The use of antidepressants has become increasingly more common in recent years. Antidepressants can be used to treat a variety of mental health disorders including depression, anxiety, seasonal affective disorder, social anxiety disorders, and other conditions. These medications work by correcting imbalances in the brain.
When treating addiction, the use of medication can be a difficult topic to explore. On one hand, medications can be incredibly beneficial to someone’s recovery, especially in cases where a co-occurring disorder is present. On the other hand, many feel anxiety or fear about taking medications because there can be apprehension about developing dependencies on another substance. While both viewpoints are valid in their own way, use of antidepressants in treatment is a highly individual choice and should be considered if it can make a substantial difference in the quality of a person’s recovery. It is always important to consult with your doctor if you are struggling with mental health disorders in order to determine the best course of action.
Types of Antidepressants
As is the case with any medication, there are potential side effects that may occur with use of antidepressants. Some symptoms are common while others are less frequently experienced. Any symptom that produces severe discomfort or concern should be addressed immediately with a doctor.
There are five types of antidepressants commonly used in treatment. While antidepressants are primarily used to treat depression and similar conditions, they may also be used to treat:
- Bipolar disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
The five types of antidepressants are:
- Serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): SNRIs are one of the most commonly prescribed antidepressants. It is most frequently used to treat major depressive disorder and mood disorders, but it is occasionally used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, menopausal symptoms, chronic neuropathic pain, and anxiety. These medications work by increasing levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain to stabilize mood.
Common side effects associated with this type of antidepressant include:
- Dry mouth
- Abnormal thinking
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): SSRIs are one of the most commonly prescribed forms of antidepressants because they work effectively against depression with minimal side effects. These medications work by blocking the absorption of serotonin in the brain, making it easier for it to send and receive messages. This can help stabilize mood because it selectively affects serotonin and does not affect other chemicals in the brain.
The most common side effects associated with SSRIs include:
- Weight loss
- Abnormal thinking
- Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs): Tricyclic antidepressants are used to treat depression, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, and some forms of anxiety. TCAs were among the first antidepressants developed; however, over time, they became less frequently used in favor of antidepressants that produce fewer side effects. These medications can produce a variety of side effects including:
- Abnormal heartbeat
- Abdominal cramping
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs): MAOIs were the most frequently prescribed antidepressant until the introduction of SNRIs and SSRIs. These medications work by inhibiting monoamine oxidase, an enzyme in the brain, from breaking down serotonin. By doing this, more serotonin is able to circulate through the body, leading to less anxiety and more stabilized moods. Following the introduction of SNRIs and SSRIs, MAOIs are have become less commonly used unless a client is unresponsive to other antidepressants. This is because MAOIs can have negative interactions with other medications and certain foods.
Some of the most common side effects include:
- Irregular heart rhythm
- Fainting or feeling faint upon standing up
- Noradrenaline and specific serotoninergic antidepressants (NASSAs): NASSAs are effective for those who are unable to take SSRIs. It is commonly used to treat anxiety disorders, depression, and some personality disorders. Some of the most common side effects include:
- Weight gain
- Blurred vision
- Dry mouth
Using Antidepressants in Addiction Treatment
Antidepressants may take several weeks before the individual begins to notice the effects. Unlike most medications, a person does not need to keep increasing the dosage over time in order to achieve the same effects. In most cases, a person who stops taking antidepressants will not experience withdrawal symptoms. In cases where withdrawal symptoms present themselves, they are mild, and include symptoms such as anxiety, dizziness, abdominal pain, vivid dreams, and flu-like symptoms.
Many in addiction treatment may hesitate to introduce additional medications into their system in fear of developing a dependency. Fortunately, antidepressants are generally not addictive and a person can stop using them once they start feeling better. Because substance abuse affects the way the brain produces chemicals and reacts to stimuli, antidepressants can be incredibly effective at restoring balance and normal functioning.
Adding medications to a person’s treatment plan is a highly individual decision and a person’s unique needs should be considered before moving forward. Antidepressants and other medications can be instrumental in helping to manage the recovery process and can improve mental health. Utilizing any number of resources and tools to improve the recovery experience and treatment outcomes can be transformative and help a person overcome some of the most difficult aspects of recovery.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, we are here to help. Give us a call at 888.855.6877 or send us a message below and one of our admissions counselors will do their best to get you the help you need.