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Should You Intervene When a Family Member Stops Taking Antidepressants?
It generally depends on the circumstances surrounding your loved one’s decision to stop taking the depressants, but yes you should. A loved one’s decision to stop taking medication — without the advice of a medical professional — is concerning and requires acknowledgement, if not intervention.
Though it is a common problem, dealing with a family member who is off their meds is critical in preventing them from doing irreparable harm to themselves. Oftentimes, the same mental health issues that necessitated the prescription can influence someone’s decision to cease taking medication.
The Dangers of Stopping Antidepressants
If you are faced with a loved one who has stopped taking antidepressants, it is important to seek professional guidance on how to best help that person get back on track. With the help of a family prescription drug intervention professional, you may help them avoid a multitude of undesirable outcomes including polydrug use (abusing other drugs), potential homelessness or incarceration, and even severe antidepressant withdrawal.
Many or all of these downsides can be prevented via an intervention with professional certified interventionists that can provide help to you and your family. Family First Intervention is here to help your family when you need us, but we do implore families to educate themselves further with our intervention and family resources in the meantime.
What Happens When Someone Stops Taking Their Antidepressants?
Stopping Antidepressants Can Cause Severe Side Effects Including Acute Antidepressant Withdrawal
Prescription Antidepressants are commonly prescribed in the United States, with more than one out of six people taking them regularly.
Many of these are antidepressant drugs that act as life-changers for those struggling with severe depression, anxiety, panic disorders, and even to manage mild depression symptoms.
*Overall, 16.7% (95% CI, 15.9%-17.5%) of 242 million US adults reported filling 1 or more prescriptions for psychiatric drugs in 2013, including 12.0% (95% CI, 11.3%-12.7%) reporting antidepressants; 8.3% (95% CI, 7.7%-8.9%) filling prescriptions for anxiolytics, sedatives, and hypnotics; and 1.6% (95% CI, 1.4%-1.8%) taking antipsychotics.
Types of Antidepressants
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
- Citalopram (Sold Under Brand Name: Celexa)
- Escitalopram (Sold Under Brand Name: Lexapro)
- Fluoxetine (Sold Under Brand Name: Prozac)
- Paroxetine (Sold Under Brand Names: Paxil, Pexeva)
- Sertraline (Sold Under Brand Name: Zoloft)
Serotonin-Noradrenaline Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)
- Venlafaxine (Sold Under Brand Names: Effexor, Effexor XR)
- Desvenlafaxine (Sold Under Brand Names: Pristiq, Khedezla)
- Milnacipran (Sold Under Brand Name: Savella)
- Duloxetine (Sold Under Brand Names: Cymbalta, Irenko)
- Levomilnacipran (Sold Under Brand Name: Fetzima)
Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs)
- Amitriptyline (Elavil)
- Clomipramine (Anafranil)
- Doxepin (Sinequan)
- Imipramine (Tofranil)
- Amoxapine (Amoxapine Tablets)
- Desipramine (Norpramin)
- Nortriptyline (Pamelor, Aventyl)
Noradrenaline and Specific Serotonergic Antidepressants (NASSAs)
- Mirtazapine (Norset, Remeron, Avanza, Zispin)
- Mianserin (Tolvon, Norval, Bolvidon)
Quitting Antidepressants Cold Turkey
Regardless of the specific prescription, getting off of an antidepressant can lead to adverse effects. Quitting antidepressant “cold turkey” causes a shock to the system that the body and brain responds to with symptoms of antidepressant withdrawal. Symptoms of antidepressant withdrawal include: irritability, anxiety, achy muscles and chills, depression, confusion and even psychotic symptoms. These more severe symptoms can put your loved ones safety and the safety of those around them at risk.
When there is someone neglecting a prescription or outright refusing the help of the drug they are supposed to take, it affects everyone around them. It is important to understand that antidepressant withdrawals can harm your loved one’s physical and mental health, as well as jeopardize their personal relationships, employment, and residency.
As with any sort of mental health issue, we recommend seeking professional guidance to ensure an approach based on clear and calm communication. When you intervene and communicate your concerns, it is recommended you utilize a professional family interventionist to help avoid escalating any confrontation that might arise, and make it evident that your goal is to help your family member get their life back on track.
Thinking of the approach in terms of a process rather than an event may be helpful when considering expectations of how things will go.
Antidepressant withdrawal can be incredibly dangerous, though it is not mentioned as often as heroin or alcohol withdrawal. This lack of knowledge and misperception about antidepressant withdrawal furthers the dangers. Depending on which antidepressant drugs that are prescribed, there can be immediate withdrawal symptoms or a person’s thoughts and actions may be impaired.
Withdrawal symptoms often include anxiety, panic attacks, and suicidal thoughts. They can also include whatever connected or associated mental health-side effects plagued your family member before they got onto antidepressants, and the turnaround can happen quickly.
