A most important post for anyone contemplating psychiatric drug withdrawal

In a response to a post the other day about the horrors of Cymbalta, a drug which among many other awful things is also awful to withdraw from, as are all psychotropics potentially, I got this comment.

I’m working on a taper off Cymbalta, been on it for a bit more than two years, and thankfully haven’t experienced the negative side effects to the degree that others do. They’re there, I am aware that they can happen, and I truly hope somehow soon it becomes clear what we’re doing with these drugs. The pressure on taking them to solve everything that’s ever been wrong is terrifying. (emphasis mine)

My response was with some editing:

thanks for proving the point I try to make over and over again and no one ever listens! You aren’t having serious problems because you’re coming off this drug safely!!! You are taking a very long time to slowly and safely taper.

Something virtually no one does, nor do they want to hear the truth and so many people suffer needlessly.

Good for you!!

This is my constant source of angst on this website. For some reason no one ever wants to be patient and safe about getting off meds so people repeatedly do dangerous and stupid things. I think it is part of the reason these people are on drugs in the first place. No patience. No trust in one’s own body and the signals it gives. Only wanting a quick fix. And then people create more problems for themselves then they had to begin with by recklessly coming off drugs in a dangerous fashion. In general, I imagine this results in becoming convinced one needs the meds and buying into what psychiatry is telling us all the time.

Psychiatric drugs withdrawal is dangerous! I can’t say that enough and yet people again and again, cavalierly pursue it without giving a damn about all the research I’ve collected and all the thousands of people’s lives I’ve had the privilege to hear about either by simply reading experiences in withdrawal groups or directly through this site. Anecdotes is all we have people. There is no clinical research and the only thing I gain by preaching caution is peace of mind. If it were easy and non-problematic to come off meds, don’t you think I’d say that??

My About page which I direct people to again and again has all the resources one needs to start moving in the right safe direction and yet, while a lot people do click on that page, a very tiny fraction of people look at the material on it meaning they don’t click through to the links that direct them to tons of important information. It’s a shame. If one were to read the articles and books on that page one could move forward as safely as possible in today’s world where there is a paucity of information on withdrawal.

Most people, if they move slowly and safely and prepare their body mind and spirit sufficiently can get off meds without too many problems.

As I’ve said many times, I am not representative of the average psychiatric drug user who withdraws. My nightmare situation comes from having been on 2 and 3 times the so-called “therapeutic” amount of 6 drugs for close to 20 years.

Most of the people who come here have much simpler situations and if they take special care will simply not face the issues I’ve had to face. BUT if you don’t take special care, and it seems most people don’t then, yes, you will run into serious problems, though they will probably be simply gross mental instability rather than physical disability like it’s been for me. My mental state is relatively stable since I’ve taken 5 years now to come off the drugs. It’s the simple sheer volume of neurotoxins that has poisoned my body. Again most of you don’t have that sort of history. And while withdrawal is never comfortable, if you take the proper measures to care for yourself, you need not get disabled at all, in most instances, mentally or physically.

There are articles, books and websites that help with withdrawal on the about page and there are also books on diet and nutrition. I might add you should pursue some sort of spiritual practice, my favorites being yoga, chi gung, and meditation. Movement and meditation of some sort are very important for most people.

This is not a simple task of healing the “underlying” issue that got you on drugs in the first place. It’s also about healing your body from the toxins you’ve been putting into it. You have two problems now. And you need to be cognizant of that fact. And respect that your body needs a whole lot of time to adjust to the changes the psychotropics have wrought on your brain.

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About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters

26 Responses

  1. Gianna,

    Thanks.

    For any of your readers who want to go off cold-turkey….

    A few years ago, I knew anything about psych drug withdrawal, and I did it cold-turkey (not getting any help from my doc, who actually wanted to raise my dose….again)….I was taking a large amt of geodon for about six or seven months, and in one day – stopped.

