WHAT IS NORMAL? PART 1: Coming Off Psychiatric Drugs - Panel Discussion & Q&A
- Tue 25th May 2021, 7pm – 9pm UK time (UTC +01:00)
|Hosted by||The Psychedelic Society|
|Activity||Psychedelic Science & Mental Health|
|Add to calendar||Google · ICS|
What is “normal”? When you have been dependent on an antidepressant for many years, it can feel near-on impossible to know what “normal” looks like.
What we do know is that our brains adapt to long-term medications although usually they would normally be prescribed as a short-term strategy for tackling depression and anxiety. Yet 7.3 million of us in the UK alone are taking antidepressants. It remains somewhat taboo that many of these drugs can cause side effects worse than the symptoms they were meant to treat in the first place for some people. People are often not made aware by their doctors about the very real possibility of severe withdrawal symptoms, in some people, should they wish to come off the drugs, and our current health system lacks both proper guidance and support around tapering.
After the success of our ‘Medicating Normal’ screening in February, we are going deeper with the conversation surrounding prescription drug dependence and withdrawal - this time with a UK focus. Our panel of experts will discuss the neurobiological effect of antidepressants, as well as their own lived experience and the experiences of people sharing their stories in an incredibly active online community. This discussion will be an opportunity for us to understand the dark reality of medications taken every day by millions of people living in the UK. We will talk about when and how to come off these drugs safely, where people going through withdrawal can find support and advice, and how drug dependency can mess with what we view as “normal”.
This panel is Part 1 of our ‘What Is Normal?’ paired discussion, as we look towards a life after lockdown, a time that forced society as a whole to question the concept of normality. With 1 in 6 people in the UK currently on antidepressants, never has it been more pressing for us to have this conversation.
Since becoming an “ex-patient”, Laura has been writing and speaking about her personal experiences and about the broader social and political issues sitting at the heart of “mental illness” and “mental health”. She wrote extensively about her journey at her now-archived website, Recovering from Psychiatry. She has worked both within and beyond the mental health system. In the Boston area, she worked for nearly two years for a large community mental health organization, providing support to and advocating for the rights of individuals in emergency rooms, psychiatric hospitals, and institutional “group home” settings. After leaving the “inside” of the mental health system, she began consulting with individuals and families seeking help during the psychiatric drug withdrawal process. Laura has also given talks and workshops in Europe and across North America, facilitated mutual-aid groups for people in withdrawal, and organized various conferences and public events such as the Mad in America International Film Festival. She also educates psychiatrists and mental health professionals about safer tapering protocols, and is regularly contacted by professional organizations looking to implement withdrawal supports and resources. In January 2018, Laura launched Inner Compass Initiative (ICI) and ICI’s The Withdrawal Project, of which she serves as Executive Director.
Dr Mark Horowitz
Dr Mark Horowitz (MBBS, PhD) is a training psychiatrist and researcher, who has a PhD from King’s College London on the neurobiology of depression and the action of antidepressants. He also, for many years, took the drugs he prescribed. When he tried to come off them he experienced a sharp education into the withdrawal effects that they cause as well as the minimisation of these problems from the medical field. Since then he has tried to bring more awareness to the topic of safe de-prescribing of psychotropic drugs through his academic work, including articles published on how to safely taper antidepressants and antipsychotics, and through working with the Royal College of Psychiatrists in the UK on developing their guidance for patients stopping antidepressants. He is currently the clinical research fellow on the RADAR trial in London, looking at the effect of gradually tapering people with schizophrenia off their antipsychotics and is developing a dedicated service to help people come off psychiatric medications.
Adele Framer, also known by her online handle Altostrata, is the founder of SurvivingAntidepressants.org, a critical and comprehensive peer-support website that features several thousand case histories of psychiatric drug withdrawal. The site is a hub of information on the topic, highlighting methods of safe drug tapering and recovery and underscoring the humanity of those in the grips of withdrawal. Adele arrived at her expertise through personal experience. In 2004, after three years on 10 mg of paroxetine, she went off under medical supervision and suffered symptoms of withdrawal that her doctor discounted as relapse. She then went on to visit more than 50 psychiatrists, trying and failing to find someone knowledgeable in antidepressant withdrawal. Her own research into the topic, including close readings of journals and FDA recommendations, led her to the creation of SurvivingAntidepressants.org in 2011. Registered members and monthly visitors are in the tens of thousands. The site features 6,000 case histories and contains more than 60 topics covering tips on the gradual tapering off of specific drugs. All of the site’s information is pulled from scientific papers, governmental advisories, and package inserts, and much of it has been shared across Facebook and other platforms on the web.
Stevie Lewis is someone with personal experience of severe prescribed drug withdrawal. She went on to petition the Welsh parliament for better recognition of the symptoms of antidepressant withdrawal and the urgent need for support for those struggling to withdraw. A research paper she co-authored was submitted as evidence to the recent Public Health England review for "Dependence and withdrawal associated with some prescribed medications". Stevie is currently part of a working group set up by the Westminster All Party Parliamentary Group for Prescribed Drug Dependence tasked with developing a strategy for implementing the PHE review recommendations.
This will be a 2 hour event with a Q&A session, giving the opportunity for the audience to ask their own questions. The event will be recorded and ticket purchasers will be sent the recording within a week of the event.
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