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Withdrawal effects of psychiatric drugs: what are they?

Withdrawal effects are reactions caused by reducing or stopping psychiatric medication. Research on withdrawal effects is relatively recent. While they have been recognized for a long time by people who take medication, the medical community is only just beginning to recognize and study withdrawal effects.  Common withdrawal symptoms for all drug classes are anxiety, nervousness, restlessness, sleep problems, increased need to rest and sleep, irritability, and fatigue. For withdrawal symptoms of a specific medication, visit the Medication section or page 115 of the GAM guide.


withdrawal effects can...


... vary from person to person

Recent research is demonstrating what people have been reporting for many years. Withdrawal effects can vary greatly from person to person--including symptoms, frequency, intensity, and duration--depending on the drug, the person, and other factors.  See this chart by Chouinard and Cosci which presents an elaborate list of withdrawal symptoms listed by research. both physical and emotional  

Withdrawal effects can include anxiety,  insomnia, nightmares, hallucinations, and paranoia, as well as convulsions, itching, fever-like symptoms, and muscle aches etc. See more examples of withdrawal symptoms here . Although these symptoms can be worrisome, they are natural manifestations of the withdrawal process and the body will eventually regain its balance.  

... show up at different times

Withdrawal effects can appear quickly, as little as a few hours after stopping medication-- as can be seen if you skip a dose. But they can also occur longer afterwards. This depends among other things on the half-life and dosage of the drug, how long the drug was taken, the person's metabolism, physical condition,  age,  sex, etc. mistaken for a relapse

At the time of withdrawal, emotions such as anxiety or disturbing perceptions, such as voice hearing can sometimes arise with a stronger intensity than one has ever experienced. These are considered rebound effects of diminishing medication. Rebound effects should be distinguished from a relapse, or in other words, from the problem for which the drugs were originally prescribed. Unlike a relapse, the rebound effects are temporary and can be explained by withdrawal. Knowing that there is a difference between the two can help you better understand what you are going through. The important thing is to listen to yourself, and to assess whether the symptoms you are experiencing are manageable. If the symptoms are unbearable, remember that it is always possible to go back to the previous dosage. Remember to show yourself kindness along the way!

... require a period of adaptation

By decreasing medication, emotions can be felt more strongly. Both joy and sadness can resurface with forgotten or unsuspected magnitude. It is therefore important to allow for an adaptation period. Here are some relevant sections of the GAM guide in this regard: p.110 A Period of Physical and Mental Rebuilding , and p.125 Managing intense emotions and  sensations . See also the Alternatives section of the site to consolidate your wellness strategies.  

... relate to dependance

All psychiatric medication can cause dependance because they modify the central nervous system. That said, Benzodiazepines (also called anxiolytics or qualified as sleeping aids) are known to develop an addiction. In general, withdrawal symptoms from all psychiatric drugs are more or less reminiscent of those from other substances such as cigarettes and other drugs.  

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