How Do Antidepressants Work?
Alongside opiate-based painkillers, stimulants, tranquilizers, and sedatives, one of the most commonly abused prescription drugs are antidepressants. Like most prescription drugs, abuse of antidepressants can happen accidentally, usually when the drug no longer has the desired effect or is perceived to not be effective enough at it’s prescribed dosage.
Antidepressants do not actually cure depression in the individual, but rather treat the symptoms they experience, helping them get through each day. It is commonly argued by pharmacologists that antidepressants are not addictive, as they do not contain any addictive chemicals or substances.
While this may be true from a physical standpoint, a person can easily become psychologically addicted to antidepressants. This is because antidepressants alter the chemical activity in the brain and without this chemical change, some people feel they just cannot function normally.
Addiction and Abuse
Unlike other mood-altering drugs, antidepressants don’t get a person high. They work slowly to improve a person’s mood over a period of time. Nevertheless, those who abuse other substances may abuse antidepressants in an attempt to get high.
People who suffer from depression are more vulnerable to substance abuse, two to three times more likely, in fact, to abuse alcohol and other drugs. Since antidepressants don’t give them the feeling they’re looking for, however, they may turn to other, more dangerous drugs.
There are several signs to watch for if you suspect you or someone you know may be suffering from the effects of substance abuse. Generally, signs to watch for include slurred speech, changes in appetite, financial difficulties, unusual sleep habits, diminished appearance, and bloodshot eyes. For antidepressants, abuse can cause seizures, mental confusion, sexual dysfunction, paranoia, sore throat, headaches, hallucinations, uncontrollable shaking, and a general lack of emotion.
Antidepressants don’t work immediately and not every one works for every person. If somebody suffering from depression doesn’t get the relief they need from their prescription, they may turn to other drugs to feel better. Unfortunately, this tends to only make matters worse, as drugs and alcohol can exacerbate the problems of depression and interfere with antidepressant medication, stopping them from working entirely.
Recognizing the Signs
It can be hard to distinguish between a co-occurring substance addiction and a relapse in depression. If you notice that you or a loved one is ignoring professional and personal responsibilities, mixing drugs with antidepressants despite the risks, withdrawing from family and friends, or wanting to lower their drug use but find themselves unable to do so, it’s important to get help right away.
Addiction to antidepressants, whether physical or psychological, is a very real concern, so it should not be dismissed or taken lightly. Since these drugs can cause dangerous withdrawal symptoms if one were to stop taking them abruptly, it’s important to slowly wean a patient off their medication. Even if the drug does not contain addictive substances, a person who has taken the drug long enough to build up a tolerance to it can crave the drug. This craving can be more intense the greater the tolerance built up.