Health Hazards of Misusing Antidepressant Medications

Health Hazards of Misusing Antidepressant Medications

People who suffer from both substance use disorder (SUD) and mental illnesses are often recommended antidepressants while going through detox and treatment. A combination of SUD and other mental health conditions is called dual diagnosis. Are there safe and non-addictive antidepressants for individuals with a dual diagnosis? How can they avoid misusing antidepressant medications? These important questions are worth considering for anyone who may benefit from antidepressants.

Many antidepressants help improve mood, elevate energy levels, improve sleep, and increase appetite. Some also work to decrease anxiety and suppress unwanted thoughts. For example, fluoxetine (or Prozac) can reduce the frequency of panic attacks and lessen their severity. However, some of these medications can be misused, especially by those who have a history of SUD. Misuse of antidepressants can lead to dangerous situations if they are taken outside their prescribed dosage or combined with other drugs.

What Are Antidepressants?

Antidepressants are medications with sedating or stimulating properties. Take selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), for example. SSRIs are often considered the first-line treatment for depression and anxiety disorders. They work by increasing the amount of serotonin — the happiness chemical — in the brain.

During detox, when a person experiences severe mood swings and depression due to withdrawal, antidepressants can help alleviate these symptoms. A prescription for an antidepressant should be given under strict medical supervision. For people who have used substances mainly to self-medicate an underlying psychological condition, antidepressants can ease these emotional pains.

The Benefits of Taking Antidepressants During Recovery

Because depression is common among people recovering from SUD, professionals frequently prescribe these individuals antidepressants to cope with their mental health conditions. The positive effects of antidepressants include alleviating depression and anxiety while allowing recovering individuals to have more energy to participate in treatment. Managing depression is also an essential part of relapse prevention.

Whether antidepressants work or not depends on a combination of factors, including a person’s age, metabolism, and other health-related conditions. People with dual diagnosis will be prescribed antidepressants that are non-addictive. Still, health professionals should monitor their use and response closely while finding the proper dosage.

The Controversy Around the Misuse of Antidepressants

Although most recovery experts agree that using antidepressants is safe under supervision, these prescription medications can be misused. In fact, among the most commonly misused drugs, many belong to the category of antidepressants. Besides side effects such as nausea, insomnia, and heart palpitations, antidepressant misuse can lead to overdose deaths. Some antidepressants are also associated with an increased risk of suicidal attempts.

When people are misdiagnosed with depression and begin using antidepressants, they may form a dependence. Thus, getting diagnosed by licensed and experienced health professionals at a quality treatment center is crucial. They understand the risks and guide recovering individuals through treatment, including prescription medication management.

Most antidepressant misuse happens when someone increases their prescribed dosage or mixes antidepressants with other medications or substances. Taking higher-than-prescribed levels of these drugs can be dangerous, including an increased risk of seizures or overdosing. Therefore, recovering individuals must consult their health providers every step of the way to find the proper medication and dosage.

Some people may develop a dependency on certain antidepressants to the extent that ending use becomes challenging. Take Prozac, for example. Although this antidepressant is not considered addictive, long-term use of Prozac can mean that discontinuation of use leads to withdrawal symptoms such as nausea and headaches. 

Safe Antidepressant Medications for People in Recovery

Generally speaking, there are many non-addictive antidepressants on the market, including Prozac and Zoloft. These help people manage their depression during recovery from dual diagnosis. Unfortunately, even these “safe” medications can have side effects like insomnia and vision changes.

The safest way to use antidepressants during recovery is to consult a healthcare provider while monitoring the side effects frequently. Many antidepressant medications take weeks to work. Recovering individuals should track how they feel over time and adjust the dosage with their healthcare provider accordingly. Even if one type of antidepressant is not working, one should not go off them without consulting a professional.

Recovering individuals who want to end the use of a prescribed antidepressant should do so under the guidance and supervision of health experts. They are typically recommended to taper the use of antidepressants until they can function without any withdrawal symptoms.

Alternatives to Antidepressants

Although people in recovery should by no means avoid antidepressants, many alternative therapies may help them manage depression and SUD. For example, holistic methods like meditation, experiential therapy, and nutrition therapy all support the restoration of positive moods.

The ideal scenario is for recovering individuals to find a mix of multiple therapies. After all, depression and SUD have deeper causes that can be addressed by psychotherapy or group therapy. However, when used in combination with other methods, the use of antidepressants can be more effective.

Do you wonder if antidepressants are safe to use for people in recovery? Unfortunately, there is much myth, stigma, and controversy around antidepressants. While it is important not to avoid using necessary medications, you need to work closely with health professionals who understand your recovery status and risk factors. At Laguna Shores Recovery, our team of compassionate experts can guide you through choosing and using antidepressants to help your recovery. We will also connect you with a strong recovery community through our various programs, including medical detox, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and 12-Step programs. Call us today to discover how you can best use antidepressants safely. Call us at (866) 774-1532 today.