What should doctors know about psychiatric drug withdrawal?

Another video from CEP, featuring:

Baylissa Frederick
Withdrawal adviser, survivor of Benzodiazepine withdrawal, and author:
Recovery and Renewal: Your Essential Guide to Overcoming Dependency and Withdrawal from Sleeping Pills, Other ‘Benzo’
and Antidepressants

thanks to CEP for the video

Baylissa is talking about benzodiazepine withdrawal in the above video when she makes reference to the Ashton Manual which is about more safely withdrawing from that class of drug. The fact is what she is speaking about is completely applicable to other classes of psych drugs as well. You might also view this video on Antidepressant vs benzodiazepine withdrawal

The truth is that far too often MDs are not only untrained in helping folks come off psych drugs, they also don’t know how to recognize serious withdrawal issues. Just as Baylissa speaks about in the video. It makes for a very dangerous situation. A lot of folks are told that their very serious withdrawal issues are psychiatric and not real.

I’m now going to cut and paste an old post about this phenomena that includes some suggestions about how one might go about finding a doctor to work with if one decides they’d like to come off psychiatric drugs.

The post:

1flowerI always find it sadly and tragically amusing when critics of psychiatry (generally professionals who are trying to cover their asses I guess) slam the psychiatric system and then tell people to be sure that they have a doctor to help them withdraw from drugs…as if these doctors are readily available. The thing is these people making this recommendation KNOW that they are not readily available and so they participate in the chaos by creating and perpetrating yet another double bind for those who’ve been subjected to and often already harmed by psychiatric treatment. We have it hard enough without these folks, too, pretending it’s better than it is.

The truth is ugly in this instance. The truth is that when people tell their MDs they want to come off meds some MDs will discharge these patients without support. Other MDs will commit and force drug these patients. The truth is it is often dangerous to tell your doctor the truth. This is a tragedy that needs to end. People should be able to get support from a medical professional. I understand the wish that it were something that might be the case, but it’s simply very often not on offer. So slamming psychiatry and then telling people in the same breath to get medical care to disentangle themselves from psychiatric drugs is, well, kind of delusional.

I think a lot of people really don’t want to believe this is what it’s like. But when that denial is foisted upon those who are subject to this reality it compounds the harm that has already been done. These are human rights issues. We have a right to not be on neurotoxic drugs and we have a right to find a safe way to get off. We need to know that it’s often not safe to approach our doctors. It’s really very simple. Tell the truth.

We can, once we know the truth, get on the phone and interview potential new doctors if we have the luxury of choice. Not everyone has that luxury so in those situations people are forced to continue seeing a prescriber without necessarily telling the prescriber that they are withdrawing from the drugs. Again, this is not something I recommend because, frankly it sucks. It sucks really badly and it can also be dangerous. But again, this is reality and people have to do this with some frequency. Please, if you’re in a position to consult folks in such a painful, lonely and scary position, do them a favor and be honest with them. Thousands of us have freed ourselves from drugs now without any meaningful medical support because we had no choice but to do it that way. We  chose our health and wellbeing over finding a non-existant doctor.

I generally tell people that often the best one can do is find an MD who will cooperate with your plans to come off medications. To find an MD who will listen to the very real and scary issues that might come up during the withdrawal process and to learn together about how to come off the drugs. I only found someone to cooperate with me…he really didn’t care much about what my experience was and I had to do all the research and footwork to figure out how to manage my taper. I was grateful I had a cooperating prescriber though because I needed prescriptions in ever-changing doses and many people are not so lucky to get an MD to even cooperate with the initial plan.

I’ve now worked with thousands of folks coming off medications via this blog and via all the withdrawal boards I’ve participated on. I often wish I didn’t know what I know, but I do and so I speak up because there are far too many people out there who deny what is happening to so many thousands of people.  I want the harm to end. Help us end the harm.

I’ve written about finding an MD: Medical compliance? Adherence? No. My MDs are my PARTNERS

Update 2016: It’s become clear to me that whenever it’s possible that it’s helpful for folks who’ve not begun withdrawal and have the time to consider a carefully thought out plan to attempt to bring greater well-being to your body before starting the withdrawal. That means learning how to profoundly nourish your body/mind and spirit prior to beginning a withdrawal. For suggestions on how to go about doing that check the drop-down menus on this blog for ideas. Anything that helps you learn how to live well can be part of your plan. That plan will look different for everyone as we learn to follow our hearts and find our own unique paths in the world. Things to begin considering are diet, exercise and movement, meditation/contemplation etc. Paying attention to all these things as you do them helps too. The body will start letting us know what it needs as we learn to pay attention. 

For general information on withdrawing from psychiatric drugs see here: Psychiatric drug withdrawal and protracted withdrawal syndrome round-up

For additional information on psychiatric drug withdrawal support and withdrawal boards see here: Support in withdrawal

And for professionals: A plea to prescribing physicians and psychiatrists: please help us heal –please share with all the MDs you know.

For a list of withdrawal friendly doctors see here:  Recommended doctors, therapists, or clinics  – Please add to it as well if you know of others. Right now it’s like finding a needle in a haystack for most people. Let’s work to change that! You can also refer to the directory at Mad in America.  Please don’t assume that just because a doctor is on these lists that they are necessarily safe. You still need to practice due diligence. There is no formal vetting on either one of these sites and a lot of MDs who think they know a lot about withdrawal are still rather incredulous and really don’t know what to do when confronted with some of the folks most impacted by serious withdrawal issues. The fact is, not knowing what to do and admitting it is part of good care when it comes to healing from protracted issues. A lot of folks need more assurance that in time it will change than any actual treatment quite a lot of the time. Knowing when not to treat is as important as knowing when to treat. Knowing how to sit in support with our agony and learn to be with it as we heal is as important as anything else. This is also hard for a lot of doctors. It’s hard to watch others in pain. Doctors want to fix. Protracted withdrawal issues are often not fixable in any traditional sense.

See also: Peer support? This is the real thing. Free of institutionalization. (psych drug withdrawal)



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