Antidepressant use has become increasingly common in the United States. In fact, a recent analysis of federal data conducted by The New York Times found that 15.5 million Americans are long-term users of prescription antidepressants. That number is nearly twice as high as it was in 2010, and triple what it was in 2000.
While antidepressant medications can certainly bring some benefit to people who suffer from depression, the study found that many of the people can’t quit antidepressants because of the withdrawal symptoms. Part of the problem is that antidepressants were originally intended for short-term use.
“Some people are essentially being parked on these drugs for convenience’s sake because it’s difficult to tackle the issue of taking them off,” according to Dr. Anthony Kendrick of the University of Southampton in Britain.
Antidepressant withdrawal can look like the conditions they are supposed to treat
Ironically, antidepressant discontinuation symptoms can include anxiety and depression. This can leave many patients wondering whether they are experiencing discontinuation symptoms, or a relapse into the condition that led them to start taking the medication in the first place. For some, the misery of stopping the drugs cold turkey is unbearable.
“Had I been told the risks of trying to come off this drug, I never would have started it…a year and a half after stopping,” said Robin Hempel, who started taking Paxil more than two decades ago. “I’m still having problems. I’m not me right now; I don’t have the creativity, the energy. She – Robin – is gone.”
Hempel’s experience is not uncommon.
The same New York Times article reported that “patients who try to stop taking the drugs often say they cannot. In a recent survey of 250 long-term users of psychiatric drugs — most commonly antidepressants — about half who wound down their prescriptions rated the withdrawal as severe. Nearly half who tried to quit could not do so because of these symptoms. In another study of 180 longtime antidepressant users, withdrawal symptoms were reported by more than 130. Almost half said they felt addicted to antidepressants.”
So how can you tell the difference between withdrawal symptoms and a relapse?
According to the Harvard Medical school, this is how to identify each:
Discontinuation symptoms begin quickly – within days or weeks of the day the dose is lowered, or the medication is stopped. Relapse symptoms develop later and more gradually.
Discontinuation symptoms often include physical ailments that aren’t commonly found in depression, such as dizziness, flulike symptoms, and abnormal sensations.
If you take a dose of the antidepressant during a withdrawal, the discontinuation symptoms will disappear quickly. Drug treatment of depression itself takes weeks to work.
Antidepressant withdrawal symptoms resolve as the body readjusts and generally last no longer than a month. Depression relapse continues and may get worse.
If symptoms last more than a month and are worsening, it’s worth talking to your doctor to determine if you’re having a relapse of depression.
Stopping antidepressants can cause a range of symptoms.
Neurotransmitters act throughout the body, and you may experience physical, as well as mental effects when you suddenly stop taking antidepressants or lower the dose too fast. Common symptoms of antidepressant discontinuation include:
- Loss of appetite
- Blood vessel control
- Excessive sweating
- Difficulty tolerating hot weather
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Trouble sleeping
- Unusual dreams or nightmares
- No “sea legs” when walking
- Movement control
- Restless legs
- Uneven gait
- Difficulty coordinating speech and chewing movements
- Unwanted feelings
- Mood swings
- Manic episodes
- Suicidal thoughts
- Strange sensations
- Hypersensitivity to sound
- Ringing in ears
- A feeling that resembles an electric shock to the head, often referred to as “brain-zaps”
- A sensation that is often described as “brain shivers”
SNRI and SSRI discontinuation are likely culprits
The Harvard Medical School also tells us that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) antidepressant medications are the most likely to cause different types of discontinuation symptoms. These typically crop up days or weeks after abruptly stopping or decreasing the dosage of the medication. SNRI and SSRI withdrawal symptoms can include digestive issues, sleep disturbances, dizziness, tremors, and hot flashes, to name a few. For people whose lives are disrupted by their depression, the desire to feel better can trump the worry over adverse effects that might occur years later.
There’s another option
Fortunately, you don’t have to choose between depression and terrifying withdrawal symptoms – you can choose Alpha-Stim®.
Alpha-Stim uses Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation (CES), delivered through a patented waveform that passes through noninvasive ear clips, to treat depression safely and effectively. Treatment takes just 20-60 minutes per day in the comfort of your own home and most people cannot even feel the waves passing through the clips. Alpha-Stim is discreet enough to fit in the palm of your hand.
Although it requires a prescription (in the U.S.), Alpha-Stim is not a drug. There is no risk of addiction, no lasting side effects, and no withdrawal symptoms if you ultimately decide to stop treatments. In fact, since the effects of Alpha-Stim are cumulative, many patients find that they can decrease their treatments over time and reap the same benefits. Alpha-Stim is FDA cleared, and its effectiveness has been documented in over 100 independent research studies and reports. Alpha-Stim is available over the counter outside of the United States.
Nine out of ten patients who use Alpha-Stim get clinically significant relief from their depression – as well as anxiety, insomnia, and pain. Not only does Alpha-Stim carry fewer risks than prescription drugs, but it is more effective as well.
If you suffer from depression, your immediate concern is finding relief. But you shouldn’t have to accept the burden of unbearable effects, either in the present or the future. Alpha-Stim lets you treat your depression without compromising other parts of your health and wellbeing. Alpha-Stim brings relief without sacrifice.
Don’t bargain with the quality of your life. Get started today or give us a call at 1-800-FOR-PAIN. You can also submit a doctor’s contact information and we will reach out to them with product information and clinical research data.