So What’s This About Another Webinar Series on Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal?

Robert Nikkel, MSW
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Some people are asking me, “Why another series of webinars on withdrawing from psychiatric drugs?” That’s a reasonable question given that our first series, Withdrawal from Psychiatric Drugs, covered a lot of territory. We presented general information as well as more specific subjects like wellness, personal experiences, research findings, and the evidence base for drug withdrawal.

But this subject is a complex one, and our first course was just our start in exploring this topic. With this second course we are focusing on the challenges that drug withdrawal presents to prescribers.

As many have noted, prescribers may have extensive experience getting patients on psychiatric medications and then managing their drug use, but little or no experience helping patients taper off the drugs. As some have quipped, prescribers have learned to fly the plane but not land it.

Our presenters will tell about what they have learned about drug tapering through their experience and research. The webinars include:

·         Dr. Joanna Moncrieff on the effects of withdrawal from neuroleptics and so-called antidepressants.

·         Dr. Sandra Steingard on her experience with working in a public mental health setting.

·         Dr. David Healy and colleague Johanna Ryan on the sexual dysfunction related to SSRI withdrawal.

·         Dr. Sami Timimi reviewing the issues in helping children and adolescents withdraw from a variety of psychiatric drugs.

·         Dr. Swapnil Gupta on the practice of “deprescribing.”

·         Dr. Pesach Lichtenberg on Israel’s Soteria House approach to psychiatric drug withdrawal.

·         New Zealand psychologist Roger Mulder, PhD, on his research on withdrawal from SSRIs, and other related withdrawal issues.

As many Mad in America bloggers have detailed, including blogs written by Stuart Shipko, James Moore, Sonya Styblo and others, psychiatrists and other prescribers are, in general, doing a poor job of providing their patients with informed consent about drug withdrawal. Prescribers often will not support a patient who wants to withdraw from his or her medications, or will provide the patient with little information about what to expect.

This second series of continuing education is intended to give mental health professionals, not only psychiatrists but also other mental health professionals and peer advocates, the information they need as more and more people seek to come off medications but have to confront the challenges of withdrawal.

The series begins on June 19 with a “town hall” format in which Robert Whitaker will moderate a discussion with a psychiatrist, an integrative medicine physician (who has personal experience withdrawing from psychiatric medicine) and an individual who has successfully taken herself off the drugs. This town hall is designed to put a focus on the many questions and issues that prescribers face with drug withdrawal.

One of the biggest challenges we have before us is how to get the attention of MDs and other prescribers who are not psychiatrists. After all, we know that primary care physicians are writing prescriptions for the majority of these drugs—from children diagnosed with ADHD to adolescents and adults being prescribed antidepressants and even, increasingly, neuroleptics off-label. We have been reaching out to progressive organizations like the National Physicians Alliance in an attempt to get attention for this increasingly important medical practice. Non-physician organizations like the National Association of County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Directors (NACBHDD), which serves county, regional and even some state entities, are also being contacted and have shown at least some beginning interest in helping us get word out.

Finally, the most unusual interest in this series comes from some courageous peer advocates in a state hospital. They are working with me to get permission to set up two ‘classroom’ sites and allow 20 or more individuals to view the series. This will likely require an MD to sit in on the sessions and do some debriefing of the issues that arise. However this turns out, I think it’s quite a step in the right direction with this even being a topic of discussion in one of the most unlikely settings.

This second series takes more significant steps toward filling the void that exists in a true informed consent process. While the course is nearly filled up, we have about 30 spots left, so anyone interested should sign up soon.

Please help us continue to get the word out and feel free to share ideas with me.

24 COMMENTS

  1. We’re not really interested in MH professionals. We’re interested in getting rid of psychiatry, their vile drugs, the vile human rights abuse and compensating those whose lives have been devastated, locked up or the familes of those who have lost relatives . Persoanally I’m interested in pharmacogenetics to nail these bastard drug abusers. Everything else is really just a falling away.

    • streetphotobeing is absolutely right. Think about this process for a moment. First psychiatrists and professionals get paid, often in excess of 200K per year, to label, drug, shock, involuntarily incarcerate, coerce, and torture innocent men, women, and children. Then other “professionals” get paid to teach innocent victims of psychiatry how to withdraw from the dangerous psychotropic chemicals that have been forced upon them. Those who have survived psychiatry have most often done so on their own, without any “professional” help. It is the “profession” itself that is the problem, not the victims of the “profession.”

