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Trazodone Abuse And Addiction

John Schaffer, LPCC

Medically reviewed by

John Schaffer, LPCC

February 28, 2019

Trazodone is a type of antidepressant medication that is prescribed to treat major depression. Due to its effect on the chemicals in the brain, Trazodone needs to be taken with care because of its high potential of abuse and addiction. If you or a loved one is suffering an addiction to Trazodone, it is best to educate yourself on the facts and science regarding the medication, its risks for developing an addiction, and treatment options available.

What Is Trazodone?

Trazodone (Oleptro, Desyrel) is prescribed by medical physicians to treat major depressive disorder. Major depression is a mental health disorder that causes feelings of sadness and loss of interest in activities and experiences. The most common types of antidepressants are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and tricyclic antidepressants. Trazodone is a unique type of antidepressant and is considered atypical, meaning it doesn’t fit neatly into these standard categories.

The common side effects of Trazodone include drowsiness, mild headache, constipation, and blurred vision. More severe side effects include extreme mood swings, restlessness, sleep problems, agitation, dizziness, chest pain, and more.

All antidepressants have similar side effects and when stopped suddenly can cause withdrawal symptoms, like nausea, vomiting, trouble sleeping, dizziness, headache, irritability, psychosis, and seizure.

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The Risks Of Taking Antidepressants

One of the gravest dangers of antidepressant use is the increased risk of suicidal behavior and thinking, especially in teens and young adults. Due to this, the FDA has issued a warning to be placed within the black box on an extensive list of antidepressant medications, including Desyrel. It is worth noting, that changes to the information will also state, as explained by the FDA, that “scientific data did not show this increased risk in adults older than 24 and that adults ages 65 and older taking antidepressants actually have a decreased risk of suicidality.”

When getting started on antidepressants, patients are strongly advised to complement it with counseling and behavioral therapy so professionals can monitor a condition and identify unusual or worsening behavior or suicidal thoughts. If you’re taking this medication and find that you’re having these thoughts, seek help immediately.

How Does An Addiction To Trazodone Develop?

Antidepressants can treat both depression and insomnia, and when someone starts taking the medication, they may become dependent on it to feel good and get good sleep. While Trazodone tends to be one of the least likely of antidepressants to be abused, it still has the potential. Reports have found people snorting Trazodone to get high, which is indicative of abuse.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, antidepressants are most often abused by those suffering from comorbid, or co-occurring substance abuse and mood disorders. About 40 percent of those with long-term major depression also had an alcohol use disorder and a drug use disorder. Therefore, when someone such as this goes on a medication like Trazodone to treat depression, the risk for developing dependence and addiction is higher.

Some of those who suffer from depression and take antidepressants are also more likely to disregard instructions and to self-medicate. They may feel that their antidepressants aren’t effectively treating all of their mood disorder issues, or that they need extra medication after a triggering life event such as a death or other upsetting experience.

Because antidepressants elevate one’s mood, many people abuse them by increasing their dosage to improve their emotional state even more. The efficacy of the medication won’t necessarily continue to improve as the dosage is increased, instead the increase can lead to an increased chance of addiction.

The Signs Of A Trazodone Addiction

When a person is addicted to antidepressants, they will display physical, psychological, mental, and emotional signs and symptoms. However, it can be difficult to identify an antidepressant addiction because those abusing medication will typically try to hide their behavior from their physician and loved ones. Here are a few signs of antidepressant abuse to look out for:

  • Erratic ability to keep doctor appointments
  • Requests for early refill of medication
  • Sudden requests for dosage increases from an otherwise stable patient on a lower dose of antidepressants
  • Indifference to side effects and health concerns
  • A general decline in functioning

Additional signs include:

  • Talkativeness
  • Violent thoughts and actions
  • Convulsions
  • Mood swings
  • Memory problems
  • Tremors
  • Aggression
  • Panic attacks
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Insomnia

The Dangers Of Long-Term Antidepressant Use

Antidepressant use can develop into dependence with physical signs that include cardiac arrhythmia, decreased libido, flu-like symptoms, frequent urination, sweating, nausea, tremors, and fatigue.

In addition to these physical disturbances, the long-term use and abuse of antidepressants include a general withdrawal from loved ones, cutting ties with relationships, compromising one’s career, developing financial troubles, and neglecting once-loved activities and hobbies.

Treatment Options For A Trazodone Addiction

The treatment of a Trazodone addiction requires a comprehensive program that combines various therapies to be most effective. The first element of treatment will involve the detox of the drug. Trazodone has been found to cause discontinuation symptoms, to the extent that it can be considered antidepressant discontinuation syndrome, which can happen to many patients getting off of their medication. This syndrome may cause many uncomfortable symptoms similar to withdrawal and should be monitored and guided by a medical professional.

Treatment for co-occurring disorders is another vital part of antidepressant abuse therapy due to the likeliness of someone suffering from depression and other mood disorders. There are two primary types of treatments available, inpatient and outpatient. Inpatient is usually recommended for those suffering from severe antidepressant addiction and involves living in the treatment center for the duration of the residential therapy.

Outpatient therapy is appropriate for those suffering from a mild addiction and allows the patient to live at home while attending counseling and therapy at a facility. Both of these treatments involve behavioral therapies and counseling to help manage and improve a mental disorder, while building the necessary coping skills and self-esteem to prevent a relapse.

For teens and children suffering from antidepressant abuse, family counseling is a vital part of a successful treatment plan as it involves the entire family and educates family members on the experience of addiction and withdrawal, the hardships involved, and the importance of providing support.

Successful treatment of depression involves different forms of talk therapy, or psychotherapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has been found to help an individual change the ways of thinking and behaving that contribute to depression. Interpersonal therapy helps a person suffering from depression to understand how his or her interactions with others can worsen their depression.

Psychodynamic therapy involves aiding the individual suffering from depression to understand and accept the issues from their past that may be affecting their current mood and behavior. Additional treatments for depression include regular exercise, which increases mood-lifting chemical endorphins, and pet therapy which has been found to relieve stress and agitation by providing love and companionship.

You Can Treat Addiction With Our Help

Those suffering from addiction often feel hopeless and out of options. But depression is very treatable, and so is an addiction from an antidepressant medication like Trazodone. There are many treatments available to treat addiction and prevent it from continuing to negatively affect your life.

Once your addiction is treated, you don’t have to relapse into depression. There are many effective therapies for that too. If you feel like you’re at the end of your rope and don’t know where to turn, or if you’re concerned about the health of a loved one, contact us at We understand what you’re going through, and we can provide answers and guidance to help you find the treatment you’re looking for.

RxList - Desyrel Patient Information Including Side Effects

The National Center For Biotechnology Information - The nature of the discontinuation syndrome associated with antidepressant drugs.

RxList - Depression Symptoms, Types, Tests and Treatment

Mayo Clinic - Depression (Major Depressive Disorder)

National Institute Of Mental Health - Mental Health Medications - Trazodone Side Effects

National Center For Health Research - Do antidepressants increase suicide attempts? Do they have other risks?

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