Can I suddenly stop taking antidepressants if they’re not working?

Antidepressants take a long time to build up in the body and for you to start feeling their beneficial effects. Additionally, the adverse side effects you’ve been experiencing for a while can diminish these slow-starting positive effects. Because of this, it can be tempting to stop taking antidepressants suddenly. These health professionals provide reasons why this isn’t the safest method below.
Steve Carleton, LCSW, CACIII

Steve Carleton, LCSW, CACIII

Licensed Clinical Social Worker and the Executive Clinical Director at .

Suddenly Stopping May Trigger A Relapse

Sudden withdrawal from certain types of antidepressants can be dangerous and lead to serious side effects, such as heightened anxiety, dizziness, nausea, and sleeping problems. Suddenly stopping may even trigger a relapse of your depression or other mental health condition, so you’ll basically be taking steps backward in your recovery.

It is always best to consult with a doctor before making any changes to the dose or type of medication you are taking. Your doctor can help you come up with an appropriate plan for gradually tapering off or switching medications. This will help ensure that your symptoms are managed while reducing the risk of dangerous side effects caused by sudden withdrawal.

Again, it is not recommended to abruptly stop taking antidepressants, as this can cause serious physical and psychological problems. If you are considering stopping your antidepressant medication, it’s important to talk with your doctor first. They will have the best advice on how to discontinue the medication safely and support you during this time.

Examine Why You Think They Aren’t Working; Abruptly Stopping Is Dangerous

Unrealistic expectations can lead individuals to believe that antidepressants are not working as intended. Societal pressure, influence from friends, and, unfortunately, sometimes misguided information from medical professionals can contribute to these misconceptions. There is often a misconception that antidepressants provide instant happiness, and if noticeable improvements are not seen within a week, frustration can arise.

The truth is that antidepressants work gradually and require time to take effect. This process can be even longer for individuals with substance misuse issues, as they may have developed a higher tolerance to various substances. It’s important to note that antidepressants may not address other mental health conditions that individuals may have, and this comorbidity can lead them to believe the medication is ineffective.

Abruptly stopping antidepressants, or going “cold turkey,” can be dangerous due to the drastic and noticeable effects of medication leaving the system compared to the gradual buildup when starting them.

It’s worthwhile considering the half-life of the drugs and how quickly they exit the body’s system when considering stopping taking them. Discontinuation/withdrawal symptoms typically take effect when 90% of the drug has left the system.

It’s important to note that anyone having discontinuation symptoms doesn’t mean they are addicted to their antidepressant, as addiction involves patients looking to take increasingly higher doses.

Withdrawal symptoms from commonly prescribed antidepressants such as Prozac, Zoloft, Effexor, and Cymbalta can include dizziness, nausea, anxiety, insomnia, and flu-like sensations, albeit with different intensities.

However, TCAs like Elavil and MAOIs like Nardil pose even greater risks when stopped abruptly. The withdrawal effects can be rapid and more severe, potentially leading to severe migraines, confusion, and even hypertensive crisis. If a patient is determined to discontinue antidepressants, it is crucial to develop a plan with their healthcare provider, particularly when stopping MAOIs, where following a discontinuation protocol is vital.

The original reasons for initiating antidepressant treatment should be carefully considered, especially in cases involving patients with suicidal tendencies. Discontinuing these medications can be life-threatening, as individuals may feel worse, and their emotional state may decline even further than before starting the medication.

Dr. Lea McMahon LCP, EdD

Dr. Lea McMahon LCP, EdD

Chief Clinical Officer at .
Gary Tucker

Gary Tucker

Licensed Psychotherapist at .

Sudden Discontinuation Can Cause Serious Physical And Mental Health Consequences

Antidepressants can be incredibly effective when it comes to managing depression, but this doesn’t mean that suddenly stopping their use is a good idea. Suddenly discontinuing an antidepressant could have serious physical and mental health consequences. The sudden decrease of serotonin in the brain may cause withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, headaches, dizziness, confusion, and anxiety.

Book an appointment with your doctor to discuss the best way to go about stopping the use of an antidepressant and if it is safe to do so. Your doctor will assess your symptoms and advise you on the best method for safely stopping the use of your medication. Depending on how long you have been taking it, they may suggest reducing the dose gradually or changing to a different medication instead. Take into consideration any other medical conditions or medications you are currently taking, as this could affect how they diminish their antidepressant intake.

Stopping Antidepressants Can Worsen Underlying Condition

No, it is not recommended to suddenly stop taking antidepressants without consulting your doctor. Antidepressants work by altering certain chemicals in the brain that regulate mood and emotions. When you suddenly stop taking an antidepressant, these chemicals may temporarily become imbalanced, and this can cause serious withdrawal symptoms that can be difficult to manage.

Furthermore, stopping [medications] abruptly could also make any underlying condition worse. It is important to talk to your doctor about any concerns or side effects you may be experiencing so that they can adjust the dose, switch medications, or provide other treatments if needed. Withdrawal symptoms and the recurrence of depression can both be avoided by slowly tapering off medication with professional supervision.

Ryan Hetrick

Ryan Hetrick

Therapist, Psychologist & CEO of the .
Brian Clark BSN, MSNA

Brian Clark BSN, MSNA

It’s Not Advisable; It Can Worsen Your Depression

It is not advisable to suddenly stop taking antidepressants if they are not working. Antidepressants usually require time to build up in the body and produce the desired effects. Abruptly discontinuing them can lead to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms and potentially worsen your depression.

Before making any changes to your prescription regimen, contact your healthcare professional. They can assess your situation, explore alternative treatment options, or adjust your dosage to ensure a safe and effective course of action.

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