Study: Nearly Half of Users Experience Withdrawal Symptoms from Antidepressants

packet of prozac pills sitting on a counter with a figure in the background

Big news yesterday out of the United Kingdom! The All Party Parliamentary Group for Prescribed Drug Dependence announced the release of a systematic review by James Davies and John Read looking at issues of physical dependence and withdrawal from the psychiatric drugs commonly called “antidepressants”.

This is significant because the reality of psychiatric drug withdrawal is rarely acknowledged in most mainstream mental health and medical circles, despite many years of growing anecdotal reports from online withdrawal communities such as Surviving Antidepressants and Cymbalta Hurts Worse. In these groups, many people describe the mental, emotional, cognitive, and physical difficulties that have emerged for them as they’ve tried to come off antidepressants, benzodiazepines, antipsychotics, and other psychiatric drugs. For some, these difficulties are incredibly intense and last for many weeks, months, or even years. Davies and Read confirm these findings. They document that an average of 56% of people experience withdrawal symptoms upon stopping their antidepressants, with 46% of them reporting severe symptoms such as hallucinations, “mania”, suicidal feelings and long-term sexual dysfunction. 

In the past year, the authors report, antidepressant drugs were prescribed to 7 million people in England, and 37 million people in the United States – meaning that at any time, countless millions of these people could be trying to get off these drugs and experiencing withdrawal symptoms. 

Davies, quoted in The Guardian, says, “Existing Nice guidelines fail to acknowledge how common withdrawal is and wrongly suggest that it usually resolves within one week. This leads many doctors to misdiagnose withdrawal symptoms, often as relapse, resulting in much unnecessary and harmful long-term prescribing.” In response, NICE has said that it will review its guidelines. Hopefully, the American Psychiatric Association, American Medical Association, Food and Drug Administration and other national bodies here in the United States will hear these same messages and follow suit. 

If you are one of the countless people for whom all of this is truly new and shocking information, then we’re here to help! Please take some time to peruse our many free resources, developed in collaboration with people who have direct, personal experience with withdrawal. These include:


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Photo courtesy of Lis Ferla and Flickr Creative Commons/Photo has been cropped.