Are Antidepressants Addictive? New Research Finds Most are Ineffective for Teens | Harbor Village - Harbor Village

Are Antidepressants Addictive? New Research Finds Most are Ineffective for Teens

Adolescence: a time of physical metamorphosis, biochemical modification, and social evolution. Preteen to young adulthood is a time of growth, exploration, and burgeoning independence; a time of first kisses, first loves, first heartbreaks. It can also be a terribly dramatic time: explosive fights with friends and family members, emotional turmoil triggered by the tiniest things, and an all-consuming conviction that the world is ending because the person you like is dating someone else.

Add to that school work and the rapidly approaching realities of being an adult and it’s easy to empathize with the teenagers in your life (when they’re not driving you absolutely insane, that is.)

Being able to understand and empathize with teens is important; too often their problems and complaints go unheard, brushed off and invalidated with comments like “you’ll get over it” or “it’s just a phase.”

That is until things spiral out of control; your teen is drinking, smoking, having sex, and getting into trouble all in desperate attempt to get your attention- or prove they don’t need your approval. Things can even take a much darker turn: crime, suicide, or murder. By then parents and family members wondering where things went wrong and what could have been done to prevent these things from happening, but I pose a different question: are we not giving our teens enough consideration or credit?

We know much more about mental health disorders now than we did in the past; namely, we know many of them are likely to begin developing in adolescence. Those screaming fights with mom may actually be a symptom of an undiagnosed disorder, not teenage melodrama.

Then there’s the other side of the coin: are we misdiagnosing our children and teens to avoid uncovering the real issues? We can be a bit too quick to prescribe pills to ‘cure’ so-called “troubled kids.” And recent studies are suggesting the pills we feed our children are ineffective– at least when it comes to major depressive disorders.

The research showed that out of 14 tested antidepressants, only Prozac and Sarafem proved to be truly effective in relieving symptoms of depression. Contrarily, some medications were actually likely to increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors- something we often hear whispered at the tail-end of commercials for these medications.

These findings do not disprove the effectiveness of antidepressants in adults.

With this newfound knowledge, it comes to question why, if these medications are ineffective, are they are often abused by teens and young adults? After powerful pain relievers found in family medicine cabinets, antidepressants are also often pilfered for purposeful misuse.

Could it be a matter of addiction? Are antidepressants addictive?

Well, yes and no.

Antidepressants are not addictive in the sense that they do not cause the intense cravings we often associate with drugs like heroin or alcohol. But, they are known to produce unpleasant withdrawal symptoms conducive to the formation of physical dependency.

Not sure what the difference between addiction and dependency is? Learn more about that in this blog post: Substance Dependency Vs. Addiction: What’s the Difference?

For antidepressants, the symptoms of withdrawal include many of the usual suspects:

  • Fever
  • Tremors
  • Headache
  • Hallucinations
  • Dizziness and nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Anxiety and/or panic attacks
  • Confusion

Why do teens and young adult abuse antidepressants? Usually it’s a misunderstanding of how antidepressants work. They believe because these medications have mood altering properties, they produce a high or feelings of euphoria if one takes enough. That’s simply not how antidepressants work, and attempting to do so can easily lead to an overdose.

If you suspect someone you know is abusing antidepressants, don’t hesitate to reach out today to help them get the help they need.

Do you think we over-prescribe antidepressant medications to children and teens? Comment below with your thoughts!

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