Weaning Off Medications

Q: Currently I am taking 2 presciptions for high blood pressure, 3 over-the-counter medicines for allergies, an anti-anxiety medication, and a pill for cholesterol. I would really like to not take anything at all! What is the best way to get off all these medicines?

A: I commend you to wanting to get healthy enough to not have a need for your medications!  That’s my favorite part about my job.  Well, these conditions definitely did not happen overnight and so treating them is also going to be a gradual process that will take some time.

In Chinese medicine, we say it takes 1 month to treat a problem you have had for 1 year.

Also, some problems can be treated at the same time and are inter-related as far as Oriental medicine theory is concerned — such as anxiety and high cholesterol which are both related to your Gall Bladder. Other problems will require slightly different herbs or treatment strategies.

Some other things to consider:  What is the biggest priority?  What is bothering you the most right now?  Usually that is a good place to start.  

In general, the easiest medicines to get off of are the allergies medicines and the cholesterol medicine.  

My personal opinion on cholesterol medication is somewhat controversial, and please don’t take my opinion as medical advice * but simply as opinion.  (*this is just me saving my butt, legally)

Allergy medication is a different animal:  the way that antihistimines and decongestants work in your body are that they will trap the “evil qi” further into your respiratory system and make the actual problem, over time, more persistant and difficult to treat.  The sooner you can take some herbal medicines and incorporate some other healthy changes to treat your allergies,  the sooner you can wean off of the allergy medicines.  Only your prescibing physician can for sure tell you how safe you are to totally go off of a medication, but in most cases, from my understanding (as someone who is not licensed to prescibe pharmaceuticals*), allergy medications — aside from some asthma medications or an epipen for severe, life-threatening allergies — are safe to take on an as-needed basis.  

*Again, (I can’t emphasize this enough) always consult your physician before deciding to stop a pharmaceutical medication.  

Weaning off of anti-anxiety or anti-depression medications takes a little more time.  Once you are on a program that may include herbal medicines, acupuncture, vitamins, nutrition changes, or counseling, and you start feeling more balanced and calmer, you can – at that time – talk to your prescribing doctor about the right protocol to follow to wean off of the prescription medications.  I have never seen a case where a doctor will just take you right off of a medication like Xanax or Zoloft.  Sometimes there is a healing reaction — or detox reaction — that takes place in your Liver at that time.  The herbal medicines can really help to quell those reactions (which usually feel like your problem is getting worse) and help you reach a natural state of calm as you detox from the medication’s effect on your body’s systems.

Treating elevated blood pressure with herbal medicine, exercise, and a healthy diet is totally do-able.  On average, I see about a 10 point drop in blood pressure every 2 – 4 weeks on the herbs.  Usually when someone is on hypertension medication, their blood pressure can still be irregular or high.  Once it has evened out with the medication, that is a good time to talk to the prescribing physician about the best protocol to follow to wean off of the pills.  If your doctor is hesitant about letting you do this, either find a new doctor, or offer to come in once a month to have him or her check your progress.  

It is possible – nah, preferable – to be totally presciption-drug free!  Just keep in mind that if your body has a symptom you have to do something.  For many people the quick and easy fix is a prescription.  Actually fixing what is causing the problem in the first place takes time, persistance, and patience.  

An analogy I like to use is this:  you see a dark spot on your ceiling.  Situation #1:  You decide to paint over it.  It comes back.  You paint over it again.  It seems to just show up when it is raining, but other than that, it’s “no big deal.”  What is happening in the meantime?  Your roof is not working right and water is getting in.  It is likely causing water damage and probably toxic mold to build up in your crawl-space.  The longer you let it sit, the more expensive it will be to clean it up and get it properly fixed.  Maybe the roof will collapse at some point!  Maybe after a big rain, you will have water damage on your floor or furniture.  Situation #2:  You call someone to come and look at the roof and fix it right away.  The water damage is not too extensive and the roof tiles can be easily replaced.  Fixed and done in a day.  Situation #3:  You regularly check your roof to prevent this from ever happening!  

Which sounds better?  

Tell me this:  have you ever tried to fix something – maybe in your house – “on the cheap” before?  How did your project turn out?  Did you have to later hire an expert to come in and fix the problem?  How much extra did that cost you than if you would have fixed it right from the start?    

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1 Comment

  1. I chose to get off my anti-anxiety medication last summer. I spoke with my physcian first as Nicole said. At one point after stopping I thought I was having a nervous breakdown. Kim happened to call to confirm my appointment for the next day and she could hear I didn’t sound good. I went in and Nicole said I was detoxing from the meds. I had no idea that would happen but since then I have not regretted getting off Lexapro. I thought I was a lifer on that but following Nicole’s recommendations and taking herbs, etc., I have now been off the meds for almost a year.

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