An Ongoing List of Akathisia Related Links

Tobacco

In 1997, a small study was conducted using inpatient psychiatrics patients to see if nicotine patches lessened the symptoms of drug-induced akathisia.   The study found that it did help.

Certainly nicotine impacts psychiatric drugs.  A study in 1992 noted:

Cigarette smokers receive significantly higher neuroleptic doses, in part because of a smoking-induced increase in neuroleptic metabolism. Smoking is also associated with significant reduction in levels of parkinsonism. Smoking status is a significant factor that should be considered in assessment of neuroleptic dose requirements and neuroleptic side effects.

Tobacco use has been linked to inhibiting Monoamine oxidase which is also a class of some of the oldest antidepressants.  Nicotine and other parts of tobacco act on neurotransmitters.  

Because of the demonization of cigarettes due to their side-effects, little has been done to see what impact, if any nicotine or other tobacco related drugs could be used to ameliorate the symptoms of akathisia. 

The SSRI Rabbit Hole

Studies of SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) or the class of drug of most antidepressants have long been linked to akathisia.

 

Study 1 (2003): 

Pharmacists can play an active role in recognizing akathisia by being aware of its characteristics, conducting a thorough medication history to identify causative agents, and using BARS to evaluate patients. These efforts may preclude unnecessary discomfort for the patient and reduce the potential for nonadherence induced by akathisia.

Study 2 (1998):

SSRI use appears to be associated with the development of movement disorders, as either a direct result of the drug or exacerbation of an underlying condition. Predisposing factors may include the use of neuroleptics, existing neurologic diagnoses, or preexisting movement disorders. Clinicians should be cognizant of the potential for these reactions, as prompt recognition and management is essential in preventing potentially significant patient morbidity.

Study 3 (1996):

SSRI-induced EPS are probably related to agonism of serotonergic input to dopaminergic pathways within the CNS. Several patient-dependent and pharmacokinetic variables may determine the likelihood that EPS will emerge. Although these side effects are infrequent, clinicians should be alert to the possibility of their occurrence.

So as I go back through the years, I went and checked the percentage of use of antidepressants of Americans and from 1988-1994 to 2005-2008 the increase in use was 400% (3% of the population to 12%).   The increase from 2005-2008 to 2017-2018 was from 12% to 18% of the entire population. As of 2018 1 in 5 Americans are on antidepressants. In 1996 and 1998 when the dangerous side effects seemed infrequent, only 1 in 30 Americans were on antidepressants. 

This is the problem with data and numbers, something Covid-19 should have taught us, but hasn't. Say only 1 out of 100 users of an SSRI drug develop the dangerous side effect of akathisia.  This means that in 1996, there still would have been 81,000 cases of akathisia in the United States.  With the increase in usage, the number of cases in 2018?  630,000.  

No one knows the actual numbers or the actual number of users that experience the adverse side effect of akathisia. The one thing we know for certain is the number of people who suffer from akathisia has increased with the use of psychotropic medications. 

The Epidemiology of Drug Induced Akathisia

As I descended down the rabbit hole of the number of cases of akathisia from SSRIs above, I came across a 1995 article on the epidemiology of drug induced akathisia --

Part 1 and Part 2.

The gist of the history was a lot of "we don't know the extent" when it comes to SSRI induced akathisia, withdrawal akathisia, tardive akathisia.  There was one thing that seemed certain though: Neuroleptics or antipsychotics caused acute akathisia anywhere from 8 to 76% of the time.  The conservative estimate was 20 to 30% while on the medication and 30-40% after withdrawal. 

Akathisia isn't a side effect for antipsychotic medication, it should be an anticipated adverse effect.  Any time a "side effect" exceeds 50% of the users, that isn't a side effect, that is the actual impact of the drug. If you are on an atypical antipsychotic, pay close attention for signs of akathisia. Your life depends on it.   The whole purpose of atypical antipsychotics is to minimize the extrapyramidal side effects.

(A quick note: the term "extrapyramidal side effects ("EPS")" is misleading.  A better term would be extrapyramidal symptoms and an even better term would be movement disorder symptoms, because that is what EPS means.) 

Oh and if you remember, the number discussion above on SSRIs, the number of individuals who are prescribed atypical antipsychotics is particularly hard to find and no one really knows how many people are on these medications.  I did find some numbers for 2008, when 5.5 million people were on these drugs.   In 2010, the drugs were the largest selling class of drugs in the United States.   

For one moment, let's assume that the 1995 article that started this out is correct and 30-40% suffer from EPS.  When plugged in with the 2008 number, that means  close to two million people who took or are taking atypical antipsychotics will suffer from akathisia. 

A One Year Old Study That Proposes the Current Understanding of Drug-induced Akathisia

It has been awhile since I went searching for something to describe the pathophysiology of akathisia and I found this study which warrants more attention from August of 2020.  

From all I've been able to glean over the years, this seems the most thorough and also shows just how complex and how little we know about this horrific adverse drug effect. 

Below is a list compiled when the site was first put up and can no longer be updated. At last check (8/29/2021), all the links worked, but one.   The case study link is here. 

