A very gifted and compassionate friend recently said that she feels enslaved to Abilify – that she has tried to taper off it several times but always ends up slipping into an extreme state, no matter how slowly she tapers. She said this repeated experience makes her feel like a slave, because she has to go back on the drug to stop the very intense extreme state induced whenever she tries to stop taking it.
There was heartbreaking anguish in her voice as she described feeling so trapped. I have another friend who for years felt painfully anguished until he found his way free of heroin. He stopped using, went through withdrawal and was finally free. But these legal drugs like Abilfy can punish some people who try to leave them.
The price for withdrawing can be psychosis. Not because there is an underlying disease that re-emerges when the drug is withdrawn in my opinion, but because the dopamine blocking antipsychotic drug sets up the brain to create a psychosis if it is stopped. Dr. Joanna Moncrieff, in her 2006 research review article writes “There is an urgent need to clarify to what extent antipsychotics, including clozapine, induce rapid onset psychosis and whether risks of relapses are increased with withdrawal.” In her article entitled “Does antipsychotic withdrawal provoke Psychosis? Review of the literature on rapid onset psychosis (supersensitivity psychosis) and withdrawal-related relapse” Dr. Moncrieff concludes that ‘Some recurrent episodes of psychosis may be iatrogenic.”
My friend bravely vowed to try withdrawing from Abilify again in the future. She has a very strong network of support who understands the iatrogenic crisis she will be facing. She knows many important ways to do self care. Most people who try withdrawing from antipsychotics face professional caregivers who discourage them from doing it. On the other hand, when people detox from heroin, everyone encourages them to go through it, no matter how extreme their behavior or how much pain they go through. There are some (way too few) residential programs for people who choose to stop using alcohol, pain killers, and street drugs like heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine. But how many residential programs are designed and exist solely for people getting off antipsychotic drugs? None that I know of. How many psychiatrists offer to help people stop taking antipsychotics in the community? Very few . . .
In part, the lack of resources for people wanting to get off antipsychotics, stems from how the potentially harmful effects from taking them, and withdrawing from them has been portrayed. It seems to me that the term- “side effects” that is euphemistically used by the drug companies and some prescribers to describe iatrogenic psychosis and other injurious drug effects, is misleading and dishonest.
Psychiatrist RD Laing had it right when he said “Let no one mislead you into thinking that tardive dyskinesia and all the other awful reactions to these drugs are side effects. No, they are the effects, not side effects – they are the damaging effects!”
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.
Thanks Michael. This is a good argument, and I agree with everything you write, except this:
Increasingly the medical community is viewing opiate addiction as intractable and the pain of full withdrawal and abstinence as too much to bear. Instead, we have a huge number of people hooked on the pharmaceutical opiates suboxone and methadone, which keeps cravings and withdrawal symptoms at bay without the same “high.”
Many people are put on these drugs instead of being supported through full detox, especially if they have withdrawn and then relapsed in the passed. Some people are, like with psych drugs, encouraged and supported to be on suboxone indefinitely.
These trends are obviously related. As our society comes to see the body’s chemistry as something to be managed externally rather than through the body’s inherent healing processes, the habit of indefinite drug use of all kinds increases, to the point where even highly addictive and dangerous substances like opiates are considered okay to be addicted to for life, as long as the person can function.
I do not mean to put down anybody who benefits from suboxone treatment. The pros and cons of that approach are another conversation. I do want to offer that it would be a misrepresentation to suggest that full withdrawal from opiate addiction is universally encouraged.
Thank you for that very important clarification and update Matthew. The fatalistic response of medical doctors rarely supporting antipsychotic med withdrawal, and as you say, also not supporting opiate withdrawal as an emerging standard of care, does raise questions of expediency and self interest.
Isn’t the preservation of the medical model paradigm advanced when again, as you say- the body’s chemistry is viewed as something to indefinitely be managed externally via prescribed medications? Don’t physicians who can see several patients an hour for medication management have a vested interest in people continuing on meds, whether suboxone or Abilify? Of course the drug makers and drug stores profit from every prescription that is filled.
My friend was prescribed this poison after having a single outburst of anger, it made her sick 3 weeks into it. She stopped and then “side effects” started, they put her on it again… This does nothing but harm, it should be criminal to prescribe it!
Can someone suggest best way to detox?
I have reason to believe that ibogaine is a good method for withdrawal from hard drugs; I imagine that it would work with the psychiatric medications as well. However, and this is absolutely not a surprise, the stuff is illegal in America. One would have to go to Canada or Mexico or Europe. The cost is very high for the treatment though I imagine the drug is cheap enough being from an African root. The American oligarchs who run the nation see profit as the first and foremost consideration. We can nibble here and there but as long as this nation is dominated by money and power what is best for the the people is only occasionally in line with what is best for the People (corporations). In the meantime we are experimental animals.
I would have to agree, that is much evidence to indicate that Ibogaine… can help fix the brains chemistry in some way…That to me is what addiction is all about, damaged brain chemistry, much as psychiatric drugs damage brain chemistry, street drugs do the same. And is it any wonder because many of the street drugs people use function in the same way as psychiatric medications. Their just illegal….
