Antidepressants: New study sheds light on potential withdrawal symptoms

Antidepressants: New study sheds light on potential withdrawal symptoms
  • PublishedJune 9, 2024

The latest research debunks previous studies which suggested much higher rates of withdrawal symptoms, with 56% of all patients affected.

Around one in six people who stop antidepressants will experience withdrawal symptoms as a direct result of the medicine.

This figure is lower than previous estimates, according to the largest study of its kind.

New analysis of randomised controlled trials published in The Lancet Psychiatry found 15% of patients will experience one or more discontinuation symptoms that are directly caused by stopping the drugs, while around 2-3% will suffer severe symptoms.

Previous research suggested much higher rates of withdrawal symptoms, with 56% of all patients affected.

In 2022/23, NHS figures showed 86 million antidepressants were prescribed to an estimated 8.6 million patients in England.In the new research, the most commonly used antidepressants in the UK – citalopram, sertraline and fluoxetine – were found to have the lowest rates of withdrawal symptoms throughout the study.

However, venlafaxine, which is also used in the UK, was second highest for people experiencing symptoms.

In a linked editorial, Glyn Lewis, professor of epidemiological psychiatry at the University College London Division of Psychiatry and his colleague Dr Gemma Lewis said many of the studies in the new overall analysis were small, “often using antidepressants not commonly used now, and studying people who had not taken the antidepressants for a very long time”.

But they added: “Despite these limitations, the results here are a substantial improvement on anything that has been published before.”

Dr Jonathan Henssler, from Charite – Universitatsmedizin Berlin, an author of the study, said: “There is strong evidence that antidepressants can be effective for many people who are experiencing a depressive disorder, either alone, or alongside other treatments such as psychotherapy.

“However, they do not work for everyone, and some patients may experience unpleasant side effects.”

Stopping antidepressants can lead to various symptoms or none at all.

The most frequently reported are dizziness, headache, nausea, insomnia and irritability.

Discontinuation symptoms typically occur within a few days, and the new study found they lasted from 1.5 to 196 days.

The researchers looked at a range of antidepressants for the work, which included the data of 21,000 patients involved in 79 pieces of research.

Most (72%) of those included were women and the average age was 45.

SOURCE: SKYNEWS

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