Review of the Conference on Withdrawal and Side Effects: IIPDW

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The online conference Withdrawal From Psychiatric Drugs was held on Friday May 6th and 7th. An extremely important topic for us at Mad in Norway and Mad Global, we set aside time to help get the conference’s message across and ask the questions: What is wrong with psychiatric drugs? And why should you avoid being on them long term?

Organized by The International Institute of Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal (IIPDW), the conference has been in the planning stages since members of the Institute met in Gothenburg in autumn 2019. The intention was at that time to meet in Reykjavik at an international conference. However, due to the pandemic, it was not possible to organize an in person conference. But the need to meet in person is so important, I and several like-minded people met that weekend to follow the conference together. Five speakers were on the program. The following is a short summary of each speaker’s points:

What’s Wrong With Psychotropic DrugsThe Myth That There is a Chemical Cure

Robert Whitaker is an American health journalist who immersed himself in research in the field of psychiatry, particularly psychotropic drugs. The founder of Mad in America, he wrote the book Anatomy of an Epidemic (Norwegian title: En Psykiatrisk Epidemi). Joanna Moncrieff is a British psychiatrist you should check out if you want to know anything about psychotropic drugs. She is the author of several books, most recently A Straight Talking Introduction to Psychiatric Drugs (Norwegian Title: Psykiatriske Legemidler), which Mad in Norway recently reviewed.

Both Whitaker and Moncrieff talked at the conference about what is wrong with psychotropic drugs and how long-term use can have severe negative effects. Both explained that it is not true that people with psychological issues have a chemical imbalance in the brain that needs to be corrected with medication. No one has ever been able to demonstrate such an imbalance in people with mental health issues. On the contrary, what happens when you are on these drugs is that they create imbalances in an otherwise normally functioning brain. Stopping the drugs can be difficult because the brain has adapted to the drugs, and negative withdrawal symptoms can persist even after stopping the drugs.

In the long term, a person using such medications risks becoming chronically ill and deceived. According to several studies that Whitaker showed, long-term use of medications produces worse results in a number of areas and worse outcomes than in people who do not use them over time. Whitaker goes on to say that we cannot rely on psychiatrists as a group. Their main product is drugs, and they do a lot to hide how badly these products work. Of course, there are individual psychiatrists who think differently, but generally we cannot rely on them in this area. A change must come from the bottom up, from the people themselves who learn about the drugs and their effects. It will not come from the experts at the top. Fortunately, many books and articles have now been written and are readily available to most people.

Moncrieff said this is particularly serious in young people whose brains are still developing, and that these drugs do a lot of damage. She believes health professionals need training in this area so that young people get other help. But it is difficult to find a psychiatrist who knows how to do this and who supports it.

Those Who Have Withdrawn From Psychiatric Drugs Are the Foremost Experts

Laura Delano is an American “survivor” of psychiatry. She said that she believed very strongly in the medical model with its diagnoses and medications when she entered psychiatry as a teenager. After several years of treatment and hospitalizations, without getting better, but only worse, she began to lose hope. She had been labelled as treatment resistant. Then she came across the book by Robert Whitaker and began to read up. It was the start of years of tapering off and working on herself to get a better life.

Laura spoke vividly about overwhelming withdrawal symptoms, both physical and mental. She was clear in her talk that the foremost experts on withdrawal are those who have been through it themselves. She later set up the website Inner Compass and The Withdrawal Project, which gives a detailed description and help on how to taper off. There is often little help from professionals, and therefore support from peers and being part of a peer support group is important.

The most important lessons Laura took away from withdrawal were:

  • Know why you’re doing itwhat it is you want to achieve.
  • Quick fixes lead to more problems.
  • Symptoms of withdrawal are signs of change and of the body healing.
  • Be aware of the grief that can come over the years that psychiatry has taken from you.
  • The answers lie within yourself.
Practical Experience

Carina Håkansson is a Swedish psychotherapist who shared her experience of working with families in Sweden where diagnoses and medication were not used as a starting point. Carina is inspired by Tom Andersen and Jaakko Seikkula and works through network meetings and Open Dialogue. The most common problem she encounters in the clinic when people want to taper off is that the doctors won’t go along with it. They believe that people have to take responsibility for this themselves, and that children also have very limited knowledge about tapering and how to go about it. But many need support, because naturally they get worried when they get withdrawal symptoms. Parents are also told that children need medication to recover. Carina says it’s very important that all health professionals have knowledge about this, since we can’t leave it to the teams. Giving accurate information is important.

