Sunday, July 5, 2020

This section presents research and personal experiences relating to the use of and withdrawal from antipsychotic (neuroleptic) drugs. You can use this page to:

  • Learn about research on antipsychotics and withdrawal effects.
  • Read blogs and listen to podcasts related to use of and withdrawal from antipsychotics.
  • Access other resources related to withdrawal from antipsychotics.

Click here to select another drug type.

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes withdrawal symptoms?

The exact mechanism is unknown, but a proposed theory is that, over time, the body adapts to the presence of the drug by altering the number or sensitivity of neurotransmitter receptors. When the drug is reduced or stopped, these adaptations are uncompensated for by the drug and the result is withdrawal symptoms. This adaptation is known as oppositional tolerance and is proposed as the reason that withdrawal can persist long after the drug is ‘out of the body’. Click here to read a more detailed account of how psychotropic drugs act on the brain.

Are antipsychotics addictive?

Doctors will sometimes reject any suggestion that psychiatric drugs can be addictive. As far as the technical distinction between dependence and addiction is concerned, this is correct. However, it would be misleading if the assertion that psychiatric drugs ‘are not addictive’ was used to imply either that the drugs are without risk, or that they cannot lead to dependence. For some people, dependence can be a result of using antipsychotic drugs exactly as prescribed.

How many people will suffer withdrawal effects when coming off antipsychotics?

There have been only a small number of research projects looking at the number of people reporting withdrawal when coming off antipsychotics. Many factors influence the likelihood of withdrawal including the length of time on the drugs, the dosage taken, the age of the person taking them and whether other prescribed or street drugs are also involved. A wide range of experiences are reported between those who can come off relatively easily with mild, short-lived symptoms, to those who experience protracted withdrawal lasting many months or sometimes years.

What are recommended tapering speeds?

The time taken to taper from psychiatric drugs is highly variable and dependent upon many factors and personal preference. Professional groups often recommend very short tapers, in the range of four to six weeks, but feedback from those with lived experience is that longer, more gradual tapers are preferable when aiming to minimise withdrawal effects. Recent research is providing evidence that tapering will often need to be months to years rather than days to weeks. You can read more in our withdrawal protocols document.

Research Findings

A review of the evidence for antipsychotics in short-term use, their adverse effects, and their impact on long-term outcomes.

Reviews of the scientific literature on antipsychotic withdrawal including discontinuation syndrome.

An examination of the available guidance on antipsychotic withdrawal from both professional and lived experience perspectives.

Blogs and Personal Stories

akathisia pain

The Agonizing Nightmare of Drug-Induced Akathisia

Take every horrific feeling you’ve ever had in your life, all at once. Now, times them by 200, right in your gut. That is how akathisia pain feels. When I tell doctors I have drug-induced akathisia, and that it's incredibly painful, they do not believe me. They say my pain is a mental health issue, and they have all methodically undermined my credibility in my permanent record.

Eternal Sorrow: My Unexpected Descent into the Mental Health System

In searching for answers as to what went wrong with my treatment, my family and I discovered that there is already much scientific evidence demonstrating the dangers of antipsychotic medications and why they should not be used to treat illnesses such as Tourette Syndrome.
Abraham McNeill

Eulogy for Abraham Leighton McNeill

A friend said to me recently, "Oh, he suffered such a lot. That’s over for him." I know their words were intended to comfort me over my son’s suicide. Our fine, excellent son, Abraham, had committed suicide a month before Christmas 2019. Nevertheless, I bridled inwardly at the suggestion, not wanting to remember Abraham as merely the sum of his sufferings—he was so much more than that.

Podcasts

Wendy Dolin – Making Akathisia a Household Word

An interview with Wendy Dolin who talks about the work of MISSD, the Medication-Induced Suicide Prevention and Education Foundation in Memory of Stewart Dolin, a non-profit founded to raise awareness of the tragic consequences of drug-induced akathisia.

Professor Sir Robin Murray: Reframing Psychotic Illness

An interview with Sir Robin Murray, who is a Professor of Psychiatric Research at the Institute of Psychiatry. He is perhaps best known for helping to establish the neurodevelopmental hypothesis of schizophrenia, and for his work on the environmental risk factors relating to schizophrenia.

Dr. Joseph Firth: The Role of Exercise and Nutrition in Early Psychosis

Dr. Joseph Firth of Western Sydney University talks about his research into the role of exercise and nutrition in supporting young people in the early stages of psychotic illness.

Antipsychotic Withdrawal Resources

General Resources

Rxisk – maintains a searchable database of adverse effects of prescription drugs that have been reported to the FDA in the United States, Health Canada, and to RxISK.

Inner Compass Initiative – provides information, resources, tools, and connecting platforms ​to facilitate more informed choices regarding all things “mental health”.

Will Hall’s Harm Reduction Guide to Coming Off Psychiatric Drugs.

Tapering Strips – an innovative option for gradual reduction of prescribed psychiatric drugs.

Facebook Groups

‘Abilify’ the antipsychotic drug, awareness of the dangers to your health

Living with Akathisia – Support for anyone living with Akathisia. Akathisia is a state of agitation, distress, and restlessness caused from a side effect of medication.

Maastricht World Survey On Antipsychotic Drug Withdrawal – Please join and share this international study on antipsychotic drug withdrawal and attempts to withdraw, led by Will Hall and Maastricht University.

Video

Brainsplain – The dangers of stopping meds for schizophrenia. Volkmar Aderhold – Brain changes through neuroleptics and therapeutic consequences. Interview with Peter Gøtzsche.