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Antidepressant Withdrawal

Antidepressant Withdrawal

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Last Updated on February 17, 2021 by Lyle Murphy

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Alternative to Meds Editorial Team
Written by Lyle Murphy Published Feb 7, 2021
Medically Reviewed by Dr Samuel Lee MD

Antidepressant withdrawal treatments are most often given without any substantial medical or lifestyle workup being performed or foresight to the realities of antidepressant withdrawal.

Depression can be an expression of impaired hormonal states,10 vitamin D deficiency,8,9 dietary factors,11 low thyroid,12 failed life aspirations, and other things that may not require psychiatric medicating to attend to.

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Alternative to Meds has been primarily invested in antidepressant withdrawal for over 15 years. Using Holistic and Environmental Medicine, we have published evidence demonstrating that over 77% of people discontinuing antidepressant medication and replacing them with a holistic lifestyle perform symptomatically better long-term than they were while medicated.
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Treating Root Causes — An Investigative Approach to Depression Treatment

Antidepressant withdrawal can be problematic. People are often put on an antidepressant before any substantial investigative medical effort is made as to why they are depressed or unable to sleep.17 In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health as of 2013 is pulling research funding away from using the DSM diagnostic categories because “the manual doesn’t provide any data or evidence about the cause of mental illnesses, including depression.”13 Very few psychiatrists do any medical lab testing at all.14

Are depressed people really low on serotonin, and even if so, is that the only reason why? What about medical reasons like low thyroid? What about the accumulation of environmental neurotoxins such as heavy metals that destroy energy metabolism? 15

Other issues can also aggravate antidepressant withdrawal. Often overlooked, food allergies can lead to internal inflammation and swelling, This may slow metabolism, resulting in a host of possible negative outcomes, including lack of energy. Slow metabolism means a sluggish energy level. A 2019 study in the Journal of Affective Disorders studying over 11,000 Japanese participants found that food allergies a risk factor for depression and severe psychological distress.16

An individual may have a diet that is so poor in nutrients that they cannot create what is needed for brain health. 18 A diet that is poor in nutrients does not include the essential raw ingredients needed for optimal brain health. We often forget that our brain is subject to the same repercussions from a poor diet that the rest of our body would suffer from. Then again, perhaps a person may just be immersed in an unfulfilling life and needs a supportive environment to make healthy changes.

Many people start taking medications after an emotionally traumatic experience and then several years later they are still taking the medication. By conservative figures, 20% of antidepressant users experience antidepressant discontinuation syndrome struggling with antidepressant withdrawal symptoms if they attempt to stop taking their medication.19 Many antidepressant users are bothered by side effects and may attempt to discontinue their medication without professional help.1

However, getting off antidepressants at home unsupported is rarely ever a pleasant experience. We have tools including natural neurotransmitter support to make the process much easier to endure. In contrast with our approaches to mental health treatment for depression, the majority of facilities will actually increase antidepressants, along with minimal counseling, and provide inadequate nutritional support, and even counterproductive diet choices.

Are Your Symptoms Related to Toxic Impairment?

Additionally, accumulations of environmental toxins over time may take an enormous toll on both physical and mental well being.5,6,7 This toxic burden places a strain on the body’s ability to metabolize and produce energy.15 This underlying factor can complicate antidepressant withdrawal. Heavy metals are linked to a number of commonly reported symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Accumulated heavy metals can be removed from the body gently and effectively using the protocols in our program. Take a look at the below list of common adverse reactions to mercury and other toxins, commonly present in our food.

Top 6 Reactions to toxins (like mercury, aluminum) in food, often resulting in a prescription for antidepressants:

  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Numbness
  • Tremors
  • The risk of Alzheimer’s increased by 71% after exposure to aluminum.*

* “Aluminum and amyloid-beta are intimately woven in the neuropathology,” according to the lead investigator of a recent study on Alzheimer’s and aluminum, Christopher Exley, Ph.D., out of Keele University in Staffordshire, UK.

