Antidepressant Withdrawal – The Tide is Finally Turning
In a recent paper in the journal Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences, Michael P. Hengartner, John Read and James Davies summarise the progress made in recent months when making the case that withdrawal from antidepressant drugs is often longer-lasting and more severe than guidelines or conventional wisdom suggest.
They point out the lack of empirical research, noting that the first systematic review on withdrawal was not published until 2015 while almost 200 meta-analyses on the efficacy of new-generation antidepressant have been published between 2007 and 2014 alone. They also note the sometimes hostile critical reaction to raising the difficulties that some face when they try to withdraw.
Withdrawal reactions when coming off antidepressants have long been neglected or minimised. It took almost two decades after the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) entered the market for the first systematic review to be published. More reviews have followed, demonstrating that the dominant and long-held view that withdrawal is mostly mild, affects only a small minority and resolves spontaneously within 1–2 weeks, was at odd with the sparse but growing evidence base. What the scientific literature reveals is in close agreement with the thousands of service user testimonies available online in large forums. It suggests that withdrawal reactions are quite common, that they may last from a few weeks to several months or even longer, and that they are often severe. These findings are now increasingly acknowledged by official professional bodies and societies.