What Role Can Paxil Play in Addiction Recovery?
Paroxetine, better known by Paxil, is an antidepressant medication in the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) class.
The drug is used to treat conditions, such as major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Paxil was first introduced in 1992 by the pharmaceutical company SmithKline Beecham, now known as GlaxoSmithKline, and generic versions have been on the market since 2003, when the patent expired. In addition to Paxil, paroxetine also sells under the trade names Aropax, Paxetin, Deroxat, and Sereupin.
How Paxil Works
Paxil is a popular antidepressant, yet it has low instances of use for recreational purposes. There have been withdrawal symptoms noted with discontinuation syndrome, meaning side effects can occur if the person suddenly stops taking the drug. Typically, SSRIs doses are lowered over time for those wishing to stop using the drugs. It is considered rare for those using Paxil to develop an addiction to the medication, though some believe these drugs could be habit-forming for those suffering from social anxiety specifically.
Paxil, much like other SSRIs, was developed in order to control the levels of serotonin, or the “feel-good chemicals” within the brain. According to the book Antidepressants: Past, Present and Future: Past, Present, and Future by Renato D. Alarcón and Sheldon H. Preskorn, SSRIs are the most widely prescribed antidepressants in several countries worldwide. Paxil is one of the most potent SSRIs on the market as it focuses on the most specific selective serotonin. In 2006, it was the fifth-most prescribed antidepressant in the United States, with more than 19.7 million prescriptions.
Paroxetine is typically offered via tablets that are either immediate release or controlled release. The former kicks in immediately when taken, while the latter is meant to release small amounts of medication throughout the day. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Paxil is offered in doses of 10 mg, 20 mg, 30 mg, and 40 mg. Paxil CR (controlled release) is available in 12.5 mg, 25 mg, and 37.5 mg tablets.
Possible mild side effects of Paxil may include the following:
- Weight changes
- Dry mouth
- Sexual side effects
Most of these side effects are mild and should subside over time (it should be noted that sexual side effects tend to continue). There are more severe, though rare side effects, including unusual bleeding, fast heart rate, high fever, seizures, and skin issues.
There are several other similar prescription SSRIs on the market alongside Paxil, including:
- Celexa: Also known as citalopram, this SSRI is mainly used to treat depression. It has been shown to improve energy levels. Side effects may include dry mouth, excessive yawning, and blurred vision.
- Lexapro: Lexapro (escitalopram) is another popular SSRI. It has been shown to be quite effective against both depression and anxiety, yet it is possible for people to build a tolerance to the medication.
- Prozac: Fluoxetine, the generic name for Prozac, is a powerful SSRI used to treat depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and bulimia. Prozac has most of the same side effects as other SSRIs listed here, and it has been shown to increase risks of birth defects. Doctors recommend pregnant or nursing women avoid Prozac.
- Zoloft: Zoloft, often called by its generic name sertraline, was originally developed in 1990. While the drug is the most prescribed antidepressant in America, it also carries an increased risk of suicidal thoughts among young adults.
Paxil and Those in Addiction Recovery
During rehab, clients in the recovery process are typically evaluated for any physical illness or disorders. Oftentimes, those with substance abuse issues are also suffering from an undiagnosed mental illness (often referred to as a dual diagnosis). Conditions that often co-occur with substance abuse and addiction include depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and eating disorders. It is vital that doctors properly diagnose and treat clients in order to ensure a comprehensive, safe, and positive recovery experience.
Sometimes, antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications are prescribed to those in recovery to help combat some of the symptoms of withdrawal or to address co-occurring mental health issues. Paxil is often prescribed for clients in recovery due to its lack of dependence and its efficacy in treating depression. One study split 42 subjects suffering from both alcoholism and social anxiety into two groups: one group was given Paxil and one group was given a placebo. Those in the Paxil group had lower occurrences of panic in social settings.
The use of benzodiazepines, another class of psychiatric drugs (including Xanax, Klonopin, and Ativan), is typically not recommended because of their high risk of abuse and dependence.
Alternatives to SSRI treatment
It is often recommended that people in recovery avoid various medications and instead use natural or therapeutic methods in order to treat co-occurring issues. It’s important for addiction treatment professionals to assess each person on an individual basis to determine if medication is appropriate.
Therapy, such as individual and group therapy, should always be used in conjunction with medications like Paxil to address the underlying issues of depression and anxiety.