December 01, 2017

Is it safe to stop cold turkey taking a prescribed antidepressant?

Q: I've been taking a prescribed antidepressant for a few years. Should I talk to my doctor about weaning off of the drug, or just stop?

A: Talk to your doctor or pharmacist before stopping the drug. Ask whether it's OK to stop taking the drug, or if the prescription needs to be refilled for continued use. However, there may also be a need for a re-evaluation of your health condition by a doctor — or a thorough review of drugs you take so that you're taking only the necessary drugs at appropriate dosages.

If drug discontinuation is recommended, a gradual taper is advised for many types of drugs. Common classes of drugs that may require tapering include antidepressants or mood medications, heart medications, seizure medications, longer term oral steroids, Parkinson' drugs and longer term pain medications.

Sometimes, abruptly stopping a drug is preferred. Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you if a drug can be stopped abruptly with no ill effects. Your doctor or pharmacist may also tell you to abruptly stop a drug if it's causing a harmful side effect.