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Coming off psychiatric medication

Explains why you might decide to come off psychiatric medication, how to do this safely and where you can go for support. Also includes tips for friends and family wanting to support someone who is coming off medication.

This section is for friends and family of someone who is coming off, or thinking about coming off, a psychiatric medication.

You may feel nervous or worried if someone you care about is thinking of coming off their medication. It may feel difficult to know how to talk to them about it, or what support to offer. There are a few helpful things you can do though:

Try to understand

  • Ask them about their experience of taking medication. You could ask how it affects them and why they are thinking of coming off it. Listening to their experience might help you to understand how they feel.
  • Respect their wishes. It can be really difficult if you don't agree about what's best. If you don't agree it may be helpful to explain why, but it's important to respect their wishes and not try to take over or make decisions for them.

Ask how you and others can help

Ask what help they would find useful. This might include helping with everyday things like shopping or housework, taking them to appointments or reminding them to take a different dose of their medication.

You could also help them make a support plan, which would help you to know how you can support them if they become unwell again.

Help them get support

Supporting your friend or loved one to get the support they need can make a big difference.

  • Read our information on planning for withdrawal and support services.
  • Help them research different options for support, such as community services, local Minds or peer support groups. See our useful contacts for more information.
  • Offer to go to appointments with them or to help them find an advocate, if they would find this helpful.

See our page on helping someone else seek help for more suggestions.

Try to be patient

Coming off medication can be a slow process that often involves a number of stages and adjustments. Some people will need more time than others, and some medications take longer to taper safely.

While tapering is sometimes possible over a few weeks, it can take months or even years for some people to reach their medication goal, whether this be stopping completely or reducing to a particular dosage that feels better for them.

How long it takes will depend on the individual, their circumstances and the medication they are taking. It's important to be patient.

It could help if you:

  • Try to be supportive if the process is sometimes difficult. For example if they're struggling with withdrawal effects or are unsure whether what they're experiencing is withdrawal effects or the return of their original mental health problem.
  • Understand that it could take time. There might be a number of ups and downs before things get more stable.
  • Don't jump to conclusions. Try not to assume they need to stay on medication if they're finding tapering difficult.

I'm worried about their decision

It can be very worrying if you're supporting someone who wants to come off medication and you disagree with their decision. It might help to talk to them about your worries, and to explore support options for yourself. You can find some suggestions below.

Our page on helping someone else seek help has more information, including what you can do if someone doesn't want help.

Look after yourself

It can be really challenging to support someone, and it's common to feel overwhelmed at times. It's important to remember to look after your own mental health too, so you have the energy, time and distance you need to be able to help your friend or family member.

For example:

  • Set boundaries and don't take too much on. If you become unwell yourself you won't be able to offer as much support. It is also important to decide what your limits are and how much you are able to help them. See our pages on how to manage stress for more information.
  • Share your caring role with others if you can. It's often easier to support someone if you're not doing it alone.
  • Talk to others about how you’re feeling. You may want to be careful about how much information you share about the person you’re supporting, but talking about your own feelings with someone you trust can help you feel supported too.

See our pages on how to cope when supporting someone else for more suggestions on what you can do, and where you can go for support.

This information was published in April 2021. We will revise it in 2024.

References and bibliography available on request.

If you want to reproduce this content, see our permissions and licensing page.

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