While it is easy to start taking mental health medicine, withdrawing from them safely is not so easy. It is important to exert caution when doing so.
Despite mental health medicines like Antidepressants and Antipsychotics not being addictive, this doesn’t mean that a person can withdraw abruptly.
Withdrawing in a safe manner from these medicines is important. This article takes a look at everything you need to know about withdrawing from mental health medicines.
What is drug withdrawal?
Withdrawal refers to the process where a person stops taking a medicine. For mental health, this means after a course of medication treatment, a person decides to stop taking their medicine.
For example, someone that had a diagnosis of Depression may be prescribed antidepressants. But after taking them for six months, they feel well enough to stop taking them. Therefore, they decide to slowly wean off the medicine. This is the process of withdrawal.
The best way to withdraw from mental health medicines
It is important to withdraw from mental health medicines safely. This involves gradually lowering your dose over a period of weeks or months – depending on the dose.
Doing so slowly is even more important when you are on a high dose. We will discuss later what happens if you suddenly stop taking medicine “cold turkey”.
The process of slowly withdrawing from a medicine is called “tapering”. Tapering represents the most effective way of withdrawing from mental health medicines.
For example, if a person is taking the antidepressant Paroxetine (Paxil) at a 40mg dose, they should gradually decrease their dose if they wish to withdraw. They may go down to 30mg, and then after 3-6 months, drop down to 20mg. Then, they could drop down to 10mg after another 3-6 months, before dropping down to 5mg, and then stopping altogether.
As your brain becomes used to the medicine, it is important to withdraw slowly. This will help to stop withdrawal symptoms appearing.
What happens if you abruptly withdraw from mental health medicines?
Withdrawal symptoms are common in those that suddenly stop taking mental health medicines. This is sometimes also known as “discontinuation syndrome”.
While some people can abruptly stop taking medicine and are fine, the majority will face problems. These problems can range from mild to severe.
Abruptly stopping will often result in the original symptoms appearing again. It is likely to impact your mental state.
Common symptoms associated with abruptly withdrawing from mental health medicines include:
- Brain zaps
- Sleep problems
- Stomach issues
An important factor in withdrawal is looking out for the “half-life” of a medicine. A half-life of a medicine refers to how quickly the drug leaves your body. Medicines with a short half-life are typically harder to withdraw from.
When is a good time to withdraw from mental health medicines?
There is no right answer when it comes to the timing of withdrawing from mental health medicines. It is a personal choice that each individual should make for themselves.
However, you can take the advice of others on board. For example, if those around you have said about how your mental wellbeing seems to have improved, or that you appear happier, this could be a sign you are ready to leave mental health medicines behind.
Weighing up the positives of negatives of stopping taking medicine is important. Writing up a list of these can help you make up your mind.
Moreover, it is advisable to not withdraw at a time that you have stressful or important life events coming up. For example, this may include University exams, starting a new job, or a wedding.
Try and withdraw at a time when things are stable in your life. There isn’t always an ideal time to withdraw, so sometimes you just need to take the plunge.
It is important to keep in contact with your GP or mental health professional while withdrawing from medicine. Report any symptoms or worries to them.
You can also talk to a pharmacist if you need. For example, when collecting your medicine, you could ask them about withdrawing – and any advice they can provide.
When you do withdraw from a medicine, it is recommended that you tell those close to you. This may include a partner, friends, or family. They should be able to support you.
Reading online about experiences from others can also be helpful. But as with anything online – take what you see with a pinch of salt, it may either be exaggerated or even made up!
Self-care when withdrawing
It can be a difficult experience to withdraw from mental health medicines. Even if you do taper slowly, you may experience some withdrawal symptoms.
Avoiding recreational drugs and alcohol is important. Moreover, getting regular sleep and exercise can help too.
Engaging in talking therapy can also give you a chance to discuss your mental health with a professional. There are a range of benefits that talking therapy provides.
What happens if you don’t want to withdraw?
It is crucial to note that not everyone will be in a position to withdraw from mental health medicines. Some people will be on medication for life.
But this is absolutely fine! There is nothing wrong with being on medication for life. If you find it helps you, then there is no need to stop taking the medicine.
Withdrawing from a mental health medicine is an important step for many. This involves withdrawing from a medicine in a safe and sensible way.
But don’t put too much pressure on yourself. If withdrawing works well, then great! But if not, there is no shame in staying on the medicine. What is most important is to look after your mental wellbeing.
- Everything You Need to Know About Withdrawing from Mental Health Medicine
- Can You Get Addicted to Mental Health Medicines?
- What Is The Difference Between Dependence, Tolerance, Addiction and Withdrawal?
- Everything You Need To Know About Mental Health Medicine
- FAQ’s About Mental Health Medicines
This website should be used purely for informational purposes, and does not intend to, nor should it ever, be used as a replacement for professional medical advice.
We strive to keep all of our pages updated, and ensure that our website is full of factual and in-depth information. However, we encourage you to browse this website with care.
As a reminder, this website and all content within it cannot and should not replace the advice of a trained medical professional. You can read our full disclaimer at this link.
If you are struggling with your mental health, help is available. With the right support and treatment, you can make a recovery. For information on helplines, or if you are in a state of crisis, please visit our crisis page by clicking on the relevant link for your geographical location (United Kingdom), (United States), (International). You can also see how to get mental health treatment and the process involved by clicking this link.