Citalopram is an antidepressant that is believed to target serotonin, altering its distribution throughout the CNS. The drug is thought to cause available serotonin to be suspended or prevented from reabsorption along the nerve pathways. In this way, the neurotransmitter tends to accumulate rather than be 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. Some researchers believe that antidepressants are possibly little or no more effective than placebo and there has been some controversy over this point. (3)
Conversely, during citalopram tapering, a person may possibly experience the opposite effect, i.e. an interruption or decrease of available serotonin. Another factor to consider is that the body could possibly react to the presence of a serotonin pooling agent, such as citalopram, by reducing the number of active serotonin receptors. This is more or less a defense mechanism, as an attempt to bring the body’s neurochemistry into balance. Another important aspect of antidepressant drugs is that some researchers believe the serotonin that is pooling will eventually degrade, becoming non-active, ultimately resulting in a deficit of serotonin.
Another aspect of how antidepressants act on the central nervous system in general, is that in the presence of SSRI or serotonergic medications, that the receptors which transport serotonin tend to become inactive, sometimes referred to as downregulation. (4)
These effects are not instantaneous, but are thought to occur as a result of manipulating the workings of body chemistry 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 come about. These reactions, or side effects, such as worsened depression, various aches and pains, and many others can be uncomfortable enough that a person may decide that getting off citalopram may be necessary.
To add further complexity to the situation, when a person initiates withdrawal from citalopram, new side effects can emerge which can range from mild to intense.
Citalopram 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. While it can reduce discomfort to some degree for a short while, and in some cases a physician may think this would help a patient in crisis, it will not get to the root cause of the problem, and therefore is somewhat neglectful because it does not and cannot fully address or fix the root of the problem.
When withdrawal from citalopram occurs, these original symptoms may again present and sometimes with a vengeance, as the anesthetic effect is no longer there. The cumulative effects of these returning, sometimes intensified original symptoms, plus the drug’s side effects, combined with the symptoms that come about while trying to quit citalopram 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 from stopping citalopram has just spiraled beyond all expectation, and has become too great to withstand. However, this situation can be helped greatly by using proper citalopram tapering methods as we have found at the Alternative to Meds Center.
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 stopping citalopram slowly over a period of time is the safest approach. Someone wanting to learn more about how to get off citalopram or any similar drug can be carefully guided along this recommendation.
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 other factors that may have cumulatively lowered a person’s 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.
With 12-15% of the population taking antidepressants today, it stands to reason that there might be more than one reason for deciding to start taking 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. These include premenstrual dysphoria, OCD, bipolar, PTSD, panic disorder, social anxiety, and a host of others. The diagnostic criteria, however, for many such conditions has become quite general, where something as questionable as a doctor’s opinion after a 5-minute conversation with the patient precedes the prescription.
A more useful set of diagnostic tools could include testing for things like neurotoxic accumulations which could be responsible for a person’s insomnia, faulty digestion, and resultant fatigue. Testing for vitamin and mineral deficiencies could turn up 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, has resulted in chronic depression and stomach cramps. (2)
Most patients who come to our center have never been recommended to do such testing, and their physicians have apparently not been trained along these lines, and that is very unfortunate. The Alternative to Meds Center uses these and many other diagnostic tools to isolate possible 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 better sleep and appetite, more mental clarity, a calmer disposition, feeling brighter, and many other welcome changes.
The Alternative 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 which 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 removal of 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 maintain a healthy microbiome, and many other subjects that even physicians are coming to the center to learn more about. Learning about how to get off citalopram can literally change your or your loved one’s life.
Have you or a loved one been trying to quit citalopram or other prescription drugs, without success? We can help. Please contact us at the 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.
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.