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Iatrogenesis

Iatrogenesis: Zoloft withdrawal

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Iatrogenesis

Hi!

   My story, feel free to skip it, it's long - as a child I had allergy problems, was a frequent user of various antihistamine drugs, as well as corticosteroids. At 12 I had a psychotic outbreak, coupled with severe depression, outbursts of crying, apathy, I was briefly hospitalised after a suicide attempt, diagnosed with schizophrenia and put on risperidone.

   During the next 3 years I was put on other antipsychotics, as the risperidone wasn't making any difference, at 14 years old I was put on olanzapine, also around that time the psychosis

passed and things began looking up. I was home-schooled at that time.

 

  At 15 I tried quitting cold turkey, I was told by my doctor - and that is the only doctor out of the many I've dealt with that acknowledged such thing as withdrawal existed, that is if I understood her correctly - that I had to withdraw it during the course of several months or else I could seriously harm myself. She actually didn't necessarily have to mean that, since later on I was told by other doctors that the tapering is recommended only so that the doctor can observe the patient and prevent a potential relapse (they also recommended weeks, not months long taper).

  So at 15 all hell broke lose, sadly since I didn't have any information to act on then, despite the whole thing seeming slightly fishy, I assumed it was the illness returning. I experienced low body temperature, psychosis, anxiety, depression, tiredness and muscle weakness.

 

  At 17 I attempted the second cold turkey withdrawal, mostly because I'd switched to Abilify and it gave me an unmanageable stomachache. That withdrawal put me out of school for a year, also I experienced severe psychosis + the other symptoms, and sinusitis.

  After that withdrawal I was put on amisulpride and shortly afterwards zoloft, which was my mother's suggestion, to offset the depression she assumed was caused by the drug.

 

  Things stabilised after that, I moved to London from my native country, and managed to enroll on a course. And then I tried withdrawing again, because things seemed so good.
 Around that time also I stumbled on a Guardian article by Joanna Montcrieff about the possibility of drug withdrawal mimicking illness. But the thought of withdrawing a drug for a year or longer seemed really outlandish, I just took a month. The third withdrawal hit me real hard, this time it was amisulpride + zoloft, I was really half conscious at that time, an extremely lethal state, I had to go back home and quit my course, I also got in debt, because higher education isn't free in the UK. 

 

   So, feeling a bit desperate I decided to give the year long withdrawal a go. Because amilsulpride throughout the time I took it, was causing massive akathisia (my doctor persuaded me to stay on it because it was in his opinion so motivating), I switched to olanzapine again. I actually initially tried taking amisulpride, but the leg restlessness made me unable to sleep or do anything else for that matter, it was even worse than before. I know people suggest tapering by 10% of the previous dose, but tapering for 7 years would have driven me insane, so I just did 10% of the original dose every 2 weeks. And it worked, after 10 months my motivation, intelligence, great deal of pleasure and consciousness returned, no psychosis, just lots of nausea and some anxiety when tapering, a bit of a psychotic state somewhere along the way, but it passed quickly. Also the gastrointestinal symptoms went away, they'd been bothering me ever since that hospitalisation, and the doctors kept telling me it was most likely the leaky gut syndrome.

 

Looking back, it was also really funny when a renown psychiatrist in this country told me about there being two groups of people suffering from schizophrenia (or taking antipsychotics), one helplessly ill, whom drugs can only calm down and who need to be constantly hospitalised and locked away, and the other drug, who thrive on these medicines, but can't live without them. I'm also fairly sure that one of those anti-allergy drugs caused the first state to begin with, it was really too similar to the later withdrawals (also scientists openly admit now to the possibility of corticosteroids causing psychosis).

 

   So now, about a year later, I'm through withdrawing the zoloft, but it has been way more painful than withdrawing olanzapine, extremely painful. No psychosis during that withdrawal, but massive allergy attacks, muscle pain, low body temperature, weakness, nausea, one anxiety attack. And towards the very end I had horrible insomnia, very little sleep for a few consecutive days, and I just had to do the silliest thing, that is, still thinking about drugs the way I'd thought before, I took 80 milligrams of hydroxyzine without checking what receptors it affected (just thought about it as a sleeping pill). It did help the insomnia, also relieved a lot of the pain, but here I am, a week after stopping the drug, and I'm getting a really bad case of deregulated histamine system.

