Ever since the dawn of some of the most common selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s) such as Prozac and Zoloft have become popular among psychiatrists and primary care doctors to prescribe to their patients who are struggling with depression and anxiety, an influx of SSRI competitors have hit the market. Along with their growing popularity, another growing problem is presenting itself. That is the problem of those individuals becoming physically and mentally dependent upon these prescription medications making discontinuing their use extremely difficult. If these are so highly favored and successful in treating the problems that they are meant to treat, why are the patients wanting to get off of them? New, more holistic methods are presenting themselves which are requiring no prescription are gaining in favor; however, in order to break free from the pills the patient will more than likely have to endure a whole new set of symptoms: withdrawal symptoms.
How Do SSRI’s Work?
These types of medications appear to relieve depression by working on symptoms of depression such as anxiety by affecting the brain’s balance of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the brain, which, to simply put it, is a chemical messenger. In addition, they block the reabsorption, or reuptake, of serotonin by certain nerve cells which allows more serotonin to be available. The result is the enhancement of the ability of the serotonin to communicate, or neurotransmit, with the brain, which leads to an improved mood. There is, however, a danger to these drugs when combined with certain other drugs, which also stimulate the release of serotonin, even some which are over the counter. Examples of these are other antidepressants, which can be used for sleep such as Trazodone, the opioid pain reliever Tramadol, and even the popular over-the-counter medicine Dayquil because it contains the drug dextromethorphan. When these are combined with SSRI’s a dangerous illness can result called serotonin syndrome that can be potentially life-threatening if medical attention is not sought immediately.
Withdrawal Signs And Symptoms
Frequently experienced signs and symptoms of antidepressant withdrawal include:
- Body aches
- Muscle aches
- Lack of coordination
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Sensory disturbances, such as tingling or “shock” sensations
Symptoms of withdrawal only last about a week or two; however, they can be severely uncomfortable and disruptive to a normal life. This is why a “cold turkey” halt to a SSRI medication is never recommended, and instead a slow and stable taper is much safer route.
Keep in mind that these drugs influence the way a brain’s chemicals act and react in the brain. The brain’s serotonin levels are directly influenced in accordance to the amount of the drug that is in the brain, discontinuing, or even just tapering off of these prescription medications drastically changes the way the neurotransmitters react throughout the body. This not only causes the appearance of withdrawal symptoms physically, but can cause depression and its symptoms to reoccur. These symptoms that occur do not, however, indicate an addiction. Addiction is characterized by cravings and a desire to do the drug with a tolerance and need to increase the dosage. It is very uncommon for an individual who uses antidepressants to experience any such qualities.
Holistic Remedies To Ease Your Way Through Antidepressant Withdrawal
Recent studies done on the brains and bodies on animals have shed some light on more natural ways to treat and aid patients through the discontinuation of antidepressants. Some studies show that there are certain herbal medicines that were used as depressant treatment in animals that were successful.
Other ample amounts of research goes on to show that an individual’s diet plays a substantial role in depression. Omega-3 fatty acids that are rich in plant and nut oils, cold-water fish and shellfish play an important role in regulating mood. They are great nutrients for the brain. Eating foods that are more rich in the two main omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, can be done easily by adding to your vitamin regimen a dietary supplement of fish oil. Simply improving one’s overall lifestyle can greatly ease the transition into a life free of SSRI’s. This should include a healthy diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, regular exercise, and proper sleep on a normal schedule.
The Importance Of Stopping SSRI’s Safely
Withdrawal from antidepressants is less likely to be felt if medication is tapered off in stabilizing intervals rather than being halted abruptly. Above all, it is critical to never stop using antidepressant medications without first consulting the doctor who prescribed them and never attempt a “cold turkey” stopping. While there are other methods that may work to solve depression and the symptoms that go along with it, it is important to remember that your doctor prescribed them to you because they thought they would be most beneficial for you at the time, so use careful consideration prior to deciding to discontinue their use.