How to Stop Taking Antidepressants

Last Updated: Aug 3rd 2021

Reviewed by Brittany Polansky, MSW, LCSW

How to Stop Taking Antidepressants

Are antidepressants addictive?

More than 19 million Americans aged 18 years and older have a substance use disorder. Many of these people take antidepressant medications. Usage is more prevalent among women than men, and more than 25 percent of women age 60 and older take these medications.

Some common name-brand antidepressants include Xanax, Prozac, and Zoloft, among others. These antidepressant medications are very effective against depression but come with a variety of side effects that many don’t want to live with over the long run, such as headaches, insomnia, sleepiness, and vivid dreams. Sometimes, patients just get tired of taking a daily medication, especially after their depression goes away.

So are antidepressants addictive?

While doctors don’t consider antidepressants addictive in the traditional sense compared to other drugs, stopping abruptly could lead to withdrawal syndrome and or a recurrence of your depression.

It may be tempting to stop taking your prescription antidepressant medication once your symptoms have abated, but each patient’s mind and body get used to antidepressant medications, making it difficult to stop cold turkey.

What are antidepressant withdrawal symptoms?

The following are common antidepressant withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms usually begin (if they are going to) within one or two days of abruptly stopping an antidepressant medication.

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia or vivid dreams
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness
  • Irritability
  • Flu-like symptoms, including achy muscles and chills
  • Nausea
  • Electric shock sensations
  • Return of depression (sometimes worse than before)

In extreme cases, stopping antidepressant medications abruptly may lead to suicidal thoughts. That’s why it’s always important to stop taking your medications, if appropriate, with a doctor’s supervision.

How to stop taking antidepressants

It is recommended that you wean yourself off of antidepressant medications to avoid withdrawal syndrome. This means something different depending on the specific medication you are taking. Without this tapering, approximately 20 percent of people will have some type of withdrawal symptoms. The likelihood of developing antidepressant withdrawal syndrome increases the longer you’ve been on the medications. Some medications are associated with a higher probability of withdrawal syndrome than others.

Most doctors recommend tapering down antidepressant usage over a period of four to six weeks under the supervision of a physician. In cases where a person has taken antidepressant medications for a long period of time, a physician might substitute a less potent, but similar medication for the original drug before beginning tapering down.

Keep in mind that the withdrawal syndrome associated with antidepressant usage is different from withdrawal from drugs like opioids. In the case of antidepressants, the symptoms most people feel are similar are physiological, not psychological. You might compare the reaction to someone with diabetes stopping insulin. For most people, the symptoms of antidepressant withdrawal go away within a few weeks. With antidepressant medications, there is no psychological dependence on the drugs, so there are no cravings associated with ceasing to take the medications.

Of course, any change in medication, including stopping a medication, should be done after consulting your doctor.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with stopping antidepressant medications or antidepressant addiction, we can help. For more information on antidepressant withdrawal treatment, call or text us at (866) 971-5531 or get help now.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brittany Polansky, MSW, LCSW

Brittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is the Assistant Clinical Director at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.