America’s prescription drug problem is immense. Opioids are related to more deaths than ever, and the country’s consumption and distribution of prescription medication is unmatched not only in history, but in the entire world. When it comes to taking pills, no one beats us.
The danger with this is that many of the drugs Americans are accustomed to taking for anxiety and chronic pain are highly addictive. Sedatives like Xanax and opioids like Fentanyl and Oxycodone have become highlighted problem substances in over 33,000 thousand opioid deaths in 2015, and over 50,000 total overdose deaths from prescription medication a year.
Yet there is one type of prescription drug that isn’t wholly understood, and perhaps not as dangerous as the other issues you hear on the news. And that issue is antidepressant addiction. Mood disorders and addiction are among the most common combination of mental issues, and antidepressants play a central part in figuring out a long-term treatment for such cases.
What are Antidepressants?
Antidepressants are a type of prescription drug used commonly in the treatment of depression and anxiety. Antidepressants aren’t all the same, built with different dosages and chemicals, but their function is ultimately identical – to target and rebalance neurotransmitters in the brain responsible for mood and emotions.
While many forms of depression relate to a specific event in life as a sort of trigger for a continuous cascade of emotional turmoil, many other cases of depression are a matter of brain chemistry. Some people simply lack the ability to deal with depressive thoughts as well as others, and it overwhelms them. Antidepressants help make up for this by trying to chemically induce a balance in the brain, while improving your mood, your appetite, and even your concentration.
They’re not designed to be a permanent solution. Instead, antidepressants are typically recommended by psychiatrists and therapists as part of an ongoing treatment program that involves slowly and steadily reintroducing positive thinking into a person’s life, to help teach them how to turn around their emotions and successfully cope with depression.
Antidepressants don’t work right away, and some brands may never work for you at all. The reason they’re a prescription drug isn’t just due to the potential for misuse, but because medical expertise is required to determine which drug is best to start with.
Some antidepressants work, but then only for a while. It’s important to stay in regular contact with your therapist while dealing with depression through antidepressants.
Antidepressants typically come in one of several kinds, and only one kind of drug is still commonly prescribed for depression today. These kinds are:
- SSRI–SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are the most common and perhaps the most effective antidepressants. They inhibit the brain’s overreacted reuptake of serotonin to increase the amount of serotonin in your brain chemistry.
- SNRI – SNRIs do the same as SSRIs, with the added effect of inhibiting norepinephrine reuptake.
- NDRI – NDRIs prevent the reuptake of dopamine and norepinephrine rather than serotonin, and only one NDRI drug is commonly prescribed.
- Tetracyclic – these drugs prevent the binding of certain neurotransmitters to receptors in the brain to increase neurotransmitter levels for serotonin and epinephrine.
Other types of antidepressants, such as MAOIs and tricyclics, are rarely found or prescribed as they have possible side-effects that are easily avoided with today’s drugs.
Is Antidepressant Addiction An Issue?
This is a question that is ultimately up for serious debate in the world of addiction. On its own, most argue that antidepressants are not actually addictive, while others point to the existence of antidepressant withdrawal symptoms as signs that you can develop an antidepressant addiction.
Versus other prescription medication like stimulants, opioids and sedatives, antidepressants are not addictive at all. However, it is possible to become emotionally dependent on them and fall into an antidepressant addiction. To prevent that, it’s important to treat them as a temporary aid in a solution focused on long-term therapeutic goals, rather than consistent drug use.
Depression and Addiction
There are many conclusions that, in the scientific world, have to stand against much scrutiny –and one of the more common things to test for is cause and effect. For example, if some research shows that toy choice in preschoolers affects personal concepts of gender more than any other factor, then researchers must next determine whether or not this is because of pressure from peers and/or family to reinforce certain gender roles through toy choice.
In depression and addiction, one can cause the other – but it isn’t always clear which way the relationship started. Depression and addiction often go hand in hand but not necessary due to an ironclad pathology – it’s a common correlation because people struggling with drugs tend to become depressed, and people who already were depressed sometimes seek out drugs to feel better.
Depression can be an absolutely terrible blight. Depressive emotions on their own are part of the human mind’s natural grief system, and after certain moments of loss and trauma, feeling depressed is normal. But a systematic chronic depression, a condition that lasts months and years, is terrifying.
Depression is followed by suicidal thoughts, sleeplessness at night and oversleeping during the day, constant lethargy, anhedonia, anxiety, self-doubt, self-guilt, lowered self-esteem and more. It’s a condition wherein your opinion of yourself, of others and of life in general goes down – your mind constantly goes through a series of negative self-affirmations, and simply “being happier” doesn’t cut it anymore.
One of the reasons this blight of a disorder is often coupled with addiction is because people don’t really know how to deal with depression. Because it’s an intangible mental disorder without clear external physical symptoms, it’s also easier for most people to pretend that depression isn’t real. There is heavy stigma surrounding mental illness, depression included. And when it turns out that the condition is in fact a reality, many are not equipped to cope with it, and turn to drugs as a form of relief and run the risk of developing an emotional antidepressant addiction.
There are a few other reasons the two conditions are often linked, however. One is alcohol, one of the most commonly abused drugs on the planet. Alcohol is a depressant, which means that it lowers your inhibition and may indeed bring out the “best” or “worst” in you, but it can also trigger feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and more. Alcohol also numbs – take enough of it, and you begin to forget your worries. This is what makes it emotionally attractive as a drug of choice.
The issue is similar with antidepressants and that same feeling of worries being lifted away can lead to an antidepressant addiction. Fortunately, it is possible to get addiction treatment for antidepressants to help reduce dependency on their emotional effects.