Surviving Psychiatry: A Typical Case of Serious Psychiatric Drug Harms

Peter C. Gøtzsche, MD
22
5896

Over the years I have received many stories from patients, so many that I could write an interesting book based on them. In November, I received an outstanding account from a patient whom I had met when I lectured. I reproduce here this patient’s journey as she presented it to me, shared at her request. She was seriously harmed by psychiatric drugs; her life became endangered; and she suffered an excruciating withdrawal phase because she did not receive the necessary guidance. But she is doing well today.

She gave birth to her second daughter in 2002 after a hard time with “all kinds of trials and hormone treatments.” After giving birth, she wasn’t well. She was afraid of losing her daughter and of not being able to protect her well enough. The doctors diagnosed her with depression, and she was told it was perfectly normal and that she should just take Effexor (known as an “antidepressant” but more accurately called a depression pill) so that her brain would work again. Possibly for the rest of her life, but at least for five years.

Her life changed markedly. She put on 50 kg (110 lbs) and had several weird episodes that she didn’t understand. Once she wanted to dig a sandbox for her children, but she ended up putting an entire trampoline 70 cm into the ground by removing seven cubic metres of soil with a shovel. Another time she knocked a wall down in the kitchen without warning and without being a craftsman in any way, because she felt the family needed a smart conversation kitchen. One day during a job clarification process, she told the job consultant that she would like to study to become a lawyer even though she is dyslexic and would never have been able to do this.

She saw a psychiatrist again, and 15 minutes later the case was clear — she had become bipolar. She was sent for psychoeducation and was told that her condition would definitely last for the rest of her life. She was trained in how to notice even the little things that confirmed that she was ill, and special care was taken to ensure that she took her medicine.

“They managed to put a massive fear” in her, she said, and she clearly identified herself with a sick person who had to tackle life in a certain way in order to survive.

Time passed and she ended up leaving her husband of 15 years. In 2013, she met her current husband, and he asked quite quickly “what the sickness was all about,” because he couldn’t see it. After a year and a half, she surrendered and agreed to make a small trial with a small withdrawal of the medication. He was happy with that because he had seen several times how disastrous it went when she forgot to take the medication. For example, she once ruined a trip to a summer amusement park because she had forgotten to bring the medicine with her. As the day went on, she got worse and worse with headaches and vomiting, and she was slightly confused and just wanted to lie down and sleep until she got the drugs again.

Her medication list included Effexor, later switched to Cymbalta (two depression pills), Lamotrigine and Lyrica (two anti-epilepsy drugs) and Seroquel (an antipsychotic). In addition, she was given medication for the adverse effects caused by the drugs and for her metabolism. This is a dangerous cocktail. Depression pills double the risk of suicide, not only in children but also in adults,1 2 3 4 antiepileptics also double the risk of suicide,5 and both depression pills and antiepileptics can make people manic,6 which happened to her, thus giving patients an erroneous diagnosis of having become bipolar.

The withdrawal process took two and a half years, with her husband helping as best he could to make the process as gentle as possible. They did not understand it at the time, but discovered along the way, what the receptor saturation curve means, namely that you need to reduce the dose less and less the longer you come down. There are not many doctors who know this,7 and the official recommendations, e.g. from the Danish National Board of Health,8 are outright dangerous because they say that you should reduce the dose by 50% every time you taper depression pills. Thus, already after two reductions, you are down to only 25% of the starting dose. This is far too quickly when you come down to the small doses, and her life became endangered.

She was scared to death that it would end wrongly and was often thinking about giving up and therefore introduced several pauses in the process. Thoughts of suicide were extremely pressing during the times when she tapered, because it was totally horrible. Inexplicably, she had accepted that she obviously hated life and wanted to put an end to it. She is otherwise an energetic girl who loves life and who has never had suicidal thoughts until she started taking drugs, nor after stopping them. But the withdrawal process was completely “crazy,” she said, and she often considered whether taking her own life would be more humane.

