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Diving in: Psychedelics


enufodat
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I found psychedelics to be very helpful, probably critical, in getting off zoloft seven months ago and want to share that and initiate a discussion.

 

I realize this can be a controvercial and heated topic, so right out the gate: 1)I am not recommending that anyone take this route, at least not without very careful consideration and highly qualified professional support. This is both serious stuff and, in my opinion, not the magic bullet some people make it out to be. And needless to say, people here are also finding plenty of other ways to deal with withdrawal. 2)There has been an enormous amount of disinformation and cultural polarization surrounding these medicines for forty years now, so please try to keep an open mind--not just to my post here but to the growing volume of scientific literature and good journalism on the recent resurgence of research on psychedelics and their therapeutic uses.

 

So. I had tried getting off Zoloft several times. Even a slow taper didn't work; after two months very intense depression was just too much and I went back on last summer. I had come across some news reports on research on psilocybin (mushrooms) and MDMA (ecstasy in its pure form) as being very effective in uncovering and healing intense past trauma and also facilitating profound spiritual experiences. Two key articles for me were one on MDMA (not a true psychedelic, but related) from, of all places, Oprah magazine (http://www.oprah.com/health/PTSD-and-MDMA-Therapy-Medical-Uses-of-Ecstasy), and also a research article by Roland Griffins at Johns Hopkins med school (attached below).

 

I happened to run into a friend of a friend who's familiar with this stuff and he pointed me to an "underground" therapist who's very experienced with it. So, after being back on zoloft for only two months, I did a relatively fast taper, got it out of my system, and did a guided MDMA session. (SSRIs counteract the effects of MDMA.) Although the experience was good and interesting, at the immediate time I was a little disappointed that it did not lead me to any new memories (I have very little recollection from early childhood), but it did give me some important new angles on things. More important, it was sort of a catalyst. In the weeks that followed I got a remarkable window on what it is like to really accept oneself, to feel self-love (instead of shame), and felt a remarkable acceptance for people and renewed capacity to love and appreciate the variety of peole and life. It did not last forever, it faded, but it opened up a window of possibility that has stayed with me, despite the fading.

 

What I can say with almost certainty is that it allowed me to break a fifteen year addiction to drugs that had been sucking the life out of me, not to mention making me fat and sexually diminished. Perhaps I would have made it anyway, but after four previous failed attempts it wasn't looking good. The fact is that depression has come back more recently, but I got over the hump and at least now can wresstle through the somewhat lesser than before, but still nastly at times, prolonged withdrawal symptoms. (This is why I say the medicine is not a silver bullet; you still gotta do the psychological and spiritual work. Well, although I do know one person for whom it was pretty darned transformational in the wake of SSRIs.)

 

I have since done a couple of guided experiences with mushrooms. Not the sort of recreational use you hear about at all. This is pretty high dose to really break through to the subconscious, and with eyeshades and carefully selected music playing. (In different ways, each of these medicines gives you easier and emotionally safer access to past memories). Each experience has been profound, though they have not all been easy--the last one uncovered some rough stuff that is taking time to work through and integrate. I am a really tough nut to crack, resistant subconscious, and whereas some people seem to peel back the layers quickly with this work, it clearly is taking some time for me, multiple iterations. But I have also had some profoundly beutiful experiences that are certainly sublime and perhaps downright religious or mystical; I have realized, in my gut, that this is a way to transcend, move beyond, so much of the emotional turmoil and conflict I've been stuck on. There is something bigger and more important and beautiful to pay attention to. I can see, in a deep way, that we are all connected, that there is love, that life is precious. Again, it fades (somewhat...not entirely), does not integrate easily into daily life, and at the moment I seem to be in a stage of peeling back layers where, as they say, sometimes it gets harder before (hopefully) it gets better. But I am convinced that, for me (as a "rational" intellectual white waspy male shut down in many ways for a lifetime) there is an important path to be followed here. I can feel my dreamlife opening up. I hear music and see colors more richly--not always, but there is clearly some subconscious learning going on, getting in touch with the non-rational, the emotional. People say I am softer, more open. (Well, there is also therapy ongoing...)