      If we truly wish to help psychiatric survivors, and particularly those who are suffering immensely in the chemical haze of psychotropic drugging, the first step is to work towards the abolition of psychiatry. Once psychiatry has been abolished, and psychotropic drugs become a thing of the past, it will be even more clear that there is absolutely no need for a “professional” class to “cure” its victims of the very “remedies” that psychiatry itself has imposed upon them.

      Stop the madness. Stop the drugging. Stop the labeling. Slay the Dragon of Psychiatry.

      https://psychiatricsurvivors.wordpress.com/2016/05/10/the-truth-about-psychiatry/

    • Yep. Looks like what Big Pharma concocts to cure “mental illnesses” Despondent. Now should we market this poisoned apple as an antidepressant, an antipsychotic, or a mood stabilizer? How about all the above?

      All you Mama Grizzlies at NAMI need to check into getting a prescription of this for your unruly SMI grown kids. It can cure them of delusions, hallucinations, depression (or complaints which is all that matter) and all those other pesky symptoms that annoy you no end. Your kid will spend the rest of their life in a coma.

      Ta da! No more annoying or embarrassing behaviors for you to deal with. 😀

      • In fact those behaviors can be quite difficult. For parents but also for children if a parent is struggling.

        I try to be sensitive to that and talk to people and limit bias. They go home to their lives with their individual circumstances in the end.

        My main goal is to be pleasant and headstrong. Have the vocabulary to use in order to dialogue complex issues that come up.

      • Rachel777 you seem to have a lot to say, but did you ever put yourself in the shoes of a parent whose child is psychotic and violent? Has your child attempted to strangle you or begged you to help them kill themselves because their brain “doesn’t work anymore” after one of their psychotic breaks. The behaviors I have had to deal with wouldn’t for a moment be classified as annoying or embarrassing, but they would be described as exceedingly dangerous, not just for the family but the sufferer too. I don’t like the meds, but they have given my son back his life. He lives with his illness and takes the meds as he says this is what God tells him to do. He lives in a world that is so rich and full, with time travel, astral projection, conversations with God and angelic beings-this is no coma. He has learnt that he doesn’t have to pay too much attention to the evil beings that are present around us, and speak to him specifically. Yes the psychiatric drugs have done this for him, and until there is some other help to be had this is all we have. It has taken a long time to find a combination of 5-yes 5, meds that ends the torment that he had. Far better this than being in jail in a cell, or locked up in the mental ward. Sometimes it is the involuntary patients, who through no fault of their own, have been emotionally abusive to their families and the families have no idea what to do. So just remember that there is more than one side to any story, and that the psychiatrists do want to help, even if some of their tools are the big pharma’s drugs. They would never have gone into that field if they didn’t want to help in some way.

        • While I hear your views and totally get where you’re coming from, I can’t agree that psychiatrists always go into the field because they want to help. Just like some police go into it because they like to be able to run stop signs and give orders, and some join the army because they like to shoot guns, and some teachers go into teaching because they want summers off, some psychiatrists (like any field) go into it for less than altruistic reasons. I’ve seen some psychiatrists with such incredible power needs and egotism that all the staff at the facility are terrified of them, not to mention their clients. I’ve seen some who appear “nice” on the surface but actually enjoy setting up double binds and manipulating both clients and staff. Sure, the majority probably believe they are helping, but the fact that they chose this particular way to help does say something about who they are. There are a few wonderful psychiatrists out there, but I am afraid to say that most I have known are neither thoughtful nor very sensitive to their own clients, and many stories support this.

          I’m glad your son is able to tolerate the drugs and they have the desired effects for him. I know there are many others who feel similarly. But there are also many who feel their lives have been destroyed by psychiatrists and the mental health system, and those people don’t have advertisements and celebrity endorsements to support them. A lot of them come here to be heard.

        • I never was violent. My experiences are not your son’s. Yet I can be locked up without due process at any time–despite a clean legal history!

          The drugs damaged my heart and brain, ruined all my hopes of having a family or career. Never was crazy till Anafranil sent me over the edge. Most here are in my situation.