August 16, 2020

Canadaian Psychiatry Reviews All Tested Treatment Options As of April, 2018

Canada Psychiatry Journal has a comprehensive review of the treatment options available to sufferers of akathisia, along with grades for how the different treatments rate. (My underlying impression is that they are all still shooting into the dark, but some of these can help until we figure out how to turn on the lights.)

A Case Study That Shows the Different Types of Akathisia

Akathisia comes in many forms.  This case study defines acute, chronic, tardive, and withdrawal akathisia.  Basically, you take the drugs, you can get akathisia when initially taking the drug, after taking the drug for awhile, the entire time you are taking the drug, as you withdraw from the drug, and even after you have withdrawn from the drug for sometime.  

November 18, 2019

The Akathisia/Suicide Connection

Russell Copelan has been fighting the akathisia fight since 1985.  Read his recent article from earlier this February.

October 10, 2019

Treatment Options and Diagnosis Well-known Since 2012

This 2012 article on drug-induced movement disorders contains one of the best outlines of akathisia and its treatment that we have found.  It also has great information on other drug-induced movement disorders.  

October 10, 2019

Understanding Some of the Biology of Akathisia

Akathisia appears to be in-part hyperactive brainstem reflexes in this 2017 study.

January 01, 2020

The Withdrawal Project

The Withdrawal Project is a grassroots community effort of Inner Compass Initiative.

Our Inspiration

The many people around the world who have personally reduced or fully come off psychiatric medications have, through their experiences, gained enormous insights and wisdom about the matter. For years, those of us who have withdrawn from these drugs have been discussing what we learned and discovered, and developing and sharing practical tips and safer strategies to manage our coming-off process. We've done this largely through one-on-one mutual support and many disparate online forums and groups.

Today, this growing “layperson withdrawal community” has become a vital, valuable “living library” of wisdom regarding some of the most responsible, risk-reducing ways of tapering off and healing from the effects of psychiatric drugs. We believe that this accumulated wisdom should be collected, organized, and made accessible to people everywhere. For that reason we were inspired to create The Withdrawal Project.

January 01, 2020

MISSD

The Agony of Akathisia: In Their Own Words

Read the words of those who have experienced akathisia first-hand. Pray it never finds you or those you love. Better yet? Become informed. Remember: akathisia presents SUBJECTIVELY. This means no two descriptions will be the same. However, there is one common element in every account:  agony.

April 01, 2006

Recognizing and Managing Akathisia

No, not an April Fool's joke.  Unfortunately.  Clicking on this link brings you to a Google Ad for Latuda, a prime cause of akathisia.  

This is a reprint from a 1984 (the year, not the book) edition of Hospital and Community Psychiatry.  The inner aspects of akathisia are well-defined and explained.

"In its most severe form, the dysphoria has been associated with violent outbursts, suicide, and other strong affects such as fright, terror, anger, or rage."

June 22, 2002

Akathisia: overlooked at a cost

Fifteen years ago, the NIH was warning of the dangers of overlooking akathisia.

 

 "The patient's behaviour may be disturbed, treatment may be refused, or the patient may be suicidal and be mistaken for a psychiatric problem. "

June 25, 2017

Abnormal Involuntary Movement Scale

A YouTube video showing how to test to see if you or someone else is suffering from abnormal involuntary movements.  A must-do test for anyone taking psychiatric medications.  

June 25, 2017

Why the Rise of Mental Illness? Pathologizing Normal, Adverse Drug Effects, and a Peculiar Rebellion

The drug side effects are being incorporated into the descriptions of the illnesses the drugs are supposed to treat.  This should frighten you.  A great article by Bruce Levine, PhD.

October 09, 2010

Pathophysiology of Depression (Or We Don't Have a Clue What Causes Depression)

"The current extant knowledge argues against a unified hypothesis of depression."  In layman's terms: We don't know what causes depression.

June 25, 2017

The Causes of Underdiagnosing Akathisia

Originally published in 2003, the medical community has not progressed in diagnosing akathisia.

"Currently, there may be two major problems with underdiagnosis: (1) symptoms that fulfill the diagnostic criteria for akathisia are overlooked, and (2) conditions that do not fulfill the diagnostic criteria but can still benefit from antiakathisia measures are underdiagnosed."  

With the incorporation of akathisia symptoms in the DSM-V into the diagnosis for bi-polar disorder, the symptoms will continue to be underdiagnosed.

June 25, 2017

Measuring Neuroleptic-induced Akathisia

While not accessible, the link does set forth efforts being made to diagnose and measure akathisia.  One of those articles to bring up with your physician. 

June 25, 2017

1995 Warning of the Need to Further Investigate (Largely Ignored)

"The long-term evolution of neuroleptic-induced extrapyramidal syndromes of Parkinsonism, akathisia and tardive dyskinesia (TD) is still a controversial issue worth exploring."

June 18, 2017

American Journal of Psychiatry on Akathisia

A thorough breakdown of akathisia historically and information on its diagnosis.  Once again, a Latuda ad pops up prior to the article.  (Latuda is the drug that started this website.)  

June 25, 2017

Possible Treatment: Mirtazapine

While treatments for akathisia are unknown, this is the one study that showed one possible treatment. 

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