Tips to Reduce Antidepressant Discontinuation Symptoms

Here are some top tips to reduce antidepressant discontinuation symptoms. These are not meant to constitute medical advice but are rather ideas from practicing psychopharmacologists that you can discuss with your own physician. You should never discontinue a medication without your doctor's consent and guidance.

What is Depression?

Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and sometimes you may feel as if life isn't worth living.

More than just a bout of the blues, depression isn't a weakness and you can't simply "snap out" of it. Depression may require long-term treatment. But don't get discouraged. Most people with depression feel better with medication, psychological counseling or both.

Symptoms of Depression

Although depression may occur only one time during your life, usually people have multiple episodes of depression. During these episodes, symptoms occur most of the day, nearly every day and may include:

  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
  • Changes in appetite — often reduced appetite and weight loss, but increased cravings for food and weight gain in some people
  • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or blaming yourself for things that aren't your responsibility
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

For many people with depression, symptoms usually are severe enough to cause noticeable problems in day-to-day activities, such as work, school, social activities or relationships with others. Other people may feel generally miserable or unhappy without really knowing why.

A Single Dose of Prozac (Fluoxetine)

How to deal with antidepressant withdrawal
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According to Dr. Ivan Goldberg: "The administration of a single 20 mg capsule of fluoxetine usually does the job. The withdrawal symptoms are relieved within hours and the patient goes through a slow fluoxetine withdrawal that is usually symptomless. If the individual had been on a high dose of paroxetine or venlafaxine, a second 20 mg of fluoxetine may be needed."

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Benadryl (Diphenhydramine)

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Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is an over-the-counter allergy medication that has been reported to help with discontinuation symptoms.

Taper Off Slowly

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Gradually decreasing your dosage over an extended period of time is preferable to quitting "cold turkey."

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Switch to an SSRI or Effexor (If Already Using an SSRI)

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From Dr. Ivan Goldberg: "There is no risk of such withdrawal symptoms when going between SSRIs or between an SSRI and venlafaxine. You can go from fluoxetine to just about anything, but an MAOI, and not worry because of that drug's long half-life."

Use Prozac as Your Antidepressant

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Because Prozac has a very long half-life, extreme withdrawal symptoms are unlikely with it. There is a built in "tapering off" by virtue of the fact that it leaves your body so slowly.

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Keep a Regular Schedule with Dosing

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Certain antidepressants, such as Effexor, may cause withdrawal symptoms even if you are slightly late with a scheduled dose. Keeping a regular schedule can help you avoid these symptoms.


Dr. Bob's Psychopharmacology Tips. 1997. Dr. Robert Hsiung. 

Mayo Clinic. Depression (Major Depressive Disorder)

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