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Using antidepressants safely and properly is important. It prevents unnecessary (extra) side effects and prevents unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when quitting.

Guidelines for properly using antidepressants

Antidepressants, just like antipsychotics, are best taken in the following ways:

  • Always take your medication at the same time of day. If your antidepressants make you sleepy, it is best to take them in the evening.
  • Everyone can forget to take their medication sometimes, but try to keep this to a minimum. If you miss a dose, you can still take it up to eight hours before your next dose.
  • Stick to the prescribed dosage. Always consult your therapist first before changing your dosage.
  • Request a repeat prescription with your doctor in time, so you do not run out of medicine.
  • Be careful with drugs and alcohol in combination with antidepressants. It is particularly dangerous to use stimulants such as MDMA (ecstasy, molly or “E”), cocaine and amphetamines (“speed”).
  • NEVER stop taking your medication all of a sudden. Suddenly stopping or reducing your intake too quickly, can cause unnecessary side effects and make your depressive problems worse. Your body needs time to properly adjust to the reduction of your medicine.

Do antidepressants affect other medicines?

Using antidepressants can affect other medicines, and vice versa. Therefore it is very important to tell your doctor / therapist about all the other medication you are taking. This includes homeopathic / alternative medicine and supplements.

The following medicines are known to be a bad combination with antidepressants:

  • Ibuprofen;
  • Illegal drugs, especially stimulants (‘uppers’) such as amphetamines (“speed”), cocaine and MDMA (ecstasy, molly or “E”);
  • St John’s wort;
  • Certain antipsychotics;
  • 5-HTTP: an over-the-counter dietary supplement

Always tell your doctor or pharmacist that you are using antidepressants whenever you get new medicines or other treatment.

Can you drive when using antidepressants?

Some antidepressants can affect your ability to drive. They can make you feel sleepy or dizzy, which can slow down your reaction time. These side effects are most common when you have just started using antidepressants or right after increasing your dosage. Especially then you should be careful about driving. Never get behind the wheel when you are feeling drowsy, sleepy or dizzy. Talk to your doctor if these side effects persist.

Extra information:

More information on specific antidepressants can be found at (in English and Spanish).

Prof. dr. Jim van OsChair Division Neuroscience, Utrecht University Medical Centre. Jim is also Visiting Professor of Psychiatric Epidemiology at the Institute of Psychiatry in London. Jim works at the interface of ‘hard’ brain science, health services research, art and subjective experiences of people with ‘lived experience’ in mental healthcare. 

Jim has been appearing on the Thomson-Reuter Web of Science list of ‘most influential scientific minds of our time’ since 2014. In 2014 he published his book ‘Beyond DSM-5‘, and in 2016 the book ‘Good Mental Health Care’. 

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