During withdrawal, she had some “wildly weird experiences.” On the good end, she took it upon herself several times just to listen to nature and the birds. It was a powerful experience, because she could not remember when she had last experienced this in the years she was “doped.” A little sadder were the other symptoms that came during the withdrawal. The abstinence symptoms included dives that could easily be interpreted as depression, and during withdrawal of Lyrica, she was anxious and felt that life was unbearable. One morning in the bath she began to cry, because just feeling the water on her body was not something she had noted for many years.

This was when she came to know two of my books on psychiatry and found out that everything she had experienced was well known and perfectly normal. It was really shocking to her to read about how it is normal practice to be exposed to the hell she had been through, but also liberating to discover that it is normal, that she probably wasn’t sick, and that there was nothing wrong with her.

By the end of the withdrawal, she had a strange experience where, for almost half a year, she was almost crooked in her body. She constantly had a feeling of tipping to the left and had a hard time walking straight. During several periods, other muscle groups failed. When she once played a game where a stick is thrown after some wooden blocks, her hand didn’t release the stick when she tried to throw.

After withdrawal, things started to get better and better, and she wanted to work again, even though she had been out of the job market for many years and was on disability pension. With great support from her husband, she planned to take a business driver’s license and drive a taxi, but “Oh no, oh no! There was a big no from the police.” They sent a letter stating that her driver’s license was time limited and that she would need to provide documentation every two years that she was not sick.

“The fact that they choose to throw an extra diagnosis after someone who is on depression pills is pretty terrible,” she told me. “Today, I must renew my driver’s license every two years for that reason. But you wouldn’t imagine how hard it was to avoid them taking it away completely. When I contacted psychiatry because of my contact with the police, they first refused to see me — because I was well. So, I couldn’t get their help to prove that I wasn’t sick and thus fit to drive. After intense pressure from me, my own doctor finally persuaded them to take me in for a talk and make a statement. It dryly noted that my ‘illness’ wasn’t active. I could have strangled them, because that means I’m still sick and, in the eyes of the police, one that needs to be monitored in the future.”

She completely disagrees with the bipolar diagnosis. She never had manic episodes before starting on the medication, and never had them after she quit. But the diagnosis is glued to her for the rest of her life, although it is well known that depression pills can trigger mania and thus cause the psychiatrists to make a wrong diagnosis, although it is “just” a drug harm and not a new illness. It is a medical mistake to make a new diagnosis as if there is something fundamentally wrong with the patient, when the condition could easily be due to an adverse effect of the medication.

She gave up the idea of ​​becoming a taxi driver. She became a coach and went on studying to become a psychotherapist. She works with many different people and also helps patients taper off their depression pills, with great success. They are reclaiming life and seeing it move forward. She knows it is important to support them when they withdraw so that they will not face the same situation as she did. There are many thoughts and fears, and many people have difficulty defining themselves if they are no longer sick. So, the combination of tapering and therapy seems to have an extremely beneficial effect.

It is difficult to convince people that stopping the medication is a good idea. They firmly believe in it, because they are told they are sick, but even worse, there is great pressure from the relatives. She has felt on her own body what it means to stand alone with the withdrawal. Today, she no longer sees her family. They maintained the claim that she was ill and just needed to take her medication. This mistaken view is nourished by the fact that most websites still falsely claim that people fall ill with depression because of a chemical imbalance.9 If you believe in this, you also believe that you cannot do without the medicine.

A few years ago, she bought the domain name medicin-fri.dk (medicinefree.dk) in order to, in cooperation with others, one day be able to provide information about taking medicine and the harms, as well as provide help and support for withdrawal. There is a massive need for information dissemination. Too few people know about the problems or have ever heard of them. She wants to change that and wants to make sure that she does not give incorrect advice and information. She therefore wrote to me and asked if I knew about others who would like to join an organised network about these issues. I certainly do. I co-founded the Council for Evidence-based Psychiatry in England in 2014 and the International Institute for Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal in Sweden in 2016 and am a member of the board in both organisations. I also have a list of people who would like to help with withdrawal, and I have posted practical tips and tricks on my website, deadlymedicines.dk.

