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Paxil (Paroxetine) Addiction: Side Effects, Detox, Withdrawal, and Treatment


What is Paxil (Paroxetine)?

Paxil (paroxetine) is a prescription antidepressant that belongs to a category of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs. It works by balancing chemicals in the brain and increasing serotonin levels to improve the user’s mood.

Paxil is used to treat a variety of medical conditions in adults, including:1

  • Depression
  • Panic disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Premenstrual dysmorphic disorder (PMDD)

Paxil is also often used to treat patients who are recovering from drug or alcohol addiction and that fit the criteria for major depressive disorder.

Users typically take between 20 and 50 mg of Paxil once per day, depending on the condition being treated. It is formulated as an extended-release tablet, immediate-release tablet, or in liquid form. It is not typically prescribed to younger people under the age of 18 as it can cause suicidal thoughts and behaviors. It should always be taken exactly as prescribed by a doctor to prevent abuse and addiction and it may take several weeks for users to feel its full effects.

Although it is not considered an addictive drug, consistent misuse of Paxil can result in physical dependence and psychological addiction. The FDA’s black box warning on the prescription drug’s label is intended to call attention to these serious risks.

The generic drug paroxetine is also sold under the brand names Pexeva, Sereupin, Seroxat, and Aropax.

Paxil vs. Xanax: What’s the Difference?

Paxil and Xanax are two different types of drugs, although similar. Xanax is a benzodiazepine and Paxil is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, which is a type of antidepressant. While Paxil and Xanax are both used to treat anxiety disorders and panic attacks, Paxil may also be used to treat several other medical conditions like depression, OCD, and PTSD, among other conditions. Both of these drugs can cause physical dependence, withdrawal symptoms, and addiction.2

Slang for Paxil

The following terms are street names or slang for antidepressants like Paxil:

  • Happy pills
  • Wonder drug
  • Bottled smiles
  • Miracle drug

How Common Is Paxil Addiction?

Although Paxil is not classified as a habit-forming drug, it can cause psychological addiction with consistent or long-term abuse. A person may take multiple doses of Paxil or crush the tablets and inhale them to try to get high. Often, this is an attempt to escape feelings of depression or anxiety. In many cases, people who abuse Paxil also misuse other addictive substances or alcohol.

About 16.9 million Americans ages 12 or older misused prescription drugs like paroxetine at least once in the last year, according to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). Many people in the U.S. who abuse Paxil also misuse other types of prescription drugs, particularly painkillers, stimulants, tranquilizers, and sedatives.3

Misuse of Paxil can cause serious physical and psychological damage, as well as other consequences like ruined relationships, job loss, or reclusive behaviors. While Paxil addiction is difficult to overcome, it’s not impossible to move on and live a life of sobriety in recovery.

What Are the Signs and Side Effects of Paxil Abuse?

Someone who misuses Paxil may not be physically dependent or addicted to it, but it greatly increases their risk of developing an addiction. Common signs of Paxil abuse include:

  • Taking larger or more frequent doses of Paxil than necessary
  • Taking Paxil for longer than prescribed
  • Using Paxil without a valid prescription
  • Taking Paxil with other prescription drugs, illegal drugs, or alcohol
  • Frequently losing Paxil prescriptions
  • Visiting several different doctors to get Paxil prescriptions
  • Faking symptoms to get a Paxil prescription

Some common side effects of Paxil abuse include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Weight gain
  • Diarrhea
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Memory problems
  • Aggressive behavior

What Are the Signs of Paxil Addiction?

People who misuse other prescription drugs or alcohol may also have a higher risk of developing an addiction to Paxil. Other outward signs of Paxil addiction may include:

  • Wanting to cut back or stop using Paxil but being unable to
  • Needing larger or more frequent doses of Paxil to achieve the desired effects
  • Experiencing physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms when the effects of Paxil wear off
  • Continuing to misuse Paxil even when it causes personal problems at home, school, work, or in relationships
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Paxil Detox and Withdrawal

One of the most telltale signs of drug dependence is withdrawal and withdrawal from paroxetine products like Paxil can be severe. Common Paxil withdrawal symptoms include:4,5

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Electric shock sensations
  • headaches
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Lack of energy
  • Severe mood swings
  • Insomnia

Although Paxil withdrawal is highly unlikely to be deadly, it can be very uncomfortable, especially without medical supervision and clinical treatment. However, if users follow a strict tapering schedule under the supervision of a medical doctor, many Paxil withdrawal symptoms can be avoided or severely reduced.

A medically-assisted detox program can help people who are addicted to Paxil get sober by designing a safe and effective tapering process that provides the most comfortable Paxil detox process possible. Each individualized program is modified regularly to adapt to the client’s changing needs, which provides the best possible outcomes.

While quitting Paxil cold turkey may seem like the easy solution, this can actually make getting sober much more difficult, as withdrawal symptoms are often much more severe and long-lasting. Instead, a Paxil detox program makes quitting easier and safer. Medical detox also provides higher rates of lasting sobriety because relapse is less likely to occur with professional support.

Paxil Withdrawal Timeline

The withdrawal timeline for Paxil largely depends on the person, his or her substance abuse habits and history, the size and frequency of Paxil doses being taken, and how long the person has been taking Paxil. Although Paxil withdrawal varies from person to person, the general timeline of symptoms is listed in the chart below.

Paxil Withdrawal Timeline
24 to 48 hours after the last doseWithdrawal symptoms typically begin to appear one to two days after ceasing all Paxil use.
4 to 5 days after the last doseWithdrawal symptoms peak around this time and may be incredibly severe and uncomfortable in some cases.
2 to 3 weeks after the last doseWithdrawal symptoms gradually fade over time and usually cease completely by this point. However, it may take up to 3 months for a person’s brain to adjust to functioning without Paxil.

Treatment for Paxil Addiction

Recovering from Paxil addiction is a long-term process that requires ongoing treatment, management, and support. Although a Paxil detox program is often the first step of this process, it’s not the only one. Many people also enroll in a long-term drug rehab program after completing detox. This provides additional time to address personal issues, continue behavioral therapy, and engage in opportunities to learn how to implement positive life changes.

Research studies show that addiction treatment that lasts 90 days or longer provides the best opportunities for sustained and lasting recovery. Anything less than that is of limited effectiveness.6 While there are many different types of drug rehab programs out there, it’s important to select one that provides adequate time for physical, emotional, and spiritual healing to prevent relapse after detox.

During a drug rehab program for Paxil addiction, clients work closely with treatment professionals like addiction counselors, recovery specialists, and peer recovery coaches to achieve certain treatment objectives or goals. These objectives are often achieved with evidence-based treatment methods, such as:

Inpatient Drug Rehab vs. Outpatient Drug Rehab for Paxil Addiction

If you are recovering from Paxil addiction and are searching for a drug rehab program, two common types of Paxil treatment programs include residential drug rehab and outpatient drug rehab. Both types of Paxil rehab programs are equally focused on the full recovery of clients, but there are a few differences between the two. If you need help determining which type of Paxil rehab program is best for you, an addiction treatment professional at Nova Recovery Center can provide a recommendation.

In residential rehab, clients:
  • Live at the rehab center in gender-specific housing
  • Maintain a structured daily routine
  • Attend individual, family, and group counseling sessions regularly
  • Attend recovery-oriented group activities on and off-site
  • Have immediate access to clinical and medical care professionals on-site

In outpatient rehab, clients:

  • Live at home or in a sober living home while completing rehab
  • Attend a series of outpatient group sessions hosted at a clinical location
  • Complete assignments outside of group sessions
  • Continue to maintain personal obligations while enrolled in treatment (employment, child care, school, etc.)

The cost of Paxil rehab will vary depending on the type of program you choose, the facilities’ amenities, location, staff qualifications, and any other factors. However, most treatment centers offer several different forms of payment to help reduce the financial burden of Paxil treatment for addiction. These may include:

Continued Care Options for Paxil Treatment

Overcoming Paxil addiction will require continued care even after detox and rehab are over. If you are in recovery, a sober living program and/or aftercare program can help you prioritize your recovery after a structured Paxil treatment program and prevent relapse, even when you come face to face with challenging circumstances, personal triggers, or extreme stress.

Sober Living Programs

Sober living programs are designed to support people who are recovering from drug and alcohol addiction by providing safe, substance-free, and supportive living environments. A sober living home may be a single residence or an apartment complex and can vary greatly in terms of amenities, recovery services offered, and cost.

Many sober living homes offer recovery support services that are extremely beneficial for newly sober individuals who are gradually adjusting to a sober life outside of rehab, such as:

  • Regular drug and alcohol testing
  • Structured housing and recovery programming for residents
  • Curfew and house rules
  • Education assistance
  • Employment assistance
  • Volunteer placement services

Although the cost of a sober living home can vary greatly, most homes require a monthly payment from residents, similar to rent payments.

Aftercare Programs

Aftercare programs are also designed for people who are newly sober or who have established a sober lifestyle but are facing challenging circumstances or a transitional phase in life. Aftercare provides weekly group meetings held in a safe, supportive, and clinical environment. This type of programming helps individuals confront personal issues that could derail their sobriety and receive supportive and helpful feedback from recovery specialists and sober peers.

If you are struggling with an addiction to Paxil or another paroxetine product, you are not alone. You may need help entering a Paxil rehab program. An admissions specialist at Nova Recovery Center can help you learn how to start over and achieve a stable and sober life with the right help. Call (512) 605-2955 today to get started.


  1. https://www.drugs.com/paxil.html
  2. https://www.rxlist.com/paxil_vs_xanax/drugs-condition.htm
  3. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/cbhsq-reports/NSDUHNationalFindingsReport2018/NSDUHNationalFindingsReport2018.pdf
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1122195/
  5. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325996.php#withdrawal
  6. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/how-long-does-drug-addiction-treatment

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Nova Recovery Center is dedicated to helping you or your loved one get help. Please call or fill out this form for a confidential consultation. One of our understanding, dedicated advisors will contact you about your options. Begin healing today.

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