What Is Paxil (Paroxetine)?

Paxil is a brand name of the antidepressant paroxetine. Paxil is in a class of pharmaceutical drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs like paroxetine achieve their effects by influencing the activity of serotonin in the brain. A malfunction in serotonin production is in many cases responsible for depression. SSRIs like Paxil have the highest success rates and are often the first types of antidepressants prescribed by doctors.

Paxil was first created in 1992 by the pharmaceutical company SmithKline Beecham. Generic versions have been available since 2003 when the patent expired. Paroxetine has since been sold under various names, including Paxetin, Sereupin, Aropax and Deroxat.

Potential side effects of paroxetine include headache, nausea, drowsiness, fluctuations in weight, dry mouth, low sex drive and restlessness. Side effects are usually mild and decrease over time as the patient adjusts to the drug. Although rare, more severe side effects like high fever, skin inflammation, seizures and rapid heart rate can occur.

How Is Paxil (Paroxetine) Used?

Although SSRIs are most commonly prescribed for the treatment of depression, other applications of the drug include the treatment of social anxiety disorder (SAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PDD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Occasionally, doctors will prescribe paroxetine to reduce the severity of hot flashes and night sweats associated with menopause.

Serotonin is the primary neurotransmitter that promotes feelings of general well-being. Serotonin only becomes effective when it gets released into the synaptic gap between neurons. Once there, it triggers serotonin receptor sites to reduce feelings of depression. Paroxetine increases the length of time that serotonin spends in the synaptic gap. This is where SSRIs get their name. Paxil delays the reuptake of serotonin so that it spends more time outside of the neurons and acting on serotonin receptors.

When first starting to take paroxetine, it’s important to be vigilant for thoughts of suicide. It can take several weeks after first taking paroxetine before it builds up in the body and begins to take effect. This period spent in limbo can be a risky time for some patients. Doctors are aware of the likelihood of suicidal thoughts and are trained to look for signs.

Paxil (Paroxetine) Addiction

Paxil is not considered to be an addictive substance according to the U.S. government and common medical opinion.

Patients who are entering drug or alcohol recovery programs are generally advised to continue taking Paxil throughout the course of their treatment. Withdrawals from paroxetine would only further stress a brain that’s already working hard to reorganize itself in recovery.

It’s also common for patients not formerly taking Paxil to have it prescribed when they start a recovery program. Addiction to drugs and alcohol often coincides with mental health disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Having paroxetine present in the body can help offset some of the more severe symptoms of withdrawal from opiates, benzodiazepines, alcohol and various other addictive substances.

The Importance Of Aftercare For Paxil (Paroxetine)

Patients often experience withdrawal-like symptoms upon cessation of use. Paroxetine withdrawals are referred to by the medical community as “discontinuation syndrome” because they’re easily managed with the right strategy.

Accidentally missing doses of Paxil can result in insomnia, irritability, dizziness, headache, flu-like symptoms, vertigo, nausea, confusion, anxiety and excessive dreaming.

Symptoms of discontinuation syndrome usually begin within 24 to 48 hours after a patient has stopped taking the drug and become the most intense around day five. On average, symptoms cease entirely two to three weeks after stopping treatment. New research suggests that it may take up to 90 days for many individuals to fully adjust to coming off the drug. Factors that influence the duration of this transition include individual body chemistry and how high the dose paroxetine dose had been. Paxil comes in doses ranging from 10 mg to 60 mg. Those taking higher doses tend to experience longer transition times.

Persistent suicidal thoughts are a risk factor for cessation just as they are when beginning a paroxetine regimen. This makes it critical that you check in with your doctor regularly and share fluctuations that occur in your mood in real time. Don’t wait several days while symptoms worsen.

Withdrawals can be significantly minimized or eliminated by gradually reducing dose quantities over the course of several weeks under the supervision of a doctor. The standard course of treatment for managing withdrawal symptoms is to reintroduce paroxetine and then slowly wean the patient off. Some doctors recommend briefly switching to fluoxetine, another type of SSRI, because it has a shorter half-life and therefore decreases the severity of discontinuation syndrome.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.