One of the questions I am most often asked by my group members and clients is, “Douglas, is there a time to stop taking my medications? I have felt better since being on medication(s). Now can I stop them?”
A related question is, “I have been taking this medication and have been exercising, eating right, and getting good social support. I am feeling better. How do I know what is causing this improvement? If it is the lifestyle changes that are helping, can I stop the medication?
This is a tough question. In many instances, it is extremely difficult to tell what a medication is or is not doing. This is significant because with 18 million Americans suffering from depression, millions of people are taking psychiatric medications. They are no doubt asking themselves, “Can I ever stop taking these drugs? If so, when is the best time to stop them?”
I brought this question to my nurse practitioner. He said, “It really is impossible to answer this question. The only way to know if the medications are helping is to stop taking them.”
“So should I stop,” I asked? “I wouldn’t try that,” he responded. “Not now. Because if the medications are helping you to stay afloat and you stop them, you will probably have a relapse.”
I responded, “Of course, if we go by that philosophy, I will have to be on these medications the rest of my life. Why should I do that when before this breakdown I had nineteen years of stability without taking any medication?” Jim thought for a moment and then said, “Let’s give it another three months. If you are still feeling well, you will have had six months of stability. Then we can try to wean you off the medications.”
This seemed fair to me. So I will have to wait more three months to answer the question, “When is it Time to Stop Taking My Medications?” Meanwhile, many of you who are reading this blog are no doubt taking medications too. Have you ever asked yourself the question, “When is it Time for Me to Stop Taking My Medications?” If you have found an answer to that question, please write it the comments section or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org My guess is that the answer to this question will vary, depending on the individual. Some folks may be able to stop after six months. Others may have to stay on medications for many years. Finally, while most individuals can eventually get off their medications, a small number of people will need to take their medications for the rest of their lives, or until new therapies can be developed.
My suggestion is that you work with your prescriber, trust your intuition and take it one step at a time.