Lets Talk Withdrawal: the truth about antidepressant drugs

This page lists all the episodes released so far and gives details of each guest and what we discuss.

Episode 1 Professor John Read on the epidemic of psychiatric overprescribing, the lack of research on withdrawal and pharmaceutical marketing and lobbying

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This week we talk to
Professor John Read from the University of East London about the overuse of psychiatric medications and the alarming growth in the prescribing of antidepressants, benzodiazepines and other psychoactive medications.

Professor Read worked for nearly 20 years as a Clinical Psychologist and manager of mental health services in the UK and the USA, before joining the University of Auckland, New Zealand, in 1994, where he worked until 2013. He has served as Director of the Clinical Psychology professional graduate programmes at both Auckland and, more recently, the University of Liverpool. He has published over 120 papers in research journals, primarily on the relationship between adverse life events and psychosis.

In this episode we discuss:
  • The fact that the medical profession are not that interested in what has happened to someone, preferring to label with a diagnosis and then medicate.
  • That we overmedicate, we medicate too quickly and we medicate with no idea of how to help people withdraw at the end of treatment.
  • The black hole in research on withdrawal and a lack of any real support options for people trying to withdraw from their psychiatric medications.
  • The Gothenburg conference on psychiatric drug withdrawal and Professor Read's participation.
  • That the largest study of its kind found that only 1% of those taking antidepressants were told about potential withdrawal by their GPs or Psychiatrists.
  • The setting up of withdrawal training programmes for doctors, medication users and their families..
  • How pharmaceutical marketing and lobbying has convinced the public, MPs and the medical profession that mental health issues and emotional distress are medical problems when they are not.
  • The myth of the chemical imbalance.
  • The fact that psychiatry has sold its soul to the pharmaceutical companies.
  • The worrying increase in antidepressant prescribing (in the UK, a doubling within a decade to 63 million items in a single year).
  • How we can improve the safety of psychoactive prescribing.
  • That we need to remember the ethical principle of informed choice where the prescribing of these powerful mediations is concerned.
  • Polypharmacy is rife in prescribing, of all the people who are on antidepressants, 60% are on at least one other drug and 40% are on two other drugs.
  • That we should move to a social model of emotional distress rather than a diagnostic and medicalised approach.
  • The groundbreaking 'Hearing Voices' movement.

Episode 2 Claire talks about antidepressant withdrawal, tapering and SSRI discontinuation syndrome

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This week, we talk to Claire who shares her powerful story of being prescribed antidepressants at the age of 16 and her experiences of trying to withdraw. She describes how she tapered gradually over 2 years but went on to experience SSRI discontinuation syndrome.

In this episode we discuss:
  • How Claire was prescribed an antidepressant at a very early age.
  • How she was told lies about a chemical imbalance to justify treatment and that she would need the drugs for life.
  • That there was nothing by way of follow up after the antidepressant was prescribed unless Claire initiated a conversation with her doctors.
  • That several antidepressants stopped working, forcing Claire to change medications.
  • That several attempts to withdraw ended in failure because she was advised to withdraw too quickly and that reinstating a full dose was the only solution.
  • That Claire felt trapped and like a prisoner, thinking she was stuck on the drugs for life and was she ever going to be able to get off them.
  • That a very slow taper over two years was the only way for Claire to be able to tolerate the significant, widespread and very unpleasant physical and psychological effects of withdrawal.
  • That Claire had to fight with doctors to get a liquid version of her medication which was the only way she could taper slowly.
  • Claire's experience of SSRI discontinuation syndrome.
  • That Facebook communities provided vital support to fill the gaping hole in mainstream medicines understanding and knowledge of prescribed drug dependance and withdrawal.
  • Being told by doctors that Claire's experiences were not real and that she should be "over it in a few weeks"
  • That mainstream medicine makes incorrect and dangerous assumptions about the length and severity of antidepressant withdrawal.

Episode 3 Giovanna talks about her SSRI antidepressant treatment over 23 years and her attempts to withdraw

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This week, we talk to Giovanna from Australia. Giovanna was prescribed an antidepressant aged 17 and tried many times to withdraw over the next 23 years. She shares her experiences with us including the advice and support that she received and her hopes for the future.

