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Can I Take My Antidepressants While In Rehab?

Dr. Gerardo Sison

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Gerardo Sison

April 1, 2019

Antidepressants are a powerful way for people who suffer from severe depression and anxiety to stay in control of their lives. Unfortunately, many people who take antidepressants also have problems with illicit drug use. While attending drug rehabilitation is the most effective way to regain control of your life, the question of whether or not you can take your antidepressants while you’re there is surprisingly complex.

Types Of Antidepressants On The Market

Before delving too deeply into the mire of antidepressants and drug rehabilitation, it’s important to sort the various antidepressants into the four available categories. Throughout this article, antidepressants will be discussed by their category, not by their brand name. This list will help you know how, or even if, your medication actually causes problems with the drug rehabilitation process.

Antidepressant categories on the market include:

  • SSRIsLuvox, Zoloft, Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil, and Celexa
  • Atypical – Wellbutrin, Cymbalta, Effexor, Remeron, Trazodone, and Desyrel
  • Tricyclic – Vivactil, Norpramin, Pamelor, Sinequan, Tofranil,, Elavil, Anafranil, Aventyl, and Surmontil
  • MAOIs – Zelapar, Eldepryl, Zelapar, Marplan, Nardil, Azilect, and Parnate

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Interaction Between Antidepressants And Drugs

Now, it is important to explore the way that typical antidepressants may interact with various illicit substances. After all, you may already be taking antidepressants while suffering from addiction and deserve to know the dangers of this practice.

Common drugs and their interactions with antidepressants include:

  • Alcohol – increases anxiety and depression, interacts with the effectiveness of the antidepressant, induces heavy drowsiness, decreases motor skills, causes poor judgment, increases blood pressure when combined with MAOIs
  • Marijuana – interacts with different antidepressants in different ways. With tricyclic antidepressants, it can cause confusion, hallucinations, and chest pain. Marijuana also decreases the effectiveness of MAOIs, but interacts very lightly with SSRIs.
  • Cocaine – has been shown to seriously interact with SSRI effectiveness on a chemical level, as both are attracted to and affect the same areas of the brain. This can cause a wide range of serious side effects, including confusion and increased depression symptoms.
  • Heroin – often exaggerates the effects of sedation medicines, such as MAOIs, while either decreasing the effectiveness or not reacting at all to stimulant antidepressants, such as tricyclic medications.

Problems With Replacement Drugs

While the interactions between illicit substances and antidepressants are severe, replacement drugs can also react poorly to antidepressants. For example, tricyclic antidepressants interact with methadone by making its sedative effects even stronger.

SSRIs can cause methadone plasma to get thicker and harder to control while MAOIs can cause extremely severe problems, such as breathing issues and even seizures. They may also cause confusion that borders on delirious behaviors.

The various anti-alcoholism drugs, such as Antabuse, ReVia, Vivitrol, Campral, and Topamax, often react negatively with antidepressants, especially tricyclic and MAOIs. Antidepressants often decrease the effectiveness of these medications while these medications, or can even exasperate their side effects.

As a result, you may think you should quit taking your antidepressants if you are prescribed any of these replacement therapy drugs. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that, because many antidepressants have severe withdrawal syndromes that have caused many people to compare them to a unique form of addiction.

The Connection Between Antidepressants And Addiction

The debate about the addictiveness of antidepressants has raged for years. Officially, MAOIs are not labeled as addictive, but many people dispute that claim. For example, a study in Denmark argued that SSRIs should be considered addictive substances because people who quit often exhibit typical withdrawal symptoms (known as “SSRI discontinuation syndrome”) such as insomnia, stomache problems, confusion, depression, and even panic attacks.

In fact, that study stated that SSRI discontinuation syndrome shared 37 of the 42 symptoms commonly associated with drug withdrawal. Those findings have been highly disputed by many in the medical industry, but are worth noting if you are already struggling to overcome your addiction in rehabilitation.

The Use Of Antidepressants In Drug Rehabilitation

In spite of the concerns associated with antidepressants, they are still regularly used in drug rehabilitation. That’s because their positives still outweigh the negatives, especially when dealing with the mental illness that often goes hand-in-hand with illicit drug use.

For example, conditions as diverse as bipolar disorder, severe depression, and even schizophrenia have been found to contribute to the severity of many addictions. And since these conditions are most effectively treated with antidepressants, they are still used in drug rehabilitation.

Intriguingly, some antidepressants are actually used as a way to deal with cravings and one (bupropion) has actually been approved as a treatment for methamphetamine addiction, as it helps curb cravings and decreases the severity of withdrawal symptoms.


While the use of antidepressants isn’t advised when undergoing replacement therapy, they are useful for helping a person stay calm during detoxification and while in psychological analysis. But the answer to that question often comes down to individual cases and can only be answered by skilled drug rehabilitation experts.

Contact us at if you have any more questions regarding this complex situation. We can help assess your situation and decide what treatment method is right for you and whether or not keeping you on your antidepressants is a help or a hindrance.

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