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Treatment for Antidepressant Addiction

If antidepressant addiction is present, treatment can treat the underlying issues that led to the initial substance abuse. Treatment may involve inpatient or outpatient treatment, including behavioral therapy, alternative therapies, support groups, and aftercare.

Struggling with Antidepressant Addiction? Get Help Now

Antidepressant addiction isn’t common, primarily because the drugs are not common substances of abuse since they take several weeks to be effective and aren’t associated with euphoric effects. Still, some people abuse antidepressants in an effort to achieve euphoric effects. This abuse may involve abusing antidepressants in combination with other substances.

The Abuse Potential of Antidepressants

Antidepressants are not typically habit-forming in the same way as many other drugs, in part because they do not provide acute euphoric effects. These medications take several days or weeks to be effective and the effect on neurotransmitters is gradual to the point that it may not be particularly noticeable. 

However, antidepressants do alter the brain’s neurochemistry and can create a state of physical dependence. Dependence occurs when the body has become acclimated to the presence of a foreign substance and has undergone physiological changes to account for its existence. 

When greater amounts of a substance are needed to achieve a desired effect, tolerance has developed. Tolerance increases the likelihood that antidepressants will be abused. 

Antidepressant abuse refers to the use of a prescribed antidepressant medication in any other way than what is specified on the prescription label, such as consuming the medication more frequently or in higher doses than prescribed. 

What Treatment Options Are Available for Antidepressant Addiction?

If you or someone you know might be addicted to antidepressants, signified by using them in a manner that isn’t as prescribed and being unable to stop this abuse, there are several effective treatment options that can help through the various phases of recovery and rehabilitation. Here are the primary treatment options for antidepressant addiction:

Medical Detox

Medical detox is often recommended in the early stages of rehabilitation from addiction for individuals who have overdosed or have particularly strong withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal refers to the cluster of symptoms that occur in the body as it strives to regain balance after a substance that has been present in high quantities for extended periods of time has been suddenly removed. 

Medical detox is generally not required for antidepressant withdrawal, but it may be recommended if antidepressants are abused in addition to other substances like alcohol or opioids.

Antidepressant withdrawal isn’t generally considered life-threatening, but it can trigger uncomfortable symptoms. Known as antidepressant discontinuation syndrome, this process usually lasts about one to two weeks and includes symptoms like fatigue, headaches, body aches, sweating, lethargy, nausea, and anxiety, among others. Doctors generally recommend tapering off antidepressants rather than stopping use suddenly in order to lessen withdrawal symptoms.  

Inpatient Rehab

Inpatient rehab may be necessary for those with co-occurring disorders, such as addiction to antidepressants and another mental health disorder, or for those engaging in polysubstance abuse. This involves residing at an addiction treatment facility for the duration of care. You’ll have continual support in a safe and sober environment, participating in therapies and supportive activities on a daily basis.

Outpatient Rehab 

Outpatient treatment is the most common form of addiction treatment. Treatment can vary in intensity, depending on individual needs. Therapies may replicate those found in inpatient programs, but clients live at home or in a sober living facility while they receive care. 

Therapeutic Approaches Used in Addiction Treatment

The type of therapy you receive in rehab will depend on your preferences and circumstances as well as the recommendations of your healthcare provider. 

Common therapeutic approaches within addiction treatment programs include the following:

  • Psychoeducation: This involves the presentation of information about addiction and healthy lifestyle adjustments to make during recovery. 
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: This is a highly effective form of psychotherapy that combines principles of cognitive and behavioral theories to help you think more productively and realistically as well as cope with environmental triggers for substance abuse. 
  • Dialectical behavior therapy: This is a variation of cognitive behavioral therapy that emphasizes confrontation and acceptance of difficult emotions as a means of learning to manage them. 

Peer support groups are helpful forms of aftercare due to the social support and accountability they offer. These groups help to reduce the stigmatization attached to addiction and foster support networks, so people have places to turn when they are tempted to relapse.

How to Support Sustained Recovery

One of your main goals after treatment is to avoid relapse. Remember that a relapse does not mean that you must start all over with your treatment, and it’s not a failure. It’s simply a sign that you need to reassess your recovery path and reapply the skills and tools you gained in treatment. Over time, you will learn to cope more effectively and productively. 

You’ll also need to manage your mental health on an ongoing basis. If you started using antidepressants legitimately for depression, you’ll need to work with your treatment team on how to best address your depression going forward. Depending on the specifics of your addiction, you may be able to continue taking antidepressants but only as prescribed after the work you do in therapy.

There are also many alternatives to antidepressants for the treatment of symptoms of depression as well as lifestyle modifications you can make to maintain a life of sobriety after treatment. These practices can help to maintain your mental health and support your recovery:

  • Engage in physical activity every day. Even if it’s a short outdoor walk, this can help to boost mental health and maintain overall wellness.
  • Try supplements like gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and St. John’s wort. Talk to your doctor before trying any new supplement.
  • Learn a new skill or try a new hobby. You may find these activities immensely gratifying.
  • Maintain an active social network. It’s imperative that you find people who are supportive of your recovery. Isolation is often a precursor to relapse.
  • Engage in activities you enjoy regularly. Identify the things that make you feel good and then practice them daily, if possible. Whether it’s reading, chatting with friends, or playing with your dog, finding things you truly enjoy and doing them can go a long way in promoting overall wellness. 
  • Eat healthy. A balanced, nutritious diet can boost overall health, and this has mental benefits. While occasionally treats are not a problem, aim to get the bulk of your nutrients from fresh foods like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. 
  • Set a schedule. The more consistent you can be in doing things that promote overall well-being, the better. Make sure a solid sleep routine is part of your schedule to ensure you are taking care of yourself on that front.
Updated June 8, 2023
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