Antidepressant Addiction Treatment in New Jersey - Garden State Treatment Center

The state of New Jersey is notorious for drug use, with over 60,000 people being admitted per year for treatment. Out of that number, a percentage of 8.3 take antidepressants and are at risk of withdrawal or overdose.

Considering how substance abuse disorders in NJ are relatively high, it’s a safe conclusion. In 2022, for instance, the state admitted a staggering number of 85,266 patients suffering from one or more addictions into its rehab centers. 

Read on to understand the risks involved with taking antidepressants. We explain how they can lead to a dangerous addiction or a fatal overdose and what their withdrawal looks like.


Understanding How Antidepressants Work

Antidepressants are typically prescribed to treat depression. In some cases, however, a doctor might give antidepressants for ADHD, anxiety disorders, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), major depressive disorder, and OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).

Since antidepressants work on such complex mental illnesses, studies on their effectiveness and how they work are still not exclusive. Theories differ because the causes behind each of these mental issues are complex and we’re yet to fully understand them.

That said, the most prevalent theories on how antidepressants work are:

Theory 1

Antidepressants help patients process more positive information than negative. Patients will recall more positive memories, notice the silver lining in situations more often, and read positive social cues and facial expressions better.

Theory 2

Antidepressants break the blood-brain barrier to target the brain circuits and chemicals. They’ll facilitate the release of certain neurotransmitters and keep them at high levels. These neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, will help the patient stay happy and relaxed.

Theory 3

The aforementioned mental illnesses can cause increased levels of stress, affecting both a patient’s body and brain. This stress will damage the brain and how it functions. Antidepressants work on repairing that damage by forming new synapses instead of the ones lost to stress.

Types of Antidepressants With Examples

Contrary to popular belief, not all antidepressants are created equal or can be used to treat the same issue. Different antidepressants target your brain in unique ways, each leading to distinctive results.

Here’s another interesting fact: there are both old and novel antidepressants. In this section, we focus mainly on the newer ones as few doctors continue to describe old antidepressants (like MAOIs). That’s mainly because of their risky side effects and high potential for overdose.

Note: The following types of antidepressants are known as reuptake inhibitors (RIs). They ‘inhibit’ the brain’s natural process of ‘reuptake’ or reabsorption of neurotransmitters after they’re released. By inhibiting their reuptake, these neurotransmitters stay in your system longer.


SSRIs stand for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. As such, this class of antidepressants increases the level of serotonin (a mood-regulator neurotransmitter) in your system upon taking. It’s also why they’re the most commonly prescribed presently.

Additionally, SSRIs are a relatively new class of antidepressants and how they fully work is still being studied. Most of them, however, are FDA-approved and are used beyond treating depression. Some SSRIs are prescribed for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, treatment-resistant depression, and major depressive disorders.

Examples of SSRIs include brand names Prozac, Lexapro, Celexa, Zoloft, and Paxil. Disclaimer: A major side effect of taking SSRIs is the increased risk of suicide ideation.


Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) much like SSRIs work on serotonin.

The only difference is that they target the levels of norepinephrine in your system as well. This neurotransmitter, norepinephrine, doesn’t just regulate mood like serotonin, but it also helps with arousal, stress regulation, cognitive function, and attention.

As such, SNRIs are typically given to people with more than depression, like anxiety disorders and chronic nerve pain. Some SNRI examples are Fetizma, Effexor, Pristiq, and Cymbalta. 


NDRIs are norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors. They target norepinephrine (the aforementioned mood regulator) and dopamine, a neurotransmitter that prompts feelings of pleasure and satisfaction.

Interestingly, NDRIs aren’t as widely prescribed as SNRIs and SSRIs. Currently, the only medicine that’s FDA-approved is Wellbutrin (bupropion). It’s used to treat depression, seasonal affective disorders, and smoking cessation.

Common Side Effects When Taking Antidepressants

Antidepressant medication, while effective in treating mental health conditions, comes with its fair share of side effects.

Note, however, that different classes of antidepressants lead to different side effects, depending on how they work and their dosage. That said, SNRIs and SSRIs share the most side effects.

So, common side effects when taking antidepressants include:

  • Indigestion, diarrhea, and constipation
  • Loss of appetite leading to weight loss
  • Dry mouth
  • Excessive sweating and the shakes
  • Dizziness or blurry vision
  • Insomnia or drowsiness
  • Severe headaches
  • Compromised sex drive
  • Nausea or the feeling of being sick
  • Fever or overheating
  • Low blood pressure

Note: When the side effects start to show, their severity varies according to your body composition and the antidepressant you’re taking. Usually, side effects are worse within the first to second week of being on the meds before they fizzle out.

Long-term drug abuse, on the other hand, will cause a severe condition known as antidepressant discontinuation syndrome (ADS) when you’re forced to stop the meds. The next section covers what it is in detail.

What Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome (ADS) Is

Think of ADS as withdrawal. Without meds altering your brain’s chemical reaction, your body functions alter and an onset of symptoms appears. It’s why you should never abruptly stop an antidepressant. Having a medical professional around helps as well.

Keep in mind: A patient might not experience ADS if they’ve only been on the meds for a short term (typically less than six weeks).

With that, antidepressant withdrawal symptoms can be:

  • Fatigue and achiness
  • Headaches
  • Vivid dreams or nightmares
  • Nausea and sweating
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Mood changes and swings
  • False sensations of burning, tingling, and shock

Extreme ADS might also manifest as:

ADS usually lasts two months, with 7% of people reporting ongoing symptoms for that time. But, about 2-6% of patients say their ADS lasted from 1-3 years.

Treating Antidepressant Addiction or Dependence

To clarify, antidepressants don’t lead to addiction, unlike most vices. Instead, they cause a dependence so severe that it becomes hard to function without them. Treatment options are available, luckily, and we cover them next.


The first step is taking prescription drugs tailored for antidepressant detox. These meds, taken under the supervision of a healthcare professional, gradually eliminate your physical and psychological dependence on the antidepressant.

Detox is a straining process as well. Your mental health issues that the antidepressant kept under control might come back tenfold—not to mention the strong toll it puts on your body. It’s always advised that a medical professional be present during this trying time.


Therapy helps individuals address the underlying causes of their substance abuse. You need a supportive environment that’s kind, compassionate, and empathetic towards your situation. In such a setting, you can better understand yourself and your dependence.

Individual, one-on-one therapy isn’t the only solution either. There’s also group therapy where you sit down with people suffering from similar addictions. Through shared experiences, you see that you’re not alone in this.

Seek Our Services at Garden State Treatment Center

Antidepressants are important to many people. Even after they deal with their substance dependence, doctors might put them back on antidepressants and monitor them closely since they’re at risk of abuse.

It’s a complex journey. At Garden State Treatment Center, our staff is more than equipped with the knowledge and skills to help you navigate this path. Contact us today to learn more about our services. We’re more than ready to treat you or a loved one. 

Published on: 2024-07-05
Updated on: 2024-07-05