Zoloft, Prozac, or especially a drug like Effexor can cause some of the most severe withdrawal symptoms. It is imperative that your loved one knows the risks of quitting cold turkey, and how missing a dosage or misusing the prescriptions can alter their judgement.
DANGEROUS ANTIDEPRESSANT MEDICATION WITHDRAWALS
Effexor has very serious withdrawal ramifications, and it is important to go over them as it is widely prescribed. Effexor (which is Venlafaxine) is an SNRI that is prescribed to treat many types of depression symptoms such as alcoholism, binge eating, or generalized anxiety.
It is a multi-drug, and very difficult to get off of safely. Due to its short half-life, it is metabolized and removed from your system quickly. When it is not weaned off of properly, the withdrawals will happen quickly and violently.
Common withdrawal side effects from Effexor include fatigue, anxiety, nausea and vomiting, and a host of far worse illnesses. These can compound already existing physical or mental health issues and send the user into a tailspin.
Please address anyone who is even considering altering their Effexor prescription immediately; once a cycle is broken, it will be very hard to re-adjust for healthy levels. Please consider consulting a specialist or interventionist when considering speaking to someone about their use of Effexor.
How do you Help Someone with Depression that Doesn’t Want Help?
Clinical depression affects up to 7 percent of adults among diagnosed cases in the United States. Its symptoms are wide-ranging, making it a difficult diagnosis, and it is imminently treatable if dealt with properly. This can include a change in behavioral routine or taking a prescription drug, and it always starts with awareness of the issue first.
If you believe that a close friend or family member is depressed and not acknowledging it, there is a delicate conversation to be had. Are they displaying symptoms like overeating, oversleeping, or changes in social patterns. Other items like hygiene, productivity, and mood swings are worth noting as well. Remember that if you suspect your loved one needs help with their mental health or depression symptoms, it is not your responsibility to diagnose and treat them yourself; your responsibility is simply to start the conversation with them, offer your help if they need it, and seek professional help if the problem is serious or the individual is unwilling to acknowledge the issues.
With any of these conversations, it is important to offer objective information, and not make demands. Everyone responds differently to intervention, and in our experience we have found anger or accusation to be counterproductive when trying to help someone who is depressed. When our caring family interventionists help families to intervene in situations involving mental health and antidepressants, we help to keep negative emotions out of the conversation and the focus on the positives and the process of healing.
In a perfect scenario you and your loved one can reach an agreement that they have an issue, and agree to take the necessary steps toward recovery.
In the imperfect scenarios that require the help of a professional interventionist, our professional and caring staff is ready to help your family.
When Family Members Refuse Therapy or Medication
When confronted with a family member or friend who refuses therapy, medication, or refuses to even acknowledge the issues, it is important to understand that the situation is already out of your control. Your first instinct might be to plead with a family member and to stress to them the damage they are doing to themselves and those around them, but this will not be helpful and will only further drive a wedge between you and your loved one in the situation. Intervening in the issue is the responsibility of a professional interventionist, and only they are capable of the delicate approach that is needed for a successful depression intervention.
Substance Abuse vs. Proper Medications for Depression
When someone is depressed, they often turn to drugs or alcohol to try and self-medicate. This can happen whether someone is aware of their condition or not, and many recovering substance abusers come to find that their cravings for drugs, alcohol, and reckless behaviors really stem from the undiagnosed mental health condition.
Depression and Dual Diagnosis Substance Abuse
In cases of patients who suffer multiple mental illnesses such as depression plus schizophrenia, or any combination of behavioral issues that can be exacerbated by erratic drug use, the need for an urgent substance abuse intervention is critical.
In cases of dual diagnosis (when a loved one is abusing drugs or alcohol AND has a mental health concern), it is extremely important to get your family member or loved one off illicit substances and onto proper medication as quickly as possible. If your loved one is going to successfully manage their mental health symptoms, they will need to be off illicit drugs and engaged with proper counseling and pharmacotherapies.
The Dangers of Alcohol Abuse and Mental Health Conditions
Alcohol has often been called the most dangerous drug in our society, though many consider it to be harmless. Alcohol use is widely accepted, making it harder for many to justify cutting it off. Unfortunately, alcohol and depression can have a symbiotic effect, meaning it is one of the most dangerous habits for someone suffering from mental illness.
If your loved one has an existing mental health issue, alcohol will exacerbate negative mental health symptoms – even if they are currently on medication for the issue. Much like grapefruit has been proven to decrease the effectiveness of prescription medications, alcohol also causes negative drug interactions with many antidepressants prescribed in the United States today.
Next Steps For You and Your Family
Though depression and mental health issues are difficult to talk about in hard times, family is often the only ones who can help by consulting professionals and engaging in a plan of action. Staging an intervention requires education and the proper disposition to encourage someone depressed, and yet it can literally be life saving.
Call us today if your family is struggling with mental health and substance abuse concerns with a loved one.