antidepressant abuse facts

Withdrawal symptoms  |  Withdrawal timeline  |  Detox |  Back to top

Approximately 13.2% of adults used a type of antidepressant from 2015 to 2018. Antidepressants are medications used to treat depression, anxiety, and even eating disorders. But what happens once you stop taking them?

Don’t worry, with this guide; you can find out! From withdrawal symptoms to treatment plans, you can find out all you need to know.

Now, are you ready to get started? Here’s an in-depth look at antidepressant detox:

What Is Antidepressant Withdrawal?

People who have been taking antidepressants for over six weeks will likely have withdrawal symptoms. However, you should never stop taking antidepressants cold turkey. It can put the brain in an imbalance state that results in both physical and psychological symptoms.

Doctors call this process withdrawal syndrome. It’s when your body reacts to the effects of decreased amounts of antidepressants in your system. Due to the removal of the antidepressants, you may feel lethargic, antsy, as well as a slew of other symptoms. However, once you go through the full withdrawal process, you’ll not only feel like yourself again but more aware of your feelings and emotions.

symptoms of antidepressant withdrawal

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If you stop using antidepressants, you’ll likely experience symptoms that are similar to a benzodiazepine withdrawal. Although it will likely be less intense. However, the longer a person has taken antidepressants, the worse the symptoms will be.

For instance, symptoms will likely include:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Panic attacks
  • Nausea
  • Tremors
  • Light headedness
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety

Anyone who stops taking antidepressants, especially young adults, may exhibit suicidal thoughts or feelings. Thus, if you want to stop taking your antidepressant medication, it’s best to consult a doctor first in order to seek advice about how to do so safely and effectively.

Relapsing Depression or Withdraw?

Suddenly discontinuing your antidepressants can promote rebound depression or at least symptoms that may be stronger than before. Although it’s important to note that rebound depression is caused by withdrawal and, as such, will fade away with time. Rebound depression is a rare withdrawal symptom, and as so, not everyone experiences it.

However, some people who quit taking their antidepressants relapse into feeling depressive thoughts. Unlike, rebound depression relapsing depression is not a symptom of withdrawal. Instead, those that relapse are typically put back on their medication.

It can be hard to differentiate between the two. Although, doctor’s note that if symptoms worsen or last for about a month, you probably have relapsing depression.

antidepressant withdrawal timeline

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The withdrawal process can be extremely different from person to person. For instance, some individuals don’t see symptoms appear until a couple of weeks after their last dose. While others may have already completed their withdrawal symptoms within that time period.

One of the most important factors in determining the duration of withdrawal symptoms is how long a person has taken the antidepressants. For example, those who have taken the antidepressants for around eight months have less intense symptoms than people who have taken it for two years.

Also, some medications are likely to cause negative withdrawal symptoms. Antidepressants like Effort and Paxil often cause intense symptoms. Antidepressants like these leave the body faster. However, the faster a drug leaves the body, the worse the symptoms are because of the abrupt chemical imbalance in the brain.

Antidepressants that linger in the body, like Zoloft and Prozac, for example, are less intense and will leave you with only mild symptoms. Other antidepressants that leave the body at a slower pace, include:

  • Lexapro=30 hours
  • Paxil=29 hours
  • Celexa= 36 hours

symptoms of antidepressant detox

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Detox refers to the process of letting the antidepressants leave the body. When detoxing off antidepressants, doctors suggest gradually reducing the dose until a person can stop taking the medication altogether with no symptoms of withdrawal.

However, it’s not a perfect science. Some people cut their dose in half and then from there decreases it by quarters. Some individuals do this in a month while others do it over several months.

All the while, a doctor should keep track and modify doses according to a patient’s needs. If you need help in the meantime, SAMHSA’s National Hotline is always available to help you.

Treatment for Withdrawal

While detox is the first important step to quitting. Treatment can be useful in order to treat the underlying depression. Sometimes patients visit a counselor to help them understand and progress past their depressed feelings.

Although some people who take antidepressants may abuse substances like drugs and alcohol. If their medications aren’t working effectively, Polydrug use like this, for example, can potentially worsen depression and increase the chances of addiction.

That’s why it’s imperative to seek a treatment center or the advice of a doctor regarding detoxing. After all, detoxing can be difficult; however, if you do it right, it can be less challenging both physically and psychologically.

Seek Help Today

Withdrawal from antidepressants will leave you with clear side effects like headache, nausea, and anxiety. However, for some people, it will be less intense, and for others, it will be more challenging to overcome. It all just depends on how long you’ve been taking the antidepressants and what kind of antidepressant it is.

Although, doctors suggest gradually reducing the dose in order to combat the chemical imbalance that’s happening in the brain. This can work over a month or several months. Just be patient and prepared to feel like yourself again!

For more information about antidepressant withdrawal, contact us today. We look forward to helping you!

Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Antidepressant Detox Centers

If you or a loved one need help detoxing from antidepressants, reach out to us today. We can help you find a detox center near you.