15% of patients taking antidepressants experience withdrawal symptoms

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A recent one Lancet Psychiatry Research has shown that approximately 15%, or one in six patients who stop taking antidepressants experience withdrawal symptoms. Antidepressants such as desvenlafaxine, venlafaxine, imipramine, and paroxetine were particularly associated with higher frequencies and severity of withdrawal symptoms compared to other commonly prescribed antidepressants. While fluoxetine and sertraline showed the lowest withdrawal symptoms.

In a Lancet press release, Jonathan Henssler, lead author of the study and senior physician at CharitĂ© – Universitätsmedizin in Berlin, said: “There is strong evidence that antidepressants can be effective for many people experiencing depressive disorder, alone or in addition to other treatments such as psychotherapy. However, they don’t work for everyone and some patients may experience unpleasant side effects. In patients who have recovered with the help of antidepressants, the decision of doctors and patients may be to stop taking them in time. That’s why it’s important that both doctors and patients have an accurate, evidence-based view of what can happen when patients stop taking antidepressants.”

Doctors had first reported that their patients were experiencing withdrawal symptoms after stopping antidepressants in 1959. However, adverse symptoms such as dizziness, headache, nausea, insomnia, stomach cramps, and irritability remained neglected within the medical community until the late 1990s. These symptoms may occur within days of stopping antidepressants and may last for several weeks or months. “Until recently, guidelines have been criticized for referring to the duration of typical antidepressant withdrawal symptoms as 1–2 weeks, ignoring the evidence of longer courses,” the authors noted.

To further investigate how common and severe withdrawal symptoms are in patients, Henssler and colleagues conducted an analysis of 79 studies that collected data from 21,002 patients. Of these, 16,532 patients had stopped taking antidepressants. And another 4,470 patients had stopped taking placebo pills. The average age of the study participants was 45 years and 72% of them were women. They found that severe withdrawal or withdrawal symptoms occurred in one in thirty patients who stopped taking antidepressants.

“Across all studies of antidepressants, we have found that approximately every third patient who stops taking antidepressants will have withdrawal symptoms of some kind. Even in studies of people receiving a placebo, withdrawal symptoms (which might be called withdrawal symptoms) occurred in approximately one in six patients,” the researchers wrote in their paper. Lancet study. “This is not to say that all antidepressant withdrawal symptoms are caused by the patient’s expectations; In practice, all patients discontinuing antidepressants should be counseled and monitored, and patients reporting withdrawal symptoms should be helped, especially those who develop severe withdrawal symptoms.”

“We found no difference between studies where the drug was tapered and studies where the drug was stopped abruptly. All studies with venlafaxine and desvenlafaxine were among those that used tapering,” the authors said. “Antidepressant tapering is recommended in most guidelines, and there is research to suggest that prolonged and hyperbolic antidepressant tapering will substantially reduce (though not completely eliminate) withdrawal symptoms and increase the likelihood of successful antidepressant discontinuation.”

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