    That was three years ago – and the fallout hasn’t stopped from that method….Had three separate episodes of amnesia, flu-symptoms for about four months, and now have memory problems, disorientation, confusion, and twenty minute episodes of horrific depression….all of these from the decision to come off cold-turkey….These symptoms are all new…They wern’t there before – they are now…..and, have been for over three years….

    If it helps any of your readers to hear from someone who did it wrong, so that they don’t make the same mistake, then I’m happy to be the one who they can use as an example….

    Duane

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  2. I’m taking the process very slowly but I’m scared that the symptoms I’m experiencing from withdrawal will be stuck with me forever. Today I’m angry with psychiatry in general.

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  3. Laura,

    It’s okay to be angry with psychiatry….It’s really okay….You’re not alone….

    Take the article (below) for instance – a psychiatrist tries to steer his colleagues clear from practicing any ‘evidence-based medicine’…..

    Keep in mind, the guy who wrote this piece is a psychiatrist, and he’s telling his colleagues not to sweat the small stuff….not to worry so much about ‘evidence’ with mind-altering drugs….

    It’s not just Tom Cruise any longer….a lot of us are getting the message now….

    These drugs don’t work – They cause more harm than good, and they’re not based upon any science, any medicine….

    If this won’t make you angry….nothin’ will –

    http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/display/article/10168/1153248?pageNumber=1

    Duane

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  4. womanofhope

    I’m so glad I keep seeing the emphasis on moving slowly.

    want more than anything to come out of my holding pattern and taper more, but my body is saying no.

    horrors of horrors, tried to get my psychiatrist on board yesterday with my long-term plan of no medication and she’s still on the fence. She did, however, say I could just “cut the pill in half.” Really? And be o.k.? I don’t think so.

    Like you, Duane, I’m still suffering from the effects of having gone cold turkey in the past. Memory, focus, reading, mood–all kinda messed up.

    Things are slowly getting better, though, and I have faith they will continue to do so.

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  5. WofH,

    Having faith they will continue to do so….So am I…

    I think keeping a faith that things will get better is so important, and having people who understand also – My wife reminds me that I’m getting better, and I think it helps a lot.

    My best,
    Duane

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  6. rob

    “no one ever wants to be patient and safe about getting off meds so people repeatedly do dangerous and stupid things”

    ….I couldn’t disagree with you more. I believe that people, myself included, want so bad to be patient and safe. But it takes tremendous courage and strength when faced with crippling pain, isolation, self-hate, and all the other things that go along with being drugged, to be patient. Patience is not something that is easily acquired. Patience is not taught. And when you’re in pain, patience is the first thing that goes out the door. Intellectually, I know that patience is what’s required to withdraw safely and (possibly) without severe symptoms. But that’s why I took the pills in the first place. I didn’t have the patience to sit with my feelings. And, on my own, I’ve seen over and over that I lack the patience to go off them in measured, sane, manner. But that’s why the world is the world it is today. One of instant gratification. I want it now. I think people would give anything to have the ability to be patient. It just takes a maturity that I, for one, and a lot of other people lack. We’re doing the best we can.

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  7. Daniel

    One of the most glaring ways in which the mind-body divide is perpetuated inside this culture is that while no one questions the idea that bodies can be trained (hence the popularity of gyms, diets etc) it is widely assumed that what might be called the physiology of the mind (the supplies of patience, attention, intelligence, kindness etc and the dynamics of their interaction) is something we were born with.

    If I say, I’m not patient — that’s just the way I am — then that’s an assertion that will widely be accepted as a fact.

    Yet look at different cultures. There is no doubt a genetic component to the different dispositions people have — whether they are excitable or calm. But these are also deeply conditioned forms of behavior. We are actually taught to be patient — or taught to be impatient.

    We live in a culture where unfortunately we have been trained how to be impatient. Becoming patient requires bucking a powerful trend. It means learning how to appreciate the present instead of being fixated on the future.

    When the present is painful it might seem impossible to appreciate. The only way I know this can be done is through that moment of release in which I allow things to be the way they are because I surrender to the fact that what is happening now is inescapable. It’s outside my control.

