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9 Alternatives to Antidepressants

Depression is a prevalent matter being faced by many Americans today. About 16.1 million U.S. adults grapple with the leading cause of disability worldwide. When an individual suffers from co-occurring disorders such as sleep disorders or substance use disorders coupled with depression, it makes recovery much more troublesome, therefore increasing the negative symptoms of both. Only 40% of people receive treatment for depression, and many take antidepressant medications for it. Although 1 in 9 Americans take antidepressants, there are huge risks involved, such as addiction. Fortunately, there are alternatives to antidepressants.

What Are Antidepressants?

Antidepressants are a common type of prescription drug used to treat moderate to severe obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), depression, and anxiety. They are viewed as a safer alternative to benzodiazepines like Ambien, Xanax, and Valium. These drugs are the third leading type of prescription drug used by Americans, since the increase in recent years. Women are twice as likely as men to take antidepressants, and nearly 13% of the U.S. population used an antidepressant in the past month. About 19% of adults over the age of 60 have taken an antidepressant in the past month, and people over the age of 60 are more likely to use them. 

Antidepressants do not produce euphoric cravings or effects and work differently than addictive drugs such as methamphetamine and heroin. However, they can cause withdrawal symptoms and physical dependence among those who misuse them. Some antidepressants alter the brain’s chemical balance of a naturally occurring chemical in the body called serotonin, which contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness. There are a variety of SSRI alternatives. Other antidepressants interact with norepinephrine and serotonin, which is a stress hormone found in the body that influences mood.

What Are Some Examples Of Common Antidepressants?

Most antidepressants are taken orally and are available in capsule form and tablets. Some examples of common antidepressants are:

  • Cymbalta (duloxetine)
  • Effexor (venlafaxine)
  • Paxil (paroxetine)
  • Celexa (citalopram)
  • Desyrel (trazodone)
  • Lexapro (escitalopram)
  • Prozac (fluoxetine)
  • Wellbutrin (bupropion)
  • Zoloft (sertraline)
  • Viibryd

Even though antidepressants work for many people, depression can occasionally persist in recovery. There are many different ways to cope with the symptoms without prescription drugs. 

Can You Get Addicted To Antidepressants?

Even though antidepressants aren’t labeled as “addictive,”people can and do become physically dependent on them. When this happens, psychological and physical problems can occur. Individuals who take large doses of antidepressants are at risk of overdosing.

Antidepressants aren’t usually considered addictive. The reason is that individuals who are physically dependent on antidepressants do not give up on personal responsibilities. They also don’t experience long-term addictive behaviors like a loss of control using them or cravings. 

Some individuals misuse antidepressants to attempt to get high, even though these particular drugs won’t produce the same euphoric effects as other addictive substances. Antidepressants don’t provide instant relief from symptoms of depression. However, they do work overtime accumulating in the brain and often taking weeks to alleviate symptoms. Due to the antidepressant process being tedious, individuals believe they may need a larger dose to experience relief.

There is a slight number of people who may try to misuse antidepressants to get high. Most individuals are taking higher doses than needed because they feel they need more of the drug to experience its effects more intensely or quickly. When the depression is intense, waiting for the antidepressants to work can be tedious. In the meantime, some people may begin misusing other substances such as marijuana, alcohol, or prescription opioids as a way to cope. 

Side Effects of Antidepressants

  • Insomnia or vivid dreams
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability 
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea 
  • Flu-like symptoms, including achy muscles and chills
  • Return of depression symptoms
  • Electric shock sensations

The majority of the time antidepressants can sometimes be prescribed as a short-term solution. However, the long-term misuse of these drugs can have harmful results. When an individual takes large doses of antidepressants, it is extremely dangerous and can cause an overdose or seizure. Once an individual is psychologically addicted and physically dependent, uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms can occur. Likely, individuals not dependent or addicted can still experience withdrawal symptoms. Makana Path specializes in highly individualized and safe plans that embrace emotional and physical substance-specific challenges. 

What Are Some Alternatives To Antidepressants?

There are many alternatives to antidepressants. When an individual begins taking an antidepressant, dependence or addiction can form. Once that combination occurs, further complications can result such as worsening depression, relationship problems, substance abuse, financial difficulties, suicidal behaviors, and thoughts. Although antidepressants can alter an individual’s life for the better by managing symptoms of depression, the misuse of antidepressants can contribute to a cycle of ongoing depression and worsening drug abuse.

Cognitive behavioral therapy goes hand and hand with antidepressants that are normally prescribed. This form of therapy is usually the most effective way to resolve and treat symptoms of depression due to the many various factors that cause it. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, depression is a treatable disorder and there are several different approaches to treatment including therapy, residential treatment, meditation, and so forth. 