In this episode we discuss:
  • How Giovanna trusted her doctors when she was told she had a chemical imbalance and she needed her antidepressant like a diabetic needs insulin.
  • That, at 17, she had no idea about adverse effects or withdrawal and she was not told about this by her prescriber.
  • That even by missing a single tablet she suffered withdrawal symptoms but assumed that it was because she needed the drugs.
  • The doctors reinforced several time s the need to stay on the drugs for life.
  • That liquid versions are not available for all antidepressant medications, making withdrawal even more difficult.
  • How Giovanna fears the impact that withdrawal effects will have on her life, her career and her family.
  • How a Psychiatrist tried to take her off her medications after 23 years in a single week, leading to a stay in hospital.
  • How Giovanna can use a compounding pharmacy to prepare solution for her but that it is very expensive.
  • That sometimes all someone wants is to have their withdrawal issues taken seriously by doctors.
  • That every other option for easing mental health difficulties including nutrition, exercise, socialising etc should be examined before resorting to antidepressants.

Episode 4 Professor Peter Gøtzsche on why prescription drugs are now the third leading cause of death and the pharmaceutical manufacturers dominance of mental healthcare

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This week, we talk to
Professor Peter Gøtzsche who is Director of the Nordic Cochrane Centre in Denmark. Professor Gøtzsche graduated as a master of science in biology and chemistry in 1974 and as a physician in 1984. He is a specialist in internal medicine; worked with clinical trials and regulatory affairs in the drug industry and at hospitals in Copenhagen. He cofounded The Cochrane Collaboration and established The Nordic Cochrane Centre in 1993. In 2010 he became professor of Clinical Research Design and Analysis at the University of Copenhagen. Peter has published more than 70 papers in the mainstream medical journals and his scientific works have been cited more than 15,000 times. He is also an author and his books include Deadly medicines and organised crime: how big Pharma has corrupted healthcare published in 2013 and in 2015 he published Deadly Psychiatry and Organised Denial. I was keen to talk to Professor Gøtzsche about his background in research, his views on antidepressant prescribing and how pharmaceutical manufacturers have influenced mental healthcare. There are few with his knowledge and understanding of psychiatric medications.

In this episode we discuss:
  • Professor Gøtzsche's background in clinical trials within the Pharmaceutical industry.
  • How the Pharmaceutical manufacturers were manipulating clinical trial data for their own gain.
  • How drug manufacturers have denied for more than 20 years that benzodiazepines and antidepressant drugs cause dependance.
  • How the UK drug regulator (MHRA) also denied this in 2003 at the same time that the World Heath Organisation reported that 3 antidepressants were in the top 30 list of drugs that create dependance.
  • That surveys of patients show that between 50% and 66% of those taking antidepressants experience dependance.
  • The similarities between the Pharmaceutical industry and the tobacco industry.
  • That stopping an antidepressant suddenly can be very dangerous.
  • How prescription drugs have become the third leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer.
  • How Pharmaceutical manufacturers have used their power and influence to the detriment of patient safety.
  • That the best science shows that there is no doubt that psychiatric drugs have killed millions of people over the years.
  • How psychotherapy is shown to reduce the risk of suicide but instead we prescribe pills that increase the suicide risk for all ages of patients.
  • That the chemical imbalance lie is still being propagated amongst psychiatrists even thought here is no scientific evidence whatsoever so support it.
  • How Psychiatric drugs should be used for acute/emergency situations only.
  • That the medication centred approach of Psychiatry does more harm than good.
  • How patients should avoid psychiatric drugs unless they are used for a very short time or that the patient really feels that they need them.
  • That when you look at the randomised controlled trials, there is a large risk of bias in these trials and that antidepressant efficacy has been overstated.
  • That the Cochrane Collaboration undertook the most rigorous meta analysis ever undertaken of 131 trials involving 27,422 patients taking SSRI's, this analysis showed that antidepressants do not have any meaningful effects and their harms outweigh any benefits there might be.

Episode 5 Daryl on being prescribed antidepressant drugs at 9 years old and his experiences with OCD, Tourettes syndrome and PSSD

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This week, we interview
Daryl who was only 9 years old when he was taken into mental health services and medicated. He talks about being made to take both antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs and he describes the lies told to him to justify treatment. Daryl also talks very bravely about PSSD, Post SSRI Sexual Dysfunction.

In this episode we discuss:
  • How Daryl was assessed and medicated at 9 years old after difficulties at school.
  • How Daryl didn't think that doctors would expose him to harm through the medications.
  • That he thinks much of mental health diagnosis is a scam and based on belief.
  • The difficulties Daryl experienced with PSSD, Post SSRI Sexual Dysfunction.
  • How he feels that his emotional distress was misinterpreted as mental illness.
  • That Daryl felt forced to stop his medications cold turkey because of sexual difficulties and other physical effects
  • That Daryl feels that his PSSD is irreversible and was caused by the antipsychotic medications.
  • How the British National Formulary recognises PSSD and states it is one of the main reason for patients stopping antipsychotic medications.
  • That Daryl feels inhuman compared to others and he feels that the drug manufacturers were allowed to cause him harm.
  • How Daryl set up his own blog about PSSD to raise awareness http://pssdblog.blogspot.co.uk/p/pssd-blog.html
  • That the risks of the medications are underplayed and not clear.
  • That drugs have pushed much of the compassion out of mental health treatment.