 

And judging from the research that's being done at places like Johns Hopkins, UCLA, Harvard, NYU--mostly focused on treating PTSD or on anxiety/depression for terminal cancer patients (these are the first groups they've been able to get research aproval for)--my sense is that many people respond more easily and clearly than I. (The Hopkins study I attached, however, focused explicitly on spiritual experience but also found lasting decreases in anxiety and depression among most people over the course of a year and more.) David Nutt is also doing, currently, research at Imperial College, London, on low-dose psilocybin to treat depression. Interestingly, Roland Griffiths is looking at psilocybin and meditation, and working with Richard Davidson, at Wisconsin-Madison, who's been hooking monks from the Dalai Lama's order up to brain scans and finding amazing connections between self-generated feelings of compassion and overall psychological well-being. (In other words, competition is not the answer, love is.) So lots of intersting stuff happening, the thinking being that intense meditation and psychedelics are different routes to similar experiential states.

 

On why these medicines have been so misunderstood, in my opinion, and become hot buttons, basically, there is quite a lot of research that shows them very safe if used carefully and under supportive conditions with experienced guides/therapists. People who've looked closely at this, researchers, say they are exceptionally safe physiologically as psychotropic drugs go, and they are only in your system for a few hours. On the other hand, if you are not mentally stable or use them recklessly or don't have proper support, they can cause problems, though this appears to be fairly rare in terms of serious or lasting problems. (The most crucial piece of the support things is in case you have a "bad" trip; if someone is there who can help you work through it it's not nearly as bad and typically becomes a learning experience (you're dealing with the deepest of your fears); whereas if you don't have support and freeze or try in your head to fight it, it can, indeed, become quite awful. So again, this stuff should not be taken lightly at all.)

 

A lot of the negative stereotyping comes from two sources 1) the CIA did some truly nasty stuff with them during the cold war, recruited researchers to help, and this generated a "psychotomimetic" theory about them, that they produce psychosis. And, indeed, if you do things like force mental patients to take LSD for sixty days running (I kid you not, this is real), presto, you can induce psychosis. 2) The whole over the top drug culture of the sixties led to certainly some bad things happening to some people (but not all that many), but even more it led to a cultural backlash that remains with us today, especially in the media.

 

Why do I post? One, it felt like I left something important out of my introduction recently. Two, although I can't recommend this course to others, I think more awareness and education is better than less, so long as the caveats and cautions I've mentioned are loud and clear. There is a resurgence of interest in psychedelics, a growing public debate about them, and a movement (spearheaded by maps.org) to change policy so they can be used for legitimate medical purposes. (MAPS is very sophisticated in its approach, funding research in multiple countries, getting FDA approval (which was huge), and using the science to argue for policy changes.) So increased understanding, dialogue, and ability to speak knowledgeably to the topic among this community seems like a good thing. Lastly, I would love to hear others thoughts on the topic.

 

Best to all,

 

E

fulltext(9).pdf

1994-2009 50-100 mg Zoloft (plus tried Effexor, Lexapro, Wellbutrin at times)
5/'09-7/'09 taper off Zoloft
7/'09-12/'09 no zoloft, rough times after ~ 2 mos.
1/'10-6/'10 50 mg zoloft
6/'10-1/'11 slow taper
2/'11-7/'11 off entirely, ok for 2-3 mos., then rough
7/'11-9/'11 50 mg
9/15/'11 - 11/15/'11 taper off
11/15/'11 - 2/'11 clean, doing well but with some PSSD
2/'11 - 6/'11 depression creeps back, fairly significant by May.

6/'14 (long time...!)  life is good, full recovery, at least in terms of SSRI addiction.  Still digging out from the social and professional hole that it all left me in, but despite the loss of far too many years to this business I'm basically doing pretty well.  Still some depression at times, even severe on occasion, but clearly related to past trauma and current circumstances, all things that I am continuing to work through and work on.  I'd say it took at least six months and perhaps a year to fully get back to normal (neuro-psychologically and sexually) after the last dose in 2011.

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Dear E,

 

Dialogue is always valuable and I appreciate your bringing up this subject.

 

I am pleased that this approach worked for you and wish you continued wellness.

 

It would be wonderful if there were something that could "re-up" GABA receptors from long term benzodiazepine use without causing any other disruptions. :) Hugs, Annej

My Intro
2000-Effexor and Klonopin
April 2011- C/T Adderall, lithium, Seroquel, Lunesta; Pristiq and Klonopin cut by 1/2 due to med-induced "rapid cycling"
May 2011- Pristiq/Lexapro bridge/taper
June, 2011- K cut to 0.5 mg (doctor)
July 18, 2011 - Lexapro done
October 2011- K taper started
Jan, 2012- Off K, Remeron started -bad idea
March 2012- Horrific Tardive Akathisa/TD (Dx: TA versus withdrawal akathisia secondary to K w/d)
May 2012- Reinstatement of K
Current Psych Meds: Klonopin 2 mg + Propanolol 15 mg and titrating up
As of June 2013: TA gone or suppressed - struggling with tolerance to benzos - beta blocker helping

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Thanks for the good words, Annej. I wish there was something that could do that, too! In fact, what I've learned recently is that, as important as these experiences have been for me, they do not "fix" withdrawal symptoms. It may not have quite come through above that I've struggled with that. In retrospect I think I really was expecting a silver bullet. For me it has not been that. I suppose, in my case, the old phrase of "necessary but not sufficient" would be right. It really got me over the hump, and there are continuing benefits, but here is more plain old hard work to do, and more patience to be mustered.

