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Addiction To SSRI’s: Should We Be Concerned About Potential To Cause Addiction?

Last Updated: Jun 21st 2022

Reviewed by EliteStrategies

An SSRI or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor is a class of drugs that is typically used for depression. These antidepressants are used to treat major depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, and any other psychological conditions that impact patients. As a team of well-established, addiction treatment specialists in Northern New Jersey, North Jersey Recovery Center continually explores the relationships patients develop with anything that is potentially habit-forming. SSRIs are no exception to the rule. For today, let’s talk Addiction to SSRIs: Should we be concerned about potential to cause addiction?

How Do Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors Function?

SSRIs work by increasing the levels of serotonin in our brain. They block the reabsorption or reuptake of serotonin into neurons. This makes more serotonin available to improve the transmission of messages between the neurons. SSRIs are selective because they only impact the serotonin neurotransmitter. Even if you aren’t on SSRIs, you have definitely heard of the brands that are widely available on the market, for those who do take them. They are as follows:

  • Prozac (Fluoxetine)
  • Celexa (Citalopram)
  • Lexapro (Escitalopram)
  • Zoloft (Sertraline)
  • Paxil, Pexeva (Paroxetine)

All of the SSRIs typically work in the same fashion. With that said, they will still vary in their potencies at blocking serotonin reuptake and how quickly the body metabolizes the drug. If a person tries one particular SSRI and does not tolerate it well, a different one may be effective for them. 

Should We Be Concerned About Potential For Addiction?

To better answer this question, we must first make the distinction between dependence and addiction. Dependence is commonly known as a state of adaptation which is onset from frequent use of a drug. If someone is dependent on medication, by suddenly discontinuing treatment or quickly decreasing your dose, it could lead to withdrawal symptoms. Allow us to clearly address the dichotomy of addiction and dependence more so, in the next section.

SSRI Dependence And Addiction

Addiction is both a term and a disease that knows no bounds. Many, including our addiction treatment specialists in Northern New Jersey, define it as a disease characterized by continued substance use, regardless of what it may cause. For most, harm, cravings, and impaired control, are not enough to free somebody from the binding shackles of addiction. Unfortunately, it’s much more complex than that. Sometimes, addiction will occur as a result of dependency, but this does not have to be the case, all of the time. SSRIs, along with other types of antidepressants, can cause dependence. 

Someone with depression and anxiety may need to take these medications long-term to manage their symptoms. The brain starts relying on the drugs due to the chemical transformations that come about and as a result, will depend on them to maintain normal function. Dependence can certainly be a natural physical occurrence when taking any medications chronically, and withdrawal symptoms may occur when someone abruptly stops taking the medication. 

As it stands currently, antidepressants remain at the top as one of the most prescribed medications in the United States. Many doctors view them as a safer alternative to benzodiazepines. In fact, many medical professionals may opt to prescribe Buspar as a safer alternative to Benzodiazepines as it specifically targets anxiety disorders. The reason doctors consider antidepressants safer is that the drugs contain less potential for abuse. Despite this fact, some people will still find ways to abuse these medications. 

How Are SSRIs Addictive?

The question that many of you are still wondering: Are SSRIs addictive? Well, see what The National Library of Medicine had to say:

“Addiction/dependence is a syndrome in which the hallmark is a compulsive pattern of drug use. Most authorities do not regard antidepressants as causing addiction, but this has been challenged. Withdrawal or discontinuation symptoms have long been recognized with antidepressants, but other features of addiction such as tolerance and compulsive use are exceptionally rare. Common clinical problems are patients taking subtherapeutic doses and prematurely stopping antidepressants. The pharmacodynamic profiles of most antidepressants and the absence of acute “desirable” effects make addiction theoretically unlikely. It is concluded that, except tranylcypromine and amineptine, antidepressants do not have a clinically significant liability for causing addiction. Tranylcypromine and amineptine should be avoided in those with a history of substance misuse. Patients prescribed other antidepressants should be told that they are not addictive.”

Most addictive substances are addictive because they cause a euphoric rush of dopamine and give the user the same high. Antidepressants are also referred to as “happy pills”, but do not cause those intense, euphoric feelings or highs that are found in other substances. Additionally, addiction to a substance causes obsession or cravings over the substance and drug-seeking behavior. This is where the big difference lies with SSRIs, in comparison to these other illicit substances. They do not cause cravings nor do they provoke drug-seeking behavior. People won’t feel inclined to give up their everyday commitments in hopes of obtaining more. To reiterate, SSRIs are capable of causing a physical dependence as evidenced by withdrawal symptoms, but getting addicted to an SSRI is very unlikely.

Working With Addiction Treatment Specialists in Northern New Jersey

We hope we answered your questions on addiction to SSRIs! If you or someone you love is struggling with any other addictions, our addiction treatment specialists in Northern New Jersey are available around the clock, ready to assist. To learn more about the specifics of our addiction treatment programs, contact us today! 

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by EliteStrategies

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