The patient experiencing the pain of withdrawal believed that they would feel better when they stopped taking their antidepressants. After all, they’re under the care of a board-certified medical professional who has vowed to do no harm. But despite those reassurances, they find themselves in a world of hurt.
Antidepressant withdrawal is no longer an unknown disorder since knowledge on this topic has grown enough to be translated into practice. As proposed by George Engel in 1977, medical doctors, including psychiatrists, can observe and listen to their patients and develop a program to treat withdrawal and restore health.
Psychiatric meds can shut down the emotions and consciousness enough to make it possible to tolerate dynamics that would inspire rage or surges of empowered activity without the meds. It can be helpful to look closely at these blocks and start to create a map to freedom, understanding that it is a complex process that involves not only the physiology of the body of the individual taking meds, but the architecture of the social system around that person.
It's been over 5 years since I started offering non-medical consultations to people in the process of coming off or hoping to come off psych drugs. I wanted to share here some things I have learned in this process. Despite how far we have come, we have a long way to go in the quest to liberate all who wish to be liberated from psychiatry.
With increasing evidence that psychiatric drugs do more harm than good over the long term, the field of psychiatry often seems focused on sifting through the mounds of research data it has collected, eager to at last sit up and cry, here’s a shiny speck of gold! Our drugs do work! One recently published study on withdrawal of antipsychotics tells of long-term benefits. A second tells of long-term harm. Which one is convincing?
H. 3594 would require pharmacists to distribute pamphlets containing information on benzodiazepine misuse and abuse, risk of dependency and addiction, handling and addiction treatment resources. This would be a major legislative response to the prescribing patterns for these drugs today.
We held the first course ever on psychiatric drug withdrawal on 12 June 2017 in Copenhagen. The course was open to patients, relatives, psychologists, doctors and other social and healthcare workers, and 77 people participated.
Childhood trauma victims have already been through far too much. Many find when they disclose abuse to GPs, the first thing that happens is a prescription for a benzodiazepine, which can lead to severely disabling adverse effects. How can this level of risk be justified for anyone, let alone vulnerable abuse survivors?
After long-term use, most people are going to have serious symptoms when stopping SSRIs. Many people are going to have transient, mild to moderate difficulty and some are going to end up falling down the akathisia rabbit hole. That is a long, difficult drop.
Millions of patients find themselves caught in the web of psychiatric sorcery - a spell cast, hexed, potentially for life. They are told that they have chemical imbalances. They are told that the most important thing they can do for themselves is to "take their medication," and that they will have to do so "for life." Most egregiously, patients are sold the belief that medication is treating their disease rather than inducing a drug effect no different than alcohol or cocaine. That antidepressants and antipsychotics, for example, have effects like sedation or blunting of affect, is not a question. That these effects are reversible after long-term exposure is.
In a belated new-year blog, I thought it would be useful to set out what I think someone needs to think about if they are considering taking a drug for a mental health problem, especially if they think they might end up taking the drug for a long time. These are the questions you might want to ask your doctor if you take a ‘drug-centred’ approach to the use of drugs in mental health.
Depression during pregnancy is an important issue. Depression should not be ignored and depressed pregnant women deserve good treatment and care. Part of that good care, though, is providing them with full and correct information. I care for pregnant women taking antidepressants on a daily basis and too often they tell me that the only counseling they received about the medication was, “my doctor told me it’s safe in pregnancy.” This post will review the evidence in this area and address the counterarguments.
“Psychiatric Drugs are More Dangerous than You Ever Imagined” is the newest video in my series Simple Truths about Psychiatry. It provides a simple, direct and inescapable warning about this epidemic of harm induced by psychiatric drugs. The video sounds a necessary alarm about this growing tragedy, involving millions of people and their families, who never foresaw the disabling results of taking psychiatric drugs and giving them to their children.
Our main reason for beginning an awareness month is the need for recognition-- a yearning to make the word “iatrogenic” and its corresponding language available to our community, and to the greater public as a household name. We don’t have the luxury of raising money for research, racing for the cure, or ribbons. For that we would have to be on the map. Why is it that something this pervasive gets so little traction?