In addition to her daily work with clients, she lectures, but finds it difficult to “be allowed” to get the message out. She has lectured for Psychiatry in the Capital Region about being bipolar, which was easy. Everyone obviously wants to see a sick person and hear her story. But a success story that calls the system into question is not considered interesting.

She is passionate about changing things and has, for example, established several self-help groups and lectured for the Depression Association; volunteered in the Red Cross and started groups for lonely people; and mentored young people at the Families’ House in Esbjerg. Today, she is active in Better Psychiatry in Esbjerg and suggested they invited me to give a lecture. They did not know who I was, and the chairman introduced the meeting by saying that if more money was allotted to psychiatry it would probably be okay. I started my lecture by saying I wasn’t sure this was a good idea. If more money came in, even more diagnoses would be made, even more drugs would be used, and even more would end up on disability pension because they cannot function when they are drugged.10

She wants to give a lecture entitled “Surviving psychiatry,” inspired by my books, Survival in an Overmedicated World: Look Up the Evidence Yourself and Deadly Psychiatry and Organised Denial. Today, she finds it overwhelming to live a life that, after 11 years of medication, she thought was completely out of reach. Although her past life was “foolishly handled by various psychiatrists and other well-meaning doctors,” she does not want to mess it up and ask for access to her patient files. She would rather look ahead and inform others via websites and lectures about how harmful it is to blindly become medicated — often for no reason at all.

She is convinced that virtually none of her strange experiences during the 14 years she was drugged would have happened if she had not been given medication. Her memory suffered a severe blow because of the drugs, but it is improving.

She cannot understand why the doctors didn’t stop this drugging themselves. There was nothing that could justify her massive drugging, and when she gained weight from 70 to 120 kg, the doctors also did not respond, besides giving her medication to increase the metabolism, which was “completely nuts … It was extremely disabling in every conceivable way and in itself almost something they could give a depression diagnosis for, because it was a sad thing to expose your body to.”

She considers the system to be hopeless. You can’t blame her for that. The colossal overuse of psychoactive drugs produces chronic patients, often based on problems that are inherently temporary.

Perhaps you would want to know who this remarkable woman is. She has given me her permission to reveal it: She is Stine Toft.

Show 10 footnotes

  1. Gøtzsche PC. Deadly psychiatry and organised denial. Copenhagen: People’s Press; 2015.
  2. Bielefeldt AØ, Danborg PB, Gøtzsche PC. Precursors to suicidality and violence on antidepressants: systematic review of trials in adult healthy volunteers. J R Soc Med 2016;109:381-92.
  3. Maund E, Guski LS, Gøtzsche PC. Considering benefits and harms of duloxetine for treatment of stress urinary incontinence: a meta-analysis of clinical study reports. CMAJ 2017;189:E194-203.
  4. Hengartner MP, Plöderl M. Newer-generation antidepressants and suicide risk in randomized controlled trials: a re-analysis of the FDA database. Psychother Psychosom 2019;88:247-8.
  5. FDA package insert for Neurontin. Accessed 4 Jan 2020. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2017/020235s064_020882s047_021129s046lbl.pdf.
  6. FDA package insert for Effexor. Accessed 4 Jan 2020. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2008/020151s051lbl.pdf.
  7. Horowitz MA, Taylor D. Tapering of SSRI treatment to mitigate withdrawal symptoms. Lancet Psychiatry 2019;6:538-46.
  8. Davidsen AS, Jürgens G, Nielsen RE. Farmakologisk behandling af unipolar depression hos voksne i almen praksis. Rationel Farmakoterapi 2019;Nov.
  9. Demasi M, Gøtzsche PC. Presentation of benefits and harms of antidepressants on websites: cross sectional study (to be published).
  10. Whitaker R. Anatomy of an epidemic. New York: Broadway Books, 2015.

22 COMMENTS

  1. Sounds familiar…

    Thanks Dr. Gotzsche…all the best to you.

    ps Ordered “Deadly Medicines…” for the local library, along with “Anatomy…”

    and in my case, my ‘bipolar’ is being questioned by SS disability…can’t wait to die as a homeless bag lady on the streets with all that wonderful brain damage from their ‘treatments’.

    USA USA USA!!!

