One of the questions that regularly come up to me has to do with the ons and offs of medication. When and why do you go on medication, and when and why do you go off of them? While the two are related, they are not the same.
Why go on medication?
We go on medication simply put because we need it. There may be many factors which go into that decision. It may involve mood, basic functionality, self-image, the ability to handle situations or stress, being able to interact with other people, to keep us safe from ourselves or others. You know your own list. For myself, I knew I had to go on medication when I found myself hating the things that I love: my family, my wife, my vocation as pastor, even my hobbies and the things that I enjoy became a burden. I couldn’t handle living any longer, and so something had to change. While one can go the route of simply counseling or natural remedies, in my view and after much reading on the topic, I simply haven’t found any cure or natural remedy or counseling method that is more effective than anti-depressants. Can you go other routes? Yes. Can they be effective? Yes. But I don’t believe that they will work as quickly or as well as modern anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication, and the body of research seems to continue to support that view.
That’s why I went on medication, both initially and that’s why I went on them the second time.
Why go off medication?
The reason we go off medication should be fairly simple: we go off medication because we no longer need it. Now that sounds very simple, but we often invest massive amounts of emotion and other negative energy into the decision to go off of medication. Here are a few that I see and hear pretty regularly:
1. I don’t want to become addicted.
2. I don’t want to be on medication for the rest of my life.
3. Taking medication makes me feel weak or out of control of my own body.
4. I don’t like the side effects.
5. I can’t afford to take them anymore (iow, money or insurance problems).
6. I have found a better alternative way of treatment.
Now out of that list (and I look forward to hearing yours), four of them are basically emotional responses to medicine (wants and likes and feelings), one is money based, the the final one is experimenting with others ways of treatment.
But remember that initial reason on why we go off medication: we go off medication because we no longer need it. Unless you are a doctor, it is very unlikely that you will be able to determine when you no longer need it, since the medicine working is what makes you have a normal, functional life in the first place.
So how do you know when you don’t need the medication? Here’s a tip: you can’t know by yourself. You’re not a doctor, you’re not a pharmacist, you’re not God. It takes outside evidence. It takes some level of expertise that most of us do not have. It’s why God gives us doctors and nurses and medication in the first place.
If you think you want to try going off your medication, I would suggest the following steps:
1. Wait a month.
2. Talk to your doctor about the possibility of going off medication.
3. Wait another month.
4. Talk to your spouse about it, and anyone else whom you trust that may have some wisdom on the subject.
5. Wait another month.
6. Talk to your doctor about it AGAIN.
7. Then come up with a reasonable timetable and a way of evaluating what changes happen as a result of going off the medication.
One thing is for sure. Don’t willy nilly try to do this. Don’t just decide you are going to “see how you feel” by stopping to take it for a while. That is just not wise.
If you are desperate, send me an email and we’ll talk about it directly. I’m happy to pool my wisdom/foolishness with yours.
Be at peace,