by Sayer Ji, Green Med Info:
New research reveals severe withdrawal symptoms in over half of those who discontinue antidepressant drugs, including lasting and even permanent damage.
A concerning new study published in the journal Addictive Behavior and titled, “A systematic review into the incidence, severity and duration of antidepressant withdrawal effects: Are guidelines evidence-based?,” reveals that antidepressants are far more addictive and harmful than previously assumed, and vindicates the long time activism on this issue spearheaded by American psychiatrists like Kelly Brogan, MD and Peter Breggin, MD.
Highlights from the paper are as follows:
- More than half (56%) of people who attempt to come off antidepressants experience withdrawal effects.
- Nearly half (46%) of people experiencing withdrawal effects describe them as severe.
- It is not uncommon for the withdrawal effects to last for several weeks or months.
- Current UK and USA Guidelines underestimate the severity and duration of antidepressant withdrawal, with significant clinical implications.
This study aimed to assess the veracity of the the U.K.’s current National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and the American Psychiatric Association’s depression guidelines which state that withdrawal reactions from antidepressants are ‘self-limiting’ (i.e. typically resolving between 1 and 2 weeks).
In order to accomplish this goal the systematic review used the following methods:
“A systematic literature review was undertaken to ascertain the incidence, severity and duration of antidepressant withdrawal reactions. We identified 23 relevant studies, with diverse methodologies and sample sizes.”
The results were reported as follows:
“Withdrawal incidence rates from 14 studies ranged from 27% to 86% with a weighted average of 56%. Four large studies of severity produced a weighted average of 46% of those experiencing antidepressant withdrawal effects endorsing the most extreme severity rating on offer. Seven of the ten very diverse studies providing data on duration contradict the UK and USA withdrawal Guidelines in that they found that a significant proportion of people who experience withdrawal do so for more than two weeks, and that it is not uncommon for people to experience withdrawal for several months.”
Side effects were wide-ranging, lasting several months or longer (including permanent dysfunction), such as:
“Typical AD withdrawal reactions include increased anxiety, flu-like symptoms, insomnia, nausea, imbalance, sensory disturbances, and hyperarousal. Dizziness, electric shock-like sensations, brain zaps, diarrhoea, headaches, muscle spasms and tremors, agitation, hallucinations, confusion, malaise, sweating and irritability are also reported (Warner, Bobo, Warner, Reid, & Rachal, 2006, Healy, 2012). Although the aforementioned symptoms are the most common physical symptoms, there is also evidence that AD withdrawal can induce mania and hypomania, (Goldstein et al., 1999; Naryan & Haddad, 2011) emotional blunting and an inability to cry, (HolguinLew & Bell, 2013) long-term or even permanent sexual dysfunction (Csoka & Shipko, 2006).”
The study concluded:
“We recommend that U.K. and U.S.A. guidelines on antidepressant withdrawal be urgently updated as they are clearly at variance with the evidence on the incidence, severity and duration of antidepressant withdrawal, and are probably leading to the widespread misdiagnosing of withdrawal, the consequent lengthening of antidepressant use, much unnecessary antidepressant prescribing and higher rates of antidepressant prescriptions overall. We also recommend that prescribers fully inform patients about the possibility of withdrawal effects.”
The researchers also noted that the rising numbers of antidepressant prescriptions used throughout the world may be fueled by the antidepressant drug withdrawal side effects themselves:
“As the lengthening duration of AD use has fuelled rising AD prescriptions over the same time period, we must understand the drivers of such lengthening use. The evidence set out suggests that lengthening use may be partly rooted in the underestimation of the incidence, severity and duration of AD withdrawal reactions, leading to many withdrawal reactions being misdiagnosed, for example, as relapse (with drugs being reinstated as a consequence) or as failure to respond to treatment (with either new drugs being tried and/or dosages increased). This issue is pressing as long-term AD use is associated with increased severe side-effects, increased risk of weight gain, the impairment of patients’ autonomy and resilience (increasing their dependence on medical help), worsening outcomes for some patients, greater relapse rates, increased mortality and the development of neurodegenerative diseases, such as dementia.”
The concerning implications of this study to millions around the world who are on antidepressants was immediately recognized by the media, as evidenced by mainstream reporting on the topic with the following headlines: