November 30, 2017

Psychiatrists Roadblock Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal Initiatives: Part 1

by Peter C. Gøtzsche, MD

The psychiatrists are so ingrained in their false beliefs that psychiatric drugs are good for people that they may go to great lengths to stop initiatives aiming at helping the millions of patients who wish to come off their drugs but cannot get help from their psychiatrists. According to many patients I have spoken to, the psychiatrists have told them that if they wish to come off the drugs, they will be dismissed. “If you won’t take your drugs, I cannot help you.” It is as if psychiatry is the same as using psychiatric drugs and that psychotherapy has been forgotten, although it is clearly better in the long run than drugs. As just one example of this, psychotherapy halves the risk of a new suicide attempt in people admitted after a suicide attempt,1 while depression pills increase the risk of suicide.2

I arranged the first course in Denmark on psychiatric drug withdrawal, a one-day course, on 12 June 2017.3 It was attended by patients, relatives, psychiatrists, psychologists, family doctors and other social and healthcare professionals. We learned a lot ourselves and our practical guides, YouTube videos (with English subtitles), and a list of therapists in several countries who are willing to help patients come off their drugs are freely available on my website,

A leading depression researcher, psychiatrist and professor Poul Videbech, did not welcome my course but tried to stop it. He wrote to the Patient Safety Board five months before the course would take place:

I have a question to the Patient Safety Board. A Peter Gøtzsche [as if I was completely unknown], who is a specialist in internal medicine, has arranged the course below for patients and others. I believe of course that he takes on a colossal responsibility that he has no knowledge at all to bear. Can doctors just do this kind of thing without having the necessary factual knowledge? Moreover, it is a private entrepreneurship, which abuses the Cochrane Centre’s name.

It took four months before the Patient Safety Board reacted and asked me for a comment. Poul Videbech had reacted to an email I sent in January 2017 to the chairman of the Danish Psychiatric Association and a few other organisations, which described our course:

Course on withdrawal of psychiatric drugs on 12 June in Copenhagen
Many patients want to taper off their psychiatric drugs and would also get better if they did. However, many doctors do not know how they can best and safest help patients stop psychiatric drugs.

We are conducting a course on withdrawal of psychiatric drugs on Monday, June 12, 2017 in Copenhagen, which is for everyone, both patients, relatives and health professionals. It consists of lectures, supplemented by discussions in small groups. We will try to meet the needs and interests of the participants as best as possible.

We would appreciate it if you would inform about this course, e.g. in newsletters, on websites and in social media. See for a description of the course and for registration (or attached pdf).

I collaborate with skilled psychiatrists, psychologists and pharmacists in several countries, and with many users who have extensive experience with withdrawal. In October 2016, we were 11 people from 7 countries who met in Göteborg and established the International Institute for Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal. One of them is a Norwegian psychiatrist, and he has just opened the first medicine free department in Norway. I also have a PhD student whose project is to investigate how to withdraw psychiatric drugs in the best and safest way.
I hope to hear from you.

The Patient Safety Board asked me:

to comment, in particular, on the extent to which the course would include individual healthcare counseling of the course participants. It is apparent from the mail that ‘We will try to meet the needs and interests of the participants as best as possible’. Likewise, the comment must relate to what qualifications and/ or experience you have with individual withdrawal of antipsychotic drugs. It appears from the authorization register that you are not a specialist in psychiatry, but a specialist in internal medicine from 1995. Finally, please state what role the Nordic Cochrane Centre has in the organisation of the course, as it appears from the attached mail that ‘We will hold a course about withdrawal of psychiatric drugs …’ while you give your affiliation as ‘The Nordic Cochrane Centre’.

I responded to the Patient Safety Board two weeks later:

There is nothing in the course description about providing individual healthcare counseling to the course participants. A withdrawal process takes time, and we do of course not intend to start withdrawing the participants’ drugs during the course.

When I write that we will hold a course on withdrawal of psychiatric drugs, “we” means those who teach on the course, as evidenced by the course description.

Thus, it is not relevant for Poul Videbech’s inquiry to the Patient Safety Board, which qualifications and/ or experience I have with individual withdrawal of antipsychotic drugs. In addition, both psychiatrists and other healthcare professionals will be attending the course, the aim of which is that we should learn from each other, including current and past patient experiences. This is why we write that we will try to meet the needs and interests of the participants as best as possible.

I deliberately avoided commenting on the foolish remark about my affiliation, as this was clearly none of the business of the Patient Safety Board. When I send emails, these mails specify who I am and where I work. People usually consider this helpful.

Since the Board had provided me with a non-functioning return email address, my comment wasn’t seen by the Board, which sent me a reminder on 1 June, eleven days before the course. I sent my comment. Four days after we had held the course, the Board replied that there wasn’t any problem with it. So much for administrative efficiency.

Poul Videbech and I have met on several occasions. I wrote to him that he should have cheered instead of reporting me to the Patient Safety Board just because I planned to hold a course on withdrawal of psychiatric drugs. “Finally, there is one who does this. Although hundreds of thousands of people in Denmark are dependent on psychiatric drugs, the psychiatrists have never held such a course. They have failed their professional responsibilities. They do not even care about how best to taper off. They have never done any clinical trials about it. Now, I and my colleagues, many of whom are psychiatrists, are coming to their rescue, at courses both in Denmark and Sweden, but you obviously do not want them.”


1. Gøtzsche PC, Gøtzsche PK. Cognitive behavioural therapy halves the risk of repeated suicide attempts: systematic review. J R Soc Med 2017 (in press).

2. Gøtzsche PC. Antidepressants increase the risk of suicide and violence at all ages. 2016; 16 Nov.

3. Gøtzsche PC, Toft B, Rüdinger B, Kortegaard L, Runciman O, Sørensen A. Psychiatric drug withdrawal: first course in Denmark. 2017; 16 Oct. (click on Psychiatric drug withdrawal in the fifth line)


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