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Can Antidepressants Help With Addiction Treatment and Recovery?

Antidepressants make up a large group of medications that can help people overcome feelings of depression, anxiety, and much more. These medications work by adjusting the release and/or reabsorption of neurotransmitters in the brain like serotonin, dopamine, or norepinephrine, helping individuals achieve a stabilized and slightly elevated mood. 

In recovery from addiction, many people suffer from mood issues. Whether it be depression or anxiety, it is extremely common for individuals in early recovery to struggle with unstable moods and have a difficult time experiencing happiness because their brain is still adjusting to sobriety, or, they struggle with co-occurring mental health conditions. 

Because of the link between depression and addiction, it is often recommended that people use antidepressants during addiction treatment and recovery.

How Do the Different Types of Antidepressants Work?

There are 5 categories of antidepressants, each one affecting the brain in a varied way. The most common type of antidepressant is known as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). SSRIs work by blocking the reuptake of serotonin by neurons, improving communication between nerve cells. 

Next, there are serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). SNRIs are usually used once a patient is found to be intolerant of SSRI drugs. SNRIs work by changing or reducing the reabsorption of serotonin and norepinephrine, causing an elevated and stabilized mood. 

Less common than SSRIs and SNRIs, norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs) act on norepinephrine and dopamine receptors to reduce reabsorption. 

Another type of antidepressant medication is known as tricyclic antidepressants. These drugs increase the amount of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine in the brain. While they tend to cause more side effects than other types of antidepressants, they are used for people who have not responded well to SSRIs and SNRIs. 

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) were among the first antidepressants developed. MAOIs block the effects of monoamine oxidase, increasing serotonin and dopamine. They can also cause serious side effects and require a change in diet, causing them to be less popular today. 

The Relationship Between Depression and Addiction

Depression is common among people who are fighting the diseases of addiction or alcoholism. Substance abuse is known to trigger and intensify feelings of sadness, loneliness, and hopelessness. This means that addiction can either cause depression or worsen an existing issue of depression. 

According to the National Institutes of Health, half of all people with a substance use disorder have a co-occurring mental health condition like depression.[1]

Additionally, a study from the National Library of Medicine found that individuals with depression are twice as likely to develop a substance use disorder when compared to their peers.[2]

Oftentimes, people who suffer from depression begin to self-medicate their symptoms. Self-medication is probably the most common cause of co-occurring depression and addiction. As an individual begins to self-medicate their depression, they start to rely on drugs for happiness, leading to the beginning of the cycle of addiction.

When Are Antidepressants Used During Addiction Treatment?

Antidepressants are used during addiction treatment for several reasons. The most common reason an antidepressant would be used is if the individual is displaying symptoms of depression that require immediate relief. In other words, if the person is attending therapy and continues to experience symptoms of depression, they would be given an antidepressant medication to provide them with symptom relief. 

The signs someone is struggling with depression include:

  • Loss of interest in daily activities 
  • Feeling sad or hopeless more often than not 
  • Changes in eating patterns that cause weight gain or loss 
  • Sleeping too much or not enough 
  • Feeling restless or feeling like moving is extremely difficult 
  • Feeling tired all of the time 
  • Symptoms of unworthiness or guilt for no apparent reason 
  • Having issues concentrating, remembering, or making decisions 
  • Thinking often about death or suicide 

Antidepressants may be used for other reasons. For example, some of these medications are effective smoking cessation tools. If someone in addiction recovery expresses the desire to quit smoking, an antidepressant like Wellbutrin may be prescribed. 

Additionally, some antidepressants balance brain chemicals during detox and recovery, thereby reducing cravings and symptoms of withdrawal. For example, antidepressants can help people overcome methamphetamine addiction by lessening cravings and making the drug less effective when abused. According to the National Library of Medicine, “By restoring depleted concentrations of monoamines bupropion could be effective in ameliorating withdrawal symptoms and cognitive deficits in early methamphetamine abstinence, thereby reducing methamphetamine use.”[3]

Benefits of Using Antidepressants in Addiction Recovery

While antidepressants can cause side effects, the benefits of taking these drugs greatly outweigh the risks. For starters, there is no risk of developing an addiction to antidepressant medications, making these drugs beneficial for individuals in recovery from substance abuse.

The benefits of using antidepressants in addiction recovery are centered around having good mental health. Addiction recovery is difficult, especially in the beginning. Taking medication that can help improve and stabilize one’s mood is often exactly what an individual needs to stay sober. 

In people who struggle with depression, antidepressants can be used as part of addiction treatment to help treat the root cause of their addiction. 

Additionally, individuals who suffer from depression often benefit from the quick symptom relief that antidepressants can provide. While they attend therapy to treat their depression, they can take antidepressant medication to limit their symptoms and make recovery that much easier.

Integrated Dual Diagnosis Treatment in West Palm Beach, Florida

If you or a loved one suffer from depression and co-occurring substance abuse, it is important to seek the help you need. Dealing with co-occurring disorders can be difficult, especially if you do not have professional help. With that being said, a comprehensive dual diagnosis treatment program in West Palm Beach can help you overcome the symptoms of both your depression and your addiction simultaneously. 

Contact Mandala Healing Center today for more information on how to get started.