How I Learned to Safely Taper off Psychiatric Drugs, and You Can Too

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It was May 21st, 2019, when I woke up in a strange hotel-like room drenched in sweat, fully clothed with a winter jacket on and feeling absolutely terrible. Next to me on the nightstand were six plates of food wrapped in cellophane and above me stood a massive, muscular Nigerian man named Henry who explained to me that I was at a drug rehab in Thailand and that I had slept for 48 hours. He had kept bringing me meals for the past two days and had been very worried about my heart rate, he explained. When I was able to fully grasp the situation I was in, a feeling of overwhelming panic immediately set in. It was not a desperate need for narcotics I felt, but exclusively the fear of not having access to my Lyrica and Zyprexa, the immediate cessation of which I had come to fear more than death itself.

I first went to a psychiatrist in 2008 as the transition from being a university student to an adult life had proved quite overwhelming for me and resulted in feelings of anxiety and depression. What I needed was metacognitive therapy and a mentor, but the cult of psychiatry was insistent that the solution to all my problems could be found in psychiatric drugs alongside made-up diseases and labels. I tried many of their useless so-called “medicines,” but in 2011 I ultimately ended up on Lyrica and Zyprexa alongside nine diagnoses. I was told that these drugs had the same dependence profile as ibuprofen (that is, none), and so I figured, “Well, it can’t hurt.”

Eight years later I had become a raging drug addict. By 2019 my daily regimen was 7 grams of cocaine, 320 mg oxycontin, 10 mg Xanax, 120 mg Elvanse, 400 mg modafinil, 5 grams of cannabis, testosterone injections, somatropin, ketamine nasal spray, psilocybin (for depression), MDMA, copious amounts of alcohol and whatever else I could get my hands on. I was working full-time as a professional stand-up comedian with my own travel show on MTV, doing five shows a week with 200 travel days a year. No one ever accused me of being high or being unruly or unprofessional until the last few months before going to rehab. This was simply the cocktail that was necessary for me to survive what Lyrica and Zyprexa did to me.

My baseline state on psychiatry’s drugs had become intolerable as early as 2013, causing severe pain, panic attacks, depression, anxiety, weight gain, fatigue, irrational behaviour, and a seemingly infinite supply of physical and psychological ailments. Calling it ‘side effects’ is an astronomical understatement; my experience is that nothing can make you more mentally ill than a psychiatric drug. My narcotics regimen was just a necessity to feel “normal” while on these psychiatric drugs. I was simply compensating. I had to.

Over the years I made several attempts to come off both Lyrica and Zyprexa following the fantasy world, reality-denying guidelines provided by my psychiatrist, and I failed every time. When I followed his advice, it felt like I suddenly became immediately brain-damaged and had every neurological disorder known to man. I didn’t, but that’s how it felt. Being on these “medicines” was the equivalent of being installed with a “kill switch” where if I stopped taking them, I immediately became a physically and mentally handicapped person who simply could not function. After just a few attempts resulting in the chemical torture that is withdrawal symptoms from too rapid tapering of psychiatric drugs, I simply concluded that my number one priority in life must be to never stop taking these drugs. With narcotics, it’s hard to quit because you love them so much, but with psychiatric drugs, it’s hard to quit because you fear them so much. Ultimately, this fear is amplified by the fact that there is very little useful information out there about safe tapering (a problem I’m now trying to fix, but I’ll get to that).

When I woke up at rehab that early summer day of 2019, my number one priority was to get to a psychiatrist to get my psych drugs and avoid going into withdrawal, which was constantly lurking. I had to keep the “kill switch” from kicking in. Henry took me to the best psychiatrist in Thailand who proudly and arrogantly proclaimed in his delusional aura of self-importance and wisdom that the smartest thing to do in my situation was to quit both Lyrica and Zyprexa at the same time, cold turkey. When I protested, he became more and more insistent about his brilliant cold turkey plan and explained to me that the seven valium pills he had given Henry would make it so that I wouldn’t even notice coming off the Lyrica and Zyprexa.

