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Addiction is a brain disorder that is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). It is characterized by habitually engaging in rewarding stimuli regardless of the ensuing negative consequences. An individual that struggles with addiction will prioritize satisfying his or her cravings above all else. Depression, also known as major depressive disorder, is a mental disorder that is also listed in the DSM-5. It is a characterized as the persistent, intrusive and debilitating feelings of sadness. Medical professionals have become reliant upon certain FDA approved medications that have become integral in treating depression. Most medications used to treat depression have negligible addictive qualities. Although some antidepressant medications can affect how one’s brain functions, they do not have the same addictive properties as other substances. It is important to note that individuals abusing antidepressants will likely not experience the same feelings of euphoria that are associated with the abuse of other substances, nor will they develop drug cravings. However, people can still develop a physical dependence to antidepressants, which can lead to an addiction.  

Types Of Antidepressants

There are five types of antidepressants: Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), Serotonin and Noradrenaline Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs), Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs), and Noradrenaline and Specific Serotoninergic Antidepressants (NaSSAs). The two most frequently prescribed antidepressant types include SSRIs and SNRIs. SSRIs and SNRIs produce the least amount of adverse side effects, as they both rely on the use of serotonin, though they do treat depression in different ways. Every individual is different and those that may benefit from taking antidepressant medication will likely take differently to different types and varied dosages. 

How Are Antidepressants Abused?

There is a common misconception that due to the fact that antidepressants do not have addictive qualities they cannot be abused. There are a variety of ways an individual could abuse antidepressants. For example, taking greater doses than prescribed of one’s antidepressant medication is a form of abuse. Ingesting the medication differently than directed (i.e. crushing up a tablet and snorting it) is another form of abuse. Depending on the type of antidepressant prescribed there are certain drug interactions, meaning an individual should avoid combining his or her antidepressant medication with a drug that can produce adverse reactions. When these types of known substances are intentionally taken in conjunction with one’s antidepressants it is considered a form of abuse. One of the most common types of antidepressant abuse is when an individual takes antidepressant medication that he or she was not prescribed. 

Side Effects

Antidepressant medications can be incredibly effective for individuals struggling with depression, however there are always risks to consider. Prescribing medical professionals work closely with an individual and his or her specific mental health needs to distinguish the best antidepressant medication and dosage. Medical professionals carefully consider the various risks prior to prescribing any mood altering medications. 

There are a plethora of potential short and long-term side effects that can manifest as a result of antidepressant abuse. Some examples, as provided by PubMed Central (PMC) of possible side effects can include any combination of the following:

  • Sore throat
  • Lack of emotion
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Mental confusion
  • Insomnia
  • Paranoia
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Increased appetite
  • Blurred vision
  • Weight gain
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Suicide

One of the many dangers of abusing antidepressant medications is the its affect on one’s brain. Antidepressants are intended to adjust imbalanced chemicals in one’s brain, and when taken other than intended can lead to dangerous (in some cases life threatening) consequences (i.e. seizure, coma, death). 

For Information and Support 

If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one in regards to substance abuse and/ or addiction we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. If left untreated, substance abuse can result in long lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. Keep in mind: you are not alone! There is an entire network of professionals that are available to help and support you and your loved one throughout the recovery process. The earlier you seek support, the sooner your loved one can return to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.

Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions regarding our specific program at Haven House Addiction Treatment and/ or general substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment related information. Our highly trained staff is readily available to discuss how we might best be able to help you and your loved one.