drug addiction

Antidepressant Addiction Dangers

I am being asked more and more questions regarding antidepressant addiction. Although antidepressants are not truly addictive, there are problems with stopping them. There are also some emerging problems with their increasing use. This is particularly disturbing if these drugs are used without proper medical supervision.

One issue that has come to light is the increase in the possibility of suicide or attempts at suicide while taking these drugs. Even though this may not be the norm, or in other words, there are thousands of people taking these drugs with no signs of suicide or abnormal thinking, the risk is still there. This risk is lessened if people are aware of the possibility that taking antidepressants MIGHT cause a person to consider suicide. There are also other problems when one tried to stop any of these medications, and that is withdrawal symptoms.

Warning. Do not stop taking any antidepressant suddenly. Severe reaction can occur. Please read this page and understand the need to taper off slowly.

If Antidepressants are not Addictive, why are they so hard to get off?

There is a lot of misunderstanding over antidepressant addiction and whether antidepressants are really addictive or not. I am including this information here as many people have found it very difficult to get off any antidepressant.

If you are suffering from PTSD and have been prescribed antidepressants, you may also like to go to the page giving information on PTSD.

In actual fact they are not chemically addictive in the same way that Cocaine or Heroin is. By that I mean that they do not cause a user to desire to take them for a 'rush'. However, there is no doubt that many people find it extremely difficult to stop any antidepressant once they have started on them. Not surprisingly, the larger the dose the harder it gets.

Over the past few years, antidepressants have easily been prescribed for depression, regardless of the severity of the depression and so regardless of whether they are really needed or not. Physicians are reluctant to suggest, or not knowledgeable about, alternative therapies for depression. Many also poo-poo the idea of antidepressant addiction. Given the side effects and the known problems with getting off these drugs, I strongly suggest you research other forms of help for depression, rather than relying on years of antidepressant therapy.

Antidepressants can be useful for short term situations and, if needed, most of us would not be concerned about antidepressant addiction. Many of the problems may start when you try to get off this medication, which may then feel like an antidepressant addiction due to some nasty withdrawal effects.

Take the situation of Julia, a young woman of 28. Julia went to her doctor with symptoms of depression - sadness and crying; loss of interest in her hobbies; severe fatigue; loss of interest in sex and trouble concentrating. She was prescribed a SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) and after a short time, started to feel better. Then Julia lost her job which made her depression much worse. At the same time she lost her medical coverage and could no longer afford the cost of the SSRI. She stopped it abruptly at the end of her months supply and a week later tried to commit suicide. Fortunately she did not succeed, but after hospital treatment, she told her family that she had no memory of what she had done.

Sadly this is not unusual. There have been many documented cases of people with what looks like antidepressant addiction. If they then stop taking the medication as prescribed, they can become severely disturbed. I have noted a few here.

  • A 37 year old business man in Indiana got into a four hour standoff with police, after taking prescription medication for depression.
  • A 38 year old woman in Australia was given antidepressants for depression and panic attacks and stabbed her 15 year old daughter to death, claiming "God told her to"
  • In 2003 a man who was reported to have been taking Zoloft and Celexa, shot and killed five co-workers at a Lockheed Martin plant in Mississippi, and injured nine others before killing himself.
  • Reported in a Western Australia newspaper in 2004, a mother who was on antidepressants - Prozac and Zoloft - tried to kill herself and her two daughters, ages 9 and 2 by gassing them with the family car.
  • An employee at Massachusetts General Hospital shot and killed a doctor and then killed herself. She had been prescribed Wellbutrin and Zoloft.

As you can see from this short list, there can be serious effects not only from taking antidepressants but also for stopping them suddenly.

If you are currently taking any antidepressant and want to stop, please consult your physician and get help with tapering the dose. Ideally you should also have some support from a family member or friend.

If you have children who are on antidepressants there are some things you need to know. Please read about children and antidepressants here.

If you chose to do this yourself, do not stop abruptly.

This is a very dangerous thing to do. You must taper the dose slowly over weeks or months. The mistake some people make is to think they can cut their dose in half for a week and then in half again or take one dose every other day. This does not work. Cutting the dose in half is way too drastic a drop in medication and taking a dose every other day seriously affects the level of the drug in your body.
You must make very small reductions at a time and continue on the slightly smaller dose for a number of weeks and be stable before trying to reduce it again. It can take 6 months to a year to get fully off of a high dose of any antidepressant.

As I have tried to show, antidepressant addiction is not a real addiction. However the withdrawal effects are indeed real and can be very uncomfortable not to say fatal in some cases. However, there are a variety of alternatives to taking medication for depression. Many of the things I have listed below as alternate therapies for pain are also excellent therapies for depression. It is well worth trying some of these. They are non-addictive and non-harmful and they can also be fun.

  • Relaxation
  • Acupuncture
  • Massage therapy
  • Exercise
  • EFT
  • Yoga
  • Physical Therapy
  • Laughter
  • Changes in diet.
  • Weight loss
  • Hypnosis/subliminal messaging
  • Biofeedback
  • Hydrotherapy and/or Swimming

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This page updated 2013