What Happens If a Normal Person Takes Antidepressants?

Antidepressants are among the most prescribed medications in the United States. They’re often used in combination with therapy to treat people with depression, major depressive disorder, and other mental health conditions. At the right dosage and frequency, antidepressants can greatly benefit users.

However, there are potential side effects involved in taking this medication when not depressed and without consulting a qualified medical professional. This article will discuss how antidepressants work and their effect on the brain and body of a normal person who takes them.

What occurs if someone without depression takes antidepressants?

If a normal person without depression takes antidepressant medication, they might not experience the intended therapeutic effects and could face potential side effects such as nausea, headaches, dizziness, sleep disturbances, and mood changes. It’s important to use these medications only under medical supervision.

How Do Antidepressants Work?

Antidepressants work by regulating the chemicals in the brain that carry messages from one nerve cell to another, called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters, including serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, are closely linked to a person’s mood, motivation, and behavior.


Increasing the levels of these chemicals can reduce the symptoms of depression, uplift mood, sharpen concentration, promote better sleep, and enhance appetite. It can also disrupt pain signals, which explains why antidepressants can help with managing long-term chronic pain.

Antidepressants are often prescribed with psychotherapy to effectively treat depression. They’re proven to be helpful to people with moderate to severe depression but are usually not recommended for milder forms of depression unless other types of treatment haven’t worked.

Types of Antidepressants

Antidepressants work in different ways and can be classified into various types, including:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  • Noradrenaline and specific serotoninergic antidepressants (NaSSAs)

Effects of Taking Antidepressants When Not Depressed

When taken at the right dosage and frequency, and under the supervision of a qualified health professional, antidepressants and other prescription medications are generally safe to use.

However, when a normal person takes antidepressants without consulting a doctor in an attempt to self-medicate or for recreational purposes, they are at risk of experiencing unpleasant side effects, ranging from mild to life-threatening. These side effects include:

Serotonin Syndrome

Most types of antidepressants, such as SSRIs and SNRIs, improve mood and relieve symptoms of depression by increasing serotonin levels in the brain.

This can be helpful for people suffering from depression. However, it can result in serotonin syndrome when someone without depression takes the medication.

Serotonin syndrome, also known as serotonin toxicity, is a potentially fatal drug reaction that occurs when too much serotonin builds up in the body. Symptoms include restlessness, agitation, confusion, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, excessive sweating, and stiffness.

In severe cases, it can cause unresponsiveness, seizures, and loss of consciousness, and will require hospitalization. Symptoms typically appear within 24 hours after exposure to a drug.


Physical Dependence

Individuals who take antidepressants for long periods without consulting a doctor can develop a physical dependence on the drug. Dependence on antidepressants occurs when a person can no longer function normally without them.

This is caused by the brain and body’s adaptation to the long-term use of the medication. It can result in drug withdrawal symptoms, like mood changes, trouble sleeping, dizziness, flu-like symptoms, anxiety, and stomach issues if someone tries to reduce or stop taking them.

It’s important to note that physical dependence on a substance is different from addiction, but it can lead to addiction. Addiction usually refers to the compulsive seeking and using of a substance, while dependence is associated with physical reliance and withdrawal symptoms.

Drug Interactions

When a normal person without depression takes antidepressants, it can cause problems with other health conditions they may be dealing with. The antidepressant can also react unpredictably with other medications, including over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen.

Some of the medicines that may interact with antidepressants include:

  • Antiplatelets
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Clozapine and pimozide
  • Theophylline
  • Triptans
  • Lithium
  • Other antidepressants

Antidepressants can also interact with alcohol, caffeine, illegal drugs, and St. John’s Wort. Interactions can result in unpleasant side effects, worsening symptoms, and serious health problems. Patient information leaflets will indicate types of medication that should be avoided.

Changes in Brain Structure

Research suggests that antidepressants can cause subtle changes in brain structure and function when used by people who aren’t depressed.

In one study, sertraline, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) that’s commonly known as Zoloft, was found to have caused a reduction in volume in two important brain regions.

The first part was the anterior cingulate cortex, which is the area of the brain that controls and regulates a person’s mood. The second affected part was the hippocampus, which is associated with long-term memory storage and learning.

Both brain regions play a vital role in important cognitive processes, including decision-making, motivation, emotion, spatial navigation, cost-benefit calculation, and forming new memories.

Physical Therapy

Factors Affecting Antidepressant Response

People respond differently to medication. The effect of taking antidepressants on one person may not be the same as someone else who uses a similar substance.

Things that can affect how an individual responds to antidepressants include:

  • Age: The elderly, children, and young people under the age of 18 are especially prone to experiencing significant adverse side effects from the use of antidepressants.
  • Genetics: A person’s genes can also affect the way their brain and body absorb and react to antidepressants and may increase or decrease their likelihood of side effects.
  • Type of antidepressant: Older medications, including tricyclic antidepressants and MAOIs, tend to have more side effects than SNRIs, SSRIs, and atypical antidepressants.
  • Other medications: Taking other drugs in combination with antidepressants can result in more adverse side effects or compromise the effectiveness of both medications.

Additional Considerations

Common Side Effects:
People may experience side effects of antidepressants such as dry mouth, weight gain, drowsiness, and sexual dysfunction.

Serious Risks:
Antidepressants can sometimes lead to more severe risks like suicidal thoughts, particularly in young people.

Treatment Options:
Different antidepressants like Wellbutrin or fluoxetine (Prozac) may be considered based on the individual’s response and specific needs.

Psychiatric Evaluation:
A thorough evaluation by a healthcare provider in psychiatry can help determine the most appropriate depression treatment plan.

Mental Health Disorders:
Antidepressants may also be used to treat other mental health conditions like bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and chronic depression.


When used properly, antidepressants can bring relief to many of the symptoms of depression.

However, the decision to take them should only be made after a consultation with a trained medical professional. If a normal person takes antidepressants for recreation or self-medication, they are at risk of experiencing mild to severe side effects, which can result in hospitalization.

If you or your loved one is suffering from substance or alcohol use disorder, reach out to our dedicated team at Allure Detox for help. We can guide you through a safe detox, help you manage withdrawal symptoms, and provide you with the right treatment immediately.

Published on: 2024-04-02
Updated on: 2024-06-19