Discontinuing psychotropic medications including antidepressants, anti-psychotics, and mood stabilizers is serious business. Here are a few things to bear in mind if this is something you are considering. Some points apply even if you have already stopped taking these meds.
First point: these medications target the brain. They must be discontinued gradually, or you are likely to experience withdrawal symptoms (very unpleasant), rebound effect (original symptoms come back more intensely), or a host of other side effects. Therefore, NEVER stop taking any of these medications without consulting your physician. Also, it is preferable that you see a therapist during this time. A therapist can help you monitor your psychological and emotional reactions during the process. It’s difficult to assess your own mental state when your brain function is changing due to discontinuing the meds.
Second point: triggers and subtle indicators that herald a return of symptoms do exist. Know yours. There is a high recurrence rate once medication is stopped. This relapse prevention skill is taught in therapy, particularly cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Third point: there is not a specific cleansing regimen for the brain. Brains heal and become healthier with more oxygen and more efficient blood flow to it. That comes from a healthy heart and body in general. Special diets, specific herbs, or particular vitamins don’t speed up the process for most people. The natural weaning process often requires weeks and sometimes months. Then it may take several more weeks for the brain to fully acclimate to the medication’s absence. One must be patient with the process and maintain a healthy lifestyle. This includes limiting or ceasing caffeine and alcohol, maintaining a well-balanced diet (which may include herbal teas and vitamins if it works for you), drinking plenty of water, and yes unfortunately, exercising. Most people roll their eyes when they are told this. We live in a culture that demands short-cut methods. That is not nature’s way.
Fourth point: some of you will need to be on psychotropic medicines for the rest your lives. The same can be said for some people who have other illnesses. The only reason these types of medication are so resisted is the thought that somehow taking them indicates weakness or “craziness.” That is the direct result of stigma-based beliefs based on ignorance. The brain is an organ just as the heart, lungs, stomach, and assorted glands are organs. So, don’t let stigma be the reason for wanting to come off of these medications. The choice to come off them should entirely depend on your medical history, what the medications are being used for, and your experience on them. Sometimes discontinuing is best. Sometimes it is not. There are cost-benefit considerations. So, as I said, talk with your doctor and weigh the options with prayer and honesty about your particular situation.
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