Mental illness is one of the greatest concerns the American people are facing today. And, despite more awareness surrounding these issues than ever before, countless individuals are still not receiving the proper treatment for their mental illness. Those who do get help do not always follow their healthcare provider’s professional recommendations and begin to utilize their prescription medication in ways that they feel best. In some cases, the care that a person does get when reaching out for help is not much of a help at all, leaving a person feeling like they have to do something, even if on their own, to manage their symptoms.
Regardless of what triggers a person to misuse a prescription drug, doing so can be extremely dangerous. When it comes to Seroquel, which is a medication commonly used to treat several mental health illnesses both as intended and off-label, several people find themselves addicted to it due to the effects that it can produce when abused. And once an addiction to any substance, including Seroquel, develops, getting sober and into a state of recovery can be extremely difficult without the help of professionals in a Seroquel addiction treatment program.
WHAT IS SEROQUEL?
Seroquel is certainly not a household name like heroin is, but that does not mean that it is not being abused or that it is not dangerous.
Seroquel, also known as quetiapine in its generic form, is an antipsychotic medicine whose primary function is to treat mental health disorders like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. This medication can also be used to treat depression, but not on its own. When it is prescribed to address this common mental health condition, it must also be prescribed along with an antidepressant to work as desired. Seroquel is also used off-label to treat symptoms associated with anxiety disorders in both adults and children.
As with all prescription drugs, Seroquel poses a very low risk when it is taken as prescribed. In fact, this medication has helped the lives of millions of people, as mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder are some of the most common in the United States.
Despite common misconception, Seroquel is addictive when it is abused. Not only can it cause an individual to become psychologically addicted to it, but it can also cause dependence, as Seroquel abuse is known to produce withdrawal symptoms when it is no longer being taken. While it might not be as potent or powerful as other substances like fentanyl and crack, an addiction to Seroquel can be extremely impactful in one’s life – and not in a positive way.
WHO IS ABUSING SEROQUEL?
Seroquel is not a drug that is widely abused throughout the country, however that does not mean that it is not being abused at all. Since this medication is most commonly prescribed to help treat people who suffer from bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety, and depression, those who take Seroquel to treat those symptoms are at much higher risk for abusing it. The biggest draw to the abuse of Seroquel is that it produces a mild sense of euphoria and relaxation. Those who are taking this medication for a mental illness might also increase the amount they are using in an effort to self-medicate. Unfortunately, this practice can lead to addiction, which can make the mental illness much worse and the substance use disorder more intense.
Outside of those who frequently come in contact with Seroquel, another population in the country that is regularly abusing this antipsychotic is prison inmates. Known as “jailhouse heroin”, Seroquel is most commonly used in prison settings to calm agitated inmates. For years, correctional officers and other prison workers have administered this drug for this very purpose, however, over the years, it has gotten into the hands of the inmates, leading to an increase in Seroquel abuse and addiction for those behind bars.
Known by users as “quell”, “snoozeberries” or “Susie-Q”, Seroquel has continued to produce unprecedented drug-seeking behaviors in the prison population. In order to obtain doses of this medication, inmates have faked psychotic symptoms, such as delusions, hallucinations, and confusion, just to get their hands on the drug. When combined with methadone, which is also a highly popular substance of abuse in the prison system, Seroquel produces a much stronger sense of euphoria than if it was abused on its own. Mixing Seroquel and methadone, which is an opioid-based substance, can be fatal, as both drugs are central nervous system depressants. This means that they both work to calm the functions of the body, but when too many CNS depressants are abused, users can suffer from respiratory problems that include respiratory failure.
Make no mistake about it, Seroquel and methadone are not the only two substances that are frequently abused in prison. Other substances, such as cocaine and amphetamines, are also abused in this environment. The use of these stimulant substances often go hand-in-hand with Seroquel abuse, as those who abuse stimulants sometimes use Seroquel to reduce anxiety while coming down off this particular drug. It is also very common, even for those who are not incarcerated, to combine cocaine with Seroquel and then inject it, which is known as a “q-ball.” This is not only dangerous because it is typically used intravenously, which increases the risk of bloodborne diseases, but also because it can produce fatal effects caused by the warring effects of as the stimulant cocaine and the depressant Seroquel.
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HOW DOES SEROQUEL AFFECT THE BRAIN?
When someone is taking Seroquel, his or her brain chemistry is being altered. When it is being taken as prescribed to treat a mental illness like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, it helps to balance out problematic brain chemistry, which is beneficial to who need it. However, when someone is abusing Seroquel for recreational or self-medication purposes, the alterations that this drug can cause can negatively affect the brain.
Seroquel is effective at impacting both serotonin and dopamine in the brain. Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter in the brain that helps to regulate mood, memory, appetite, social behavior, and sleep. Dopamine, which is also a neurotransmitter, controls emotions, behavior, and cognition, as well as feelings of pleasure and reward. Both of these neurotransmitters naturally release themselves on their own, however, someone with a condition like depression or bipolar disorder often has imbalances in the natural release of dopamine and serotonin. When Seroquel is consumed, however, it interacts with these neurotransmitters in the brain to help provide a stronger balance.
