Due to the addiction crisis in America and around the world, there has been a lot of pressure on both healthcare professionals and drug companies to create and prescribe non-addictive and less addictive versions of drugs to help curb the epidemic.
Drugs like Suboxone and atomoxetine (commonly sold as Straterra) provide relief to people in pain or with ADHD without running the same risks of addiction that OxyContin or Adderall do.
So where does Trazodone fit in?
Trazodone is an antidepressant that can also be used to treat a number of other disorders, such as insomnia and anxiety, and even has been used to treat substance use disorder.
Like other antidepressants, its main function is to regulate serotonin levels in the brain by blocking their absorption in neurons and allowing serotonin to accumulate and return to regular levels.
The brain is then able to function normally, stabilize your mood, and get you out of your depressive funk.
Just like Suboxone and Straterra, doctors will opt for trazodone over other antidepressants because it's seen as a safer option.
But does that mean trazodone is non-addictive? Well, in order to answer this, it’s important to understand the difference between addiction and dependence.
These two terms have often been confused with one another, but there is actually a subtle distinction between them.
The confusion has prompted some healthcare professionals to completely abandon the word addiction and instead use the broader phrase “substance use disorder” to describe drug-taking that goes beyond prescribed or recreational use.
If you’ve read some of our other posts, you’ll know that addiction is characterized by an inability to stop taking a substance — even after the substance use has started negatively impacting your life.
An addiction involves someone who has lost control over the drug and has gotten to a point where the drug is consuming their life.
Dependence, on the other hand, falls a bit short of an addiction. Dependence is really just a natural response to taking substances over a period of time.
It can be both physical or psychological, but it’s really just your body growing accustomed to having the drug (and throwing a fit once it doesn’t get it).
When you start taking any drug, your body will develop some form of tolerance to it. After that, you’ll need to start taking more to get the same effect. With some drugs, your body will start to rely on them, and dependence is formed.
Physical dependences are both common and easily treatable. To break free of it, you’ll most likely be prescribed decreasing dosages of the drug until doctors believe it’s safe to quit taking it altogether.
Many anti-depressants cause physical dependence. You get what’s called discontinuation syndrome when you come off of it. This can be extremely uncomfortable, but it’s not the same as being addicted to, for example, heroin, where you crave the drug even after you’ve gone through withdrawals.
There also can be psychological dependence from taking any drug, but even psychological dependence is not the same as addiction.
If you’re taking trazodone, and you know you’re feeling better because of it, this may cause you to form a psychological dependence, where you’re afraid that missing one dose could upset the rhythm you've gotten into.
They’re less common than physical dependences, but can be treated in the same way.
So, is trazodone addictive?
In short, no — trazodone is non-addictive. It does not provide any immediate relief or sensation of calm and euphoria. There’s no “high” for someone to get addicted to when they’re taking it.
The effects of trazadone take weeks of prescribed use before you’ll notice them working at all.
Like any drug that’s taken for an extended period of time, the body will likely form some dependence on it, and that could cause a few crummy days if you end up quitting cold turkey.
But that will be easily remedied by your doctor tapering your prescription.
However, it’s possible for psychological addiction to occur because of one potential side effect of trazodone — drowsiness and dizziness.
Some people, especially addicts/alcoholics, find that, when they can’t get their drug of choice, they feel the need to turn to other types of less-addictive drugs.
This can include anti-depressants and mood stabilizers because some of these drugs make you feel drowsy or dizzy, which for addicts who are in a bad place and are willing to do anything to change the way they feel, might be better than nothing.
Some addicts will even convince themselves that abusing these types of medications is okay because they’re not doing their drug of choice.
This is true in some ways — maybe they’re not stealing or lying anymore to get their fix — but they’re still exhibiting addict behavior, and it’s possible they’ll need help to stop.
However, this is pretty rare. Most people won’t want to keep abusing anti-depressants or mood stabilizers because they don’t get you high — they just make you feel “out of it,” which for a real drug addict or alcoholic just won’t cut it.
For the most part, trazodone just isn’t addicting in the way heroin or meth or alcohol might be.
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