 years and yet many of these prescriptions are unneeded.
For example, one study in Canada has found that half the people who take antidepressants to deal with depression aren’t really depressed.
More people than ever take antidepressants, and are affected for better or for worse by them, but what happens when patients grow dependent on their medicine?
Are antidepressants addictive?
Generally speaking, most experts agree that antidepressants are not addictive.
People do not crave antidepressants in the same way that they do alcohol or nicotine, making many doctors much more comfortable prescribing them.
With that being said, there is some evidence that claims otherwise.
Although relatively rare, data shows that the number of antidepressant abuse cases is growing.
Furthermore, in one study from New Zealand, 28% of the participants report some level of dependence of their antidepressants.
Out of 1367 participants, 55% reported some withdrawal symptoms and 25% reported severe withdrawal symptoms.
Although not necessarily addictive, many people have shown a tendency to depend on their antidepressants.
The answer to this question is not as cut and dried as one might expect.
The definition of addiction varies and trying to figure out the “best” one and how antidepressants fit into it is a surprisingly difficult task.
What is addiction?
According to the DSM-V, a widely accepted mental disorder classification tool, to be diagnosed with a substance use disorder a person needs to exhibit at least 2 out of 11 possible symptoms:
- Tolerance – Developing a tolerance to the substance, needing to increase the dose to have the same effect
- Using it in larger amounts/for longer – Taking more of the substance than you are meant to
- Repeated attempts to quit/control use – Trying to limit your use of the substance with no success
- Much time spent using – Spending a lot of time getting, using or recovering from using the substance
- Social/interpersonal problems related to use – Continuing to use the substance, even when it strains your relationships with other people
- Craving – Having a strong urge to use the substance
- Neglected major roles to use – Not managing to keep up with your responsibilities at work, school or home.
- Activities given up to use – Giving up on different activities, such as social gatherings or hobbies, due to substance use
- Hazardous use – Continuing to use the substance even when it puts you in danger
- Physical/psychological problems related to use – Continuing to use the substance despite experiencing negative physical and/or psychological side effects
- Withdrawal – Developing negative symptoms which can be relieved by using more of the substance.
The severity of the diagnosis depends on the number of symptoms that were identified.
- Two to three symptoms indicate a mild substance use disorder
- Four or five symptoms indicate a moderate substance use disorder
- Six or more symptoms indicate a severe substance use disorder
With this data in mind we can finally answer the question: Are antidepressants addictive?
Antidepressants can be difficult to quit
By most definitions, antidepressants would not be considered addictive.
While it’s true that if you stop taking antidepressants you are likely to suffer from withdrawal symptoms, that alone isn’t enough to make a substance “addictive”.
Many people who attempt to abruptly quit taking their antidepressants face with certain symptoms that are similar to those of an addict, but that’s not because they are “addicted” to the substance but rather because they stopped using it too quickly and their body is readjusting.
As long as you consult your doctor and follow their instructions you’ll be able to significantly minimize the negative impact of withdrawal.
In other words, unless you have any prior substance abuse problems then addiction shouldn’t be a concern for you
Why do people abuse antidepressants?
All of that being said, data does show us that there is a growing number of antidepressant abuse cases.
But why is that? what do people hope to accomplish by doing that? Antidepressants don’t give you a “high”, they are not inherently addictive and you don’t need to increase the dosage over time to get the same effect
While it’s true that there are cases of people who have an antidepressant drug abuse problem, there is a much larger number of people who simply misuse them in ways that are, for the most part, accidental
In fact, most of the antidepressant-related problems start when patients stop following their doctor’s orders.
Changing the dosage without consulting a professional
One fundamental truth about antidepressants is that they are by no means a magical drug. That is to say, they can’t do the impossible.
There are many different types of antidepressants, all of which may affect you in different ways – possibly not at all.
In that case, and based on the psychiatrist’s judgment, changing the medication might be a good idea – but it will probably take some time to realize that.
You see, even if one particular type of antidepressant might be a good match for you the effects are not immediate.
In fact, it takes about 6 to 8 weeks of use on average for antidepressants to truly start taking effect.
To make matters worse, the side effects of the drug can kick in almost immediately, making it hard to follow the doctor’s orders.
Because of that, many people lose faith in the medication or start believing that it “won’t work for them” – the process of treatment, even with medication, is not a short one.
Alternatively, some people begin to increase their dosage far past their prescription, believing that the drugs don’t work because they take too little of them.
In the United States alone the number of antidepressant overdoses has been consistently rising.
It’s true that increasing the dosage of the drug is a symptom of addiction, but in this particular case it’s done due to a misunderstanding of the drug’s effects.
The easiest way to avoid these problems is to have an open discussion with your doctor and following their instructions.
Mixing antidepressants with other drugs
It is not uncommon to see people with anxiety and depression use different substances to alleviate the symptoms of their condition.
Alcohol, in particular, is used very commonly to help with these conditions – Studies show that alcohol use is closely linked to both anxiety and depression.
Taking antidepressants while drinking regularly will likely prevent you from benefiting from them and might even endanger your health.
The thing is, there are many drugs that don’t mix well with antidepressants, many of which may seem innocent or unrelated.
For example, certain cough medications can lead to some unpleasant side effects when mixed with antidepressants.
To prevent this be sure to inform your doctor of any other medication that you take or any addiction that you might have.
Generally speaking, it’s best to discuss your entire situation with a professional before taking any medication – not only to receive the best-suited antidepressants but also for the sake of your own health.
Antidepressant abuse is avoidable
Antidepressants are not addictive.
Sure, you may face some withdrawal symptoms should you try to stop taking them, but as long as you follow a professional’s guidance then it shouldn’t be that much of a problem.
In fact, the vast majority of abuse cases are from people who ignore their doctor’s instructions.
Don’t try to reinvent the wheel or self-medicate and you should be covered on that front.
That isn’t to say that you have to rely solely on your meds, far from it.
In many cases, antidepressants are most effective when used alongside other forms of treatment, some of which you can do by yourself at the comfort of your home.
If you are serious about improving your condition then I highly recommend checking out the “Destroy Depression Program”
In it you will find tips, tricks and things that you should do to improve your condition.
Alternatively, if anxiety is your concern then you should definitely check out the “Panic Away Program”
For people who suffer from anxiety, this program is an absolute must – The methods and guides that it offers are absolutely irreplaceable.
For any other questions about this article feel free to get in touch via email, I always do my best to reply as quickly as possible.