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Paxil Addiction And The Best Rehab Centers For Treatment

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

February 14, 2019

Paxil is an antidepression medication prescribed to individuals to treat clinical depression, anxiety disorders, and more. While not overly addictive, a psychological dependency can occur causing individuals to be unable to stop taking the drug on their own.

Paxil, a brand of paroxetine, is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. Since Paxil’s introduction to American markets in the early 1990s, the use of antidepressants has increased steadily. Today, 10 percent of the population relies on antidepression medication for a variety of reasons. The drug is prescribed by psychiatrists and more often today by physicians to treat clinical depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress, and sometimes used to help alleviate symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome. Paxil is currently one of the most potent SSRIs on the market.

How Paxil Works On The Brain

As a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), Paxil works by inhibiting reuptake of the neurotransmitter serotonin by receptors. While studies demonstrate no clear understanding of whether low serotonin is the cause of or symptom of depression, some progress has been made in treating these disorders using the inhibitors. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter associated with regulating our moods. While there is no way to measure serotonin levels active within the brain, low serotonin levels are often detected in those suffering from anxiety and depression.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors work like this: after a serotonin neurotransmitter signal is fired and its message delivered, the serotonin is reabsorbed by neighboring nerve cells. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors block this reabsorption of serotonin, leaving more neurotransmitters available. In theory, this will stabilize or improve a person’s mood.

Paxil Withdrawal Syndrome

While antidepressants in the same class as Paxil are not considered addictive, when someone tries to stop taking the drug, severe withdrawal symptoms affect approximately 20 percent of people who use Paxil, which can act as a deterrent leading to continued use of the drug. These symptoms include severe insomnia, upset stomach, flu-like symptoms including achiness and fatigue, suicidal or confused thoughts, sexual dysfunction, blurred vision, dizziness, and restlessness.

As many of these symptoms associated with withdrawal from Paxil are similar to those associated with depression and anxiety, it is difficult to determine whether side effects from Paxil are stirring anxiety or depression, or whether the problem that led to use of the drug has returned.

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Abrupt changes in prescription, or quitting the drug suddenly can alter normal brain function. Withdrawal from drugs like Paxil should be tapered over weeks, rather than at once, giving the brain time to adjust to the change. And those particularly sensitive to Paxil withdrawal symptoms may require a much longer period to taper use of the drug.

What Is Serotonin Syndrome?

When a person begins taking Paxil or stops abruptly, they can suffer a severe but rare condition known as serotonin syndrome. Serotonin syndrome can be life-threatening as a significant increase in serotonin in the body ignites an excessive nerve cell activity leading to rapid heart rate, excessive sweating, muscle spasms, significant changes in blood pressure, and nausea and vomiting. Anyone experiencing these or any signs of overdose should seek help immediately.

Is Paxil Addictive?

While depression resulting from stress and other factors is real, drugs like Paxil were intended for the treatment of clinical depression or other major depressive episodes. One study that sampled patients prescribed Paxil and other SSRIs concluded two-thirds of those surveyed did not meet the clinical criteria for depression. Those who use drugs like Paxil to cope or manage situational depression, may turn to self-medicating, which can lead to psychological dependency on the drug.

Dependency on Paxil appears to be primarily psychological and is likely connected to an underlying psychological disorder, rendering the user dependent on the associated serotonin high. Often people will begin to abuse these drugs because they have just experienced a trauma or an episode of severe depression they hope to escape with use of the drug.

Some people are predisposed to addiction. They are either physically more likely to develop an addiction or they have not learned healthy coping skills and use drugs to help them cope. If a person with these addictive tendencies does not see immediate results using a drug like Paxil, they may increase their dosage of the drug, leading to an increase in the severity of withdrawal symptoms and potentially to an overdose.

Signs of Paxil overdose include:

  • confusion
  • rapid or depressed heart rate
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • convulsions
  • aggression
  • mania
  • ventricular dysrhythmias
  • coma

Find Help For Paxil Addiction

Recovery from Paxil addiction usually includes outpatient services and counseling, along with careful monitoring from a physician. If you or someone you love is experiencing withdrawal symptoms making it difficult to quit Paxil, can connect you with treatment options like inpatient rehab programs designed to address your individual needs. Contact us today and speak to someone in confidence.

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