In the past years, antidepressants have created quite some controversy regarding their nature and effects. It is widely considered that antidepressants don’t create addiction, and therefore, they cannot be abused. However, this is only partly true. Statistics show that the abuse of prescribed drugs has become in the last few years a rather worrying trend. Before analysing the effects of antidepressants on the organism, it is important to understand what they actually are.
Antidepressants refer to three different categories of drug: MAO inhibitors, SSRIs and the Tricyclic category. These medicines are commonly prescribed by general doctors and if used only under the guidance of the prescriptions, they can have beneficial effects on one’s health. As the name suggests, antidepressants are prescribed for treating depression, and several other mood disorders, such as mild bi-polar disorders.
Depending on the category, antidepressants have different effects on the health.
To begin with, SSRIs have an impact on the brain’s function: they increase the serotonin levels, inducing an overall good feeling of fulfilment. However, Tricyclic antidepressants have more widened effects, increasing both the levels of serotonin and noradrenaline. Finally, MAO inhibitors block the production of monoamine oxidase. Therefore, the concentration of noradrenaline, serotonin and dopamine in the brain remains high.
Antidepressants were created so that people affected by mood disorders can live a happier, more fulfilled life, with no worries or too much negative thinking. What many people seem to forget is that like all man-made drugs, antidepressants have side-effects. MAOIs can cause death if mixed with certain foods (containing Tyramine), while Tricyclics can affect the bowl movements, make one feel tired and/or dizzy, or even be toxic for the heart functions and cause arrhythmia and/or risk of heart failure. Finally, SSRIs are considered to be the safest of the antidepressant category, but not completely free from side-effects (anxiety, fatigue, low libido, etc.)
On the long term, abusing antidepressants can have some serious side-effects in users. The dangerous side of antidepressants is that many users become addicted without even noticing it. When taking the drugs under prescription, the reaction of the organism to the dose is monitored, so that any side-effects are noted and in case that the dose is too high, it can get decreased by the doctor. However, when taking them without prescription, many things can go wrong: the dose might be inappropriate for the organism, causing painful physical side effects, and with time, the organism’s tolerance increases, leading to the need of a bigger dose. Additionally, sudden stop from taking antidepressants can cause powerful signs of withdrawal, such as hallucinations, unbearable headaches, or increased levels of anxiety and depression.
Like all drugs, the long-term abuse of antidepressants changes the brain wiring, altering the way one feels. This can affect the emotional health in a very harmful way. Even though at first the antidepressants have a beneficial effect, with time it can change radically, causing even desire to commit suicide.
Many people that have been prescribed antidepressants keep taking them long after the doctor’s prescription has expired. Antidepressants addiction can occur quite easily, especially if a person is not confident enough about his/her strength to defeat depression with his/her own means. However, it is important not to forget that antidepressants are dangerous if abused and can cause the same strong addiction like any other type of drugs.