Identifying Alternatives to Antidepressants

alternatives to antidepressants

If the idea of using alternatives to antidepressants makes you comfortable, then you have an opportunity to experiment with other medicines and techniques. Depression can be defined as a mood disorder where a person experiences persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest that affect their daily function.

Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders. It has been linked to addiction and vice versa. Sadly, antidepressant prescriptions have increased over the years as more and more people find themselves dealing with symptoms of depression.

Antidepressants have been prescribed as a resource to manage the symptoms of depression. There are a handful of benefits to taking antidepressants; however, addiction is possible. Antidepressants can help enhance a person’s life, considering a large portion of diagnosed individuals refusing medical support.

Co-occurring disorders are prominent in addiction recovery. A co-occurring disorder can be described as a person with a mental health condition and substance use disorder. If they decide to attempt sobriety professionally, they will undergo dual diagnosis treatment to monitor both conditions.

It’s incredibly valuable to take the prescriptions as guided. Mixing antidepressants and other substances is common in polydrug use

How Do Antidepressants Work?

Antidepressants function by manipulating the production of the chemical messenger known as serotonin. There are six classifications for these types of medication:

  • SSRIs – Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors
  • SNRIs – Serotonin and Noradrenaline Reuptake Inhibitors
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)
  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)
  • Norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs)
  • Non-competitive N-methyl-D aspartate receptor antagonists

Serotonin is associated with feelings of happiness and serenity, although some antidepressants target both serotonin and norepinephrine. Norepinephrine can be considered the stress hormone. Serotonin and norepinephrine are neurotransmitters.

In contrast to benzodiazepines such as Xanax or Valium, antidepressants are generally considered safer to prescribe to treat mental health conditions. Antidepressants can produce physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms if individuals misuse them. These drugs do not produce the same euphoric feelings as more potent substances such as alcohol or fentanyl. 

Antidepressants are typically prescribed for at least 4-8 weeks before you begin to experience the effects. Considering potential side effects, your progress will be monitored. Suicidal ideation occurs in about 4% of those prescribed, with a warning label for individuals between 18-24. 

To prevent symptoms of depression from returning, antidepressants are prescribed for 6-12 months if you’ve experienced first-time depression. Your health provider will determine the length afterward, depending on your status. 

If you begin to feel better afterward, a periodic check-up would be beneficial to iron out any potential lingering effects. A history of depression in the family can influence the length of prescription. Long-term medication use is typical for those with two or more episodes of depression.

What Are Some Alternatives to Using Antidepressants? 

Pets

The company of pets can bring bundles of loyal support and affection during difficult times… (at least until you have to clean after them!) Truly, though, the companionship of pets can help you feel less alone. Isolation and social withdrawal can negatively affect a person’s mental health. A pet can encourage you to care for another being through outdoor engagement and provide a sense of providing love.

Sleep

Insomnia is a trigger for depression. Lack of sleep can have damaging outcomes on the mind and body. It’s vital for the body to receive adequate sleep to function properly, particularly for those in therapy. A daily recommendation is to have at least 6-8 hours of sleep. If you have trouble sleeping, it’s good to find alternative methods to improve your sleep.

Stabilizing your mood plays a role in effective treatment for depression. Whether it’s sleeping too much or too little, your sleep habits will impact these changes.

Exercise

Exercise is a highly effective and recommended activity to combat the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Working out for 30 minutes a day can be helpful in keeping the mind and body clear. Exercise can come in different forms and techniques, so find what works best for you.

Group sports are a powerful approach to exercise. You might find the community to be refreshing through teamwork and relationship building.

Therapy

Therapy is a magnificent way to express your thoughts and feelings in a clinical but open environment. It’s important to distinguish how your thoughts and behaviors coexist with each other. If you have clinical depression, chances are you have been through therapy. Finding a therapist who understands your specific needs is important.

Building a relationship with a therapist or counselor requires time and patience. Those with depression often find that therapy can be illuminating for their root causes and how to manage the symptoms. It could help you discover healthy ways to avoid relying on unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is another effective alternative to using antidepressants. This is the practice of meditation through breathwork and being in the present moment. The hustle and bustle of modern life can have us feeling withdrawn from the internal, subtle moments of our human experience.

Mindfulness has the added benefit of reducing symptoms of anxiety, brain fog, and depression. Mindfulness can be performed virtually anywhere, best through a peaceful environment. There you’ll have a clear chance to reflect on your life and decisions moving forward.

Social Support

Your social support network is a vital part of growth and development. If you find it difficult to connect with people, practice self-compassion. The people in your life can offer their time and support for you. Planning activities with your closest friends can remind you of your sense of belonging.

