About The Withdrawal Project
The many people around the world who have personally reduced or fully come off psychiatric medications have, through their experiences, gained enormous insights and wisdom about the matter. For years, those of us who have withdrawn from these drugs have been discussing what we learned and discovered, and developing and sharing practical tips and safer strategies to manage our coming-off process. We've done this largely through one-on-one mutual support and many disparate online forums and groups.
Today, this growing “layperson withdrawal community” has become a vital, valuable “living library” of wisdom regarding some of the most responsible, risk-reducing ways of tapering off and healing from the effects of psychiatric drugs. We believe that this accumulated wisdom should be collected, organized, and made accessible to people everywhere. For that reason we were inspired to create The Withdrawal Project.
- We believe that we all have the fundamental right to choose what we put into our own bodies, and that true choice is only possible when it is fully informed.
- We believe that the decision to take, reduce, or come off psychiatric medications is a profoundly personal one that must be guided by the unique circumstances of each individual.
- We believe that we all have the right to access independent sources of information and counsel to inform our decisions (sources other than those who stand to gain profit and power from the manufacturing, marketing, and distribution of psychiatric drugs).
- We believe in the human body’s ability to heal from injury and trauma, and in the innate capacity each of us has to grow, change, and transform over the course of our lives.
- We believe that within each and every one of us lies a wisdom and power — an inner compass — that, when listened to, helps us navigate the difficulties and challenges of being human more than unquestioningly following the instructions of external “experts” and “authorities” ever could.
The mission of The Withdrawal Project is:
- To gather and share with all who seek it the rich, crowd-sourced, anecdotal wisdom of the burgeoning layperson withdrawal community regarding the journey towards reducing or coming off psychiatric drugs.
- To help people empower themselves with knowledge from the layperson withdrawal community about the drugs they take and the methods of coming off these drugs that seem to be yielding the greatest success or satisfaction.
- To share layperson-sourced tips and techniques for coping with psychiatric drug withdrawal symptoms.
- To provide platforms so that people who are considering, or whose lives have been directly affected by, psychiatric drug withdrawal can find and connect with one another to engage in mutual support and shared learning.
- To amplify the voices, experiences, and wisdom of ordinary citizens around the world who have come off psychiatric drugs, so that these can meaningfully contribute to dialogues about these issues taking place within the medical and mental health systems and among the general public.
Why We Exist
Some people tell us that a website like The Withdrawal Project should not exist. They believe that laypeople should not speak out publicly about psychiatric drug dependence and withdrawal, and instead should leave these topics to licensed medical practitioners. But when we listen earnestly to these concerns, we typically hear worries based on some strong but mistaken or questionable beliefs — beliefs that some of us at TWP once held prior to beginning our journey of critical thinking. These are some of the most common:
Belief: Mental struggle, emotional pain, mania and psychosis are signs of brain pathology that require pharmaceutical intervention — and therefore, the decision to come off or avoid taking psychiatric drugs is irresponsible at best and outright reckless and dangerous at worst.
Fact: For decades, researchers have been trying to find any kind of biological markers for the experiences commonly called “mental illness”, hoping that such discoveries could lead to better pharmacological or other biological treatments. But while we often hear about new evidence for biochemical imbalances of serotonin or dopamine, genetic roots of “mental illness”, brain scans showing differences between “schizophrenic” and “normal” brains, and blood tests to detect depression, none of these experimental findings has ever been scientifically validated. In fact, there are currently no genetic, biological, chemical, radiological, electrical or other physical tests of any kind that can determine the presence or absence of the experiences commonly called “mental illness”.
Belief: Most psychiatric drugs do not cause physical dependence or withdrawal symptoms—or if some do, it’s because a person has been abusing or misusing them.
Fact: The vast majority of psychiatric drugs can cause physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms, even when taken exactly as prescribed. This is now acknowledged in most of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved drug labels.
Belief: Even if psychiatric drugs can cause physical dependence, withdrawal symptoms are typically mild and short-lived. Any problems lasting longer than a few weeks must be a sign of a relapse or new emergence of mental illness.
