Mental Health Risks
Mental health risks are some of the least understood aspects of psychiatric medications, and can make drug decisions and the withdrawal process very complicated. Here are some things that your doctor may not have told you:
- Psychiatric drugs can sometimes make psychotic symptoms worse and increase the likelihood of having a crisis. Drugs can change receptors for such neurotransmitters as dopamine, making a person “supersensitive” to psychosis “rebound,” as well as increasing sensitivity to emotions and experiences in general. Some people report their first psychotic symptoms or suicidal feelings occurred only after starting to take psychiatric drugs. Doctors sometimes respond by giving a more severe diagnosis and adding more drugs.
- Some drugs now carry warnings about the increased risk of suicide, self-injury and violent behavior.
- Many people experience negative personality changes, including not feeling themselves, feeling drugged, emotional blunting, diminished creativity, and reduced psychic/spiritual openness.
- People who take psychiatric drugs, especially anti-psychotics, are sometimes more likely to develop long-term problems and get stuck as mental patients. Some countries that use less medication have higher recovery rates than countries that use a lot of medication; and the Soteria and Open Dialogue projects show lower medication can prevent chronicity.
- Once you are on the drug, your personality and critical thinking abilities may be very changed. It might be difficult to properly evaluate the drug’s usefulness. You may need to get off the drug, but not realize it because of how the drug is affecting your thinking. Overmedication, especially with anti-psychotics, amounts to chemical straitjacketing.
- Psychiatric drugs can interrupt and impair the mind’s natural ability to regulate and heal emotional problems. Many people report having to “re-learn” how to cope with difficult emotions when they come off psychiatric drugs. Being too medicated can make it more difficult to work through the feelings behind your distress.
- Some people, even in the worst depths of madness, say that by going through their experiences rather than suppressing them, they emerge stronger in the end. Sometimes “going crazy” can be the doorway to transformation. Artists, philosophers, poets, writers and healers are often thankful for the insights gained from “negative” emotions and extreme states. Drugs can be helpful for some, but for others they may obscure the possible value and meaning of “madness.”
Other Drug Risks and Considerations
Understanding the coming off drugs process means taking into account many different factors you may not have considered before:
- While not publicized widely, peer support, alternative treatments, talk therapy, waiting, and even the placebo effect can often be more effective than psychiatric drugs, without the risks.
- Keeping up with taking pills every day is difficult for anyone. Missing doses of psychiatric drugs can be sometimes dangerous because of the withdrawal effects, which leave you vulnerable if the drug is interrupted.
- Doctors typically see patients infrequently for short visits, making it difficult to spot potentially serious adverse drug reactions.
- People with a mental disorder diagnosis often have difficulty getting insurance, and their physical health problems may not be taken seriously.
- Using psychiatric drugs often means giving up control to the judgments of a doctor, who may not make the best decisions for you.
- Medications can be expensive, keeping you stuck in work and insurance plans.
- Medication sometimes goes along with a disability check, which can be helpful for a while but can also become a lifelong trap.
- Taking psychiatric drugs can mean being seen as mentally ill in society and starting to see yourself in that role. The stigma, discrimination, and prejudice can be devastating, and even create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Diagnostic labels cannot be stricken from the record the way criminal histories can. Studies show that trying to convince people that “mental illness is an illness like any other” is a counterproductive strategy that actually contributes to negative attitudes.
- Psychiatric drugs can convey the false view that “normal” experience is productive, happy, and well adjusted all the time, without mood shifts, bad days, or strong emotions. This encourages a false standard of what it is to be human.
- Medication can lead to viewing normal feelings as “symptoms” of illness to be stopped, which denies people the process of working through and learning from difficult emotions.
- Taking psychiatric drugs can put a passive hope in a “magic bullet” cure rather than taking personal and community responsibility for change.
Source: Harm Reduction Guide to Coming off Psychiatric Drugs (Second Edition)
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