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Guide to Trazodone: Effects, Addiction Potential & More

Trazodone is an antidepressant that works by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain, according to MedlinePlus
Antidepressants can go a long way in helping people with depression live more productive and happy lives. Different kinds of antidepressants are available on the market.

Legitimate Use

You can obtain trazodone with a prescription. It is sold as either a standard tablet or an extended-release tablet. Users should aim to take it at the same time every day for best results. It is usual for people to take low doses of trazodone initially and for doctors to increase the dosage as time goes by. A two-week adjustment period is standard with trazodone, and you should keep taking it even if you do not feel any changes.

This medication is meant to control your symptoms, but it does not cure depression. 

Like most antidepressants, you should stop taking trazodone only with the help of your doctor.

How Trazodone Treats Depression

Trazodone increases the amounts of serotonin in your brain to balance brain chemistry. It is called a serotonin modulator for this reason. 
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter (chemical messenger) that plays a part in your appetite, mood, libido, and sleep. Trazodone is meant to balance levels of serotonin to control your mood and make you feel better.  The New York Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) says that trazodone is occasionally used to help people who have difficulty sleeping after they begin methadone treatments. It is used off-label for this purpose. Even so, OASAS states that trazodone’s ability to assist with sedation is not well-known. 

Is It Possible to Abuse Trazodone?

An August 2014 paper from Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation mentions that misuse of antidepressants such as trazodone is not common, but it can happen. Most people who abuse antidepressants tend to have other mood or substance use disorders. 
The paper mentioned that people report misusing antidepressants because they can cause changes in their mental state when used in high doses. Users in the study also admitted to injecting or snorting their antidepressants to feel the effects faster. 
The good news is that most people do not misuse antidepressants such as trazodone, but the study suggested that doctors screen for antidepressants when determining a patient’s problematic use of substances.

Use & Misuse Statistics

More research is needed on the misuse of trazodone specifically because it is not as popular as other antidepressants. More can be understood about its use and misuse by looking at how all antidepressants are increasing in popularity in the United States. 
In a 2011 report, Harvard Medical School found that between 1988 and 1994, and between 2005 and 2008, the use of antidepressants in the United States shot up by 400 percent. 
A 2017 CBS News report found that consumption of antidepressants in the U.S. increased 65 percent between 1999 and 2014, signifying continued increases in use. The report highlighted a few factors that can help us understand antidepressant use and possible misuse.

  • About 25 percent of people surveyed reported the use of antidepressants for 10 or more years.
  • Among women, 16.5 percent were likely to be on antidepressants, while nine percent of males were likely to use them.
  • One out of eight Americans older than 12 reported being on antidepressants in 2014.
  • White Americans were likely to take antidepressants than other racial demographics.

CBS News also highlighted a few reasons why people may be more likely to use antidepressants today than in the past.

  • Social isolation: Social media and interaction online can make people feel lonely.
  • Stress: Increased stress levels occur due to more hectic home and work lives.
  • Access to drugs: Pharmaceuticals are advertised to consumers directly.

A 2016 report from Reuters also revealed that childhood trauma could have an impact on how adults respond to antidepressants. Child neglect or abuse could make antidepressants 1.6 times less effective on adults who require this course of treatment. 
People who are depressed are 63 percent more likely to report abuse, per Reuters. Twenty-eight percent of adults who are not clinically depressed were expected to report abuse.
Reuters mentioned that information is limited because adults were expected to remember details from their childhood.

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Can I Become Dependent on Trazodone?

Antidepressants do not necessarily cause cravings the way other drugs do, but that does not mean you can stop taking them suddenly. Talk to your doctor if you want to stop taking this medication because it could cause symptoms of withdrawal. You may experience anxiety, agitation, or changes to your sleeping patterns if you stop taking the drug suddenly.

Withdrawal

Withdrawal occurs when you stop taking something your body has gotten used to, as mentioned by the Alcohol and Drug Foundation. If you take trazodone, you may become psychologically or physically dependent on it. 

  • Psychological dependency: You start thinking and feeling that you must take the drug in order to function.
  • Physical dependency: Your body gets used to having a drug in the bloodstream. It relies on the drug to feel normal, and suddenly quitting a substance could manifest in physical symptoms.

This makes sense considering that trazodone works by changing the chemical balance in your brain and increasing serotonin levels. Suddenly ceasing trazodone use will cause a shift in your levels of serotonin that could cause physical symptoms, such as agitation, anxiety, or changes to your sleep quality. 
Many people who want to quit using antidepressants are not addicted. When you quit an antidepressant, withdrawal is often called discontinuation syndrome instead. 
Taking an antidepressant for at least six weeks is known to cause physical symptoms in at least 20 percent of people who quit taking antidepressants.

Treating Misuse or Dependence

Misuse of trazodone has not been well documented, but misuse of antidepressants, in general, is known to occur. 
Not everyone who wants to quit using trazodone exhibits dependency or signs of misuse. Instead, they may want to stop because trazodone is known to make people’s mental responses change, especially if they are over the age of 24. 
As you adjust to trazodone, you may have increasing thoughts of self-harm or suicidal ideation, and you want to quit using the medication to make these thoughts stop. 

Antideressants next to a laptop
  • Regardless of the reasons why you may want to quit trazodone, you should not do so until you have spoken to your doctor. After you have talked to your doctor, they might provide the following options:
  • Referral: If you and your doctor agree that you have a misuse problem, you can obtain a referral to an addiction specialist and other resources that can assist you.
  • Assessment: Your doctor or therapist will first talk to you about your goals. Using antidepressants is meant to help you find relief from depression symptoms. The main goal is to help you feel better.
  • Tapering schedule: Once you have discussed your goals with your doctor or gotten a referral, you will have to taper off the medication on a set schedule. Your dose will be decreased slowly over time.
    Established guidelines for antidepressant tapering do not currently exist. Your doctor will create a comfortable schedule for you, but this may require trial and error on both of your parts. The plan can and will change depending on how you respond during tapering. 

Conclusion

Trazodone can assist people who have been diagnosed with depression, but it has its pros and cons.
Should you decide to quit taking trazodone, do not to try to stop using on your own. Consult with your physician first and work together to find a better medication. 

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