Prescription Drugs: The Complete Guide to Weaning Off Medications
Research published by the Center for Disease Control in 2016 showed that 45.8% of the U.S. population used prescription drugs in the past 30 days. While not all prescription drugs are addictive, many are. Even those that are not addictive can pose problems if a person abruptly stops taking them, so it is important to speak with your doctor or a healthcare professional before quitting a medication cold turkey.
What Is Discontinuation Syndrome?
Discontinuation syndrome is the experience of withdrawal-like symptoms that can occur when an individual abruptly stops taking a certain type of medication. Discontinuation syndrome is particularly associated with SSRI antidepressant medications that have been taken for longer than a month.
Discontinuation syndrome symptoms may include:
- Shock-like sensations
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
Research conducted on discontinuation syndrome related to antidepressants states,
“About 20% of patients develop antidepressant discontinuation syndrome following an abrupt stoppage of or marked reduction in the dose of an antidepressant taken continuously for one month. Symptoms are usually mild and may occur following treatment with any type of antidepressant. Symptoms occur within two to four days after drug cessation and usually last one to two weeks (occasionally may persist up to one year).”
What Medications Should Be Weaned Off?
Abruptly ceasing to take certain medications can lead to mental and physical side effects and, in some cases, can even be life-threatening. Extended exposure, which may be as little as five days or more, of certain medications can cause withdrawal symptoms. Medications that are commonly recommended to wean off of include:
- Prednisone and other steroid medications
- Opioid pain medications
- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants
This is by no means an exhaustive list of medications that should be weaned off of, so it is important to consult with your doctor before ceasing to take prescribed medications.
How To Wean Off Medications
Weaning off—or tapering, as it is often called—medications is done by taking smaller and smaller doses of medication over a period of time. It is highly recommended to create a safe taper schedule with a healthcare provider, which will plan out what dose to take each day and week until an individual is fully weaned off the medication. Weaning off medications can greatly reduce withdrawal-like symptoms and provide a smoother process of ceasing to take a medication.
If a person is addicted to the medication they are attempting to stop taking, it is important to seek a recovery group or addiction treatment program to treat the addiction, otherwise, it is quite likely that a person may relapse and begin taking the medication again. Addiction treatment will address the psychological aspect of addiction, and with various therapies, group sessions, and other healing modalities, a treatment program can help a person understand why they were using the medication in the first place, and how to develop healthy coping skills to replace their addiction.
Oasis Recovery Can Help
If you or someone you love has developed an addiction or dependence on drugs or alcohol, or has relapsed and are wondering how to get help, we encourage you to reach out to the professionals at Oasis Recovery to learn more about our personalized treatment programs and mental health services. Recovery is always possible. Our experts work with you to design a treatment plan that fits your needs. Common treatment programs include:
- Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)
- Full-time Addiction Treatment on campus
- Aftercare Services
Contact us today for more information about how our programs and services can help you get your life back on track. You do not have to do this alone.