Dr. Ankur Saraiya talks about how long you should take depression medication.
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I want to start off by clarifying that it is difficult to talk about any category of medication as a whole because within every category there is gonna be individual medication that have certain variations but in general what we are talking about medications for depression, we are talking about anti-depressant medications that are used primarily to treat depression and anxiety. So, the key thing to understand in terms of is how long you have to take the medication is first, these medications unfortunately can take from six to eight and as long a twelve weeks to fully kick in and if you don't understand from the beginning that it can take that long, it can be very frustrating and unfortunately many patients will stop the medications, right about the time that they are just about to start working because they didn't understand that they need to give the medications a full length of time before they start working. Admittedly, we don't fully understand why the medications take so long to work but we do know that studies have shown again and again that even people who don't have benefits from the medications after taking them for six weeks or eight weeks, can get benefit just a few weeks later, if they stick with it. So, the first thing to understand is that, you should stay on to your anti-depressant medication for at least three months before you decide that it's not working. The other side of the picture is, once the medication has worked and you are feeling better, how long you have to stand the medication? There is no simple answer for this question either. What I tell my patients is, as a rule of thumb, be well for six months before you start thinking about coming off the medications and the reason for that is, depression takes its toll on the brain and in my view, you do need to allow time for the brain to heal, so that you don't get depressed, as soon as you come off the medication and different factors will influence, what time makes sense and this can be best done by having a good working relationship with your psychiatrist, but as I said as a rule of thumb, start the clock from when you start feeling well and then after six months you can start a discussion about when it makes sense to do a trial off with medications. Now, if you have been through a few trials off with medications, and you have got depressed each time in general, once that's happened twice, it's usually advisable to then decide to stay on the medications. So, certainly there are people, who get depressed, get on treatment, get better and then come off the medications and are fine. There are some people who get depressed again but can go through that cycle again but once that happens three times, it's advisable to stay on the medication, but again that's an individual decision that each person should make with their doctor.