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Antidepressant use is on the rise with an estimated 1 in 10 American’s taking them, and many have not been diagnosed with mental illness. A lot of doctors who aren’t psychiatrists are writing antidepressants prescriptions for reasons ranging from everyday stress to stage fright to difficulty kicking the smoking habit. Antidepressants such as Lexapro, Paxil, and Prozac are now the third most prescribed group of drugs in the United States and that statistic is only expected to increase. Despite the number of people using such drugs, a lot of myths still surround the use of antidepressants.
Myth: Antidepressants are addictive.
Fact: Unlike alcohol, nicotine, and tranquillizers, antidepressants don’t require frequent dosage increases to maintain a certain effect, and they do not cause the user to crave them. While not addictive, those using antidepressants classified as SSRIs and SNRIs do experience withdrawal effects that sometimes can last for months. Some indicators of withdrawal include upset stomach, flu-like symptoms, anxiety, strange dreams, and dizziness.
Antidepressants also carry a long list of potential side effects, ranging from mild to severe, which should be discussed with a medical professional prior to beginning treatment. But rest assured that antidepressants aren’t addictive.
Myth: Antidepressants are the panacea for depression
Fact: Antidepressants aren’t magic “happy pills” and the mood-improving effects can take several weeks to develop. Antidepressants developed a reputation for being like “speed”, but unlike methamphetamines, antidepressants don’t result in euphoria. In fact, only about 2/3 of those with depression will respond to any given antidepressant, and the improvement in mood generally is limited.
Myth: Antidepressants are a quick fix and don’t solve the problem.
Fact: We’ve already established that antidepressants can take weeks to go into effect, so that would hardly classify as a “quick fix.” While they can lift your mood a bit, they work most effectively when combined with therapy to address any underlying environmental issues contributing to depression. Other potentially helpful treatments to combine with antidepressants include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, herbal remedies (though these must be carefully planned with a doctor), and light therapy.
Myth: Antidepressants cause weight gain.
Fact: This is only partially a myth; some people do experience weight gain as a result of taking antidepressants. Though some people gain weight after beginning antidepressants, the antidepressant isn’t necessarily the cause. For instance, the added medication could improve a person’s appetite, which may have diminished as a result of depression, and that causes them to gain weight. Some people may even lose weight, due to a drop off in emotional eating once they start taking the medication. Such a side effect depends on the person and the prescribed antidepressant, so if this is a concern, you should discuss it with your doctor beforehand.