In September 2005, Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman of Columbia University released a federally funded study in the New England Journal of Medicine which found that 74% of the patients in the study discontinued antipsychotic medication before the end of their treatment due to inefficacy, intolerable side effects or other reasons.
So what happens to those who are “off their meds?” Good evidence comes from a 2012 NIMH study that followed schizophrenics for 20 years. The authors reported, “Starting at the 4.5-year follow-ups and continuing thereafter, SZ [schizophrenia] patients not on antipsychotics for prolonged periods were significantly less likely to be psychotic and experienced more periods of recovery…. SZ patients off antipsychotics for prolonged periods did not relapse more frequently.”
Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal A Guide for Prescribers, Therapists, Patients and their Families
By Dr. Peter Breggin
Nothing in the field of mental health will do more good and reduce more harm than encouraging withdrawal from psychiatric drugs. The time is past when the focus in mental health was on what drugs to take for what disorders. Now we need to focus on how to stop taking psychiatric drugs and to replace them with more person-centered, empathic approaches. The goal is no longer drug maintenance and stagnation; the goal is recovery and achieving well-being.
The … book, Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal: A Guide for Prescribers, Therapists, Patients and Families, responds to a citizen rebellion that demands, “Help us get off these drugs!” It also encourages a professional revolution among concerned therapists who want to reject the idea of enforcing “patient compliance.”
It’s time for therapists—psychologists, nurses, social workers, family therapists, and counselors—to stop pushing their clients and patients to take psychiatric drugs that cause brain damage, harm the body, and shorten their patients’ lives. In Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal, therapists will learn about psychiatric drugs to actively participate with patients and families in the medication decision-making process.
This is a … roadmap for prescribers, therapists, patients and their families that will enable patients to taper off their drugs and achieve emotional and physical recovery and well-being. At the same time, it provides an improved treatment approach for all patients regardless of whether they are taking psychiatric drugs.
Prescribers of psychiatric drugs should welcome much greater participation of therapists, patients, and their families in decision-making about psychiatric drugs. This new emphasis on patient partnership and well-being will greatly increase awareness of adverse psychiatric drug effects and facilitate patients withdrawing before the harm becomes irreparable. It will improve the prescriber’s overall satisfaction and effectiveness as a service provider.
Some therapists have told me they are afraid of being sued if they offer opinions or participate in psychiatric-drug decision making. In my extensive forensic experience, this almost never happens, and I know of no such successful suit against a therapist. Instead, the highest level of professional ethics requires the therapist to confront the risks and dangers associated with their patients’ psychiatric drugs.
There is now so much scientific evidence proving that psychiatric drugs damage the brain and overall health and lifespan, that the major concern should be “How to stop taking psychiatric drugs.” It can be dangerous and even agonizing to stop, and people need to take charge of the process and no longer let prescribers like psychiatrists, general practitioners, and pediatricians dictate to them how long they or their children need to stay on drugs.
Up to now, professionals—when agreeing to withdraw patients from drugs—have withdrawn them at their own predetermined rate and often much too abruptly. This book explains and illustrates a Person-Centered Collaborative Partnership that focuses on the patient’s feelings and needs throughout the withdrawal process.
Therapists are often the first to realize that their patients are overly or unnecessarily medicated but they have been discouraged from voicing their opinions or discussing them with their clients or patients. They have also been discouraged from participating in medication decision-making and have been urged or mandated to enforce medication compliance. This book offers a new pathway for therapists to participate in an active patient and family partnership, along with the prescriber. It begins with a review of the dangers associated with psychiatric drugs and then describes and illustrates the process of person-centered withdrawal and mental health recovery, often with the collaboration of the therapist and family.
Patients often come to me wishing to withdraw from psychiatric drugs but are terrified because their previous prescribers, if agreeing to drug withdrawal, have withdrawn them much too rapidly and without regard for their suffering in the process. Nothing is more important than the patient’s sense of control over the process and the timing of withdrawal.
At a time when scientific research is demonstrating the harm from long-term drug exposure, the proposed new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) will be pushing for increasingly widespread drug prescription. The mental health field needs to reverse itself by vastly increasing emphasis on psychiatric drug withdrawal and drug-free recovery.
This model for a patient-centered collaborative team approach not only transforms drug withdrawal but mental health treatment in general with its greater emphasis on the patient partnership and well-being. Its approach transforms treatment for all mental health clients and patients. The book is especially vital for the treatment of dependent children and adults, individuals struggling from emotional crises and serious mental turmoil, the elderly, and anyone with compromised judgment and cognitive ability.
The Person-Centered Collaborative Partnership approach ushers in a new era of patient- and family-centered treatment. It offers a whole new level of drug-free recovery and enhanced well-being. The goal is no longer a drug-induced holding pattern, but genuine physical and psychological recovery and growth.
Today’s Greatest Mental Health Need: Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal Programs
Is this what we really need? More diagnoses, more patients, more psychiatric drugs spreading like a chemical plague throughout the world? We are now learning that the longer-term use of some of these psychiatric drugs can cause chronic mental disability. Several of my books (for example and for example), recently bolstered by Robert Whitaker’s, leave no doubt that the evidence for longer-term efficacy (months or years) is insufficient, while the evidence for longer-term harm is escalating. Studies are showing that this chronicity actually reflects physical damage to the brain. Studies — included in my books and revealing changes to the brain from antidepressants, from the so-called antipsychotic drugs (the neuroleptics), from stimulants and from benzodiazepines and prescription sleep medications — are piling up, documenting patient risks. In my professional experience, psychiatric drug-induced chronic brain impairment is now a much greater threat to society than the emotional problems that the drugs are supposed to treat.