Tempted to Quit Antidepressants?
Find out what to do -- and why -- before giving up on an antidepressant.
Is Your Dose Right? continued...
"Physicians are not up to date on how the medications should be
administered. Underdosing is common," Kennedy tells WebMD.
The dose of an antidepressant is slowly increased over time, so it builds up
in the body. Current data suggests the dose should be increased to usual adult,
or indicated, dose within 10 days, not four weeks later as is sometimes done,
"Simply put, [the doctor should] write the prescription, call the patient in
48 hours to ask about side effects, and increase the dose by day 10 to get to
the usual adult dose," Kennedy says. "Too often in the past, health care
providers "go slow" and never get to the adult dose."
But never increase your dose without talking to your doctor first. Everyone
is different, and some people may need to have their dose increased more
slowly. "Taking more than the prescribed dose in the hopes of getting better
quickly can cause agitation, anxiety, and insomnia," Dunlop says.
Call Before You Quit
If you are stopping the use of antidepressants, the same advice
applies: Call your doctor first. Don't decrease your dose or stop an
antidepressant "cold turkey."
Quitting can (but does not always) lead to uncomfortable, withdrawal-like
symptoms, particularly if you do so abruptly after having taken the drug for a
long time. Some drugs clear the body faster than others.
Niziol says when she quit the medicine after taking it for a year, "I felt
sick for a full month and was incredibly tired. I never want to go through that
Doctors call what Niziol experienced "antidepressant discontinuation
syndrome." A significant number of patients who abruptly stop taking an
antidepressant have nausea, muscle aches, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and tingling
sensations in their arms and legs. The symptoms usually ease within a few weeks
and will rapidly go away if the antidepressant is resumed.
Your doctor should explain how to slowly and safely reduce your dose over a
few days. Tapering off the drug, with your doctor's supervision, helps your
body adjust to the chemical changes and prevents severe withdrawal-like