There are many individuals in recovery for substance abuse and depression but would rather avoid taking antidepressants or any similar prescription drug. Numerous ways are scientifically proven to provide relief. Here are nine different alternatives to antidepressants.


Studies show that rhythmic and continuous exercise like swimming, walking, dancing, and yoga provides the most benefits of depression relief. When an individual is experiencing depression, it can be inconvenient to wake up and engage in any activity, especially exercising. If an individual engages in exercising for 10 minutes, their mood can receive a boost for a few hours. Physical exercise is suggested as a part of the holistic approach to treatment. There are many benefits of exercise in addiction recovery.

An individual’s eating habits can be altered for the better once engaging in exercise. The unhealthy physical condition was probably exacerbated by the combination of harmful sleeping and eating habits and lack of exercise. It has been proven that exercising regularly can help an individual sleep better and have more energy throughout the day. The more active a person is, the more capable they are to sustain their strength and receive rest recuperative at the end of each day. When an individual engages in exercise, their confidence is built and their self-esteem increases. 

Positive Social Interactions

When an individual is surrounded by like-minded people focused on similar goals regarding their mental and physical health, that’s a great way to start. In turn, the positive support and social interactions will be increased. As the person engages in exercise regularly, it will become second nature to encourage themselves and others. As the social interactions are based on concern for the individual’s well-being, it will replace the interactions of pressure felt with fellow addicts.

Structure and Focus on Daily Routine

As someone exercises more, it will start to become a rewarding, positive, and enjoyable experience in life. Instead of the individual struggling to discover new ways to spend their day constructively, and most likely succumbing to old habits or cravings, the structure will be found in exercising. Exercise will become the new structure and routine as a goal is geared to recovery.

Increased Ability to Control Addiction Impulses

Exercise allows impulses to be controlled toward addictions and cravings through the release of dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins.  The intense feeling of euphoria and happiness that was found through drugs and alcohol addiction can be satisfied through physical exercise naturally. Neurotransmitters play a significant role in regulating mood. Serotonin improves sleep patterns and appetite. As the individual stays focused on resting and eating more healthily, recovery will be more successful.

Desire to Stay Healthy

The individual will be less likely to engage in a substance that isn’t good for them as they begin to become aware of the benefits exercise has on their body and mind. It is typical that as people begin to feel better, they will not want to ruin their progress by eating fattening or sugary foods. As the individual drifts away from unhealthy foods, the same drift will occur from alcohol or drugs.


Cognitive behavioral therapy helps patients to identify negative thoughts and replace them with realistic and positive ones. The other two effective treatments are psychodynamic and interpersonal therapy which provides numerous benefits to combat depression. 


By engaging in mindfulness, negative thoughts are identified and replaced with positive thoughts. When an individual carries this type of mindset, they are more capable to fight any pessimistic thoughts and patterns that attempt to hijack the body and brain. Deep breathing is a great relaxation technique and jumpstarts the road to recovery.

Social Support

When individuals regularly meet with supportive people, they feel safe and not isolated. They are given a sense of understanding and encouragement. When a person feels great through social interactions, they are then able to make other people feel great about themselves.


By engaging in the act of caring for a pet, companionship and joy are returned in numerous ways. When a person has a pet, they are forced to go outside more embracing fresh air and they are provided the sense of feeling needed. All of these positive feelings assist with fighting off depression.


Some people sleep too little suffering from depression and some people sleep too much. By prioritizing sleeping habits, a person can gain a full eight hours of sleep. The mood is highly stabilized when adequate sleep is applied. 

Healthy Foods

When a healthy diet is in place, an individual will be able to recover from the harmful physical side effects of substance abuse. The saying “You are what you eat” carries great truth. By eliminating refined carbs, sugar, not skipping meals, and being vigilant to gain enough minerals, vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids, the mood will be stabilized and feelings of tiredness and fatigue will be greatly reduced. 


The main positive about getting sunlight are the other opportunities that are opened up such as social activities and physical exercise. The serotonin levels in the body are naturally increased, therefore boosting the person’s mood. Getting sunlight can be a simple task such as peeling the curtains back or opening up a window to increase natural light in a workplace or a home.


When an individual struggles with an addiction or depression, it will take time to overcome the obstacle. Self-awareness and patience with self are key to true healing and happiness. Depression is a difficult journey, but it’s not impossible.

Get Help at Makana Path Today

If you or someone you love is suffering from depression and addiction, give us a call today. Our staff at Makana Path is happy to answer any questions you may have.