Engage Aotearoa

Tag Archives: Antipsychotic Medication

New study highlights stories of successful withdrawal

My latest paper has just been published in the open access journal, Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology, as part of their special collection on discontinuing psychotropic medication.

You can read the full text free here: Service-user efforts to maintain their wellbeing during and after successful withdrawal from antipsychotic medication (Larsen-Barr and Seymour, 2021).


Background: It is well-known that attempting antipsychotic withdrawal can be a fraught process, with a high risk of relapse that often leads people to resume the medication. Nonetheless, there is a group of people who appear to be able to discontinue successfully. Relatively little is known about how people do this.

Methods: A convenience sample of adults who had stopped taking antipsychotic medication for more than a year were recruited to participate in semi-structured interviews through an anonymous online survey that investigated antipsychotic medication experiences in New Zealand. Thematic analysis explored participant descriptions of their efforts to maintain their wellbeing during and after the withdrawal process.

Results: Of the seven women who volunteered to participate, six reported bipolar disorder diagnoses and one reported diagnoses of obsessive compulsive disorder and depression. The women reported successfully discontinuing antipsychotics for 1.25–25 years; six followed a gradual withdrawal method and had support to prepare for and manage this. Participants defined wellbeing in terms of their ability to manage the impact of any difficulties faced rather than their ability to prevent them entirely, and saw this as something that evolved over time. They described managing the process and maintaining their wellbeing afterwards by ‘understanding myself and my needs’, ‘finding what works for me’ and ‘connecting with support’. Sub-themes expand on the way in which they did this. For example, ‘finding what works for me’ included using a tool-box of strategies to flexibly meet their needs, practicing acceptance, drawing on persistence and curiosity and creating positive life experiences.

Conclusion: This is a small, qualitative study and results should be interpreted with caution. This sample shows it is possible for people who experience mania and psychosis to successfully discontinue antipsychotics and safely manage the impact of any symptoms that emerge as a result of the withdrawal process or other life stressors that arise afterwards. Findings suggest internal resources and systemic factors play a role in the outcomes observed among people who attempt to stop taking antipsychotics and a preoccupation with avoiding relapse may be counterproductive to these efforts. Professionals can play a valuable role in facilitating change.

World Antipsychotic Withdrawal Survey

Over the last couple of years, I’ve had the privilege of advising on the World Antipsychotic Withdrawal Survey and last week I met with the project lead and the statistics whizz to prepare for data analysis. You can colour me excited because it is shaping up to be huge – 4000 people and counting so far! The NZ sample is still relatively small but the survey is still open, so if this is relevant to you, do take a look and think about getting amongst it if it feels right for you.

This is a PhD research project led by Will Hall under the supervision of Jim van Os and John Read.

Find out more here: https://www.antipsychoticwithdrawalsurvey.com/

New Research: Support makes a difference in antipsychotic medication withdrawal

An important part of my doctoral research and some further analysis has just been published in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. You can follow this link to view a copy of the full text online, but will need a subscription to download a pdf copy to keep:  https://rdcu.be/MpKs

Here’s a screenshot of the abstract for quick reference…

Abstract Attempting to Stop Antipsychotic Medication Success Supports and Efforts to Cope

Survey Open: NZ Study Explores Experiences of Antipsychotic Medication

The Experiences of Antipsychotic Medication Survey is now open for responses from NZ adults over 18 who take or have taken antipsychotic medication.

Find out more at www.teamstudy.co.nz

A full Participant Information Sheet is available on the website.

Please share this invitation to take part with your networks.



Miriam Larsen-Barr
Ph: 09 373 7599 ext 86890
Email: mbar114@aucklanduni.ac.nz


Updates from the Engage Facebook Page

Stay: The Social Contagion of Suicide and How to Preempt It. “We are indebted to one another and the debt is a kind of faith — a beautiful, difficult, strange faith. We believe each other into being.”
Suicide: Facts and Myths – Square.  Suicide is a major public health problem in Australia. About 2300 Australians take their own lives each year. This website has some great info.
http://www.planetaudio.org.nz/ Take It From Us, PlanetFM 104.6 Tuesday @ 12.30pm.
Navigating the Mental Health Wilderness: Steven Morgan’s Journey – Mad In America. Steven Morgan discusses his transformative journey from chronic “patient” to leading mental health advocate.
Addiction is not an Illness. I don’t see addiction as an illness. But some of the things we choose as an addiction are far more physically and emotionally destructive than others.
Have You Ever Taken Antipsychotic Medication? If this sounds like you or someone you know pop along to www.teamstudy.co.nz for more info – you’ll find everything you need there.
10 Ways to Show Love to Someone With Depression. I have struggled with clinical depression since I was a child. It has been a constant companion I have learned to manage and while I am better now than I have ever been, every so often I feel it returning.

