Staying on Psychiatric Drugs and Harm Reduction
You may decide that, given the degree of crisis you are facing and the obstacles to workable alternatives, you want to continue psychiatric medication. Don’t feel judged for making the best decision you can. You have the right to do what works best for you, and other people don’t know what it’s like to live your life. It may still be a good idea to take a harm reduction approach. Make changes to improve the quality of your life and to minimize the risks associated with the medications you are taking:
- Don’t leave it all to the drug. Take an active interest in your overall health, alternative treatments, and wellness tools. Finding new sources of self-care can ease adverse effects, and may eventually reduce your need for medication.
- Get regular healthcare, and stay in communication about your medications. Get support from trusted friends and family.
- Make sure you have the prescriptions and refills you need, because missing doses can add stress to your body and brain. If you do miss a dose, don’t double up.
- Watch out for drug interactions. Learn the risks of combining with other medications, and beware mixing with recreational drugs or alcohol. Grapefruit, St. Johns Wort, some herbs and other supplements can have adverse reactions. Research your medications.
- Don’t rely just on your doctor for guidance. Learn for yourself, and connect with others who have taken the same medications as you.
- Discover what you can from a variety of sources about your medications. Use nutrition, herbs and supplements to reduce adverse effects.
- Consider exploring lowering drug dosage, even if you don’t intend to go off completely. Remember that even small dosage reduction can cause withdrawal effects.
- If you are starting a medication for the first time, some people report that an extremely small dose, much lower than recommended, can sometimes be effective, with fewer risks.
- Try to reduce the number of different drugs you take to just the essentials, understanding which ones carry the greatest risks. Stick to temporary use if you can.
- Test regularly to monitor drug reactions, and have baselines done for new medication. Tests may include: thyroid, electrolytes, glucose, lithium level, bone density, blood pressure, liver, ECG, kidney, cognition, prolactin, and screening for other adverse effects. Use the best, most sensitive tests available to reveal problems early.
- Anti-psychotics remain in the body, and some research suggests “drug holidays” of a day or two off can ease toxicity.
Remember that everyone is different.
- Explore the emotional relationship with your medications. Draw a picture, create a role play, give the medications a voice and message and have a dialogue.
Do you know the energy or state the drug gives you?
Can you find other ways to achieve this energy state?
Source: Harm Reduction Guide to Coming Off Psychiatric Drugs (Second Edition)
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