As with all psychiatrists I had met in my life, it was terrifying to see how detached from reality this man was as I watched him feel so superior to me based solely on his belief in the medical model. However, based on experience I knew that as long as I pandered to his ideology, I could get my way. The protocol with these people is always the same: list your diagnoses, praise the psychiatric drugs, and praise them. I ended up getting what I wanted, the Lyrica and Zyprexa; and so I could just focus on getting clean and sober from narcotics for now, keeping withdrawal symptoms from the psychiatric drugs at bay.

After five weeks at rehab, I went back to Norway and started going to twelve-step meetings. I stayed clean and sober, but I was getting sicker and sicker from the Lyrica and Zyprexa cocktail. At nine months clean from narcotics, I was sleeping 16 hours a day and was fat, sick, and felt like I was dying inside. I had lost all hope of coming off these psychiatric drugs years ago, and since it felt like they were slowly killing me, my rational conclusion at the time was that assisted suicide or resuming narcotics were my only two options moving forward.

Then, on February 18th, 2020, my girlfriend at the time discovered a Facebook group called “Lyrica Survivors.” This support group gave me the motivation and the knowledge to summon the courage to start my Lyrica taper on March 9th, 2020. It was a 10½ month taper, and I reached zero milligrams on January 19th, 2021. It was the most torturous experience of my life and was roughly ten thousand times worse than oxycontin withdrawal. I had no strategies for coping with these withdrawals and assumed on a daily basis that I was either going to die from the experience or at the very least be permanently brain-damaged.

I later learned that an even slower taper – over maybe two to three years – would have minimized the withdrawal symptoms significantly, which is what I’d recommend other people to do. In my experience, the only way to call these drugs effective would be if they were made by the Soviet Union as a torture device to be used in North Korean prison camps. The original mental state I took these pills for was a mental state I could only dream about as a best-case scenario for life during these withdrawals. Without my girlfriend at the time supporting me through the process with the help of Lyrica survivors, I simply would not be alive today.

Lyrica Survivors is a very active Facebook group and an incredibly supportive community, but with Zyprexa, I found very little information about safe tapering and issues of withdrawal in general. When I googled “How to come off Zyprexa,” the top search result was: “Don’t ever start!” Information is the most valuable currency in the tapering game, and when it came to Zyprexa, there was none. But then, about four months after coming off Lyrica, my girlfriend at the time found a little pamphlet called ‘Psychiatric drug withdrawal – worth knowing about mitigation and management of withdrawal symptoms, racing thoughts, and difficult emotions’, written by a Danish psychologist and researcher named Anders Sørensen. She was able to find his contact information and we arranged a Zoom call right away.

I remember being terrified to talk to him, because I was convinced he was going to tell me that I was now permanently brain-damaged by the drug and that I should focus on buying the wheelchair I’d have to spend the rest of my ruined life in. But instead of what my ever-catastrophizing thoughts tried to convince me of, I met the nicest, most knowledgeable and motivating tapering expert in the world who’s first response to my tapering request was, “Zyprexa? No problem, let’s get you off that!” This moment was the turning point in my tapering process.

When tapering off a psychiatric drug, you need realistic information, acknowledgement of the severity of the experience, constructive advice, and hope. Unfortunately, the health care system operates in a world of make believe, and most of the well-meaning online support communities are packed with horror stories that can be discouraging. Constructive and helpful expertise is the rarest and most valuable commodity when tapering a psychiatric drug. Most health care professionals seem deeply invested in denying the withdrawal experience, and the fact that Anders had just acknowledged what I was going through was worth its weight in gold. Anders emphasised that my withdrawal state was temporary, gave me realistic timelines, validated the symptoms and the brutality of the experience, and was able to answer all my questions based on years of experience. The headline here was, “You will feel normal again, just give it time. Trust me.”

