Taperingstrips solve an important practical problem patients and doctors face when attempting to taper: the lack of lower (in certain cases very low) dosages.
To taper antidepressants or other psychiatric drugs successfully, it is important to be able to taper the dose gradually and ‘hyperbolically’. This means that the dose is reduced in small steps, becoming smaller and smaller as the daily dose gets lower and lower - similar to going down a slide. Gradual dose reduction gives the body time to adapt. This is extremely important to prevent withdrawal symptoms, especially if you have used these drugs for a long time.
Whether you will be experiencing withdrawal symptoms, how strong they will be and how long they will last, can differ strongly. It depends on the person doing the taper, on the drug being tapered, how fast it is tapered, how long the drug has been taken and at which dose. It also depends on other drugs you may be using. There are so many factors that it is impossible to predict how gradual a given patient should taper.
Taper as slowly as you need to
Taperingstrips are made according to a personalized tapering schedule that can easily be adapted at any time. This is done based on proper (self)monitoring and shared decision making.
Once you and your doctor have decided what is most likely the best tempo for you, given your personal situation, you can get started. The flexibility offered by the use of tapering strips reduces the danger of serious withdrawal symptoms to a minimum.
Stabilizing: taking a tapering break
If you feel the taper is going too fast, you can take a tapering break: you stay on the same dose for 28 days, while your body adjusts and adapts to the new situation. This is called ‘stabilizing’. When you feel better, you can continue your taper.
For a tapering break, you can either order a ‘stabilisation strip’, or create the right dose yourself, using the extra tablets in varying dosages that you are provided with when you order your first tapering strip. For the next strip, your doctor can prescribe a slower tempo of tapering.
If you don’t feel well during your taper, it is important to contact your prescriber to determine if the dose should be adjusted or if stabilization is needed. The faster you act, the easier it will be to relieve your symptoms and prevent further worsening of the withdrawal symptoms. Trying to make it through your taper by gritting your teeth and relying on willpower will only make withdrawal symptoms worse.
Taperingstrips, stabilisation strips
A taperingstrip or stabilization strip contains medication in a plastic strip with medication for 28 days. Each strip consists of 28 sachets with one daily dose each. Each daily dose consists of one or multiple tablets with very precisely defined doses. For tapering strips, compounded lower doses are especially made to measure by the pharmacy.
Each new taperingstrip is ordered separately, every month
This because you may want the new strip to taper more slowly than the previous one. This ensures that you always get the taper that suits you best.
Three large observational studies have been conducted examining the efficacy of taperingstrips in daily clinical practice.
More than 2000 patients, using mostly antidepressants, participated in these studies. About 60% had taken the medication for a long time and had tried to come off it once or several times in the past. They were very unhappy with these previous attempts, having suffered severe withdrawal symptoms that caused them to give up the taper.
When these patients tapered again, this time using tapering strips, they suffered much less withdrawal symptoms and generally felt much better. About 70% was now able to complete the taper. When these patients were asked 1-5 years later how they were doing, 70% of them indicated that they were still off medication.
These studies show that many people (actually the majority) who have been taking antidepressants over a long time, having tried to stop taking them once or several times before, may still be able to stop if they taper very gradually and slowly.
Getting a prescription
To order taperingstrips, you need a prescription from a licensed physician. In the UK (this is certain) and Denmark (almost certainly) a doctor can prescribe whatever he wants. If necessary, remind your doctor of this. Check to find out what is the law in the country where you live. Tapering strips can be ordered from and shipped to all over the world, with the exception of opioids, because law prohibits it.
Whether the cost will be reimbursed is another matter. Taperingstrips are not yet automatically part of the insurance package.
Taperingstrips can be used for tapering psychotropic drugs as well as opioids. Opioids can only be dispensed to people living in the Netherlands.
For more about certification, production and how to order, go to www.taperingstrip.com
Groot, P. C., & van Os, J. (2021). Successful use of tapering strips for hyperbolic reduction of antidepressant dose - a cohort study. Ther. Adv. Psychopharmacol., 27 August. https://doi.org/10.1177/20451253211039327
Groot, P. C., & van Os, J. (2020). Outcome of Antidepressant Drug Discontinuation with Taperingstrips after 1-5 Years. Ther. Adv. Psychopharmacol., 10, 2045125320954609. https://doi.org/10.1177/2045125320954609
Groot, P. C., & van Os, J. (2018). Antidepressant tapering strips to help people come off medication more safely. Psychosis, 10(2), 142-145. https://doi.org/10.1080/17522439.2018.1469163
Review describing the development of tapering medication
Groot, P. C., & van Os, J. (2020). How user knowledge of
psychotropic drug withdrawal resulted in the development of
person-specific tapering medication. Ther Adv Psychopharmacol, 10.
Prof. Jim van Os talks about the latest research on tapering strips.
Dr. Peter Groot talks about how tapering strips work.