People in withdrawal circles often report less suicidal ideation and impulses after drugs are withdrawn

extremepainSomething that comes up quite often in discussions with my friends and readers who have been on meds and have come off of them is how many of the “psychiatric” symptoms they were being “treated” for disappear upon discontinuation of the medications. This is widely known and experienced among those of us who have decided to stop medicating ourselves.

For me there are two most astonishing details. The first was when I discovered I was being given more and more Risperdal to medicate away the akathisia that the Risperdal was causing! Once off the Risperdal the akathisia was gone and so was most of what we’d called anxiety which led me to take massive doses of benzos.

This is tragic and disgusting. I often have had considerably less anxiety in the midst of an awful withdrawal then I had when I was on the six drugs. I’m on one drug now and withdrawal from benzos is infamous for causing horrible rebound anxiety and yet it’s not terribly true for me. (this has changed the closer to zero I’ve gotten, though it seems to be a physiological response particularly to withdrawal from what I can gather in withdrawal circles) For most of the withdrawal though until the last 6 months anxiety was at a minimum.

This post however is about the most remarkable thing since I got off the five other drugs–(Concerta, Zoloft, Seroquel, Risperdal, and Lamictal) and it did take getting off all five…I STOPPED HAVING ANY SUICIDAL IDEATION whatsoever. I’ve not had suicidal ideation of any kind for over a year now.

I no longer EVER fantasize hurting myself. I do sometimes wish I would die when my body is hurting really bad. When I’m suffering from so much physical pain and I just want it to stop, but it’s a distinctly different phenomena than wanting to off myself.

Of note: I also had never had a suicidal thought before medications were introduced.

My desire to suicide while on meds was violent and ugly, fueled by akathisia and chemicals in my brain that did not belong there. My very occasional desire to die these days is simply a passive desire for the pain to stop. But my mind is clear and I know it will pass. I want to live! I have a renewed desire to live and be well and make a difference in the world, no matter how small.

Please share your stories.

Below are most of the comments that were left when I first published this post. They were much more interesting than the post itself.

Wellness Writer
I, too, never had suicidal thoughts before taking medication, although I never acted upon them nor did they cause violent behavior as I’ve learned they do for some people.

For me, the very worst drug for suicidal ideation was Geodon. And when a friend’s son started taking it and began walking around the house waving a knife and threatening to kill himself, I was able to tell her the drug probably was the causal factor. So they immediately took him off it, and the symptom disappeared.

What astounded me about that situation was the young man’s psychiatrist prescribed it without seeming to know anything about the behavioral changes it might cause.

I guess that shouldn’t have surprised me because most of my psychiatrists said my response to medication was unique. Of course, years later with the advent of the Internet, it turned out that either they were lying or just dangerously misinformed.

thanks Susan,
I never acted on my impulses either, but they were at times awful and intrusive and made me deeply miserable.

It’s unfortunately not terribly unique as I’ve found out in the circles I hang out in…there are most likely hundreds of thousands of us, but most of us are led to believe it’s our “underlying illness.” I didn’t doubt that for over a decade.

thanks for sharing your story.


Thanks for sharing this, Gianna. You made me realize that wow….now that I’m withdrawing from prozac and only on 5mgs…I am having less and less suicidal thoughts. I can’t really even remember the last time I had them. I used to deal with them regularly (and never did before I was on medication). The worst offender was topomax, which gave me bizarre violent thoughts (like the image of sticking my tongue in a blender–WTF???!!), and also some of the mood stabilizers and antipsychotic gave me the akathisia you speak of, the feeing of not being able to stand being in your own skin–which if that doesn’t make you feel suicidal (read “I can’t take this!”) than I don’t know what will!

But…now that I am on less drug than ever in 15 years, even in acute withdrawal…I hardly ever have the suicidal thoughts anymore!

I feel so bad for people who felt (as I did) that they were getting crazier and didn’t know it was the meds that were making them feel that way. And I feel so, so grateful to have stumbled upon the truth.

thank YOU Doe!

we need to make this known and the more people who speak up the better…like I said I hear it again and again.

topomax made me totally wacky…beyond a doubt it was the drug…the other stuff the docs made me believe it was me…but yeah topomax was an ugly ugly trip…so was prozac strangely enough…I “tolerated” the other SSRIs.

too many of us don’t know it’s the drugs making us worse as you state, it’s very sad.

Gianna and Susan, count me in the suicidal ideation caused by medication group. For the first time with cymbalta when I started it in 2005…I am so grateful for the online withdrawal and recovery community, which remains my strongest, most consistent source of support and inspiration for continuing my crawling taper off this shit.

Love and respect,

I doubt, there’s as much as one single human being, who hasn’t or won’t at some point in their lives think of suicide as a possible solution to a difficult situation. And if the situation just becomes dire enough, the “suicidal ideation” will become accordingly urgent, possibly resulting in (a) suicide (attempt). Seems only natural to me.

Just as any other “symptom” of “mental illness” seems only a natural response to life circumstances to me.

