General Question

Mama_Cakes's avatar

What happens to you if you go off of medication (anti-depressants) on your own?

Asked by Mama_Cakes (9777points) November 27th, 2012

Actually, go on and off of it.

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24 Answers

Judi's avatar

Many antidepressants have a really bad reaction if you quit “cold turkey.” The one symptom I have heard f is a “rebound effect.” The way I have heard it described is that when you turn your head it feels like your brain is a few seconds behind your neck. Someone else who has experienced it might have a better description.
I would say that you should work with a doctor to gradually reduce your dosage.

Shippy's avatar

Normally if you Google the drugs you are taking, it will have a wean off schedule you can follow. Not sure why you would do that though, it’s better to go to the doctor and ask advice.

Dsg's avatar

I have experienced it and wouldn’t advise it. I was on paxil many, many years ago and decided I didn’t need to be on it anymore. I stopped cold turkey. It was an awful withdrawal for me! I was nauseous, had headaches and felt like I had a really bad case of verdigo for a good 1½ wks. I also heard that if you go off antidepressants cold turkey that you could have some issues with your brain because you are messing with the neurotransmitters that were getting repaired by the antidepressant. I can’t quite remember but it sounded dangerous. Please look online for more information about it. Be careful.

Mariah's avatar

Antidepressants are not the easiest to stop. I’d recommend consulting a doctor, but if you must, definitely at least make sure you wean sloooowly.

marinelife's avatar

It would be OK if you titrate down (although best done under a doctor’s care.

JLeslie's avatar

As many said above you need to quit by reducing your dose over several days or a couple weeks. It still won’t be fun probably. Some of those meds are capules, so you can’t just cut the pill in half (as a rule capsules should never be opened or split) but under a doctors care he could prescrbe a week of a lower dose. Another option is to take it every other day possibly, you should look up the half life to help you decide what might make sense if you are intent on trying on your own. You also could take it every 36 hours at first, then every 48.

If you are on a very high dose of the med I would say not a good idea to try it on your own. If you are on a low dose I don’t think it is any problem to do it on your own, except that realize the reason you might feel like stopping the med is because the med is working, that might be why you feel better. If yiu want to stop the med because of negative side effects then you might have a mixed result of feeling better as the drug gets out of your system, but getting depressed again. If you want to quit because of side effects but think medication is important for your condition, your doctor can just switch you to another med.

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor.

majorrich's avatar

I tried to reduce my doses of Effexor on my own with disastrous side effects. I experienced deafening tinnitus, Numbness of the face and hands, worsening of my Ataxia and a peculiar ‘electrical storm’ sensation inside my head. All of this within hours of my first missed dose. I chickened out and went back on the regimen. I have read that Effexor is particularly difficult to get off of cold turkey like I tried.

JLeslie's avatar

And they say these drugs aren’t addictive. I never bought that, still don’t.

pwyatt's avatar

I have tried twice to quit my meds cold turkey and it has ended badly both times. I bump along for a few weeks and I’m just fine, and then one day out of the blue the depression is back and it usually hits pretty hard. I would discourage you from doing it without consulting a dr. And, I would encourage you to consider that it may be a life long condition and that it will be safer to stay on the meds for life.

whitenoise's avatar

Please talk to your doctor. Consider getting and staying off, but make some changes in your life. Make sports a permanent part of your life and maybe consider that talking and therapy often help just as well as medication with fewer side effects.

gailcalled's avatar

I was successful with several anti-depressants by titrating down carefully over a month. I had no side-effects; in fact, I noticed nothing untoward.

For example, with Elavil (amitryptaline). I took ½ the dosage every day for two weeks, then every other day for two weeks, then, on the advice of my funny doctor, I licked a crumb daily for a week.

KNOWITALL's avatar

As a child of a bi-polar mother, I think it’s a really bad idea. You aren’t given anti-depressants for no reason, and I certainly wouldn’t do it w/o discussing with your immediate family and doctor.

When my mom stops taking her anti-depressants, I get calls saying “I spent all my bill money at Walmart” or crying jags, basically extreme high’s and low’s.

Some people have committed suicide because they sink into a depression they can’t get out of. Be careful please.

JLeslie's avatar

@KNOWITALL Bi-polar is usually treated with different drugs than the typical antidepressants. I don’t know which drug specifically the OP is discussing for this Q, but I was assuming it is treating some sort of run of the mill depression, if there is such a thing.

@all there was a very significant study done recently that showed antidepressants do not perform any better than placebos for mild depression. It doesn’t mean the drug is not effective, it only means placebo pills seemed to work as well. The study was not speaking to diagnosis such as bipolar nor severe depression.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@JLeslie Yes, w/o getting into too much detail, she’s tried many anti-depressants and is finally off of them now I believe. It got to the point, while she was drinking alchohol with the meds, that I could tell over the phone whether she was on them or not. Scary stuff.

tinyfaery's avatar

You know the answer to this question. (Yes, I am a little upset with you.) Many people experience an increase in depression and suicidal thoughts when they do not take their meds as prescribed. How many times are you going to cycle in and out of depression? You need stable treatment for at least one year. You need to see a psychiatrist every few months, especially in the beginning, and you need to be in weekly therapy.