          When I complained about Parkinsonism, weight gain, tardive psychosis, the doctors pretended they didn’t know what I was talking about. My GPA went down by 1.0. I could no longer write. My weight more than doubled, my heart developed arrhythmia, and my IQ went down 20 points. Not quite comatose but still…

          My life has been Hell on earth thanks to psychiatry. Not insanity at work there.

        • Radish I try always to be compassionate about the situation you describe above.

          The thing that is topmost in my mind, though, is that sometimes psychiatric drugs can cause those same states you describe in your son. I’m not speaking to your particular situation, just that it’s important to realise that drugs are not necessarily helpful, and can do harm instead.

          Can you imagine how it would feel for a young person, who is distressed about life circumstances but otherwise psychiatrically and cognitively stable, to be given drugs, by a trusted doctor, that actually induce psychosis? That cause you to feel suicidal, against your wishes? And it lasts for years?

          I may be a bit different from many commenters here in that this is my primary concern: the high rate of young people who could be perfectly ok if just given a bit of support, instead being given mind-altering drugs to the point they want to kill themselves.

    • It’s not quite easy, nor desirable to try and pick up in your 40s where you left off in your 20s. It’s also hard to let go of the past when what happened is a social justice and human rights issue, and also when you feel as if so many years were affected by withdrawal that you don’t have much of a foundation for the future.

  2. I’m sick to heck of the topic of drug withdrawal! And I’m sicker still of the claim that MD’s and PhD’s are “experts.” This is why I have kept my participation in MIA to a minimal lately. I’m sick of the topic of drug withdrawal because while I see it as important, overemphasizing it minimizes human rights, or rather, lack thereof, which IS the bigger picture. I’m so disgusted with the overfocus on this topic here (and elsewhere) that I want to quit outright.

    • I’m sorry that you’re sick of it, but for many of us, this is really important to us. This is not separate from human rights, it IS a human rights issue. Discussing withdrawal also has an immediate and practical application; psychiatry will not be overhauled overnight.

      This is a pretty diverse group. We’ve most of us been harmed by psychiatry, but in various ways. There has to be room for different issues. I welcome more conversation about withdrawal, because that’s what happened to me, when I was still a minor. It’s happening to other people right now, and if we talk about it, we can spread awareness.

      Hearing voices, DID, and involuntary holding are not part of my experience. I don’t complain when those conversations take place though, because they’re important. Within the big picture of psychiatry human rights abuses, we have to be able to talk specifics.

  3. The story of Scott Stapp, lead singer, long ago of a popular (long ago) rock band, Creed is a story of Adderral withdrawal psychosis. He was feeling low one day so he went to a doctor and started taking Prozac. Then he mentions that his life was “up and down” ever after. I get it.

    One day he gets the wild idea of getting a doctor to prescribe Adderal, which took a a child for He knows he is kidding self about the wisdom of that move. So, he falls apart but he does stop taking it. It got worse. He holes up in motels ands puts cringe-videos on YouTube, ruins his reputation, calls the White House MORE THAN ONCE…and to get his wife back, he cops to having underlying bipolar and promises to take drugs for it. I’m wonder how well this might go, life wise. A creative passionate performer on Seroquel. That’s a no-go.

    He went on tour with a band, quits halfway through and is now being sued. And that is all we have heard of him. So goes another fellow human being. I am picturing Gulliver lashed securely to the earth by little people.

  4. It seems there are quite a number of folks commenting here that have been seriously hurt by “experts” and are willing to criticize the continuing ed MIA has coordinated. It is sad to see the vitriolic expressions of the harms done. What is not acknowledged is that MIA and VERY few others, are talking about the methods and strategies individuals can use to exit the enslavement of the “expert” advice they have been given and return to themselves. The number of individuals under the “care” of psychiatry is a monumental figure. And many among them know there is something wrong, but are wed to the idea of chemical imbalance so thoroughly sold.

    Central to the mission of MIA is to get this information to the uninformed and help those who have not yet come into contact with the counter narrative (READ: the truth). Those that already have the information are hopefully in the process of some healing, those that are not and are seeking alternatives for the distress they live with daily – often a product of the medications they are taking and have been taking for decades AND the idea that they are somehow broken- REQUIRE the opportunity to learn about another way. I applaud the work MIA is doing and hope we can continue serve both those aware of the harms they have experienced as well as those who are beginning to explore the truth of their “treatment” and methods to extricate themselves from the “experts”.