Are antidepressants addictive?

By | June 8, 2023

Is it true that if you are prescribed antidepressants you run the risk of becoming addicted? Would you like to know what to do to avoid possible addiction to these drugs? Find out here.

Are antidepressants addictive?

Last update: 08 June 2023

The increasingly continued prescribing of antidepressants raises questions about whether these are addictive drugs. These drugs are not only prescribed for depressive disorders. In fact, they are frequently administered to patients suffering from chronic pain, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, severe phobias and post-traumatic stress.

THE currently available antidepressants are not addictive. However, under certain circumstances, they can lead to a situation of dependency. This can occur when an individual stops taking treatment suddenly or has been taking it for many years.

Antidepressants are effective, but shouldn’t be used as an exclusive strategy for overcoming a mood disorder. Psychological therapy is the best strategy against depression and to avoid relapses or prolonged use of these drugs over time.

Are antidepressants addictive?

Treatment for depression and any mental condition is not a one-size-fits-all experience. Each individual has his own story. Additionally, there are certain social and genetic characteristics that can cause people to respond to psychiatric drugs in different ways. There are also a number of myths surrounding the debate about whether or not antidepressants are addictive.

Some scientific communities unanimously conclude that these drugs are not addictive and are not drugs like heroin or tobacco. For example, a study conducted by Kings College London (UK) states this antidepressants cannot be classified as addictive substances, because there is no indisputable evidence to support this idea.

Similarly, in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) these drugs do not meet all the criteria for their effects to be considered addictive. But there are some aspects that should be clarified.

Withdrawal syndrome

Withdrawal syndrome, in the context of antidepressants, can occur when the drug is stopped inappropriately. It is known as antidepressant withdrawal syndrome. When an individual experiences dizziness, insomnia, or irritability after stopping antidepressants, it is thought to be addictive. In 2022, a survey conducted by University College London (UK) states that this physical response is due to prolonged use of antidepressants.

However, the researchers insist it this form of withdrawal is completely different from what appears as a result of drug use. But some patients confuse the withdrawal syndrome with a relapse of their own depression. In fact, the symptoms are often extremely similar. A correct diagnosis is essential in these cases.

Antidepressants do not have euphoric effects like drugs. In some specific cases, they can generate some feelings of dependency, particularly if the treatment is suddenly stopped.

Addiction and who experiences it

Drugs to indicate if antidepressants are addictive
Misuse of antidepressants can lead to addiction and really bad side effects.

Some patients conclude that antidepressants are addictive because they show signs of addiction. However, we reiterate that the experience of using these psychiatric drugs is not the same for everyone. Although infrequent, the following situations can occur:

  • Overuse of antidepressants can lead to addiction and negative side effects.
  • People who continue treatment with antidepressants for many years can become addicted.
  • Addiction to antidepressants it can appear in patients who have previously taken benzodiazepines for long periods of time.

The most and least addictive antidepressants

As we have already indicated, antidepressants are not addictive. That said, addiction-related symptoms may occur if the duration of treatment is prolonged.

In the latter scenario, some antidepressants, due to their composition, have a slightly higher potential to produce withdrawal-related effects. We will explore which drugs have the greatest and least effects in this regard.

Antidepressants with increased risk of dependence

  • Desvenlafaxine. Useful in the treatment of chronic pain/binomial depression.
  • Paroxetine. Used to treat major depression, post-traumatic stress, anxiety and panic disorder.
  • Excitalopram. Used to treat major depression, generalized anxiety, panic disorder, phobias and OCD.
  • Bupropion. Used for patients with depression and to treat smoking addiction. Follow-ups are required in his administration.

More common antidepressants with fewer side effects

  • Sertraline.
  • Fluoxetine.
  • Mirtazapine.
  • Agomelatine.

Those who do not follow specific doctor’s guidelines and overdo the use of antidepressants will experience adverse effects. Among them is addiction.

Pill bottle to represent if antidepressants are addictive
Antidepressants are not addictive, as long as medical guidelines are followed.

How to avoid negative effects in the consumption of antidepressants

Although there is a false myth that antidepressants are addictive, these drugs are approved by medical institutions and there is no evidence that they have such an effect. However, the recommended guidelines should be followed to the letter when taking these drugs.

Indeed, there are a number of guidelines and recommendations that protect against addiction. Are the following:

  • Follow the recommended dosage and do not skip any tablets.
  • Follow the exact recommendations of the specialist.
  • Don’t combine antidepressants with other substances, such as alcohol.
  • Remember that sustained administration over time leads to addiction.
  • In case of adverse side effects, notify the specialist so that he can adjust the dose or prescribe another drug.
  • If necessary, undergo genetic testing to find out the possible effects of drugs.
  • Antidepressants treat the symptom, but not the root of the problem. Psychological therapy is needed to address the diagnosis and allow the patient to discontinue drug treatment.

Bottom line, only the misuse of these psychoactive drugs can turn them into addictive agents. Therefore, it is imperative to always consult specialized professionals and respect their instructions. But, taken correctly, these are safe and effective medicines that we may all find ourselves needing at some point in our lives.

You might be interested…

All sources cited have been thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography for this article has been deemed reliable and of scholarly or scientific accuracy.

  • Davies, J. and Read, J. (2019). A systematic review of the incidence, severity, and duration of antidepressant withdrawal effects: Are guidelines evidence-based? Addictive behaviors,97111121.
  • Groot, PC and van Os, J. (2018). Antidepressant tapered strips to help people stop medication more safely.Psychosis,10(2), 142145.
  • Haddad P. (1999). Are antidepressants potentially addictive? Journal of Psychopharmacology (Oxford, England),13(3), 300307.
  • Horowitz, MA, Framer, A., Hengartner, MPet al. (2023). Estimating risk of antidepressant withdrawal from a review of published data. CNS drugs, 37, 143157.
  • Jauhar, S., Hayes, J., Goodwin, GM, Baldwin, DS, Cowen, PJ, and Nutt, DJ (2019). Antidepressants, withdrawal and addiction; Where are we now? Journal of Psychopharmacology (Oxford, England),33(6), 655659.

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