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Originally published on 7th February 2017 Last updated on 22nd March 2022
It’s a question that’s been asked many times:
What happens if you stop taking your thyroid medication?
For one reason or another, you might be wondering if you can get by without it. Perhaps you don’t feel any better on it, perhaps you feel worse or that it gives you some side effects. It could be expensive for you to maintain or you might not be keen on taking any pills for whatever reason.
You may even be wondering how long can I go without thyroid medication?
I’m often asked:
- What happens if I don’t take my thyroid medicine?
- Can you stop taking thyroid medication once you start?
- I feel worse on my meds, so why should I take them?
However, it’s very important to be aware that failing to take your thyroid medication opens you up to many health risks. Having thyroid disease is serious and taking hormone replacement medication is important.
As Adequate Levels of Thyroid Hormone Are Needed for Every Function of the Body, Not Having Enough Would Open You up To:
- Abnormal blood pressure
- An increased risk of heart disease
- An increased risk of infection
- Weight gain that is almost impossible, if not completely impossible, to shift
- Depression and anxiety
- Hair loss (on the head and eyebrows) and an itchy and sore scalp
- Infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth
- Irregular periods or periods that are too heavy or too light
- Extreme fatigue and an inability to handle exercise
- Muscle weakness
- Joint and muscle aches and pains throughout the body, though most commonly in the legs
- Numbness in limbs
- A long recovery period after exercise
- Recurrent low vitamin levels such as B12, D, Folate, Iron and Ferritin that can cause a whole load of symptoms in their own right
- Feeling cold a lot of the time, including cold hands and feet
- Brain function issues such as brain fog, memory issues, degeneration and confusion
- High cholesterol
- Acid reflux
And the most serious of all, myxedema coma, which, although uncommon, can be fatal. This is a loss of brain function as a result of longstanding, severely low level of thyroid hormones. It is considered a life-threatening complication of hypothyroidism that develops over quite a long amount of time.
At the end of the day, whatever your reason is for not wanting to take your thyroid medication anymore, don’t just stop it.
1. Talk to your doctor about trying another thyroid medication if you feel no better on it, have side effects or your symptoms haven’t improved.
Read my related article: Why Do I Feel Worse on Thyroid Medication?
I do not endorse stopping thyroid medication without a doctor having another way to replace those thyroid hormones.
If you’re feeling worse on your meds, explore why. Maybe you need a higher dose (a lot of thyroid patients aren’t on the optimal dose of medication), a different type of medication altogether or there is something else impacting whether the medication is properly working – e.g. adrenal dysfunction, low iron levels etc.
Please take a look at my list of suggestions for other reasons why you may still be feeling unwell even when on thyroid medication.
Even if you feel worse since starting the medication, never just stop taking it. Explore why you still feel unwell.
2. Talk to your doctor or insurance provider if applicable, about payment plans…
or sorting out something more affordable, if affordability is the issue.
Some thyroid patients look in to self-sourcing their own thyroid medication, as this can be less expensive, but it is incredibly risky and not necessarily recommended. (Medications are always best prescribed and dosed by a medical professional.)
3. Try a different medical professional.
If you’re wanting to explore being able to live without thyroid medication and stabilising your condition through diet and lifestyle alone (which reportedly can be done in a very small amount of individuals but I must admit doesn’t seem overly common), consult someone like a functional doctor for example and be extremely cautious.
Most of us end up needing thyroid hormone replacement for life, even after putting Hashimoto’s into remission. But never stop taking your meds without a doctor’s support.
4. Or learn to look at your thyroid medication as an essential part of living for you.
Just like food and water, instead of looking at it negatively. Read this.
How Long Can You Go Without Thyroid Medication?
If you stop taking your medication, you can expect your thyroid symptoms such as fatigue, muscle pain, brain fog and hair loss for example, to return.
The longer you go without taking your medication, the lower your thyroid hormone levels will drop, thyroid symptoms are likely become more intense and the higher your risk for severe effects, such as myxedema coma as mentioned above, become.
The half-life of levothyroxine is 6-7 days, which means it takes about 4-5 weeks for your body to clear itself of levothyroxine completely. 
Therefore, you may feel fine for a month or two before you start to feel more unwell.
Have you ever wondered what would happen if you stopped your meds? Let me know below.
You can click on the hyperlinks in the above post to learn more and see references to information given.
Learn more about how to make the most of your health with hypothyroidism. The book Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate: When You’re Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired builds on this article in detail and explains how to thrive with thyroid disease.✨ Like this article? Follow Rachel on Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Pinterest for more great thyroid content. ✨
Rachel Hill is the highly ranked and multi-award winning thyroid patient advocate, writer, speaker and author behind The Invisible Hypothyroidism. Her thyroid advocacy work includes writing articles, authoring books, producing her Thyroid Family email newsletters and speaking on podcasts, as well as being a founding board member for the American College of Thyroidology. She is well-recognised as a crucial and influential contributor to the thyroid community and has a large social media presence. Her books include “Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate” and “You, Me and Hypothyroidism”.