Why does a person experience antidepressant withdrawal symptoms?

withdrawal symptomsEven if the person was not serotonin deficient in the first place, rat and humanized mice studies have shown that SSRIs can potentially create a serotonin deficiency.20,21 The SSRIs and SNRIs do not create serotonin, they block the reuptake.22 This is so the nerve cell can use it again. It is a conservative process. When serotonin is forced to stay out in the nerve space (synapse), it may cause the brain to slow down natural production. This may contribute to the symptoms seen during antidepressant withdrawal. So of course when you take away the drug, there may be a serotonin plunge even if serotonin deficiency was not the original cause of the depression.23

It is similar to how cocaine only combats depression for a short time. Cocaine spends all the dopamine, it does not create it.24 Dopamine is the reward neurochemical and when a person first takes cocaine, everything is rewarding. At some point, however, all of the dopamine is exhausted and nothing holds value or reward for the person. Serotonin is an inhibitory agent as it inhibits stimulus from our environment. It also reduces compulsive behavior and thinking 25 and creates the sleep neurohormone melatonin.26 When a person is in antidepressant withdrawal they are likely to suffer over-stimulation, anxiety, sleeplessness, brain zaps, OCD, and even Tourette-like symptoms.27,28 This may be because of an antidepressant-induced brain production serotonin deficiency.20

The lab testing we do helps us understand the underlying causes of depression or other symptoms. With these tools, we can provide a customized diet and nutrition as well as offer individual and group counseling. Medical professionals design and oversee personalized treatment protocols for each resident based on their unique biochemistry, medical assessment, and lab test results.

How can antidepressant withdrawal syndrome be overcome?

Never abruptly stop taking antidepressant medications as it can be injurious to do so. There are many ways to aid the gradual and gentle process of reduction or tapering medication, to avert these harsh reactions.

To combat symptoms during antidepressant withdrawal and discontinuation, targeted nutrients that will actually synthesize serotonin and other neurochemicals. We also seek to help remove those poisons that would debilitate the neurochemistry from achieving balance, like pesticides,29, and chelation of heavy metals.30 We call this poison removal process neurotoxin removal.

This, combined with figuring out why the person was originally depressed can create lasting success and allows a person to be happy and medication free. We also offer many complimentary and holistic healing services that help to make this process as comfortable as possible. Our medical professionals oversee the personalized treatment plan of each client in a luxury residence facility.

Integrated Holistic Care to get off Antidepressants

Alternative to Meds Center determines the medical reasons why a person might be depressed, anxious, or unable to sleep. Our program uses lab testing, stabilizes the neurochemistry through the use of natural substances like orthomolecular medicine, employs detoxification for accumulated environmental neurotoxins, provides personalized antidepressant withdrawal help, amino acid and other targeted nutritional therapies, peer support, yoga, massage therapies, personal exercise training, counseling, life coaching, and holistic therapies to combat depression, anxiety, and insomnia.2

holistic withdrawal treatmentsAlternative to Meds Center does much more than alleviate antidepressant withdrawal. We search for and correct the underlying causes of depression.

Antidepressant withdrawal responds extremely well to our methods, and can usually be accomplished within our 8-week program. If the medication is still somewhat effective for the individual and it is the antidepressant withdrawal process that is problematic, targeted nutritional treatment could have a significantly positive effect in many situations. If the individual is no longer responding well to the medication, it is probable that neurochemical bankruptcy and toxic impairment is occurring, which is repairable in most cases.

The methods we employ allow individuals to get off antidepressants, expedite the process of antidepressant withdrawal, and alleviate the majority of withdrawal effects. With corrective techniques targeted at the cause of depression, antidepressant discontinuation and sustained stability are not just a possibility, this outcome is a reality. Many staff members at Alternative to Meds Center have had similar experiences, where, with proper treatments, they have been able to overcome and reach a place of genuine understanding. If you or someone you care about is not receiving adequate relief from antidepressants, call Alternative to Meds Center and get the guidance you have been waiting to hear regarding antidepressant withdrawal.

