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Can You Become Addicted to Antidepressants?

Can You Become Addicted to Antidepressants?

Millions of Americans take antidepressants every day. Even though these medications are so common, many people have questions about them, such as Can you become addicted to antidepressants? and What alternatives are available if antidepressants don’t work for you?

Learn more on our 2024 Guide to Mental Health Medications

Types of Antidepressants

One of the reasons why the question, Can you become addicted to antidepressants? isn’t a simple yes/no query is that there are myriad medications that fall within the general category of antidepressants. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): This classification includes fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), and sertraline (Zoloft).
  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): Frequently prescribed meds in this group include venlafaxine (Effexor), duloxetine (Cymbalta), and desvenlafaxine (Pristiq).
  • Tricyclic antidepressants: This classification of older medications includes nortriptyline (Pamelor) and desipramine (Norpramin).
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs): This is another class of older medications, such as phenelzine (Nardil) and tranylcypromine (Parnate).

Most people who receive medication for depression first get a prescription for an SSRI or an SNRI. Tricyclics and MAOIs, which can cause more intense side effects, are typically reserved for those who don’t respond to meds from the first two categories.

Can You Become Addicted to Antidepressants?

If the question, Can you become addicted to antidepressants? causes you to envision the intense cravings, dangerous behaviors, and extreme withdrawal symptoms that are associated with dependence on heroin, fentanyl, or other opioids, we can assure you that these types of experiences are highly unlikely.

However, that doesn’t mean that the answer to this question is an absolute, unequivocable no.

Using some antidepressants can cause you to experience the following, both of which are symptoms of depression:

  • Tolerance, which means that, over time, taking the same amount of an antidepressant may not produce the same effects that you have come to expect.
  • Withdrawal, which can include physical and psychological symptoms that occur when you abruptly end your use of the medication.

But what does this mean in terms of antidepressants and addiction?

Though antidepressant use can cause some symptoms that have been associated with addiction, these symptoms do not meet the full criteria for a substance use disorder (which is the clinical term for addiction) as established in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). 

Are There Alternatives to Antidepressants?

If you have not had a successful experience with an antidepressant, this isn’t a sign that you have failed, nor does it indicate that you cannot be helped. It simply means that your treatment provider hasn’t found the right way to address your specific symptoms.

The following options can be beneficial as alternatives to antidepressants or as complements to taking a particular medication:

  • You may need to try a different medication or a different dosage level. Though antidepressants are science-based interventions, prescribing them is not an exact science. For some people, it can take a bit of trial and error before they find the medication and dosage level that works for them.
  • Genetic testing can identify pharmacogenetic markers within a DNA sample. These markers can provide valuable information about which types of medication may be most effective for you, as well as which antidepressants are less likely to yield favorable outcomes.
  • Various forms of psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), have proved effective at alleviating some types of depression-related distress and empowering people to better manage their symptoms.
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy is an innovative technique that employs brief electromagnetic pulses to stimulate areas of the brain that are associated with depressive disorders. This technique has helped many people who did not have successful experiences with antidepressants.
  • Ketamine therapy: This is another approach that has shown great promise for people who have treatment-resistant depression. Ketamine infusion sessions typically last 40-60 minutes. This type of treatment can promote enhanced neural growth and the development of new synaptic connections, both of which have been linked with elevated mood and a variety of other beneficial effects.

Tips for Choosing a Depression Treatment Center

As indicated by the information that we’ve been discussing in this post, depression treatment can come in many forms and include a variety of elements. 

In other words, you shouldn’t worry about finding the “perfect” type of depression treatment (because that doesn’t exist). Instead, you should focus your efforts on identifying the center that can best meet your unique needs.

When you contact centers that you have been considering, asking questions such as the following can help you decide if they’re the right fit for you:

  • What level or levels of care does your center offer?
  • What types of therapy do you provide?
  • How will you determine which programs and services are best for me?
  • What are the qualifications of the people who will be providing my care?
  • How will you decide how long I need to remain in treatment?
  • How do you define a successful treatment experience at your center?
  • What happens if my symptoms return after I complete treatment?
  • Can I tour your facility and/or speak to previous patients?
  • Does your center accept my insurance?

Find Depression Treatment in Atlanta

If antidepressants or other standard services haven’t helped you, Atlanta Integrative Psychiatry may have the solutions that can. Our innovative approach to depression treatment includes an array of integrative modalities, including TMS therapy, ketamine infusion therapy, and genetic testing. 

Throughout your time at our outpatient depression treatment center in Atlanta, Georgia, you will be cared for by a team of compassionate experts within a safe and highly supportive environment. We will work closely with you to understand the full scope of your needs, so that we can provide the focused services that can put you on the path toward improved health and a much more hopeful future.

To learn more about how we can help you, or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Appointments page or call us today.

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