There is mounting evidence that benzodiazepines are causing Alzheimer's Disease. I cannot imagine any genuine medical specialty ignoring or downplaying information of this sort. But psychiatry, with the perennial defensiveness of those with something to hide, promotes the idea that they are safe when used for short periods, knowing full well that a huge percentage of users become "hooked" after a week or two, and stay on the drugs indefinitely.
One of the main arguments for continuing drug treatment for depression, psychosis and bipolar disorder is that you will get worse from stopping the drugs, especially if they are stopped abruptly. These are findings from mainstream psychiatry. However, if we combine this information with the methodology of the randomized controlled trial, we may see that these drug trials do not show efficacy of drugs, and may not be usable to show safety. The positive side to this is that the trials may actually demonstrate the healing power of our own minds.
If a person in mid-life is feeling anxious, or depressed, or can't sleep? No problem. No need to figure out the source of these concerns. No need to work towards solutions in the old time-honored way of our ancestors. Today, psychiatrists have pills. Pop a benzo! And by the way, you'll have a 40% increased risk of Alzheimer's Disease in your late sixties.
To those who are still suffering, it gets better. Indeed, I do not consider myself ill anymore. I consider myself HEALING, which is a vibrant state of movement and change. My limitations do not mean that I am sick. Learning to make boundaries for my well-being has been one of the healthiest things I’ve learned to do. Deeply respecting the needs of this body/temple is one of the most wonderful achievements of WELLNESS.
It is rare to get involved in a dialogue over psychiatry without sooner or later someone defending the use of such “treatments” as ECT “as long as they are consented to,” with the term “informed consent” periodically employed. Herein lies the context for this piece. The issue that I want to probe, to be clear, is not whether force should be used—for of course it shouldn’t—but the thorny issue of consent itself—what exactly constitutes consent and what other issues besides consent are critical to factor in when considering what it is and is not legitimate for a “medical” professional to offer.
The other day I talked to a friend who I hadn’t seen for quite a while. She told me that she had been prescribed Seroquel for sleep problems about a year ago. But when she started to read about it a couple months ago she got really nervous that it was causing her long term health complications and she stopped taking it - cold turkey - without tapering. I wondered about our conversation afterwards and thought about the countless amount of people who don’t tolerate their psychiatric meds and quit cold turkey.
On Monday April 14th, an important new study from Harrington et al was published in the journal Pediatrics (the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.) The study was designed to examine prenatal use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and the risk of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and other developmental delays (DDs). Nine hundred sixty-six mother child pairs were studied and the researchers found that in boys, the association between maternal SSRI use in the first trimester and autism was very strong (OR 3.22). The association between third-trimester maternal SSRI use and developmental delay was even stronger, with an odds ratio of 4.98.
An important new research paper was published this week on the topic of antidepressant use during pregnancy and preterm birth. The issue is a crucial one as preterm birth (i.e. birth at less than 37 weeks gestational age) is one of the most challenging problems facing the obstetrical community today. Rates of preterm birth have been increasing over the past two decades. Babies born early have increased risks of morbidity and mortality. At the same time, rates of antidepressant use during pregnancy have increased dramatically.
When the benzodiazepines were first introduced, it was widely claimed, both by psychiatrists and by pharma, that they were non-addictive. This claim was subsequently abandoned in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and the addictive potential of these products is now recognized and generally accepted.
Part of what has scared me straight about ever starting a patient on an antidepressant (or antipsychotic or mood stabilizer) again is bearing witness to the incredible havoc that medication discontinuation can wreak. I am half way through the first e-course of its kind (on withdrawing from psych meds), and it has been incredibly well-received. There are so many people out there, disenfranchised by psychiatry, skeptical of its promises, and who want a better way, a more thoughtful assessment of them as whole persons. We seem to be onto something here, so let’s keep the dialogue flowing, keep our eyes wide open, and reform what psychiatry means, one patient at a time.
As I see it this website is about filling the gaping hole in the official literature on mental health problems and their treatment. Since these problems were declared to be diseases, ‘just like any other’, academic papers present them as if they were simply technical glitches in the way the brain or mind works. They can be identified by ticking a few boxes, and easily treated by tweaking the corresponding defect with a drug or a few sessions of quick-fix therapy. What it is like to experience these problems and their treatments is nowhere to be found. Yet in post after post on this site among others, we hear about the harm produced by drugs that are prescribed for mental health problems.
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