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Paxil Abuse, Addiction, And Treatment Options

Medically reviewed by

Jennifer Cousineau, MSCP, LPCI, NCC

April 26, 2019

Although Paxil is used to treat anxiety, it is a selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), similar to antidepressants. Paxil abuse and addiction do occur, and can have damaging results.

What is Paxil?

Paxil is the common, or brand, name of paroxetine hydrochloride. This medication has shown to be effective in treating a number of mental health symptoms, and is often prescribed to individuals struggling with:

Some people diagnosed with a major depressive disorder who take SSRIs, like Paxil, report an increase in depression or suicidal thoughts, especially younger people. This is why it is important to be monitored in the early stages of treatment. It is also paramount to not alter the dosage of any drug, including Paxil unless recommended by a medical professional.

Paxil is available in 10mg, 20mg, 30mg, or 40mg tablets, or suspension liquid 10mg/5mL. The therapeutic range of Paxil is 10mg to 40mg and is only determined by medical professionals.

Paxil is approved for adults and is not approved for use in children.

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How Does Paxil Work?

Paxil increases the availability of the neurotransmitter, serotonin, in the brain. Paxil does not add more serotonin but instead affects the receptors that control the release and reuptake of serotonin. Paxil decreases the reuptake of serotonin, which increases how much serotonin is available for absorption.

When Paxil increases serotonin levels, it has been shown to increase mood, lower anxiety, and decrease symptoms associated with the aforementioned mental health disorders. If a person misjudges how Paxil works, they may feel comfortable abusing Paxil in an attempt to increase the positive effects of Paxil.

Paxil Abuse

When a person takes a medication, including Paxil, in a way that is not following the prescribed instructions or recommended dosage, it is considered substance abuse. If a person is taking Paxil and increases the dosage or how often they take it, they are abusing their medication. A person may also misuse Paxil by taking it even when they are not prescribed Paxil.

If a person is experiencing relief from symptoms with Paxil, they may attempt to increase those results by increasing their dosage of Paxil. It may be a simple idea that if one pill works, two will work better. Psychological addiction can develop this way, as well as an increased potential for a physical dependence on Paxil.

Is Paxil Addictive?

Research has shown a possibility of psychological addiction to SSRIs, including Paxil. Psychological addiction is the result of the brain being convinced that it needs a substance to operate normally. Medications like SSRIs can become psychologically addictive if they alleviate negative symptoms of depression or anxiety.

Abusing high doses of Paxil can result in activation of other neurotransmitters in the brain, such as norepinephrine and dopamine. Overstimulation of dopamine has been shown to play a significant role in addiction.

Paxil does not meet standard criteria for high risk of addiction, but that does not mean people do not become addicted to Paxil. Any substance that makes a person feel good and is abused carries a risk for addiction. Coupled with the potential for withdrawal, Paxil can become addictive to anyone who is misusing the medication.

Symptoms Of Paxil Addiction

An individual struggling with Paxil addiction is likely to have trouble sleeping, mood swings, and increased aggravation. Abusing high levels of Paxil may also increase anxiety and depression levels. Another more serious side effect is known as serotonin syndrome.

Serotonin syndrome (SS) is the label used to describe the symptoms associated with toxic levels of serotonin in the body. Individuals who are experiencing SS will usually have systematic muscle spasms, problems with autonomic function, and overt changes in mental status. Excessive amounts of serotonin can be fatal without medical treatment.

A person abusing Paxil should be aware that the following side effects may need medical attention and should not be ignored:

  • sexual dysfunction
  • insomnia
  • high blood pressure
  • impaired memory
  • aggression
  • diarrhea
  • agitation

Paxil Addiction Treatment Options

When a person stops taking Paxil, it is common for them to experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms also referred to discontinuation syndrome, can be very uncomfortable. Paxil withdrawal symptoms are similar to flu-like symptoms and include body aches, upset stomach, sweating, and clammy skin. Additionally, a person may experience vertigo, suicidal thoughts, sexual dysfunction, and confusion.

A substance abuse treatment program that includes a medically supervised detox program can help alleviate the withdrawal symptoms associated with Paxil addiction.

Medically supervised detoxification programs are staffed with individuals who specialize in addiction treatment. They can use a tapering method to decrease the amount of Paxil over time and use other medications to offset the uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal. Using this protocol helps to keep the client on the path to sobriety in a comfortable way.

At the conclusion of detox, it is recommended to continue on into an inpatient rehab center. Using evidence and outcome-based intervention methods, rehabilitation programs explore substance abuse issues and underlying causes, including the reason the individual started taking Paxil to begin with.

Reach out to us today so we can help find a substance abuse treatment program best fitted to meet the needs of your or your loved one.

Food and Drug Administration - Paxil Label

National Alliance on Mental Illness - Paroxetine (Paxil)

U.S. National Library of Medicine - Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome

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