  2. Thank you Dr Goetzsche, for standing by and for your patients.

    Doctors do know how withdrawal works, they are not interested.
    Patients have no clue that professional people would resort malpractice.
    It is Complete and utter malpractice to knowingly give a person poisons
    and labels, knowing it will hurt them, defame them.
    They have to be hit the same way…in their pocketbook and in their pretentious roles,
    in short, defamed.

      • thanks Rosalee..
        I guess it just boggles the mind how this cult is allowed to continue.
        I suppose they will have no choice but to do something, and they are trying
        to resurrect the beast.
        It can never be good enough. Because they pointed the finger at “broken” and “sick”, when all along it was them…..and made a public spectacle of people. It is identical to the people that used to be dragged to the market square to be gawked at, abused, or eventually killed.
        They try to disguise it through the DSM lol, and their target meds 🙂

        It’s all so bad, like a bad B movie. It simply goes to show how programmable we are.
        It’s all quite interesting really.

  3. Another case of monumental ineptitude for the ages. Big Time Psychiatry fumbles another post partum incident. Of course it was too much to do this right, using an HOD test to quantify things, checking her nails and asking her if she remembers her dreams. You’re going to treat her with B6, zinc (and maybe magnesium), B100’s and C (which the article’s antidepressant shrinks would find deadly dangerous), raising the B6 to the point where dreams are remembered. Do your tapering after several months. This “depression” is pretty likely the result of high serum copper at the end of the pregnancy. This sort of treatment has only been around for 30+ years.

  4. Thank You Dr Peter, for this inspirational offer,

    This is what I wrote to my doctor:-
    My Response to the GP Delisting Letter 2018
    https://drive.google.com/file/d/114Qjp47-TmI0LJWlyKRmrC7R4QLtHITq/view?usp=drivesdk

    After he wrote this to me:-
    The GP Delisting Letter 2018
    https://drive.google.com/file/d/1VB1L7C7G87DNmS-uS3blngY3CMtOH5gl/view?usp=drivesdk

    “….They did not understand it at the time, but discovered along the way, what the receptor saturation curve means, namely…..”

  5. Thank you Peter
    I will forward this article to friends who are in danger of following in the same path. For those of you who are not familiar with Dr. Gotzsche’s book Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime. it is a must read. Even if you think you already understand, you have know idea how corrupt the whole industry is. We tax payers pay them bonuses for their corruption. Criminal.

    Best
    Jim

  6. Great post.

    However, I need to correct the use of the word “diagnosis.” I understand why it might makes sense to use the word “diagnosis” in order to communicate simply, but a diagnosis implies that there is an actual disease to identify. There is no such thing as a psychiatric diagnosis because there is no such thing as “mental illness.” “Mental illness,” as Szasz so thoroughly and eloquently articulated, is a myth, and the so-called “diagnoses” are nothing more than fabrications of the psychiatric imagination.

    Therefore, our new survivor friend was not “diagnosed” with depression, bipolar, or any other fictitious disease. She was labeled, drugged, and put through chemical torture.

    I’m glad to hear that she is on the path of recovery. If she would like to supplement her education about the truth of psychiatry, I recommend the following website: https://psychiatricsurvivors.wordpress.com

    • I do not go to an oncologist to have my suspicion of cancer verified and through his verification I become a social pathogen, a misfit, all legal rights stripped.
      Psychiatry is not a branch of medicine. They created drugs to try and support their practice. It never once crossed their minds that perhaps they went wrong in classifying human experience, behaviour as “illness”.
      Now they have THAT to deal with and the folly of it is becoming more exposed.
      We had to enlighten THEM, we have done so and it is now us against them.
      Perhaps they are of the mind that something can save their practice. And no, it can’t, there are too many people starting to be informed. By their damage they are exposed.
      We have bought into their accusations and projections, their own lack of insight. It is exactly when we gain insight that we finely wisen up. We are always vulnerable to cults, propaganda.
      It was easy to believe in mind theory because it was always one where you could literally make up whatever popped into your mind and run with it. All one needed was the priestly robe. The degrees on the wall are merely a testament of ability to study, remember and regurgitate. In no way do they represent rational thought, common sense. In fact, all the papers on the wall are indicative of limited thinking.

