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Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal: A Guide for Prescribers, Therapists, Patients and their Families

Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal: A Guide for Prescribers, Therapists, Patients and their Families

by Peter R. Breggin

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As a physician who specializes in addiction medicine and drug withdrawal and written widely on them, I recommend Dr. Breggin's book to every health professional who deals with anyone taking psychiatric drugs. He gives highly useful information and reasons for stopping or avoiding them. It's an excellent one-stop source of information about psychiatric drug effects


As a physician who specializes in addiction medicine and drug withdrawal and written widely on them, I recommend Dr. Breggin's book to every health professional who deals with anyone taking psychiatric drugs. He gives highly useful information and reasons for stopping or avoiding them. It's an excellent one-stop source of information about psychiatric drug effects and withdrawal. Prescribers, therapists, patients, and families will benefit from this guidebook.

Charles L. Whitfield, MD
Bestselling author of Healing the Child Within and many other books

Peter Breggin has more experience in safely withdrawing psychiatric patients from medication than any other psychiatrist. In this book he shares his lifetime of experience. All of our patients deserve the benefit of our obtaining that knowledge.

Bertram Karon, PhD
Professor of Psychology, Michigan State University
Author, The Psychotherapy of Schizophrenia
Former President of the Division of Psychoanalysis of the American Psychological Association

This is such an important book. Describing the problem of withdrawal from psychiatric drugs in detail, and providing clear advice regarding how to deal with this problem as Peter has done so well in this book, is long overdue. For decades, the belief system that is mainstream psychiatry has denied the existence of withdrawal problems from the substances they prescribe so widely. In reality, withdrawal problems with psychiatric drugs is a common occurrence. Because of psychiatry's reckless denial of this real and common problem, millions of people worldwide have not had the support and care they desperately need when attempting to come off psychiatric drugs, often been erroneously advised that these problems are confirmation of the existence of their supposed original so-called 'psychiatric illness.' Dr. Breggin's book is therefore both timely and necessary."

Terry Lynch, MD
Physician and Psychotherapist
Author of Beyond Prozac: Healing Mental Suffering Without Drugs and Selfhood: A Key to the Recovering of
Emotional Well Being
, Mental Health and the Prevention of Mental Health Problems

Dr. Peter Breggin has written an invaluable reference for mental health professionals and lay-persons alike who are seeking a way out of dependency on psychiatric drugs. He describes the many dangers of psychiatric medication in straightforward research-based and contextually nuanced terms. Most helpfully, he articulates a method of empathic, person-centered psychotherapy as an alternative to the prevailing emotionally and system disengaged drug-centered approach. In this book, Dr. Breggin systematically outlines how to safely withdraw a patient from psychiatric medication with rich case examples drawn with the detail and sensitivity to individual and situational differences that reveal not only his extensive clinical experience, but his clear, knowledgeable, and compassionate vision of a more humane form of treatment. In this volume, Dr. Peter Breggin has again demonstrated that he is a model of what psychiatry can and should be. This is an indispensable text for both mental health trainees and experienced practitioners seeking a practical alternative to the dominant drug-centric paradigm.

Gerald Porter, PhD
Vice President for Academic Affairs
School of Professional Psychology at Forest Institute

This much needed book and guide to psychiatric medication withdrawal is clearly written and easy to understand. As people become more empowered and able to inform themselves about the effects of pharmaceuticals, practitioners will be called upon to wean their patients off of damaging medications. This book will provide that guidance. Thank you Dr. Breggin for having the courage to oppose conventional psychiatric thinking and the caring to improve the quality of life for individuals who are ready to experience their own innate healing instead of reaching for a pill to mask the symptoms.

Melanie Sears, RN, MBA
Author, Humanizing Health Care and Choose Your Words

Today many psychologists, nurses, social workers, and counselors are struggling with how to help adults and the parents of children who are over-medicated or who wish to reduce or stop taking their psychiatric drugs. Dr. Breggin's book shows non-prescribing professionals, as well as prescribers, how to respond to their patient's needs in an informed, ethical, and empowering fashion.

Sarton Weinraub, PhD
Clinical Psychologist
Director, New York Person-Centered Resource Center, NYC

This is the first book to establish guidelines and to assist prescribers and therapists in withdrawing their patients from psychiatric drugs, including those patients with long-term exposure to antipsychotic drugs, benzodiazepines, stimulants, antidepressants, and mood stabilizers. It describes a method developed by the author throughout years of clinical experience, consultations with experienced colleagues, and scientific research. Based on a person-centered collaborative approach, with patients as partners, this method builds on a cooperative and empathic team effort involving prescribers, therapists, patients, and their families or support network.