What Can Individuals Do Instead of Using Zoloft, Prozac, and other Antidepressant Drugs? 

There are a handful of alternative remedies and supplements that can reduce certain symptoms of depression. Natural remedies and alternatives have grown in popularity in recent years. However, there is no evidence to suggest that they work as effectively as antidepressant medications.

If you want to make a change in your life and feel like you need something alternative to antidepressants, an effective first step would be speaking with your doctor about alternatives.

Once you understand why you are depressed, finding alternatives such as those listed above becomes an easier task. Sometimes we only need replacement parts for our house so we can live safely, but sometimes there is more wrong than just a piece that needs replacing – or even fixing.

Essential Oils

Essential oils such as lavender oil can help ease stress and tension – two major depression triggers – without the negative side effects of antidepressants. It’s also important to note that essential oils should not replace existing treatments for depression but rather be used in collaboration with them. 

St. John’s Wort

St. John’s Wort has been used as an alternative to antidepressants. St. John’s Wort can conflict with prescription medications.  It’s most commonly prescribed in Germany and can help treat mild depression, anxiety, sleep loss, and premenstrual symptoms. However, this alternative to antidepressants does not work for everyone. 

Some of the most common side effects include dry mouth, upset stomach, dizziness, blurred vision, sensitivity to sunlight (and other forms of UV rays), nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. So it is certainly important to speak with your doctor before using St. John’s Wort.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial elements to development. A deficiency can lead to learning disabilities and other cognitive issues. Omega-3s help the brain function properly by keeping nerve cells flexible enough to send messages quickly and effectively.

Omega-3 fatty acids work like antidepressants, only they don’t carry the same side effects. Some of these alternatives to antidepressants include fish oil capsules, flax oil, and walnuts. For example, fish oil is a wonderful source of omega-3 fatty acids. These essential oils have been shown to increase serotonin levels and other brain chemicals that affect mood. Fish oil has been shown to be effective in treating depression.

5-HTP

5-HTP has received some negative attention due to its dangerous side effects which may include heart problems. Before trying alternatives like 5-HTP, it is important to speak with your doctor. While taking alternatives to antidepressants, it’s best to stay on the safe side and avoid risky alternatives like 5-HTP. People who try alternatives to antidepressants often find relief from their emotional struggles as a result of these alternatives. 

Valerian and Melatonin

Ingredients like Valerian and Melatonin are alternatives to antidepressants that can be taken instead of dangerous medications. This means that many people find relief from their depressive symptoms by using valerian root instead of alternatives like Zoloft (sertraline). Melatonin is another option that can help to restore your natural sleep cycle.

If you struggle with depression, chances are that your body falls out of sync with its natural circadian rhythm. This might explain why you struggle with sleeping soundly at night or you wake up early in the morning without feeling rested. Melatonin will help to reset your internal clock and give you a better chance at getting quality rest each night.

Valerian root is another useful tool for those who want alternatives to antidepressants. Valerian root is generally used as an anxiety reducer, but has also been known to reduce depressive symptoms too. 

An Important Note

The alternatives to antidepressants listed here are simply alternatives, not replacements. 

When taking alternatives to antidepressants your goal is to feel better in the short term while working on long-term results. It takes time for people to find alternatives that work well with their bodies so you should give them a chance before stopping treatment. 

What are the Dangers of Misusing Antidepressants?

Antidepressants, like any other drug, can pose withdrawal symptoms from misuse. It’s important to avoid mixing antidepressants with other substances to prevent the risk of potentially drastic effects. Never exceed the recommended dosage.

Side effects from an overdose of antidepressants can include:

  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety, irritability, and restlessness
  • Increased body temperature and irregular heartbeat

The withdrawal symptoms from antidepressants can be extreme depending on what type you are taking. Severe cases of flu-like symptoms may be associated with suicidal thoughts or even death in rare cases. Chronic short-term users of SSRIs may experience less severe withdrawals which will fade over time as their bodies adjust to the cessation of serotonin production. 

A person experiencing withdrawal symptoms may experience:

  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness
  • Electric shock sensations
  • Return of depressive symptoms

Harmony Place is Here For You

Depression is known as the “silent killer”, taking millions of lives each year. It’s important to reach out to someone if you feel as though your condition has taken a toll on you. Addiction can directly influence your mental health. 

Harmony Place understands that treatment should feel safe and nourishing for your spirit. We prioritize your health and recovery. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction and depression, please contact us here at our facility

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6519573/