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A groundbreaking new study published in Advances in Mind Body Medicine titled, "Psychotropic Drug Withdrawal and Holistic Tapering Strategies: A Case Series," validates the role of holistic approaches in helping patients successfully withdraw from psychotropic drugs, as well as contributing to the evidence base for differentiating psychotropic drug withdrawal from the resurgence of psychiatric symptoms.
It is estimated that there are presently over half a billion people in the world suffering from depression and anxiety, 322 million and 264 million people, respectively. Moreover, depression is now the leading cause of global disability, with over 7% of Americans experiencing its effects in any given 2-week period. Despite the urgency and scale of the problem, conventional psychiatric approaches depend on highly toxic, and sometimes additionally disabling psychotropic drugs, to which the majority of patients are not offered natural, or diet- and lifestyle-based alternatives.
The new study sought to apply a unique model of holistic psychiatric care created by the primary author of the study, Kelly Brogan, MD, who has successfully supported medication tapering off of psychotropic drugs (PD )innumerous patients , for the past 10 years.
The study describes Dr. Brogan's approach in greater detail, as follows:
"While individual considerations and treatment recommendations were made with respect to comorbid and concomitant diagnoses, lifestyle changes were at the crux of all tapering regimens.
In some instances, patients had ceased their PD prior to this engagement and sought intervention due to refractory withdrawal symptoms, which were addressed with lifestyle modifications aligned with the tapering population.
Consistent with biological, social, and psychological theories underlying the epidemiology and pathology of mental health diagnoses such as Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), a multifaceted approach to establishing and maintaining wellbeing was utilized. Specifically, dietary changes, mindfulness practices, and detoxification-supported gut-health protocols resulted in significant improvement--and in some cases resolution--of psychiatric symptoms."
A secondary endeavor of the case series was to highlight the presence, duration, and severity of PD withdrawal in these 12 cases which has been scientifically documented to persist on the order of years.
The Study Method
The 12 Case Reports were organized into two groups: Group A included 8 patients who completed PD tapering supervised by the author of this case series, and Group B included 4 patients experiencing protracted withdrawal symptoms and who were seen in the clinic for mood support excluding psychotropic medication. For all participants, treatment was based on complementary medicine modalities including dietary changes, mindfulness practices, detoxification-supported gut health protocols, hormonal regulation, and treatment of comorbidities.
Use of complementary medicine reduced many of the acute symptoms of psychotropic drug withdrawal, such as sleep disturbances, decreased concentration, nausea/headaches, and depression, making the process more manageable for patients. The persistence of symptomology in Group B speaks to the duration and severity of PD withdrawal, however both groups benefited from dietary, detox, and mindfulness interventions as prescribed by the author
Additionally, many of the initial psychiatric complaints were kept in remission.
The case studies can be read in detail, along with the nature and rationale for the various complementary medicine modalities, within the full paper found here.
It is worth noting that patients included in this case series are now largely symptom free, two to four years following their withdrawal phase suggesting that long-term remission is possible even for patients who have experienced psychiatric symptoms for the majority of their adult lives.
These methods present a sustainable alternative to long-term treatment of mood symptoms and comorbid chronic illnesses. This case series indicates the benefits of integrating holistic and conventional medicine in psychotropic drug tapering, and a call for further trials to create an evidence-based database to guide future treatment and taper protocols.