In reviewing today’s search terms, I found four listings that read “Do all antidepressants cause PAWS?” I’ve previously gotten comments on the PAWS article indicating that there is confusion about this issue, and I’d like to lay it to rest here, if possible.
PAWS is caused by changes in our brains as they become addicted to alcohol or other drugs. When the drug is withdrawn, there is a period of dysfunction while the brain repairs itself. It begins two to three weeks after cessation of the drug(s), and continues for several months or, in extreme conditions, for up to two years.
Antidepressants (ADs) neither cause nor prolong Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS). Antidepressant medications act on different portions of the brain. They will not trigger addiction, cause relapse or otherwise negatively affect recovery. In fact, many recovering people benefit greatly from using antidepressants. Depression is common in early recovery, and ADs can literally make the difference between successful recovery and relapse.
There are people in the rooms of AA, NA and some of the other 12-step groups who, with only the best of intentions, advise newcomers to stay off all drugs. With due respect, they may know a lot about how they themselves recovered, but they are not mental health or addiction professionals. If you are feeling as though life isn’t worth the trouble, or having feelings of self-harm, see a physician about getting on an antidepressant medication.
The life you save may be your own.
Note: Although they are not addictive and do not cause PAWS, ADs should not be stopped, once begun, without the supervision of a physician. There is no withdrawal per se, but there can be a rebound effect leading to deep depression if they are not tapered off rather than quitting “cold turkey.”