Magnus Hald is a psychiatrist and former supervisor at the drug-free service in Tromsø. There they work with networks, and not in linear processes like much of psychiatry is organized. Magnus says the problem is that people think the drugs work, and that they prescribe them because they think it’s right. They think people get worse because they stop taking the drugs, and that the “disease” then comes back. They don’t understand how long-term use negatively affects the brain and the problem of withdrawal symptoms. Again, knowledge in the field is very important.

Podcast conversations with Robert Whitaker, Carina Håkansson and Magnus Hald can be heard here with Birgit Inviterer.

The hope for IIPDW and Mad in Norway is that more people will learn about psychotropic drugs and their effects, so that people experiencing mental health difficulties are best equipped to make good choices for themselves, and that health professionals can support people who want to manage without medication.

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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.

5 COMMENTS

  1. I respect that the author does not have a belief that there are chemical imbalances that can cause mental disturbances, even though iatrogenic damage seems to do so rather easily. I am not able to share the author’s belief that I do not have a chemical imbalance. My belief is that I do. We used to have no proof that black holes exist or other habitable planets outside of our solar system. The snail’s pace of human science is embarrassingly slow. Which is why we are still given pill treatments that do not work.
    We do not yet know what consciousness is, and whether it is knitted into the anatomy or cells of the brain or not. So we know not whether consciousness is physical. We barley can say with confidence what physical really means on a quantum mechanics level. Perhaps nothing is real. Not even chemical imbalances, nor iatrogenic harm. But it is nice to have a consoling idea of what is causing a sense of illness. But to me that is like choosing whatever lore you like. Whatever myth supports your own notion of healing. For many it means having a belief that there is no chemical imbalance. For many it means believing there is one. Particularly those whose chemicals went disrupted by medications not fit to remove fat from a frying pan.

    Having a belief that you do have a chemical imbalance ought not to make you a second class citizen. Whatever belief you have no matter how bizarre or even dare I say it schizophrenic ought not to be a ticket to instant purda. A new kind of virtual asylum.

    A top notch psychiatrist can breezily say that I do not have a chemical imbalance. I would want to say prove it. Prove no chemical in my brain is causing me to hallucinate night and day. Puppets on strings never pause and ask themselves how they know the things they know about complete strangers for certain.

    I noted that the conference has no seat for a speaker who does believe in the chemical imbalance theory.

    If any conference is not going to listen to people’s lived experiences…all people…then the conference may be just in the ambition of wanting to shut down the psychiatric refinery without putting ANYTHING healing in its place.

    In life generally, where ever I go, I am not sure what all the fuss with posh top notch conferences is. Invariably it sets up a tray of sandwiches for “the healers”.

    I like everyone on the conference list. I truly do. But I would prefer to see the mic handed to someone off the rails with anxiety or churned up with euphoria or talking in tongues to voices.

    • Chemical imbalance belongs to medical empiricism. In psychological perspective we do not use medical jargon. Medical empiricism wihout the idea of the psyche is useless form of sadistic control by privileged ego police – by people who thinks that their psyche is somethong good and yours is bad – this is also useless thelogical rhetorics functioning beyond the idea of the psyche. Without the proper attitude to psyche – pathology, medical jargon means nothing. Chemical imbalance is seen as bad and ill. And allegedly proper biological balance is seen as good and healthy. Materialists/marxists made it up mixing materialistic wellness with theological corectness. This kind of thinking is fallacy, this kind of thinking is a monistic weapon against the psyche, pathology. Monism, the Enlightenment era ruled out the overriding role of the psyche and changed it into well being and material status. Now, in the world of empty materialism, the psyche perspective does not exists. People have numbers, labels without meaning – this is antichrist, because empty soules materialism is satanism. It is not medicine it is satanic weapon of materialism. Cult of ego – mental health is a
      satanic convenience of materialistic zombies – “The ten stages of genocide”.

  2. All ten stages of genocide involve refuting the individual’s OWN understanding of what makes them who they are.

    By the way “chemicals” are everywhere. Look up the periodic table of elements. Us and our planet appears to be formed from a cauldron of chemicals. Balance begets imbalance begets balance begets imbalance begets on and on. Chemicals like to tinker at being balanced sometimes and imbalanced at other times, such as calcium in the ocean. I do not feel that the human body is set apart from nature’s waltz with balance and imbalance. Watch a slow motion video of a vine figuring out where sunlight and support is, as it ascends upwards, and you may observe a paean to imbalance begetting balance.