But you have to remember…. a cure would be too costly to the business of psychiatry… Healthy people don’t need any medication..
Using more drugs is exactly the wrong approach to getting off drugs, suboxone is rapidly becoming a drug of abuse, some addicts prefer it to Heroin, they use it IV, just like Heroin. And there have been lots of ODs. There is not enough Naltrexone in the drug cocktail to be effective, and its easily overwhelmed by just taking larger amounts.
I think that Heroin detox, is a myth exploited by users, in many cases. Those that use Heroin, will frequently detox themselves when there tolerance gets too high, and their not getting anything from the drug except keeping from being sick.
The idea of comfort meds should be abandoned completely, because making detox uncomfortable is the only thing that will trigger the brains internal endorphin system to begin functioning again.
Otherwise, even the mildest stress brings on the typical Heroin Affect…
Thank you for your thought provoking comment Prisoners Dilemma.
Best wishes, Michael
I’m on both Suboxone and abilify,so I know both of these withdraws are terrible, I wished now I would have never taken abilify because I’ve tried unsuccessfully to get off it I wish I would have asked more questions and I suggest to anyone considering either med think long and hard about withdraws someone also mentioned there have been many od’s from Suboxone from my knowledge that’s not possible but I’m not a doctor so I may be wrong but my doctor told me you cannot die from Suboxone alone,but taking with benzos is dangerous, anyhow, I just wanted to chime in and say patients need to do more research and ask questions before assuming your doctor knows all the answers,just to add I was given abilify to help boost my depression medicine, I’ve tapered down to half a milligram but can’t get off of it,and I’ve been taking Suboxone for about six years and I must say the Suboxone helps my depression more than any antidepressant I’ve ever tried.
Hi. When you experienced withdrawals from Abilify what dose did you go back to? 0.5 mg or higher and then went back down. I’m having horrible withdrawals. I went from 2 mg all the way down to 0.25 mg ok over several months, but then when I went down to 0.25 every other day, I got the worst anxiety and insomnia. I don’t know if I should go back 0.25 mg or 2 mg. I feel so desperate to get rid of these withdrawals. I’m soooo scared! I tried going back to 0.5 mg, but that didn’t help. Thank you!!
Wow, this drug really ruins people’s health! It should be criminal to prescribe something you can’t get of! Absolute entrapment! Have you figure out how to quit?
Your post hits uncomfortably close to home. My son has been on the “lowest recommended dose” of Abilify for several years now. He has responsibly tried to withdraw from it a couple of times, and the anxiety comes roaring back. I used to think that he just hadn’t managed to develop a coping mechanism for his anxiety (which he never manifested before he was put on antipsychotics – psychotic, yes, but not anxious), but he now has plenty of coping mechanisms (e.g. meditation) and the anxiety he experiences off the medication is like a wrecking ball that threatens to damage all the progress he has made. The only consolation I have had is that he is supposedly on a low dose, but that’s quite debatable as 5 mg Abilify is the lowest dose that pharma pretends is needed. His psychiatrist is promising me that she will begin reducing (always at a vague point in the future when she feels he is “ready.”) When this promised day comes around again, I’m going to flood her with all the information about withdrawal, but that still leaves the problem of who is up to walking my son through his withdrawal? Good point about withdrawal from heroin.
I wonder if there isn’t a growing number of psychiatrists who know that some people are going to need more support than they can offer them to withdraw from Abilify and other antipsychotics. I have heard from so many people these days who have unsuccessfully tried withdrawal at home, and now are saying they believe they need a supportive 24/7 residential program to really do it.
Here in the SF Bay Area, a group of us activists are developing plans and proposals for a Soteria style sanctuary, plus a harm reduction residential place where people can withdraw from meds with all the wellness and holistic supports they may need. We have been well received by the county mental heath administrators and non-profit service providers we may partner with, that we have shared our developing proposals with.
Your son has built a very good self care regimen as you say, and you are a remarkably supportive and informed parent. Even so, the 24/7 assistance you both may need to walk him through complete withdrawal may be hard to find right now. An in home team of 24/7 support is difficult to maintain.
Thank you for your valuable comment Rossa. There needs to be allot more attention paid to this problem of withdrawal from antipsychotics and other psych meds, especially given that one in four women in the US are prescribed psych meds, and one in five of the total population, are taking psych meds.
I spent about two years supporting a person coming off a number of psychiatric medications including oxicotin. She was in her 30’s and had a strong habit of processing her inner life. She did lots of research and used some of the blogs and chats. It was not easy but now a year free of these has transpired. So it can be done without much special in place. However, not everyone has the strength to go it almost alone. If one only heard about this without lots of details one would suspect a crime had been committed. This has the aura of a great injustice. Something does not fit like a valuable diamond in a cheap setting that leaves the ring finger with a black band around it.
Given the great number of people using these drugs don’t we have a national emergency of some sort? Doctors are handing out poison and the world seems oblivious.
Its a Holocaust. Society quietly poisoning the most vulnerabe.
