A Difficult Choice - Stopping Antidepressants

TheTruthAboutAntidepressants Says:

Let me begin by stating that if I had fully understood how horrible it would be to stop taking the various SSRI, SNRI and benzodiazepines that I have been prescribed over the years, I don't think I would have started taking them in the first place, or perhaps I would have done things differently. I certainly knew there were risks involved, however, I avoided doing a ton of internet research, as this can cause unnecessary doubt and instead, I put my trust in my healthcare providers. It seems that the small percentage of people who do not experience withdrawal from these drugs (Effexor, Clonazepam, Cymbalta) gives some doctors enough confidence to put patients on these medications without fully explaining the probable consequences. Sadly though, when you are someone who lacks emotional support and stability in your life which most depressed people do (I mean, there are reasons that we are depressed in the first place, and needing to seek professional help (vulnerable, toxic parents, living in a high stress environment such as NYC, etc.), sometimes, you simply have no choice but to start medication in order to make it to see another day. While these drugs may have saved my life at one point, I am now uncertain if I can ever get through the horrible process of ceasing them entirely. These medicines unfortunately stopped working for me, and after a few debacles (issues with insurance or getting refilled in timely fashion) made me decide that I am tired of being reliant on them, and to pursue other methods of treatment. In addition to becoming ineffective over time, Effexor and Cymbalta significantly increased the discomfort I experience in my jaw which is caused by TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder). I can't tell you how incredible the increase in discomfort these drugs caused to this condition. Furthermore, I have found that several doctors in my mental healthcare "journey" have made this experience unnecessarily difficult, and this makes me feel helpless and hopeless. Seven months ago I dealt with a "sit in" doctor (as my doctor was away for two weeks) who refused to refill my prescription of Clonazepam. I can only suppose that she didn't bother to look into my history and see that I had already been on this highly addictive drug for 9 months, thus making a sudden cease completely debilitating. At the time, I had been going through incredible job related/career stress and taking this drug was helping me to get through this period. I was taking up to two 1 mg pills every day and would have certainly needed a tapering plan in order to even consider stopping the medication. Simultaneous to this, this same healthcare professional refilled my prescription for Effexor incorrectly, and instead of having time released 150 mg capsules, I had 25 mg tablets. This was a horrible combination of failure occurring, during a critical phase of anxiety and depression in my life. Thanks to this health care professional, I ended up bed-ridden for four days, completely alone, sweating, with simultaneous chills, hallucinating, not able to call anyone or reach out for help. I couldn't turn on the lights, couldn't read, couldn't feed myself, could barely drink water. On the 4th day, I was able to write an email to my doctor (who had returned at this point) and schedule an appointment to go in and get the prescriptions re-filled and corrected. Sadly, even though I got back on the proper doses of medication, my sensitivity and emotional instability were heightened after this, and seven months later I still have not been able to "get a grip". I ended up having to quit my (brand new) job, move away from NYC (after living there and loving it for 10+ years). I relocated back home to a quieter, peaceful place closer to my family (even though they are dysfunctional and toxic, this has been my only hope). Since then, I worked with a doctor to taper and completely cease the Clonazepam and came off Effexor in order to switch to Cymbalta, which can be helpful for physical pain but for me, was just as bad as Effexor (in terms of its effect on TMJ) and has had equally horrible withdrawal. My experience stopping Cymbalta (which the doctor said is not necessary to taper) is a whole other story (which I also plan to post). But the point is that this health care provider (in my eyes) failed me too, as I see that there is a common problem with ceasing this medication called Cymbalta Discontinuation Syndrome (from which I have been suffering from for three weeks, and I have no idea when it will stop). Mostly, I am looking for moral support, hope, and to let others know of the potential consequences of starting and stopping these medicines without the proper support. Also, I am disappointed about the lack of counseling from doctors, in terms of making the decision to start these medicines, as well as the complete lack of preparation for cessation and withdrawal. I am angry and feel let down, and sad that all of the work I have done to overcome depression has been completely washed away by these failures in my healthcare. Is this because psychiatrists are encouraged by pharmaceutical companies to prescribe, and to essentially hide (or flat out lie about) the fact that these drugs cause debilitating withdrawal? Are there any resources out there that help people to properly stop these medicines? I see so much support for opiate cessation... what about those of us trying to stop antidepressants and other drugs associated with anxiety and depression? Why (in my experience) are doctors so covert about all of this?