Episode 6 Doctor Terry Lynch on the myth of the brain chemical imbalance and why Psychiatry has pursued a purely medical approach to distress with terrible consequences

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This week, we interview
Dr. Terry Lynch who is a GP, psychotherapist, author and mental health educator. Ten years into his career as a GP, he became very concerned about the medical approach to emotional and mental suffering and was not prepared to remain silent. In 2001 he released the book Beyond Prozac: Healing Mental Distress, a best-seller in Ireland in 2001 and shortlisted for the MIND (UK) 2002 Book of the Year Award. Terry has worked tirelessly to expose the myth of the chemical imbalance and other psychiatric falsehoods. In 2015, he released The Depression Delusion: The Myth of the Brain Chemical Imbalance. Dr. Lynch spoke to me and helped me understand why modern psychiatry has pursued a purely medical approach to distress with terrible consequences.

In this episode we discuss:
  • How Dr. Lynch trained as a GP but became disillusioned when he started comparing patient experiences with his medical training.
  • How these experiences led to his first book, Beyond Prozac; Healing mental distress, published in 2002.
  • How doctors are still justifying treatment with psychiatric drugs based on the myth of the brain chemical imbalance.
  • That there is no scientific evidence whatsoever that there is any brain chemical imbalance, it is a concept manufactured by the Pharmaceutical companies in order to market their drugs.
  • That myths like the chemical imbalance legitimise prescribing.
  • That there is no pathological difference between the brain of someone who experiences mental illness and the brain of someone who does not.
  • That there is no physical diagnostic test that confirms a biological abnormality that would explain mental illness.
  • How patients are told that an antidepressant is like insulin for a diabetic but that this is also completely untrue.
  • That it is unproven that depression, bipolar disorder or the other psychiatric diagnoses are brain disorders, there is no difference in pathology that would result in these issues being classified as a brain abnormality.
  • That psychiatric drugs can calm people so they do have effects but patients are not able to make an informed choice about their medications.
  • That much of what we are told is fact by medical science is actually just a belief.
  • That we don't give enough attention to emotional distress and trauma.
  • How the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) the key diagnostic tool for psychiatry is created.
  • The unnecessary focus on medication distracts completely from a persons life and the issues that have resulted in trauma or wounding.
  • That the term ‘depression’ isn't very helpful because it reduces rich experiences to simple diagnostic language.
  • The shocking fact that in the UK we prescribed 63 million antidepressants in a single year.
  • Dr. Lynch’s courses that help people understand the true nature of depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and other psychiatric diagnoses.
  • When you take an antidepressant, make sure you are fully informed, make you own enquiries.

Episode 7 Doctor David Healy on prescribing practice, medicine safety and pharmaceutical regulation

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This week, we interview
Dr. David Healy, internationally respected psychiatrist, psychopharmacologist scientist and author. A professor of Psychiatry in Wales, David studied medicine in Dublin, and at Cambridge University. He is a former Secretary of the British Association for Psychopharmacology, and has authored more than 200 peer-reviewed articles and 20 books, including The Antidepressant Era and The Creation of Psychopharmacology. David’s latest book, Pharmageddon, documents the riveting and terrifying story of how pharmaceutical companies have hijacked healthcare in America and the life-threatening results. David’s main areas of research are clinical trials in psychopharmacology, the history of psychopharmacology, and the impact of both trials and psychotropic drugs on our culture. We talk prescribing practice, medicine safety and regulation.

In this episode we discuss:
  • How Dr. Healy became interested in drug adverse reactions and medicine safety.
  • How he came to see the harm that medications can cause and why treatment induced harm, mainly through medications is a major concern.
  • How he witnessed parents become more anxious when taking SSRI antidepressant drugs
  • How David established Data Based Medicine and the website risk.org to increase awareness of medication safety
  • How people can now inform themselves about the risks with medications much more easily now with access to the internet
  • That rxisk.org is a very important resource for people wanting to know more about their medications
  • That the number of antidepressants being used year on year is increasing because more people are unable to get off the drugs
  • How the regulation of Pharmaceutical manufacturers is ineffective because it is mainly a bureaucratic exercise
  • That it’s not just drugs used in the mental health field that are problematic
  • We need to better distinguish between distress and a disease
  • Why people differ when trying to withdraw from psychiatric drugs
  • That trials in the 1980s on healthy volunteers showed that ssri antidepressants made them anxious and exhibit depressive symptoms within two weeks
  • That there is nowhere near enough research on antidepressant dependance and withdrawal

Episode 8 Dede Moore on how the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) help her with antidepressant withdrawal

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This week on Let’s Talk Withdrawal, we interview Dede Moore who shares her own powerful story of antidepressant treatment and withdrawal. Dede turned her experiences into a force for good and now uses the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) to assist those in withdrawal from antidepressants or benzodiazepines. Dede tells us about EFT, how it helps in withdrawal and even gives a sample EFT session that you can join in with to experience how it works.

