Life After Antipsychotic Discontinuation

I am looking for information about how long it takes for symptoms to return after stopping antipsychotics.

By stopping I don’t mean quickly or cold turkey. I mean, after a gradual taper directed by a doctor.

I have been off all meds for six weeks. My doctor asked me why I think that I have not had an increase in symptoms. Meaning, while on meds I still had paranoid delusions. Off meds, those delusions have not gotten worse or better. On meds, I only sometimes hallucinated. Off meds, I have had very few hallucinations.

I was under the assumption that if you slowly taper off meds, you don’t necessarily relapse immediately. Even my doctor indicated this to me two months ago.

So, how long does it take before symptoms return?

He said that if in 3 weeks I am still stable, there will be a big review of my case and diagnosis. I am worried that he will say I don’t have schizophrenia. How would that explain 5 years of being heavily medicated? Or, over 30 psych hospital admissions for psychotic episodes? Or how I still believe that people want to kill me? Or how at home I believe that snipers are aiming in my Windows so I keep all the shades closed. Or how I can’t go out into public without my service dog because he helps me to feel less paranoid. If I don’t have schizophrenia, what has been going on the past five years?

I did suffer some terrible withdrawal symptoms that my doctor is still trying to treat. Currently, I sleep about 2-3 hours a night. He gave me Ambien and it did nothing. He gave me Klonapin…again nothing. Tonight he gave me Klonapin and Ambien…so far nothing. He is starting to see that I don’t react to meds like most people.

However, one study I read stated that sometimes the withdrawal symptoms are so troublesome and persistent that going back on antipsychotics is the only option. I am worried that will happen to me.

So, can anyone give me some insight? How long after going off meds the correct way does it take for symptoms to return? How long before relapse?

Sounds like you need a second opinion. Can you see a new doctor?

No I cannot. I live at the National Institute of Health Clinical Research Center in Bethesda, Maryland. I just finished a protocol that required me to be on a placebo for 5 weeks. My doctor then gave me the option of staying off meds until I need them again. It appears he thought that would happen quickly and it isn’t.

My doctor is in charge of all the patients with schizophrenia who are adults. There are 6 of us on the unit. This doctor is an expert in schizophrenia…It is all he focuses on and he only works with schizophrenic patients. Within the hospital, there are no other doctors I could see. I cannot see doctors outside of the hospital because I cannot leave the hospital.

How people react to different med’s can be individual. Personally, typical anti-psychotics stay in my system a lot longer than atypical. When I got off prolixin decoate it took several months before I started getting symptoms again. On geodon it doesn’t take as long. Of course, any decoate is going to stay in your system longer because it is a time released med.

It is different for everybody. With me, I was on meds for four years following my initial diagnosis in 2003, then I went into remission and came off meds in 2007. For five years I did ok off meds, but then I had a relapse in 2012 and had to go back on meds. I’ve been on meds since, can’t manage well without them.

I’ve been working on tapering and if the meds in my system get too low… my symptoms come back in about three days.

But it sounds like your keeping in touch with the doc and doing this with some help.
Good luck and I hope things work out for you.