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lasher Says:

I'm really sorry all of this happened to you. A person should NEVER quit a drug cold-turkey and any doctor that says you can shouldn't be practicing. I also lived in NYC for a long time and ended up returning home to Alabama because I got really sick. I hope things get better for you. You don't have to go off ALL medication. I mean, if you can, that's great. But if you decide you need it, my advice is to try a doctor at a university where they have more oversight. The old guys who are in private practice can be arrogant. Your doctor should always spend time listening to you and what you need. If you are not getting that, look for someone else. Best of luck!!!

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SayNOtoAntidepressants Says:

Thank you so much for your kind message. It really means a lot. I'm surprised I was able to make any sense in the long-winded post I initially wrote on this site. I was delirious. Coming off of psychotropic medication is horrible. I experienced severe flu-like symptoms, while feeling like I was also hungover, blurry vision, fatigue and insomnia... the list goes on. I also developed jaundice from the damage of antidepressants to my liver. It took me several months of debilitating withdrawal, but I have finally been able to get through the worst of it and am starting to be able to pursue a normal life again.

Overall, I am shocked at the lack of information and support out there regarding properly and safely stopping antidepressants and other pharmaceutical drugs. The withdrawals are proven to be worse than those experienced when stopping alcohol or even opiates. Instead of calling it withdrawal, the pharma and mental health industries give it the label "Discontinuation Syndrome"... a term that attempts to delegitimize the truth about what happens when you stop taking these drugs, as well as suggests that one should continue the drug in order to avoid this "syndrome" (a rather twisted marketing tactic).

Recently, I've come across the work of Dr. Kelly Brogan - a godsend! Not only is she providing valuable information and actual methods for approaching depression holistically (avoiding medication completely), she also boldly addresses the scary truths about psychotropic drugs (from the money-driven motives of pharmaceutical companies and doctors alike, to the complete lack of evidence that these drugs actually work). She has come up with a guide to help guide people to safely stop taking anti-depressants:

Source: "Antidepressant Discontinuation: The Why & How of Tapering", kellybroganmd.com. Web.

I have been listening to her interviews on YouTube nonstop and just picked up one of her books, A Mind of Your Own: The Truth About Depression and How Women Can Heal Their Bodies to Reclaim Their Lives. It is absolutely mind-blowing, yet very simple and makes complete sense. She has cured, that's right, CURED hundreds of people who have been suffering from depression (and other ailments associated with mood and mental health) and didn't know they could (and should) stop taking antidepressant drugs.

I only wish that I would have known about her work sooner! I have no idea how her name never surfaced while I was doing internet research on the topic. Most likely I was not very effective at the time, since the withdrawals were in full effect and impairing my cognitive function.

Through Kelly Brogan I've also come across an organization called Inner Fire (innerfire.us) a rehabilitation center specifically designed to help people come off of antidepressants and other pharmaceuticals used to treat mental health issues.

Please share this information. Spread the word to help others put an end to the destructive effects of antidepressant drugs, and to figure out a way to safely stop them if they want. We DO have a choice in the matter, and too many people are suffering, not only from depression but also the negative effects of pharmaceutical drugs. Doctors, mental health institutions and pharmaceutical companies have truly formed a system that makes people worse. Personally, I am lucky to be alive. I nearly gave up so many times because I didn't know any better and I felt doomed to a life of depression and instability, and that there was no help out there. There is another way, that is actually proven to work. There is hope!!!

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