    My chemicals are imbalanced. They are MY chemical imbalances so I can say what I believe of them. I am the doctor of ME.

    I am sure we all agree that it is very discourteous to repeatedly tell someone who they are. And who they are not. And what they have wrong with them. And what they do not have wrong with them. To do such proclaiming is the giving of “preaching” and “pontificating” and “cross examination”. I am sure MIA was not set up to be a place of “preaching” and “pontificating” and “cross examination”.

    To do those three things involves calling a stranger a LIAR!

    And then asking them to PROVE that their interior self IS who THEY KNOW their interior self to be.

    We live in a age where everyone’s therapy is the punch up.

    That therapy entitles everyone to be USING an IDEA that there is a CORRECT WAY to be guided or taught lessons or even propagandized that upholds THE MYTH OF THE PERPETUALLY FIXED HUMAN BEING.

    The LOVE WORTHY HUMAN BEING.

    Love that only gets handed out to that desperate human being with conditions applied, that or bully attached strings.

    Therefore it is an IDEA that is virally TELLING everyone who is not fixed in the proper way, and who does not know themselves in the proper way, that they are the new second class citizens.

    Since in the secular West the Christain religion cannot be used at present as a litmus test of the ideal spottless flawless fixed human being, and since psychiatry with its bible has been tossed to the lions, the only artifice left to leverage a way into the stranger’s soul is via paternal psychotherapeutic jargon, borrowed, hijacked, put to the task of TELLING strangers that they DO NOT KNOW who they are. Instead the stranger MUST HAVE the new PREACHERS of perfection TELL THEM their inmost states. The stranger must be given diatribes like quasi therapy sessions in how being unfixed makes them look like they have not come to terms with being abused. Abused by a nanny, or abused by a teacher, or abused by a friend, or abused by a professor, or abused by a barista worker, or abused by the country, or abused by the planet.

    The unabused bewildered stranger MUST declare that they are all “wrong” and must be made “RIGHTEOUSLY FIXED”. Possibly by confessing to being a narcissist, that new description of demon sinner in church, or they must be lambasted as having a borderline personality, a stranger who HAS not come to understand that they are a controller.

    Yes, the stranger is a control freak. The stranger is in control of what they KNOW to be TRUE of their inner self and TRUE of their experiences. The stranger is honest and true to who they are.

    Why shouldn’t they be?

    But this makes preachy know-alls rush to pin them as a LIAR.

    We are living in a time where saying anything you feel to be true about your very own self is apt to get you disqualified as a LIAR.

    NOBODY wants to hear what you make of your mysterious inner self. They want to TELL YOU. That is because you have play “the other” to their “us”, or the mucked up specimen of humanity to their march towards THE IDEAL HUMAN.

    They are the PONTIFICATING DUTIFUL PERFECTED.

    You are LESS THAN.

    You become demoted to less than human. Like a throwaway border chunk of semi precious Amber.

    It is not done as a personal thing but is so that the ones who accuse you of lying can use that as “your crime”. The “thing” that is “wrong” with you that must be put taught and controlled by people who…

    ARE NOT YOU.

    Psychiatric jargon used to be bad at that.

    Now it is psychotherapy jargon that has been stolen from those university turrets and bent to the will of a million tyrannizing bullies.

    You are professed a demon for not learning that your grandparents ravished you. If you had put them through that Salem’s Lot inspection lens you might have noticed the telltale signs they did not love you in THE WAY that you are ENTITLED. If you say nothing happened to you and that you still love your dear old grandparents then you must be a LIAR about FULLY grasping the knowledge of who you really really really reallllly are, which is really damaged goods needing revenge. A puppet on a string, dancing to a demon casting ideology, handed a foisted rule manifesto about YOUR INNER LIFE every bit as confining of your “free choices” as the imposter movers and shakers in psychiatry ever were.

    I am not saying that psychiatry is inherently to blame. Nor am I saying psychotherapy is. I love the good in both these professions. Both professions, and psychology, are full to the brim with deeply caring people. What I am saying is that there are rotten eggs in any sphere of life. Some become cruel twisted bullies from within such structures and take those professions down a dark path. But once these are outed then a completely different vangard of controllers steps in and takes the new shiny solution down a dark path that is as far from emancipation that what went before. This is because bullying always will jump ship before its lair is found. That lair is the fearful fickle human heart in ALL OF US.

