Do drugs reduce emotional pain from depression bring a similar addiction risk as other prescription medications? The drug companies are of course saying no, but we think it is worth taking a closer look. As we know addiction means craving, and as far as we also know nobody has mental or physical cravings when it comes to their antidepressant medication like they do narcotics and or/ alcohol. However, antidepressant users do become drug dependent, and if they were to abruptly stop taking their medication, there would be mental, physical, and emotional side effects. Even when gradually tapering off these medications feelings of “brain zapping”, heightened emotions, sadness, loss of sleep, and many other symptoms are reported. As these symptoms are not fatal, they are very unpleasant, and often keep individuals from ever going off these medications; in lieu of having to deal with feeling these side effects.
What is depression, and why is it more common among people dealing with substance abuse? Depression deals with lower levels of serotonin in one’s brain, however it is seldom caused by a chemical disorder. Someone giving up on something with importance in his or her life; giving up on something the individual really wanted is what most commonly triggers depression in those most susceptible to it. With addiction we see this so frequently because there is a lot of trial and error associated with getting sober; and with all the error one goes through trying to find and sustain recovery there is a lot of shame. Shame in one’s self, and in the disappointment of the things that have gone wrong breeds depression, and anxiety as well.
These antidepressant medications or SSRIs seem to significantly help about 60 percent of people, and for the rest they either help a little, not at all, or not enough to keep taking the medication. Researches have recently taken a closer look at the differences between people just on these medications, people just attending psychotherapy, and people utilizing both. What they found was that psychotherapy alone could have great effects, but the process is much slower for uplifting depressive feelings, but there was a much less likely chance of having a relapse of a depressive episode. They believe this is because medication actually increases the brain’s depression threshold and vulnerability, whereas psychotherapy is working directly with what the brain has naturally. So while it would be lovely if everybody had the time and patience to for-go medication and heal slowly through psychotherapy, that just is not reality in our society today. So it is just important to understand you and/or a loved one’s dependence on all brain-altering medications, narcotic or not. Also, talk to your doctor about this further; an open dialogue with them about what your medications are doing for you is healthy, and recommended.