New Research out from BMC Psychiatry in Feb 2013

Research article
Childhood clumsiness and peer victimization: a case–control study of psychiatric patients
Bejerot S, Humble MB

BMC Psychiatry 2013, 13:68 (25 February 2013)
[Provisional PDF]

Research article
A case-linkage study of crime victimisation in schizophrenia-spectrum disorders over a period of deinstitutionalisation
Short TB, Thomas S, Luebbers S, Mullen P, Ogloff JR

BMC Psychiatry 2013, 13:66 (20 February 2013)
[Provisional PDF]

* This study reports an increase in crime victimisation by people with schizophrenia spectrum disorders since services were moved to the community. It is the opinion of Engage Aotearoa that violence by people who are unwell is often due to a lack of responsive services and appropriate supports, rather than the mental-health condition itself. Stressed out family members and friends are not always the most appropriate supporters when things have reached crisis point. Voluntary respite services are highly restricted in accessibility. The current NZ system requires that someone has become a risk to themselves or others before acute services are provided. Crisis Team response times are renowned for being too long. This all creates space for escalation and victimisation before treatment and support can be accessed. This is a complex issue that extends well beyond mental-health problems themselves and reaches into the core of how we as a society support those who are experiencing a mental-health crisis.   

Research article
Antipsychotic medications and cognitive functioning in bipolar disorder: moderating effects of COMT Val108/158 Met genotype
Arts B, Simons CJ, Drukker M, van Os J

BMC Psychiatry 2013, 13:63 (19 February 2013)
[Provisional PDF]

*Note: The results of this gene-environment study, if replicated, may partly explain why people with the same diagnosis can respond very differently to the same antipsychotic medication.

Research article
A 6-month randomized controlled trial to test the efficacy of a lifestyle intervention for weight gain management in schizophrenia
Attux C, Martini LC, Elkis H, Tamai S, Freirias A, Camargo Md, Mateus MD, Mari Jd, Reis AF, Bressan RA

BMC Psychiatry 2013, 13:60 (18 February 2013)
[Provisional PDF]

*Note: Weight management strategies are important interventions for addressing a common side-effect of many anti-psychotic and some antidepressant medications. However, in the opinion of Engage Aotearoa, this article de-emphasises the role of medications in the weight-gain of people with schizophrenia diagnoses and incorrectly implies it is a direct consequence of the mental-health problem itself, when it is not. 

Research article
Perception of depressive symptoms by the Sardinian public: results of a population study
BMC Psychiatry 2013, 13:57 (16 February 2013)
Provisional PDF]

*Note: These results show that the public sees a difference between depression as a response to loss (‘a normal response’) and clinical depression requiring professional attention.  In the opinion of Engage Aotearoa, the public (and the authors) appear to assume that diagnosable mental-health problems are not normal responses’. This is an attitude that likely contributes to stigma about depression. Unfortunately this article does not acknowledge that clinical depression is indeed a normal response that can usually also be traced to previous difficult experiences. 

Research article
Substance use among inmates at the Eldoret prison in Western Kenya
Kinyanjui DW, Atwoli L

BMC Psychiatry 2013, 13:53 (13 February 2013)
[Provisional PDF]

Research article
Is virtual reality always an effective stressors for exposure treatments? Some insights from a controlled trial
Pallavicini F, Cipresso P, Raspelli S, Grassi A, Serino S, Vigna C, Triberti S, Villamira M, Gaggioli A, Riva G

BMC Psychiatry 2013, 13:52 (11 February 2013)
[Provisional PDF]

Research article
Residual symptoms and functioning in depression: does the type of residual symptom matter? a post-hoc analysis
Romera I, Pérez V, Ciudad A, Caballero L, Roca M, Polavieja P, Gilaberte I

BMC Psychiatry 2013, 13:51 (11 February 2013)
[Provisional PDF]

Research article
CBT for depression: a pilot RCT comparing mobile phone vs. computer
Watts S, Mackenzie A, Thomas C, Griskaitis A, Mewton L, Williams A, Andrews G

BMC Psychiatry 2013, 13:49 (7 February 2013)
[Provisional PDF]

Research article
Influence of personal and environmental factors on mental health in a sample of Austrian survivors of World War II with regard to PTSD: is it resilience?
Tran US, Glück TM, Lueger-Schuster B

BMC Psychiatry 2013, 13:47 (4 February 2013)
[Provisional PDF]

*Note: This research suggests a humorous and challenge-focused attitude to stress and trauma is associated with resilience to PTSD. Environmental elements showed associations with resilience to PTSD symptoms. The authors conclude the socio-environmental factors are simply consequences of PTSD symptoms. However, it is also possible that these factors are directly contributing to the symptoms and that resolving them would improve resilience to PTSD.