    • “My chemicals are imbalanced. They are MY chemical imbalances so I can say what I believe of them. I am the doctor of ME.”

      Psyche is not personal. “I” is a fixation of Western cultre in which people do not have soul. Psyche is not personal, our ego do not have control over psyche. In our culture when sb says that he do not have control, he is called insane. Ego do not have control and never will have it. Monotheistic materialism is something to small for proper attitude to politheistic imagination in which ego reside. Our “I” dependend on forces beyond control. Our culture is a manic fallacy. Our culture is an evil cult of satanic materialism. Balanced chemistry = health, imbalanced chemistry = illness, this is fallacy. Chemicals in brain only shows a particular state of the psyche. Psyche from the definition is not sth which makes us feel good. “Feel good” is a fixation of empty consumers and a marxistic mandated law. This is fallacy in medical disguise. We do not control our ego, because we do not have that power, psychiatry also can’t. They pretend, because they are arrogant barbarians. Psychological people are indigenous people destroyed by Anglo – Saxon law of barbaric materialism.

  3. Some people like to conclude me not schizophrenic because I have words. I am a talker. I am not dribbling in my jimjams in occupational therapy computer classes. I am erudite.

    This annoys people who like to think of healing as a restoration of robust health that is rounded off by intellectual prowess. This notion of “consensus normal” has it that the intellect is a protective immune system against going off your trolley or mad.

    Cleverness, apparently means you cannot be crazy. Therefore cleverness, they would say, beknights you as one of the chosen again. The stalwart citizen of the myth of the fixed, perfect human. A purveyor of pristine “logic”. Brainy “logic”.

    But this means the “illogical”…the overly emotional…are “not chosen”.

    They are quite likely to be declared mad. As lots of rather overtly feeling women that I know are.

    So we have been sold this notion that intellect is salvation against against going mad. Even though top “logical” experts are often found in shrubbery hemmed in by a litter of whiskey bottles or an impliment more madly vexing. Psychiatrists have the worst suicide rates.

    Needless to say, the clever healed who like to regard themselves as “consensus normal” and not their own quirky normal for themselves, invariably do not feel comfortable to see a misfit mad person who has the audacity to be “also intellectual”.

    This tests the robustness of the secure knowledge that “education” alone is enough to make you “fixed for life”. That dream everyone frustratedly still chases.

    Cleverness will not help you when your daughter dies. Cleverness will not mend you when Septicaemia rips through your every thought and feeling. Cleverness will not barter with a trafficker who has no interest in how you think. Cleverness will not be cuddling you in your lonely bed. Cleverness will not dry your tears. Cleverness will not “fix” your partners extra marital affair.

    Yet humans cling to cleverness as if it not only can shoo away dragons bit shoo away troubling feelings, illogical feelings, the hallmarks of burgeoning, out of control, insanity.

    So when a clever clogs meets a person who is mad and unarticulate it comes as a reassurance to the “logical” that they are on the “right” path. They are being “saved” from their messy mob of mad feelings. Thinking is still the hero.

    However, when the clever meet a psychotic person who is an equal match in the smarts department something does not add up. How can madness not be a flawed form of “logic”?

    This gives the clever and rational frown lines of deep perplexity. Even though the mad one may say they are no longer dribbling because they are no longer sedated by antipsychotics, the worried and rational spy on the mad one and hack their phone like policers of what madness ought to sound like. And madness ought to sound unintelligible, boring, repetative, disengaged, discombobulated, fatuous.

    This is perhaps why psychiatry used to punish the impudence of the mad who intelligently spoke back.

    Antipsychiatry has been great at shining a light on that subordination of the scholarly mad.

    But I have noticed an increeping version of something similar starting to happen in the way people now do not allow the mad to intelligently choose to remain intelligently mad. They are to drop the mad bit, like it is a dirty rag unbefitting “the found” and “saved”. They are ONLY to sound intelligent…or mad….but not BOTH.

    They are ONLY to join the ranks of the healed again thinkers….

    or wallow droolingly and incoherently with the babbling emotional. The weepers.

    At a pinch the weepers can join the thinkers IF they can intelligently understand that their illogical madness must be caused by a “rational” event. An abuse. A trauma. If the mad can recite that bit then they can say they are no longer mad and can belong in the bosom of the “consensus normal” tribe.

    When the mad are not allowed to be BOTH intelligent and mad….the whole human race is not allowed to be BOTH thoughtful AND feeling.

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