Editorial Note: This post is by Sally Macgregor.
I left a comment on: Stopping Antidepressants: Kenny’s dilemma, which contained this statement:
‘I think acknowledging that coming off the pills can end badly is absolutely crucial. For one thing it’s honest, and without honestly how can people begin to cope with the situation they find themselves in’
I also said that I had a personal rule: never give advice about withdrawing from the meds to friends because I have no idea how it might pan out. It was always a gigantic leap in the dark, and the risk/benefit equation around getting your mind back versus possibly not being able to tolerate withdrawal or ongoing legacy effects which might be worse than the pills is very complicated. I had decided the decision to get off the meds was for the individual, not for me.
Now I find myself unable to stick to my ‘keep quiet’ rule. One of my children has asked for help for a very close friend, whom I’ve never met and didn’t know existed. This person’s situation sounds uncannily like mine: a breakdown, a long period of appalling depression and many, many drugs. He is now very anxious about what the drugs are doing to him and would like some advice. I would like to help but
My dilemma is this:
- I’m not a doctor, so I have to be extremely careful about any advice I give. I have to think very long and hard about statements about the appalling harm that psychotropics can do – partly because I don’t know him and can’t make an informed judgment about how much information is relevant or appropriate. I can answer his questions honestly (does olanzapine cause diabetes? Yes, can do. Do antidepressants make some people unbearably agitated? Yes.) And I can supply links to trustworthy evidence.
- If he is determined to withdraw from the drugs then I can with complete confidence point him in the direction of RxISK’s unbeatable guides and papers, with all their information about the process and the problems. I can think of no better source.
But, do I warn him that coming off the pills may not be the start of a wonderful, brave new drug-free life? That expecting, as I did, that the person he was before the breakdown and the treatment will just re-emerge unscathed might not happen? Particularly as he’s been on all the drugs for a very long time so the chance of some permanent damage is probably quite high.
It seems obvious to point him to RxISK for the best information available – but is it possible that the concentrated misery of all our stories will be frightening? Too terrible.
Alternatively, RxISK and David’s blog have the most wonderful community of contributors, whose empathy and understanding and kindness are simply second to none. Outstanding. He might find deep succor here but he might also feel despair.
Offering to help someone brings huge responsibility. I think it’s vital to think about these awkward questions before embarking on giving someone a helping hand, because as soon as you make a connection you are involved, and to cause more harm by not thinking things through would be a bad ending in itself.