Coming off antidepressants

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about the rise in depression, and the rise in medication that goes with it. I’ve treated patients who have been on anti-depressants or tranquillisers as a short-term support in hard times, and I’ve also treated many who have stayed on the drugs for years, or even decades. But if you want to come off your medication, the same rules apply. Do not just stop.

Mood-altering and anxiolytic drugs act in a variety of ways, but most of them have in common that they take two or three weeks to reach their full effect. Until then, you may even feel worse than you did before starting, but if you’re going to use the drugs at all, it’s important to get past this threshold. You need to stay on the recommended dose for at least two to three months to get a real sense of whether they are working for you.

After that, if you’re not satisfied, talk to your doctor about other possibilities. Or if you’re feeling fine and don’t want to take them any more, talk to your doctor about gradual reduction. If you simply stop taking them, you are likely to experience some very difficult symptoms as your body deals with the chemical withdrawal in the next few weeks.

Of course, coming off the medication is possible, but you have to do it very gradually, so that your body gets used to a slightly lower level at each stage. And there are many herbs that can support your nervous system during this process, and help with the symptoms that led you to take medication in the first place. Best of all is to start taking the herbs a few weeks before beginning to reduce the drugs. The herbs to choose will depend on your individual history, and will change as the process unfolds: it really is best to undertake this journey with an experienced practitioner. Don’t just take an over-the-counter remedy: one size really doesn’t fit all. But don’t lose heart; it can be done.

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