Do Antidepressant Drugs Raise Serotonin?

antidepressant withdrawalAntidepressants are thought to “work” by affecting the chemicals in the brain, specifically the serotonin levels.31 These drugs are promoted as agents that can increase serotonin levels in the brain and thereby raise a depressed mood. This implies that a depressed person was deficient in serotonin.

It is important to understand that even if a person was not deficient in serotonin in the first place, SSRI medication may create a deficiency in serotonin as demonstrated in rat and mice studies.20,21 This feature is likely what makes antidepressant withdrawal produce discontinuation symptoms. Serotonin is a chemical that dampens or inhibits stimulus that comes in from our environment, producing a sensation of relaxation and calmness.32 Neurotransmitters, like hormones, affect behavior, and our response to the environment.3

Antidepressants, whether SSRIs, SNRIs, or other medications, do not produce additional serotonin. These drugs act by blocking available serotonin from being reabsorbed (as is meant to happen). These serotonin molecules stay trapped in the nerve synapse, which can then lead to a lessening of brain production.21 This serotonin plunge may be a large part of the symptomatology of antidepressant withdrawal.

This temporary entrapment or accumulation can create an augmentation in mood, similar to the way cocaine uses dopamine to produce a temporary high. But the body’s neuro adaptive process often adjusts to the presence of the antidepressant over time, which can down-regulate the initial effects.33

It is important to note, in the presence of analogs (fake chemicals) the body slows the production of its own natural chemicals, alters the receptors, or both.34 Drugs affect the CNS In other compensatory ways as well. Antidepressants interfere with the intricate networks along which neurotransmitters are transmitted, increasing or decreasing the sensitivity of the receptor cells.4

Antidepressants and Overprescription

talk therapy for depressionIt is not uncommon for a person to suffer some trauma, loss, or other situational distress for which antidepressants are prescribed. Yet, several years later it may well be that the person is still taking the antidepressants, unable to stop taking them without severe antidepressant withdrawal effects. Perhaps the person may be experiencing an unfulfilling life, needing a more supportive environment so that healthy changes can be considered, planned, and put into actuality. These areas can be addressed effectively in various forms of therapy we provide.

When a person is struggling in the midst of such a number of negative factors, the side effects of the antidepressant drugs themselves can add another significant burden. But attempting to quit taking antidepressants without taking into account the wider range of causal factors can often lead to failure, as the antidepressant withdrawal process is simply too uncomfortable to endure. This is why trying to quit taking antidepressants without help often proves too much of a challenge, and can end in hopelessness and failure.

Residential Antidepressant Withdrawal Treatment

teamwork to get off drugsAlternative to Meds Center provides a relaxing, luxury-styled, retreat-like facility for those who wish to accomplish the task of getting off antidepressant medications and addressing antidepressant withdrawal symptoms in a much more comfortable and humane setting. In this nurturing, caring setting, investigative work can begin that can isolate the factors that need to be brought in balance to attain better overall health. Offering a customized diet, nutritional support, neurotoxin removal, individual counseling, personalized care management, and peer support make powerful tools for recovery.

The lab testing that is done helps to understand the potential underlying causes of depression and other negative symptoms that one wishes to be rid of. Using the lab results, medical professionals can design a personalized treatment plan that is based on the person’s unique medical assessment and biochemistry.

Using the protocols described above, we can help individuals to expedite the withdrawal from antidepressants without suffering the majority of the usual adverse effects associated with medication withdrawal.

Meet the Team

Antidepressant Withdrawal at Alternative to Meds Center

Sedona drug rehabCorrective techniques as described are focused on eliminating the causal factors of depression so that coming off antidepressants can be accomplished much more comfortably and usually within our 8-week-long programs.

Many of the staff members at the center have had their own personal experiences with antidepressant withdrawal, and with proper treatment, they have successfully overcome these challenges and have reached better health as a result. Our medical team and staff are well-trained in their various disciplines of therapy and can provide meaningful and thoughtful assistance to individuals who are seeking freedom from medication, as well as freedom from depression and other unwanted symptoms, without drugs.