Your friend was very fortunate to have your support while she withdrew from medications. Thanks for sharing with us AgniYoga.
Best wishes, Michael
No kidding! Not only it’s a poison, but like in hotel California you can check out any time you like but you can never leave! What blogs, etc. you would recommend for someone who wants to quit?
Bless your heart for working on and writing about this. And bless all of the people connected here who are searching, learning and teaching others how to get out of this holocaust! Like Rossa, I also have been supporting my 24 year old daughter for the last few years as she withdraws from 16 years of various psych drugs, including Abilify, Zyprexa, Effexor, Prozac. She recently had gastrointestinal surgery, the need of which may have been at least partially caused by the “side effects” of some of the drugs. Luckily we found a psychiatrist who, though he knew little about slow tapering, was willing to listen to her needs (and my instructions). He did not even know about the one compounding pharmacy which had a contract with our health plan, but when told about it he immediately started to prescribe there. And when we consulted with the one private practice psychiatrist in the area who seems truly knowledgeable about tapering, he accepted his recommendation to use a “Prozac bridge” when tapering off of Effexor seemed impossible to accomplish. (It doesn’t work for everyone, so cannot be used in every case.) And he’s gotten our health plan to authorize the many slow taper visits, and the compounding pharmacy, and has really been hanging in there for at least two of the last years. One possible attraction to tapering work for psychiatrists could be that they can definitely count on their patient’s investment in long- term treatment! She’s now on her last 2mg. of Prozac…
I recently connected with some of the people in the SF Bay area who are working on the Soteria style sanctuary and harm reduction residential place. I’d like to be of help with it in some way if I can, though I’m still somewhat (though much less now) involved in supporting my daughter as she completes her taper.
It is really inspiring to read your articles and to know that someone like you is interested and working in this area. Thanks again for writing and putting yourself out where you’re so needed.
Thank you Dawn for sharing very useful, personal information here that will help readers gain additional knowledge about drug withdrawal. I’m very glad you and your daughter were able to find, and coach providers in crucial ways to get some of your daughters needs met. Doing that as you are showing us, is part of the learning curve we all face too- how to get health plans and prescribers to shift their practices to really bring us the care we need.
Will Hall’s Harm Reduction Guide and Peter Breggin’s new book, Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal, are great resources for increasing our self-help knowledge.
Thank you for offering to help Jay Mahler, me and the Bay Area Mandala Project get some doors open on new and vitally needed services! You have my email address- let’s talk soon.
Your Contra Costa County former co-worker,
Is this a thing that exists? My son has been on Abilify for 2 years. We have tapered down to 10mg in the past but he needs to get off the medication. He has akasthesia and has no quality of life because all he can do is pace. I have been trying to find a place like this. Please let me know if this ever came to be. Thanks.
I too am on the ‘lowest reccomended dose’ How did things pan out with getting off it?
IMO most ‘Relapse’, is really withdrawal syndrome. I can substantiate this from my own records. When I quit Lithium I went straight up and was hospitalized, but eventually balanced off. Quitting Modecate depot injection led to 4 hospitalizations, then a tapering with oral medication. Real Recovery came with suitable non chemical help.
I can also substantiate a return to long term productivity and independent life as a result of overcoming anti psychotic drug abuse, though withdrawal syndrome did last a very long time.
Thank you Fiachra for telling about your recovery and experiences withdrawing from antipsychotics.
Best wishes, Michael
Thanks Michael, There’s no mystery in Recovery, people recover all the time. The main problem is the medical sabotage.
What would you recommend to those who want to quit?
In a way this is all a political problem. We have an agency, the FDA, whose job it is to ensure that medication is safe–but it does not do its job well. We have licensing of doctors who supposedly have ethical responsibilities to live up to but apparently don’t–with impunity. Both state and Federal Gov do not see to it that these things are carried out. This is not just sloppiness either.
Governments collaborate with pharmaceuticals and doctors to continue extremely negligent and dishonest treatment regimens. But since most people have some trust in gov and doctors when their spouse or child needs help they go along with a really malicious process until the child or spouse is imprison in a drug routine they can not break out of without heroic effort. Like the TV series “Prison Break” where one brother helps another innocently imprisoned it takes a bit genius and lots of effort.
What are we to make of this? There are no end of these sorts of betrayals occurring in the USA from food to cars to finances to wars to property . . . The alternative news is flooded with stories of police brutality, mean spirited treatment of the poor, the DOJ looking the other way when the bankers commit felonies . . . university professors on the take from corporations . . . sounds like the Soviet Union when it was breaking up and the Yeltsin years of the Russian oligarchs.
You do not need to be a conspiracy theorist. Just read the Drudge Report for a month. Or just read the articles here. One damn irresponsible thing after another reported. And the victims/prisoners are also here with their testimonies.
All this is not just some mistake, some innocent overlooking of details. It is not just three blind psychiatrists being chased by a psychotic patient with a butcher knife. Anyway they do not seem to have tails though it might add to a truer characterization.
Knowing what is going on is a good step to the remedy.
Too many medications are not made in sufficiently small quantities to make withdrawal bearable.
