How does Norway treat psychosis patients without medication?

Most patients with psychosis use very strong medications to protect themselves from hallucinations and hallucinations, but they can have serious side effects. However, Norway now offers such patients radical treatment without radical drugs within the national health system.


Malin was 21 years old when the psychiatric problems that determined his life emerged.

In fact, he had suffered from severe depression since adolescence and could not get out of it.

Then he heard a man’s voice in his head, saying that it was root and rubbish, that he had killed himself.


“He was very angry. He isolated me from the outside world because he was so effective for me. After a while, I also started dreaming. For example, octopus weapons were coming out of the walls,” he says.

He left a small town near the fjords in northern Norway, where he was born and raised, and went to another city for university.

Soon, however, he collapsed and could not get out of bed.

His family came to pick him up and he was soon placed in a psychiatric clinic where he would stay for a year.

He went to such psychiatric clinics all his life, and the only treatment for psychosis patients at that time was strong anti-psychotic drugs.

“I was taking so many pills that I was completely confused. All I did was sit back and watch the progress of my life. I lost my feelings and my thoughts.”

“I’ve been going through the same thing all the time. I wanted help and they were giving me medicine. Nothing was getting better. It’s a devastating situation. You want to heal and people tell you this is how life goes, you have to accept it. I couldn’t accept this life.”

Mali’s experience with psychiatric drugs is not uncommon. Although many psychosis patients believe that these drugs allow them to lead a normal life, about 20 percent of patients do not respond positively to drugs.

The effects of these drugs, which cause extreme fatigue, obesity, high cholesterol and diabetes, have a profound effect on the lives of some patients.

In Norway, “compulsory treatment practices” have been added to the concerns caused by the side effects of these drugs.

The United Nations Commission against Torture, emphasizing Norway in this regard, said that the compulsory isolation of patients in mental health facilities should be changed.


Mette Ellingsdalen, like Malin, has been taking anti-psychotic medications for 13 years after suffering from severe depression due to bipolar disorder.

Mette elingsdalen

Mette elingsdalen

He explains that despite being as cautious as some patients and not being given medication, he has to take medication and will not be hospitalized if he refuses to take medication.

“Drugs stifled some of the symptoms, but they also stifled your strength, your ability to deal with your own problems. I somehow lost control of my story,” he says.

After five years of trying to manage drugs, he joined a group in 2005 that campaigned to change Norway’s mental health system and is now the leader of the “We Will Win” patient group.

“The easiest way to reduce rape is to give people a choice, a treatment they can accept,” he says.

Years of campaigns by people like Mette have finally paid off, and in 2016, Health Minister Bent Hoie instructed local health departments to set up drug-free departments.

In some other countries, drug-free treatment is available for psychosis patients, but Norway was the first to introduce it as an option in the national mental health system.

Magnus hald

Dr. Magnus Hald

Dr. Hald

Dr. Magnus Hald was then the head of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at the University Hospital of North Norway in Tromso.

He worked in many medical departments and was eager to work on alternative therapies. When the opportunity arose, he took over the responsibility of the hospital’s drug-free treatment department.

“The most important thing for me was to allow people to try different treatment options,” he says.

“You have to tell the patient how the drug works and everything you know about it. And it seems that those who work with the pharmaceutical industry do not fully inform patients about the effects and risks of drugs. For example, it is a myth that people with severe mental problems have some kind of chemical imbalance. in fact, there is no research to support it. “

Most patients in a drug-free unit in Thrombosis need to narrow down their medication first – a process that requires both time and attention.

“However, some patients will no longer take any medication, some may return to medication after a while, and some patients may continue to take lower doses,” said Dr. Hald says it works for most patients.

Malin, now 34, is also one of Dr. Hald’s patients.

Sometimes he stays at the clinic in Tromso for weeks, then returns home to Jarek for a few months. It’s not easy. Lives alone and is weak around mental health support. For this reason, he recovers slowly and explains that the sound in his head does not disappear completely.

