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Quitting Medication? Here’s How to Make the Transition Easier

Some research suggests that short-term use of psychiatric medications may remedy chronic issues with neurotransmitters. But going off of psychiatric medications isn’t always easy. If you’re ready to wean yourself off, follow these tips to make the process more manageable. Australian doctors write more than 30 million prescriptions for psychiatric medications each year. But contrary to popular belief, most people who receive psychiatric medications won’t take them forever. Psychiatric medications often fill in the gap between treatment and success. For instance, therapy can effectively combat depression, but medication offers more rapid relief. Thus when a patient has gotten relief from therapy, he or she may opt to drop the medication altogether. Likewise, medication can help correct a brain chemistry problem.

Consider Your Reasons

No one wants to take medication for the rest of their life, but there is no harm in continuing to take a medication that works for you—even if you take it forever. Before you opt to wean yourself off of psychiatric medications, consider why you want to do so. Is it that you’ve made real progress, and want to try life without medication? Are you ready to stop worrying about side effects? Or are you just frustrated by the notion of having to take medication forever? If it’s the latter, talk to your doctor, since you likely do not have a good reason to go off of medication—of course, treatment decisions are up to you, which means your doctor should support your decision even if he or she does not agree with it.

Talk to Your Doctor

No matter how good you feel or confident you are in your decision, you should never stop taking psychiatric medications without first discussing your decision with your doctor. Your doctor will help yo weigh the relative risks and benefits, then will help you arrive at a final decision that maximizes your benefits while minimizing your risks.

Enlist the Assistance of a Therapist

If you’re not already in therapy with a psychologist, there is absolutely no reason to believe that quitting medication will be beneficial. Some people feel better on medication, then assume they’re cured—not that the medication is working. If you’re ready to manage life without medication, spend some time in therapy first. When you get to a point where you’re ready to quit the medication, a therapist can speed up the process by offering you the support you need. If it turns out you need to go back on medication, your therapist can help you manage your emotions until the medication kicks back in.

Taper Down the Dosage

Depending upon the drug you take, your best course of action might be to gradually taper down the dosage. Ask your doctor if this is an option for you, then follow the schedule he or she outlines. Psychiatric medications need time to leave your system, and steadily tapering down the dosage can help you avoid the misery of withdrawal.

Manage Your Health and Nutrition

Now is not the time to stop exercising, go on a crash diet, or make a life-changing decision. If you want to stay happy and balanced as you quit medication, you need to turn your attention to your physical health. Eat a diet rich in lean proteins, fresh fruit and vegetables, fiber, and whole grains. Get at least 150 minutes of exercise per week, and ask your doctor if a nutritional supplement could help you maintain your sound mental health.

Monitor Your Symptoms

One of the strangest things about mental illness is how the symptoms creep up on you. Few people wake up feeling depressed or anxious one day, after previously feeling fine. Instead, symptoms settle in slowly and imperceptibly, making it difficult to notice psychiatric warning signs when they first happen—which is often when they’re easiest to treat.

Consider keeping a log of your symptoms for the first month after you quit medication. Small, imperceptible changes can steadily escalate out of control, but a log of symptoms allows you to catch these symptoms. Sure, you might not want to go back on medication, but if medication is the only thing separating you from misery, then it’s worth swallowing your pride.

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