After my first (and I hope last) psychotic episode, the psychiatrist was sure it was due to bipolar disorder which I was diagnosed with after having a hypomanic episode on desipramine. I don’t remember the first two days after my involuntary stay because of the drugs they had me on, but thereafter I refused most of the drugs. I was suffering pain from MS and night sweats that made it difficult for me to sleep and I was hypervigilant with PTSD. So, I tried ambien to help me sleep. The next morning another patient told me all about our early morning visit that I had no memory of. So already there were two things: not remembering two days except for one brief moment, and getting up and having a conversation in my sleep that I didn’t remember having— that made me feel crazy.
They kept trying to give me depakote, but I remembered that depakote made me feel very angry (and they didn’t want to see me angry) so they tried to put me on abilify. I took it once, then saw the commercial in which it was described as an “adjunct” to an antidepressant. I wasn’t depressed, and asked exactly what abilify was being prescribed for. I got a mealy-mouthed non- answer then stopped taking it. If it was being advertised and prescribed off label, then I figured it was a money-maker that wasn’t selling itself.
After reading this, I am only more glad that I finally refused to accept their diagnoses and their treatments. I haven’t heard about people having psychotic episodes discontinuing medication until a week ago, and now I have seen reference to it three times, for three different drugs. How can this be ignored? Drug treatments are making people crazy coming and going!
I’m taking amitriptyline for nerve pain and help sleeping and am taking the maximum dose. I’ve forgotten to take it twice and have no way of telling if the extreme pain I suffered without it was rebound or just what I feel without it; but I know now to be extra careful about not running out and to be extra careful if I try to cut down. I figure the chance that I could convince the same psychiatrist that I was suffering a drug-withdrawal psychosis would be approximately nil.
Thank you for your informative personal comment wileywitch. I’m glad this discussion is providing some useful information.
Best wishes, Michael
Now in some areas what we call higher formal education is of course needed. Electrical engineering for example. You need to know what ohms are and differential equations and a lot more. But in the area of healing it is not so clear. A broken arm? Yes. A broken heart? Perhaps not. Higher formal education is not without its drawbacks. A lot of intellect but it can be almost all wrong. For example, does the soul exist or is there a soul? I am guessing this question is answered no by most persons with a PhD. Why? Because they know the soul does not exist? No, of course not. You can not prove the non-existence of the soul. But they think they know. The academic world is largely not into that folkloric stuff.
If there were no soul or higher aspect, then people would be, well, just physical things though very complicated. But eventually science might even find a way to make them from scratch. Now that perspective engenders a certain attitude subtly. Just how seriously are you going to take people in general? Those complicate and intricate physical things? What if we have to destroy some in order to discover something to greatly aid mankind (this has a nice idealistic ring, doesn’t it?). Or if one possessed of this perspective is feeling a little down they might think of themselves as a car that needs a tune up. Or maybe just a badly designed car. Too bad. This could be pretty depressing in itself. I am just a machine. I have a PhD and know that.
I wonder if part of the despair of modern life is education itself which turns out to be not so educational at all. But rather a vast opinion structure held by a large community of persons around the world. Not knowledge but gueses.
And not just things about a non-existent soul. But a fairly large collection of thoughts presented as facts but only guesses. Black holes? Red shift? Relativity? Consciousness is produced by the brain? Drugs? Diet? Global this or that? Evolution? Hypotheses that slip over into the fact lane.
No surprise that people end up in solitary drug confinement. Some apparently for life.
Ironic. Psychiatry comes from the root word–psyche or soul. Soul doctors who don’t believe in souls or materialists who claim to heal the spiritual.
I’m currently on 15 mg of Abilify oral and an injectable of Abilify Maintaina. The only reason why I’m on the injectable is because I’m on AOT right now ( I’m from NY state). Once the AOT order is expired in June I’ll only be on the oral Abilify. I plan on tapering off the Abilify over the course of a year but to tell you the truth I am terrified to do this. I know my psychiatrist will not allow me to do this so I may have to do this on my own via a pill splitter. I’ve tried tapering myself off the meds in the past but all too fast ( only 6 weeks). The result was acute psychosis and hospitalization followed. The only good thing is I now know the signs that things are slipping downhill.
When I’m off my meds (and before the psychosis set in) I feel free. When I’m on meds I feel no emotion, I’m very numb to things. I have a lot of phobias that keep me from living life ( I.e. Driving). But when I’m off the meds this things that hold me back go away. I finally feel emotion again.
Is it so bad to want to get off these meds Doctor Cornwall? Psychiatrists out there should know that the body has a natural healing process. Drugs like Abilify and other anti psychotics just suppress this and makes it worse in the long run. I believe all of us that have experienced ” mental illness” can conquer it on our own and don’t need to be indentured servants to this horrible drugs.
I plan on getting off Abilify soon. Within 2 years of my AOT order expiring I hope to be off this drug and living life to the fullest, psychosis free, drug free. Thank you for hearing me out 🙂
Thank you AC400KICK, for your valuable contribution to this discussion. It’s great that you will be off of AOT soon since you don’t want the injectable. I hope that you will find every resource and support you need to realize your goals. I understand there is a strong Icarus Project presence in some parts of New York. Do you know of it? Icarus founder Sascha Dubrul who writes here on MIA is in Brooklyn. They have a great website too.
