As I write this article, I am 8 weeks into assisting a close family member, with the help of their doctor, to transition off of 30 years on anti-depressants. That is correct. 30 years. The drugs they have been on, including SSRIs and some Benzos, were developed for use between 6 months and 2 years. That means, in short, that the proper studies were not done to show that long term use was 1: safe, and 2; effective. Yet, here we are. This is not at all a new practice, as using drugs off-label is a common occurrence, if not exactly "scientific". From the CDC's own website:
"If you and your healthcare provider decide to use an approved drug for an unapproved use to treat your disease or medical condition, remember that FDA has not determined that the drug is safe and effective for the unapproved use."
While most common anti-depressants were developed with use no longer than 2 years in mind, it is then something to consider, that more than 60% of users stay on these drugs past the timeline they are deemed 1: effective, and 2: safe.
Some of the less understood impacts of long term antidepressant use include withdrawals that can look very much like the illness itself and can include symptoms of psychosis not present prior to treatment with the antidepressant. Longer term use can lead to protracted withdrawal, meaning, withdrawal symptoms that persist for an extended period of time.
"Length of time on the antidepressant causing protracted withdrawal ranged from 6 to 278 months, mean = 96 months, and median = 79 months. Throughout the withdrawal experience, affective symptoms, mostly anxiety, depression, emerging suicidality and agitation, were reported by 81%."
This may cause the individual withdrawing and the doctor assisting, to determine that the DISEASE is too severe and the PATIENT is too ill to come off the medicine, when indeed, the medicine is the causal factor. While it can be tempting to look at it that way, the science does not support the assertion. In the case of my family member, one step down brought joy and a return of positive feelings which had also been numbed, but a second step down, too quickly, plunged her into disassociation, which was scary and required her doctor to slow her tapering down. While the disassociation was a scary symptom of withdrawal, it was not an indication of worsening disease. In fact, depression and episodes of disassociation had happened when they were on FULL strength meds, although the feelings of joy and connection were more rare for my family member until they began the process of withdrawal.
Similar to patients on long-term opiates, who may experience opioid induced hyperalgeisa (or decreased tolerance of pain perception), the drug used to TREAT the issue in question, when used for an extended period, worsens the symptoms it is intended to treat (in this case, pain). This is not at all an unusual phenomenon in the world of pharmaceutical medicines, with similar issues caused by overuse of corticosteroid injections (to treat pain and inflammation, overtime can cause physiological factors like calcification that INCREASE pain and inflammation). All this is to say, these are examples where the cure becomes the cause.
In the case of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications, short term use may be life-saving in an acute bout, where the patient cannot care for themselves or is in immediate danger of self-harm or cannot function in normal life. However, without a clear path to healing the underlying cause of the acute issue, the patient is left reliant on a drug that neither cures NOR has been deemed safe to stay on, long term. Studies show that over 1/3 of people on these drugs have not seen their doctor in over a year. Without a consistent relationship with a therapist, it may be difficult for the patient to see their progress or even remember their symptoms and side effects, as some antidepressants cause short term memory loss.
Some sobering statistics
- women are 2x as likely as men to be on an antidepressant
- over 65MM people in the US are on a psychiatric medication, that is 1:5 people. Look around you. 1 in 5 people you see every day are on a medication that changes their brain chemistry
- 48.7+ MM people are on antidepressants, mostly women
- Antidepressants, not depression itself, can lead to a reduced empathetic response to the pain of others
- Some experts suggest that more than 50% of people on psychiatric medications may not be receiving any benefit while more than 50% experience side effects
So, you have found your way to Mycrodrops™ either by referral or google, because you are searching for a bridge to assist you to move from reactive and acute treatment, to source treatment and healing. Congratulations. You have arrived.
What we CAN do for you:
- Provide a safe, easy-to-take, food, herb and functional mushroom based support to your nervous system and mood
- Provide an herbal support for SAFE and MONITORED withdrawal from psychiatric medication, meaning, you should withdraw with the help of your prescribing doctor, but our formulas can support a cleaner and more comfortable withdrawal by containing easy to take, mood lifting and cognitive enhancing NATURAL nootropics and adaptogens
- Help support clarity and mental strength to assist you to pursue healing, in the form of therapy and newer interventions such as psychedelics
What we CANNOT do for you:
- provide advice to come off or on psychiatric medications, those recommendations should come from your doctor. If you don't trust your doctor to help with this, or they are resisting your desire to be free of these medications, seek a second opinion.
- we do not replace your doctor or provide medical advice or diagnoses
- advise you to take substances which may be illegal in your area, such as psychedelics
- monitor your progress or take any responsibility for your experience coming off psychiatric meds
If you are ready to take the journey from psychiatric meds to natural supports leading to healing, start by setting up an appointment with your prescribing doctor and tell them you would like to make a plan to get free of these medications. If you meet with resistance, ask the following questions, in fact, if you are considering going ON these medications you should likewise ask these questions to your doctor:
- Is the drug I am on, studied for use for as long as I have been on it? Please provide proof of the length of time it is approved for, according to the FDA. if we are going off-label, please describe your reasoning for doing so, and what proof you have that the off-label use is improving my own lived-experience
- Is continued use of this drug likely to cause withdrawal symptoms? If so, what are they? Do these symptoms look similar to what we were initially treating?
- What is the fastest or slowest I should come off of this medication? How will I know if it is too fast?
- What scale do you use to decide if my medication is working? If my depression is decreased, but my connection and joy are also decreased, is this an overall win in your eyes? (then ask yourself if it is a win in YOUR eyes. This is a personal decision and a subjective metric)
- What percentage of your patients is on a psychiatric medication? What percentage of people have you successfully transitioned OFF medications and consider the case finished? Can you back up these claims?
Remember, YOU are the patient, and in a for-profit medical system, you are also a customer. You have a right to your own narrative and participation in your healthcare. While certain cases of mental health concerns including suicidal ideation, psychotic episodes and certain mental health disorders preclude the individual from being able to make their own decisions, at least temporarily, the vast majority of those on psychiatric medications are able to participate as a co-creator or their healthcare experience. We encourage you to take your power back and put the onus of proof on the provider who has prescribed these medications. If they cannot provide a satisfactory answer, backed up with receipts (studies and guidelines from their association and the FDA), you may want to consider a second opinion. You also are an ACTIVE player in your treatment. We highly advise securing a non-medical therapist such as a Certified professional counselor (CPC), a Licensed Clinical Social worker (LMSW), Master of Clinical Social Work
This article is not intended to diagnose, treat or give ANY medical advice. It IS intended to empower you to ask questions of your doctor and take control of your healthcare narrative. If you are considering self-harm, please call 911 or call the national suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255