I’ve recently been suffering a personal battle weaning myself off the antidepressant drug lexapro. I know I’m not alone, and I’m also not putting all the blame on lexapro. Type in the antidepressant of your choice and add the word ‘withdrawal’ into Google, and you’ll find yourself upon pages and pages of people talking about the havoc that getting off antidepressants can cause.
Alternative Options for Depression
Still, I, unlike some others, am not advocating that antidepressants are evil and should be avoided at all costs. Rather, I simply know from personal experience that if alternative methods can help to ease your emotional suffering, it’s a much healthier option. Better yet, if you find that a practice like yoga or meditation works for you, it can continue to do so throughout your life, with both emotional and physical benefits on your body. Students of both these practices report lower levels of stress and anxiety, and an overall improvement in physical health.
The Side Effects of Stopping Your Medication
When I finally stopped taking lexapro after weaning down to the lowest dose for several months, my doctor warned me that I might experience some serious side effects – and I did. I couldn’t imagine what I might have gone through if I hadn’t gone off the medication gradually.
Quitting “cold turkey” may cause major withdrawal symptoms. A sudden drop of your medicine may also worsen your depression, send your symptoms on a downward spiral, and set your treatment back several weeks or months. Here are some of the possible effects of quitting your medication suddenly:
1. You get sick. Antidepressant discontinuation syndrome, also called antidepressant withdrawal, occurs when a person abruptly quits taking antidepressants. Many people who experience antidepressant withdrawal feel like they have the flu or a stomach bug. They may also experience disturbing mental thoughts or images.
2. You set back your treatment. Untreated depression can set you back on your treatment plan. It can also extend a depressive episode, make relapse more likely, or cause a deepening of the disease.
3. You contemplate suicide. Not being properly medicated may increase your risk of suicidal thoughts—and the risk that you will act on those thoughts. Ninety percent of people who commit suicide are depressed or have another mental health disorder.
4. Other conditions get worse. Untreated depression may make other conditions you have harder to treat. Your doctor will have balanced your antidepressant prescription with other medications you’re taking, and if you stop taking the antidepressant, the balance may be affected. This can cause additional side effects and complications.
The Dangers of Abruptly Stopping Antidepressants – Kimberly Holland (Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA), Healthline
Antidepressants Are the New Candy
After this stint, the possibility of joining a psychiatric detox no longer sounded so far-fetched. It did make me wonder, however, why doctors are not more up front about the very real and serious side effects that stopping an antidepressant can cause when they’re prescribing it. As difficult as depression and anxiety might be, knowing that getting off this medication can be as serious a struggle, both emotionally and physically, might have an effect on the number of prescriptions filled each year. Based on figures from 2005, approximately 118 million prescriptions for antidepressant medications are written each year.
Gina Laverde is a Chicago-based writer and researcher whose expertise in natural health stems from her experiences with Body Ecology Diet, Blood Type Diet and homeopathic remedies. Gina believes that we’re in the midst of a serious world health crisis, and that the key to survival lies within our guts.