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How to Get off Anti-Depressants



At Rehab Recovery, we receive thousands of calls for people seeking professional drug and alcohol rehab treatment each year. For each caller, we carry out a thorough telephone assessment so we may be able to recommend suitable treatment. The statistics we derive from these assessments reveal that the vast majority of people suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction are prescribed anti-depressants by their GP.

We feel the NHS is simply attempting to hide away from the problem. If you are addicted to substances, then at least know the solutions to your problem will not be found by consuming anti-depressants.

Anti-depressants are perhaps so rife amongst addicts because addiction is typically experienced along with a dual diagnosis such as anxiety or depression. Often, it’s the addiction that’s causing these mental health problems, and so it follows that if you receive treatment for the addiction, the anxiety or depression will also calm to manageable levels. Taking anti-depressants merely serves as a temporary band-aid at best.

Many people are able to stop using anti-depressants without experiencing negative withdrawal symptoms. However, others will suffer when they stop taking anti-depressants. A number of factors influence how you will react when you stop taking anti-depressants. These factors include your body chemistry, the speed in which you are able to metabolise anti-depressants and the specific variety of anti-depressants you are taking.

In this article, we offer guidance in helping you come off anti-depressants. You should not stop taking anti-depressants without seeking the advice of your GP who originally prescribed them to you. this will ensure you are able to stop using anti-depressants both safely and comfortably.

Below, we outline five tips that help to ease the process of coming off anti-depressants:

1. Taper down your dose of anti-depressants slowly

Don’t abruptly stop taking anti-depressants. Instead, taper your dosage down slowly. This is only possible if your anti-depressants break down into smaller doses. Those that are not capable of being broken down are those that belong to the tricyclic class of anti-depressants. Fortunately, this class is typically the easiest to quit.

If you suddenly stop taking anti-depressants entirely, it’s possible you could begin to experience rebound depression. This is when the original symptoms your anti-depressants blocked begin to return, but with a vengeance. You may also begin to suffer psychological withdrawal symptoms. Consult your GP and agree on a tapering schedule so that you may stop using anti-depressants without experiencing these undesirable withdrawal symptoms.

2. Draw up an action plan

Each person will react differently when anti-depressant use is ceased. It’s important to have an individualised plan when you wish to stop taking anti-depressants. The most common plan is to taper down your dosage slowly. You will generally be advised to taper down your dose in small increments with 2-3 week increments between dose reductions. Your reduction plan must factor in individual characteristics such as your age, your weight and your height.

Putting in place an individualised plan in this manner is known to increase the chances of you successfully coming off anti-depressants for good. If you attempt to stop using anti-depressants without this plan, then it’s likely you will experience withdrawal symptoms which may result in relapse. Withdrawal symptoms may include rebound symptoms.

3. Research alternative psychiatric treatments

The sad reality is that most people using anti-depressants are not benefiting from any sort of psychiatric input whatsoever. Psychiatric assistance involves seeking out a therapist who is able to offer evidence-based ‘talking therapies’ such as cognitive behavioural therapies. These non-medical therapies are highly effective when it comes to treating depression. However, the NHS does not make it easy to benefit from these therapies due to the general lack of funding. It’s often the case that you will have to fund these treatments out-of-pocket yourself.

It’s a good idea to explore lifestyle changes. You should try to stay active, get lots of sleep and eat a healthy and balanced diet. You should also consider yoga, meditation or tai chi. These ‘holistic’ therapies are highly effective when it comes to helping you regulate and balance your mood.

4. Exercise and be active

Some researchers claim that staying active is just as beneficial as antidepressants when it comes to keeping depression at bay. Simply put, if you are inactive, you are much more vulnerable when it comes to developing clinical depression. Even modest exercise such as walking in the park could be enough to offer you this benefit. It’s best to build exercise into your daily routine. This way, you won’t view exercise as a chore.

5. Seek out help

Don’t try to give up anti-depressants yourself. Know that a lot of support exists for this purpose. At the very least, contact your local GP. There are also mental health charities such as Mind and Rethink who will be able to offer you support. If you tell your GP that you intend to stop taking anti-depressants, he or she will be able to recommend a suitable tapering programme. This will allow you to stop taking anti-depressants without experiencing overwhelming withdrawal symptoms.

Can I become resistant to the effects of anti-depressants?

Over time, it’s possible to build up a tolerance to anti-depressants. If this occurs, then it’s likely that you will need to increase your dose. You may begin to feel depressed. This is a sign that your anti-depressants are not working anymore. When anti-depressants lose their effectiveness, you will need to go and see your GP. It’s unclear why this tolerance builds up. This effect may be observed in some but not in others.

Some reasons for anti-depressants losing their effectiveness include:

  • Your depression simply gets worse
  • You are suffering from bipolar disorder
  • You are suffering from another medical condition such as hypothyroidism
  • Ageing

The typical solution is to adjust your dose of anti-depressants. Your GP may also recommend you begin taking a different variety of anti-depressants.

Is it possible to abuse anti-depressants?

Whilst it’s true that anti-depressants have low abuse potential, it is nevertheless possible for this type of drug to be subject to abuse. The most common risk factor is where the user has abused illicit drugs in the past. Users have been known to crush up anti-depressant tablets and snort the resulting powder. It’s also possible to liquidise anti-depressants and then consume them intravenously. This allows users to experience a psycho-stimulant-like effect.

What are anti-depressants’ withdrawal symptoms?

If you stop using anti-depressants without slowly tapering down your dosage, it is possible that you could begin to experience a range of withdrawal symptoms. The risk of experiencing withdrawal symptoms increases if you have consumed anti-depressants for more than 5-6 weeks.

These symptoms are collectively known as anti-depressant discontinuation syndrome. These symptoms typically last for around 2-3 weeks. Some anti-depressant classes are known for producing more severe withdrawal symptoms than others, so always consult your GP before you consider stopping your medication.

There currently exist five categories of anti-depressants including:

  • Atypical agents
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)

It’s never a good idea to abruptly stop using anti-depressants. Withdrawal symptoms are discomforting but largely avoidable if you follow your GP’s advice.

Some of the more common withdrawal symptoms associated with anti-depressants include:

  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Vivid dreams
  • Irritability
  • Tiredness
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Achy muscles and chills
  • Nausea and vomiting

Getting help today

If you are addicted to drugs and alcohol, then you must ensure your addiction is treated correctly. Taking anti-depressants is not an effective way of treating addiction. Instead, you may need to undergo treatment at a local rehab clinic where you will be safely detoxed. For more information, contact Rehab Recovery today on 0800 088 66 86. Our free helpline will help you select rehab treatments that are ideally suited to your needs.

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