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Citalopram Tapering

This entry was posted in Antidepressant on by .
Medically Reviewed

Last Updated on July 20, 2021 by Carol Gillette

Alternative to Meds Editorial Team
Medically Reviewed by Dr Samuel Lee MD

Professional Citalopram tapering is an expertise that, unfortunately, is uncommon for medical professionals and most treatment facilities.

Are you destined to remain dependent on SSRIs like Citalopram (also known as Celexa)? We at Alternative to Meds Center believe the answer is an emphatic “NO!” We have the expertise and the experience to help you. We have been in your shoes.

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citalopram tapering success
Alternative to Meds has been a leading authority on holistic Citalopram tapering for more than 15 years. Using holistic and environmental medicine, we have published evidence demonstrating that over 77% of people we helped get off SSRIs, replacing medication with a holistic lifestyle, suffer fewer side effects and enjoy better mental health than while medicated. It is not only about reducing symptoms, but it is about feeling better and enjoying natural mental health. Many of our staff at the center have, themselves, endured and overcome these struggles in order to become the dedicated caregivers that we are.
Watch this video of a woman who came to us hopeless. Like many of you, she felt she had tried everything and failed. Her naturopathic doctor referred her to us to get off of the meds that were not working. Not only did she get off of the antidepressants and benzos, but she regained her ability to walk, resolved her anxiety and depression, and even regained her lost professional career.

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Citalopram Tapering Treatment in A Context of Overall Health

neurochemistry and SSRIsCitalopram tapering can be made much more tolerable, and more easily navigated, if the methods used during weaning from Citalopram are based on an adequate understanding of the way the drug interacts with the central nervous system. It is of great benefit to better one’s understanding of, and not overlook the micro-changes that proper Citalopram cessation requires. For this and many other reasons, education is an important component of the antidepressant tapering programs offered at Alternative to Meds Center.

Citalopram is an SSRI antidepressant that is believed to target serotonin, altering the way it is distributed in the body along the central nervous system pathways. The drug is not like a vitamin, it does not create more healthy hormones or naturally occurring neurochemicals. Be aware that the advertising materials that saturate the market would tend to suggest this. Do not believe that antidepressants are like vitamins or “a health tonic.” The drug is thought to hold serotonin molecules suspended instead of reabsorbed along the nerve pathways. In this way, the natural neurotransmitter accumulates rather than gets recycled as would normally happen if the drug was not present. This is thought to be the reason, at least in part, why a person taking Citalopram will experience a temporary lift in mood, by artificially elevating serotonin levels. The effect is temporary due to something called “downregulation” which is discussed further below.

What is Citalopram Prescribed For?

With 12-15% of the population taking antidepressants today, it stands to reason that there might be more than one reason for prescribing prescription drugs. Citalopram was first marketed for the treatment of depression. But over the years, a much longer list of off-label uses has been assigned to drugs like Citalopram.

Citalopram is prescribed to treat:

  • Premenstrual dysphoria
  • OCD
  • Bipolar*
  • PTSD
  • Panic Disorder
  • Social Anxiety Disorder

*The diagnostic criteria, however, for bipolar and many such conditions has become quite general. Often a prescription is written after a brief conversation in a doctor’s office. Overprescribing, especially in the elderly, has been studied extensively.5

SSRIs and Serotonin Syndrome

There can be a reaction to too much serotonin building up which is called “serotonin syndrome.” Anyone taking SSRI medication should be aware to watch for the signs and if suspected, immediate medical intervention is needed as the condition can become life-threatening. Typically the treatment would include immediate cessation of whatever drug is causing the SS to occur, but done in a hospital setting where life-saving protocols are close at hand.

Signs of serotonin syndrome* include:

  • weaning off CitalopramMuscle rigidity
  • Mental confusion
  • Dilated pupils
  • Agitation, restlessness
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Heavy sweating
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Twitching
  • Fever and/or chills

*SS is potentially life-threatening according to the National Institute of Health.7

Downregulation and Tapering SSRIs

Another factor to consider in tapering citalopram is that the body tends to react defensively against the presence of a serotonin pooling agent, such as Citalopram, and begin reducing the number of active serotonin receptors. This is called “downregulation.” This defense mechanism is an innate attempt to bring the body’s neurochemistry into balance. In general, the presence of SSRI or serotonergic medications results in the receptors which transport serotonin becoming inactive or impaired in their function.4

The serotonin molecules that remain unused will eventually degrade and become lost. This can lead to a deficiency of available serotonin, and possibly other types of hormones and natural neurochemicals. Despite the enthusiasm of drugmakers, some researchers believe that antidepressants are possibly little or no more effective than placebo, while some believe they are destructive to the neurochemistry over time. There has been some controversy over these points, but it still serves to do one’s own research to a better understanding of the mechanics.3

Long-Term Effects of SSRI Medications

Some side effects are felt right away, such as an elevated mood. However, others are not instantaneous but occur over time. The body will eventually adapt to the presence of Citalopram, and during the course of taking an antidepressant, various reactions to the drug may result. It adds further complexity to the situation when a person suffers a set of new or worsening side effects after long-term use of SSRIs.

Reactions or side effects could include worsened depression, various aches and pains, suicidal thoughts, and many others. These can be uncomfortable enough that a person may decide that getting off Citalopram is necessary. Because of downregulation and other factors, a person may experience a decrease in available serotonin.1 There are effective strategies using orthomolecular nutrition and other protocols to mitigate the situation, to soften and even out the long-term effects of SSRIs such as mood swings, disrupted sleep, or other reactions. These strategies assist the Citalopram tapering process greatly.

