Nobody likes the idea of committing to a medication for life. Whether you don’t feel like filling your prescription, run out of money to pay for your meds or just get sick of taking pills you will wonder at some point: Can I just stop taking my ___?
1. Can I stop taking my cholesterol medication? No, not unless you want your cholesterol to return to where it was pre-treatment. If you are on a statin drug for cholesterol (Zocor, Crestor or Lipitor) and you stop taking it your LDL cholesterol will return to where it was within weeks.
2. Can I stop taking my blood pressure medication? If you have lost weight or started an exercise program and notice your blood pressures are low on your medication then talk to your doctor about giving it a try. But if not, and your blood pressures are 120-140/80-90 on your medication and you stop it, your blood pressures will be high in 1-2 days.
3. Can I stop taking my thyroid medication? If you have an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) and your TSH blood test is normal on your Synthroid (levothyroxine) and you stop taking it, then you will likely be underactive again 3-4 weeks after stopping it.
4. Can I stop taking my birth control pills? If you don’t need them for contraception you can stop them. You can stop mid pack if you want and you will get breakthrough bleeding when you stop which should not alarm you.
5. Can I stop taking my antibiotics? Unless you have a rash or a side effect finish the course that was prescribed to you by your doctor even if you feel better. The problems with stopping prematurely include partially treated infections that will come back to get you sick and building antibiotic resistance.
6. Can I stop taking my antidepressant? Be careful here because if you do feel ready to wean off of them, you want to talk to your doctor about potential withdrawal symptoms. See my blog on this topic.
7. Can I stop taking my pain medication? If you are on anti-inflammatories (motrin, ibuprofen, and naproxen) yes you can stop them and see if you are okay without them. If you are on opiates (oxycodone, hydrocodone) and you’ve been on them long term and stop abruptly, you may have withdrawal symptoms, so talk to your doctor first.
8. Can I stop taking my heartburn & reflux (GERD) medications? If you are taking omeprazole, pantoprazole, or another med in that class (nexium, aciphex, dexilant) and you want to stop them, yes you can try and stop them. Some people experience some rebound heartburn symptoms right after stopping that will resolve in 2-3 days. There is no harm in stopping them, though pay attention to whether your symptoms return.
9. Can I stop taking my diabetes medication? This is a long process to discuss with your doctor so no, don’t stop without discussing it first. If your blood sugars have been too low or are always within goal range and your Hgb AIC is low (6.8 or less), you can talk to your doctor about decreasing your medications to see if you can get control with diet alone.
10. Can I stop taking my anxiety medication? If you are taking benzodiazepines for anxiety (Ativan, valium, Librium, Xanax) and have been taking them on a regular basis, you cannot abruptly stop them because of seizure risk. You can easily wean them down if you feel you don’t need them anymore, but do it with your doctor on board.