The following is taken from the conclusion of a CEP survey report published today on behalf of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Prescribed Drug Dependence entitled: ‘Antidepressant Withdrawal: A Survey of Patients’ Experience’:
“The responses to this survey make clear the ruinous impact of antidepressant withdrawal on some individuals, as well as the failure of those responsible for their care to understand and to treat the problem. It also reveals that other government-funded sources of support are entirely inadequate, with individuals left to fend for themselves or rely on internet-based support groups.
Survey respondents describe the suffering caused by withdrawal in the most severe terms, with some claiming that the process had devastated or ruined their lives. For many the experience lasts more than one year, with some respondents describing incapacitating symptoms for longer than five years, which can lead to the breakdown of marriages, careers and – for over 25% of respondents – indefinite disability.
Respondents to this survey say that their doctors or psychiatrists mostly did not inform them about the risks of withdrawal, which could be considered a failure of informed consent. Many believe they were told to withdraw or taper too quickly, which they reported aggravated their symptoms. Furthermore, some say that doctors and psychiatrists subsequently denied that these symptoms were caused by withdrawal, and misdiagnosed withdrawal as relapse or as a new disorder, sometimes proposing new medication. It is not surprising that for some patients this leads to a profound distrust of the medical profession.
Respondents also make clear that other sources of support, such as NHS Choices, NHS 111 and traditional drug & alcohol treatment services, are similarly uniformed and unhelpful. This leads many to rely entirely on online peer support services, such as http://survivingantidepressants.org/.
This survey provides compelling evidence that antidepressant withdrawal can have devastating, life-changing consequences for some individuals. Doctors, psychiatrists and other medical professionals must urgently be provided with appropriate training in this area, both at medical school and as part of their continuing professional development. Clinical guidelines must also be updated to reflect the actual incidence, severity and duration of antidepressant withdrawal, and to enable doctors, psychiatrists and other practitioners to provide appropriate care, including slow tapering protocols. Lastly, government must ensure that individuals affected by withdrawal have access to proper support services, which we recommend should include local support groups as well as a national 24 hour helpline and accompanying website.”
The full survey report can be found at http://prescribeddrug.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/APPG-PDD-Survey-of-antidepressant-withdrawal-experiences.pdf