April 23, 2024

What Is an SSRI?: Withdrawal, Effects, & Dependence

image of woman representing ssri

An SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) is a type of antidepressant medication that’s approved by FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) to treat a variety of conditions like depression, anxiety, and bulimia nervosa. SSRI medication works by maintaining the activity of neurotransmitters – chemical messengers – in the brain.

What Are SSRI Medications?

SSRIs are a first-line treatment option for depression due to their general effectiveness and relative lack of side effects compared to other treatments.

This class of medication works by boosting serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter known for its role in promoting a sense of well-being and relaxation, circulates in the brain before being reabsorbed. Depression has been associated with reduced levels of this neurotransmitter.

By inhibiting the reabsorption of serotonin into the bloodstream, SSRIs ensure that a higher concentration of this feel-good chemical remains active in the brain, so alleviating depressive symptoms. Importantly, SSRIs don’t increase serotonin production. Rather, they make the existing serotonin more accessible to the brain by impeding its reabsorption.

Commonly prescribed SSRIs include:

  • Citalopram (Celexa)
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Fluvoxamine (Luvox)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)

Each of these medications can be used in combination with talk therapies and counseling to treat depression and other mental health conditions.

SSRI Withdrawal Symptoms

SSRI withdrawal is clinically described as antidepressant discontinuation syndrome. This may occur if someone who has been using this class of medication for six weeks or more discontinues use. The risk of experiencing SSRI withdrawal increases if the medication is abruptly stopped rather than gradually tapered off with the supervision of a healthcare provider.

Symptoms of withdrawal include insomnia, nausea, and flu-like symptoms, generally subsiding within two months. Although withdrawal from SSRI antidepressants is not physically dangerous, it can be highly uncomfortable. Additionally, discontinuing an antidepressant may cause the resurgence of the original condition it was prescribed for, such as depression or anxiety.

If you’re contemplating discontinuing an antidepressant, consult with your healthcare provider to discuss strategies for preventing withdrawal.

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SSRI Side Effects

SSRIs are known for their specificity in targeting serotonin with minimal impact on other neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine, resulting in fewer side effects than other classes of antidepressants like TCAs (tricyclic antidepressants) or MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors).

That said, SSRIs are not devoid of side effects. Commonly reported SSRI side effects include:

  • Decreased libido
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Sleep issues
  • Changes in weight
  • Anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Headaches
  • Gastrointestinal disturbances

FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning about an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in children and young adults taking antidepressants, including SSRIs.

Dependence on SSRIs

While SSRIs are not considered addictive in the traditional sense – they don’t produce the compulsive drug-seeking behavior typical of substances like opioids or stimulants – they can lead to the development of physical dependence. This means that people who have been taking SSRIs long-term may experience withdrawal symptoms upon sudden cessation.

Antidepressant discontinuation can be managed with a gradual tapering of the dosage under medical supervision to minimize withdrawal effects.

FAQs

Are SSRIs addictive?

SSRIs are generally not considered addictive as they do not cause cravings or compulsive use in the way that substances like opioids or alcohol can. However, sudden discontinuation can lead to withdrawal symptoms, indicating physical dependence.

Is Wellbutrin an SSRI?

Wellbutrin is not an SSRI. It’s classified as an NDRI (norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor), primarily affecting the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine.

Is Lexapro an SSRI?

Lexapro, known by its generic name escitalopram, is an SSRI. It’s commonly prescribed for the treatment of depression and generalized anxiety disorder.

Is Zoloft an SSRI?

Zoloft (sertraline) is an SSRI that’s widely used to treat depression, anxiety disorders, panic attacks, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

image of gratitude lodge |  learning about ssri withdrawal symptoms

Get Treatment for Prescription Drug Dependence at Gratitude Lodge

If you have developed dependence on SSRIs or other prescription medications, begin your recovery at Gratitude Lodge in Newport Beach or Long Beach, California.

Most people who are dependent on medications benefit from supervised detoxification and a tapered reduction in dosage. Choose medical detox at Gratitude Lodge to streamline the withdrawal process and make the transition to ongoing inpatient treatment smoother.

All prescription drug addictions are unique, so expect to access a personalized blend of the following interventions at Gratitude Lodge:

Call 800-994-2184 today and begin your recovery from SSRI antidepressant abuse right away.

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Joe Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
Jenni Bussi

Jenni Busse MS, LPCC

Jenni Busse MS, LPSS is the Clinical Director at Gratitude Lodge. Jenni oversees the clinical program and the clinical team at Gratitude Lodge as a whole. Jenni has worked in treatment for almost 14 years. Her background as a licensed therapist and her passion for helping others intersected with addiction recovery when she started working primarily in detox residential treatment.

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Drug detox can vary according to the patient’s addiction factors, including the substance abused, how long the addiction has lasted, the patient’s medical condition, if any other disorders are present, and more. Our skilled and credentialed team at Gratitude Lodge work closely with every patient going through drug detox.

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Many patients don’t realize the toxicity of prolonged alcohol abuse and how it affects the body. Alcohol detox at the luxurious rehab addiction centers at Gratitude Lodge leeches your body of these toxins in preparation for successful treatment for drugs and alcohol abuse.
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