Best wishes, Michael
Thanks for telling us about the Icarus Project. I never knew of its existence before and wrote them an e-mail expressing my interest in getting involved. I’d like to meet others where I live who have had similar experiences with psychiatry and how it has effected their lives. I’d also like to support these people who choose to rid themselves of this system and the medication regimens that come with being unfortunately labeled as mentally ill. Thanks for the info!
You are very welcome AC400KICK. I’m glad the Icarus Project may be a resource for you and where you can support people too as you say.
best wishes, Michael
You might want to look at this list of withdrawal friendly psychiatrists and see if any are near your location.
Also, as any FYI, the surviving antidepressants site provides advice on tapering antipsychotics although I can’t remember if it includes Abilify. But you might want to take a look.
Basically, to be on the safe side, it recommends tapering it at 10% of current dose about very 4 to 6 weeks. In some cases, people need to go more slowly.
As one who tapered off of 4 meds over close to 4 years, my advice would be not to put a time frame on your taper and listen to your body. Otherwise, you are in danger of tapering too fast and falling back in the hands of the AOT folks who will blame your withdrawal symptoms on a relapse and hit you with more drugs.
Your advice on tapering is brilliant.
Thank you AA for your valuable advice and the great link for withdrawal friendly psychiatrists. Altostrata who is the administrator of that site is a very expert resource on drug withdrawal.
Best wishes, Michael
Thank you Michael for this thought-provoking article, which is sparking helpful discussion, sharing and networking. Your compassion, sincerity, and genuine desire to make a difference are appreciated. All the best with the project you mention, which sounds helpful and positive! Please keep us updated.
I have long had a theory that the drugs are actually created and designed to make people more ill. Does this sound like a conspiracy theory? I hope I’m more of a realist, having seen many people over the years harmed by taking them / being forced to take them against their will. Perhaps my theory also fits with what you are describing with respect to the process your friend is going through (and many others are also going through). Sadly, the creation of drugs to make people more ill certainly fits with a profit before people mindset… My heart goes out to everyone who is struggling under the toxic chemical loads, struggling to come off them and with the effects of having taken them – effects, as you quite rightly state, and not “side effects”.
One thing we can do to get at the truth is the listen to the testimony of former drug reps – we can search on the internet, but here are two worth listening to:
Gwen Olsen, who was a drug rep for 15 years, says that she wants to dispel the myth that the pharmaceutical industry is in the business of health and healing:
This rep was in the business for 35 years:
Big Pharma exec turned Whistleblower
Even the British medical journal now acknowledges that “evidence based medicine is broken”
In the sad world we live, medicine and healthcare have become more about profit and corruption than healing, and the pursuit of that profit is ruthless, relentless and frightening. It’s a human rights crisis and is deeply distressing to witness. The only way forward, I believe, is to raise awareness, challenge the system and work towards the development of better alternatives, like the project you describe. There have to be better ways than the current system! We must live in hope! This is one of the great things about Mad in America. It is a forum for people to share, network, raise awareness and keep the hope alive.
Keep up the good work and thank you for the ongoing inspiration!
Thank you Helen for your important comment and links to more information, I appreciate your contribution to this discussion.
Best wishes, Michael
Thank you, Michael, for another honest post. And I agree with others here, MIA is wonderful because it’s an honest and free exchange of truthful concerns, void of the profit motive, which does and has always has corrupted people.
I want to agree with your concern regarding a lack of assistance and support available in the US, in helping people off dangerous antipsychotics, like Abilify. I relocated to a new state not too long ago, so am trying to garner an understanding of the mentality of the psychiatric practitioners in this state.
Last week I called 24 local organizations that claim to help people withdrawal from drugs. Rather than saying I was a psychiatric survivor myself, I said I was helping a friend whose son had developed tardive dyskinesia from antipsychotics, and she is looking for a psychiatrist who would be willing to help wean her child off the drugs because the adverse effects were worse than the original issues.
I could not find one organization, nor did I get one recommendation for a local psychiatrist who would be willing to even help wean a child suffering from known long run effects of antipsychotics, to help wean a child off antipsychotic drugs causing more damage than benefit. The best solution I was offered was hospitalization, despite my telling them it was not an emergency and the supposed child was uninsured.
Best of luck with your Soteria house. We definitely seem to have a very large completely unmet demand for assistance in withdrawing from psychiatric meds where I am now living, and in this country as a whole. Thank you for working to address this societal problem.
Thank you Someone Else for this very disturbing report about your experience contacting 24 mental health service organizations seeking help as you describe. All they offered was hospitalization even for a child.
Your report adds strong evidence that the professional standard of care for adults and children needing to reduce or withdraw from antipsychotics, is really a standard of care that is grossly negligent in my opinion.
Best wishes, Michael
Thank you Michael for writing this piece. What stuns me is that my friends who are addicted to street drugs such as cocaine and heroin can often receive insurance reimbursement for spending 30-60 days in an inpatient treatment center (rehab) to come off these drugs. There is societal approval and encouragement for this.
