Dr James Davies and Prof John Read respond to Mental Elf critique

We thank Hayes and Jauhar for blogging about our recently published systematic review about withdrawal from antidepressants thereby keeping the spotlight on a vitally important issue impacting millions of people around the world.

After decades of silence and minimisation any discussion that maintains public attention is invaluable.

We now invite them to do what is customary in any serious academic debate and submit their blog critique to the journal in which we published, Addictive Behaviors. This way their critique can be properly peer-reviewed, and we can respond to each of their points in the appropriate place and manner, especially because we take serious issue with many of the arguments they raise.

While we disagree with many of their arguments, we do accept, as we did in the review, that some of the 24 studies reviewed had important limitations, as did our best efforts to integrate studies using such varied methodologies.

The fact that there was not more and better research for us to review speaks volumes about whether the prescribing professions have taken the issues seriously. In particular, many of RCT studies employed treatment durations and follow-up protocols that may significantly underestimate withdrawal incidence and duration.

Hayes and Jauhar seem particularly concerned about whether our inclusion of surveys may have biased our estimates that 56% experience withdrawal symptoms when coming off and 46% of those describe them as severe.

We readily concede, as we did in the review, that our estimates are indeed estimates, based on the best available evidence. They may be off by 5% or even perhaps as much as 10%, lower or higher.

Nevertheless, even the most conservative estimate of 46% experiencing withdrawal, and 36% of those at the severe level, would represent a public health issue of significant proportions.

While waiting for the prescribing professions to conduct better studies we hope that all concerned, including those guilty of denial and minimisation in the past, can now work together to acknowledge what thousands of people with direct experience have been trying to tell their doctors for years, to provide full information to people contemplating starting antidepressants, and to lobby for support for the millions trying to withdraw from them.

Dr James Davies & Professor John Read

8 Responses to Dr James Davies and Prof John Read respond to Mental Elf critique

  1. Shane Kenny 19/10/2018 at 12:49 pm #

    The story of anti-depressants mirrors exactly the story of benzodiazepines, huge public harm done by these drugs, in the case of benzodiazepines there is much irrefutable evidence of this massive harm over 57 years starting in Leo Hollister’s US study in 1961, but there are always many medics and researchers willing to hastily rush to the defence of the drugs rather than seriously take note of the negatives and understand that the negatives require deep research. This is particularly so in the case of psychoactive drugs, because the brain is such a delicate and vital organ and in the case of benzodiazepines medical science still does not know the full range of their effects and actions in the brain, while the public worldwide have been subjected to a massive experiment and the full truth of the outcome has been ignored or denied because so many have so much to lose if the heavens fall. But in time they surely will.

  2. Tortured by venlafaxine 19/10/2018 at 5:07 pm #

    As someone who has lived experience of the adject hell that is venlafaxine withdrawal, I am hugely grateful to Dr Davies and Prof Read for taking this issue seriously when psychiatry insists on minimising it. My withdrawal from venlafaxine following my psychiatrist’s advised taper over several weeks made me so ill I had to spend 8 weeks in hospital. It was misdiagnosed as a “return of depression”, despite the symptoms being markedly different to anything I had experienced before. Subsequently, therefore, I turned to an internet support group of fellow sufferers for advice about and support with tapering – I have spent the last year tapering slowly and anticipate it will take 2 to 3 more years to get safely off the neurotoxin that is venlafaxine. Even with this slow taper the withdrawal symptoms are at times unbearable. My psychiatrist has since admitted he had no idea venlafaxine caused withdrawal issues, despite prescribing it widely. Until psychiatrists learn to listen to, empathise with and be honest with patients (and themselves) about the adverse effects of venlafaxine, they will continue to devastate lives with their prescription pads. Perhaps they need to start taking and withdrawing from some of the drugs they prescribe, so they can experience their adverse effects first hand?

  3. Orli 20/10/2018 at 10:00 am #

    It seems to me that most of people are not aware that the so call “antidepressants” are given to all kind of patients, including the ones that suffer from “psychosis” and other “mental health illness” mixed with antipsycotics and other kind of “mood stabilizers”, therefore to start with people should be clarified first what is going on with the psychiatry in general as although is not better or worst the simptomology of a person suffering a depresion or another with abnormal thoughts is indeed very different. In both cases antipsicotics and antidepressants can become a big trap for the rest of their lives, as not even the psychiatrist know what they are doing, as long as the patient is aware of that and wants to runs the risks that is another matter.

  4. Orli 20/10/2018 at 10:01 am #

    I stated this on other section “It seems to me that most of people are not aware that the so call “antidepressants” are given to all kind of patients, including the ones that suffer from “psychosis” and other “mental health illness” mixed with antipsycotics and other kind of “mood stabilizers”, therefore to start with people should be clarified first what is going on with the psychiatry in general as although is not better or worst the simptomology of a person suffering a depresion or another with abnormal thoughts is indeed very different. In both cases antipsicotics and antidepressants can become a big trap for the rest of their lives, as not even the psychiatrist know what they are doing, as long as the patient is aware of that and wants to runs the risks that is another matter.”

  5. Lisbet 22/10/2018 at 7:43 am #

    Thank you Dr James Davies and Prof. John Read, for the original survey and for this response to the Mental Elf review.

    I have been dealing with the side effects and withdrawal effects of anti-depressants for 12 years now (the first 8 years I didn’t even realise they were side effects and mild withdrawal) I didn’t even KNOW there were potential withdrawal effects, no one, the Dr who prescribed or the patient information leaflet, apprised me that this could happen.

    I don’t even think the prescribers are that aware that the prescribing protocols or guidelines that they work to can cause tremendous debilitating effects – eg. being cycled through a number of different anti-depressants in about six months. After the last change I was on my knees and since then I have slowly come to realise that what likely happened is that when one drug was changed to another, I was in withdrawal from the previous drug, when another was then added and so on as I went through four drug changes. The effect, in my view, was cumulative withdrawal. I was a complete mess of anxiety, insomnia, sensitivity to sound and people, exhaustion etc.

    I don’t remember what the Dr. advised at this point – all I knew was that I was close on collapsing and cold turkeyed. I didn’t know that this was particularly risky – I had no knowledge or information to help me make some kind of reasonable decision (if, indeed there was one, given the state I was in).

    The next three years were a torment of increasingly severe withdrawal effects – the works: anxiety, insomnia, nausea, retching, exhaustion, constant need to urinate, dizziness, unbalanced feeling, wooziness, panic attacks. The internet helped me to understand what was happening. The notion of withdrawal effects were dismissed by my Dr.

    The culmination of these events was a physical breakdown nearly two years ago, with severe and unremitting anxiety. I went through the mental health service, the Psychiatrist also denying withdrawal effects. Without proper knowledge from the professionals (who we expect to know cause and effect) I was labelled with major depression with agitation.

    Not knowing what could be done to help, I succumbed to psychoactive drugs again, clutching at any straw that might give me relief from the torture of the 24/7 anxiety and suicidality, the insomnia, the weak and wobbly legs and the utter physical illness I felt. I am now on three drugs. My legs are still weak and wobbly, I am constantly tired, my life is severely restricted, and I deal with other symptoms.

    These are not psychosomatic symptoms of a trauma that has been buried (as the psychiatrist diagnosed) – they are the horrendous effects from the drugs.

    I do hope, as you say, that the “discussion … maintains public attention”, I know there are big forces at play and that the profession appears to be resistant to acknowledging the true harms that can be inflicted by these drugs. But a good starting point is that the general public become better informed.

    I am deeply grateful for your contribution to this and hope that ensuing generations will be the safer for it.

  6. Thomas Steven Roth, MBA, MD 26/10/2018 at 4:10 pm #

    I have submitted the following response to the Mental Elf critique on the Mental Elf blog:

    Dear Dr. Joseph Hayes and Dr. Sameer Jauhar:

    Your blog above is advertised above as “NO BIAS, NO MISINFORMATION, NO SPIN.” Accordingly, the following questions are even more appropriate to ask of you, especially given your own above admitted conflicts of interest which include working as a “Consultant Psychiatrist” and your own above broadened scrutiny of conflicts of interest to include “ideological or intellectual conflicts of interest” which “are not discussed” which could be charged against any author with a true ideological or intellectual interest in just seeking lifesaving truth no matter what the personal cost:

    Question 1: As Dr. Neil MacFarlane appropriately comments above, what specifically and exactly do you mean by stating “ideological or intellectual conflicts of interest are not discussed” (and also in answering please apply the same standard to your own above critique)?

    Question 2: Have you applied the same degree of critical scrutiny and rigor (as you have to the above article) on the research used to justify the current UK and USA antidepressant-use standards of care (including any differences between UK and USA standards) including the research used to justify and validate the nosology used in such standards of care-justifying research, and if you have indeed done this, where are the results of such a “NO BIAS, NO MISINFORMATION, NO SPIN” critique?

    Question 3: In your “No Bias” critique answer for Question #2 above, and in your own professional practice of psychiatry in general [especially given the lack of biological markers to prove material brain function abnormalities in psychiatric diagnoses which lead to antidepressant prescribing, as well as, the known brain function abnormalities (including chemical imbalances) that antidepressants iatrogenically cause (e.g., please read the twelve best-in-class references in my links below)] how have you scientifically controlled for the expected huge confounding variable of human soul function as discussed in my epistemological axioms presented in my 5/2/18 letter to the editor of the British Medical Journal and my 8/16/18 Medicaid.gov public comment available for free at the following two URL addresses in the context of two real-life current events U.S. public health policy examples? Note, I ask this because we cannot scientifically rule out an obvious expected interface between human soul function and material brain function which, as a result of research design, is abnormally affected only in those research subjects receiving the psychotropic drug with, therefore, expected possible significant iatrogenic soul-function-brain-function-interface abnormalities causing possibly primarily clinically significant soul function abnormalities which are not being detected because soul function is not being scientifically measured and therefore which may be significantly contributing to the mounting findings of huge under-appreciated iatrogenic effects (including significant morbidity and mortality and disability) from antidepressants and other psychotropic drugs as reported in the twelve best-in-class expert witness references cited in the following links:

    https://www.bmj.com/content/356/bmj.j1058/rr-1

    https://public.medicaid.gov/connect.ti/public.comments/showUserAnswers?qid=1897507&voteid=352593&nextURL=%2Fconnect%2Eti%2Fpublic%2Ecomments%2FquestionnaireVotes%3Fqid%3D1897507%26sort%3Drespondent%5F%5FcommonName%26dir%3Dasc%26startrow%3D1%26search%3D

    Sincerely and In Biblical Love for Both of You and All Psychiatrists Everywhere,
    Thomas Steven Roth, MBA, MD
    Christian Minister for Biblical Medical Ethics,
    and therefore,
    Religious and Scientific Refugee from the Clinical Practice of Psychiatric Standards of Care
    P.O. Box 24211
    Louisville, KY 40224
    October 26, 2018

  7. Bill 04/11/2018 at 11:22 pm #

    Saying “Evidence-Based Psychiatry” is exactly the same thing as saying “Evidence-Based Phrenology”, or “Evidence-Based Astrology”. Psychiatry *itself* is a pseudoscience, a drug racket, and a means of social control. Psych drugs are far less safe, far less efficacious, and far less necessary than we’ve been LIED to believe. I’m proof of that.

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