Can You Abuse Antidepressants?

Depression is one of the most frequently detected mental health issues in the United States, and antidepressants are one of the most common prescriptions. There are a few different types of antidepressant medications, each one designed to improve the function of neurotransmitters in the brain and increase the accessibility of feel good chemicals. However, despite the fact that they can work to improve mood, they are not abusable medications and cannot be used to get high.


Why don’t antidepressants get people high if they’re designed to improve mood? There are a couple of reasons:

Antidepressants Don’t Get People High

    • Antidepressants work slowly over time. They do not work overnight to change a person’s mood or outlook. Unlike illicit substances with a quick onset of effects, antidepressants must build up in the system over weeks to work.


  • Antidepressants don’t work for everyone. Almost everyone who snorts a line of cocaine will get a rush or experience a high, but not everyone who takes a certain antidepressant will feel any differently no matter how long they take them. This is why doctors often prescribe a combination of antidepressants and start with a low dose and increase it incrementally as needed.


Depression is defined by significant symptoms that include lethargy, disrupted sleep patterns, a pervading sense of hopelessness or joylessness and suicidal thoughts. Waiting for antidepressants to work – if they’re going to work at all – can be difficult for many patients. As a result, it’s not uncommon for those who are living with depression to attempt to self-medicate their depression symptoms with illicit substances.

Drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana, taking sedatives like Xanax or painkillers like oxycodone – all these may serve initially to wipe away the negative symptoms but they also worsen those symptoms with regular use and can increase the length of depression episodes and their frequency.

Dual Diagnosis

When someone is diagnosed with both a substance abuse disorder and a mental health disorder like depression, it is important that they seek treatment for both issues at the same time. Why? If one disorder goes untreated while the patient seeks help for the other disorder, the untreated issue will continue to trigger the treated disorder.

For example, if someone is experiencing depression symptoms but seeks help first for a painkiller addiction, the ongoing issue of untreated depression will lead them to crave their pill of choice even more than if they were only fighting a painkiller dependence. In the same way, if someone were to seek treatment for depression but continue to drink or use drugs, then their treatment will be ineffective in the long term.

Getting the Help to Heal

A Dual Diagnosis treatment program can offer your loved one the chance at a balanced life through integrated treatment. Intensive treatment for depression should coincide with alcohol abuse or addiction help; often therapies chosen can address aspects of both disorders at the same time. Your loved one will benefit from learning how to:

Find out more about how we can help your addicted loved one overcome a Dual Diagnosis today. Call now.

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