Antidepressants are usually used for treating depression. These medicines correct the chemical imbalance in the brain which was causing the changes in the mood and behavior. Besides depression, antidepressants are also widely used for treating other mental conditions such as social anxiety disorder, anxiety disorders and dysthymia (mild chronic depression). Notably, while these drugs do not cure the disorder, they help the patient get some relief from the symptoms including sadness, irritability and suicidal thoughts.
According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 11 percent of the Americans aged 12 years or older take antidepressants. The report further stated that the rate of antidepressant use in the United States has increased nearly 400 percent since 1988. Studies have shown that people sometimes use antidepressants for non-medical purposes as well, making them one of the most commonly abused prescription drugs.
In an effort to create awareness about the rise and causes of prescription drug abuse, National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE) observes the month of October as the “Talk About Your Medicines Month” to promote safe and appropriate medication. To mark this event, we are bringing out a series of articles on different kinds of prescription drugs that can be addictive in nature. In this article, we take a look at antidepressants and understand how and why they are misused.
Antidepressants are drugs that work to balance the neurotransmitters in the brain. These neurotransmitters regulate the mood and behavior of a person. Illnesses such as depression, or similar mental disorders, create an imbalance in the neurotransmitters which causes changes in the mood and behavior.
Unlike other illicit drugs, antidepressants do have any immediate euphoric effects nor do they help a person get high. As per studies, these drugs take effect over a period of time. However, many people falsely believe that these drugs can have an effect similar to other illicit drugs, and hence abuse them.
A person usually starts abusing an antidepressant by increasing its dosage. Another reason why some people abuse antidepressants is that they feel no relief after taking the drugs. This could happen in long-term usage as antidepressants can stop working after a period of time. Finally, certain people use antidepressants as sedatives and tend to mix them with other substances such as alcohol and other drugs.
Though whether antidepressants are addictive is still a point of debate, studies have proved that there can be physical dependence on these drugs. It has been found that addiction to antidepressants is primarily due to the patient’s belief that he/she cannot function normally without the drugs, which is more like dependency.
Dependency can develop when someone suffering from symptoms of depression starts feeling happy and rejuvenated due to the medication. What starts as psychological dependence later develops into a physical one.
Often, over time, the effect of the drug lessens. The doctor, in such cases, increases the dosage which ultimately leads to the patient developing a tolerance for the drug. Resultantly, a patient may increase the dosage without consulting the doctor, to attain an effect similar to the initial dose. The patient may start craving for the drug, just as one does in an addiction, to experience relief from his/her depressive symptoms. In such a scenario, many people end up overdosing on antidepressants which are equally dangerous. Symptoms of overdose include confusion, fainting spells, uncontrollable shaking, dizziness and irregular heartbeat.
Road to recovery
Despite the fact that there is no conclusive evidence that antidepressants are addictive, still, many people abuse antidepressants to get high. Alcohol commonly consumed together with sedatives, it further worsens depression and anxiety, increases the blood pleasure, impairs coordination and leads to overdose.
However, one should not quit antidepressants without seeking medical assistance. If you or your loved one is addicted to antidepressants or any other prescription drug and is looking for treatment, you may contact the Prescription Drug Abuse Helpline of California for information on various prescription drug rehabs in California. You may call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-738-2770 or chat online for further information on prescription drug addiction treatment in California. Our representatives will guide you through the best rehab centers in California.
Read the other articles of the series “Talk About Your Medicines Month”:
- Kinds of prescription drugs – Opioids
- Kinds of prescription drugs – Stimulants