How long should you stay on antidepressants?

As many as 5.4 million people in the UK may be taking pills to help with anxiety and depression, but does that mean they are hooked?

The Guardian newspaper says that, according to recent reports, hundreds of thousands of people are hooked on prescription drugs for not only depression but also pain and anxiety. A recent report from the all-party parliamentary group for prescribed drug dependence, said that in 2013 about 11% of women and 6% of men were on antidepressants – 5.4 million people nationally.

The Royal College of Psychiatry says that antidepressants are not addictive, on the grounds that you do not have to increase your dose to get the same effect or get cravings when you stop the drug. But the college’s own survey of 817 people found that 63% had withdrawal symptoms after stopping antidepressants.

The symptoms of withdrawal – stomach upsets, flu-like symptoms, anxiety, dizziness, nightmares and electric shocks to the head – can last for two months.

In a letter to the British Medical Journal last year, Prof Peter Gøtzsche of the Nordic Cochrane Centre in Denmark said that half of people on antidepressants become addicted. Out of 260,322 people in Finland who were taking an antidepressant in 2008, 45% were still on them five years later.
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