People coming off prescribed psychotropic medication need the support of their family and friends. The initial concern you may have will probably be to make sure your family member or friend coming off these medications is getting the support they need. You may not see yourself as someone with your own needs. But supporting someone coming off these types of medication can be demanding, stressful, upsetting and frustrating. You will need to help them get through the withdrawal and recovery period. There may be some difficult times during this process. It can be an emotional time. Information about types of medication and withdrawal from medication is available for you on this website.
This information will help you gain a better understanding of what you and your family member or friend may be facing. You can contact us via our telephone helpline.
With our telephone helpline you will receive support from one of our counsellors who all have a vast amount of experience in this field. We can help with issues that arise, ways of coping, providing reassurance and help you to understand the types of medication, their effects and the withdrawal process. All communication with us is strictly confidential.
Deciding to come off benzodiazepines, Z drugs and/or antidepressants is the first step for the person taking these medications. The more information you have on withdrawal, the better equipped you will be to understand and support this person. Withdrawal from these medications can be bizarre and is not linear (i.e. it is not like a broken arm, where you gradually get better with no setbacks) there will be times when your family member or friend is feeling better then a new withdrawal symptom can present out of the blue which can be incapacitating, this may then lift for a while for there yet to be another setback. This can be very difficult to understand even to the person experiencing withdrawal and you may find it difficult to relate to the experience. Withdrawal from these types of medication is understated and many people find it difficult to accept that taking a legally prescribed drug could result in such adverse reactions.
The most important thing to remember whilst supporting this person is to look after yourself and remind yourself and your family member or friend that although withdrawal lasts a long time and the symptoms seem persistent, withdrawal will not last forever.
What you can do to support your family member or friend
The more knowledgeable you are about benzodiazepines, Z drugs and/or antidepressants and withdrawal, the better prepared you will be to cope with it. Try not to be judgmental regarding the symptoms and experience they are going through. Many doctors are not fully aware of the repercussions of coming off these types of medications.
Get in touch with your Doctor if there are severe withdrawal symptoms which cause concern regarding the safety for the person you are caring for (e.g. suicidal ideation)
Get in touch with your Doctor if there are any new or unexplained withdrawal symptoms to rule out any possible underlying conditions
Give practical support e.g. helping around the home, doing the shopping, looking after the children. The person you are caring for may be quite lethargic and may not have as much energy as they did
Make time to talk, communication is important. At other times space may be needed, or a reassuring hand (non-verbal communication is just as important).
Maintain a healthy diet and exercise. Carry on with your hobbies, make sure you have time to rest and relax. It may be that you need additional help at times from another family member or friend so that you can take regular breaks
Make sure you have an emotional outlet, another family member or friend you can talk to about your feelings
Most importantly, keep encouraging and reassuring the person you are caring for.
Advise speeding up or slowing down the reduction programme
Suggest reinstating the medication after the person is off their medication
Make suggestions that they see a psychiatrist if they don’t have a history of mental illness
Take things personally - the person you are caring for may at times become agitated, angry or overly-sensitive. Mood swings, fear, paranoia and other psychological symptoms are common in withdrawal
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