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Addict Behav. 2019 Jan;88:82-85. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2018.08.021. Epub 2018 Aug 25.

Staying on, and coming off, antidepressants: The experiences of 752 UK adults.

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School of Psychology, University of East London, Water Lane, London E15 4LZ, UK. Electronic address:
Mind, Stratford, London, UK.



Prescription rates for antidepressants (ADs) are high and continue to increase, despite evidence of significant adverse effects, including withdrawal symptoms, and marginal benefit relative to placebo only for short-term treatment of major depression. Such high rates seem to be explicable more in terms of long term usage and repeat prescribing rather than by increases in depression or new patients.


This paper reports the responses of a convenience sample of 752 people who had taken antidepressants, but no other psychiatric drugs, 'within the last two years' and completed the Medications for Mental Health Survey online in the UK.


Most participants had either come off antidepressants (34%) or had tried and failed (36%). Of those still taking them 76% had been doing so for at least a year and 36% for five years or more. 26% expected to take them forever. About half (48%) did not have their drugs reviewed at least every three months. Most (65%) had never had a discussion with the prescriber about coming off. Nearly half (45%) of those who had stopped the drugs had done so without consulting their doctor. However, of those who came off after consulting their doctor, the majority (65%) experienced the doctor to be supportive.


The findings are consistent with the idea that high rates are largely explicable by chronic usage, which in turn is partially explained by withdrawal symptoms. Prescribers should strive to establish collaborative relationships in which patients are fully informed about withdrawal effects and their views, about starting and finishing medication, should be explored and valued.


Addiction; Antidepressants; Informed consent; Withdrawal

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