Digital Dharma

The Middle Path, One Day At A Time

Antidepressants and PAWS


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  When the drug is withdrawn, there is a period of dysfunction while the brain repairs itself.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.”

Author: Bill

Stumbling down the Middle Path, one day at a time.

2 thoughts on “Antidepressants and PAWS

  1. Thanks for this article. I am 86 days sober from alcohol, I have 2 very small kids and I am just trying not to lose my sh*t most days. I am on ad’s and have just got back from a meeting where someone was telling me that ad’s are the “easier, softer way”. I drove home in dread, thinking am I really doing the right thing being on these tablets??
    But now hearing that it does help those in early recovery then I am feeling better. I think the person was breakin the rule of not talking about medications when we know nothing about them. I have tried to come off them but at the moment I am really just trying to cope with being a balanced mother!

    • Hi Rebecca,

      Congratulations on your 86 days! What an accomplishment, especially with the stresses of being a mom.

      It’s good that you decided to research the subject of antidepressants a bit, instead of listening to the person at the meeting. What harm those know-it-alls can cause! That individual could easily be the cause of someone’s death, if they stopped taking their meds and were hit with a powerful rebound. Luckily for us, most folks in the rooms have sense enough to keep their mouths shut if they don’t know what they’re talking about. Please continue to advocate for yourself. Google is your friend when something doesn’t make sense, or flies in the face of something you’ve been told by a reasonably competent authority.

      You are doing exactly the right thing. Please remember that, as it says in the article, ADs should not be stopped, once begun, without the supervision of a physician. There is no hurry to get off them. Personally, I would stay on them until I was through PAWS at least, then get my doctor to help me taper and see how things go. Many of us self-medicated depression with alcohol and drugs, and some may have natural brain chemistry that needs a bit of a kick. To avoid unskilled advice, just don’t tell folks you’re taking them. They definitely fall into the “outside issues” category in AA, so there’s no need to mention them to anyone except a prospective sponsor. The wrong reaction from them would be all you need to know to find another sponsor.

      Again, congratulations on your sobriety. Your kids will grow up without ever knowing a drunken mother. They can be proud of you, and you can be proud of yourself.

      Please stay in touch, and

      Keep on keepin’ on!


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