This is one of the most frequently asked questions I receive.
People decide to stop their medication for a number of reasons: they may feel it stifles their creativity, libido, lead to food cravings and weight gain or just have their own strong views about being on medication.
In my own practice, I typically get asked this question when people have reached a point in their therapy where they are feeling more in control, hopeful, resilient and their symptoms have died down a great deal.
I’m not medically trained and therefore answering this question directly is out of my scope of practice. There are some things I do recommend though:
Firstly, ceasing medication should only ever be done under the advice and guidance of a medical professional (preferably the prescribing doctor or psychiatrist and/or one that knows details about your medical history).
Depending on your medication dose and how long you have been taking it, they may want to gradually wean you off of it and to book a follow up review (or several) to check in on how things have been going – please go to these appointments.
If a GP advises against going off of your medication and you’re not happy with this, you could seek a second opinion. Generally, if two or more practitioners are giving the same advice, it is best to follow it! If this is the case, you may like to ask about a proposed timeline for coming off of medication to give you a goal to work towards and to reduce feelings of disappointment.
It’s also a good idea to let your psychologist know if you have made any changes to your medication regime.
Now for some don’ts…
PLEASE DO NOT RELY ON DR GOOGLE! It can be hard deciphering legitimate medical information from the internet over dodgy information. Everyone’s situation is unique and I would always caution against making important decisions based on general advice.
PLEASE DO NOT STOP MEDICATION COLD TURKEY. Medications are designed to affect our biology. All medications carry side effects and ceasing them suddenly can also lead to unpleasant side effects.
I would always recommend anyone that is on medication to also be in therapy. The evidence suggests this is more effective than just medication alone. Therapy should also be considered before commencing medication in some situations.
A lot of the medications were developed as a short-term intervention, therapy as a medium-term intervention and social interventions (involvement in meaningful work, training or education; satisfying relationships with friends and family; community involvement) as long-term interventions.
To sum up, there is nothing wrong with being on medication. And there is nothing wrong with wanting to come off of medication – so long as you do this under the approval, supervision and guidance of a qualified medical professional.