 

Hugs to you, too!

 

E

1994-2009 50-100 mg Zoloft (plus tried Effexor, Lexapro, Wellbutrin at times)
5/'09-7/'09 taper off Zoloft
7/'09-12/'09 no zoloft, rough times after ~ 2 mos.
1/'10-6/'10 50 mg zoloft
6/'10-1/'11 slow taper
2/'11-7/'11 off entirely, ok for 2-3 mos., then rough
7/'11-9/'11 50 mg
9/15/'11 - 11/15/'11 taper off
11/15/'11 - 2/'11 clean, doing well but with some PSSD
2/'11 - 6/'11 depression creeps back, fairly significant by May.

6/'14 (long time...!)  life is good, full recovery, at least in terms of SSRI addiction.  Still digging out from the social and professional hole that it all left me in, but despite the loss of far too many years to this business I'm basically doing pretty well.  Still some depression at times, even severe on occasion, but clearly related to past trauma and current circumstances, all things that I am continuing to work through and work on.  I'd say it took at least six months and perhaps a year to fully get back to normal (neuro-psychologically and sexually) after the last dose in 2011.

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I feel I must make this caution very, very plain:

 

Under no circumstances should anyone experiencing withdrawal symptoms, post-acute withdrawal, or prolonged withdrawal syndrome experiment with psychedelics to cure withdrawal syndrome.

 

If your nervous system has been destabilized, powerful neuroactive substances of any type can make your condition much, much worse. If you had an immediate bad reaction to an SSRI, you risk brain damage by taking psychedelics -- they also act on the serotonin receptors.

 

THIS SITE DOES NOT RECOMMEND TAKING PSYCHEDELICS TO ASSIST WITHDRAWAL OR WITHDRAWAL SYNDROME.

 

Psychedelics are used experimentally by some psychiatrists and psychotherapists for mood disorders. Is that what you were doing, enufodat?

This is not medical advice. Discuss any decisions about your medical care with a knowledgeable medical practitioner.

"It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has surpassed our humanity." -- Albert Einstein

All postings © copyrighted.

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If your nervous system has been destabilized, powerful neuroactive substances of any type can make your condition much, much worse. If you had an immediate bad reaction to an SSRI, you risk brain damage by taking psychedelics -- they also act on the serotonin receptors.

 

Psychedelics are used experimentally by some psychiatrists and psychotherapists for mood disorders. Is that what you were doing, enufodat?

 

No, as above, I worked with a private therapist--not part of any research program. I would rephrase slightly and say that they are used therapeutically by pscyhologists and psychiatrists--there's a long history of this, going back to the fifties. It was written about widely, lots of informal and formal academic literature, before the drugs were made illegal in...1972?

 

Could you elaborate on the brain damage possibility? You seem to be referring to people with a very specific initial reaction to SSRIs,yes? Needless to say, this possibility would be of great importance. It's not something I've come across--and I researched exhaustively (am an academic so tend to read the fine print), consulted with my regular therapist (who has a medical research background and is rather anti-drug in general), and with a clinical psychopharmacholgist who's written extensively on the topic and collaborated with several of the academic researchers doing work on psychedelics. Neither of them had any concerns of this sort. I've also read hundreds of personal accounts, including a dozen or so from people who've taken SSRIs, although only one who's used during withdrawal. Yours is the first mention I've heard of brain damage. John Halpern (another psychopharm) from Harvard/MacLean is probably the key authority on this, has a journal article that reviews safety/risk issues--he finds them very clean physiologically/neurologically. I will dig that up though and see if there is anything on this particular question you raise.

 

I don't mean to be argumentative--it's a very important question and worth fleshing out and perhaps communicating more widely about if these people are missing something.