But with psych drugs? Nothing. If you want to come off, you will receive no support, no insurance based care for the process, no societal acknowledgement of the horrors that some people go through in tapering. If you have cancer, are going through a messy divorce, lost a family member…you are likely to receive quite a bit of societal support. But if you are going through a grind it out tougher than shit Abilify taper you will be met with…blank stares? Silent judgement?
Further, psychiatric drugs are far harder to come off of than heroin or coke. They tend to require a concerted period of slow tapering to do it well, often in the range of many months or years. Rehab is an impossibility in most of these cases. So we are left with people trying to do the hard work by themselves or with the help of a few close people, shuttered behind doors, in agony that society is ignorant of, or willfully dismisses.
Great comment Jonathan! Man you nailed it. If it feels that the whole country is in a dazed state of denial about the issues you raised, maybe it’s because one in 4 women are now taking psych drugs and one in five of all of us in the US are taking psych drugs. The illegal drug cartel kingpins must marvel at the successful drug distribution business model that big pharma has perfected.
Thank you Johnathan for weighing in here and for your great articles on MIA!
Jonathan and Michael,
Thank you for saying these things. I got off of everything but Klonopin almost 9 years ago (no addiction, just 8 year iatrogenic dependence), and couldn’t get help with taper. I finally managed on my own but am left with permanent insomnia, something I never had to begin with.
What really speaks to me here is the *crickets* you speak of when I’ve told my family and friends; it’s is what you describe. These are the people who are supposed to care about me and they have no frame of reference to understand what happened to me. I’m just some odd ball. And the insomnia, while it is a torture I quietly live with, it’s not something others will fully acknowledge because the horror of it and that doctors caused it is quite disturbing. At least, that’s what I’m guessing prevents full acknowledgement.
In a way, I was in some ways better off ON the drugs because then I could pretend the world was an okay place. But I’m glad I’m out of that lie, anyway. The up and down side is that my two kids, who grew up watching all this, believe me. Therefore, their world view/s are not the happiest. But at least they know what’s real.
Thank you so much for your comments.
Thank you so much Laurie for sharing your truth about what you went through and still are going through. There is a huge barrier of denial about the destructive effects of psychiatric drugs. I suppose if that wall of denial ever collapses, we could see them finally be taken off the market, as the FDA should have done a long time ago.
Best wishes to you and your children,
I really want to thank Michael, who wrote this article in response to me. My boyfriend, Daniel, was the one who made the astute observation that I was “enslaved to Abilify”, and I certainly agree. But, there is a perplexing and maybe paradoxical nature to drug withdrawal psychosis for me. For the months of January, February, and part of March this year, as a result of tapering off, I arrived at the most open, intuitive, and energetically sensitive place in my life. My life became a stream of synchronicities and manifestation, and for the first time in my living in extreme states, I learned how to navigate in the non-ordinary realm in order to heal. At the same time, my consciousness was so expanded that I went beyond having traumatic flashbacks of my own, to having flashbacks of people close to me and entered into the scariest places of intergenerational and collective trauma, and trauma of Mother Earth, that I had ever gone to. My internal, chaotic life was very hard on my loved ones and professional support around me, whom I am deeply thankful to. I was close to being 5150ed. After I went back to a higher dose of Abilify, things did smoothen out. I felt that I came out of that state traumatized but also stronger, and more solid within myself. And boy, had I learned a lot about life outside the mundane plane. I just wish for me that this kind of personal growth didn’t have to take such a toll, and be so violent. I wish coming off didn’t inevitably lead to these poles of the psyche. I’ve lost my volition and control, and that makes me sad.
Thank you again Naas, for being the catalyst for this article, and for your very valuable comment that opens up even more important questions about how we can both deal with, and benefit from our experiences during extreme states- whether during med withdrawal or not.
I’m very glad you weathered your deep journey into the dimensions of trauma and transformation you describe above, my friend.
I hope everyone will also read your inspiring and powerful, June 2012 in-depth telling of your personal story that you shared here on MIA.
I believe this article on medication withdrawal has sparked some helpful discussions, here on MIA and on Facebook, thanks to you supporting me posting it.
As I digest more information, I’m realizing that drug-induced withdrawal is not all that is happening here. I’m having more insight into how past trauma in my life could also have been a factor in creating these altered realms as a means of telling difficult parts of my personal history symbolically and provided coping and allowing me to enter these altered realms to be able to make sense of it all.
Thank you for yet another thought provoking article. I have not read any of the many replies here, so please excuse me if this has already been stated.