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  8. great topic, gianna!

    my friend “Don” is a 65-year-old attorney diagnosed with bipolar 2, the kind where you get hypomanic but mostly suffer from depression. he has a great doctor. with his doctor’s permission, he went off all meds 2 years ago and was blissfully free of symptoms.

    don is a smart man but he never consults anyone when he makes decisions and he made some really foolish ones. he got deep into debt and is overwhelmed by the consequences of his foolish mistakes.

    he went back to his doctor begging to be put back on medicine to relieve his very serious symptoms of depression including suicidality.

    i was furious at him for going back on meds, which haven’t kicked in yet. i said he should’ve gotten counseling several times a week but of course he made his choice. i also told him about the importance of aerobic exercise to to flood his depressed brain with endorphins.

    don is so depressed now he can’t lift a finger to help himself. end of story number one. the moral is: when depression returns, use alternate means than meds to get out of it.

    second story. my friend ‘darcy’ has been on ineffective meds for five long years. she is constantly depressed and does nothing all day. she lives with her aged mother and is a useless human being.

    when i knew her (she moved far away) she was working, productive, in fabulous psychotherapy, and on a regimen of good meds that let her live a good life. she was funny and fun as hell to be with.

    now she’s a vegetable. she’s so depressed she can’t even kill herself. thank god.

    she goes to a terrible clinic in california and gets no help. she took herself off all her medication. i said truthfully, good for you, darcy. if it ain’t helping, why ingest the stuff.

    she’s 2 months med-free. i said, let’s see how your 46-year-old body is doing now, some 30 years after your diagnosis.

    she grunted. our bodies have natural healing mechanisms. give it a chance. she grunted.

    then i came up with a good suggestion. with her medi-cal card, she should find a superb therapist like she had in philadelphia, where i live, and see if she can kindle any hope within her dead brain.

    she has no emotional support in CA and must find a decent prof’l to help her out. she’s diagnosed w/bipolar no. one and is living a miserable life.

    if therapy doesn’t work, i suggested she check into a hospital and get on meds that work. they worked once, they can work again. i know, gianna, you don’t believe in meds, but i’m a strong advocate that a person should not live in abject misery as if they were an animal.

    thanks for listening!

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  9. N8

    Dr. Fink makes me laugh. He wants to avoid evidence based medicine because all of the evidence indicates that drugs and shock are more harmful than helpful.

    In psychiatry, they have always had a ‘heads I win, tails you lose’ attitude. When psychoanalysis was the big treatment, the patient either had to agree with the analyst or they were ‘resisting’ treatment.’ Now if the drug makes you agitated, suicidal and addicted, you must have been bipolar all along.

    While there are thousands of lectures for doctors on how and when to prescribe, there is literally no education on how to stop the drugs. Psychiatrists actually will not stop drugs, rather, they just replace one drug with another. Psychiatrists are invested in the notion that the drugs aren’t addicting and can be stopped quickly – then when you get sick they blame it on you, not the drug.

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  10. Arianna

    There are a few drugs I’ve taken, where it’s very dangerous stop. I’ve been off and on prozac for 20 years. I know how it works, and I go “cold turkey” . This isn’t as big a problem with prozac, as prozac has a long half life, and it titers slowly out of the body.

    However, a similalr drug, Paxil, has bad withdrawal symptoms, because it has a shorter half life, and the body does not get the slow titration as with prozac.

    I also do a great deal of research on each drug I’m taking. I noticed that a drug I use for anxiety, to slow my heart, and keep it from racing, is atenolol. It is a beta blocker, that is used to lower blood pressure. It’s a very common drug. Well, I have read, on the “side effects” list, from Walgreens that you can have a heart attack if you stop taking it!

    Titering slowly off of drugs is really the only way to make sure that you don’t get into trouble with withdrawal.

    The way I figure it, is that it took me 20 years to get on this many pills, I’m not going to get off of them in 2 weeks! It will take months to years!

    Best,
    Ari

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  11. “and, yeah, beta-blockers are actually used in psychiatry quite a bit for anxiety in general….and they are very dangerous to stop suddenly.”

