The First Psychiatry With Medication-Free Treatment Opens In Norway

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Asgård psychiatric hospital in Tromsø, Norway, is a tired-looking facility, with its squat buildings mindful of institutional architecture popular during the Cold War era. Regarding its geographic location, the place could hardly be located further from the centers of western psychiatry.

The First Psychiatry With Medication-Free Treatment Opens In Norway

Asgård psychiatric hospital in Tromsø, Norway, is a tired-looking facility, with its squat buildings mindful of institutional architecture popular during the Cold War era. Regarding its geographic location, the place could hardly be located further from the centers of western psychiatry.


In fact, Tromsø lies 215 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Tourists come during the winter months to enjoy the Northern Lights. It's in this remote outpost, on a hospital floor which had been closed but was recently refurbished, that someone can find a startling sign on the door: medikamentfritt behandlingstilbud.


In English, this means medication-free treatment. And it's an initiative that the Norwegian Ministry of Health has ordered its four regional health authorities to take.


The First Psychiatry With Medication-Free Treatment Opens In Norway

The door sign doesn't precisely capture the nature of the care provided there. It's a ward for psychiatric patients who don't want to take psychiatric medications, or who prefer help tapering from such drugs. The governing principle on that ward, which has six beds, is that patients have the right to choose their treatment and that care should be organized around that choice.


According to Merete Astrup, director of the medication-free unit:


“It is a new way of thinking. Before, when people wanted help, it was always on the basis of what the hospitals wanted, and not on what the patients wanted. We were used to saying to patients, ‘this is what is best for you.’ But we are now saying to them, ‘what do you really want?’ And they can say, ‘I am free; I can decide.’”

The First Psychiatry With Medication-Free Treatment Opens In Norway

Although it is located far from the centers of power in western psychiatry, the ward can be seen as a “beachhead” for dramatic change, according to Magnus Hald, chief of psychiatric services at the University Hospital of North Norway. He said:


“We have to consider the patient’s perspective as equally valuable as the doctor’s perspective. If patients say this is what they want, that is good enough for me. It’s about helping people move forward in their lives in the best possible way, and we should help people move forward with the use of drugs if that is what they want, and if they want to sing a drug-free song, we should be backing them. We should be making that happen.”

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Thinking Humanity: The First Psychiatry With Medication-Free Treatment Opens In Norway
The First Psychiatry With Medication-Free Treatment Opens In Norway
Asgård psychiatric hospital in Tromsø, Norway, is a tired-looking facility, with its squat buildings mindful of institutional architecture popular during the Cold War era. Regarding its geographic location, the place could hardly be located further from the centers of western psychiatry.
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