Is It Worth It To Stop Your Medicine? . . . Only Time Will Tell

I have finally reached a situationally stable period of time in my life, and asked my Dr about reducing my meds. I was taking so many – 300 mg Buproprion, 1500 mg Valproic Acid, 600 mg Carbamazepine, 1 mg Clonazepam, 600 mg Seroquel, and 200 mg Lamotrigine. Ee gad! I have been diagnosed Schizoaffective,or Bipolar with occasional psychotic episodes.
I have learned how to handle slips into psychoses, but when we tried to lower the Seroquel, got shaky.
Now weaning off Lamotrigine 50 mg down for a month, then 50 mg every 2 weeks.
My Psychaitrist is confused because I am both depressed (in the morning) and hypomanic starting in the afternoon.
I am willing to use whatever natural means I can to reduce so many meds. I get how to learn better mental hygiene and all those methods of balancing one’s life that we all know (but I’m not 100%). Will that approach work on hypomania, too? Some in my support circle are worried about it, but I think it’s ok to ride it out?? Is this dangerous? Will I adjust to the weaning off?Given the (somewhat) limited information you gave me, I DO have concerns about whether it is safe to “ride it out”.  Assuming that you have been diagnosed correctly, Schizoaffective Disorder or Bipolar Disorder with Psychotic Features tend to be life long issues to deal with.  Stress definitely makes a difference in how stable someone is with their symptoms, so all efforts to reduce stress should be made.  As you are lowering the Lamictal, you seem to be losing the mood stabilizing and mood enhancing benefits that it brings you . . . so you are going into hypomanic swings.  NOT a good sign.  Neither is the “ultradian” nature of the swings . . . down in the morning and up in the afternoon.

Can you ride it out?

Who knows . . . It is kind of like getting on a roller coaster and not knowing where it is taking you.  And your doc doesn’t know either.  At the same time, you might be able to get by with less medicine, but you gotta take it slow.  Going slow will help minimize the risk of withdrawal/discontinuation symptoms . . . but it doesn’t mean that you are going to be stable off the meds.  Here are some other thoughts about what can help . . .

1.  Make sure you have people around you that you trust and that can flag you if things start going poorly.  Write yourself a note that tells you to listen to a friend . . . and give it to that trusted friend.  When that friend starts to think you are going off the deep end, they have to tell you so and give you the note so YOU tell YOU so.  Hopefully you will believe yourself if not a close and trusted friend.

2.  Make sure you have a good line of communication with your psychiatrist.  You might even sign a release that allows a trusted family member or friend to communicate with the doc.  That way, even if you pull away from the doc, your friend will step in and communicate.

3.  Take care of yourself . . . eat enough . . . sleep enough . . . meditate and pray enough . . . go have some fun . . .

4.  Take your vitamins.  Specifically Fish Oil (you should be taking 1000 mg of DHA–read your fish oil labels!!!) and Vitamin D

–Dan Hartman, MD

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