What is Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

What is

What is Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Suddenly stopping antidepressant medications can be a problem.

Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome is one of those issues that may bring a person in to see a psychiatrist, medical doctor, or occasionally even a therapist which is not technically a mental illness but it can cause all sorts of problems. Disclaimer here, I am a therapist, not a medical doctor. I bring this topic up because clients have a way of wanting to talk with their counselor about symptoms and possibly letting you know this could happen to you will put you on the alert for when you need to have another conversation with your doctor.

Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome is a group of symptoms that result when there is a sharp decrease in dose or when someone is suddenly take off antidepressant medication. This can occur when someone thinks their depression is better and they decide to just stop taking their meds. Clients have also reported this problem when they lost insurance coverage or could not get a prescription filled in a timely manner.

The DSM (See APA DSM) describes this as occurring when someone has been taking an antidepressant for over a month, presumably this means they have built up some level of tolerance to this particular medication.

The symptoms caused by this sudden drop in the blood level of antidepressant medication can include thinking, feeling, and perceiving problems. This is described in technical language as Sensory, Somatic, or perception problems. Clients have described this as seeing flashes of light, feelings of Electric shock, nausea, or sensitivity to lights.

An increase in or the occurrence of acute anxiety, generalized anxiety or dread are also reported symptoms.

This underscores the concept that tolerance and withdrawal can occur with many medications including over the counter and prescribed medications. Tolerance and withdrawal are not restricted to illegal drugs or drugs of abuse. The major difference between withdrawal from prescribed drugs and withdrawal from drugs of abuse is the presence of cravings.  Clearly, many prescribed drugs can also result in cravings when you are withdrawing from them.

Most people who would be withdrawing from antidepressants would not be expected to feel cravings other than in the sense of having unpleasant feelings they wish would stop.

If these symptoms are caused by side effects while on a constant dose, or as the result of being under the influence of a substance of abuse or withdrawing from that substance then Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome should not be diagnosed.

Some substance abusers have tried to use antidepressants to reduce the crash from drug withdrawals. This is not what we are talking about when discussing Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome.

How significant the Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome will be, depends on a lot of factors. The higher the dosage you are on, the longer you have been taking the medication the more the risk of experiencing Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome. Most antidepressants can cause this condition.

Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome is not the same thing as side effects.

This syndrome is the result of changes in the dose which results in a sudden drop in the blood level. Side effects happen while taking the prescribed dose as prescribed. If you have any unpleasant or unexpected side effects call your doctor right away.

The Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome take away?

You should never suddenly stop taking a prescribed medication. If you want to get off your meds or reduce your dose talk with your doctor first. Some medication needs to be tapered off slowly over time. A further worry is that suddenly stopping a medication that has been working for you may result in it not working later if you need to restart your meds.

P.S. were you looking for a number for Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome?

Used to be 995.29

Now is T43.205 the first time, T43.205D if it happens more than once, and T43.205S if Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome causes another problem (sequelae.)

More “What is” posts will be found at What is.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

What is Abstinence Syndrome?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

What is

What is abstinence syndrome?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

How is Abstinence Syndrome different from withdrawals?

Abstinence syndrome is a group of symptoms that occur when someone is suddenly without a drug that has previously been in their system. In substance abuse counseling this term is often interchanged with the term withdrawal. Withdrawal from Heroin or related drugs is the classic example of withdrawal or abstinence syndromes.

Generally, the symptoms seen in withdrawal or Abstinence Syndrome are exactly the opposite of those experienced while under the influence. Opiates such as heroin, for example, are very constipating, people in opiate withdrawals encounter diarrhea. Less dramatic symptoms may go unrecognized as withdrawal symptoms.

Someone who uses sleeping pills may experience insomnia when they stop taking the medication. Discontinuation of Anti-anxiety medications may result in a rebound of Anxiety. If you smoke marijuana to relax expect to be more anxious or agitated than before when you discontinue smoking. Coffee drinkers have almost universally experienced headaches when deprived of their regular dose of caffeine.

Abstinence Syndrome has taken on added meaning when applied to those who do not intend to withdraw but are deprived of a drug they have become dependent on. Newborn infants may experience an abstinence syndrome from drugs which they were exposed to pre-birth. Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome is a term commonly used to describe babies born to women who were dependent on opiates, principally heroin or prescribed opiates.

People who stop taking or have a sudden decrease in the dosage of their antidepressant medication can develop a very specific type of abstinence syndrome called Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome. More on Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome in an upcoming post.

Animals can also undergo abstinence syndrome when they have been administered a drug and then it was withdrawn.