 

Tx, E

1994-2009 50-100 mg Zoloft (plus tried Effexor, Lexapro, Wellbutrin at times)
5/'09-7/'09 taper off Zoloft
7/'09-12/'09 no zoloft, rough times after ~ 2 mos.
1/'10-6/'10 50 mg zoloft
6/'10-1/'11 slow taper
2/'11-7/'11 off entirely, ok for 2-3 mos., then rough
7/'11-9/'11 50 mg
9/15/'11 - 11/15/'11 taper off
11/15/'11 - 2/'11 clean, doing well but with some PSSD
2/'11 - 6/'11 depression creeps back, fairly significant by May.

6/'14 (long time...!)  life is good, full recovery, at least in terms of SSRI addiction.  Still digging out from the social and professional hole that it all left me in, but despite the loss of far too many years to this business I'm basically doing pretty well.  Still some depression at times, even severe on occasion, but clearly related to past trauma and current circumstances, all things that I am continuing to work through and work on.  I'd say it took at least six months and perhaps a year to fully get back to normal (neuro-psychologically and sexually) after the last dose in 2011.

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enufodat, this entire site is about neurological damage from psychiatric drugs, specifically that caused by too-fast withdrawal.

 

The experts you've consulted may know this neurological damage by the euphemism "discontinuation syndrome" and brush it off as mild and transient.

 

If you read the Intro section, you will see this assumption, widely held by the medical profession, is not accurate.

 

Many adverse effects of psychiatric drugs have been downplayed in the pharma goldrush, and withdrawal syndrome is one of them.

 

Make no mistake, it's neurological damage. Adding a powerful psychedelic (or even a mild psychedelic, or even, sometimes, a formerly harmless vitamin) to a nervous system destabilized by withdrawal syndrome can cause very painful results that can take a long time to repair.

 

Withdrawal syndrome is an entirely different state from a garden-variety mood disorder. When you have a mood disorder, your autonomic nervous system is functioning normally. When you have withdrawal syndrome, it is not.

 

I have nothing against psychedelics per se or psychedelics used therapeutically. In my opinion, no one with an autonomic nervous system compromised by withdrawal should try to combat symptoms with psychedelics, any other recreational drug or, indeed, most pharmaceuticals, vitamin supplements, or herbs.

This is not medical advice. Discuss any decisions about your medical care with a knowledgeable medical practitioner.

"It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has surpassed our humanity." -- Albert Einstein

All postings © copyrighted.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've heard of this approach to curing Methadone and Heroin addiction, but not something like Antidepressants. The addictions are completely different. I would be afraid to do it with my CNS so fragile and vulnerable. At least with Methadone (which I've been on), you aren't experiencing CNS symptoms. And I say this as someone that has experimented with Psychedelic Mushrooms many years ago. So this isn't a fear of the experience. I would just be very afraid with the way AD withdrawals are.

Taper from Cymbalta, Paxil, Prozac & Antipsychotics finished June 2012.

Xanax 5% Taper - (8/12 - .5 mg) - (9/12 - .45) - (10/12 - .43) - (11/12 - .41) - (12/12 - .38)

My Paxil Website

My Intro

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I just want to add, that if you have ever experienced the brain zapping, electrical shocks and all the other horrible symptoms, you would have no doubt that what we're experiencing is brain damage. I've withdrawn from Opiates, Meth amphetamines and Cocaine in my life, and NEVER experienced something as horribly frightening as SSRI withdrawal because of this obvious harm to the brain and CNS.

Taper from Cymbalta, Paxil, Prozac & Antipsychotics finished June 2012.

Xanax 5% Taper - (8/12 - .5 mg) - (9/12 - .45) - (10/12 - .43) - (11/12 - .41) - (12/12 - .38)

My Paxil Website

My Intro

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Yes, thanks Shanti. I should point out that I never had the symptoms that many people speak of here. Very simple, stable, straight-out depression (and none of that, even, at the time); nothing physical, no zaps, no cognitive issues. With those things I expect I would have approached it differently. I also did consult with a psychopharmachologist who has experience in both areas. So that is to say, I completely agree with the cautions here, even while I'm quite sure this worked well for me. It seems that, just as with "depression," we can see a wide range of "withdrawal" symptoms and patterns.

1994-2009 50-100 mg Zoloft (plus tried Effexor, Lexapro, Wellbutrin at times)
5/'09-7/'09 taper off Zoloft
7/'09-12/'09 no zoloft, rough times after ~ 2 mos.
1/'10-6/'10 50 mg zoloft
6/'10-1/'11 slow taper
2/'11-7/'11 off entirely, ok for 2-3 mos., then rough
7/'11-9/'11 50 mg
9/15/'11 - 11/15/'11 taper off
11/15/'11 - 2/'11 clean, doing well but with some PSSD
2/'11 - 6/'11 depression creeps back, fairly significant by May.

