Case Report: Successful Discontinuation of Psychotropic Drugs

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SUMMARY: A 38-year old woman with a history of generalized anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, anorexia nervosa, and PTSD, successfully discontinues all medication, and mitigates withdrawal symptoms, though lifestyle intervention (including diet, meditation, and detox protocols).

The diet and detox protocols prescribed by Dr. Brogan and showcased in this study, can be accessed through her online program, Vital Mind Reset. Click here to find out more.

If you’ve been prescribed psychosomatic drugs and wondered whether or not it’s possible to come off medication, you’re not alone.

Withdrawal symptoms like insomnia, agitation, body pain, and electrical sensations keep many from pursuing a complete taper, but a promising case study of a 38-year-old woman on an intensive drug regimen showcases the possibility of mitigating withdrawal symptoms through food and lifestyle interventions.

Setting the Stage

In this case study, the patient initially arrived at the clinic for a pre-pregnancy consultation and expressed interest in tapering her medications. She had a history of anorexia, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder and her family history included bipolar disease, addiction, and depression.

She had been on and off medication for over a decade and had tried to taper her medications in the past, but her withdrawal symptoms ranged from exacerbated psoriasis to weight loss to severe panic attacks and social withdrawal. As a result, she was back on her medications and was desperate for a long-term solution that didn’t involve continued prescription drugs.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for patients on long-term psychotropic prescriptions to have difficulty discontinuing their medication, even if they’re diagnosed with only moderate depression, and on a single treatment dose. Withdrawal symptoms are often gastrointestinal in nature and can include abdominal cramps, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting.1 Additionally, if the root cause of the depression isn’t addressed, it becomes increasingly difficult to successfully eliminate the medications

This particular patient’s psychiatric medication regimen included Tylenol with codeine (prescribed by a psychiatrist!), Lamictal, Seroquel, Klonopin, and Effexor. Like many women today, she was also exposed to hormone-interfering drugs like oral contraceptives and antibiotics.

Ending the Psychotropic Regimen: What Finally Worked

Despite her previous lack of success tapering drugs, she was eager to try again and was interested in conceiving. Within a year, she had tapered off of almost all her medications, but once again experienced severe withdrawal symptoms and reinitiated several of the medications. After the first unsuccessful taper, she got pregnant and gave birth naturally before trying to taper again. 

It wasn’t until she began a protocol of lifestyle changes that she was able to successfully eliminate these drugs.

Diet

When she first came into the office, the patient was eating a standard American diet. During her first taper, she continued her diet as before and made no significant lifestyle changes.

For the second taper, though, she eliminated alcohol, nuts, grains, legumes, and nightshades and instead began to focus on nutrient-rich, high-fat foods. By switching from foods typical to the Western diet (denatured and heavily processed) and focusing on nutrient-dense foods, her body was able to use food to heal instead of just for fuel. 

Exercise

During the second taper, the patient engaged regular cardiovascular exercise including rebound jumping, vinyasa yoga, and cycling. Exercise can have a profound impact on depressive symptoms: in fact, regular exercise acts like an insurance plan against stress. When you exercise, your body produces an enzyme called PGC-1alpha1 that helps to protect your brain against depression. 

Even a simple exercise regimen, like a long daily walk, can do wonders for your brain and stress levels. 

Meditation

Think of meditation as a way to cultivate a state of wakeful relaxation. It’s a powerful tool for coping with life’s stressors, and the mindset shift and positive mental influence it provides can be life-altering. In this instance, the patient was prescribed 11 minutes of Kundalini yoga meditation, a simple but effective practice with proven results: studies have shown that Kundalini yoga can work to lower perceived stress and improve pulmonary function.2 In fact, after the second taper, the patient said she believed that her meditation practice was the key to her success in getting off her medications. She also reported feeling less desperate and more at peace with her situation, a valuable mindset shift when tapering psychiatric medications.

In addition to the dietary and lifestyle changes listed above, the patient also attended acupuncture twice weekly, participated in craniosacral therapy, employed a series of Emotional Freedom Techniques, and followed a detox protocol of supplements to support hormones, sleep, withdrawal, anxiety, and mood. 

When combined with the anti-inflammatory traditional diet, a mindset shift, and self-care protocols, her withdrawal symptoms were far more manageable than during previous tapers, allowing her to finally complete and maintain a taper successfully.

The Power of Mindset

After successfully getting off her medications, the patient was asked to recount her experiences. 

She explained that the most profound change had come about as a result of her meditation practices and mindset shift regarding her situation. 

During the first taper, she felt desperate and overwhelmed. By the second taper, and after practicing a daily meditation routine for several months, she was at peace and had learned to release expectations. This mindset shift was crucial to her success.

She felt strongly that her previous doctors had done her a ‘disservice’ by prescribing long-term use of medications.

(Find the triumphant win of this healing story in Chapter 10 of Own Your Self...Sasha’s story).

There’s Hope For Withdrawal

This study highlights the potential benefits of combining dietary changes, meditation, and detoxification protocols to reduce the withdrawal symptoms of patients seeking to taper their psychotropic medications. 

Unfortunately, the habit-forming potential of these drugs is often undiscussed between patients and their doctors, and it’s rare that doctors explain how difficult it might be to end the medications in the future. Withdrawal symptoms can last as long as several years, and without additional changes to diet or lifestyle to mitigate those symptoms, they can severely impede tapering efforts as they did for this woman in her initial attempts to get off medication.3

But there’s hope. As this case study demonstrated, patients struggling with withdrawal have options. It’s empowering to know that true health – not just the absence of drugs – is possible.

References:

Read the Case Study

Interested in a comprehensive, drug-free approach to healing anxiety, depression or chronic stress?

The Vital Mind Reset program walks you through my 44-day healing protocol, which combines diet, detox, and meditation practices for long-term resolution of chronic symptoms. The tools implemented also help to establish a readiness for psychiatric medication tapers. Click below to learn more.

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About Dr. Kelly Brogan

KELLY BROGAN, MD, is a holistic psychiatrist, author of the New York Times Bestselling book, A Mind of Your OwnOwn Your Self, the children’s book, A Time For Rain, and co-editor of the landmark textbook Integrative Therapies for Depression. She is the founder of the online healing program Vital Mind Reset, and the membership community, Vital Life Project. She completed her psychiatric training and fellowship at NYU Medical Center after graduating from Cornell University Medical College, and has a B.S. from M.I.T. in Systems Neuroscience. She is specialized in a root-cause resolution approach to psychiatric syndromes and symptoms. Learn More