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  1. #1

    How (Not) to Get Off Antidepressants

    Not everyone who takes a psychotropic medication needs to stay on it forever but some do. If you think you might be one who no longer needs to be on it:


    • Consult with your doctors who know your medical-psychological history and who know what types of medication you are on currently and have been on in the past. Is it wise for you to be considering reducing or discontinuing your medications at this time? You are NOT a doctor or a psychopharmacologist and, not matter how intelligent or knowledgeable you think you are, you have neither the education or sufficient insight or detachment to make that decision on your own.
    • Even if your doctors agree, do NOT, ever, try to discontinue or reduce your medication on your own. Talk to your doctors about how to taper off your medication to avoid possibly severe and dangerous discontinuation effects and arrange with them for followup appointments to monitor your progress.


    ~ David Baxter



    How (Not) to Get Off Antidepressants
    By Stephanie Elliot, The Fix
    December 1, 2017

    I thought I could just take half a dose for a few days and then call it quits. So thatís what I did. Oh, how wrong I was.

    I have never considered myself addicted to anything. Well, maybe Diet Coke but I kicked that habit years ago. Every now and then I will try to go on a sugar detox because I know sugarís not great for you, but until just recently, I never really thought about the implications of detoxing from an antidepressant.

    I had been on Effexor/Venlafaxine for 16 years. It was necessary. I was a young mother to three children and the littlest of things would set me off Ė a sleepless babe, a tantrum (theirs, but then I would join in), or even a glass of spilled milk would set me over the edge. A dear friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer, and my mother-in-law had just found out she had lymphoma. It was a rough time. I was constantly worried, stressed, and being pulled in all directions from three beautiful but needy children ages four and under. I knew I needed help.

    So, I went on an antidepressant. And Iím not going to lie Ė the time it takes your brain to adjust to a psychiatric medication like that is difficult. I couldnít function, my thoughts were scrambled, I felt exhausted. It messed with my brain, made me feel things I didnít want to feel, and didnít seem to be doing the trick.

    But then, after a few weeks, I noticed I was not yelling as much, and I actually laughed when a glass of milk spilled onto the floor. Maybe I was getting better?

    I guess I started living by the mantra, ďIf it ainít broke, donít fix it.Ē I think I felt like I was finally fixed. Or at the very least bandaged up pretty tightly.

    Somehow, I ended up staying on that antidepressant for 16 years. Thatís a very long time to be reliant on one medication. But, my life was going fine. Through two long-distance moves, raising three school-aged children, and a traveling husband, I figured I was doing my best.

    Once I felt like things were moving smoothly in my life, I thought it was time to wean myself from the drug. My doctor thought I was being a bit spontaneous in my decision but she was like a mother bird to me, willing to let me spread my own wings and try to fly out of the nest.

    I fell from that nest hard and quick. A month later, I was back at her office, begging to go back on the medication.

    Once I was on the meds again, I began to feel better. I felt hopeful. I felt like I could get out of bed, do laundry, feed the kids (an important chore!), and generally smile through my days. But was I "happy?" I may never know.

    In some ways, I think I needed that medication. A few years later, life got a little worse for wear Ė my youngest son started having seizures and was diagnosed with epilepsy. We spent a few rough years in and out of hospitals, trying to find him the right epilepsy medication, while he dealt with not only seizures, but suicide ideation, panic attacks, anxiety, and depression. At one point, I called his neurologist in a panicked frenzy and she told me, over the phone and quite matter of fact, ďDo you have Xanax? You need to take one right now.Ē I was a mess.

    A year later, my daughter was diagnosed with a unique eating disorder, ARFID/Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder. Again, our family was dealing with hospital visits, self-harm, panic attacks, depression, and anxiety. And as any mother knows, ďyouíre only as happy as your least happy child.Ē I was certainly at a loss for happiness.

    Fast-forward to a couple of months ago. My daughter is healthy. My son hasnít had a seizure in five years and is med-free. I felt stable. I felt like I could do this again.

    I decided I didnít need the medication any longer.

