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Antipsychotic Withdrawal Symptoms, Side-Effects, Treatment Help

Medical professionals generally are unable to navigate an antipsychotic withdrawal in an outpatient setting and also tend to lack the expertise.

Antipsychotics given during a crisis often end up being a lifetime of being medicated and all of the side effects that go with it. In over 75% of the cases, we have found that people can navigate their lives after having withdrawn from the drugs.

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For 15 years, Alternative to Meds has been the only licensed center helping people find alternatives to antipsychotic medications. We have published evidence regarding our long-term success. While each case is different, many times we find that, frequently, there were medical conditions like hypoglycemia or food allergies, or that the crisis had multiple factors and may have been diagnosed prematurely or even misdiagnosed.
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What are antipsychotics? What are they used for?

Antipsychotics are a variety of medications used primarily to manage psychosis, hallucinations, delusions and disordered thought. Though often effective at the onset, antipsychotics are typically not well tolerated for long-term use and often lead to significant unwanted side effects.1

A person is usually put on an antipsychotic when they have had a psychotic break, or when other medications fail to work. People who are medicated on these drugs are often unable to perform in life as they would like to, find it hard to set goals, and have difficulty perceiving reward in life. These side effects are commonly deemed better than continued visits to the hospital or loss of sleep in the case of extreme insomnia, so the person remains on the drug.

These medications are typically prescribed for individuals who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. In some cases, people take these medications for severe depression or anxiety. Side effects of these medications can be quite severe, especially when these medications are taken long-term.1 However, these adverse effects can be reduced and successfully overcome, and antipsychotic withdrawal symptoms can be conquered with treatment.

Are there other treatments for psychotic symptoms besides antipsychotic drugs?

withdrawal symptoms antipsychoticsThough these drugs can be necessary in extreme cases, antipsychotics are not the only solution for psychotic symptoms. To successfully taper people from antipsychotics, we must do some preliminary work aimed towards discovering what the underlying problems may be.

First, we run lab tests to identify the potential root causes of the symptoms. In most cases, toxicity is found to be a large contributor. Whether toxicity is a result of the person’s environment or their genetics, we work towards clearing it out. We restrict the use of processed foods, sugar, caffeine, limit the number of cigarettes, and utilize supplements that are known to be beneficial for these individuals and which will work towards stabilizing the neurochemistry.

When the individual begins to feel the balance and sedation that the natural therapies and tapering provide, their medication can be reduced—slowly—and adjusted as needed.

What is happening to create psychotic thoughts or behaviors?

The answer is specific for each individual, but usually, there is an excess of dopamine. Dopamine is our “reward” neurochemical, and excess dopamine will make everything stimulating and can cause mania. This can result from neurotoxins stimulating the neurology. Before and during antipsychotic withdrawal, we work at correcting the source of symptoms. Exposure to toxins can be a factor to test for and address, and/or a genetic problem that could affect how that individual clears toxins. For instance, a poor methylator won’t be able to clear heavy metals and will accumulate them in nerve and brain tissue. A poor diet that leads to a deficit in essential nutrients such as vitamin B6, vitamin C, niacin, and zinc, for instance, will have positive results when resolved.

Testing for and removal of the accumulation of toxic substances found in preservatives and clearing accumulations of chemicals from processed foods can be beneficial. Testing for low blood sugar, allergies, or other food problems is important as they may cause psychosis in sensitive people and could have very positive results when resolved. One does not have to suffer side effects in return for inefficient relief.

Do antipsychotic drugs cure a person’s neurochemistry issues?

No drug can create new neurotransmitters. It may be helpful to have a better understanding of how antipsychotic drugs affect the neurochemistry. Antipsychotic drugs suppress or block the transmission of dopamine along nerve pathways. Dopamine is an excitatory neurochemical. When dopamine is limited due to the use of an antipsychotic drug, the brain is altered at the synapse. The synapse is where one nerve talks to another. Dopamine excites the impulse of the originating nerve to the next nerve receptors. When the dopamine level is low, the neurology changes, and the body attempts to compensate for this shortfall, by making more dopamine receptors. With more receptors, the small amount of dopamine has the same stimulating effect (compensatory action) even in the presence of an antipsychotic. So the dosage is often increased, which brings on more side effects.

When the person quits taking the drug, as in missing a dose, more dopamine is released and is now super responsive due to an excessive amount of receptors. This can result in hospitalization or extreme antipsychotic withdrawal symptoms and can be disastrous and sometimes quite frightening without professional help. Antipsychotic drugs can temporarily sedate the person, but are not able to cure anything.

