Experts in Prescription Drug Withdrawal
The largest group of addicted individuals in America today is prescription drug-addicted people (Dr. Kurth, August, 2007, Boston). This involves two broad groups of pharmaceuticals, opiates and antidepressant / anxiolytic medications. Across both groups is the frequent prescripting of medications for sleep.
Historically, the clinical use of sedative drugs was introduced with barbiturates in the early twentieth century. They were soon noted to be addictive with significant withdrawal symptoms, and today their main use is in anesthesia and treatment of epilepsy, using, for the latter, Phenobarbital medications, which have a long half-life.
The clinical use of Meprobamate, marketed as Miltown, Equanil and Meprospan, in the mid-1950’s replaced barbiturates as the predominate psychoactive medication. Jacqueline Susann’s novel, Valley of the Dolls, published in 1966, exposed the pitfalls of barbiturates used as sleep aids.
The benzodiazepine class of drugs was introduced in the 1960’s and replaced Meprobamate and like-medications. This was launched primarily with Librium and Valium as anxiolytic drugs. More recently, this class includes Xanax and Ativan and their generic forms.
Clinical psychiatry has undergone a major paradigm shift in recent years in which the pendulum has swung predominately toward prescription of psychoactive or psychotropic medications at the expense of cognitive regeneration techniques. These medications are prescribed for a host of predominately situational symptoms such as depression and anxiety syndromes. Patients are often told that they have a chemical imbalance which can be regulated by these medications. There is currently no laboratory marker to support this claim, and the notion is based primarily on subjective assessments and assumptions. However, there is a concerted research effort to find chemical markers.
The SSRI antidepressant medications and the anxiolytic drugs have serious and disabling withdrawal side effects which are commonly interpreted as representing a flare-up of the patients’ presumed chemical imbalance. Contributing to the withdrawal symptoms is the documented reduction of important brain substrates such as glutathione, a powerful antioxidant. Optimal glutathione levels are instrumental in contributing to a smoother withdrawal process involving psychotropic drugs. The rationale for withdrawal from these drugs relates to significant side effects and need for increasing doses or adding additional like-medications. In addition, favorable adjustments to past stressful living situations tend to eliminate any perceived need for the further use of these drugs. Many patients discontinue their medications on their own with often devastating side effects.
My personal interest in the psychoactive drug withdrawal process stems from an observation made in a wellness evaluation clinic, from March 2003 to December 2005. While there I personally evaluated some 2500 detailed medical records which addressed an extensive review-of-systems in addition to comprehensive laboratory data. One of the questions in the psychological review asked the patients whether they had depression. Hundreds said they did and of these a high percentage were on antidepressant medications. This study was done by record evaluation alone, without personal interview and without any opportunity to have follow-up discussions with the patients. Data were gathered by nurses visiting patients at their worksite with a subsequent collation of all clinical data at the wellness clinic. The finding of depression among those patients taking antidepressant medications was unexpected. At that time I did not yet appreciate the pitfalls of antidepressant medications. Consequently, no effort was made to follow-up with them and advise them on discontinuation of their medications.
Subsequently, I worked in a family practice clinic where many patients were noted to have previously been placed on psychoactive drugs by other care givers. These were prescribed, primarily, for depression and anxiety syndromes. I learned about the prevalence of prescription drug addiction, in Boston, some six months after starting at the clinic and this problem was continually observed until I left that clinic, in October, 2009. After the Boston experience, I discovered the gradual reduction rule for psychotropic drug withdrawal and began to follow this strategy, but the withdrawal course was characterized, for the most part, by uncertainty and fear, which tended to produce delays in compliance with the time-recommendations of the withdrawal plan. I have since adopted the protocols of Point of Return, utilizing their nutritional supplementation combined with the gradual reduction rates. This dramatically improved the withdrawal experience for my patients.
On a more personal note, I had a nine year experience with Valium with later disagreeable withdrawal symptoms, when after five years of daily use I decided to stop the drug abruptly. After five days of this, I hastened back on the drug for relief of the symptoms which were characterized by constant sweating, light-headedness and a sense of crawling in my skin. My last Valium pill was over 30 years ago after an 18 month gradual taper off the Valium. It still took a few years for me to be free of all of the withdrawal symptoms. My life is blessed today without the use and need of psychotropic drugs.
Point of Return is committed to helping patients withdraw from their psychotropic drugs by implementing a gradual reduction of dosage according to a controlled schedule with the aid of appropriate nutritional supplementation designed to help minimize possible side effects of withdrawal. This is carried out by focused accountability between the patient and their monitoring physician.