In this episode we discuss:
  • How Dede came to be taking antidepressant medications
  • That she had no information from doctors on adverse effects or withdrawal potential
  • That she was told by her doctor that her antidepressant was like insulin for a diabetic
  • That adverse effects were just part of her illness and in response doctors increased her dosage and added a benzodiazepine
  • How, when doctors wanted her youngest son to take an antidepressant, Dede decided that it wasn't right and that she wanted to stop taking them too
  • That doctors told Dede it was too risky to stop taking the drugs and they “didn't know what would happen”
  • How Dede, with the lack of any official guidance or support, withdrew too quickly giving her many symptoms
  • How she then tried the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and found that it helped with physical symptoms and the emotional distress of withdrawal
  • How Dede went on to become certified as an EFT practitioner to help and support others in psychiatric drug withdrawal
  • Dede tells us more about EFT and how it works to help antidepressant withdrawal
  • How EFT is being trialled by the UK NHS for anxiety with encouraging results
  • How Dede feels both still being in withdrawal herself from a Benzodiazepine but also in supporting others in her private practice
  • That sometimes focussing on symptoms can exaggerate or amplify them
  • That EFT can help change the limiting belief that there is nothing that anyone can do to help themselves in withdrawal

Episode 9 Christopher Jump talks about his transformational journey from psychiatric hospital to woking in peer support and wellness

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This week, we have an interview with Christopher Jump. Christopher describes his transformational journey starting with a very difficult childhood which led him to be treated for many years with various psychiatric medications. After successfully withdrawing, he now works a Program Manager for Heart & Soul inc in California, an organisation which offers a variety of mental health recovery-oriented and wellness support opportunities for people in need of mental health support.

In this episode we discuss:
• How Christopher was hospitalised with Major Depressive Disorder and was medicated
• How his very difficult childhood led to more than 15 years of treatment with various psychiatric medications
• That his Psychiatrist did no physical examination but concluded in 5 minutes that he had a brain abnormality
• How he had to agree to take the medications to get released from hospital
• That the side effects of the drugs were very troublesome and made him more anxious and agitated
• That the medication led to an increase in self harming and suicidal thinking
• The doctors advice was always to increase dosages or to add additional drugs
• How long terms usage of psychiatric medications leads to psychological and physical problems
• How he had previously tried to quit his drugs cold turkey but always ended up back in hospital
• How Christopher stopped his drugs by tapering and what therapies helped him during withdrawal
• How looking back, Christopher feels that stopping the drugs was the best thing he ever did
• How he now works in peer wellness and support for Heart & Soul Inc, an organisation staffed by people with lived experience of mental healthcare
• How, when he was first struggling, Christopher needed someone to listen to him and a supportive environment rather than a diagnosis and medication
• That people should rule out any physical reason for depression or anxiety before resorting to medications

Episode 10 Kevin P Miller talks about his documentary films Generation Rx (2009) and Letters From Generation Rx (2015) which tell the powerful stories of families harmed by their psychiatric medications

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In this episode we discuss:
  • How Kevin came to make his powerful films that document the real experiences of people taking psychiatric drugs
  • The coverage of the 1991 Prozac hearings in Washington D.C. before the Food and Drug Administration
  • How the power of the testimonies of people harmed by their medications drove Kevin to tell their stories and how difficult a process it was
  • How Tilda Swinton came to be involved as narrator of the film
  • Reaction to the film, particularly from Pharmaceutical manufacturers
  • How examples of people who used vitamins and nutrition to help their mental health caused outrage amongst the medical community
  • That there are millions of people being harmed because of the lack of the relevant information that would allow patients to make informed choices about their medications
  • How tax payers money is used to bring medications to market and how little is spent on research into nutritional approaches
  • How free trade and healthcare are intertwined
  • The concept of medical freedom of choice
  • That we should devote a small mount of time and money to alternative approaches and how it could help millions of people without the risk of adverse effects
  • Discussions around Folic acid and how earlier action could have prevented many neural tube defects
  • The plans for the film Letters from Generation Rx including distribution
  • How people can join the mailing list at lettersfromgenerationrx.com
  • There is additional news and information at facebook.com/lettersfromgenerationrx
  • That we should recognise that some people find the drugs helpful
  • How people can use the information in the film to question their doctors and their legislators

