How Does Vitamin B12 Help With Antidepressant Withdrawals?
Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in the United States and will affect nearly 20 million people in the US each year. While women are twice as likely to suffer from depression, it’s an illness that attacks all genders and ages.
Furthermore, depression is the leading cause of suicide in the United States, which sees nearly 30,000 suicides each year.
It’s no secret how dangerously common depression is in the United States. Although a variety of treatments exist, there remains no “cure-all” when it comes to depression. In fact, some people will never truly find relief and will struggle with depression their entire lives.
For many, health care providers (HCPs) will suggest the use of antidepressants. These come in many forms, but the most popular ones will target mood-related neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and noradrenaline.
Antidepressants will help some people find the relief they’ve been looking for, but others will experience antidepressant withdrawals -- which we’ll discuss in more detail below!
What Are Antidepressant Withdrawals?
One of the many concerns with taking antidepressants are the withdrawal symptoms experienced when someone stops taking them -- especially after having taken them for a while. This is also commonly called antidepressant discontinuation syndrome.
Antidepressant withdrawals will generally be a result of the sudden decrease of serotonin in the body. Since antidepressants are designed to increase serotonin levels, it’s no secret that stopping antidepressants will lead to a sudden decrease.
While antidepressants aren’t considered addictive, there is an opportunity to develop a dependency on them temporarily.
Some of the most common symptoms of antidepressant withdrawals include:
- Anxiety and consistent aggravation
- Flu-like symptoms
- Increased blood pressure, heart rate, and excessive sweating
- Difficulty sleeping or urinating
- Nausea, upset stomach, and vomiting
These symptoms can remain in the body for several weeks before starting to disappear. In the event you relapse on your depression, you’ll see these symptoms worsen into the same symptoms you were experiencing before the antidepressants.
How Can Vitamin B12 for Depression Help?
As we’ve mentioned, one of the large reasons antidepressant withdrawals are experienced is due to irregular neurotransmitter synthesis in the brain -- most commonly serotonin in SSRI and SNRI antidepressants. For anyone interested in finding relief from antidepressant withdrawals, you’ll need to find a way to stabilize and regulate the neurotransmitters that have seen a sudden decrease.
Even after the withdrawals have disappeared, it’s very common for patients to continue experiencing irregular serotonin levels after taking an SSRI. That’s why many HCPs and researchers have started to support the use of Vitamin B12 for depression and antidepressant withdrawals.
In fact, many studies show that Vitamin B12 could be one of the major factors contributing to depression in the first place. This is because Vitamin B12 -- among other b-complex vitamins -- acts as a cofactor/precursor to a variety of neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine. A deficiency in these vitamins could lead to a lack of neurotransmitter synthesis.
When supplementing Vitamin B12 for depression, you can help increase serotonin levels when they’re needed the most.
Can Vitamin B12 Do Anything Else for Depression?
Believe it or not, Vitamin B12 can be beneficial in suppressing depression symptoms to begin with. Among the many roles Vitamin B12 will play in the body, there are two that stand out as possible precursors to depression -- or at least contributors to depression symptoms:
- Lower Homocysteine Levels - it is known that high levels of homocysteine, a toxic amino acid found in the blood, can lead to a deficiency of neurotransmitters in the brain including serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Vitamin B12, along with Vitamins B3 and B9, not only helps lower homocysteine levels but helps convert it back to methionine. This is then converted into SAMe, which is best known as a methyl-donor.
- Methylation - in simple terms, methylation is the addition of methyl groups to a DNA molecule, which is able to change the activity of a certain DNA segment without having to change the entire DNA molecule. In addition to that, methylation will allow for an increase of neurotransmitters in the brain, such as the ones listed above. This can help restore and regulate neurotransmitter levels in the body.
There’s certainly a lot more to learn about Vitamin B12’s role in depression, but there’s no doubting the fact that it does play a role in the symptoms -- at least indirectly.