Informed Choice in Psychotropic Drug Use is a Human Right

2021 Grant Recipient: International Institute for Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal

Many people find it difficult to reduce and stop psychotropic drugs. Severe withdrawal symptoms can be common and can affect an individual’s well-being, personal, social, and occupational functioning, and last for months or even years. However, there is currently a lack of support and services to help people safely stop such medication.

In the UK, antidepressant prescribing has doubled over the last ten years and currently 16% of the UK adult population are prescribed these drugs. Similar rates occur in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Portugal, and Sweden, with the highest being in the U.S., so the number of people affected by the lack of clinician education and expertise is staggering.

The International Institute for Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal was formed in 2017 in response to what has become an international epidemic of over-prescription of psychiatric drugs.

“IIPDW is one of the few organizations that both understands and brings attention to the serious hardships people encounter when trying to discontinue psychiatric drugs. Many professionals consider problems encountered when psychiatric drugs are stopped to represent “relapse”. This is inaccurate and can compound the problem,” said Sandra Steingard, MD, Open Excellence Board Chair and IIPDW Associate.


Open Excellence grant will support first international conference on ‘Withdrawal from Psychiatric Drugs’

A small grant from Open Excellence will support the first conference of the International Institute for Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal which is tentatively scheduled for October 2021 in Reykjavik. The conference will bring together international experts in the field and leaders from many different countries. The three themes underpinning the conference are safe withdrawal from psychiatric medication, alternatives to psychiatric medication, and the need to question the dominance of medication in mental health care. 

Confirmed speakers include Robert Whitaker (journalist and founder of Mad in America), Professor Joanna Moncrieff (psychiatrist and researcher), Laura Delano (lived experience member and co-founder of the Inner Compass Initiative), Dr Carina Håkansson (founder of Family Care Foundation and The Extended Therapy Room Foundation), and Dr Magnus Hald (Psychiatrist at the Drug-Free Treatment Unit, Norway). The conference would have raised funds to help the IIPDW continue its work, including part-time staff and the cost of maintaining its online platforms.


Small grants with a big impact
In the coming weeks, thanks to the commitment and generosity of our donors, Open Excellence will announce further recipients of several competitive microgrants targeting our five priority areas for 2021: COVID-19 relief to providers of peer or voluntary mental health services; decolonizing, racism and inequality in mental health diagnosis and care; industry influence in mental health; the social determinants of mental health; and advocacy and human rights. Though small, these grants will support critical infrastructure at peer service organizations, document and share innovations in care and support early career and peer researchers. (Grant applications are currently accepted by invitation only.)



  • Develop research and practice-based knowledge that will facilitate safe reduction of and withdrawal from psychiatric drugs.
  • Contribute to evidence-based practices for reduction of and withdrawal from psychiatric drugs and facilitate their inclusion in general practice guidelines.
  • Support the human right to informed choice with regard to psychiatric drugs.
  • Promote practices that help families, friends, and practitioners support safe reduction of and withdrawal from psychiatric drugs and take into account relational and social aspects essential to this process.


Associates from more than 15 countries are connected to the Institute, which consists of psychiatrists, psychologists, other mental health practitioners, people with lived experience and researchers. This diversity is reflected in the organisational structure of the IIPDW. The board are from 6 different countries and alongside our administrator, the majority have lived experience of the psychiatric system, being prescribed or caring for someone on psychiatric medications and as such have been adversely affected by the significant issues associated with withdrawing from these drugs.


Online Town Hall Series: Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal – Exploring Issues, Challenges & Opportunities

The International Institute for Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal is partnering with Mad in America and the Council for Evidence- based Psychiatry to offer a series of live, online ‘town hall’ discussions focusing on psychiatric drug withdrawal.

Each town hall will feature a panel comprised of a mix of professionals and people with lived experience. Following the discussion, there will be an opportunity for viewer questions.

This series aims to explore what we do and don’t know about safe withdrawal from antidepressants, antipsychotics, benzodiazepines and stimulants. It seeks to present and explore new understandings that are emerging from the professional and lived-experience communities. Participants will discuss the knowledge, skills and experience necessary to support those who may be having difficulty getting off psychiatric drugs. Panelists will address questions of interest to both prescribers and patients alike.



Grants like this one are made possible by donors of Open Excellence (the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care) like you. Become a monthly sustaining donor today to support the revolution in mental health care.



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