Reducing or coming off medication
Whilst it is generally accepted that antipsychotics can be effective in the short-term if someone is very distressed or confused by voices, less is known about their long-term use. The length of time someone takes medication varies. Some people find that medication is essential to their current lives, others want to think about reducing the dose or stopping altogether.
Did you know?
Some researchers and clinicians believe that medication significantly reduces the risk of relapse, particularly within the first year or possibly two years after a first psychotic episode. At the same time, there is also evidence that, in the longer term, those who successfully reduce or come off their medication can have better outcomes in terms of their functioning and quality of life, as well as no increased likelihood of relapse after 3–5 years.
Stopping medication suddenly can be dangerous and can make you feel worse – for example, it can lead to withdrawal symptoms or ‘rebound psychosis’. If you do wish to stop taking your medication, you should talk to your care team about devising a programme of gradual withdrawal.
Why might people reduce their dose?
One study into decisions around stopping antipsychotic medication suggest that over 70% of people who decide to lower or stop their medication do so because of side effects. Other reasons include feeling better (52%) and missing a positive part of their experience which has been labelled as ‘psychosis’ (27%).
For some people it can be a positive choice. For others, it is something they would rather not do but feel forced into it in order to reduce unacceptable adverse effects that are limiting their lives, such as akathisiaor sedation.
I didn’t need a pill. I needed a pilot’s license. I needed to learn to drive this experience. There is such an emphasis on ‘getting rid of’.
No meds = psychic autonomy is reclaimed.
Talking to other people about dose reduction or withdrawal
Find out more
If you are considering reducing or withdrawing from antipsychotic medication, you should speak with a health care professional about your decision and work on the process collaboratively.
Here are some additional resources which you might find useful.
Daniel Mackler (2014). Coming Off Psych Drugs: A meeting of the minds. Wild Truth.
More than half the film’s subjects have successfully come off a variety of medications, including antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and benzos, and several participants give trainings on the process. Here they tell how they did it and they provide a philosophy and framework for coming off.
5 tips for when you want to come off your medication, Mind.
Will Hall (2012). Coming off psychiatric drugs – A harm reduction approach to medication withdrawal. willhall.net.