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Treatment or Trouble: Is Paxil Addictive?

by Landmark Recovery

August 10, 2020
A pharmacist grabbing a paxil prescription for a patient


If you’ve ever suffered from debilitating low mood or intense anxiety that makes your brain run like a steam engine, you may already be familiar with antidepressants.


Paxil is just one entry in a laundry list of medications developed to treat depression and generalized anxiety disorders.


What Is Paxil?

A pharmacist grabbing a paxil prescription for a patient

Paxil is a psychotropic drug taken orally in pill form, and is classified as an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor). SSRIs help to treat depression by increasing the flow of serotonin to the brain.


Serotonin, sometimes called “the happy chemical,” transmits messages between our nerve cells, helps to regulate our sleep cycles, and plays a significant role in our emotional well-being. Serotonin is largely responsible for boosting our mood, which is why people who lack serotonin tend to suffer from depression and anxiety.


Disturbed serotonin levels can also contribute to:


  • Disrupted sleep patterns
  • Decrease of interest or pleasure in everyday activities or hobbies
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue and lowered energy levels
  • Motor dysfunction
  • Fluctuation of weight and/or appetite
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Depressed mood
  • Suicidal thoughts


With these types of symptoms, your doctor might prescribe an antidepressant like Paxil as part of your treatment plan.


Why Do People Take Paxil?

In addition to treating depression and generalized anxiety, Paxil might also be prescribed for:


People prescribed Paxil to supplement their serotonin levels and try to regulate their mood. When used in conjunction with other therapies, medications can be highly effective for some individuals when trying to treat anxiety, depression, or trauma-related disorders.


Side Effects of Paxil

As with any drug, Paxil can come with a wide range of side effects. Some are mild, while others are more serious and potentially life-threatening for some individuals.


Mild side effects include dizziness, shaking, sweating, nausea and vomiting, changes to sexual drive and function, sleeplessness, fatigue, anxiety, abdominal pain, and diarrhea or constipation.


More severe side effects might include abnormal bleeding, fluctuations in weight or appetite, severe allergic reactions, seizures, serotonin syndrome, and suicidal ideations.


Is Paxil Addictive?

In 2001, a legal suit alleged that Paxil is, indeed, addictive. Pharmaceutical moguls denied the allegations but admitted that those attempting cessation might experience withdrawal symptoms.


A representative for the manufacturer of Paxil stated, “The complaint is based on a misunderstanding of what addiction is … they are confusing addiction and withdrawal, and these are two entirely separate issues.”


According to the suit and various other sources, withdrawal symptoms can include:


  • Irritability and agitation
  • Confusion
  • Insomnia
  • Anxious or depressed mood
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Mania or lethargy
  • Dizziness and headache
  • Ringing in the ears
  • The physical sensation of electric shocks (aka “brain zaps”)


While Paxil can be highly effective, you must speak to your doctor if you plan to stop taking it. Together, you can work on a plan to taper your dose, so you don’t experience withdrawal symptoms.


So is Paxil addictive? When you consider that stopping your dose after prolonged use will cause withdrawal, that sounds very much like an addiction. However, your doctor may decide that the benefits are worth the risk. If you are prescribed Paxil, keep your doctor in the loop about how you’re feeling. If you think you want to stop taking Paxil, do so only under the advice of a physician. He or she can help you through the process and ensure your continued well-being.


If you or a loved one struggles with depression, anxiety, or substance abuse disorder, reach out to Landmark Recovery today. We are always here to help.

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About the Author

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery was founded with a determination to make addiction treatment accessible for all. Through our integrated treatment programs, we've helped thousands of people choose recovery over addiction and get back to life on their own terms. We're on a mission to save one million lives over the next century. We encourage all those struggling with substance use to seek professional help.