antidepressant abuse facts
People who take antidepressants are almost always instructed to never stop taking their medication abruptly without first talking to their doctor. Quitting antidepressants suddenly can throw off chemical balance in the brain, leading to withdrawal symptoms or “discontinuation syndrome.” While people don’t get psychologically addicted to these medications, antidepressant withdrawal symptoms can be serious and difficult to deal with alone. Fortunately, antidepressant detox by means of tapering can prevent serious symptoms and make quitting antidepressants far easier.
Can You Get Addicted to Antidepressants?
Antidepressant medications are prescribed to people struggling with depression symptoms. There are hundreds of different antidepressants out there, so not all act the same way. These drugs work to correct a chemical imbalance in the brain to help reduce symptoms of depression.
While antidepressants aren’t necessarily addictive, it takes the brain time to adjust when someone stops using them. This is why many medical professionals steer away from using the term “withdrawal symptoms” and opt for using the term “discontinuation syndrome” instead. However, other medical professionals believe that calling this discontinuation syndrome is dangerous because it undermines the severity of quitting antidepressant medications.
Put simply, antidepressants don’t produce a high or euphoria, and they are taken as prescribed, so they aren’t addictive. At the same time, just because people don’t get addicted to antidepressants doesn’t mean their bodies don’t need time to adjust when getting off of their medication. Rather than stopping antidepressants alone, people should always speak with their doctor about the best way to detox.
antidepressant withdrawal timeline
When symptoms begin and how long they last vary from person to person and from one pill to the next. Some antidepressants like Prozac or Zoloft have long half-lives that can produce symptoms for weeks. Other antidepressants like Effexor have a shorter half-life, so withdrawal symptoms will be over within a week or two.
Within the first 1-3 days, most people will begin seeing the first signs of withdrawal. Some symptoms may even appear when tapering off an antidepressant. After 4-5 days, symptoms will become more intense and peak. People may experience brain zaps, trembling, nausea, fever, and more. People who took antidepressants for a longer amount of time or at higher doses will experience more intense and long-lasting symptoms.
Antidepressant withdrawal symptoms can last for 2-3 weeks. However, after the first week, peak symptoms will begin to fade. After 4 weeks, most people will have completely overcome their withdrawals.