When I read what Joanna Moncrieff said, and even though I am in no disagreement with her, I couldn’t help but think of a loved one who died at the hands of psychiatric abuse. Iatrogenic induced, of course. Reading from a critical perspective which carefully outlined the scientific manner in which these “anti-psychotics” work, claim to work, and how they do not work, as an explanation as to how my loved one died, was lost on me. For me, it is not the qualified professional’s carefully constructed and accurate statement that tells me what I know was the truth a long time ago. It was my lived experience, my apriori “knowing”, that these drugs did exactly what the article suggests. My loved one was labelled and drugged, and only when he started taking these deadly toxins, did he cycle in and out of psychosis. Never before did he ever have any of those problems or any of the subsequent physiological complications that came with these deadly drugs. I never needed any scientific explanation about how psychiatric drugs caused this harm. I knew it was the drugs because I knew intuitively that his behavior was “not him”.
I truly respect and understand why these needlepoint dissections of science are hugely important; in my humble view, I believe they are best applied to the political argument. And very necessarily for that point of view. Politically and practically the scientific truth can become the scaffold for the human rights abuses and criminal negligence rampant within psychiatry.
I just wanted to communicate that peripheral reflection with you, to say that “yes” I agree with your very good work (as always!) But not because of the tightly argued science. I agree with your article from having witnessing a loved one suffer and die from these drugs. My innate ability to reference the holistic being, the meta-physical, the love we shared, which was never amenable to science, was how I intuitively knew that these drugs caused not just the psychotic cycles, but the eventual sudden death.
NewPC, I hope everyone reads your comment that is bringing tears to my eyes as I read it.
Your loved one was not a diagnosis or a scientific statistic. How far we have come as a culture to where our beloved ones who are lost are tallied as a number in a drug side effect study. And, when their visible suffering is not the occasion for professionals to vow to never give a substance that visibly harms and can even bring about a wrongful death again.
Thank you for sharing the truth and your grief with us. It hastens the day when these drug caused deaths are stopped once and for all.
Michael, Thank you so much for this article. When Anna died from a prescription drug overdose, the first thing our family physician wanted to prescribe me was Ativan. He told my husband I would need it in order to sleep. When I overheard my husband speaking to him on the phone (he called us), I cried out from a fetal position in the bedroom stating I would never put something in my body that contributed to my own child’s death. Unfortunately, the immediate response of my physician was to medicate my grief. I slept without Ativan; I slept from the sheer exhaustion of grief.
Fast forward to my husband dealing with his grief: He entered counseling, was referred to a Psychiatrist, and before I knew it, he was on a cocktail of antidepressants to medicate his grief. A few months down the road he seemed to be getting worse, so the Psychiatrist added Abilify. At that point I was not sure he would ever recover, because I wasn’t sure if he was drowning in medication or grief. The lines were completely blurred. After six months or so, my husband tired of flat lining his emotions and he wanted to feel again, so he decided to taper off medications; first with the blessings of the Psychiatrist who agreed to remove one medication at a time, but not Abilify. Abilify was his ‘stabilizer’.
We have always lived in the mountains of North Carolina and have thoroughly enjoyed them. Driving on the Parkway and taking day hikes had always been part of our lifestyle, but my husband began white knuckling the steering wheel when approaching curves in the road and panicking uncontrollably if there wasn’t a guardrail when ascending a mountain road. These fears became unbearable so he decided it was the Abilify causing them and he must stop taking this one last medication with or without the blessing of his Psychiatrist. When he reached this point, I resigned myself to losing him. I honestly prepared to find him dead. It was my only coping mechanism with what he was hell bent on going through. I have never seen such struggling and anguish, but he had the tenacity to fight through it, although I don’t know how. He had horrible side effects for months and almost succumbed to taking other medications to offset the side effects of withdrawal. I am so grateful to say that there are no more antidepressants or antipsychotics in our household.
You spoke of how interesting it is that the medical community somehow thinks they can indefinitely manage our chemical imbalances externally. They obviously think they can medicate grief as well. Normal human emotions are bestowed upon us to experience for a purpose and not intended to be medicated.
I am truly appreciative of the work you are doing to bring compassion and understanding and effect change. I always enjoy reading your work, I have enjoyed working with you, and I hope our paths cross again someday.
Thank you Julie, for telling about the harrowing experience your husband went through withdrawing from Abilify after the unfathomable loss of your beloved Anna. That telling adds to the evidence of a great wrong being done to many of us when we are most vulnerable.
As a society, I don’t think we can measure the scope of the loss of life and the destruction of human possibility brought about by these psychiatric medications. We are in the middle of a great human catastrophe and can’t see yet how much incredible damage is being done.
This minute, someone with a medical license is prescribing Abilify to a grieving parent, someone is prescribing Abilify for a 4 year old girl who is going through emotional pain for reasons that should be obvious.
Our culture has a ban on emotional truth that these drugs enforce.
I do hope our paths cross again in this struggle my friend. We tried to make a worthy project happen that could have tipped the scales. More opportunities to make a difference always will appear.
I am mourning your loss.
Your friend’s troubles resonate with me. I will preface the following comment by stating thae following:
What I’m about to say comes from personal experience alone. I am NOT a doctor.
From my understanding, atypical anti-psychotics were originally intended for use as teaching drugs and not as lifelong therapy. That is, Abilify is made to help a person with a mood disorder regroup and focus on healing.
So, why is it that we should EVER be discouraged from healing ourselves even further to the point where we no longer need the drug’s help?
