Deciding About Stopping Your Antidepressant

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How do antidepressants work?

Antidepressants help restore the normal balance of brain chemicals. When these brain chemicals are in proper balance, your depression gets better. Most people need to take this medicine for 6 to 8 weeks to get the full benefit and feel much better.

Taking your medicine for at least 6 months after you feel better can help keep you from getting depressed again. If this is not the first time you have been depressed, your doctor may want you to take it for an even longer time. But don't worry. No matter how long you take this medicine, you can't get addicted to it.

If you have questions or concerns about your medicines, talk to your doctor.

What are key points about this decision?

  • The best reason to stop taking your antidepressant is because you feel better and you and your doctor believe that you will stay well after you stop taking it.
  • An antidepressant needs time to work. You may need to take it for 1 to 3 weeks before you start to feel better. And it may take 6 to 8 weeks before you feel much better.
  • Most side effects are more bothersome than serious. They can often be managed. Or your doctor may be able to prescribe a different medicine.
  • If you feel you can't afford the medicine, your doctor may be able to prescribe one that costs less.
  • At least half of people who have depression will get it again. This is called a relapse. But if you keep taking your medicine for at least 6 months after you feel better, you may lower the chance that you will have a relapse.
  • If you plan to stop taking your medicine, talk with your doctor first about how to do it safely. You may need to stop slowly over time. Suddenly stopping some medicines may cause side effects. These include flu-like symptoms and dizziness.
  • Seeing a counsellor works well to help people with depression feel better.
  • Depression is nothing to be embarrassed about. It is a health problem, not a character flaw.

Why might you choose to stop taking your medicine?

  • You are feeling better, and you and the doctor agree that it is time to stop.
  • You have been taking the medicine for at least 6 months.
  • You are having counselling to help you cope with problems and help change how you think and feel.
  • You are not worried about the depression coming back.

Why might you choose not to stop your medicine?

  • You are not yet feeling better.
  • You have not taken the medicine for 6 months.
  • You need to make a plan to stop taking the medicine when you and your doctor think you are ready.
  • You are worried that the depression may come back.

Your decision

Thinking about the facts and your feelings can help you make a decision that is right for you. Be sure you understand the benefits and risks of your options, and think about what else you need to do before you make the decision.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Current as of: July 26, 2016