Addiction to Antidepressants

Antidepressants have grown in quality, scope and sophistication since they were first developed in the 1950s. Although scientists aren’t sure what causes depression, they believe antidepressants help by increasing the activity of certain neurotransmitters in the brain.

Although antidepressants don’t work for everybody, they have proven to improve outlook and mood in people who experience treatment for moderate to severe depression, anxiety and panic attacks, PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and OCD (obsessive-compulsive behavior), as well as eating disorders and chronic pain.

Antidepressants are not technically defined as addictive, partly because unlike heroin or cocaine, people don’t take the medications to get high, or for a “rush,” and they don’t develop a tolerance or take the drug in increasingly larger doses.
However, this is largely a matter of semantics. Many experts believe antidepressants should be classified as addictive drugs because of the many complications that can arise when people try to stop:

  • A growing number of people report addiction-like symptoms and uncomfortable side effects that make it difficult to stop taking antidepressants.
  • Initially, antidepressant users may feel relaxed and calm. Antidepressant medications have a slightly sedative effect that may slow reaction time. A correct, phased-in short-term use and monitoring for suicidal intentions often helps with lifting the depression.
  • Various side effects of antidepressants include joint and muscle pain, muscle spasms, weight gain, allergic reactions, sexual dysfunction, lethargy, blurred vision, insomnia and fatigue, however, with the modern SSRI's, these are often moderate, short and tolerable.
  • Although most withdrawal symptoms are mild to moderate, stopping is difficult. Some users may experience fevers, headaches, upset stomach, nausea or other flu-like symptoms during withdrawal. In some cases, people may have trembling, seizures, hallucinations or other neurological problems.
  • Vivid dreams and nightmares are common during withdrawal from antidepressants. “Brain zap,” the sensation of electric shocks in the head, are also a common temporary, nevertheless unpleasant phenomenon.
  • Most symptoms are reversible, although the length of uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms varies. Some people may be completely free of symptoms in two weeks, while others may experience symptoms for up to a year.
  • Many people experience a return of depressive symptoms when antidepressants are stopped.
  • Most withdrawal symptoms occur when the drug is stopped suddenly. It’s important not to stop antidepressants abruptly because the brain has grown accustomed to the medications. A gradually, carefully monitored approach gives the brain a chance to readjust to the changes.
  • Withdrawal symptoms also depend on the type of antidepressant. Medications that stay in the body longer leave the body slowly and tend to cause more symptoms. Short-acting anti-depressants that leave the body quickly tend to present fewer withdrawal symptoms. However, any type of antidepressant can cause withdrawal symptoms.
  • Great care should be used when prescribing antidepressants for young people. Experts are concerned about the growing number of children and adolescents who receive medications for depression. Research indicates that some antidepressants increase the risk of suicidal thoughts, hostile thoughts, agitation and aggression.

We treat addiction to antidepressants and withdrawal difficulties as a chronic disease. It is not a moral issue or a matter of willpower. It is not about being strong or weak.

Our unique treatment of antidepressant addiction is intensive and comprehensive:

  1. We use a holistic approach that treats the entire person – body, mind, soul and spirit.
  2. Treatment begins with a complete medical exam and psychiatric assessment.
  3. Each client undergoes comprehensive biochemical testing, closely supervised by our orthomolecular medicine team. Based on the results of the tests, our specialists complete an extensive nutritional and lifestyle assessment, nutritional education and supplementation.
  4. Treating the underlying cause of the antidepressant addiction and restoring healthy biochemical balance involves a tailor-made formulation of micronutrients and amino acids.
  5. Each client is assigned a trained addiction therapist, who completes a thorough assessment and devises a comprehensive treatment plan.
  6. Each client moves into a luxury apartment, hotel or other agreed-upon residence. The addiction therapist also lives at the residence. Other staff in residence may include a butler, chef, driver or housekeeper, as required.
  7. To minimize unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, each client tapers the dosage of antidepressants slowly, under close medical supervision while at the same time nutritional, emotional and therapeutic support is provided around the clock if needed.
  8. A daily treatment schedule is developed on the basis of the treatment plan. Trained therapists come to the client’s residence for sessions, which may include core and complementary therapies such as extensive psychotherapy, psycho-education, spiritual counseling. Other available treatments include acupuncture, reflexology, fitness training or yoga.
  9. Primary family members are strongly encouraged to attend a two-day family program during the course of treatment. Although this is highly encouraged, it is not mandatory.

If you are concerned about your dependence on antidepressants or if you have unsuccessfully tried to stop them, there is no need to struggle alone. Contact us directly. We will help you address the problem in a supportive, nonjudgmental manner.

We also provide a thorough aftercare plan and an open phone-line 24/7 to prevent problems that you may confront after leaving treatment.

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