The author, known for such books as Talking Back to Prozac, Toxic Psychiatry, and Medication Madness, is a lifelong reformer and scientist in mental health whose work has brought about significant change in psychiatric practice. This book provides critical information about when to consider psychiatric drug reduction or withdrawal, and how to accomplish it as safely, expeditiously, and comfortably as possible. It offers the theoretical framework underlying this approach along with extensive scientific information, practical advice, and illustrative case studies that will assist practitioners in multiple ways, including in how to:

  • Recognize common and sometimes overlooked adverse drug effects that may require withdrawal
  • Treat emergencies during drug therapy and during withdrawal
  • Determine the first drugs to withdraw during multi-drug therapy
  • Distinguish between withdrawal reactions, newly occurring emotional problems, and recurrence of premedication issues
  • Estimate the length of withdrawal

Editorial Reviews

Doody's Review Service
Reviewer: Aaron Plattner, MD (Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services)
Description: In this book, the author describes how to safely withdraw patients from psychiatric medications while explaining why he believes that discontinuing psychiatric medications is a healthy choice.
Purpose: Identifying himself as "the conscience of psychiatry," the author works to move psychiatry away from a heavy emphasis on pharmacological treatment to empathy therapy. The author believes that not only do psychiatric medications fail to work, but the potential for significant side effects is great enough to warrant prescribing psychiatric medications only for a short period of time. He then details the proper ways to withdraw patients from psychiatric medications. However, the author does not provide enough evidenced-base research data to support his theory that the risk/benefit ratio of psychiatric medications is such that a vast majority of patients would benefit if they were withdrawn from them.
Audience: The author aims the book at "the spectrum of prescribers, including those who have a much more favorable view of psychiatric medications than I do." Since I have not met any prescriber of psychiatric medications who does not have "a much more favorable view of psychiatric medications" than the author, I would say the audience includes any healthcare provider who prescribes psychotropic medications. The author has written several books and articles citing his stand on psychopharmacology, but a brief literature search of some of his main points revealed surprisingly little support from other healthcare providers. The author also references his own work some 50 times in the book and a literature search of his research failed to find sufficient research from other clinicians. For example, he introduces the concept of "intoxication anosognosia," which he presents as fact, but another literature search failed to turn up any data outside the author's opinion to support this terminology.
Features: After delineating reasons to withdraw patients from the different classes of psychiatric medications (including antipsychotics, antidepressants, stimulants, sedatives, and mood stabilizers), the author reviews the process of drug withdrawal using different therapeutic approaches. He concludes the book with various cases of psychiatric medication withdrawal in various patient populations. Each chapter ends with key points, but there is a glaring absence of graphics beyond squares of highlighted text. The book includes an appendix of psychiatric medications, an index, and information about the author's center for the study of empathic therapy as well as other books he's authored.
Assessment: I have encountered the arguments of antipsychiatry groups, including the documentary "Psychiatry: An Industry of Death," but this is the first book I've seen written solely by a psychiatrist. I do agree that there are patients who are taking higher levels of psychiatric medications and/or too many different psychiatric medications than they might need and thus would benefit from lower doses and/or fewer medications. This book does assist with appropriately reducing medications for this specific population. Further, no one will argue that psychiatric medications do not pose a risk of side effects and, if improperly prescribed, can cause damage, and that therapy can be helpful, but the author's suggestion that proper psychiatric treatment should largely exclude psychiatric medications is an oversimplification of a complex problem. As an inpatient psychiatrist, I frequently encounter psychiatrically ill patients who do not have resources for therapy. Further, patients with the opportunity to engage in therapy often refuse to engage with their therapist. The author fails to provide treatment options for this population of psychiatrically ill patients.

Product Details

Springer Publishing Company
Publication date:
Edition description:
New Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

Peter R. Breggin, MD, is a Harvard-trained psychiatrist and former full-time consultant at NIMH. He is in private practice in Ithaca, New York, and the author of dozens of scientific articles and more than twenty books. Some of his many books include Toxic Psychiatry, Talking Back to Ritalin, The Antidepressant Fact Book, and The Heart of Being Helpful: Empathy and the Creation of a Healing Presence, and, with co-author Ginger Breggin, Talking Back to Prozac. His most recent publications include Medication Madness: The Role of Psychiatric Drugs in Cases of Violence, Suicide, and Crime (2008) and Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry: Drugs, Electroshock and the Psychopharmaceutical Complex, Second Edition (SPC, 2008). Dr. Breggin is the founder and director of The Center for the Study of Empathic Therapy, Education and Living (www.EmpathicTherapy.org) His professional website is www.breggin.com.

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