Withdrawal From Antidepressants: A Review

“We were dismayed to discover, in both the New Zealand and international surveys, that only 1 percent recalled being told anything about withdrawal effects when first prescribed the drugs.”

This article from Dr. John Read is subtitled “UK authorities stop minimising antidepressant withdrawal effects” and has been published in Psychology Today. It begins:

“Towards the end of my long and happy stint at the University of Auckland, some colleagues and I wanted to respond to the growing epidemic of antidepressant overprescribing in New Zealand and elsewhere. We were all very busy so we decided to go for ‘low-hanging fruit’ by running an online survey for people on antidepressants.

Over 1800 people responded. My main interest, covered in my previous post, were questions about side effects like ‘sexual difficulties’ (62 percent) and ‘emotional numbing’ (60 percent). I didn’t immediately realise the significance of 55 percent ticking ‘withdrawal effects’ and 29 percent endorsing ‘addiction’. All the numbers seemed unbelievably high. Was something specific to  New Zealand occurring? But when I repeated the survey on an international sample, of over 1400 people from more than 30 countries, the results were: withdrawal 59 percent, addiction 40 percent.

In both studies people on antidepressants for longer had higher rates of withdrawal effects. Nearly half described those effects as ‘severe’. We wondered whether online surveys disproportionately attracted people with bad experiences with antidepressants, people with an ‘axe to grind‘. Most, however, said that antidepressants had reduced their depression; 83 percent in New Zealand and 65 percent in the international survey.

Perhaps these withdrawal effects might help explain why about half of antidepressant users in England (3.5 million people; 8 percent of the population) have been taking ADs for longer than two years, (Johnson et al., 2012), and about half of antidepressant users in the U.S. (18 million; 7 percent of the population) for five years or more. Our survey of antidepressant users in the UK even found that one in four expected to be on them for life …”

You can read more from here.

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