Depression affects people from all walks of life, socioeconomic backgrounds, and races.
It’s not uncommon for someone who struggles with depression to deal with an anxiety disorder as well.
Nearly half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) affects 6.8 million adults in the United States, and women are twice as likely to be affected than men. A Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is the leading cause of disability in the United States for ages 15 to 44. Major Depressive Disorders affect more than 16 million American adults 18 or older in a given year. Unfortunately, this condition is more prevalent in women than in men.
Antidepressant medications were developed to treat problems that result from clinically significant depression and occur in mental health disorders such as the ones listed above.
Since depression is a common mental illness, medications like Trazodone are prescribed to patients who struggle with one of these mental illnesses. Relying on Trazodone can result in physical and psychological dependence, which can become dangerous.
Addiction and dependence on Trazodone are common, and those who take the drug without a doctor’s prescription as a form of self-medication are more prone to addiction.
What Is Trazodone?
Trazodone is an antidepressant medication categorized as serotonin antagonist reuptake inhibitor (SARI), which means it modulates the actions of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain and spinal cord.
In addition to depression, trazodone is prescribed to treat insomnia and, in combination with other medicines, alcohol dependence, according to Drugs.com. It has also been prescribed off-label to treat conditions such as complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), schizophrenia, and erectile dysfunction.
Trazodone goes by several different brand names, including Desyrel and Oleptro.
What makes trazodone different from other antidepressants is its mechanism of action. Trazodone is capable of producing sedation.
This sedating effect is why people have turned to trazodone as a sleep medication, believing that it was a safer alternative to nonbenzodiazepines.
“People noticed that standard sleeping pills like Ambien were associated with higher death rates, confusion, and sleepwalking. So they started using trazodone as their sleeping pill of choice,” notes this Psychology Today report. “By some measures, it is now the most commonly prescribed sleeping pill in the U.S.”
If anything, trazodone’s ability to produce sedation can cause users to become overreliant on it as a sleep remedy.
That overreliance can lead to dependence and troubling symptoms, not to mention one other dangerous condition: serotonin syndrome.
Trazodone Dependence and Withdrawal
Physical dependence is the result of tolerance and withdrawal. Tolerance occurs when someone acclimates to a drug and requires a larger dose in order to experience the same effects.
Withdrawal occurs after a person has been taking a drug for an extended period of time. When their system has adjusted to the presence of drugs, abrupt stoppage can result in physical disturbances or withdrawal symptoms.
Trazodone is capable of producing withdrawal when it is taken in high doses or for a longer than the prescribed period. Trazodone withdrawal is also known as antidepressant discontinuation syndrome (ADS), which occurs in about 20 percent of patients after abrupt discontinuation of an antidepressant taken for at least six weeks, according to American Family Physician.
Trazodone Withdrawal Symptoms
Trazodone withdrawal symptoms are not life-threatening. However, they can be unpleasant. What’s more, abrupt stoppage can result in rebound depression, suicidal thoughts, and potential self-harm.
Common symptoms associated with ADS include:
- Stomach aches
- Blurred vision
- Vivid dreams
- Brain Zaps
Trazodone Withdrawal Timeline
The duration of withdrawal can manifest differently from person to person. Symptoms may appear differently as well. There are several factors can influence how people experience withdrawal, they include:
- The health of a patient
- Trazodone dose amount
- Length of time trazodone was used
- Trazodone use along with other substances
- Patient history of substance abuse
- Patient mental health history
Days 1-3: Withdrawal symptoms from Trazodone typically begin within one to three days after stopping the drug.
Days 4-7: The symptoms will reach their peak within a week after they appear and then begin to decrease in their intensity.
Weeks 1-4: While no two people are the same, withdrawal symptoms are going to vary in length from one to four weeks.
The symptoms that occur from Trazodone are mild in comparison to alcohol, benzodiazepines, or opioids, but the symptoms can be uncomfortable. In professional treatment settings, clients are weaned off antidepressant medications due to the discomforting withdrawal effects.
Serotonin Syndrome and Trazodone
Trazodone withdrawal symptoms may not be life-threatening, but the potential serotonin syndrome it causes can be.
Serotonin syndrome occurs when medications cause high levels of the chemical to buildup in your body.
According to the Mayo Clinic, too much serotonin can generate a range of symptoms that vary from mild (diarrhea and shivering) to severe (seizures, muscle rigidity, and fever). If not treated, severe serotonin syndrome can lead to death.
The following are symptoms of serotonin syndrome:
- Agitation or restlessness
- High blood pressure
- Muscle rigidity
- Heavy sweating
- Rapid heart rate
- Dilated pupils
- Loss of muscle coordination
- Muscle twitching
The life-threatening symptoms of severe serotonin syndrome are:
- High fever
- Irregular heartbeat
Treatment for Trazodone Withdrawal
A reputable, professional treatment center will provide patients the resources to safely taper off trazodone or other antidepressant drugs.
Tapering is when the person is given enough of the medicine to alleviate any withdrawal symptoms that could occur. Over time, a medical specialist will adjust the dosage to allow the system to adapt to the lower levels of the drug without putting the body in a state of shock.
At a certain point, the drugs can be discontinued. The purpose is to make it as comfortable as possible, and doctors will not rule out other medications that address specific symptoms.
For those who need additional help, they should consider medical detoxification to help adjust to life without Trazodone. Treatment will address any other issues that may cause your depression and ensure that rebound depression does not occur.
If you are currently taking Trazodone and you are concerned about withdrawal symptoms, there is help available for you or a loved one today.