Switching Depression Medications and Doing it Safely

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Hillary felt sleepy all the time. She was also experiencing daily headaches. She noticed these symptoms began when she started taking a prescribed antidepressant. Hillary decided it wasn’t worth the side effects. She was tired of feeling tired and achy, so she stopped taking the pills.

A day later, Hillary felt anxious and dizzy. She also still felt tired. She didn’t know what to think. She wondered about withdrawal. She wondered if she had become addicted. She didn’t know what she should do next – she felt bad both on and off the pills.

Proper Protocol

Hillary’s actions demonstrate what not to do if you want to change your depression medication. In her case, she stopped her medication too abruptly and suffered from new symptoms as a result. This is a common mistake. However, it’s not the only wrong way to go about this.

The truth is, there is no one-size-fits-all method to switching medications. That’s why it is critical to consult with your doctor. By working closely with them, you can achieve better results. The process involves several factors, such as:

  • The type of medication
  • The dosage
  • Your medical history
  • What medication, if any, you switch to

For many people, finding the right medication requires some trial and error. About half the people with depression need a different antidepressant than what they are originally prescribed. Once they switch, half of those individuals switch again to a third strategy.

It’s important to stay in close communication with your doctor throughout this process. In some circumstances, it might be important to slowly wean off the drug, then slowly increase the dosage of a new medication. Other times, serious side effects may warrant an abrupt stop to your medication.

Which drugs are involved also affects the change-over protocol. If you’re switching medications within the same drug class, this can typically occur more quickly than changing to a different class of medication.

Practice Patience

Keep in mind, when you start a new medication, it typically takes a couple of weeks before you can accurately tell how effective it is. Full relief can require up to eight weeks of steady use.

In the meantime, continue to work with your doctor. Don’t try to do this alone. If new symptoms occur, let your doctor know right away. They can tell you if these are normal or should be a concern. With close monitoring of your progress, your doctor can help you find the right medication for your individual needs.

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