Malin dog Jarek

Malin dog Jarek

Now Malin is taking medication just to calm down before going to bed at night. He is receiving intensive drug treatment while in the clinic. The biggest role in improving artistic activity.

“Instead of suppressing the symptoms, I try to reconnect with my feelings. We’re working on what this sound wants and what I need to do to stop it,” he says.

He started thinking about working for the first time.

“I feel like I’m starting to find myself for the first time. I’m starting to increase my confidence and for the first time I dare to hope for the future. It’s great!”

The doors of the drug-free ward at Magnus Hald Hospital are not locked

Jan Fredrik Frantzen
The doors of the drug-free ward at Magnus Hald Hospital are not locked


You need to hear and hear the stories of people like Malin. However, drug-free treatment is still controversial in Norway.

Anti-psychotic medications are important for many patients.

For example, Claudia (not her real name), now in her 20’s, is a teenager who commits suicide and is deceived.

He believes that the antipsychotic drugs given to him during his illness are toxic.

Thus, the medication was restricted and forcibly given to him, and over time it came into force and he was cured.

“But after a period of stress, I had a serious relapse again and had to start all over again. Now I admit that I need medication to stay alive,” he says.

“I don’t like the word normal, but I feel great when I’m taking my medication. I feel like I can contribute to classes, I can meet my friends, but that’s not the case. Take medication, my work gets worse and I feel more stressed, cluttered and awkward,” he said.

Discussions continue

There are critics who say that non-drug treatment is based on an ideological approach, not research and evidence.

Jean-Ivar Rossberg, a psychiatrist living and working in Oslo, compares drug therapy to the therapeutic societies of the 1960s and ’70s, when patients were encouraged to do whatever they wanted, take substances such as LSD, and return to childhood. This method used in those years was called anti-psychiatry.

“History has shown us that this approach is ineffective, so we no longer use it. We have no evidence that non-drug therapies are effective,” says Dr. Rossberg.


A picture that Mali calls “Desperate.”

The most successful results in the treatment of psychosis patients indicate that the drug should be started in the early stages of the disease and gradually reduce the dose after two years of treatment.

But doctor Magnus Hald is not sure. Patients receiving drug-free treatment for thrombosis are preparing to start a study that will be followed for many years.

So far, there have been no suicides among patients treated at the center, but no comprehensive study has been conducted on the success of the treatment.

The future of drug-free therapy

This is a controversial issue.

At present, patients with severe psychosis cannot be referred to non-drug treatment units.

Patient rights groups claim that people can go through this stage of the disease more easily in environments where they feel safe, and they want that to change.

But Dr. Tor Larsen, an acute psychosis specialist, is concerned.

Our treatment states that the majority of psychosis patients do not understand that they are ill, and therefore generally refuse treatment with or without medication, although non-drug treatment should be voluntary.

“It’s almost like the definition of a patient with hallucinations or dreams. If you think you’re communicating with God or Napoleon’s reborn spirit, you don’t believe you’re sick,” he says, and so it’s important that patients with severe psychosis will be treated without consent.

Studies show that many untreated psychosis patients live on the streets, and about 30 percent of them use violence against relatives and others or commit crimes, including crime.

An example of this is the murder of 67-year-old Bjorg Marie Skeisvoll Hereid in 2019 in the small town of Haugesund in southeastern Norway by a psychotic man holding an ax while visiting a cemetery.

The killer, who was suffering from psychosis, did not take the prescribed drugs and used illegal drugs.

The fact that this tragic event took place in 2017 after a change in Norwegian law has also caused controversy.

Photo of Malin

Another picture taken by Malin.

According to the amendment, patients who are able to decide on their treatment can no longer be forced to take their medication unintentionally.

However, drug campaigners say such dangerous situations are used to justify the isolation of psychosis patients from society and to treat them instead of treating them.

Psychiatrists and patients from all over the world are watching closely Norway, where the government is taking steps to improve the lives of psychosis patients.

There is a global trend towards improving the treatment of mental illness and reducing the difficult part.

In this way, non-drug psychosis treatment can temporarily remain a new treatment hobby and achieve results that will further the field of psychiatry.

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