Episode 11 Nora talks about her extreme adverse reaction to an antidepressant which started almost immediately and left her with physical, emotional and psychological problems

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In this episode we discuss:
  • How pressures and stresses in life led Nora to consult her doctor for advice
  • How Nora was prescribed an antidepressant after a 5 minute consultation with no discussion about adverse effects
  • That Nora was not prepared by her doctor in any way for what happened when she started to take her medication
  • That in Ireland you don't always get a Patient Information Leaflet (PIL) that would have helped her understand what she was taking
  • That Nora reacted straight away to her antidepressant medication and the adverse reactions were sudden and shocking
  • How she stopped her tablets after 5 days but still suffered with protracted withdrawal
  • That Nora had to use the Internet to find the information that she needed about her drug
  • How Nora went back to her GP who didn't know anything about withdrawal and became annoyed when hearing her experiences
  • That, 2 years after that short period taking her antidepressant, she still struggles with physical, emotional and psychological effects
  • That, for Nora, the most troubling withdrawal effects have been the electric shock sensations that she continues to experience
  • How Nora felt that her doctors did know that withdrawal was a possibility but could not admit to the problems that people have
  • That, if you look at the clinical trials, there is only a small chance greater than placebo that an antidepressant will have a beneficial effect but the risks of adverse effects are much greater
  • That more education of doctors is needed so that patients can make a properly informed choice about drug treatments for mental health
  • How the internet and Facebook are vital resources for people that do not get the information that they need from mainstream medicine
  • That mainstream medicine makes incorrect and dangerous assumptions about the onset, length and severity of antidepressant withdrawal

Episode 12 Doctor Lucy Johnstone on how the underlying causes of emotional distress are often unexplored, and why that might be


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This week, we talk with Doctor Lucy Johnstone who is a clinical Psychologist, trainer, speaker and writer, and a long-standing critic of the biomedical model of psychiatry. She has worked in adult mental health settings for many years, alternating with academic posts. Lucy has authored a number of books, including 'Users and Abusers of Psychiatry, and ‘A straight talking introduction to psychiatric diagnosis’ as well as a number of articles and chapters on topics such as psychiatric diagnosis, formulation, the psychological effects of ECT, and the role of trauma in breakdown. I was keen to talk to Dr. Johnstone about our reliance on the concept of diagnosis and how that doesn't fit well with psychological or emotional distress and how a predominantly biomedical view of tends to lead to a purely medication centred approach to mental healthcare.

In this episode we discuss:
  • The difference between a clinical Psychologist and a Psychiatrist
  • How Lucy became interested in the way we live and how that contributes to states of extreme distress
  • How Lucy’s books follow a theme of being critical of the concept of diagnosis
  • Why diagnosis is not the right lens through which to look at emotional or psychological distress
  • How we turn people with problems into patients with illnesses
  • How it is generally accepted that mental health issues are medical illnesses when there is no basis for this and it is an assumption
  • We need a more sophisticated approach and better language to help us understand trauma and emotional distress
  • That a medical illness view is sold as a fact when it really is not scientifically or ethically justified
  • How it can be looked down on to question your diagnosis
  • That we realise that a diagnosis is often necessary for practical help like benefits or sick notes but this needn't always be the case
  • How the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) is constructed and the most recent version is DSM V
  • That there is a great deal of controversy because it is including more and more behaviours that are becoming classified as illnesses with no evidence that they are illnesses
  • Even the people that are putting together the DSM acknowledge that we need a better system
  • How many Psychiatrists are backing away now from theories like the chemical imbalance
  • Some of the alternatives to diagnosis that allow the service user to express themselves
  • How formulation works as one possible alternative to diagnosis, although not the only one, and that the conversation shouldn't not just be ‘what is wrong with you’
  • It should be a normalising not a pathologising message
  • That diagnosis often disguises the social drivers whereas best practice formation or discussion will include the social issues like poverty or inequality that are leading to emotional distress
  • That diagnosis and medication encourages us to locate the problem within the individual for their predicament rather than confront the fact that societal concerns are causing the huge increase in emotional or psychological distress
  • Why chemical imbalances don't explain the link between antidepressant prescribing and poverty
  • Why a psychosocial approach to mental distress would reduce psychiatric prescribing
  • That there is more and more evidence to suggest that overall, psychiatric drugs lead to disability in the long term rather than fix any problem