Specifically, Seroquel blocks dopamine from attaching to receptors in the brain, which helps to control symptoms commonly linked to the mental illnesses that it is designed to treat, such as mania caused by manic depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. Seroquel is also able to help diminish symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, disturbed thoughts, agitation, paranoia, or excessive excitement.
Because of how Seroquel interacts with dopamine and serotonin neurotransmitters, one of the biggest side effects of the abuse of this particular medication is suicidal thoughts. These thoughts can quickly develop into suicidal tendencies, behaviors, and physical attempts at taking one’s life. Continuing to abuse a drug that can produce these effects can dramatically increase one’s risk of carrying out their own suicide or experiencing a fatal overdose.
SIGNS OF SEROQUEL ADDICTION
An addiction to any substance, including Seroquel, can be easy to notice but extremely difficult to accept for both the users themselves and their loved ones. No one ever wants to think that they cannot control their own behaviors, nor does someone want to believe that one of their loved ones is dependent on something that can destroy their lives. And while that denial is extremely strong for people on both sides, it is not completely blinding. Someone who is abusing Seroquel is going to display signs of his or her addiction for all to see, even if he or she tries to hide it. Simply knowing the most common symptoms of Seroquel addiction can help to reduce the period of time that denial lasts and gets a person they help they need sooner. Some of these symptoms include the following:
- Combining Seroquel with another substance to achieve a stronger high
- Lying about losing prescriptions, doctor shopping, and/or stealing from others in order to obtain more of the drug
- Being dishonest about the nature of one’s use, including lying about how much Seroquel is being abused and how often
- Experiencing problems with finances, relationships, work, or the law, including job termination, divorce, bankruptcy, or jail time
- Having a lack of interest in activities or hobbies that used to bring joy or fulfillment
- Making attempts to stop using independently but struggling to maintain sobriety
- Experiencing symptoms of withdrawal when unable to use as much as normal or at all
- Feeling psychologically unable to function without the use of Seroquel
- Continuing to abuse Seroquel despite experiencing negative side effects of doing so
- Abusing this drug in dangerous settings, such as while driving, traveling, or watching children
While these are steadfast signs of a Seroquel addiction, one thing that a person might also be able to rely on is their gut instinct. The person who is abusing Seroquel probably already knows that he or she needs help but fights to ignore that instinct in an effort to keep using. Onlookers, such as friends and family members, might also be able to rely on their instincts, as they know the user well enough to be aware when something does not seem right. Completely discounting instincts can be dangerous when it comes to if a person needs professional Seroquel addiction treatment or not.
If you think that you or a loved one needs help, do not hesitate to reach out to our Seroquel addiction treatment program right now. We can help.
SEROQUEL SIDE EFFECTS
Although Seroquel has shown effectiveness in the treatment of a handful of different mental illnesses, there are still a variety of adverse side effects (even in those who take the drug precisely as directed while under the watchful care of a qualified physician) that can develop. Those who abuse this substance are much more likely to experience these and other side effects that can affect their lives much more substantially than those who do not abuse Seroquel.
Common side effects related to the responsible use of Seroquel can include the following:
- Weight gain
- Sexual dysfunction
- Drowsiness and worsened motor functioning.
- Dry mouth
AstraZeneca, the company who manufactures Seroquel, has been in hot water for these side effects. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) accused AstraZeneca of “false or misleading” information regarding the potential health risks for “off-label” purposes. Off-label purposes refer to the use of a drug for reasons outside of what it was developed to treat. In this case, this refers to using Seroquel to treat depression and anxiety, which it is commonly used for. The FDA claimed that the risks and side effects associated with the Seroquel are often not relayed and are also not worth it, as the cost to benefit ratio is out of whack.
While someone’s depression or anxiety may be helped when Seroquel is prescribed off-label, the adverse effects end up being worse for the patient than the symptoms of the mental illness that he or she experiences. Lawsuits in 2010 led to the AstraZeneca paying out more than $1 billion in settlements.
Data from the FDA’s Adverse Event Reporting System found 20,000 cases where Seroquel was the primary or secondary drug linked with adverse reactions, including death. The brand medication Seroquel served as the primary suspect in a total of 1,754 deaths caused by use, while the generic form known as quetiapine was recognized as the secondary suspect in the deaths of 2,309 people taking the medication. Approximately 93% of these deaths were a result of off-label prescribing, primarily for insomnia and other sleep disorders.
The Washington Post was provided data by SERMO, a social network for physicians, that revealed 764 non-psychiatrists said they had prescribed Seroquel or quetiapine, with 84% of them prescribing it for off-label purposes.
Some of the more disruptive and dangerous side effects that are linked to the use of Seroquel (including those that have lead to death) are as follows:
- High blood pressure
- Fast pulse
- High blood cholesterol
- Type II diabetes
In many cases, Seroquel worsens intellectual functioning, predominately in the elderly who suffer from dementia.
