The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that “17.3 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode” in their lives. According to its report, “an estimated 65 percent received combined care by a health professional and medication treatment.” Treatment for depression now includes a pantheon of pharmaceuticals designed to alleviate depressive symptoms, helping individuals manage their condition. Trazodone, also know by brand names “Desyrel” and “Oleptro,” is an antidepressant medication that is used to treat major depressive disorders. Trazodone is a serotonin antagonist and reuptake inhibitor—not a narcotic. Yet, like narcotics, this drug has serious potential for abuse.
What Is Trazodone?
As mentioned, trazodone is a serotonin antagonist and reuptake inhibitor (SARI). It was approved by the FDA in 1987 and is used to treat major depression as well as some anxiety disorders and insomnia. It has also been used on occasion to treat schizophrenia. Like other SARIs, trazodone works by helping to restore chemicals like serotonin in the brain and is only available with a doctor’s prescription. Trazodone is not a narcotic or controlled substance, but it does have the potential to become a substance of abuse owing to its sedative properties. Doctors prescribe this medication to adults as well as teens and children. Because one severe side effect of the drug happens to be suicidal thoughts, doctors must carefully monitor patients who are taking it.
Trazodone is prescribed in tablet form and is also available in an extended release tablet. Most physicians start patients on 150 milligrams and increase the dose gradually as needed. Seldom does a dose exceed 400 milligrams per day (MayoClinic). People who abuse this drug and buy it on the street may know it by its slang name: “sleepeasy.” It is also referred to as “pliva 433,” “trazzy,” and “goopenthal.”
How Does Trazodone Work?
Like other SARIs, trazodone works by inhibiting 5HT2a receptor, a serotonin receptor in the brain. By blocking the serotonin protein, the drug causes an increase in the amount of active serotonin in the brain and central nervous system. When the drug works effectively, the patient will notice improvements in mood and appetite. People suffering from insomnia typically also find relief after using this medication. In fact, a common side effect of trazodone is drowsiness. Other side effects may include headache, dizziness, dry mouth, and even blurred vision. While people suffering from depression may not find relief until they’ve been on the medication for a few weeks, patients who suffer from insomnia or anxiety may find relief soon after starting the medication.
Trazodone: Abuse and Addiction
Trazodone is not regarded by the medical community as an addictive drug, which is why many physicians prefer to prescribe it for insomnia over drugs like Ambien that are associated with a higher risk for addiction. Trazodone stays in the system for a far shorter amount of time than Ambien and other drugs used to treat insomnia. Nevertheless, there is a serious risk for abuse and addiction is possible. Typically, individuals who abuse trazodone do so for its sleep-inducing qualities. The drug has a sedative effect, but at high doses, it can induce hallucinations.
Unfortunately, snorting trazodone has become increasingly popular, especially among some people who abuse drugs like cocaine and LSD. Some have reported that trazodone enhances or prolongs the effects of hard drugs like cocaine, ecstasy, and amphetamine. Combining trazodone with drugs and alcohol is dangerous and could lead to overdose.
Dangers of Trazodone Abuse
One of the side effects of trazodone is drowsiness. Some people have reported falling or suffering from other injuries when under the influence of this drug because they feel tired or lethargic. At higher doses, this tendency for falling and cognitive impairment could increase. As stated, trazodone overdose is possible. Additionally, people who buy this drug on the street may not know where it came from or what other chemicals it may be laced with. Mixing trazodone with alcohol or other drugs can also dangerously elevate its side effects.
Individuals who abuse trazodone and are at risk for addiction typically experience physical and mental symptoms that may include:
- Nausea / vomiting
- Excessive sweating
- Sexual disfunction
- Memory problems
Trazodone abuse is also associated with serious and potentially life-threatening side effects like seizures, irregular heartbeat, shallow breathing, and coma. People who are addicted to this drug may also find it impossible to stop taking it. Other common signs of addiction include:
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Abandoning activities formerly enjoyed
- Problems at work or school
- Lying about drug use
- Doctor shopping to obtain more the medication
- Purchasing the drug on the street
Some people who are prescribed trazodone do experience suicidal thoughts. This is a dangerous side effect. Patients are told to report these feelings right away. People who abuse the drug and use it in conjunction with other substances like illegal drugs and alcohol may also experience suicidal feelings. They should be aware that this is a dangerous drug side effect and they should seek help if they begin to feel suicidal.
Treatment for Trazodone Abuse and Addiction
Individuals who abuse this drug or feel that they cannot stop taking it should seek help from an addiction treatment center or mental health centers like FHE Health that specializes in addiction medicine and treatment. Even though trazodone is physically only mildly addictive, there are psychological and behavioral aspects of addiction that can occur with long-term use of trazodone. Some people may also be addicted to other drugs alongside trazodone.
Some people addicted to this drug may require medical detox depending on their evaluation. For trazodone addiction, healthcare providers might recommend outpatient detox. On the other hand, if inpatient detox is recommended, individuals can expect to be carefully weaned off the substance. Healthcare providers typically prescribe medications to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms that arise during the detox process.
It’s important for addiction sufferers to note that detox is not a cure for addiction. Detox only addresses the physical dependency on the drug. Mental and behavioral dependencies can be profoundly powerful, so treatments that address the psychological components of substance addiction are vital.
FHE Health features a wide range of treatment options for people suffering from trazodone use disorder. Counseling helps individuals identify the triggers that led to their abuse problem. Counselors and therapists at FHE Health help people make lifestyle changes that support their recovery journey. They learn strategies for coping with their triggers so that they can prevent relapse. One of the ideal features of FHE Health is that care is customized for the individual.
FHE Health offers a continuum of care. For instance, initially treatment usually involves intensive residential therapy and support. As patients progress through detox and therapies, they require less support. Nevertheless, returning to their lives and continuing their recovery process can be challenging. Many people benefit from aftercare programs that include group counseling sessions or time in a sober living community.
Addiction is a chronic disease that is typically progressive—sometimes disastrously so—without proper treatment. FHE Health is highly respected for its comprehensive treatment programs designed to help individuals manage their addictions. If you or a loved one is abusing trazodone, alcohol, or any other substance, there is effective help available. Don’t wait to seek help. The risk for overdose is ever-present and continued abuse can lead to serious physical and mental health problems. Contact FHE Health to learn how its programs can help you. Its addiction specialists can provide you with an evaluation and help you determine the best treatment protocol for your needs.