Our goal is to help the individual create lasting and sustainable success, in a state of being medication free. Our numerous holistic healing services help make this process a reality. Contact us for more information and find out if Alternative to Meds Center has the antidepressant withdrawal program you or a loved one could benefit from today.


1. Rankin L MD “11 Natural Treatments for Depression: An MD’s Tips for Skipping the Prozac,” published in Psychology Today [2010 Mar] [cited 2020 Apr 5]

2. Weir, K, “The Exercise Effect.” American Psychological Association Vol 42, No. 11 [cited 2020 Apr 5]

3. BRAINMDLIFE, “Brain Neurotransmitters Can Affect Your Mood and Your Life.” [Internet] 2017 Jan 31 [cited 2020 Oct 3]

4. National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Drugs, Brains and Behavior, The Science of Addiction: Drugs and the Brain.” [Internet] N.D. [cited 2020 Sep 21]

5. Brogaard B, “What Causes Brain Zaps?” Psychology Today [Internet] 2017 Oct 2 [cited 2020 Sep 21]

6. Alban D, “5 Neurotoxins Found in Popular Foods.” Be Brain Fit [Internet] N.D. [cited 2020 Sep 21]

7. Hong Y, Kim Y, Lee K, “Methylmercury Exposure and Health Effects.” J Prev Med Public Health, 2012 Nov; 45(6): 353–363. Published online 2012 Nov 29. [cited 2020 Sep 21]

8. Penckofer S, Kouba J, Byrn M, Estwing Ferrans C. Vitamin D and depression: where is all the sunshine?. Issues Ment Health Nurs. 2010;31(6):385-393. doi:10.3109/01612840903437657. [cited 2021 Feb 9]

9. Anglin, R., Samaan, Z., Walter, S., & McDonald, S. (2013). Vitamin D deficiency and depression in adults: Systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Psychiatry, 202(2), 100-107. doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.111.106666. [cited 2021 Feb 9]

10. Claudio N Soares†, Shauna Dae Phillips Hormones in the Treatment of Depression Women’s Health, Volume: 2 issue: 3, page(s): 435-445 Issue published: May 1, 2006. [cited 2021 Feb 9]

11. Understanding nutrition, depression and mental illnesses Indian J Psychiatry. 2008 Apr-Jun; 50(2): 77–82. T. S. Sathyanarayana Rao, M. R. Asha, B. N. Ramesh, and K. S. Jagannatha Rao. [cited 2021 Feb 9]

12. Hage MP, Azar ST. The Link between Thyroid Function and Depression. J Thyroid Res. 2012;2012:590648. doi:10.1155/2012/590648. [cited 2021 Feb 9]

13. American Psychological Association NIMH funding to shift away from DSM categories July/August 2013, Vol 44, No. 7 Print version: page 10. [cited 2021 Feb 9]

14. Optimal Living Dynamics 13 Important Blood Tests to Get Done If You Have Depression January 19, 2021 Jordan Fallis. [cited 2021 Feb 9]

15. Jan AT, Azam M, Siddiqui K, Ali A, Choi I, Haq QM. Heavy Metals and Human Health: Mechanistic Insight into Toxicity and Counter Defense System of Antioxidants. Int J Mol Sci. 2015;16(12):29592-29630. Published 2015 Dec 10. doi:10.3390/ijms161226183. [cited 2021 Feb 9]

16. Hidese S, Nogawa S, Saito K, Kunugi H. Food allergy is associated with depression and psychological distress: A web-based study in 11,876 Japanese. J Affect Disord. 2019 Feb 15;245:213-218. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2018.10.119. Epub 2018 Oct 26. PMID: 30408639. [cited 2021 Feb 9]

17. Why Are There No Biological Tests in Psychiatry? Scientific American By Ingrid Wickelgren on May 11, 2012 [cited 2021 Feb 9]

18. Update and Critique of Natural Remedies as Antidepressant Treatments Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2010 Dec 1. Published in final edited form as: Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am. 2009 Dec; 36(4): 789–807. David Mischoulon, MD, PhD [cited 2021 Feb 9]

