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Why Is It So Difficult to Get Off Prescription Meds on Your Own?

Last Updated on March 4, 2024 by Carol Gillette

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

After decades of being told that our foods and household products are safe, people are beginning to wise up to the fact that a more natural and chemical-free way of life can go a long way towards improving overall health and mental clarity.

As individuals begin to switch to natural cleaning products, toxin-free hygiene products, and organic food, a wide-scale push to find alternatives to prescription meds has commenced worldwide.

The good news is there are healthy alternatives to medications out there for those who are ready to make a change.

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At Alternative to Meds Center, our focus is assisting people resolve mental health issues and drug dependency with natural solutions. Independently published evidence of our clients’ success is a bright light for those who are still suffering. Several pillars of treatment are used at the center to address many factors that can be improved by blending counseling and natural, orthomolecular, and other evidence-based treatments. Understanding brain chemistry is one of many areas that has benefited greatly from much recent research, and so we know more about how drugs, toxins, and nutritive factors can affect the entirety of the human body. This is the holistic approach to mental wellness.
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Why People Decide to Quit Taking Medications

get off psych meds sedona drug rehabWhen someone wishes to stop taking their medication it should be an empowering moment. Maybe after years of taking antidepressants, the person is feeling like the depression is over, and the medication is no longer needed. Or an individual who suffers from back pain may want to try a chiropractor, rather than their prescribed Hydrocodone. It could be that someone with heartburn has decided to eat a raw vegan diet and doesn’t feel the need to take the medications. All three of these examples are common, and valid reasons, for a person to inquire into an alternative to their daily dose of medication. However, upon trying to quit taking the medications, many people discover new symptoms or flare-ups of old symptoms begin to come about, and make them question if coming off the medication is the right idea.

On the Alternative to Meds Center hotline, families from across the globe remain in contact, seeking hope in their struggle with prescription medication dependency. In any given month, millions of people are searching the Internet looking for ways to beat their medication dependence, eliminate their withdrawal symptoms, or find out why they feel sick after stopping a prescribed medication cold turkey. Questions like, “Do I need this antidepressant forever?” or, “Will I survive this opioid withdrawal?” begin to creep in and make the person’s constitution waver. Emotions such as fear and anxiety may begin. All of this just because they felt they were ready to discontinue prescribed medications.

When this begins, it is hard to know where to turn, or why this is happening.

But helpful answers can be found in brain chemistry research and neuroscience …

How Taking Medications Affects Our Brain Chemistry

There are many types of prescription medication. Each one will affect a different area of the brain, and have its own unique symptoms and side effects. Many of these effects will lead the user to feel as though they need the medication, or they have developed addiction. These feelings reflect reactions or changes in the brain. In fact, the drug methamphetamine and prescription medication Adderall, have similar effects on the brain. And, one study explains, Oreo cookies may create similar reactions in the brain as cocaine. To truly understand how a person’s brain chemistry is impacted by ingesting these substances, proper testing and individual assessments must be done.

Below you will find a list of the five medications that are hardest to get off of. Please use this information as a reference only. For anyone needing advice on symptoms or side effects of medication, please call our hotline immediately.

Five medications that are hardest to get off of and how they affect the brain:

1. Opioids

Opioids are a drug class that includes pain medications, as well as the illegal drugs heroin and opium. According to research “Opioids target the brain’s reward system by flooding the circuit with dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter present in regions of the brain that regulate movement, emotion, cognition, motivation, and feelings of pleasure. The overstimulation of this system, which rewards our natural behaviors, produces the euphoric effects sought by people who misuse drugs and teaches them to repeat the behavior. Our brains are wired to ensure that we will repeat life-sustaining activities by associating those activities with pleasure or reward. Whenever this reward circuit is activated, the brain notes that something important is happening that needs to be remembered and teaches us to do it again and again, without thinking about it. Because drugs of abuse stimulate the same circuit, we learn to abuse drugs in the same way.” For someone wishing to quit opioids, the desire to quit may be overcome by their obsessive desire for the drug, leading to a high relapse rate.

2. Benzodiazepines

Benzo’s have been prescribed for decades as a treatment for anxiety, as well as panic attacks, insomnia, and seizures. Benzo withdrawal is known to be very complicated and requires supervision throughout the taper process. According to Wikipedia “Benzodiazepines enhance the effect of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) at the GABA A receptor, resulting in sedative, hypnotic (sleep-inducing), anxiolytic (anti-anxiety), anticonvulsant, and muscle relaxant properties. High doses of many shorter-acting benzodiazepines may also cause anterograde amnesia and dissociation. These properties make benzodiazepines useful in treating anxiety, insomnia, agitation, seizures, muscle spasms, alcohol withdrawal, and as a premedication for medical or dental procedures.” Naturally, when a person decides to discontinue benzodiazepines, brain chemistry needs extra support. At Alternative to Meds Center, the use of nutritional supplements plays a major role in alleviating benzo withdrawal symptoms.

3. Antidepressants

There are approximately 300 million people battling depression. For many, a trip to the local doctor will result in treatment using antidepressants. For many, one instance of depression can lead to a lifetime of antidepressant use. WebMD explains, “Antidepressants work by balancing chemicals in your brain called neurotransmitters that affect mood and emotions. These depression medicines can help improve your mood, help you sleep better, and increase your appetite and concentration.” However, when a person decides to get off the medication a whole host of symptoms are known to cause difficulty in the recovery process. The wisest choice for someone wishing to come off antidepressants after 20 years, is to consult with a licensed inpatient medication titration center.

4. Stimulants

Over 6 million children are diagnosed with ADHD. Stimulants such as the amphetamine Adderall are given to adults and children across the globe to aid in the symptoms associated with ADHD. While medications like Adderall do have positive effects many users enjoy, According to Medical Daily, “Adderall is an amphetamine with a chemical makeup similar to methamphetamine and MDMA (ecstasy). It’s typically used to treat patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), where it taps into the parts of their brains that control hyperactivity and impulses. It also improves attention and focus. Essentially, it brings the brain down from a state of overstimulation to one of baseline stimulation, which is where most of us are.” Our philosophy at Alternative to Meds Center is that our body and brain function at much more optimal levels without the use of stimulant medications or drugs. Our clients have succeeded in overcoming addiction to stimulant medication.

5. Antipsychotics

Antipsychotics are typically given for serious mental health conditions like schizophrenia or mania. Anyone considering coming off of antipsychotics must retain the help of a licensed professional. According to medical literature, antipsychotics alter the way neurotransmitters (dopamine, noradrenaline, and serotonin) work in the brain. Dopamine, in particular, is thought to be the primary neurotransmitter affected by taking antipsychotics and it is thought that is why an overactive dopamine system is a source of hallucinations and delusions that are experienced during a psychotic episode. The difficulty in coming off of antipsychotic medication is that they are typically given to prevent serious symptoms such as psychosis, or delusions, so prior to discontinuing the med, making a treatment plan to cover any underlying issues is wise.

Kicking Prescription Dependence For Good

Regardless of the medication a person is on, deciding to live a holistic and healthy lifestyle is imperative once one begins to reduce or eliminate their prescription meds. Discovering triggers, learning about one’s own unique brain chemistry, and developing a plan to keep the brain chemistry in balance is the best way to be prepared to get off meds for good.

Originally Published Dec 18, 2018 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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Medical Disclaimer:
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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