Antidepressant Abuse Causes, Statistics, Addiction Signs, Symptoms & Side Effects

What is an Antidepressant?

An antidepressant is a drug that is used to help treat depression, anxiety attacks, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorders, eating disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder. There are multiple off label uses as well. This means that the drug treats other issues or illnesses for which it is not specifically listed or tested. There are several types of antidepressants as they have been in use since the 1950s. Antidepressants are considered to be non-addictive and non-habit forming, but through continued abuse, a dependency can be developed. Antidepressants are easy to acquire as they are readily prescribed. While trying to abuse an antidepressant, people will break open capsules and inhale the drug, or they will take a much larger dose. The person abusing the drug is trying to reach a “high” (an intense euphoric reaction to a drug). Most antidepressants are not prescribed to young people, as they may have an adverse reaction. The most common adverse reactions for youths are deeper depressions and suicidal tendencies. Those abusing an antidepressant may experience some negative side effects like cardiac arrhythmia, vivid dreaming, increased risk of suicide, frequent urination, tremors, erectile dysfunction and memory problems. Some common antidepressant commercial names are Prozac, Zoloft, Cymbalta, Effexor and Wellbutrin.

Statistics

Since antidepressants are considered to non-addictive, there are no formal statistics presented for antidepressant addiction, as they are not studied for addiction or abuse.

Causes of Antidepressant Addiction

Even though antidepressants are considered to be non-addictive, a person can still create a dependency through continued abuse, such as by inhaling the drug. Disregarding dosage instructions – “self-medicating” – often occurs when a person feels as if their antidepressant is not alleviating all of the depression issues, or they have an additional triggering event in their lives such as a death in the family, that cause them to increase their drug intake levels. Antidepressants help lift the mood of someone who is depressed. People will try to abuse the drug so as to elevate their mood even more. This does not work, but it is still constantly tried, and an addiction may develop.

Signs of Antidepressant Use, Addiction, and Dependence

A person addicted to an antidepressant will exhibit signs and symptoms of the abuse. These warning signs will present themselves in both a psychological and a physical manner. Albeit, antidepressants are not supposed to be addictive, there are still undesired withdrawal symptoms that result from the abuse. A few of the warning signs are:

  • Convulsions
  • Talkativeness
  • Violent thoughts and actions
  • Vivid dreaming
  • Mood swings
  • “Speedlike” effect
  • Cardiac arrhythmia
  • Increased risk of suicide
  • Tremors
  • Irritability
  • Memory problems
  • Panic attacks
  • Aggression
  • Hallucinations
  • Nausea
  • Erectile Dysfunction
  • Insomnia

Antidepressant Effects

Antidepressants are not supposed to be addictive, but a dependency can be developed through consistent abuse. There are some harsh side effects of antidepressant addiction that result from abruptly stopping use. The addiction can adversely affect the user’s physical wellness, psychological stability and their personal life.

Physical signs of antidepressant use:

  • Erectile Dysfunction
  • Cardiac arrhythmia
  • Decreased libido
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Frequent urination
  • Insomnia
  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Convulsions
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness

Psychological antidepressant effects:

  • Suicidal thoughts or suicide
  • Vivid dreaming
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis
  • Confusion and incoherent thoughts
  • Hallucinations
  • Panic attacks
  • Hostility
  • Memory problems
    • Mood swings
    • Depression
    • Irritability

Personal negative effects of antidepressant addiction:

  • Family is torn apart
  • Ending relationships with friends and co-workers
  • Career failures
  • Financial hardships
  • Decreasing involvement in personal activities
  • Becoming withdrawn

Antidepressant Withdrawal

Antidepressants are thought to be non-addictive because a person does not have to continue escalating the dose in order to get the same effect, and the user does not produce cravings when usage is stopped. A person may still go through various rough withdrawal symptoms while trying to stop antidepressant abuse. Some of the withdrawal reactions that may be felt include cardiac arrhythmia, frequent suicidal thoughts, nausea, sexual dysfunction, depression, panic attack, vivid dreaming, urination, confused thinking, tremors and memory problems.

Antidepressant Addiction Treatment

Antidepressants are considered to be non-addictive and habit forming. However, an antidepressant addiction can be developed through continued abuse. A person should seek help from an addiction treatment center when treating an antidepressant dependency. They should also reach out to a licensed counselor and to family and friends. Help yourself take back control of your life. Admit there is an addiction to antidepressants and ask for help.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on March 22, 2015
Published on AddictionHope.com, Guide About Drug Addiction