From Mad in America: New research conducted by Jim van Os and Peter Groot of UMC Utrich Brain Center finds that a method called hyperbolic tapering can help decrease withdrawal effects when people stop using their antidepressants. Withdrawal symptoms are physical or mental effects that a person can have if they stop taking a substance.
For example, people can have withdrawal if they stop taking cocaine or heroin, but they can also have withdrawal if they stop taking medicines such as antidepressants and benzodiazepines (Alprazolam). These effects can be mild like anxiety or severe such as excessive pain, brain zaps, dizziness, or even death.
Withdrawal symptoms can be severe in up to half of those who try to stop taking antidepressants. Many people choose to stop because either they are not helped by the medicine or they experience severe side-effects such as sexual dysfunction. Tapering means the medicine is reduced bit by bit instead of being stopped suddenly. Hyperbolic tapering means decreasing the dosage of the antidepressant very slowly, with smaller daily steps rather than large decreases every week.
The researchers found that slowing down the tapering process and making smaller dose reductions allowed the body more time to adjust to the lower doses. This helps in preventing withdrawal. They also wrote that the tapering process depends from person to person and the patient should be carefully monitored. The way a person experiences withdrawal can depend on a number of complex factors.
Earlier patients were misinformed that antidepressants could be easily stopped in a couple of weeks without any severe negative effects.
Even at very low doses, antidepressants can still have a significant effect on the brain’s serotonin receptors. Serotonin is the brain chemical (neurotransmitter) antidepressants often target and change. So, as the dosage approaches zero, smaller incremental changes are needed to give the brain time to adapt to the decreasing medicine levels.
One way to do this is to use taping strips which can give precise antidepressant doses that a person needs as he is decreasing his dose. Previous studies showed that tapering strips helped many users successfully stop taking antidepressants.
In their latest study, van Os and Groot found that most participants who used tapering strips reported decreased withdrawal symptoms. This means that hyperbolic tapering was generally successful in minimizing withdrawal effects.
In summary, hyperbolic tapering, which involves gradually reducing antidepressant dosage in small daily steps, might be a good way to decrease withdrawal effects. This could make the process of discontinuing antidepressants smoother and more manageable.
This article originally appeared in Mad in America and can be read here.
This is an AI generated version shortened and edited for a South Asian audience.