What happens if you stop taking antidepressants?

What an analysis of dozens of previous studies has shown. How common are withdrawal symptoms?

Antidepressants can greatly help those who suffer from persistent low mood. But many patients are hesitant to take them because they fear what will happen if they stop.

The new analysis answers the question, combining 79 previous findings. They included 21,002 patients with an average age of 45 years.

Almost 15% of those who stopped taking the drug experienced withdrawal symptoms, including:

  • Dizziness
  • headache
  • Motion sickness
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Irritation

Of these patients, One in 35 had severe symptomsaccording to a new analysis.

“Antidepressants can be effective alone or in combination with other treatments such as psychotherapy for patients with major depressive disorder. Although they do not work for everyone. And some have side effects“, he said supervising researcher Dr. Jonathan HensslerPsychiatrist at the Charite Medical School in Berlin.

«These patients may need to stop them” he continued. “Therefore, it is important that they know in advance what may happen to them“.

Whether and how withdrawal symptoms occur has been a topic of debate for decades. So is their frequency of occurrence.

New research

New research Published in the medical journal The Lancet Psychiatry. The researchers evaluated data from two different clinical trials to calculate the risk of developing withdrawal symptoms. It was about:

  • 44 randomized controlled clinical trials
  • 35 observational studies

The studies were published between 1961 and 2019. Studies have looked at sudden or gradual discontinuation of medications and compared them with placebo discontinuation.

More than half of the studies looked at major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder (formerly called manic depression). More than a quarter focus on an anxiety disorder.

45 of the studies were funded by pharmaceutical companies that manufacture antidepressants. However, the researchers say this did not affect the overall findings. Rates of withdrawal symptoms were similar in company-sponsored and non-sponsored studies.

Abrupt or gradual cessation?

So why do some patients experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking antidepressants? Dr. Henssler pointed out that these drugs are not addictive. Therefore, withdrawal symptoms can develop for other reasons, such as decreased levels of neurotransmitters in the brain.

Neurotransmitters are chemicals that allow nerve cells to communicate with each other.

In a new study no difference was observed in acute or gradual withdrawal of drugs. However, the researchers do not consider this finding conclusive, due to differences in the design of the studies they reviewed.

There is scientific data from other clinical studies that shows that gradual discontinuation reduces the risk withdrawal symptoms. And if they develop, on the contrary, they can be less serious.

Dr. Dr. Paul Keedwell, of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, UK.

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