SEROQUEL WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS
While it is more likely that a person will become psychologically dependent on Seroquel than physically dependent, it is still very possible for physical dependency to occur. Therefore, when a person who has developed that dependence either decreases how much he or she regularly uses or halts use altogether, he or she can begin to experience withdrawal symptoms.
The number of withdrawal symptoms, as well as the severity of them, are usually dependent on the person’s relationship with Seroquel. This includes factors such as how much Seroquel was being abused, how often it was being abused, and if it was being abused with other drugs or alcohol. One’s withdrawal is also dependent on his or her mental and physical health, as those who are not as healthy in these areas tend to experience a tougher period of withdrawal.
Generally speaking, several withdrawal symptoms can develop when a person stops using Seroquel, but not all Seroquel users will experience the exact same set of symptoms due to their unique factors. Some of the most common symptoms of withdrawal associated with Seroquel include the following:
- Problems with concentration
- Feeling lethargic
- Excessively high heart rate
- Heart palpitations
- Hypersensitivity to sights and sounds
- Mood swings
- Visual disturbances (e.g. blurred vision)
By far the most dangerous withdrawal effect is that the user may experience suicidal thoughts and severe depression after stopping use. As previously mentioned, a major side effect of both the use and cessation of Seroquel can cause this serious issue to develop. The reason for this is that after stopping the use of Seroquel, neurotransmitter levels are out of balance, which triggers these suicidal tendencies. In addition to this dangerous symptom, is also possible for individuals to experience hallucinations and delusions at this time, which can increase feelings of being suicidal.
It is imperative to know the symptoms associated with being suicidal, as it can help save lives, including the lives of those who are withdrawing from Seroquel. Some of the most obvious signs that someone is suicidal include the following:
- Frequent mention of wanting to die
- Expressing feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
- Increasing the abuse of addictive substances
- Withdrawing from friends, family, and loved ones
- Talking about being a burden to loved ones
- Getting rid of personal items, including money
- Calling people to say goodbye
If you are concerned that you or your loved one is struggling with thoughts of suicide, do not wait to get the support you need by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
If you are beginning to experience any of these withdrawal symptoms, it’s time to get professional help. Our staff are available 24/7 to answer any questions you may have about Seroquel addiction and the treatment process.
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DO I NEED SEROQUEL ADDICTION TREATMENT?
Living with an addiction to Seroquel can be extremely depressing and lonesome. While it might seem completely and entirely mortifying to reach out for Seroquel addiction treatment, doing so can save your life.
If you are abusing Seroquel outside of prescribed recommendations, the bottom line is that you likely need some level of Seroquel addiction treatment. Whether you seek help from your therapist or reach out to an intensive outpatient program like the one we offer here at 12 Keys in Florida, simply taking that step can prevent you from suffering continued effects of your use.
To better determine if you are in need of Seroquel addiction treatment, ask yourself the following questions. Answering “yes” to any of them should serve as a sign that it is time to get help:
- Have you been using Seroquel longer than originally planned?
- When you stop using Seroquel, do you experience withdrawal symptoms?
- Do you feel like you cannot function without abusing Seroquel?
- Do you doctor shop, steal pills from others, or pretend to lose prescriptions in order to obtain more Seroquel?
- Do you make efforts to hide your use from others in an attempt to continue using without interference?
- Do you abuse other substances to increase the high that you are experiencing?
Again, if any of these apply to you, reach out for professional Seroquel addiction treatment right now.
GET PROFESSIONAL SEROQUEL ADDICTION TREATMENT TODAY
If you or your loved one is ready to quit using Seroquel but are afraid of withdrawal and relapse, 12 Keys Rehab can help. You’ll begin our Seroquel addiction treatment with medically assisted detox, then engage in a comprehensive holistic recovery plan that is designed specifically around your individual needs. During treatment, you’ll learn to understand the disease of addiction and what the underlying reasons are for your use. If you are struggling with a mental health disorder such as depression or bipolar disorder, we will provide treatment for your co-occurring disorder. Many of our patients are suppressing traumatic events in their life and turning to substances to numb the pain. Integrated treatment for substance abuse and co-occurring mental health disorders provides the best overall outcomes for patients and reduces the risk of relapse.
If you’re a family member of a person struggling with addiction, you’ll be involved the entire way, too. Addiction is a disease that touches the lives of everyone around the addict. We understand the strong feelings that family members are bearing and how tough it is to communicate to your loved one. Our counselors are here to help mend the bonds broken by destructive behavior and to teach healthy ways of communicating as the loved one moves forward in recovery.
From learning how to avoid dangerous substance abuse triggers and managing intense cravings, to rediscovering the joy of living life sober, our caring and committed staff can help.
Break free from the bonds of Seroquel addiction starting today and find your path to freedom at 12 Keys Rehab. Our admissions team is standing by, waiting for your call. They will walk you through the admissions process and get you started in our Seroquel addiction treatment program right now.