Taking Back Control of Psychiatric Medication
Why do we take psychiatric medication?
What does the medication we take actually do?
What is a good relationship with medication?
What does this conversation mean to me?
If you are reading this you may be asking yourself questions about psychiatric medication and it’s effect on your life. These questions are perfectly legitimate and deserve attention because they are part of the process of taking control of your life.
The decision to take medication is by right, a free choice, but how can that choice be free if we have no information on the subject? In order to make informed choices about medication (whether to continue taking it, reduce it or discontinue it gradually) we must have all the relevant information. This is why we have started this group.
Olga Runciman from the International Institute for Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal and Celine Cyr from Gaining Autonomy and Medication (GAM) in conversation with our Taking Control of Medication Group
Taking Control of Psychiatric Medication’ group was formed in Manchester in November 2019 led by people with lived experience, and involving family, friends and like minded workers.
We came together because of our concern about the lack of accurate information to support people wanting to know about the effects of medication on their lives – and – how to gain autonomy over their treatment.
We want to offer people opportunities to make real informed choices outside of/ alongside the medical model. This information is founded on the knowledge and experience of people who have successfully reduced or stopped taking medication, supported by the guidance offered by experts by experience like the survivor led Icarus Project (USA) and the Canadian GAM Movement (Gaining Autonomy over Medication).
We planned and held our first public meeting in February 2020 as a response to people requesting support around autonomy when taking psychiatric medication. Over forty people attended this meeting.
One outcome was to facilitate support for each other including running support groups and sharing accurate and helpful information.
In response to the CV-19 crisis we delivered a webinar with six panelists with lived experience who discussed key questions and issues around taking medication that was attended by 35 people. This webinar highlighted the need for people to be able to share experiences around medication, offer non-judgemental support to each other.
Together we realised that CV-19 has already had a negative impact on members of our group access to their medical teams. This includes appointments being cancelled, medication being changed, also hearing people struggling to access 111 and GP services. We want to establish through zoom meetings, a peer support group and facilitate a community to fill the existing gap around the experience of taking psychiatric medication.
Following our first well attended online meeting in April 2020 we organised a second online public meeting in July on this important issue. This time we invited Alison Branitski from Massachussets, USA and Dirk Corstens from near Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Alison no longer uses psychiatric medication and Dirk is a psychiatrist. We invited them both because of their knowledge and experiences and because they worked together on a project run by the Psychosis Research Unit here in Greater Manchester.
Practices associated with psychiatric medication that are most objected to by medication users are:
1. medication presented as the only answer to suffering;
2. the prescription of medications with painful side effects;
3. high doses of medication that hinder working on one’s self;
4. the difficulty—or impossibility—of questioning or offering one’s point of viewon the medication;
5. high-dose and long-term prescriptions that are consequently even harder to call into question;
6. insufficient information;
7. little room for dialogue with doctors concerning medication;
8. insufficient follow-up; frequent feelings of abandonment after hospital stays;
9. little room for alternative therapeutic approaches to medication;
10. interventions focused on controlling medication;
11. condescending and demeaning interventions;
12. the fact that questioning medication is understood as resistance to or refusal of treatment.
On the other hand, under certain conditions, medication can be an instrument that does not stand in the way of empowerment and improved quality of life:
1. when it is accompanied by other forms of working on one’s self and support;
2. when it is accompanied by adequate information;
3. when doctors take the time to give meaning to the experience and suggested course of treatment;
4. when medications help reduce or eliminate certain symptoms and restore stability to one’s life;
5. when people are too “down” or in crisis, to obtain specific, short-term effects.”
Coming Off Medication: Resources and Further information
Psychiatric medication information from Mind
Explains what psychiatric drugs are, what to know before taking them, and information on side effects and coming off medication.
This 75-minute documentary (directed by Daniel Mackler) offers a rare glimpse into the world of coming off psych drugs through the eyes of those who have done it. The film presents, amongst others, Will Hall, author of the world-renowned “Harm Reduction Guide to Coming Off Psychiatric Drugs,” Oryx Cohen, director at the National Empowerment Center, Laura Delano, blogger at and Daniel Hazen, noted psychiatric survivor and human rights activist.
Coming off psychiatric drugs from Mind
Explains issues faced when coming off medication, how to approach it, techniques for gradual reduction, possible withdrawal symptoms and how to tell the difference between withdrawal and relapse.
Harm Reduction Guide to Coming Off Psychiatric Drugs
Taking Back Control: My Self Help Guide to Psychiatric Medication
Critiques of Medication
This book challenges the accepted account that portrays antipsychotics as specific treatments that target an underlying brain disease and explores early views that suggested, in contrast, that antipsychotics achieve their effects by inducing a state of neurological suppression.
Robert Whitaker investigates a medical mystery: Why has the number of disabled mentally ill in the United States tripled over the past two decades? Interwoven with Whitaker’s groundbreaking analysis of the merits of psychiatric medications are the personal stories of children and adults swept up in this epidemic