Having a mood disorder is akin to having a condition like high blood pressure–moods, like pressure, must be kept in check. The un-tethered mind can cause the body to enter shock. Just as exercise, a balanced diet, and sleep can help certain physical imbalances, it follows that these same things plus behavioral strategies and a support network can be learned to regulate a mood imbalance.
The ultimate goal, I feel, is to be able to take off the training wheels.
My mother, 85, is now with hospice (they come to our home). She has dementia, dysphagia and frequent infections, both bronchial and uti. Nevertheless, she still has a lot of strength, generally, and spends most of each day out of bed. She even walks a little with assistance. While she may be in the last months of her life, she is not at this time dying. Her hospice nurse told me last week that the doc (hospice doc) said we could now discontinue my mom’s meds. She has been on 5 mg Aricept, 5 mg of Lexapro and 5 mg of Abilify for about 7 years. I was aghast. They thought I should simply cold turkey discontinue her meds without any tapering. I have read they do this to the elderly in nursing homes all the time. What a way to give a fragile senior a kick out the door! This seems like a terrible crime.
Well, the main reason I decided to comment is this. I have an adopted daughter who has special needs and severe mood/behavioral problems, as well as a seizure disorder. She has had these problems all her life – at least since I met her when she was 3 1/2. She now takes a variety-pack of psychiatric meds. The anti-psychotics, in particular, have been very hard for her to take. Seroquel (300 mgs. a day now and has been taking it since last October) is leading her toward diabetes. Abilify, even at a very low dose, causes her to feel she is having nearly non-stop seizure activity. Even a minute dose of Risperdol gives her double-vision and puts her in bed, etc. Seroquel has been the kindest, so far, in terms of side-effects, but obviously her health is now at risk from it.
When she is not stable on meds she is very aggressive and can be violent. This is why we have been trying the anti-psychotics. Recently, she became aggressive with me (we had slightly lowered her Seroquel dose). In desperation, because she is freakishly strong and to avoid more aggression, I took her out the next day and got a medical marijuana license for her.
Since that time (two weeks ago) she has been taking CBD daily, between 6 – 9 mgs. The effect has been profound. We have not had another episode of aggression and she has been calm, happy and more normal (in terms of calm, clarity and self-possession) than at any time in the past. I don’t know if CBD will help her to stop Seroquel without crisis, but I think it might at least help. Perhaps it might help her to live without anti-psychotics altogether. I can’t be certain, but it does look promising.
I just thought I would mention this in case it is of use to others. Our experience with it is admittedly limited, but I am very impressed. My daughter’s problems are severe and have seemed intractable. I had lost all hope for any kind of benign cure – or for any cure at all. So far, this seems to be life-changing for her.
YAY I AM OFF PSYCHIATRIC DRUGS AFTER 14 YEARS!!!!
getting of the lithium and the last little bit of Abilify was sooo hard!!! BUT I DID IT. and it has been a few months and things are so good. yes hard, but good! i feel alive again, and restored.
i did it with the help of a compassionate integrative psychiatrist, a good a therapist, great friends, support from my family (even though they were skeptical i could get off), and a great community of caring mental health activists like you Michael!!
Congratulations Naas! I’m so happy for you and grateful for all your amazing, brave activism that makes the world a better place.
Best wishes, Michael
I want to thank you for sharing. I myself am on abilify and am looking to taper off soon. What advice can you give me because psychosis is very prominent and scary for me. I was off of medication for 8months and ended up back in the hospital. I just don’t want to be on medication forever. Thank you,
If you look up liquid titration on youtube it will help you. You need a pill crusher which you can get from Amazon. You then dilute in water and remove a small amounts using a syringe so that you control small amounts out of your dose over a long period allowing your body to adjust.
This is a benzo titration video:
My view is that magnesium is very important with these issues, because it regulates the major excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate, by blocking the NMDA receptor. You can also help yourself by being aware that binge drinking alcohol leads to excess glutamate and glutamate toxicity. Plus the active form a B6 (PLP) is required as a co-factor in the synthesis of GABA (calms you down) from glutamate. Hope that helps you and anyone else going through this.
I was fortunate to be able to avoid the antipsychotics, though the psychiatrists did try to get me on them. Weaned myself off Sinequan when they were going to raise it the last time. It wasn’t helping and I decided I’d had enough. I had enough of the different dosages when they kept raising it to reverse the process. Fortunately I had no problems. Doc prescribed the stronger form of Neurontin and I tried it once. I’m sure some people would enjoy the buzzy feeling for 8 hours, but not me. Never again. It sounds like Abilify is harder to get off of than pain meds. Are there any numbers regarding how many people abuse psychiatric drugs?
I’m currently on an injection of Abilify, and have been for the past several years. I want to wean off, but understand when it comes to withdrawing from antipsychotics, some people can even physically die. Some people have seizures and worse. I experienced a horror show when I tried to cut myself off Resperidone, and now I am just on Abilify instead. Are there any success stories out there of people who have managed to wean off of significant doses of Abilify? Are there any real horror stories in the opposite light that are important to be aware of, with this drug, and withdrawal?