That which definitely doesn’t seem only natural to me is people who obviously are stuck with ever worsening symptoms because of obvious and increasing intoxication with mind-altering drugs, they are made believe, they’d need ever greater amounts of to keep their symptoms at bay. – And in this case, we’re talking real symptoms, signs of a chemical intoxication of the body, the brain, rather than of existential crisis.

Take “psychosis” for instance. Without drugs acute “psychosis” usually lasts for about six weeks. The amount of time, one’s mind needs to figure how to deal with certain challenges in life. And yes, of course you risk to relapse, or in some cases maybe even to get stuck in “psychosis” itself, when you don’t get any support whatsoever. Nevertheless, the vast majority of people I know, who complain about ongoing “symptoms” are in fact on drugs. Often on a whole cocktail of them. Looking back, yes, I’ve had a somewhat “interesting” life, a lot of suffering, anxiety, confusion, “suicidal ideation”, somewhat strange experiences (“hallucinations”, “delusions”), and an overall perception of living in a dream that at times became a nightmare, and that I just couldn’t make myself wake up from, no matter how hard I tried.

Would I’ve wanted to change places with anyone who got “help” from the mh system? Geez no!!! To be honest, I wouldn’t even want to change place with anyone, who lives what is called a “normal life”. Not today, looking back, at least. As far as existential problems/crises are concerned it usually applies that “this too shall pass”. Not so when it comes to chemical intoxication that then is “treated” with more and more chemical toxins.

Just taking the pills made me want to die. I was a defective person. My doctor called this the corresponding “depression”. Abilify slowed me down and made all my thoughts sluggish. Took away all that special creativity. I didn’t see any way out. I went to work, crying every morning, and wished for death. The doctor said, “It’s clear to me that the drugs are beneficial to you.” (It wasn’t clear to ME). Luckily I never really got into the depression or suicidal thoughts I was having, because I knew he would just half-hazardly add more drugs.

Why were you on Concerta??? Was it supposedly to perk you up from the MASSIVE amounts of tranquilizers they put you on? How can they possibly think they’re helping people? And how do so many people buy into the help?

The first time I was put on a psychiatric drug was in my late teens. It was an antidepressant. I went to my Dr. for overwhelming anxiety. It was due to repressed memories resurfacing, though I was not aware that was the reason until a few years later.

Long story short, I was prescribed an antidepressant because I was crying. Of course, my crying was seen as a symptom of depression. I was too young, trusting, and bewildered to think otherwise. Anyway, the first day I was numbed. The second day I had profound suicidal urges. I stopped taking it the third day due to those urges which I was thankfully able to discern as foreign. I didn’t have anxiety again until the memory I mentioned previously revealed itself fully.

Before the antidepressant, and after the antidepressant, i did not have one SI.

The second time I was put on psych meds was when in my mid twenties. This was when the memory of abuse became concrete and real. This time, I could identify it with my feelings of powerlessness and anxiety. I should have just had talk therapy, but I was put on benzos…they sufficiently numbed my feelings until I was ready to process the abuse. I experienced SI while on benzos, and also during withdrawal. I should make clear that despite experiencing deep despair over what I had come to recognize as severe abuse, I had not once thought about harming myself before taking the drugs. I just wanted/needed someone non-threatening to listen to me, to be a witness to my suffering.

Without getting into too much detail, I was put on another round of psych meds due to extreme levels of trauma in a short period of time years later. This time there were mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, etc. Again, before the drugs no SI; while using I experienced chronic self-loathing but not SI (perhaps because I was too numb), but upon withdrawing, I did.

I should also note that until I found this website I would not have connected my destructive feelings with the drugs, though it it plain to see that it is the case in my situation. Without the drugs, I am able to assess clearly and with passion, my mental environment. I regret becoming medicated the last time in hindsight. I acquiesced because I thought I had an illness, and it was ‘recurring’. I challenge that assumption now with vigor as I can now see that I was just a human being who needed love and support during traumatic periods in my life.

Mama Dharma
I share Gianna’s experience and that of many other previous commenters. I was put on Prozac at age 14 – became almost immediately suicidal. On Paxil, I became obsessed with knives. When I took myself off at 18, I never had the urge to cut or hurt myself again. Don’t get me wrong, I have my emotional struggles and sometimes quite extreme ones but suicidal thoughts have been few and far between, when on SSRIs they were constant. As someone who DID act on their suicidal impulses and came very close to dying once… I feel very grateful to have survived.

thanks everyone for sharing your stories…I think this sort of thing needs to be talked about and shouted from the rooftops…

I do think that both Marian and Mama Dharma pointed to something important—first Marian pointed out that people do indeed get suicidal without drugs and Mama pointed out that heavy duty emotional struggles are part of life…

but the important thing is that all of us, even if it’s not true of everyone out there, found that drugs made us worse…and that is something virtually all doctors are in denial about and it’s criminal.

Wow, this all makes me want to cry. Like, tears of relief (that I’m not the only one) but also grieving tears, for all of our suffering, at the hands of people who were supposed to care, supposed to help.

