Why do patients want medication free treatment for psychosis? An explorative study on reasons for applying to medication free programs

This research paper from Elisabeth C. Klæbo Reitan, Valentina C. Iversen, Henriette Riley, and Anne Høye has been published in BMC Psychiatry. The abstract says:


A focus on patient’s and service user’s perspectives regarding long-term antipsychotic treatment led to a declaration from the Norwegian Ministry of Health in 2015 to offer treatment without psychotropic medication in mental health as a voluntary option in all four health care regions. In the northernmost region, a 6-bed inpatient ward unit was established, uniquely designed to give people with severe mental illness the possibility to choose such treatment. Only voluntary admissions were accepted. The aim of the present study was to explore the motivation for applying for medication free treatment among patients with several years of treatment history due to psychosis.


We performed nineteen semi-structured, in-depth interviews with persons having at least one admission at the medication free treatment ward during the period 01.01.17 – 17.10.2021. The interviews were recorded, transcribed and analysed using computer-assisted qualitative data analysis software (NVivo). Systematic Text Condensation was applied, with analysis of data from the first interview. Exploration of connections, similarities and nuances was performed through axial coding with continuous comparison of data and memo writing, followed by focused coding identifying core concepts.


All participants had a diagnosis of severe mental illness and a history of use of antipsychotics throughout many years. The motivation to apply for medication free treatment was complex. Negative experiences with medication were described, but also positive. Many had tried to taper off before, but described this as a lonely and difficult process. Five core concepts were formed and developed from the participants’ narratives: 1) Medication experiences, 2) Developing illness, 3) Treatment in general, 4) Social life and 4) Growing up.


The concept of medication free treatment represents a salutogenetic hope for change, closely linked to self-efficacy and an experience of mastery. Potential conflicts concerning guidelines or evidence on medication does not come forward as important. Support from family and professionals is crucial, in contrast to the feeling of being alone when hoping for change. Motivational factors are closely linked to the concept of recovery, where interaction happens on both an individual and a structural level”

You can read the paper from here.

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