After an 11-month taper with dose reductions down to just 0.1 and even 0.05 mg at a time, I was finally off Zyprexa on June 19th, 2022. Throughout the entire process I had regular online consultations with Anders where he calmly answered all my neurotic questions, guided me on how and when to reduce the dose, and gave me amazing coping strategies to manage my withdrawal symptoms and challenge my paranoia, my ruminations, and all my worries. He was also very funny and had a very light demeanour which made it clear to me that he was not worried about my situation and that this would all pass one day. With the only health care professional I ever met who wasn’t in denial about these withdrawal symptoms on board, tapering was a completely different story.

I am now 22 months off psych drugs, almost five years clean and sober from narcotics, and I feel better than ever. I would rather go to Stalingrad as a German soldier in 1942 than go through psychiatric drug withdrawal again. And now to the very point of this whole story: There is no greater passion in my life than helping other people going through withdrawal from psychiatric drugs as I did, and I believe Anders Sørensen’s work and approach can change the online information landscape when it comes to psychiatric drug withdrawal in a much-needed way. Therefore, on April 1st, 2024, I travelled to Copenhagen, Denmark, and made a series of videos about safe tapering with Anders in his office, which we’re now ready to release on Youtube.

The idea was this: I had prepared a list of the questions that had haunted me the most throughout my tapering process, and I fired them off one by one to Anders with the camera on. I wanted these videos to be a source of comfort and constructive, motivating, practical knowledge that people could watch again and again if needed throughout the tapering process. We wanted to make a counterweight and an antidote to both the ignorance dominating the mental health system and the horror stories dominating large parts of the peer support community. The end result was these 26 Youtube videos (see below) of some of the most commonly asked questions about psychiatric drug withdrawal, now released on Anders Sørensen’s Youtube account (created for this occasion). We have also created an email address, [email protected], where people can send in their questions about psychiatric drug withdrawal that Anders will answer in future videos.

In my opinion, this video series is a game changer. If such videos had been available to me in early 2020, my suffering would have been far less and more manageable. I urge everyone to spread them far and wide. While psychiatry lives in a fantasy world of delusion, denying reality, it is important that the rest of us who have to face the reality of the horrors of psychiatric drug withdrawal help each other out.

Anders Sørensen and Jørgen Kjønø in Denmark

What do I need to know before I taper?

Which psychiatric drugs have withdrawal symptoms?

What does a safe taper look like?

Why do I need to taper slowly?

Where do I get ahold of the smaller doses?

How do I know when I’m ready for a new reduction?

What is a safe dose to drop to zero from?

I tried to taper before and failed. Does this mean I need the drug?

What are the biggest problems people face during a taper?

Can I drink coffee or alcohol when tapering?

I’m on multiple psychiatric drugs. Which one do I taper first?

How do you taper injectable psychiatric drugs?

I’ve gone on and off psych drugs before. Why do I get withdrawals now?

Will I ever feel normal again?

What is happening in my brain and body during withdrawal?

I can’t function due to the withdrawal symptoms. Is this normal?

How can I tell the difference between withdrawal symptoms and relapse?

Can I die from a taper?

What is a realistic timeline for these withdrawal symptoms?

Is there anything I can take to alleviate withdrawal symptoms?

How can I survive/manage these withdrawal symptoms?

Can I replace my drug with another drug that is easier to taper?

I came off too fast and my symptoms are extreme. What can I do?

Who can potentially help me through the tapering process?

How do I know when I’m fully stabilized?

I switched psychiatric drugs and feel terrible. Why?

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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.

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Jørgen Kjønø
Jørgen Kjønø is a Norwegian stand-up comedian who goes under the stage name Dex Carrington. During the decade he was stuck on Lyrica and Zyprexa he developed a soul-crushing drug addiction. After getting clean and sober in 2019, he spent over four years in psychiatric drug withdrawal. Today he works as a volunteer for WSO in Oslo, helping to spread tapering resources in an effort to help people come off psychiatric drugs.

