Coming Off Psychiatric Medication

Planning your withdrawal, things to think about

The following things are important to think about in the reducing of medication process: The rate of reducing medication, the alternative ways of managing mood, thoughts and behaviour and recruiting social support for the 'coming off' / reducing process.

How quickly do I reduce my medication?

We suggest you always reduce one medication at a time. Reduce your medication gradually as a general rule. This is because research seems to suggest less withdrawal difficulties if one reduces one's medication gradually. The French Canadian Psychiatric Medication Reducing project ('Taking Back Control' ) has been running now for eight years. They suggest 10 percent reductions. If you have been on a medication for just a few months medication can be reduced at a minimum rate of one week, as long as withdrawal difficulties have subsided. Someone who has been on medication for a number of years is suggested to take more time with the withdrawal process taking for example 12 months to attempt the 10 percent reductions.

What alternative ways can I develop to manage my mood and thinking?

It is important to develop different ways to deal with difficult thoughts and feelings that may come up. Examples of strategies people have found helpful are, Relaxation, Meditation, Yoga, Tai Chi, Massage, Reflexology, Herbal Medicine, Bach Flower remedies, Homeopathy, Acupuncture, Eating more healthily, Creative expression (e.g. Art, Painting, Drawing, Drama, Poetry, Music, Dance, Singing) Spending time in nature, Walking, Gardening, Sport, Gym, Circuit training, Swimming. The psychological problems that the medication may have been prescribed to address may also resurface. So it is important to deal with these, prior to during and after the withdrawal process. Journalling, talking with friends, support groups, counselling or therapy are all good ways to understand and process suppressed emotions and make sense of difficult thoughts and behaviours.

Who can I recruit to support me in this medication reduction process?

It is important to have some supportive people around you for this time of change. Health professionals who are anxious about the reduction process may need persuading that this is a venture they should support you with. Take time to collect evidence (e.g. about harmful health effects of being on the medication long term) and explain the reasons for wanting to try a reduction programme. You can try involving a supportive friend, relative or advocate in negotiations with the health professionals working with you. In Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, England we have set up a 'coming off psychiatric medication' support group. If you would like advice on ways of setting up such groups contact the us via this web-site.

Choosing to come off psychiatric medications should be your decision and your decision alone. Once you have come to this decision it is essential that you plan how you will come off, who can support you in this, anticipate and have a back-up plan should you run into obstacles and be aware of other resources that could help you in this process. After all, you are taking responsibility for the outcome of the withdrawal.

To help you plan your withdrawal we suggest you think about and try to answer the following questions or discuss these with someone you trust or someone who can support you as you withdraw from your medication(s).

It may also be worth considering;

Once you have had chance to think about these things and you have decided that you still want to come off your psychiatric medication(s) it may be worth considering keeping a diary commenting on the above to keep a record for yourself of how well the process is going. By keeping a record it will help you hopefully to identify early for yourself if you may be getting into trouble or may need to consider the rate at which you are reducing or just stop reducing for a while.

It is not surprising to assume that when you start to reduce your medication some of the problems/experiences you had which led to you initially starting the drugs may re-surface. What would you do if this happens? Who could you turn to for support? Are there any other alternative therapies you could try to alleviate the distress?