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Antipsychotic Addiction

This entry was posted in Addiction on by .
Medically Reviewed

Last Updated on October 7, 2021 by Carol Gillette

Alternative to Meds Editorial Team
Medically Reviewed by Dr Samuel Lee MD

We know at Alternative to Meds Center that there are proven techniques to overcome antipsychotic addiction and achieve freedom from relying on prescription drugs.

For many people suffering from psychoses, schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, etc., feeling normal and balanced by taking antipsychotics is a wonderful change of pace. However, problems may begin to resurface as the medication loses efficacy. Alternatives to antipsychotics can provide ways to begin to find relief without relying on medications that cannot be relied on for permanent resolution of original symptoms.

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Antipsychotic Addiction

Newspapers and exposes reporting on antipsychotic addiction are sparse. Yet, the problem is no less ruinous than addiction to substances written and spoken about in the daily “news”.2 Just like a person who is feeling sad and decides to smoke marijuana or shoot heroin to feel better, a person who is feeling agitated, psychotic, or “crazy”, searches in desperation for relief. Medicating these symptoms may be necessary for the immediate crisis. However, just like smoking marijuana or shooting heroin, the problems are still there once the drug wears off. In fact, not only all of the original problems re-emerge, but some new ones might appear.

Antipsychotic medication masks symptoms while the drug is active in your body but doesn’t permanently fix anything. These potent drugs may even make things worse, as shown in various studies about the risk of tardive dyskinesia 3,4 that has been linked to antipsychotics. There are many other potential problems down the line when it becomes prudent to withdraw from a drug that was taken long-term. Secondary addictions are not uncommon in those who take antipsychotic medications, as long-term use is associated with amotivation (lack of motivation and interest in life). This can set a person up to seek stimulants which can be addictive in their own right, to put some “life” back into their existence. 5,6

After consuming a psychiatric medication that changes our natural neurotransmitters such as dopamine — whether Risperdal® (risperidone), Abilify® (aripiprazole), Zyprexa® (olanzapine), or Lamictal® (lamotrigine), the body and the intricate wiring of the CNS transitions. A person’s neurology starts to rely on — and develop a dependence on — the effects of the substance. These antipsychotic drugs are thought to act on certain chemicals and receptors in the brain and elsewhere in the body, changing how we feel and how we behave. Antipsychotics are associated with over-sedation, sexual dysfunction, and other troubling outcomes, especially after long-term use. But sudden withdrawal is not a good answer because when the drugs are not present, the body experiences adverse withdrawal reactions to the sudden change. Getting off antipsychotics must be gradual, calibrated precisely and slowly, and very well-supported with nutrition and other adjunctive therapies to lessen the distress of potentially severe withdrawal phenomena. 7,8

Choosing Treatment that Does Not Lay in Addiction to Antipsychotics

antipsychotic withdrrawal symptomsMissing or forgetting a dose, reducing the dosage, or discontinuing use completely can induce not only antipsychotic withdrawal symptoms but a worsening state of mental health. If the plan is to keep psychoses under control solely through the use of these medications, many prescribers recommend taking them for the rest of your life. Fortunately, there are extremely effective antipsychotic alternatives to psychiatric medication options. You may not have had these described to you. No one should have to struggle with Abilify addiction, Risperdal addiction, Zyprexa addiction, or Lamictal addiction. There is help, and this is our specialty at Alternative to Meds Center.1

Most people do not want to take these drugs for life and this is not what most people have in mind when first prescribed. A person may start taking them and as time goes by, they may become more and more dependent upon them, feeling that they need them to feel “normal.” This is not dissimilar to what most people describe during heroin or other developing addictions: “I don’t want to take heroin for the rest of my life, but I don’t want to be in withdrawal and I want to feel normal. I will have to deal with my problems if I stop doing heroin.”

Proper antipsychotic tapering can help eliminate some of the problems associated with the process of recovering from medication dependence. A huge bonus of proper medication withdrawal is being able to deal more clearly with your problems without the haze of psychiatric medications. In fact, this can feel very rewarding. No one should have to settle for antipsychotic addiction or dependence. Individuals are, more often than not, put on these medications during an extreme crisis such as a psychotic episode or after other medications have failed to work. In the rush to get help, perhaps a person was put on antipsychotic meds before other options were adequately explored. We can help you find a better pathway.

Antipsychotic Addiction After Long-Term Use

Though antipsychotic drugs may appear effective at the onset, they are not typically tolerated well in the long term. Individuals using these medications usually feel like they cannot function in life as they desire to, and find difficulty in setting goals and perceiving the feeling of reward. These serious side effects are often deemed as better than having to deal with visits to hospitals, or an inability to sleep in the case of insomnia, so many individuals continue taking the drug.2,8

However, other options in treatment exist under the umbrella of natural mental health, not relying on a continuing addiction to or dependence on antipsychotics for the management of symptoms.

The staff at Alternative to Meds Center includes over 40 medical professionals to offer effective antipsychotic addiction treatment in a welcoming, retreat-like setting.

