Anyone thinking about reducing their dose or withdrawing completely from medication should talk with their prescriber or a knowledgeable healthcare practitioner. Withdrawal can be a challenging process and having support set up to help with this is crucial. It is important to make any dose reductions very slowly and be aware that some of the adverse effects described above can also be triggered by withdrawal. Having someone who knows what they are doing involved from the start can help you withdraw from your medication in a safe way.
In some NHS trusts across the UK, and in cases where voices and visions are associated with first episode psychosis, psychiatrists often discuss the option of coming off medication with their clients after one or two years of wellness. However, not all professionals may seem open to talking about withdrawal, in which case, some of the resources at the end of this section may be helpful. Unless someone is subject to the Mental Health Act or there is another legal reason removing their right to consent, it is a person’s right to make decisions about their own care.
In my experience, at least, the way I talk with professionals about coming off medication can either reassure them or freak them out. They want to see that I’m making an informed choice, that I’ve thought it through and – most of all – that I have a plan for what to do if things get difficult. They need to see me as reasonable. If I’m angry, emotional or refuse to talk about what might go wrong they’re more likely to see me as a ‘risk’. This is high stakes. If I’m seen as a risk and begin to struggle with difficult voices I know I’m more likely to have my choice taken away from me. Keeping them on board gives me a bit more breathing room.
Talking with mental health practitioners about stopping or reducing medication can be daunting. Some people find it helpful to engage a close friend, family member, partner or advocate to help plan the meeting. It can help to have someone supportive there.