Step 10- Get Informed About Your Psychiatric Drug
Why this step is important
Understanding your drug and its chemical properties may be the most important part of ensuring the safest possible taper.
Over years taking and coming off psychiatric drugs, many of us at TWP came to realize that we had next-to-no understanding of what the medications we took were, how they were affecting our brains and bodies, and what these effects might lead to if we ever tried to come off the drugs. Some of us made this realization after coming across books or articles about psychopharmaceuticals, others learned from friends who’d done their own research, and many figured it out “the hard way”: coming up against drug-induced harm or injury that we’d never imagined we might encounter.
Through our experiences, one thing has become clear: It can be highly risky and even dangerous to try to taper off a psychiatric drug without first having some basic working knowledge of its biochemical properties.
We cannot emphasize this enough: It is critical for safety and health reasons for you and your prescriber and your pharmacist to be extremely well-informed about any psychiatric drug that you may be considering reducing or fully coming off. Issues such as drug effects and side effects, potential interactions with other prescription, non-prescription and recreational substances, drug altering, and drug storing are crucial to understand and may be unique for each drug form and formulation.
Furthermore, in our experiences as laypeople and in the experiences of many of our friends in the broader layperson withdrawal community, learning about these pharmacological issues has come to mean relying first and foremost on ourselves. This is because it’s become increasingly clear that many of the commonly available and promoted educational resources about psychiatric medications targeting consumers and practitioners alike unfortunately cannot be regarded as thorough, unbiased, independent, fully forthcoming, or completely reliable. (For more discussion on this and related topics, see Inner Compass Initiative’s Learn/Unlearn section, and in particular “How Psychiatric Drugs are Researched and Marketed”.) As a result, we’ve had to take it upon ourselves to become informed about our own drugs, and shift the dynamic with the prescribers and pharmacists in our lives so that they’re no longer “authorities who hold secret, elite knowledge over us" but rather collaborative partners who travel on this learning journey alongside us.
So this first step in Part 2 - Taper is designed to help you get started with this important work. It provides introductory information and guidance to help you make better informed decisions regarding if or how you’ll come off psychiatric drugs. And please note: even if you plan to taper from only one of several drugs that you may be on, it is still important to research all of the drugs you’re taking. This is because there may be important, potentially dangerous ways in which the drugs can interact with each other during a taper – see Step 12 for more information.