Many people will deny having ever had withdrawals from a drug, but almost everyone has experienced Abstinence Syndrome when they were deprived of a chemical they use on a regular basis, such as caffeine, sugar, or nicotine. In terms of Substance Use Disorders, Abstinence syndrome and withdrawal are about the same thing.

These “What is” sometimes “What are” posts are my efforts to explain terms commonly used in Mental Health, Clinical Counseling, Substance Use Disorder Counseling, Life Coaching, and related disciplines in a plain language way. For the more technical versions please consult the DSM or other appropriate references.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

What is an addiction?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Hands with pills

Addiction.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

How many addictions are there?

More and more things seem to be getting labeled as addictions.  This mushrooming of addictions has resulted in a lot of skepticism about whether all these items are real addictions or just excuses by people who do too much of one thing or another.

The mental health professions don’t typically use the word addiction. We use other terms to help explain why what is commonly called an addiction may look so different in different people.

Let’s explore this problem by starting with the best known of all addictions, drug addiction, and then see what other things might qualify as addictions.

Drug addiction.

Most drugs, legal and illegal, result in two specific reactions in the body, tolerance, and withdrawal. Tolerance means that over time your body builds up a resistance to the drug so that it takes more and more of the same drug to get the same effect.

Physically addicting drugs all result in tolerance in the body.

Withdrawal is the phenomenon of symptoms that occur when the level of the drug in the bloodstream begins to drop. As many an alcoholic knows if you can keep the level of alcohol in the bloodstream up, you can hold off the hangover for a while. Eventually, you fall asleep or more precisely pass out, and then the blood alcohol level drops.

The drop in the level of drug in the bloodstream, not the absolute level is what is causing the withdrawal symptoms, sometimes also referred to as “abstinence syndrome.”

When someone has been abusing drugs, including alcohol, we take them to a detox. They go through a lot of symptoms, some very unpleasant, as the drugs leave their system. So after 3 days or so, defiantly in a week, almost all drugs (except marijuana) are out of the system.

The carvings problem.

No drug (alcohol) in the system, the hangover, or other withdrawal symptoms go away. In the case of heroin, the shakes, diarrhea, vomiting, goosebumps, and all the other classic symptoms of opiate withdrawal end, and the person, now with no detectable drugs in their system are discharged to go home.

The majority of all people who go through detox, somewhere over 90%, will relapse or use again in a month or so after the detox.

If the drugs are all out of their system why are they still exhibiting addictive behaviors?

The problem with addiction is not the chemical dependency in the body, as awful as that can be. The real problem of addiction is that it is a problem of the mind.

We might call this manifestation of addiction a psychological dependency on the drug to differentiate it from a physical addiction. Even when no drugs are in the body the cravings remain in the brain.

Behavioral Addictions.

So can people really be addicted to things like shopping, sex, or compulsive spending?

My belief is that these kinds of activities can also be addicting but are not automatically addiction.

Each activity produces thoughts, those thoughts move through the brain chemically. Change your thinking and your brain chemistry changes. Some experiences, falling in love, having sex, can produce chemical changes in the brain that can be like an addiction.

One key criterion for addiction is the loss of control, if you lose control of an activity you are approaching addiction land.

Continued use of a substance or continued repetition of a behavior despite negative consequences, loss of control over a behavior fits this pattern.

Hypothetical example.

A client says she is “addicted to poodles.” She has poodle skirts, poodle statues, and pictures all over her house. Her husband gripes about all these poodle things but they are still together after 25 years. She says she is “addicted to poodles.” I think she has an unusually large interest, even an obsession with poodles, but so far it does not sound like an addiction.

Let’s say she also has 25 live poodles in the one-room apartment and that she has spent all of their money on poodle stuff this month leaving them with no money for rent and food. Now has her poodle addiction crossed the line?

So while excessive involvement in many things might possibly reach the level of being an addiction the more strongly rewarding things like drugs, alcohol, sex or risk-taking (gambling) produce such high levels of chemicals in the brain that many people might become “Addicted” to these behaviors. Most people are not likely to develop an addiction to poodles. The internet on the other hand –

Let’s leave that for now.

So in many ways, I see addiction, to drugs or other things, as a special case of OCD. The person can’t stop thinking about the object of their addiction and with chemicals or behaviors like gambling once they start they lose control over the substance or the activity.

Most recently we are recognizing that it is possible to have a problem with a chemical or behavior way short of developing an addiction. We might call this a “Use Disorder” or with behaviors we might think of it as an impulse control problem.

However you see this, loss of control over a chemical or an activity can cause someone a lot of life problems and needs treatment.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel