GUIDE FOR FACILITATORS

This format has been created with the intent of making leading a Prescription Medication Withdrawal and Recovery Meeting doable for anyone.  It is intended to be used ONLY in conjunction with reliable drug safety resources. We suggest starting with the information and tools available on our Suggested Resources page. We urge groups to keep in touch as we seek to form a unified network.  Our support groups are intended to complement, not replace, professional treatments. We encourage members to work with a doctor or other trusted professional when making healthcare decisions.

Materials:

Materials such as this guide,  group format, readings, and outreach flyers, etc. can be downloaded, printed, and kept in a notebook or binder for use at meetings.  We suggest you choose a name for your group and tweak the format to suit your needs. The format is there to help you facilitate a meeting but does not have to be followed exactly.  We trust you will find what works for you.  Insert readings into page protectors and give them to volunteer readers at the meeting to increase group member participation.  At first you may just want to read them.

Toward a more informed consent:

We want to be clear about what our groups are intended to offer.  This format is meant to be used in conjunction with specific resources and readings that provide information to help people make more informed choices while taking or withdrawing from medication(s).  We encourage people to locate and communicate with supportive doctors or other professionals who are qualified to help them, but we do not become involved in anyone’s decision to either take or discontinue medications.

Meeting topics:

We suggest leaders choose a topic in advance (and perhaps leaders can rotate when group is going strong).  At the end of this guide, we included an example of basic topics. As meetings progress, pay attention to subjects that come up and make an attempt to cover them at future meetings.  Keep the focus on constructive actions that move us toward recovery, as opposed to aspects of the situation that produce fear and feelings of helplessness.  It is most important for the group to actively listen and learn together while sharing resources, utilizing available tools, and locating doctors and others who will validate us and/or support a taper.    

Speaking from our own experience:  

When it comes to sharing, we urge members speak from their own experience(s) with medication and withdrawal, or that of a loved one.  For example, people should be encouraged to share their story, how things are going, the various methods they use, spiritual or holistic health resources, etc.  However, we suggest not letting meetings transcend into “other things.”  For example, someone might mention experiences with marijuana, which is fine, but avoid letting the meeting then drift into legalization efforts, which strains are best, etc.  Leaders are encouraged to guide the general focus back to topics of safe withdrawal, self-care, and recovery.  Adhering to the general format, and keeping medication safety resources central, ensures our meetings don’t mutate into something unintended.

Listening to one another:

Most of us have had the experience of not being heard by our doctors, friends, and at times, even our families. Unless a person is actively inviting feedback or a discussion around their topic, we suggest holding the space in a way that each person has sufficient room to speak and be heard.   

Giving medical advice:

We suggest facilitators be mindful of self and others.  If someone is giving medical advice, gently address this.  While we should feel free to share our own experiences and resources, we do not give medical advice.  

Political issues and campaigns:

Not everyone agrees politically regarding what is going on in the medical, mental health, and the pharmaceutical worlds, yet we ALL need information on medications and withdrawal.  Activism can be helpful and we don’t want to discourage it.  However, we suggest campaigns be done separately from recovery meetings so that no one feels out of place.

Note taking and follow up:

Everyone is encouraged to jot down information as the meeting progresses, especially facilitators.  We suggest leaders listen for future topics, specific medications and their side effects, and try to identify situations where following up with a specific resource might be useful to the speaker. If a helpful doctor is mentioned, we suggest jotting down his/her name and then following up to get them on our list of doctors who are available to support people with medication withdrawal issues.

Facilitators are encouraged to become familiar with each of our suggested resources so that assistance can be given to those who need it.  We want to utilize what these resources have to offer in order to ensure everyone’s safety while still being careful not to promote them or any agenda of our own.

Costs and Contributions:

There are various costs that go along with hosting a meeting, such as renting a space, keeping a meeting binder, and creating outreach materials.  We suggest asking a small donation at the end of the meeting. A detailed record of contributions should be kept. We suggest renting spaces that are accessible for people with disabilities.

List of possible topics 

Tapering options

Tapering speed (suggest marathon not sprint)

Self-care practices

Managing anxiety

Managing insomnia

Managing the fear of coming off medication 

Friend and family issues

Talking to doctors

Building social support

Discomforts of withdrawal and comfort measures

WIthdrawal symptoms in general

Dealing with the medical system

How to navigate resource websites

RxISK Tools

Complex Withdrawal

Recognizing Akathisia

Success stories


Format

Withdrawal and Recovery Meeting (WARM) Suggested Format

(1 ½ hrs)

LEADER:  Thank you for coming to ___(name of your group)___, a mutual support group for people wanting to withdrawal and recover from prescribed drugs safely.  My name is _________ and I will be leading today’s meeting. Let’s begin with a moment of silence to become present.

(moment of silence)

LEADER:  Today we set out a chair for the person who is too sick in withdrawal to attend.  If you know of such a person, please let us know so we might offer to take a meeting to them.

LEADER reads: The Introduction    

(approximately a 5-minute read – kept in a page protector)

LEADER: Before we get started are there any announcements?

(up to 5 min)

LEADER:  I have asked a friend to read The Welcome.

(approximately a 5-minute read – kept in a page protector)

LEADER:  Thank you.  Before we start on today’s topic, let’s go around the room and introduce ourselves and maybe tell a little bit about why we are here or how things are going.  Everyone is invited to share but no one is obligated; anyone is free to pass. We ask that you focus your discussion on your direct experience or that of a loved one.  You could tell us about your medications, why they were prescribed, and side-effects either positive or negative. If you have goals for getting off of medication, please share your concerns about withdrawal and what kind of support you are looking for.  If you have strategies you find useful, you could share about them. We would also like to hear about positive encounters you’ve had with doctors or supportive others so we might contact them about being added to a list of doctors that patients can turn to to find help for withdrawal issues.  

This part of the meeting is an opportunity for each of us to be heard as well as to practice non-judgmental listening.  Out of respect for other members, please refrain from interrupting, giving advice, or starting a discussion on a person’s share.  Comments and questions can be saved for later in the meeting when we discuss the topic.

If larger group: Please limit your sharing to 3 to 5 minutes so everyone has a chance to be heard.  

LEADER: Would anyone like to share first?

I’m________ and (this is how I’m doing)   

(Ideally, one person has the floor at a time, up to about 30 minutes total for check-ins).

LEADER:  Thank you everyone.  The topic for today’s meeting is _______________.  

(Present and discuss the topic – up to about 30 min total).  

If your group is open to it and time permits, you may want to add 5 or more minutes of deep breathing exercises or a similar stress-reducing practice toward the end of the meeting.

LEADER:  It’s time to wrap up our meeting.  I have asked a friend to read the _ Closing Statement__.

LEADER:  This support group is intended to complement, not replace, professional treatments. We encourage you to work with your doctor or another trusted professional when making healthcare decisions. Remember, we respect the anonymity of all of our participants.  What you’ve heard at this meeting is strictly confidential. Please respect the privacy of all who have shared here today. Please join me as we close our meeting with a moment of silence.

(moment of silence)

LEADER:  We are fully self-supporting through our own contributions.  Group funds go towards rent, program literature, and outreach materials.  Before you leave please consider placing a small donation in the basket. Thank you.



Suggested Readings for WARM Groups

Introduction:

This Prescription Medication Withdrawal and Recovery Group is a confidential support group for people seeking to taper and recover from the effects of prescribed medications. These medications were often promoted as solutions for mental distress, physical pain, and various other ailments. Some of us found ourselves with additional problems and suspected the medications were causing them; many of us found these problems were only compounded when we tried to stop taking medication. Now we come together for mutual support as we explore our options together and share our experiences, as well as the resources that have been helpful to us. The only requirement for participation is a desire to learn about the effects of prescribed medications and how to safely manage withdrawal.

For this group’s purpose and in the interest of safety, we suggest utilizing the information and tools made available through Data Based Medicine at Rxisk.org, as well as the withdrawal resources available through Mad In America, Will Hall’s Harm Reduction Guide, and the Inner Compass Initiative’s Withdrawal Project.  A more complete list can be found on the resource page of WARM’s website at: warmnetwork.net. 

