Antidepressants are among the most common types of medication prescribed today, with over 1 in 10 Americans (over the age of 12) taking one of these drugs. There is a reason antidepressants are so popular: They work wonders to help people who struggle with anxiety, depression, and other types of mood disorders.
However, that is not to say that their use is entire without problems. Depending on the person and the individual’s chemistry, antidepressants may come with a slew of side effects that can range from vaguely annoying to debilitating. Furthermore, thankfully, many people experience changes in their life circumstances that allow them to cease taking antidepressants.
Unfortunately, it’s not always as simple as stopping the medication. People can become “dependent” on antidepressants, in that their body comes to rely on the chemicals they ingest as a result of taking these pills. Withdrawal from antidepressants is real and can cause significant problems if not managed correctly. Fortunately, this withdrawal can be managed by professionals to limit their pain and disruption.
How Long Does Antidepressant Withdrawal Last?
It depends on a variety of factors, including the person, the amount of time they have been on the medication, and their medication strength. However, it can last anywhere from weeks to months. Typically, symptoms begin to emerge three days after stopping or lessening your antidepressants. They often go away in as little as three weeks but can last longer in more severe cases.
The length of your withdrawal symptoms also depends on what type of medication you take. Some medications, like Effexor, have short half-lives, meaning they will leave your body quicker. Others, such as Prozac, take a more extended period to leave your body. This means that withdrawal symptoms may last for a more extended period.
It is important to note that you do not become “addicted” to antidepressants. Your body does not crave them, and they are not habit-forming. However, if you take them for long enough, your body’s chemistry will change as it alters its physiology.
Many potential negative symptoms occur from your antidepressant withdrawal. These include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Flu-like symptoms
- Upset stomach
- Rushing or disturbing thoughts
- A return of the symptoms which lead you to first go on antidepressants, such as depression or anxiety
To be clear, not everyone experiences these withdrawal symptoms. Some people can stop taking antidepressants with no problems whatsoever. However, some people will experience withdrawal symptoms.
What Can Be Done To Minimize Withdrawal?
First and foremost: Always talk with your prescribing doctor before you begin to stop taking any antidepressants. Your doctor can advise on the best way to make sure that you get off your antidepressants safely. They can also give you tips on managing any of the adverse side effects that you may experience.
Second, under the guidance of a medical professional, begin to taper down your use of the antidepressants. Stopping them suddenly increases the odds of experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Gradually tapering off will lead to a more comfortable experience as you withdraw from their use.
Third, ask your doctor about temporarily prescribing you medications to deal with your withdrawal symptoms. For example, if you are experiencing an upset stomach, headaches, or insomnia, you may take certain medications that can help you deal with these symptoms. As you adjust to life without your antidepressants, you will be able to stop taking these additional medications.