That’s all there is to say about this. And I won’t say it again.

Mama_Cakes's avatar

@tinyfaery Sometimes, I wish that you lived closer.

augustlan's avatar

In your particular case, @Mama_Cakes, I couldn’t say it any better than @tinyfaery has. Get on and stick with a program, girlie!

More generally, quitting cold turkey is a very, very bad idea. Quitting at all can be a very bad idea, too, depending on the person and their life circumstances. I’ve come to accept the fact that I will be on them for the rest of my life. Having that decision out of the way has actually made my life easier.

JLeslie's avatar

@Mama_Cakes I didn’t realize this was about you. Did you just start taking them? If they aren’t helping I don’t think there is anything wrong with going off them, as long as you do it safely, just to kind of put in an opposing opinion. Or, maybe switch to a different med. Most people who are happy taking antidepressants talk about how helpful they are, butif you are thinking of stopping them I am wondering if they are not helping? Many people need to try a few before they hit the one that is helpful.

orlando's avatar

The withdrawal reaction also depends on the drug half life. Prozac for one has a long half life (the time it leaves your system) so the withdrawal effects are usually not as severe. Other anti-depressants usually have a much shorter half life and the withdrawal side-effects are more pronounced.

Mama_Cakes's avatar

I thought that I could handle things (life) without them and quit cold turkey.

A few months prior to going off of them, my doctor told me to deal with my issues via therapy, and to continue taking the meds whilst in therapy. After I’ve worked through my issues, then we’d talk about going off of them.

I, being stubborn and foolish decided to tackle things on my own and went off of the meds. I never followed through with seeing a therapist on a regular basis. I now realize that I need them both.

JLeslie's avatar

@Mama_Cakes How about try the therapy since you never did? That might be enough.

wundayatta's avatar

@Mama_Cakes It is very common for people to take things into their own hands. Even knowing that quitting anti-depressants cold turkey can have all kinds of unfortunate side effects, people still do it.

It can be very hard for people to take care of themselves. The most common reason why people stop taking meds is that they don’t like the side effects. What reasons did you have for quitting? And why were you unable to catch up with a therapist? I know one reason why people don’t do that is that it is too overwhelming to find someone. I know I never would have on my own. My wife helped me immensely. Do you know why you didn’t find a therapist?

It’s easy to say I’ll take my meds and see a therapist, but there are times when it is impossible to do. Depression makes it very hard to organize your life. So sometimes you really need the help of someone else who can help you get organized or help you make appointments, or remind you to take your meds.

Also, depression, oddly enough, can be seductive. It can makes us feel like life is very intense and dark and we are close to death. Everything matters. We are close to the edge. And even though we are out of control, it can still seem preferable to being stable and happy, sometimes. This is a paradoxical thought, and yet many people I know who have suffered with depression say it has been something they struggled with.

I think of it as looking for trouble. I find myself looking for trouble often, and I struggle with that. Most people disapprove of trouble and the things you do when you find it. And yet, sometimes those things make you feel better about yourself and help you out of depression. And not in a zombie kind of way, but in a more livable way, where you don’t regret the things you miss because you are bitched out on meds.

Well, I’m a certified loonie, so I don’t think the doctors would necessarily agree with me. You should take their advice. If you must find trouble, then at least learn how to handle it while you are relatively stable. Then, over the years, you can come off the meds when you have learned other coping skills. Like how to let trouble into your life in doses that you can handle. Like meditation and yoga and dance. Like love. Dangerous thing: love. It can be destabilizing and breaking up can send you into depression just like that. But it can also be very healing—especially if you find a way of maintaining it.

augustlan's avatar

@Mama_Cakes I’ve been there and done that, too. More than once, if you can believe it! I’ve learned the hard way to stay on my meds. Especially in the beginning, the medication can really help you get yourself stable enough to want to fix things with therapy. Please get yourself back to the doctor and do what you know you need to do. {hugs}

lillycoyote's avatar

Again, I am so very, very lazy tonight so I have not read the responses so far but I absolutely would not advise you to go off anti-depressants, on your own, but if you do, you need to taper off, on “schedule.” Say you are taking 200 mgs of something, take 175 mgs for 3 days, 150 for 3 days, 100 for 3 days and so on.

But I don’t think you should do it without a doctor’s supervision.

You should be able to tell your doc that you want to see how you do without the anti-depressants and under your doctor’s supervision, see how it goes.

If you need them you need them. There’s no shame in it.

Depression is a brain illness, the way diabetes is a body illness. Diabetics may need to be on insulin for the rest of their lives: people with depression may need to be on anti-depressants for the rest of their lives.

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