Withdrawing from psychiatric medications: why? how? when?& lots more information! #dyingtostayalive
Updated: Jan 28
I have been promising to write a detailed post about psychiatric drug withdrawal for a while now and finally I feel prepared and willing to thrash this out.
Medicating the brain is now a very contentious issue but the long and the short of it is that:
Not one psychiatrist in 20 years has been in agreement over what I should or shouldn't be taking and what's even worse is that even though I am now in FULL remission from severe bipolar disorder with NO SIDE EFFECTS the psychiatrists still do not agree with my treatment protocol!
This is all VERY disconcerting and I have explained all this in some of my previous posts but for anyone who wants to know why - see here to find out.
I am also a bit sick of being dismissed for my opinions by 'do gooders' who say 'and your medical degree is from?' so rather than go any further with this post myself, here are the thoughts of two psychiatrists who recently hosted the Mental Wealth Mastery Summit to discuss the current paradigms for mental healthcare.
This is what they emailed me this week:
Have you seen the recent #postyourpill campaign on social media?
It was started by Dr Alex George, a UK medic, to tackle the stigma around taking psychiatric drugs.
He posted a selfie 📸 showing him taking a pill for anxiety and encouraged others to do the same, to 'post their pills' too.
We believe the critical message Dr George was looking to convey was that...
There should be no shame in taking medication for health.
We agree on that point 👆
However, after this campaign went viral...
We were shocked to see the widespread misunderstanding...
Many believed they had a 'chemical imbalance' in their brains.
Many felt they needed medications for the rest of their lives.
Some folks said they struggled to come off antidepressants when they had tried to and had to go back on them. They were convinced that coming off their medication caused their depression or anxiety relapse.
If you recall our conversations during the MWM Summit, withdrawal symptoms arise when strong psychoactive medicines are stopped abruptly.
However, mistaking withdrawal symptoms for relapse is quite common!
If only people were better informed 😌
Below are FIVE KEY POINTS to consider -
1. Medications should never be the first option to treat low mood and anxiety symptoms. Instead, we need to raise awareness of the potential harm caused by prescription medication.
2. Psychiatric drugs do not work in the way people think they work. They do not fix a chemical imbalance in the brain.
3. People whose medications have harmed them are often not believed and often do not receive adequate support from services. We need to explore ways to ensure people get the right help.
4. Informed consent to prevent #prescribedharm is a MUST. People need to be given adequate information (the benefits and risks) to make an informed choice. In addition, they need to know what alternative options are available.
5. Medications are potent tools needing cautious and thoughtful prescribing. Unfortunately, over-prescription is common.
We're keen to hear your suggestions and if this resonates with you.
Please send us a quick reply with your thoughts 📩
Do you know why the current mental health paradigm is broken? Let's get to that in our newsletter next week.
P.S. Next week - TOP mistakes mental health professionals make...and How To Avoid Them! Make sure you check it out!
P.P.S. Replay of the Mental Health Summit '21 expires on 21 December at 11.59 PM GMT (unless you're a member of the Mental Wealth Mastery Membership)
Drs Rani and Suraj
Ok so my medication is not helping me but how do I get off it safely?
I think Drs Rani and Suraj have summed up the problems quite nicely in their email, but I need to add a few points of my own to give people the best chance of understanding all of this...
It all starts with the fact that:
The patient is the expert of themselves
If we say a medication is making us feel worse then we need to be listened to and supported in order to discontinue it.
The problem is that people need an alternative if they are going to come off these drugs because the original condition is still lurking underneath.
So what's the answer?
Follow this link to see what I did!
But... even if the patient is fortunate enough to be able to access this alternative treatment they are more than likely still going to have the problem of withdrawing from the useless previously prescribed drugs.
I have been on so many different things... all of which were HELL both while on and coming off them but the worst two for me were venlafaxine and quetiapine.
Now there are two important caveats to mention before I go any further which are that:
Everyone is different and I accept that. Some may perceive benefit from certain medications and some may be able to withdraw from them more easily than others.
Whatever you do, do NOT go cold turkey from any psychiatric medication because I know from experience that doing so is HIGHLY DANGEROUS!!
Now, I'm not going to go into the details of what happened with these drugs - that's all in the memoir/self-help book which I'm still trying to get a publisher for, but imagine the worst possible scenarios including:
sleep paralysis, night terrors, hallucinations and hospitalisation! Please don't go cold turkey!!
Advice for withdrawing safely
There is still hardly any advice when it comes to withdrawing safely from these medications because who the hell is going to pay for the research?
The drug companies certainly aren't going to be interested and the psychiatrists are confused and in disagreement about whether to even prescribe these things or not!
The only advice I have managed to find is to:
Withdraw by a ten percent cut of each new dose every two to four weeks
This is all very well but having stuck to this strict protocol I can tell you that even cutting by 10% every four weeks was still WAY too fast when coming off quetiapine and I would recommend withdrawing by 1mg a month for the last 25mg which means two years of withdrawal from the minimal dose.... (insert bear emoji with paws over eyes).
The only other thing I have found to help people to safely withdraw is a company that provide tapering strips which you can find here https://www.taperingstrip.com/
All of this is very disconcerting because people are going to be suffering from withdrawal symptoms for years as they try to rid themselves of drugs that are in fact worsening their conditions....
I am living proof that the brain can heal and that the PERSON can reclaim their life and recover from psychiatric drug harm or 'iatrogenesis'.
It does take a tonne of commitment, a great doctor/patient relationship, a bucketful of patience, persistence & resilience and a vat of courage and strength but it IS POSSIBLE TO FULLY RECOVER AND LEAD A NORMAL LIFE AFTER IATROGENIC HARM.
Please don't lose hope - the body and brain have an incredible capacity for healing as is demonstrated by the many posts on this site so please please keep persisting in finding the right route out of mental illness because I honestly believe it is possible for everyone if only they had the correct treatment, support, guidance and took the necessary steps to reform and redress their lifestyles.
Thanks for reading,
Speak to you soon,