How to Efficiently Get Off Antipsychotics

To efficiently taper users from antipsychotics we implement workable protocols by employing certain exact techniques. First, we do lab tests to see what might have caused the original symptoms. Often, we find from lab testing that toxicity is the culprit. Whether toxicity is a result of environment, or genetics, (i.e., slow to metabolize and clear toxins) we then work to gently and non-invasively detoxify the person’s body. We also restrict sugar, processed foods, and caffeine, and use targeted supplements that are beneficial for individuals taking antipsychotic medications. We administer supplements that will support the inhibitory aspects of the person’s neurochemistry.

Alternative Help for Antipsychotic Medication Withdrawal
When an individual suffers a psychotic episode, or psychotic break, or if other prescription drugs do not work, the person is usually started on a course of antipsychotic medication.

Such an individual who is medicated on antipsychotics may be unable to work or perform as they would like to in life, including having difficulty setting goals and an inability to perceive reward in their life. A person may decide that even though these side effects are not desirable, that it may be preferable compared to multiple hospital visits or continuing insomnia, and so they may decide to continue on the medication.

Examples of antipsychotics are Risperdal, Seroquel or Lithium, used where a person has a diagnosis of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder episodes. These drugs are also prescribed for severe depression or anxiety.

It is possible to overcome the side effects of antipsychotic medications, and it is also possible to withdraw from them with proper and adequate treatment.

Are There Other Solutions for Psychotic Symptoms?

Successfully tapering from antipsychotic medication is made more possible when investigative work is done to try and discover what any underlying causative factors may have preceded medication. At the Alternative to Meds program, the initial action is to run labs to identify any root causes for the symptoms that are troubling the person.

The largest contributor we have found is the presence of toxicity, sometimes as a result of environmental poisons, and also that may accumulate as a result of the individual’s genetics. In both cases the goal is to gently clear these out of the body.

Stabilizing the individual’s neurochemistry is further supported by the restriction of processed foods, avoiding preservatives and additives, and also omitting sugar, caffeine, limiting the number of cigarettes for a person who smokes, while giving supplements that produce known benefits for persons with these conditions.

It is at the time that the person starts to experience balance as well as calmness and sedation provided by the natural therapies and supplements, that their medication can be tapered slowly and appropriately adjusted.

Can We Understand More About the Source of Psychotic Thoughts and Behavior?

Each individual has specific reasons that are unique to them, as to why the person may suffer from disordered thinking, paranoia, delusions, hallucinations, and so on. However, a common thread seems to be the presence of excess dopamine. Dopamine is the “reward” neurochemical. Too much dopamine can make everything extremely stimulating, leading to mania and other problems. Where this is the case, often it can be an excess of neurotoxins that are stimulating the neurology, throwing it out of balance.

Can the Source of These Symptoms be Effectively Addressed?

We have seen that a genetic problem may affect how effectively (or ineffectively) toxins are being cleared. One example is a poor methylator will not efficiently clear out heavy metals, such as mercury, and these will then accumulate within the nerve and brain tissues. Additionally, where a diet is inadequate in certain essentials like Vitamin C, Zinc, B6, in combination with preservatives, low blood sugar, or other food-related problems may trigger psychosis in people with sensitivity to such issues. But one may not have to suffer side effects if these issues can be sufficiently addressed.

An antipsychotic medication restricts dopamine at the nerve synapse. The synapse is the point where a nerve “talks” to the next one in line. The role of dopamine is to excite the impulse or nerve message, sending it on to the receptor at the next nerve. However, when dopamine is low, the body begins to create additional receptors. Now the same amount of dopamine will have an augmented or magnified stimulating effect, even when an antipsychotic medication is in use. This is the point where, often, the medication dose is increased. Doing so will result in an increase in side effects as well.

If the person stops the medication, the result is that more dopamine is released and more receptors are on hand to magnify the stimulating effects. Often, this results in extreme withdrawal symptoms including needing to be hospitalized for mania or other psychotic symptoms.  Never abruptly stop an antipsychotic medication for this reason, and always seek help and guidance for tapering off this type of medication safely.

Alternative to Meds Center’s Approach to Getting Off Antipsychotic Medications

Our approach to antipsychotic withdrawal is the only one like it in the world. It can be a complex process with many parts, and is specifically tailored to the individual. The process can often include genetic considerations and holistic remedies for improvements, as well as stabilizing the neurochemistry using natural supplements and substances.