Fact: Withdrawal from psychiatric drugs can produce a wide range of physical, mental, cognitive, emotional, sexual, and sleep-related withdrawal symptoms that can be anywhere from fleeting and mildly irritating to prolonged, intense and debilitating. Some psychiatric drugs are even known to cause life-threatening seizures and strong suicidal feelings during too-rapid withdrawal. For some people, especially those who’ve taken psychiatric drugs for a long time, it can take years for the central nervous system to fully recover.
Belief: Laypeople should not be trying to help each other learn about safer methods of tapering. Anyone tapering off psychiatric drugs should always strictly follow the guidance and instructions of a medical doctor or psychiatrist, because physicians are educated and trained in safe tapering.
Fact: Virtually no doctors or psychiatrists receive any formal education or training in safe withdrawal from psychiatric drugs, and there are currently no established clinical protocols for guiding safe withdrawal.
Belief: There is excellent scientific research that identifies exactly how to taper off psychiatric drugs safely and responsibly, and that research is best interpreted and conveyed by medical professionals not laypeople.
Fact: As of 2017, there have been virtually no formal scientific studies into the safest methods for withdrawing from any psychiatric drugs. This is one of many reasons why collecting and reporting on the experiences of people who have personally tapered is vital.
Belief: Laypeople who want to taper should never try to cut their dosage sizes by putting their drugs into liquid mixtures, crushing tablets into powders, or using other home-based methods. Instead, they should obtain changes in dosage sizes only from accredited pharmaceutical drug manufacturers.
Fact: In most circumstances, it is impossible to purchase psychiatric drugs in tablets or capsules that come in sufficiently small gradations in dosage size to allow for tapering at slow enough speeds to minimize risks. For this reason, many individuals find themselves left with no choice but to either risk their lives by going far too quickly or even “cold turkey” or alter the form of their medication in order to taper at a personalized speed that can help optimize their chances of success.
At The Withdrawal Project, we envision a day when our website is no longer necessary because prescribers, dispensers, researchers, and the general public will be well aware of all of these facts. However, we believe that the pervasive misinformation currently circulating about these issues amounts to a dangerous “collective betrayal” that all of us — patients, former patients, family members, advocates, friends, and even many mental health practitioners and physicians alike — are currently living through, with, and within. It is that which has fueled us to create this website.
To explore any of these topics in further detail, please click here to go to a navigation guide to our website.
Most mental health-related websites provide information written by professional medical writers and/or that comes primarily from medical or mental health practitioners. This is not the case at TWP. Most of the information found on The Withdrawal Project comes from what we frequently refer to as the “layperson withdrawal community”. In other words, our content primarily comes from the knowledge of ordinary citizens who have direct personal experiences withdrawing from psychiatric drugs and who may have also spent significant amounts of time supporting others on the taper journey.
We have also drawn from and owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the people behind a number of websites and online groups who have given considerable time and energy to providing information for the general public. They include but are not limited to:
- Benzo.org.uk (the website of Professor Heather Ashton)
- Everything Matters—Beyond Meds (founded by Monica Cassani)
- Recovery Road (founded by Baylissa Frederick)
- Surviving Antidepressants (founded by Altostrata)
Some of the conventional drug research sources we have used also include:
- FDA-approved Drug Labels
- FDA Orange Book
- FDA Medical Reviews (of drugs for which manufacturers seek market approval)
- Institute for Safe Medication Practices
- United States Pharmacopeial Convention
Several medical doctors, psychiatrists, pharmacists, academic researchers and others have also generously provided vital feedback on key sections of the website.
None of the information and resources at The Withdrawal Project constitutes or should be seen as medical, mental health, counseling, clinical, or professional advice of any kind.
Who We Are
The Withdrawal Project (TWP) is a grassroots community effort of Inner Compass Initiative (ICI). The TWP team is led by ICI/TWP Executive Director Laura Delano and is comprised of a small core of part-time staff and a fast-growing network of volunteers and contributors – all of whom have come off or are in the process of coming off psychiatric drugs, or who share in TWP’s mission.
Looking to get involved?
If you are energized by ICI’s The Withdrawal Project and have skills, abilities, gifts, and passion you’re eager to share, check out our Get Involved section at Inner Compass Initiative to see how you can contribute.
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