25 COMMENTS

  1. Kudos, Jørgen, let the artists save the world! Thanks to both you and Anders for putting out videos to help people safely withdrawal from the psychiatric neurotoxins. I had two “good guy” Anders involved in my life, during my “drug withdrawal induced super sensitivity manic psychosis” issues, despite it not being an historically common name in the US. True to the meaning of your name, Anders, “strong and manly.” Thanks to both of you.

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  2. I was 13 years on Psychiatric RX that ran the gamut, and induced the ‘bipolar ‘ that was my mental and physical reaction to highly toxic medications .
    I was the Mom of 3 sons under 11 and a narcissist husband . I am highly emphatic and mirrored his distortions until Xanax was prescribed for IBS . Highly addictive I took 5 per day for 12 days , experiencing a chemically induced nervous breakdown . 17 days in a psych center was hell on earth but I realized my marriage was endangered and for our sons sake I went home to be a better wife and Mom
    5 years of doing it his way , meant being out , drinking 3 nights a week and he working out of town 3 nights a week .
    I returned to psychiatrist and asked him if I were Bipolar ; he said yes .
    I started medications and lost my life as I knew it . My 1 RX was lithium , though I had a history of kidney disease , and I am allergic to heavy metals .
    I was a zombi and X did nothing for 5 years until he left our home .
    Getting off the RX 12 years was hard , and I tried cold Turkey and for 3 days I knew what junkies felt . I then tapered off and in doing so , used lighter RX like Trazadone ( which made me dream in color ) I then went to Sam E . I had symptoms called fibromyalgia and was given Lyrica which I was warned would give me suicidal ideation and it sure did ; as well as weight gain .
    Eventually I made life style changes don’t have any RX at present , moved from my home town and researched and honed my spirituality
    I have medical pot and came to understand the misdiagnosis ; TRAUMA was my issue and medicating it for decades is criminal .
    I have been off meds since 2005/6, using only naturals and relocated to a rural area 13 years ago to heal my trauma which has been tested repeatedly oh high , but the test are over
    I blog at GreatCosmicMothersUnite.Wordpress.Com
    I hope to submit soon to Mad in America .
    I am now 72 years , and have been alienated against our 3 sons since waking 2004 .
    I am very Blessed to be alive
    Psychiatry is erasing families and many individuals.

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    • Dear. Misdiagnosed as Bipolar I. 35 years on 7 psychotropic drugs, 3 intentional overdoses. 10 hospitalization. Severe Cptsd (trauma) was/is my “issue. TY for calling that “criminal”. Given15 ECT’s=traumatic brain injury. I’m almost done w/taper without any assist, rather had to fight for my life to have an idiot pcp Rx at end of my taper. Age is 77, lost most of life due to severe ongoing trauma. Have debilitating chronic pain (autoimmune disorders?). for your post. It’s been hell, no one knows these truths but “us”.

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  3. “As with all psychiatrists I had met in my life, it was terrifying to see how detached from reality this man was as I watched him feel so superior to me based solely on his belief in the medical model.”

    I can relate to this scenario, which is not a caricature, it’s the nightmare reality most people face when trying to withdraw from psychiatric drugs. To me it’s psychiatry’s defining feature: psychiatrists I have encountered were drunk on arrogance, happily living in their own reality-denying universe, adding insult to injury to people going through withdrawal. It was a crash course in what it means to be gaslit.

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  4. Great blog.

    The transition to adulthood is often a tough one but turning to people that make a living pulling bullshit diagnoses out of their ass with one hand and psych drugs out of their ass with the other are two things few people need.

    The photograph chosen for this blog was perfect, too! Makes me wish to hell I’d shredded the goddamn psych scripts written for me.