A thorough cleanse of neurotoxic material is very often instrumental in that stabilization process.

The goal is to achieve maximum stabilization, and the least amount of medication, and the least amount of side effects, while still allowing the person to enjoy a satisfactory quality of life and ability to function. Whether that can be accomplished during the 8 week residential program is determined on a case-by-case basis.

In some cases, such as where a person has taken antipsychotic medication over a long number of years, it may be more realistic to focus on the goal of stabilizing the person’s neurochemistry, reducing the medication as low as possible, and then work on optimizing function. For a 6 or 12 month period of time, the person returns home, and using after care resources and under local medical supervision, the person may continue to slowly continue to reduce their dosage over time.

Our coaches and counselors, as well as the team of case managers and our peer support model can provide an effective container that can provide a workable alternative to continuing a life on psychiatric drugs.

Summary: How to Get Off Antipsychotics

We offer programs for:

The first action is to draw lab tests to investigate root causes for the original symptoms.

That information leads to corrective actions such as removing neurotoxins.

Dietary changes are implemented such as restricting neurotoxic food additives, chemicals, sugars, caffeine, etc., and providing the supplements that will be most beneficial to soften antipsychotic side effects as well as withdrawal symptoms, and support correction of the person’s neurochemistry, so that it can repaired back to a state of balance.

Many types of adjunct therapies are used to create natural calmness and sedation, such as yoga, therapeutic massage, Reiki, nebulized glutathione, bentonite clay packs, mineral baths, and many more natural therapies and numerous genres of counseling.

These are natural, science-based solutions to problems of mental health.

Discover How We Help Various Mental Health Issues

Would You Like More Information?

We have helped thousands of people over more than a decade to reach their goal of overcoming antipsychotic medication withdrawal.

Please reach out to us to get more of the assistance that you have possibly been waiting for, for far too long. Someone will speak with you when you call and will be happy to answer any other questions you may have about the services offered at the Alternative to Meds Center.

We offer scientific solutions to mental health problems.

getting off antipsychotics

Our program is aimed at stabilizing the person’s neurochemistry with natural substances, and we use detoxification to remove accumulated environmental neurotoxins, targeted nutritional therapy, amino acid therapy, nebulized glutathione, yoga, peer support, counseling, massage, personal training, and holistic therapies that efficiently address the anticipated antipsychotic withdrawal symptoms, providing comfort and calm. Once the person begins to experience sedation and stability as a result of the natural therapies, the medication is then reduced slowly and adjusted if needed.

We have helped thousands of people overcome antipsychotic withdrawal in this manner.

Imagine if withdrawal psychosis could be averted.

Is medical supervision needed for antipsychotic withdrawal?

antipsychotic withdrawal helpAntipsychotic withdrawal truly needs to be done with medical supervision. Antipsychotics hyper-sensitize dopamine receptors that can create complications for an at-home withdrawal process. With someone who has taken antipsychotics for severe symptoms for several years, we may decide to lower their dosage to the lowest level possible so as to create stability while optimizing function.

Then, over a 6- to 12-month period, they can continue to reduce their medication at home or in our aftercare program. Our counselors, life coaches, case managers, and peer support model provide the container necessary to truly offer an alternative to a lifetime of psychiatric drugging. If you or someone you love is not benefiting from taking antipsychotics, we invite you to call us and obtain the assistance you are likely waiting for. Call to speak with one of our counselors who will be happy to answer your questions about our antipsychotic withdrawal program.

1. NIMH article, “What are the possible side effects of antipsychotics?,” published in the US National Library of Medicine [accessed online 2019 Oct 21].

This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. Samuel Lee

Dr. Samuel Lee is a board-certified psychiatrist, specializing in a spiritually-based mental health discipline and integrative approaches. He graduated with an MD at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and did a residency in psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He has also been an inpatient adult psychiatrist at Kaweah Delta Mental Health Hospital and the primary attending geriatric psychiatrist at the Auerbach Inpatient Psychiatric Jewish Home Hospital. In addition, he served as the general adult outpatient psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente.  He is board-certified in psychiatry and neurology and has a B.A. Magna Cum Laude in Religion from Pacific Union College. His specialty is in natural healing techniques that promote the body’s innate ability to heal itself.

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Medical Disclaimer:
Nothing on this Website is intended to be taken as medical advice. The information provided on the website is intended to encourage, not replace, direct patient-health professional relationships. Always consult with your doctor before altering your medications. Adding nutritional supplements may alter the effect of medication. Any medication changes should be done only after proper evaluation and under medical supervision.

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