Handling Root Causes for Symptoms

identify root cause for symptomsCitalopram tends to have a numbing or dampening effect on a person’s original symptoms. This dampening effect might be compared to giving an aspirin to a person who has a broken leg. It can reduce discomfort to some degree for a short while. A physician may genuinely think this would help a patient in crisis. However, doing so will not get to the root cause of the problem, a broken leg, and therefore is somewhat neglectful because aspirin will not fix the root of the problem.

Like peeling off a band-aid, when tapering off Citalopram these original symptoms may again present and sometimes with a vengeance, as the anesthetic effect is no longer there. This may result in returning and sometimes intensified original symptoms. Additionally, the drug itself causes side effects. Then, combining both sets of symptoms can result in a level of discomfort that just cannot be endured. Sometimes a person will give up the idea of getting off Citalopram altogether because the level of discomfort has just spiraled beyond all expectations, and has become too great to withstand. However, this situation can be helped greatly by using proper Citalopram tapering, weaning, and titration methods as we use at Alternative to Meds Center.

Making Weaning Off Citalopram More Comfortable

As with any antidepressant medication, simply stopping Citalopram abruptly can overwhelm the delicate interactions between the CNS, brain, digestion, and potentially all systems in the body. That is why the FDA advises that weaning Citalopram slowly over a period of time is the safest approach.6

A person who has suffered from health/mental health concerns over time may have become subject to poor nutrition, lack of exercise, withdrawal from social contacts, and these factors may have cumulatively lowered a person’s overall vitality. This is not an uncommon situation and can be greatly helped within a nurturing inpatient setting where our client is surrounded by supportive, helpful, and socially mindful staff and residents, who are sensitive to the goals a person may have regarding improving overall health. There is great joy in recovery and which can be enhanced in a warm and welcoming social setting that an inpatient facility can provide.

Diagnostic Tools Used in Tapering Citalopram

citalopram holistic taperingA highly useful set of diagnostic tools applicable to tapering SSRIs includes testing for neurotoxic accumulations. Heavy metals and other toxins could be contributing to, if not directly causing, a person’s insomnia, faulty digestion, or resultant fatigue. Testing for vitamin and mineral deficiencies could reveal that too much zinc was causing chronic headaches. Or perhaps a simple blood test might reveal too little calcium in the blood, which is called hypocalcemia, which has resulted in chronic depression and stomach cramps.2

Most patients who come to our center have never been recommended to get such testing, or if they have, incomplete follow up may have left symptoms unresolved. Alternative to Meds Center uses these and many other diagnostic tools to isolate root causes for conditions that were troubling a person before they ever began on medication. Clients respond positively to correcting these deficiencies or removing these toxic accumulations, typically reporting great relief because of better sleep and improved appetite, more mental clarity, a calmer disposition, feeling brighter, and many other welcome changes.

Comprehensive Plan for Stopping Citalopram at Alternative to Meds Center

citalopram holistic treatment alternativesAlternative to Meds Center uses a multi-faceted program to help our clients toward their health goals. Using testing and other diagnostic tools, root causes for certain conditions can be isolated and then corrected while safely and comfortably reducing or eliminating prescription drugs over time. Also of high importance is providing a nutrient-rich diet that is clean of toxins and additives to support rebuilding healthy neurochemistry, and also support all the systems of the body as they begin to transform back to natural function. And the removal of the neurotoxic burden through cleansing techniques is another vital segment that will open the door to natural mental health, increased vitality and energy, and a reduction or elimination of the symptoms that led to one or more prescriptions in the first place.

Education is offered as an integral part of the program. Various subject modules are designed to give our clients a highly practical understanding of how the CNS functions, including healthy neurotransmitter function, how to create and maintain a healthy microbiome, and many other subjects that even physicians are coming to the center to learn more about. Learning about properly weaning off Citalopram can literally change your life.

For More Information on Citalopram Tapering

Have you or a loved one been considering weaning off Citalopram or other prescription drugs, without success? We can help. Please contact us at Alternative to Meds Center to find out more about our comprehensive Citalopram tapering methods so that you or your loved one can consider the potential benefits available to you in much greater detail.

1. Harvard Women’s Health Watch/Publishing, How to taper off your antidepressant. 2010 Nov, updated 2020 Jan 29, [cited 2020 Apr 5]

2. Merck Manual, Consumers Version, “Hypocalcemia (Low Level of Calcium in the Blood)” [cited 2020 Apr 5]

3.  Antidepressants and the Placebo Effect, author Irving Kirsch, published by The US National Library of Medicine in 2014, [cited 2020 Apr 5]

4. Guzman, F “Mechanism of Action of SSRIs” US National Institute of Health [INTERNET] Psychopharmacology Institute [cited 2020 Apr 5]

5. Bobo W, Grosshart B, et al., “Frequency and predictors of the potential overprescribing of antidepressants in elderly residents in a geographically defined U.S. population.” Pharmacology Research & Perspectives PMCID: PMC6344796 [Internet] 2019 Jan 23 [cited 2020 Sep 15]

6. FDA label Celexa [cited 2020 Sep 15]

7. Volpi-Abadie J MD, Kaye AM PharmD FASCP FCPhA, and Kaye AD, MD PhD “Serotonin Syndrome” The Ochsner Journal, National Institutes of Health, 2013 Winter [cited 2020 Sep 15]

Originally Published Nov 1, 2019 by Diane Ridaeus

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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Citalopram Tapering
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Nothing on this Website is intended to be taken as medical advice. The information provided on the website is intended to encourage, not replace, direct patient-health professional relationships. Always consult with your doctor before altering your medications. Adding nutritional supplements may alter the effect of medication. Any medication changes should be done only after proper evaluation and under medical supervision.

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