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Psychologically and Physiologically Addictive Medications

Are antidepressants psychologically or physiologically addictive? – Kind of – but not in the way that you think!

For many years, most of the medical community have held steadfast to the idea that antidepressants were not “addictive.” But many Prescription Pain Medicationof those, not in the medical community or those with no personal experience of drug abuse or psychiatric illness, were convinced that those happypills were subject to abuse.  In fact, both were wrong.  Antidepressants are not “abusable“, but they are sort of “addiciting“.

To be clear – antidepressants are not subject to abuse.  They do not produce a “high” or anything like intoxication.  There is no immediate reward for taking antidepressants; in fact, one of the most troublesome things about antidepressants is that they take several weeks to actually work.

However, there is a difference between “abusabledrugs and “addictivedrugs.  Addiction is generally thought of as a psychological illness – in the way that marijuana and cocaine are psychologically addictive.  There is little evidence that either drug is physiologically addictive.  The body does not become dependent on the drug… the brain may – but not the body.

On the other hand, some medications are physiologically addictive – without being psychologically addictiveHormones are an example of this.  Once you start taking hormones (such as estrogen replacement), your body will adjust to the presence of the Psychologically Drug Addicted Dreammedication – and if suddenly discontinued, will not function normally.  There are many other examples of this, but you get the point.

Drugs like heroin, alcohol, and tobacco are psychologically addictive – but they are also physiologically addictive.  In addition to the brain “wanting” them, the body “needs” them to function normally.  If you suddenly take away the heroin, a severe withdrawal syndrome will begin.  If you suddenly take away alcohol – you may have seizures and a number of life-threatening conditions.

Prescription pain medications and anti-anxiety agents, when taken inappropriately can also be both psychologically and physiologically addictive – like heroin and alcohol.  When taken as prescribed, they are often still physiologically addictive.

Back to the antidepressants.

Certainly, years ago, sudden withdrawal of prescription antidepressants was known to be dangerous. But, with the development of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Prozac, Paxil, and many others, most people have believed that there was no chance of physical addiction, and there would be no withdrawal.

Over the years, I would hear about people who complained of “withdrawal” symptoms which I dismissed – like most people in the medical community.  Many of these patients also had a myriad of complaints – generalized pain, foggy thinking, and other things that were considered to be indicative of a hypochondriac or chronic complainer.  Turns out maybe I was wrong.

SSRIs and other “next generation” antidepressants CAN cause withdrawal symptoms.  Some (not all but some) patients may experience symptoms of withdrawal such as Anxiety.

  • Anxiety
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Depression and mood swings
  • Light-headedness and dizziness
  • Fatigue, headache and flu-like symptoms
  • Electric shock sensations
  • Loss of coordination, tremors and muscle spasms
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Nightmares and difficulty sleeping

Most people don’t experience these – or have only a mild reaction.  Unfortunately, even “tapering” down won’t make that much difference as the symptoms may take a long time to go away – but the withdrawal is real and shouldn’t be dismissed!

Melissa Lind

Adult ADHD

Adult ADHD – when you know but they don’t

I have always known that my husband has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) but he hasn’t.  Over the 20 plus years that I have known him, I heard stories about his childhood “antics” which were much more than cute, some of them were downright dangerous.

I heard stories about him taking the neighbor’s swing set apart, about how he and his cousin tried to stop a car with ropes tied around their waists, how they would ride their bikes all day – even into Mexico, and how they could be leaving the house in the morning finding things to do all day, and not returning until nightfall.  When he grew up, this type of behavior was “kind of” normal – the kid goes crazy, we throw him outside.  Today, parenting is different.

Cure for ADHD

When I met him, he was near 30 and had all ready had jobs in at least seven different industries, some of which required education, some of which didn’t.  He had been a taxi driver, carpenter, a pipe-fitter, a purchasing agent, a chef, a plastics technician, a shipping agent, a firefighter and was in school to become a Paramedic.  He was broke but had impeccable taste.

He was brilliant but couldn’t sit down and read a book; in fact, he couldn’t sit down at all.  He was often late to work and even late, very late to dates.  His car was a trash pit.

We got married anyway, and he settled into a fast paced career as a paramedic – which suited his personality because there was always an emergency.  When we started discussing children, I approached the concept of “treatment for ADHD” – believing that my children would likely have it.
He was adamantly opposed.  His idea was – kids will be kids, and I did just fine.  They won’t need medication because there is nothing wrong, there won’t be anything wrong.  Stop talking about treating ADHD.

He quit working as a paramedic and went to work in automotive parts – after he went back to cooking, and then into construction, worked at a biotech company, made some jewelry, setup traffic surveys… He had a lot of jobs and didn’t keep any of them.  His car was still a pit.

ADHDHe could do laundry – but would forget to put the clothes in the dryer and could never find any underwear.  He could start the dishes, stack them all up, organize and sort everything –  but would wander off before he actually washed them.  He “meant” to clean out his shop, repair the dryer vent, put gutters on the house… He went to the hardware store for one thing and came back with three bags full of stuff – but not what he went to the store for.

One afternoon we were watching public television, and a documentary came on.   He didn’t know that it was about adult ADHD until he was already interested.  I heard him saying out loud “I do that”…. “That is me.”
Despite the psychology classes he took, despite his internship in mental health treatment, despite raising five kids, despite knowing that several of his relatives had been treated – he really didn’t think he had ADHD (ADD) and didn’t identify with it at all until he heard it on TV.

He had new insight – but still couldn’t take the step to go to the doctor.  I had to make an appointment; I had to make sure he got there – and guess what?  The doctor agreed.
He is now on medication, and though he will never be the most organized guy, he will probably always get distracted by shiny stuff – and will probably always have a hundred projects going but when he takes his medication he can actually get some things accomplished.  His shed is clean – cluttered but clean, he can usually find his underwear.

He even agreed to have our kids evaluated for the alphabet soup of mental disorder that is our family – some have ADHD, some have other disorders, but at least they have access to treatment and his car is no longer a pit.

Melissa Lind

Some adults will not admit they has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)!