    So, I self-weaned without instructions or supervision from my doctor. Since I was on practically the lowest dose of Venlafaxine possible (75 mgs), I thought I could just take half a dose for a few days and then call it quits. So thatís what I did.

    Oh, how wrong I was. I will never, ever advise anyone to go off any kind of med theyíve been taking for a while without the help of a professional.

    A day later I started having symptoms I couldnít really explain. I was having Ďblipsí in my brain, almost as if shock waves were snapping through my head. I felt disoriented, unfocused, and nauseous. I donít know what it feels like to have a stroke, but at one point my hands clenched up and my mouth was not working properly. That was when I told my daughter I thought I was having a stroke and she needed to take me to the emergency room. We were both in hysterics. I thought to myself, ďI am dying.Ē

    The doctors gave me an EKG, a pregnancy test, X-rays, an IV of meds and saline, and a battery of other tests. I was up front with my decision to wean, but they chalked up my visit to low electrolytes and potassium, and dehydration. But I knew it was more than that that led me to the ER Ė I just wasnít sure what had happened.

    When I saw my general practitioner a few days later, she said she had read over my notes from the ER visit, and was shocked to see I self-weaned and so very fast. ďIím 100 percent sure you ended up in the ER because you stopped taking your antidepressant so quickly,Ē she said.

    I thought I was doing something good for myself by getting off that drug. She agreed that it was a good time to stop taking the antidepressants, but she would have helped me slowly and safely wean from it. She said she would have weaned me in about a monthís time. I did it in four days with the feeling of death knocking on my door.

    Now that Iím off the drug, I feel different, but not in a bad way. I have stronger feelings. Emotions ride up faster than they ever did, and thatís okay. You know how if you watch a particularly emotional commercial and that telltale lump begins to travel up your throat Ė the one that sparks choking tears? I feel that a lot now. And I donít remember feeling that sensation in a long time. When this happens, I tell myself, ďItís okay to feel emotions. It means you are alive; you are living. Acknowledge the emotion but donít let it control you.Ē

    So thatís what I do. If I feel like I have to cry, Iíll cry. Occasionally I feel anger toward something that usually wouldnít have bothered me. If something makes me exceptionally happy and excited, thatís okay too. In fact, thatís really good. For so many years I had been going though the motions, dealing with the everyday tasks of my life. Now, for the first time in a very long time, I am feeling all the feels. And you know what? It feels pretty darn great!

  2. #2
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    Re: How (Not) to Get Off Antidepressants

    I have never considered myself addicted to anything.
    That statement in this article is misleading in the context of how not to discontinue antidepressants because the statement implies antidepressants can be addictive and that potential withdrawal symptoms caused by an incorrect discontinuation regimen is somehow related to addiction...which misrepresents the issue.

    Antidepressants, specifically venlafaxine, in the class of meds being alluded to in the article called serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI) and their "cousins" selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) are not addictive, but rather have a chemical characteristic that varies the length of time it takes for the medication to be metabolized in the body.

    The length of time (metabolic half life) varies from one compound to another, and it is this characteristic that determines how each antidepressant needs to be discontinued.

    Prescribing physicians and pharmacists should be aware of the half life of the antidepressant being prescribed, and should be aware of how dosage changes are to be made, and how that medication needs to be discontinued.

    These technical details are not usually understood by patients and lay people, which is why any plan to make changes in dose during onset of therapy or on discontinuation should be closely monitored by one's prescribing physician.

    Antidepressants are often accompanied by other medications, and the complexity of symptoms being treated can also play a role in the discontinuation protocol. Only a physician with clinical experience in working with these medications and who is familar with one's medical history has the required information to advise on a discontinuation regimen.

    Withdrawal symptoms can be severe and traumatic when medications are discontinued improperly, but when done correctly, can usually be easily tolerated.
    Steve

    Dum spiro spero....While I breathe, I hope

  3. #3

    Re: How (Not) to Get Off Antidepressants

    Thanks, Steve.

    I agree. That is a common misconception about many psychotropic medications and the feelings expressed in the article are an ongoing problem.

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