Disclaimer: Harper West, MA, LLP, and Harper West, PC are not providing medical advice with this resource section, or making any recommendations regarding withdrawal from psychiatric medications. The purpose of this page is to provide resources and information for those who may be considering this possibility.
From ISEPP’s website: Psychiatric drugs sedate or excite brain activity by increasing or decreasing the availability of certain neurochemicals. In doing so, they “work” by reducing or increasing emotional sensations and cognitive functions. As a result of this artificial change in brain chemistry, the brain attempts to compensate for the drug’s effect by working in the opposite direction. For instance, if a psychiatric drug increases the brain chemical serotonin, the brain interprets this as an excess in serotonin so it tries to reduce its production and sensitivity to serotonin. It is this compensatory process that leads to dependence on the drug and withdrawal symptoms if the drug is stopped. When multiple psychiatric drugs are prescribed, the withdrawal effect is more problematic.
In 2018 researchers who analyzed 17 withdrawal studies concluded that 56% of antidepressant users experience withdrawal symptoms, half of whom described the symptoms as “moderate or severe.” Additionally, 40% of individuals who experienced withdrawal had effects lasting at least six weeks, and 25% had effects lasting 12 weeks or more..
Davies & Read (2018) report Antidepressant withdrawal sx include:
- Increased anxiety (some people have extreme and incapacitating anxiety)
- Flu-like symptoms
- Nausea, dizziness, and imbalance
- Sensory disturbances
- Electric shock-like sensations
- “Brain zaps”
- Muscle spasms and tremors
- Agitation and irritability
- Mania and hypomania
- Emotional blunting and inability to cry
- Long-term or even permanent sexual dysfunction
A Canadian study found that use of antidepressants doubled the likelihood that a person will go on long-term disability. In a similar vein, an NIMH-funded study of depressed patients found that the “treated” group were seven time more likely to become “incapacitated” than those who did not get treatment. And in country after country that has adopted widespread use of antidepressants, the number of people on disability due to mood disorders has dramatically increased as well.
Mad In America has information on antidepressants and antipsychotics, as well as continuing education courses on drug withdrawal for clinicians and users. https://www.madinamerica.com/drugs-withdrawal-home/
International Society for Ethical Psychology & Psychiatry (ISEPP) offers withdrawal resources.
mind.org has information on planning to taper, withdrawal symptoms, side effects of medications, etc.
Benzodiazepine Information Coalition: https://www.benzoinfo.com/resources/
Benzo Buddies forum on withdrawal: http://mail.benzobuddies.org
Surviving Antidepressants is a forum with info on tapering, symptoms, self-care, success stories, and journal sources. https://www.survivingantidepressants.org
The Alliance for Benzodiazepine Best Practices offer a list of support groups and other resources: https://benzoreform.org/benzodiazepine-withdrawal-syndrome-support-groups/
Psychiatric Medication Awareness Group offers withdrawal resources: https://www.psychmedaware.org/links.html
Guidance for Psychological Therapists on Psychiatric Medications has understandable information for everyone: www.prescribeddrug.info
International Institute of Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal www.iipdw.org
Chaya Grossberg is a survivor of psychiatric drugs and offers consultations, books, and resources. https://chayagrossberg.com
Icarus Project and Freedom Center’s Harm Reduction Guide to Coming Off Psychiatric Drugs