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  5. I am about to embark on withdrawal
    Thank you yto you two it will hopefully be significantly less traumatic than your earlier attempts
    It is criminal how they put you on these things but have no expertise in helping you off them when you recover from crisis and make life changes/have psychotherapy/ grow/ gain insight or whatever no longer need them

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  6. I truly praise God that you were patient enough to get set free from those poison pills. I hate all these drugs for the reasons you stated and the horror you went through. I was prescribed Zyprexa at one time.and I remember it was like having a dark.sheet pulled down over my eyes and I stopped taking it. But I was stuck on a number of other meds for around 15 years until I went cold turkey and said to hell with this. The withdrawal was horrible, but I got through it and.uabe been free almost 14 years now. I’m going to share your story on my Substack blog. And if I coukd.give you a hug I would!

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  7. Very informative, but I miss tapering strips. I understand that some people prefer do-it-yourself-pharmacy for e.g. financial reasons, but it is good to know there is a possiblity to get tested tablets of 0,1 mg paroxetine or 1 mg of efexor extended release. Worldwide delivery.
    http://www.taperingstrip.com
    If someone knows another compounding pharmacist who does the exact same thing; please let me know.

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    • Tapering strips and liquid preparations are not available for the slow release enteric coated drugs. This is why some of us have to still count beads. Maybe one day we will have an alternative to use, but until then this is what we do.

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  8. Thank you for this blog post. It validates my experience of trying to get off Prozac, and my anger at the pharma industry.

    Thank you also for putting together those videos. Just seeing the titles it looks like you have covered many of the questions that I have had and would want answered.

    Thank you for hope and help.

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  9. Thank you for the article and for your part in putting the videos together – I’ve just watched them all and they are very informative. There’s not a lot of research on withdrawing from these drugs because most people never do…. I know because I’ve been looking. I’m just about to start a taper from benzo daytime sedatives, benzo sleeping tablets & an antosychotic. I’ve been on high doses for 40 years (the benzos) and 20 years (various mood stabilisers/antipsychotics), so at 61 years old I’m finding the prospect of tapering to be terrifying. I’ve sometimes mistakenly missed a dose, and I only realise it because withdrawal symptoms kick in quickly. They’re both horrendous and terrifying. Earlier in my life I was addicted to illicit, hard core drugs, and getting off those was so much easier than getting off the legal drugs that have been prescribed for me.

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  10. PLEASE: 37 years on over FDA approved dosages of 5-8 psychotropics, over time he’d drop one high dosed drug over night & begin another at too high a beginning dose. Repeatedly. I was in grief over loss of my 16 year long boyfriend and my 17 y/o daughter moved 2700 miles away, doing blackout drinking and drugs. Worried me deeply. The 2 were my life. Psychiatrist, 5 star reputation, Los Angeles, dx’d me w/bipolar I w/o any knowledge in 1993 of complex ptsd which I now know I have in spades. I’m tapering on my own, almost off after 37 yrs. Will never step foot in psychiatrists ofc again. Do any of you suffer from several autoimmune disorders/diseases??
    I do, and I am certain those highly toxic psych drugs have caused or contributed to my present indescribably horrible “diseases”. I intuitively know this, my body knows this, and I feel so defeated and enraged at psychiatry for their reckless , uninformed, immoral mistreatment of me. Retired ICU RN, was doing ok prior to psychiatry. Was grief stricken not bipolar I which is a bullshit DSM V diagnosis. Anyone? Please if you feel your immune system is sick from psych drugs what do you feel?

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    • I think I can relate to some of what you’re going through. Psychiatric ‘medications’ seriously messed with my metabolic system (among other things) so I don’t doubt for a minute that these can also adversely affect people’s immune systems.

      The truth is psychiatric drugs can seriously affect people in (seemingly) subtle ways that for the most part have yet to be recognized by the medical community.

      Thankfully my system got better over time with help from electro-acupuncture administered by a chiropractor trained in eastern medicine. Deep tissue massage helped a lot, too.

