Coming off psychiatric drugs

Explains issues faced when coming off medication, how to approach it, techniques for gradual reduction, possible withdrawal symptoms and how to tell the difference between withdrawal and relapse.

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Who can I talk to about my options?

Local support groups

People who have successfully come off medication usually say that the most helpful advice comes from other people who have themselves successfully come off. Look for local self-help, peer support or ‘coming off’ groups and programmes, which may be run by a local Mind or the Hearing Voices Network for example (see ‘Useful contacts').

Coming off medication may form part of what’s called the ‘Recovery approach’ to mental health problems. Support in this may be available from Recovery and Wellbeing centres or Recovery Colleges, if you have any in your area.

These groups can help you with the practical side of dose reduction as well as:

  • Low self confidence, especially if you have been taking medication for a long time. This may be due to your mental health problem or the side effects of the drug.
  • Helping you decide to try coming off, and then stick to it. You may feel quite anxious about whether you will actually be able to manage without your medication, for example.
  • Understanding the withdrawal effects and how you might be feeling.

Mental health professionals

Ideally the best person to talk to about stopping or continuing your medication would be your GP or psychiatrist. However, some doctors are reluctant to agree to withdrawal. They may not have much experience or knowledge about the best way to go about it.

Guidance published for doctors tends to suggest that drug withdrawal is easier and can be done more quickly than is often the case. But if you want to change your prescription in order to help you come off, you will need to discuss this with the doctor or nurse who writes your prescriptions to get their agreement.

If you are taking more than one drug, you need to check with a professional (such as a pharmacist) to see whether altering the dose of one will affect the action of another. If you come off one drug, the doses of others may need adjusting. If you are planning to come off more than one drug, you may also need to discuss which drug to come off first.

You might also find help is available from a local drug dependency team. Although you may not feel comfortable using a service primarily aimed at street drug users, the actual process of coming off is not very different.

My GP took the possibility of withdrawal symptoms very seriously. He gave me the confidence that I could manage the reduction myself and helped me with practical issues about how a very gradual reduction of medication can be administered.

Online support groups

You may find useful support and information online – particularly for withdrawal from SSRI antidepressants and benzodiazepines. There is less information on coming off antipsychotics or mood stabilisers.

Always remember that there is a lot of unreliable information on the internet. Try to use websites from well-known sources; don’t rely on opinions from personal posts. See How to stay safe online for more information. Some support websites are also listed under ‘Useful contacts’.

Whatever you do, whether you choose to stay on your meds or come off them, DON’T go through it alone. You might feel alone at times, but there is an intricate web of people who are so connected to you, you just have to reach out to them.


This information was published in July 2016. We will revise it in 2019.


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