 

   So, my questions is, has anyone here experienced a rather brutal SSRI withdrawal like this one, possibly also taking such a large dose of hydrox (which affects two of the same receptors SRRIs affect), and if and when did the post-withdrawal symptoms pass. I'm getting really bad low body temperature, fluctuating between 36.0 and 36.4, bouts of sleepiness and really unpleasant joint/muscle pain. I know histamine controls body temperature, sleep, cognition and pain sensitivity and so I've just been worried the one, but large dose of hydroxyzine has messed this up. It's been almost a week and it is probably too early to tell whether this will pass, but I can't help but worry about it. The withdrawal is still definitely better than the last time, in a month, and much worse than withdrawing the AP (when I got some intense anxiety states towards the end, but neither anything this intense during most of the time spent withdrawing or afterwards). It could be either caused by the shorter half-life of Zoloft, or the fact that it is the second and last drug and their functioning overlaps (they affect some of the same receptors, for instance they are both histamine and adrenaline agonists). Thanks in advance. 

 

Edited by KarenB
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mammaP

Hi Iatrogenesis, welcome to SA. I apologise for the time it has taken to reply and approve your post. We are volunteers and sometimes life gets in the way! 

It always upsets me to see people who have been labelled and drugged as children, and I suspect that you are right about the allergy drugs causing the psychosis. Congratulations on taking control. When did you finish tapering zoloft is it a week ago or was that just the hydroxyzine?  Some of the other drugs can be tapered faster but SSRIs are notorious for withdrawal if tapered too fast.  When in withdrawal it is common for people to react to drugs or supplements, the nervous system is compromised and can't tolerate drugs, even those that have been fine before. Lots of us have to be very careful what we take. The hydroxyzine can cause this type of reaction but you will recover in time. You are suffering from withdrawal, and I know you will not want to hear this but it can be relieved by reinstating the zoloft. Reinstating is the only thing that can stop withdrawal. No one EVER wants to reinstate a drug but it can mean the difference between getting on with life and functioning or suffering crippling withdrawal. In your case it would be wise to try a tiny dose of zoloft because doctors will undoubtedly think it is a return of your 'illness' and pile on more drugs when you are doing so well tapering to be free of them. 

 

We recommend slow tapers so that the brain can adjust between drops in dose. I know what you mean about 7 years being too long. I tapered effexor for a year and thought it was a slow taper, but a month after I stopped I went into withdrawal and I had to reinstate, it was a nightmare but reinstating did help. It then took another 2 years before I was off. I have been tapering for 5 years now and still another 2 to go but the alternative was to stay on the drugs for life which is what my doctor had said. I will get some links to topics for you. First, we ask all our members to put a brief drug history in their signature. You can find instructions here.

 

Edited by Altostrata
changed screen name at request of member

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Iatrogenesis

Hi MammaP, thank you!

I did not taper the hyrdrox, I just took a singe dose of 80 milligrams to be able to fall asleep as I was suffering from severe sleep deficiency and just couldn't bring myself to fall asleep, I was feeling so restless. The hydroxyzine did help, I still woke up at night but I felt so horrible, as if someone hit my head with a sledgehammer, so the only thing I could do was sleep on :D. It also made me feel very similar to what APs did to me, no pleasure, no emotions, a horrible headache and joint pain for 2 days afterwards.

 

So yeah, it's been week since finishing the Zoloft taper. I know very well I'm suffering from withdrawal by now, and I know the doctors here absolutely deny any possibility of there being such a thing. However, I did the AP withdrawal in a similar way, it took only 10 months (10% of the original dose every two weeks) and I still got some nasty withdrawal symptoms along the way, but I didn't, contrary to what you'd suggest, up the dose, just continued going on. Now I don't recommend this method to anyone, it was rough and in the case of Zoloft it was unbelievably rough, but it did work with the AP, and my intelligence, awareness etc. actually returned in the matter of days. And the whole horrible air that that drug gives you lifted also almost immediately. This wasn't the case previously, when I tried withdrawing in a month or cold turkey.