I second whoever said that the people I know who are the WORST off are all on med cocktails… it never fails… and yeah, I want to shout it from the rooftops, I want them to HEAR us… but I really think they’re so self-deluded… will they listen?

The last time I took a benzo (zyprexa, I think), prescribed to me by my pdoc a few months ago when I requested something I could take on an as-needed basis for insomnia, I woke up after only one hour with intense akathisia, the most horrible feeling. Eventually fell asleep again and this time slept for an abnormally long time, even for me. Rarely have nightmares, but had a very disturbing, graphic one that night. That whole next day, I felt suicidally depressed. And swore never to touch that stuff again!

I also can report that a year ago, while still on seroquel and lamictal, I endured a series of major stressors (including losing my job within weeks of my dad dying) while living in an extremely unsupportive environment, and almost broke down. I came very close to hurting myself with a knife, something that’s never happened before or since. This spring, off seroquel for at least 6 months and in the final taper off lamictal, I faced a near equally distressing situation, and kept my cool for the most part. I certainly saw my physical health and cognitive function improve once my lamictal got down to a light dose. I’ve been off all meds for a month now, and the depression that remains is a natural result of recognizing the daunting task of rebuilding my life from scratch, after everything I’ve lost (jobs, friends, my own place, creative motivation) while dealing with the “side-”effects of psych drugs.

My conclusion? The psych drugs amplify the very depression and anxiety that they were supposedly treating, while wreaking havoc on other areas of health. For me and many others at least. I’m wondering about the true figures for people who are genuinely helped by these meds?

This week is the 6th anniversary of my one psychotic break (precipitated by a psych drug I took to help insomnia, after a couple of years on and one year off paxil) and the hospitalization where I was labelled “bipolar.” I am more convinced than ever that it was all a horrible mistake — even my pdoc agrees with me now that I was misdiagnosed — and that the underlying problems were from depression/anxiety due to repressed grief/identity crisis, combined with undetected food allergies and hypoglycemia. Basically. I may have a genetic predisposition to depression but since they can’t prove that yet, I’ll focus on the environmental and nutritional causes.

I guess I’m different. I started meds because I was suicidal and when I got them, they began to dissipate. But ideation can vary in strength depending on which dosage I’m at. We’ll see if it subsides for the most part once I’m off Lamictal.

I’m very emotionally reactive right now…but that is a classic benzo withdrawal symptom…I trust it will pass but it sure as hell sucks…especially when I’m routinely attacked on this blog for daring to speak of this stuff.

I can’t wait until that part goes away!! oh man, I really can’t wait.

yeah, we’re definitely not all alike the tragedy lies in docs telling those of us who get worse from the drugs are just suffering from our “illness” and not iatrogenisis.

You won’t believe how much better you will feel with “life after the benzos” Gianna. I am sure glad to be done with all the pharmaceuticals. I just couldn’t believe how long it took me to feel social and normal again. It was sad really. Nothing like being at rock bottom and having drugs knock you down to an even lower level. I didn’t think that was possible but it sure made me feel like crap. I wonder how many people have committed suicide while taking Lamictal. Most people I talk to that have taken it have felt that same low and as if things will never get better. I thank god that I made it through, unlike many others. It is truly amazing, the high that I feel in knowing that everything is going to be okay now. It took a long time to hit this point though.

I have suffered from suicidal ideation since I was a child, but it’s much worse and more drastic (the ways to go) on the med cocktails.

( I cannot say anymore, it hurts to much to write and think about it).

So much written here. It’s all true.
What the drugs caused/how they made me feel.
The psychiatrist kept saying he’d never heard of the problems I was reporting.
Akathisia was the worst and I had no idea the pills I was taking caused it”’ I would jerk up and down in the bed and my limbs would spasm painfully.I had to put rolled up wash clothes in my hands at bed time so my fingers curling up wouldn’t cut into my skin. At this point I was one drugged out zombie.
I will say getting Acute Pancreatitis from the Seroquel started me on the road to total drug detox.

Keep on going.

Hi Gianna. I have enjoyed reading your blog and the progress you have been making. I too have had experience with psychiatric meds and am quite med sensitive.

At one period of my life I was prescribed neuroleptic meds and went through the awful side effects. I now know I am allergic to All neuroleptics. I had the muscle rigidity, akathesia(worst for me), severe panic attacks/anxiety,tremors,low blood pressure, and a severe dystonic reaction after an awful hospitalization. I was given shots of Cogentin and several Xanax just to recover.

I can take Klonopin or even Benadryl and I get tightness in my jaw and calves. I am even more sensitive to meds after taking those powerful drugs.

I know people who take Benzos and neuroleptics on a daily basis and seem to handle them well. I don’t know how they do it. I am still experiencing some effects from the meds , especially rigid muscles which comes and goes.

Anyway it is very concerning that most psychiatrists won’t tell you All the effects from these powerful meds. Thanks for letting me rant on here. Good luck.

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