Our caregivers are dedicated to the safety and comfort of our clients. Many of us here have been in similar situations as you and we understand how important it is to be both attentive and compassionate. Clients are consulted daily and weekly with their care teams to ensure that the micro-changes that are needed are put in place in a fluid, responsive, and caring fashion.

Alternative to Meds Protocols

To successfully end antipsychotic addiction we employ the following techniques:

  1. We use lab tests to find what may be the causes of the original symptoms. Toxicity is frequently found as the culprit. Genetics or the environment could also be a source.
  2. We then aim to safely and gently clear the person of these toxins.
  3. Restricting the use of stimulants & chemicals found in processed foods, caffeine, and sugars.9,10,11
  4. Supplements and IV treatments to stabilize the inhibitory part of neurochemistry are given.
  5. Our program for antipsychotic withdrawal is supported by nutrition, exercise, and a variety of cleansing protocols for a comfortable and very gradual process.
  6. Natural substances are prescribed such as targeted supplements and IV treatments, corrected diet, and other forms of orthomolecular medicine.12
  7. Adjunctive therapies are abundantly given, such as individual counseling, peer support, acupuncture, massage, yoga, trainer-led exercise, nebulized glutathione treatments, Equine therapy, art therapy, and other alternative mental health treatments to provide comfort and stability.

antipsychotic addiction treatment sedona arizonaWhen the individual begins experiencing the calming and stabilizing effects of these therapies, their medication can be slowly and gradually reduced. It may take longer than 60 days to complete a withdrawal program, especially where the medication was taken long-term, at high doses, or if multiple medications were used. Many other factors must be taken into account as well such as age and one’s general health. A person is welcome to lengthen their in-patient stay, or we can set up aftercare support to continue their program under medical supervision from their local MD when they return home. It may also be a good option to look for a holistic or nutritional psychiatrist who can assist you in your local area.12

Alternative to Meds enrolment may be easier than you think. You may have questions about the facility amenities, insurance coverage, and we would be happy to take the time to answer all your questions.

You are invited to call and speak with us to obtain a more complete understanding of the types of antipsychotic addiction help that are available to you or a loved one at Alternative to Meds Center.

1. Samaha AN, “Can antipsychotic treatment contribute to drug addiction in schizophrenia?,” CNS Research Group, The University of Montreal [Internet] June 2013 and 2014 PMID 23793001 [cited 2021 Oct 6]

2. Bogart G, Ott C, “Abuse of Second-Generation Antipsychotics: What Prescribers Need to Know.” [PDF] Current Psychiatry 2011 May [cited 2021 Oct 6]

3. Wyatt R, “Risks of Withdrawing Antipsychotic Medications.” Journal of American Medicine [1995 Mar] Internet [cited 2021 Oct 6]

4. Margolese H, Ferreri F, “Management of conventional antipsychotic-induced tardive dyskinesia.” Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience [Internet] PMID 17245473, 2007 Jan [cited 2021 Oct 6]

5. Fervaha G, Takeuchi H, Lee J, Foussias G, Fletcher PJ, Agid O, Remington G. Antipsychotics and amotivation. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2015 May;40(6):1539-48. doi: 10.1038/npp.2015.3. Epub 2015 Jan 8. PMID: 25567425; PMCID: PMC4397414. [cited 2021 Oct 6]

6. Potvin S, Stip E, Roy JY. Schizophrénie et toxicomanie: une relecture du concept d’automédication [Schizophrenia and addiction: An evaluation of the self-medication hypothesis]. Encephale. 2003 May-Jun;29(3 Pt 1):193-203. French. PMID: 12876543. [cited 2021 Oct 6]

7. Muench J, Hamer AM. Adverse effects of antipsychotic medications. Am Fam Physician. 2010 Mar 1;81(5):617-22. PMID: 20187598. [cited 2021 Oct 6]

8. Fahn S. Treatment of tardive dyskinesia: use of dopamine-depleting agents. Clin Neuropharmacol. 1983 Jun;6(2):151-8. doi: 10.1097/00002826-198306000-00009. PMID: 6133619. [cited 2021 Oct 6]

9. Meredith SE, Juliano LM, Hughes JR, Griffiths RR. Caffeine Use Disorder: A Comprehensive Review and Research Agenda. J Caffeine Res. 2013;3(3):114-130. doi:10.1089/jcr.2013.0016 [cited 2021 Oct 6]

10. Lachance L, Ramsey D. Food, mood, and brain health: implications for the modern clinicianMo Med. 2015;112(2):111-115. [cited 2021 Oct 6]

11. Reis DJ, Ilardi SS, Namekata MS, Wing EK, Fowler CH. The depressogenic potential of added dietary sugars. Med Hypotheses. 2020 Jan;134:109421. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2019.109421. Epub 2019 Oct 10. PMID: 31634771. [cited 2021 oct 6]

12. Zell M, Grundmann O. An orthomolecular approach to the prevention and treatment of psychiatric disorders. Adv Mind Body Med. 2012 Fall;26(2):14-28. PMID: 23341413. [cited 2021 Oct 6]

Originally Published by Diane Ridaeus Published Nov 12, 2019

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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