Thinking about stopping your medication?

People take psychiatric medications for a variety of conditions and for varying lengths of time – sometimes indefinitely. So it is not unusual for some people to consider coming off their medication, especially if they are feeling better or the side effects are making life difficult. 

Ultimately the decision to stop taking psychiatric medication is a personal choice involving a process weighing up the risks and benefits for each individual.

What you need to think about

There are many reasons why you might consider stopping your medication. But first it’s really important to discuss the decision with your doctor who can work with you to create a plan of action that gradually takes you off your medication, or moves you to a non-drug treatment option.

A few things to consider

Choosing to come off your medication

If you decide to try coming off your medication, it’s important to approach the process carefully.

Talk to your doctor and people you trust about the pros and cons of stopping your medication. It’s a good idea to know why you are choosing to stop, and how to do this in the safest and most supported way.

It is also important to understand that stopping your medication is not a quick process. For some people it can take months. You need to reduce the dosage gradually wherever possible – the slower you reduce the dose, the greater the chances of preventing a return of symptoms.

Regardless of the type of medication you are taking, the longer you have been taking it, the more your body and brain will have adapted to it. Reducing a drug slowly, allows the brain time to readjust gradually to its original state.

What are the risks of reducing your medication too fast?

If you stop taking medication abruptly, you may experience some of the following effects:

More often than not, symptoms usually occur within days of stopping medication, but a relapse of the illness being treated can be delayed for weeks after initially feeling well.

And while it's possible to stop taking medication all at once, with no ill effects, most people are likely to become unwell by doing so. It's impossible to tell in advance who will be effected, so it is advisable to withdraw slowly.

Tips for preparing to stop your medication

Choosing to stay on your medication

Medications often help the most when they're part of an overall treatment program. Your plan may include psychotherapy, peer programs and rehabilitative services to help with problems that medication alone can't treat.

Because mental health treatment is an ongoing commitment, it’s important that you find a doctor or other healthcare provider who makes you feel comfortable. Good care providers don’t just prescribe medication – they listen to your concerns, help you overcome difficulties, and make treatment a collaborative process.

A few things to consider

Remember if you are thinking of coming off your medication it's important to do this in consultation with your doctor. Raise any concerns you have and work out a plan that's agreed upon by both parties. This will maximise your success.

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