Psychiatric Medications

When is it Okay to Stop Taking Psychiatric Medication?

Most psychiatrists know one of the toughest challenges they face in treating patients is getting them to keep taking their medication. A number of factors lead to a person no longer taking their prescribed psychiatric drugs, many of which incite frustration in the hearts and minds of the mental health professions tasked with helping make them better. However, sometimes the reasons for ceasing to take antidepressants, sedatives, and other psych meds are justifiable. In these cases, psychiatrists must be patient with the patient.

Examples of when it’s okay to stop taking psychiatric medication include:

Intolerable Adverse Effects

Medicine is mostly about preserving or restoring the quality of life. We want to make lives better by reducing and/or eliminating the biological causes of pain and stress. With this in mind, the introduction of psychiatric medication into a patient’s life is a balancing act wherein the benefits of the drug ought to outweigh adverse effects. Oftentimes, however, these adverse effects are deemed intolerable by both the patient and most reasonable physicians. These include sexual dysfunction, extreme weight loss or gain, reduced cognitive function, insomnia, and nausea. The adverse effects in these cases will oftentimes outweigh the benefits.

Substance Abuse Therapy

It’s not unusual for those suffering from a mental health disorder to be simultaneously battling an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol. This is referred to as co-occurring disorders but was formerly known as dual diagnosis. In cases where a patient has co-occurring disorders and wishes to seek treatment for the addiction, psychiatric medication consumption may need to be temporarily stopped due to the risk of dangerous interactions. For example, patients entering Experience Ibogaine detox therapy need to be off antidepressants before going forward with this treatment option. It’s important for psychiatrists and other mental health professionals to sit down with a patient en route to substance abuse rehab to see which medications need to be stopped for the time being.

Worsening Condition

An easy call for psychiatrists to make is telling a patient to stop taking medication when it’s apparent the condition is getting markedly worse. Unfortunately, in the world of mental health, the medications which can potentially lead to a turnaround are sometimes going to have the opposite effect. The only way to know which will happen is by prescribing and seeing. In the event a patient suffering from depression makes it clear they are feeling increasingly suicidal or one dealing with schizophrenia complains about increased voices and apparitions while taking medicine to combat these urges and stimuli, it’s imperative for the mental health professionals overseeing their treatment step in to stop the medication if the patient hasn’t done so themselves.


Another no-brainer for mental health professionals is advising patients to stop taking psychiatric medication in preparation for surgery. These drugs affect the nervous system, which can complicate the process of administering anaesthesia. While not an option in the event of an emergency, an upcoming operation is something a patient ought to know to bring up to his or her psychiatrist in order to stop taking medication in a well-planned manner. Unwelcome side effects of an on-again-off-again pattern of taking psychiatric medication are not uncommon, but they beat the complications which could occur when under the knife.


Lastly, pregnancy is a time for patients to stop taking antidepressants and other psychiatric medication. The physiological connection between the mother and fetus is too close for such powerful drugs to be taken without having an impact on fetal development. For instance, pregnant women are advised not to take alprazolam, especially during the first trimester, or otherwise, put their infant at risk of congenital malformations and/or withdrawal symptoms.

It’s not ordinarily advised for patients to stop taking psychiatric medication. However, certain circumstances justify this as a course of action. In the event it’s best to either temporarily or permanently stop taking psychiatric medication, mental health professionals must be there to offer advice and opinions to the patient. You can easily find an online psychiatrist at BetterHelp who can guide you without having to move out of your house.

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• Meet the Author • Dr. Lawrence Kindo

I am a Medical Professional with a passion for writing, blogging, playing, computers, and of course patient care. My writing in this medical blog will reflect my passion, and you are welcome to be a part of this venture. This medical blog is a tribute to all the great medical pioneers, and to the ultimate source of wisdom, God.

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