How Can You Tell If Someone Is Using Antidepressants?

Antidepressants, as the name implies, are drugs used to treat depression, anxiety and other mood-related mental health disorders. Are you suspecting antidepressant abuse in yourself or a loved one? Learn more about antidepressant abuse symptoms, potential side effects, plus how to get immediate help for addiction.

Last Edited:

03/24/2022

Medical Reviewer:

Dr. Tasnova Malek

Clinically Reviewed:

03/24/2022

Antidepressant is the umbrella term for the various types of drugs that are used to elevate one’s mood. It is commonly used to address major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety, and other mental health problems that affect one’s mood. The main mechanism of antidepressants is to balance the brain’s chemistry which in turn improves the symptoms of mood-related mental health disorders.

Since antidepressants can give immediate relief, there is a high potential for substance abuse and addiction. If you are wondering about antidepressant addiction signs, look through the various physical, mental and behavioral symptoms below to know more.

Antidepressant Addiction Symptoms

Each type of drug will present various addiction symptoms in the three main areas: Physical, Mental, and Behavioral. For common antidepressants such as Zoloft, Prozac, Celexa and Lexapro, you will often observe these following symptoms of addiction:

Physical

  • Sudden weight changes
  • Pale skin and lips
  • Reddish or pinkish eyes
  • Lack of interest in food
  • Insomnia or irregular sleeping habits
  • Incomprehensible speech

Mental

  • Confusion and memory loss
  • Difficulties in motor coordination
  • Shaky hands and legs
  • Appearing agitated or irritated when not taking the drug
  • Difficulties coping with former responsibilities (work, academics, daily routines)

Behavioral

  • “Doctor shopping”, making frequent complaints in healthcare facilities to acquire antidepressants
  • Secretive behavior
  • Increased isolation and lack of interest in other people
  • Lack of interest in other activities other than drug use
  • Taking in more antidepressants than what is initially prescribed

If you have observed many of the signs mentioned above, it is highly likely that you or a loved one is experiencing antidepressant drug abuse. With prescription drug abuse, there is still a high risk of health complications and overdose, so it is important to seek professional help as soon as possible.

As mentioned, any type of antidepressant abuse that is left untreated can lead to dangerous side effects. Below, you will see the antidepressant abuse effects that could happen during long-term drug misuse.

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Antidepressant Abuse Side Effects

How much is too much when it comes to antidepressants? One sign that you or a loved one may be addicted to antidepressants is the development of side effects. Some side effects can be mild, but others can lead to life-threatening situations.

Seizures and shakiness

Antidepressants are known to change one’s brain chemistry. Thus, it is possible to experience seizures and tremors when taking large doses of the drug. Some seizures can cause brain cell death, which results in brain damage or memory loss. In rare instances, seizures that happen for a longer period of time can also result in accidents or death.

Mental confusion

Another challenging side effect of antidepressant abuse is mental confusion. You would notice that the person does not respond appropriately in conversations, forget their responsibilities, or just lack mental alertness in general. When antidepressant misuse is done long-term, it is likely that mental confusion may be a permanent side effect of the drug.

Serotonin syndrome

Antidepressants are recognized to stimulate serotonin production in the brain. Too much of the drug can lead to a condition called serotonin syndrome. Extreme cases can cause muscle rigidity, sweating diarrhea, seizures, heart complications, and even death.

Overdose

A life-threatening side effect of antidepressant addiction is drug overdose. Overdose in antidepressants can look a little different than that of opioids, in that the person can exhibit shakiness and hallucinations. They may also have a faster or irregular heartbeat. If the person displays any of these signs, including fainting or low blood pressure, it is considered a medical emergency, so seek immediate help right away.

Hopefully, these dangerous side effects can give you an idea of how much antidepressants is too much. Even when you have experienced any of these effects or have had long-term antidepressant abuse, it is never too late to seek addiction help.

How to Get Help for Antidepressant Addiction

Quitting cold turkey or trying to stay sober on your own can work for some, but the main problem of doing this is the dangerous and uncomfortable effects of antidepressant withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, seizures, dehydration, and other symptoms that can be life-threatening when left unchecked.

On the other hand, trying to quit on your own without professional help can also increase the chances of relapse, which in turn may lead to a life-threatening overdose. The best course of action for successful addiction recovery is finding high-quality professional help.

Reach out to an antidepressant abuse treatment center

Finding a rehab center that specializes in antidepressant abuse means that they have the right facilities and professionals to address your needs. You can contact a rehab center that treats antidepressant abuse to request information on how to get started and to verify your insurance. Alternatively, they can also provide options on how you can finance your treatment if healthcare insurance is not an option.

Let trusted loved ones know

Letting supportive people know of your addiction treatment journey gives you more opportunities to prepare for rehab. They can provide you with:

  • Financial support
  • Emotional and moral support
  • Traveling assistance
  • Help on responsibilities during your temporary absence

It may be nerve-wracking to admit something especially if you have not opened up to antidepressant abuse, but supportive loved ones will not judge–they are there to help as you seek out a better life for yourself.

Empower yourself with knowledge

There is a wealth of trusted resources on the internet about antidepressant addiction. You can also reach out to some local resources to know more about how to get help for antidepressant abuse in yourself or for another loved one, and how to intervene if this is the case.

Some support groups, online forums, and other resource centers are available to know more about what you can do if you or a loved one is experiencing antidepressant abuse or prescription drug addiction of any kind.

Antidepressant Abuse: Knowing the Signs, Effects, and Taking Action for Recovery

Antidepressant addiction signs can look quite different from other types of prescription drug abuse, but it doesn’t mean that it cannot be detected as soon as possible. Being aware of the symptoms, potential side effects, and knowing how to take action can restore an individual’s life through addiction recovery.

Sources

  1. Medlineplus.gov – “Antidepressants”.
  2. Mayoclinic.org – “Serotonin syndrome”.

Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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