Patients are still not being warned how difficult it can be to come off antidepressants, say psychiatrists campaigning for a reduction in the needless use of the drugs.
Yet the withdrawal symptoms are frequently mistaken for a relapse in the condition for which the drugs were prescribed and, as a result, patients end up being put back on them. The psychiatrists are now calling for prescribing guidelines to be updated urgently.
Under current NICE guidance, unchanged since 2004, withdrawal symptoms from antidepressants are described as ‘usually mild and self-limiting over about one week’. But both research and patients’ experience suggest otherwise, with severe symptoms including nausea, insomnia, anxiety and panic attacks that can last for weeks — or longer.
Major research, published by the Daily Mail in October, confirmed that the frequency, severity and duration of reactions to antidepressant withdrawal was ‘more widespread, severe and long-lasting’ than doctors had been led to believe, with nearly half of patients suffering severe symptoms (that’s 1.8 million in Britain).
Now, in a letter published today in The BMJ, 14 of the world’s leading experts on antidepressant withdrawal are calling on NICE and the Royal College of Psychiatrists to review their guidelines urgently ‘to bring them in line with the scientific evidence base’.
They say it’s ‘concerning’ that, despite overwhelming evidence that millions of patients battle to come off antidepressants for months or even years, two recent surveys show only a tiny proportion recall being told anything about withdrawal effects, dependence, or potential difficulties coming off the drugs.
Read the full Daily Mail piece here.
The full text from the British Medical Journal can be found here.