 

See, I'd love to get on with my life, but equally I don't want to take the horrible drug again and waste more time before I can get on with my life. In my mind, this withdrawal could still lift, even though it's a bit different than the AP one. Towards the end, I was in so much pain I could barely bring myself to sleep, so I've been thinking it's counterintuitive that such pain would disappear instantaneously (if at all, of course). But it is better now, my temperature yesterday was a normal 36.6 for half a day. Also from the previous withdrawal I remember devastating anxiety in my chest that just didn't go at all for the 4 months I wasn't taking Zoloft, and lifted immediately after I'd resumed it (and I took care to resume the antipsychotic sometime later, to see what parts of the withdrawal were caused by which drug). It happened again when I stopped, but now it's gone, I only had it for some 3 days. All in all, I'd rather wait a bit more, since already I'm in much less pain than I was when I stopped or towards the end. Yeah, it is a bit crippling, but no more so than I've been crippled for the last 6 months and definitely not as crippling as the 1 month one, which was actually completely different, I felt like my brain was on fire and the whole ME was completely changed by that one, it was, I dunno, maybe the way heroin users could be changed if they stopped taking it.

 

So you think the hydroxyzine could have got in the way of the withdrawal, or just crated a temporary disturbance that did not affect the withdrawal process itself? This is actually what has been bothering me the most, that it somehow just made the withdrawal impossible, just as I was nearing a closure. You can also develop a whole level paranoia thinking about the possibility of it messing something up in a subtle way, like maybe a slight cognitive impairment, or a slight numbness that sticks forever :D.

 

 

 

 

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Iatrogenesis

Oh about the SSRI withdrawal being particularly difficult (don't know how to edit my posts) - this is actually what got me in the first place. I actually started withdrawing the Zoloft even quicker than the Olanzapine, because of the common knowledge of people in my life successfully stopping SSRIs cold turkey even, compared with what the doctors had told me about none of their patients ever being able to stop APs successfully. Now I know there are apparently two groups of people, one not suffering from withdrawal symptoms at all and being able to stop cold turkey, and I've even heard this applies to the benzos (!). But I've never heard it applying to the antipsychotics, as I've never heard of a single case, either from my doctors, my friends or anywhere else of a person stopping an antipsychotic. And so I thought that must have meant the antipsychotic withdrawal was actually way harder. So initially I'd planned the Zoloft withdrawal to last 6 months, at 15% the original dose, 3 months in I was hit by a really unpleasant withdrawal state (but everything was great before that), and so I changed to 10% the original dose. Even that though, didn't change the unpleasantness much at that point and it was just chilling in that state for 6 more moths.

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Iatrogenesis

Oh, and apologies for not naming my thread properly, I've been a little bit spaced out the last week. I read the topic about reinstatement, but I don't really understand how that works. When I successfully quit APs, I also got some anxiety and nausea afterwards, I'm fairly sure. What is the idea, exactly? That if you get any unpleasant symptoms after stopping it's over, you've failed? Before that it's fine though? That really hasn't been my experience.

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Iatrogenesis

MISTAKE - I did 5% of the original dose every two weeks with the olanzapine (0,5 mg). With the zoloft, initially I did 10 mg every two weeks so about 6.6%, 4 months in when I started experiencing unpleasant symptoms, I slowed down to 5%, so 7,5 mg.

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Iatrogenesis

Update - apparently my thermometer was broken and I've actually been having a fever, not hypothermia. I caught a virus from my friend. A perfect bloody time to catch a virus, and if I hadn't used another thermometer, I might as well have gone back on the drugs, feeling this bad.

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powerback

hi SAD welcome ,I must say I love the name and picture ,I only watched twin peaks recently and I binged it ,the quirkiness and subtle humour is brilliant ,really helped me zone out of my symptoms .not much help to you but  ihad to post you .best of luck to you in your recovery .

PB

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Iatrogenesis

Hey powerback, thank you for the welcome and wishes! Same here! Binged it during the few last days of my withdrawal, but I'd seen some other David Lynch films before. He's so brilliant. The fact it's a TV series cracked me up so much, I imagined it some kind of cruel practical joke played on the unsuspecting American general public. The way it starts as a scary and thrilling mystery and then slowly spirals out of control into a campy parody of cinema is just so funny. It helped me zone out of my symptoms too, apart from season 2 opening scene (with the waiter) which stole 4 hours of my sleep. Still, it was really incredible, that scene. It was so brilliant and scary, David Lynch's surrealism at its best.

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powerback

You doing ok these days I.

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