19. Gabriel M, Sharma V. Antidepressant discontinuation syndrome. CMAJ. 2017;189(21):E747. doi:10.1503/cmaj.160991. [cited 2021 Feb 9]

20. Siesser WB, Sachs BD, Ramsey AJ, et al. Chronic SSRI treatment exacerbates serotonin deficiency in humanized Tph2 mutant mice. ACS Chem Neurosci. 2013;4(1):84-88. doi:10.1021/cn300127h. [cited 2021 Feb 9]

21. Robert Whitaker Psychology Today New Rat Study: SSRIs Markedly Deplete Brain Serotonin Study helps explain SSRI “discontinuation syndrome” Posted Nov 01, 2010. [cited 2021 Feb 9]

22. What has serotonin to do with depression? World Psychiatry. 2015 Jun; 14(2): 158–160. Published online 2015 Jun 4. Philip J Cowen and Michael Browning [cited 2021 Feb 9]

23. Glover ME, Clinton SM. Of rodents and humans: A comparative review of the neurobehavioral effects of early life SSRI exposure in preclinical and clinical research. Int J Dev Neurosci. 2016;51:50-72. doi:10.1016/j.ijdevneu.2016.04.008. [cited 2021 Feb 9]

24. NIDA. 2020, June 11. How does cocaine produce its effects? Retrieved from DrugAbuse.gov 2021, February 8. [cited 2021 Feb 9]

25. Lissemore, J.I., Sookman, D., Gravel, P. et al. Brain serotonin synthesis capacity in obsessive-compulsive disorder: effects of cognitive behavioral therapy and sertraline. Transl Psychiatry 8, 82 (2018). [cited 2021 Feb 9]

26. VIVO Pathophysiology The Pineal Gland and Melatonin Updated November 2018. [cited 2021 Feb 9]

27. US Pharmacist Website Antidepressant Withdrawal Can Cause Serious Symptoms in Long-Term Users Published Mar 4, 2020. [cited 2021 Feb 9]

28. Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, M.D. Antidepressant withdrawal: Is there such a thing? Mayo Clinic. [cited 2021 Feb 9]

29. Kori RK, Singh MK, Jain AK, Yadav RS. Neurochemical and Behavioral Dysfunctions in Pesticide Exposed Farm Workers: A Clinical Outcome. Indian J Clin Biochem. 2018;33(4):372-381. doi:10.1007/s12291-018-0791-5. [cited 2021 Feb 9]

30. Environmental Exposures and Depression: Biological Mechanisms and Epidemiological Evidence Annual Review of Public Health Vol. 40:239-259 (Volume publication date April 2019) First published as a Review in Advance on January 11, 2019 [cited 2021 Feb 9]

31. NHS UK Overview Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) Page last reviewed: 2 October 2018. [cited 2021 Feb 9]

32. Irina Bancos, M.D. What is Serotonin? Hormone Health Network LAST UPDATED: December 2018. [cited 2021 Feb 9]

33. FLAVIO GUZMAN M.D. The Mechanism of Action of SSRIs The Psychopharmacology Institute UPDATED ON APRIL 6, 2020. [cited 2021 Feb 9]

34. NIDA. Impacts of Drugs on Neurotransmission. National Institute on Drug Abuse website. March 9, 2017 Accessed February 9, 2021.



This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. Samuel Lee

Dr. Samuel Lee is a board-certified psychiatrist, specializing in a spiritually-based mental health discipline and integrative approaches. He graduated with an MD at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and did a residency in psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He has also been an inpatient adult psychiatrist at Kaweah Delta Mental Health Hospital and the primary attending geriatric psychiatrist at the Auerbach Inpatient Psychiatric Jewish Home Hospital. In addition, he served as the general adult outpatient psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente.  He is board-certified in psychiatry and neurology and has a B.A. Magna Cum Laude in Religion from Pacific Union College. His specialty is in natural healing techniques that promote the body’s innate ability to heal itself.

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