  7. Thank you Dr. Gotzsche and Sandra Toft for sharing this inspiring story of recovery from the clutches of toxic psych drugs. So glad Sandra persevered through withdrawal and is now living a meaningful life and is passionate about helping others survive psychiatry’s labels and toxic drugs.

    Thanks for all you do Dr. Gotzche in exposing the devastating harm being done to so many by psychiatry. Best wishes on setting up the Institute for Scientific Freedom – your integrity and voice is desperately needed in this world!

  8. My story is almost identical, except I was on many more drugs. They tried probably every antidepressant on the market, finally ended up on high dose of Effexor which made me “bipolar”. Then got put on Neurontin, Lamictal, Lithium, Depakote, etc. etc. Also got “diagnosed” with ADHD and put on Ritalin, and benzos for anxiety. And Seroquel. I had a spiritual awakening 7 years ago and started an over five year long process of getting off the drugs. My last mini dose of Ativan was over a year ago. I am working but still have many issues with fatigue and I have to push myself most days. Still don’t have my mojo back but it’s much better than when I was on those drugs, I experience steady improvement (with lots of nutritional supplementation) and I am in this for the long haul. On the drugs I felt suicidal often. Today thoughts of suicide hardly ever even enter my mind. I have tried to get a support group in my small rural area for people coming off the drugs with no luck as this knowledge is not yet accepted in the mainstream thought process. Some day I hope to help others.

  9. Thank you, Peter, for pointing out this common type of malpractice. I, too, dealt with the common adverse effects of an antidepressant being misdiagnosed as “bipolar.” Despite this being pointed out as blatant malpractice in all DSM’s, except the current one. From the DSM-IV-TR:

    “Note: Manic-like episodes that are clearly caused by somatic antidepressant treatment (e.g., medication, electroconvulsive therapy, light therapy) should not count toward a diagnosis of Bipolar I Disorder.”

    It’d be interesting to study what percentage of “bipolar” defamed people, actually got that stigmatization, due to misdiagnoses of the common adverse effects of the ADHD drugs, antidepressants, or any other drugs. If you google it, it seems the psychiatric and psychological industries are not interested in studying the iatrogenic etiologies of either “bipolar” or “schizophrenia.”

    And, absolutely, the “schizophrenia” drugs, the neuroleptics/antipsychotics, can create both the negative and positive symptoms of “schizophrenia,” via neuroleptic induced deficit syndrome and anticholinergic toxidrome. All doctors are taught this in med school, and most deny this knowledge in practice.

  10. I wonder if there is room for another reality TV show along the lines of Penn and Teller Fool Us?

    Psychiatrist presents a patient on stage and then gives a ‘diagnosis’ of what they will get when the drugging starts. I’d like to be the person handing out the F.U. awards lol.

  11. I invite Steven Poole to come on here and discuss his post in the Guardian and let’s get into the details.

    https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/jan/10/great-pretender-susannah-cahalan

    “She does also finally concede that modern psychiatry helps untold numbers of ordinary people: psychiatric drugs “help many people lead full and meaningful lives”, she writes. “It would be folly to discount their worth.” But by the time of this grudging admission, pages from the end, this book might have been happily seized on by cultists and fearmongers who want to dismiss the discipline as a conspiracy cooked up by Big Pharma and the authoritarian state. The truth is that psychiatry, along with medicine in general, remains a highly imperfect science – but the book’s polemical implication that it has not moved on much since 1973 has the potential to be truly harmful to anyone thinking about seeking help now.”

  12. Dr Peter,

    EVIDENCE BASED MEDICINE AND THE EXPULSION…
    “….Torrey wrote to call attention to Gøtzsche’s association with an organization called the Hearing Voices Network, which, Torrey claims, “promotes the belief that … auditory hallucinations are merely on end of a normal behavior spectrum.” …”

    On this subject (alone) Torrey tends to disagree with you – yet there is ample evidence that you are factually right.

    Are you going to present the Evidence…?

LEAVE A REPLY