Discontinuing Psychiatric Drugs Carefully
People take psychiatric medications for many different reasons – but usually because it is necessary in order for them to function properly in “daily living”. You may have heard this term before but are not sure what it means. When someone is referring to functioning in “daily living” or in “daily life” they are talking about the everyday stuff that we are expected to do – big and small. These are the things that allow us to fulfill our needs and be a productive member of society. These include bathing and other matters of hygiene, employment, grocery shopping, interacting with other people, and parenting. If you are taking an antidepressant, antipsychotic, mood stabilizer, or other psychiatric medication a medical professional has deemed it necessary. Ideally, the benefits have been determined to outweigh the potential risks. But what if this isn’t the case? What if the associated risks are too high? What if you get really sick?
Sometimes patients are prescribed medications when it isn’t necessary (check out my article on the benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and why it works better than medication for many individuals). Sometimes all the thoughtfulness and care in the world will not prevent someone from having a negative reaction. What should you do if you want to quit taking your medication and think that it should be recalled? Here are a few points to consider before stopping:
- Discontinuing antidepressants such as Paxil, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotics can be dangerous if not done carefully and methodically. It can be more harmful to quit cold turkey (right away) than to be gradually weaned off. Your symptoms could get worse or you may go through withdrawal. These risks need to be determined by a medical professional and should not be weighed without medical consultation.
- Before making any rash decisions take a moment to consider whether another illness, medication, or product may be causing your symptoms. When did they first appear? Did you start any other new drugs – prescription or over-the-counter? Legal or illicit? Even beauty products and food should be considered because they can interact negatively with your medication. Anything that is ingested or absorbed by the body can affect the way it works.
- Make sure that you have been using your medication as prescribed. Perhaps you have been taking the wrong dose. Check the bottle… has it expired? Are you following all the instructions on the label correctly?
If you still feel that you should discontinue your medication consult a doctor or medical professional before doing so. They will determine what course of action to take and how to take it. They may recommend that you try a different medication that works the same or similarly. Certain side effects are common with these types of drugs. Some symptoms can get worse when you start or increase your dose. These often include worsening depression, irritability, mood changes, and insomnia and sometimes disappear in time. Your doctor will probably take you off your medication or change your dose if your symptoms are severe. Additionally, if you are experiencing any serious, life-threatening complications such as those involving the heart, liver, kidneys, pancreas, or other organ it is not typical. These adverse reactions should not be expected or overlooked – they need to be reported to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after medical attention is sought.
How do I Report My Side Effects to the FDA?
The FDA suggests that you contact your doctor and ask them to fill out an adverse reporting form. This is so any important information regarding your health background may be reliably relayed (health care providers are not required by law to fill out this form). You may also fill out the form yourself online, by fax or mail, or contact them by phone at 1-800-FDA-1088.
It is important to report negative reactions to medications because the FDA relies on this information when they review:
- The effectiveness and safety of a drug
- Whether or not it should be recalled
- What warnings should be available to consumers
To check if your medication has already been recalled, to read about common side effects, or to learn about current or past lawsuits you may look for a drug on this website by entering the name in the search field on the upper right-hand corner of the homepage.