Anxiety Depression Treatment

How long will I need to stay on the medication?


There are many treatment guidelines that pronounce strict rules, including views that individuals should remain on medication for life if they have experienced either one severe depressive episode or a number of episodes. Such rules are too prescriptive and restrictive for many of those affected. However, there is an argument for extended medication treatment if a single episode of depression

. was extremely severe;

. put the patient at considerable risk and compromised their functioning for an extended period; or

. was extremely difficult to treat.

In contrast, however, a patient may have had numerous depressive episodes precipitated by social factors. At some stage in the recovery process, these social factors become irrelevant. In such cases, it is difficult to argue that antidepressant medication should be taken for an extended period.

Decisions on how long a patient should receive medication should therefore be made on a case-by-case basis. The prescribing clinician will need to decide what medication will be needed to ensure 'recovery' from a particular episode, as well as whether there is a need for 'continuation' and 'maintenance' medication to prevent subsequent episodes. Large samples of data are available to help the clinician on such issues, but the very fact that the samples are based on grouped data means that they should be used just as a guide. Once a patient has recovered, the decision whether or not to alter the dose or stop the drug will depend on the individual case.

Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes only. The information provided should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease. If you have, or suspect you have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.