We are not affiliated with any medical, political, religious or other organizations, including those mentioned above. We do not wish to engage in any controversy; we neither endorse nor oppose any causes. People are free to pursue these things outside of our meeting. We are not doctors or therapists although we welcome them as members sharing in our common experience. Anyone may join us regardless of age, race, sexual identity, ability, creed or denomination, whether taking medication or not. We are each responsible for what we take from our group discussions, how we use the information shared, and for our own individual healing process.

The opinions and experiences expressed here are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, nor do we assert in any way to be qualified to act in this capacity. It is imperative that each and every person deciding to withdrawal from prescribed medication do so under the supervision of an experienced professional when one can be found, someone who is well-informed and thus able to respectfully support a person’s desire to explore non-drug alternatives. We do not give advice or tell anyone how they personally should taper, we simply share what we have learned and what we have done.

We will incur no liability in regard to how each member chooses to utilize the resources offered through this group.

In the interest of confidentiality – what you hear here, who you see here, when you leave here, let it stay here.



Welcome:

Welcome to all who are seeking to taper and recover from prescribed medications. While we recognize that drugs have their place, our focus here is on the awareness of risks, on reducing dosages, and on utilizing various alternatives. Many of us have taken medications as prescribed only to experience problems as a result. Some of us are still on medication, while others are tapering, or have finished tapering. We come together to facilitate our healing process and that of others through the sharing of our experience, strength and hope in a shared journey of recovery.

[Optional: Regarding psychiatric diagnoses, we understand there are many causes of “symptoms” such as unresolved trauma, grief, hormone imbalances, poor diet and nutritional deficiencies, toxins in our food and water supply, reactions to medications, including vaccines, and more. Those of us who have come from troubled childhoods, without having been taught proper coping skills, were easily overwhelmed by stress. Many of us sought relief from counselors who diagnosed us as “mentally ill” and then referred us to other professionals who prescribed psychiatric drugs.]

Whether prescribed psychiatric or other drugs, most of us were denied the opportunity to have true “informed consent’ regarding a drug’s risks, its addictive properties, potential to cause long-term damage, and the need for support with the withdrawal and recovery process. Instead, many of us were told the medications were safe and that we would need them for the rest of our lives. Many of us continued taking medication for years until the effects caught up with us and we began to realize the medication might be the problem. It was then that we recognized that if we had been given true informed consent, we likely would have never taken the drugs in the first place.

Therefore, most of us are recovering from injuries to our brains and our bodies, as well as to our emotional, social, and spiritual selves. Our meetings are a place where we can talk about the losses we may have incurred, such as our health, education, careers, relationships with loved ones, self-esteem, sense of security, etc. As we recognize these losses, we have an opportunity to express our grief in the supportive presence of others who can identify because our stories are so similar.

Many of us question how long it takes to recover. This often depends on things such as the type of drug one is withdrawing from, stress levels, finances, diet, spirituality, support system, etc. Recovery is an individual process and we try not to compare our stories with others. Healing takes time and pushing ourselves to “recover faster” only sets us back. Acknowledging our progress while letting go of perfection, in time we become grateful for the experiences that have made us into stronger and wiser people.

We are happy you have joined us. You are not alone.



Closing Statement:

WARM Network groups exist through the volunteer efforts of a growing number of laypeople who recognize the need for support systems for people in withdrawal. We seek the healing power that connection can provide, knowing that face-to-face meetings promote wellness in ways that surpass our valuable yet limited internet associations. As we exit the dark corners of the web and venture into our local communities, we find strength in solidarity, with the presence of our groups conveying an undeniable message: Withdrawal syndromes are real and someone must be address them. We are confident that this positive action benefits us as much as it benefits others and allows our invisibility to lessen as our unity grows.


Each group is fully autonomous and self-supporting through its own contributions and/or fundraising.

Our support groups are intended to complement, not replace, professional treatments. We encourage the individuals attending our groups to work with a doctor or other trusted professional when making healthcare decisions