Below I’m sharing an article written by Rhi Griffith for the withdrawal board, Surviving Antidepressants. Rhi has spent many years assisting on withdrawal boards while doing her own withdrawal. She has been supporting others and learning as much as possible to help make the journey of withdrawal as safe as possible for both herself and others. This piece is republished here with her permission.
by Rhi Griffith
As you can imagine, I’ve conversed with tons of people who were wondering how to taper. Usually they come to me asking for a really specific taper schedule–cut this much, hold this many days or weeks, cut this much, hold this many et cetera.
And generally when we start tapering, we all start with the expectation that we can hold our taper and our bodies to a calendar schedule.
Unfortunately, bodies were invented long before calendars, and healing doesn’t follow a numerical schedule. (Just try telling a broken bone that it has to heal exactly 10% every two weeks.)
And what I see is that the people who do best with their tapers are the ones who listen to and follow their bodies’ internal wisdom, rather than some external notion of a “correct taper” or some schedule given to them by someone outside.
Another thing I see that’s practically universal is that people want to start with bigger cuts and shorter holds. We all want off these meds as fast as possible. Unfortunately, if you start out too aggressively, what usually happens is people crash and burn, suffer a lot, end up having to reinstate and then wait a long time to stabilize before they can begin to taper again. And it actually ends up taking longer.
So these days I end up giving this same advice over and over. And I decided to just copy it and paste it and put it here so I can just refer people to it rather than retyping it every time.
Rhi’s General Taper How-To Advice:
Start small and conservative. Start with a small cut and a long hold. Don’t try to follow a calendar schedule; follow your body’s schedule instead, by observing your own symptoms.
Keep a daily journal of symptoms (ranking them on a numerical scale of 1 to 5 or something like that). Don’t trust yourself to remember the way your symptoms wax and wane–the drugs and the withdrawal actually interfere with our ability to reliably perceive patterns. (Trust me on this. It’s pretty much universal. Your mind will lie to you.)
Write it down each day and you’ll see the patterns emerge.
Do a few small cuts and long holds this way until you have a feel for how your body is going to respond to cuts and how the withdrawal symptoms are going to unfold and play out and resolve for you.
There are often delayed effects from a cut that don’t show up right away, and if you taper too fast, those “lag time” symptoms can add up and hit hard, and it’s too late to slow down because you already made the cuts. So take it slow with long holds, and allow the full pattern to play out, so that you become familiar with it.
Collect data this way for two or three months. Once you have a track record, you can then decide if you want to try larger cuts and/or shorter holds.
Experiment conservatively until you find your optimal rate of taper.
This way you will become the expert on your own withdrawal process and you’ll be able to tailor it to your own needs and your own life changes.
Speaking from experience–both my own and that of many other people–not only will you actually be able to get off your meds just as fast this way as you would if you tried a fast, aggressive taper (because you’ll be less likely to crash, get all messed up, and have to reinstate or hold for way long, or maybe end up on even more meds you had to add, et cetera)–you will also save yourself and your loved ones a lot of suffering.
More articles by Rhi on Beyond Meds:
- The Slowness of Slow Tapers
- Trellis: this is your brain on (psych) drugs
- GABA/glutamate system and how it might work with benzodiazepines and Lamictal
More posts on psychiatric drug withdrawal:
Please do not attempt to discontinue psych drugs without first very carefully educating yourself on the risks involved so that you might minimize the chances of developing grave iatrogenic illness if you decide to withdraw: Psychiatric drug withdrawal and protracted withdrawal syndrome round-up