      The rage you feel is completely justified, so don’t let anyone tell you that it isn’t; I used my own to get through the worst of it, as a way to not feel so defeated.

      The secret is not giving up.

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      • Where did Anders acquire “his” taper procedure? Where did he find his numbers?
        Go to The USPTO. Look for patent # 9301963. The work is not Anders’.
        For implementation of the process, use Chat GPT ( mixing doses) to find correct authentic instruction via
        . Caution :His implementation is faulty. Do not use water unless you are tapering Librium.
        I am sorry that my post is so short and limited.
        However, you deserve correct information and its sources.

        Verify my statements. Go to USPTO.gov for the method; BenzoDetoxRecovery/com archives via Chat GPT for science-based implementation.

        Research, Read, verify, think, and be safe.

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        • Interesting; in the Maudsley Deprescribing Guidelines is water for as far I checked, always the recommended solvent.

          I found the article on USPTO about benzos; did you also investigated solubility of other psychoactive medication, like antidepressants and antipsychotics? Lithium?

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          • My patented claims address Benzodiazepines only.
            You make a good point. I address benzos only. I use actual pharmaceutical websites and text books for drug monograph and solubility information.
            The patented process may be used to taper most any drug, but I used the withdrawal tool for no more than Benzos because I had not used or tested the procedure for use with a drug other than a benzo.
            I used Valium as an example, but the procedure can be translated to another benzo by using the relative potencies.

            The Handbook of Compounding also is a resource for solubility.
            You make a good point when you ask about my investigation of solubility of other medication. I should have instead posted the need to verify solubility of any medication before choosing the solvent for the med to be tapered. I would use my process for tapering another drug, but I can’t claim results because I did not test the process with a non-benzo.

            Of the commonly prescribed benzos, only Librium is adequately soluble in water. This has led to the use of a suspension aided by a viscous additive to create a liquid containing the drug. However, the solution is most homogenous and so it enables accurate measurement of the very small dosage reductions as in 0.01 milligrams for example.
            Before anyone worries about that 0.01 milligram cut making the taper years long, I should add that that number is not used through the taper. It is the initial or test cut that is escalated as described in the patent document. My personal titration tapered 15.0 Milligrams of Valium during the period of August 5. 2005 to March 23, 2006. That’s seven months and 13 days taper duration to full recovery from the withdrawal syndrome. My dosage was changed according to the process described.
            Although compounding pharmacists use suspensions of benzos, I do not recommend this today. Too many people have reported inaccurate potencies. This addressed Benzos only, of course.

            The claim that water is suitable to actually dissolve any medication is troublesome when the pharma-data sources publish solubility as poorly soluble to extensively soluble. The milligram per milliliter ratios are published. An anecdote: A woman was using the correct solvent and improving as she tapered. She contacted me. I asked how she was mixing her dose, She had substituted water for the indicated solvent.
            Thank you, I believe you when you say that water has been used a standard. Pharma data are what I used, and I can’t explain why it is not the standard everywhere.
            I appreciate your response. You told me a practice of which I was not aware.

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        • I apologize; I was not clear. His advice is not his and is not excellent because he is using procedure ( with added errors) developed by and made available from its actual author and not by Anders . It is patented at the USPTO by Julian Hill with “benefit of date 2012, April 5th”. The patent text is available at the USPTO. Anders is using some of the patent claims and with added incorrect bits.

          An example of those bits: using water as solvent for insoluble or poorly soluble drugs makes measuring dosage cuts inaccurate. The number of milligrams of drug in a milliliter will be unknown making that taper-line a guess.. I ought to have written: “intellectual property infringement with added nonsense is unsafe”.

          Where did Anders acquire his titration information? He does not include that. Verify my patented procedure at the USPTO. The true patented procedure has been available for many years from BenzoRecoveryToday,LLC. Earlier, it was legitimately presented and used at benzodetoxrecovery.com. A Chat GPT query includes this earlier and legitimate use.

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