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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.

Talk to someone

It can be hard to reach out, but it's important to share what you're going through. If you don’t feel you can talk to the people around you, you could try contacting a helpline. For example, you can talk to Samaritans for free on 116 123 or [email protected].

For more options see our page on helplines and listening services.

Keep a mood diary

Recording details of your medication and mood in a diary could help you remember helpful details. For example, when you started tapering your medication, what doses you've taken and when, and the effect of different doses on your mood. This may help you notice any patterns or early signs that things are becoming more difficult for you.

You could also try monitoring your mood using an online tool. Our useful contacts page has links to find mood diaries online. 

Make a self-care box

Many people find that when they are feeling unwell their thinking can get confused and they struggle to make decisions or come up with ideas for what can help them feel better. For this reason it can be really helpful to put together a box of things when you are feeling ok that might help you when you are in a difficult patch. For example, you could include:

  • favourite books, films or music
  • a stress ball or fiddle toy
  • helpful sayings or notes of encouragement
  • pictures or photos you find comforting
  • a soft blanket or cosy slippers
  • a nice-smelling candle or lavender bag
  • anything that is comforting to you or helps you to distract yourself.

Try other treatments

Other types of treatment could help you cope during withdrawal. For example, you may want to try talking therapy and counselling, arts or creative therapies, or complementary and alternative therapies.

See our page on alternatives to psychiatric medication for more information on these.

Be open to changing your plans

Coming off medication isn't something you can 'succeed' or 'fail' at, it's more about what is best for you at a particular moment in your life. For example, you might find you need to reduce more slowly, or stay at one dose for longer than you had planned. Try to remember that coming off medication can be a very slow process involving a number of steps and adjustments.

If withdrawing from medication isn't going as well as you'd hoped, this can feel really disappointing. But this doesn't mean you won't be able to come off in the future if this is still what you want.

It's also important to remember that you can change your mind about coming off. You don't have to keep withdrawing after you've started.

Look after your emotional wellbeing

  • Look after your stress levels. It can help to think of ways to manage pressure and build your emotional resilience. See our pages on how to manage stress for more information.
  • Try relaxation techniques. Learning to relax can help you look after your wellbeing when you are feeling stressed, anxious or busy. See our pages on relaxation for tips you could try.
  • Spend time in nature. Being outside in green space can help you feel more in touch with your surroundings. See our pages on nature and mental health for more information.

Look after your physical health

  • Prioritise sleep. Sleep can give you the energy to cope with difficult feelings and experiences so prioritising getting enough sleep can make a big difference to your health. See our pages on coping with sleep problems for more information.
  • Eat regular healthy meals. Eating regularly and choosing foods that release energy slowly keeps your blood sugar stable, which can make a big difference to your mood and energy levels. See our pages on food and mood for more information.
  • Do some physical activity. Exercise can be really helpful for your mental wellbeing. See our pages on physical activity for more information, including ideas to try if you have mobility problems.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol. It's especially important that you don't try to use recreational drugs or alcohol to replace your medication. While they may numb difficult feelings temporarily, they will make you feel a lot worse in the long term and prevent you being able to come off your medication safely. See our pages on recreational drugs and alcohol for more information.

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

References and bibliography available on request.

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