Raymond G. Armstrong, M.D., Medical Advisor for Point of Return
Information and Tools
A few suggested tests that may help determine what's going on in the body and that are often either overlooked by the medical community or not checked. MORE...
Information on the nutriceuticals we offer for our programs as well as for general health. MORE...
We utilize compounding pharmacies to tailor prescriptions in gradually reducing dosages to meet our guidelines. MORE...
Adverse drug reactions are the 4th leading cause of death in the United States and kill more people every year than traffic accidents. In many cases, these reactions could have been prevented. Many medications cannot be combined without serious symptoms, and even over-the-counter items, herbal supplements or some foods can interact with pills. All prescription drugs have side effects. Before taking any medication it is critical to have the knowledge to make informed decisions. MORE...
Many have the mistaken notion that all herbs and foods are safe to combine with medications because they are natural. However, everything you put in your mouth has the potential to interact since it travels the digestive system in similar ways to medications. Some drugs interfere with the body's ability to absorb nutrients, and certain herbs and foods can speed up or slow down the action of a medication. MORE...
Pharmacogenetic testing is the alternative to "one size fits all" and "trial and error" prescribing. Knowledge of patient drug metabolizing gene variants, found in more than half of patients, can help determine the appropriateness and dosage of many of the most commonly prescribed drugs including most Antidepressants, Opioid Pain Medications, Beta Blockers and others. MORE...
Glutathione (GSH) is a peptide, composed of amino acids strings that are the basic building blocks of protein. This miraculous tripeptide (three amino acids) is probably the most important cellular defense that allows the body to prevent and fight infections and disease. MORE....
Good Fats, Bad Fats:
To Eat or Not to Eat. Over the course of human evolution a dramatic shift has occurred in our consumption of Omega 3 versus Omega 6 and this trend is contributing, more than any other dietary factor, to an epidemic of modern diseases. MORE...
Our second brain. Medications designed to target the brain can also cause nausea, diarrhea, constipation or abdominal upset because the body actually has two brains - one encased in the skull, and a lesser know but vitally important one found in the human gut. The importance of a healthy gut. MORE..
Many drug interactions are the results of CYP450 metabolism. The non-sedating antihistamines astemizole (Hismanal) and terfenadine (Seldane), and the gastrointestinal agent cisapride (Propulsid), were all withdrawn from the market in the United States because metabolic inhibition by other drugs led to life-threatening arrhythmias. In 1998, the calcium channel blocker mibefradio was withdrawn from the U.S. market because it was a potent enzyme inhibitor that resulted in toxic levels of other cardiovascular drugs. MORE...
Our Medical Advisors
Bill Code, BSc, M.D., FRCPC
Anesthesiologist,, Integrative Specialist, Author
A leading expert in glutathione, the master antioxidant that is vital to the natural detoxification process, and has extensive experience in both brain research and addiction. At 42, Dr. Code was at the height of a successful and challenging career in Anesthesiology when the symptoms that had plagued him for fifteen years was finally diagnosed as progressive Multiple Sclerosis. MS is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord and optic nerves), often resulting in severe pain and neurological deterioration. During his journey back from the neurological deterioration of MS, Dr. Code developed a thorough understanding of how to integrate food, supplements and wellness regimens into the healing process. Since then, Dr. Code has used his medical expertise and research skills to develop alternative therapies to regain health. MORE...
Raymond Armstrong, M.D.
Cardiothoracic Surgeon, Family Medicine
A board-certified cardiothoracic surgeon with thirty years of clinical experience. He has provided expert witness opinion and testimony in malpractice cases involving this specialty area. Dr. Armstrong is also certified in general surgery, and in 2003 returned to private practice in Family Medicine and subsequently added full-time service as a Medical Review Officer. . MORE...
Habib Sadeghi, D.O.
Osteopathic Physician & Integrative Specialist
Attending Physician and Clinical Facilitator at UCLA Medical Center and Clinical Instructor of Family Medicine at Western University of Health Sciences, and firmly believes in a "whole person" approach to medicine and preventive health care. Like MDs, Osteopathic Physicians (DOs) are fully qualified and licensed to prescribe medication and perform surgery. DOs receive additional training in the musculoskeletal system (the interconnected system of nerves, muscles, and bones), and in osteopathic manipulative treatment. Dr. Sadeghi's specializations include family medicine, osteopathy, environmental and integrative medicine, and clinical pharmacology. MORE...
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