If you plan on stopping your antidepressants, you need to come off them the right way. Suddenly going cold turkey can cause withdrawal symptoms. You need to go through a tapering-off period to reduce the risk.
You should only taper off your antidepressants under the advice and guidance of your doctor. There may be some conditions specific to you and the medication you take.
However, if you want to know how long it typically takes to come off antidepressants, how to taper off them safely, and the possible withdrawal symptoms, read on.
How Long Does It Really Take to Get Off Antidepressants?
The time frame for stopping will vary depending on the antidepressants, dosage, and other factors specific to the person taking them.
As a guideline, you can expect the following tapering off periods:
If you’ve been taking them for less than 8 weeks tapering off will take 1 to 2 weeks of gradually reducing the dosage.
If you’ve been taking them for more than 6 months, it will take 6 to 8 weeks of gradually reducing the dosage.
A tapering-off period while reducing the dosage will help minimize the withdrawal symptoms associated with coming off antidepressants. It also gives you the chance to see how you feel while reducing your dosage.
How Long Do Antidepressants Stay in the Body?
All medications take time to leave the body. Some antidepressants take longer than others and the time will vary from person to person.
With his in mind, here are some of the common antidepressants and the time it takes for them to be 99% out of your body.
Paroxetine – 4.4 days.
Sertraline – 5.4 days.
Escitalopram – 6.1 days.
Citalopram – 7.3 days.
Fluoxetine – 25 days.
Venlafaxine – 1 day.
Desvenlafaxine – 2.5 days.
Duloxetine – 2.5 days.
As you can see, most antidepressants are almost entirely out of your system within a few days. It helps to know this when it comes to taking the last dose on your tapering-off schedule.
Withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person and depend on the type of antidepressant you’re on. Typically the symptoms you can expect per the type of drug are:
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) – Flu-like illness, such as headaches, excessive sweating, chills, muscle pains. As well as insomnia and dizziness.
Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) – Same symptoms as SSRIs.
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) – Insomnia, agitation, irritability, and movement disorders.
Tips to Help You Get off Antidepressants Safely
Getting off antidepressants isn’t something you should attempt without seeking advice from your doctor first. If your doctor gave you the go-ahead, here are some tips to help you manage the tapering-off process:
Keep a Journal of How You Feel
Writing down how you feel will make it a lot easier to track patterns in your moods and how much medication you take. It depends on why you want to come off your antidepressants, but you might see a reason not to after seeing how you feel.
It’s also good to have written evidence to show your doctor when they ask how you feel. It will help them adjust how quickly you taper off if you experience withdrawal symptoms.
Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
Knowing there is a chance you will experience some withdrawal symptoms, it’s advisable that you maintain healthy habits and routines while coming off antidepressants.
There is always a chance your depression symptoms start to return or increase as you take less medication. If this is the case, it’s important to keep up with your exercise, healthy eating, and other lifestyle choices you make to help manage your depression.
Lean on Your Support Network
Coming off antidepressants is a big deal. As with managing your depression, having a strong network of friends and family around can make all the difference.
Don’t be shy to ask them for support and let them know what you’re going through. They will likely feel excited for you and provide that extra support you need to help you get through this stage.