How to Get off Antidepressants
In practice, I see a number of patients who are on antidepressants but don’t want to be for various reasons.
Reasons Why People Come off Antidepressants
Here are the most common reasons why people want to discontinue taking antidepressants:
- They feel that they are ineffective
- Others feel that they are no longer warranted
- Still, others are coming to me for fertility treatment and don’t want to be on medication during pregnancy
- Some prefer to take a more natural, holistic approach
- They find the side effects unbearable.
Regardless of the reason for wanting to come off, there are a number of naturopathic options that can help with discontinuing anti-depressant therapy. This should only be undertaken under the supervision of your medical doctor and a naturopathic doctor.
How to Come off Antidepressants
Firstly, weaning off of anti-depressants needs to be done very slowly. Sometimes you would use dosages that are not available and need to be custom compounded. In patients who have been on anti-depressants longer term (more than a year or two), tapering off may take 6-24 months. This must be done under your medical doctor’s supervision.
Secondly, there are several medications that are NOT safe to use together with herbal antidepressant alternatives like St. John’s Wort. These include antidepressants (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors/SSRI’s), benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety), warfarin, statins, verapamil, digoxin, and oral contraceptives.
How a Naturopath Can Help you Get off Antidepressants
To help with weaning off of anti-depressants, we will:
- Make dietary changes to support your brain and nervous system
- Introduce lifestyle changes like stress reduction, meditation, yoga, and exercise, and
- Use nutritional supplements like fish oil, B vitamins, magnesium and protein to support normal brain function
- Herbs may be used to reduce anxiety (Passionflower, valerian, lemon balm, oatstraw, skullcap), improve resilience to stress (Rhodiola, Ashwagandha, Schisandra) and improve mood.
Some of these herbs require gradual weaning on as the anti-depressant dose is being reduced. Because of the risk of interactions with anti-depressants or other medications, herbs should only be used for this under the supervision of a naturopathic doctor.
Acupuncture can be used to help with weaning off of antidepressants as it can help to “raise the spirit qi”.
By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND
Jane Clewes, MA A Case Report of Onset of Tinnitus Following Discontinuation of Antidepressant and a Review of the Literature. Prim Care Companion CNS Disord. 2012; 14(1): PCC.11br01218.
Davis SA, Feldman SR, Taylor SL. Use of St. John’s Wort in potentially dangerous combinations. J Altern Complement Med. 2014 Jul;20(7):578-9. doi: 10.1089/acm.2013.0216.