    When I was twelve my family physician put me on beta-blockers for anxiety. I still remember him saying, “You’re the type of person who if they don’t have any stress makes their own.” But he never asked me why I had so much anxiety in the first place.

    Also, I wonder if most of the people who go cold turkey of psych meds do so because their were told by their doctors that they were “safe” and so they didn’t consider them dangerous.

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  12. Sloopy

    I see from elsewhere that this blog has acquired itself another industry shill. This time, his agenda is to promote beta-blockers for the treatment of anxiety…

    The shill’s interest in this topic coincides with the adverse publicity that beta-blockers are receiving in the press. There is heightened concern over the drugs’ safety, following comments from MIND, the leading mental health charity in Britain.

    Below is what Dr Peter R. Breggin, a veteran critic of psychiatry, has to say about the industry’s idiotic use of beta-blockers in the treatment of anxiety..

    “Any drug associated with reduction of anxiety or increased sleep should also be suspected of causing tolerance – an increasing need for larger doses – as well as dependence…There is no “free ride.” If the drug has a significant impact, the brain will likely try to compensate, producing the potential for rebound and withdrawal symptoms.

    Beta-blockers suppress the heart rate, thereby reducing one of the most disturbing symptoms associated with acute anxiety – the pounding heart. They are also used in medicine to slow the heart rate.

    Beta-blockers have many more negative effects on brain function than many doctors realize. Drugs such as Inderal (propranalol) can cause serious depression in some patients. More commonly, they can cause sedation and slow down the thinking process in a manner that physicians describe as “clouding the sensorium.” They can bring about a feeling of being “washed out” or lethargic. They can cause overstimulation, delirium, anxiety, nightmares, and more extreme psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations. They can also produce impotence, gastrointestinal upsets, low blood pressure, and slowed heart rate. A dangerous possibility is the constriction of the respiratory track (bronchospasm). Withdrawal can be a problem as well, in that it can result in rebound or increased heart rate and blood pressure.”

    That excerpt was taken from page 97 of Breggin’s book Your Drug May Be Your Problem – How And Why To Stop Taking Psychiatric Medications.

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  13. Sloopy

    You’re right. I’m sorry.

    FWIW, I was referring to a new commenter who claimed that betablockers have “no known lasting side effects”. But since it’s your blog, it’s not my place to question that any way. I will leave it.

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  14. Nora

    Hi Duane

    It just confuses me. It sounds like what it is saying is there are all these dxs in the DSMIV but since no one clearly fits into any one dx no one can measure if I get better or not. I’m supposed to regard my psychiatrist as an expert on a matter no one really understands. I’m supposed to take meds he think will improve my condition even if it does not since no one can really tell if I am getting better or worse.

    One question he asks is: is the diagnostic system valid? If the scientific community really knows so little about “disorders” of the brain or the mind then very little is for sure. We know what the DSM says but all it says is here are the parameters for each condition bases on our experience. (the cultural conditions of the people who created this could be questioned to but that is for another time) Its nice someone is at least questioning the system in this way. I wonder how this was received?

    A fellow at a MH conference i saw a video about said that psychiatry and psychology was an art an not a science. This might very well be.

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  15. onestepahead

    I know how to quit SSRI’s w/o experiencing side effects–5-HTP! Max = 900mg day!!!

    The day after you take your meds, you can take 5-htp in 100mg doses whenever you feel the jolts or panic attacks. I take 450mg of effexor/day and am able to stop at will with 5-htp. Day 1- 700mg; Day 2 – 400mg; Day 3 -200mg

    Basically, I pop the capsule and take as needed with water.

    What I haven’t figured out is what to replace it with (anxiety and depression return and 5-htp will not do the job longterm–SJW or Valerian root might do the trick.

    That’s where I’m at. This info helps get you off SSRI’s cold turkey. Unfortunately, I haven’t figured out what to do after that yet and everybody’s brain chemistry is unique, so take this info for what it’s worth.

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