Half a century of problems: Time to get serious
The problems that people can have stopping psychotropic drugs have been recognized since the 1950s. There is no agreement as to just what happens, or how to tackle what’s involved. Some of the symptoms that some people experience on stopping antidepressants, benzodiazepines, dopamine agonists or antipsychotics are puzzling.
These withdrawal symptoms can often be severe, even with a slow taper over many months with a liquid version of the drug. There can also be long-term problems after stopping – anything from cognitive difficulties to sexual dysfunction.
In this section, we put forward a new model of what might be going on in terms of the underlying physiology.
The first part – Complex Withdrawal Model – takes a brief look at the history of psychotropic drug withdrawal and outlines the main hypothesis that is being proposed.
We also provide a number of other articles which give additional details and act as a starting point for those who want to help research these issues.
What you can do for us
We need your help to explore this model. We don’t have the answers, but we hope you will help us search for them.
We think there is an overlap between protracted withdrawal and Post-SSRI Sexual Dysfunction (PSSD), and that researching one may help the other.
You might be a withdrawal sufferer yourself, or you could be someone who hasn’t experienced these issues personally but might have important information – anyone from a hairdresser to a scientist.
Hairdressers? Lots of people from outside conventional medicine can help – beauticians, massage therapists, lifestyle coaches, people with a background in herbal medicine or complementary medicine. For example, hairdressers have been noticing for years that hair extensions or color doesn’t take in people on antidepressants, without getting into speculation about why.
A key component to the model is the effect of psychotropic drugs on the nerves that among other things serve our sense of touch. All kinds of people may right now be noticing the effects of these drugs in a way that could shed light on what goes wrong and how to put it right.
And this is what’s needed. Observations. We do not need complementary theories about boosting serotonin or detoxification, most of which have been captured by the pharmaceutical industry anyway.
Pharmacologists and physiologists can help also, but compared with twenty or forty years ago, pharmacologists and physiologists have been marginalized within universities and are thin on the ground.
There is a huge amount of evidence lurking “out there” that can shed light on aspects of the model. Much of what is involved though is also new and no one can be an expert in all the elements.
We hope that the abilities of everyone reading these pages and considering the different components of the problem from a variety of different perspectives, will advance our understanding.
Comments can be added below. Tell us about your observations, ideas, research efforts and anything that might help to provide insight into the issues.
Tools & resources for withdrawal
RxISK has a number of tools and resources to help inform and support those experiencing withdrawal problems, or for those who are about to start a drug and are concerned that it might be difficult to stop at the end of their treatment.
Search drugs A-Z
In Drugs A-Z, you can input the name of a drug, and see details of side effects that have been reported to the FDA and Health Canada. You can filter for various types of side effects including symptoms-on-stopping.
Anyone experiencing withdrawal problems (or any other side effects) can complete a RxISK Report. This asks a set of structured questions and provides you with a score to help work out whether your problems are linked to stopping a medication. You will receive a free report that you can take to your doctor or pharmacist.
Guides & Papers
We have a number of guides from RxISK’s Medical Team covering the issue of dependence and withdrawal in Guides & Papers.
Our blog has featured a number of articles about drug dependence and withdrawal. Click to filter for withdrawal-related posts.
Search by side effect
In Search by Side Effect, you can input the name of a side effect such as “drug withdrawal syndrome” or “drug dependence” and see a list of drugs that have had this side effect reported to the FDA and Health Canada. This may be a useful research tool to look for commonalities between different types of drugs that have been reported to cause the same adverse effect.