6/'14 (long time...!)  life is good, full recovery, at least in terms of SSRI addiction.  Still digging out from the social and professional hole that it all left me in, but despite the loss of far too many years to this business I'm basically doing pretty well.  Still some depression at times, even severe on occasion, but clearly related to past trauma and current circumstances, all things that I am continuing to work through and work on.  I'd say it took at least six months and perhaps a year to fully get back to normal (neuro-psychologically and sexually) after the last dose in 2011.

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Yes, thanks Shanti. I should point out that I never had the symptoms that many people speak of here. Very simple, stable, straight-out depression (and none of that, even, at the time); nothing physical, no zaps, no cognitive issues. With those things I expect I would have approached it differently.

 

Speaking as someone else who never had "the symptoms many speak of here".. I am concerned Psychedelics might activate cortisol mediated symptoms. While there are reasons to reconsider a therapeutic use for psychedelics (in the terminally ill and possibly life threatening episodes of depression), I do not see a way these could have a positive impact on depression caused by psychotropic medications. I'm just real cautious when it comes to overlaying one set of withdrawal symptoms with other biopsychopharmacology induced symptoms.

 

I remember friends having good 'trips' on LSD and the negative press the drug was given. I also see the fragile mental state of those in the throws of serious withdrawal symptoms. Respectfully, I would not want to add something else to the mix.~S

As always, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! A proud supporter of the 10% (or slower) rule.

 

Requip - 3/16 ZERO  Total time on 25 years.

 

Lyrica: 8/15 ZERO Total time on 7 or 8 yrs.

BENZO FREE 10/13 (started tapering 7/10)  Total time on 25 years.

 

Read my intro thread here, and check the about me section.  "No matter how cynical you get, it's almost impossible to keep up." Lily Tomlin

 

 

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Yes, thanks Shanti. I should point out that I never had the symptoms that many people speak of here. Very simple, stable, straight-out depression (and none of that, even, at the time); nothing physical, no zaps, no cognitive issues. With those things I expect I would have approached it differently. I also did consult with a psychopharmachologist who has experience in both areas. So that is to say, I completely agree with the cautions here, even while I'm quite sure this worked well for me. It seems that, just as with "depression," we can see a wide range of "withdrawal" symptoms and patterns.

 

The depression that comes with these AD withdrawals is horrifying, isn't it. It sounds like you were fortunate though not to have the physical issues at least.

Taper from Cymbalta, Paxil, Prozac & Antipsychotics finished June 2012.

Xanax 5% Taper - (8/12 - .5 mg) - (9/12 - .45) - (10/12 - .43) - (11/12 - .41) - (12/12 - .38)

My Paxil Website

My Intro

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Yes, Shanti, when I read about some of the collections of things people have experienced here I feel very fortunate--which is an interseting thing given how hard it's been! ;-) The only way in which there's perhaps a dark lining in my silver cloud (within another dark cloud...), is that in my case there's some question of whether it is truly withdrawal or not. Part of that is the frustration of not knowing (time will tell, I suppose), but also it makes it harder to explain to people who aren't familiar with it. I always have this question in my head of, man, do they think I'm just making excuses by "blaming" it on the drugs? And sometimes the question is in my own head, too. I try to have a more buddhist approach, just taking it as it comes and leaving the expectations behind...but not easy. Anyway, thanks for chiming in and for the good thoughts! E

1994-2009 50-100 mg Zoloft (plus tried Effexor, Lexapro, Wellbutrin at times)
5/'09-7/'09 taper off Zoloft
7/'09-12/'09 no zoloft, rough times after ~ 2 mos.
1/'10-6/'10 50 mg zoloft
6/'10-1/'11 slow taper
2/'11-7/'11 off entirely, ok for 2-3 mos., then rough
7/'11-9/'11 50 mg
9/15/'11 - 11/15/'11 taper off
11/15/'11 - 2/'11 clean, doing well but with some PSSD
2/'11 - 6/'11 depression creeps back, fairly significant by May.

6/'14 (long time...!)  life is good, full recovery, at least in terms of SSRI addiction.  Still digging out from the social and professional hole that it all left me in, but despite the loss of far too many years to this business I'm basically doing pretty well.  Still some depression at times, even severe on occasion, but clearly related to past trauma and current circumstances, all things that I am continuing to work through and work on.  I'd say it took at least six months and perhaps a year to fully get back to normal (neuro-psychologically and sexually) after the last dose in 2011.

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