Patients on antidepressants must be weaned off them because too many are “stuck” on medication for years according to the The Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Their latest guidance says that existing advice from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) – which provides national guidance to improve health and social care in England, suggests most people should be able to come off antidepressants over four weeks.

However, it is increasingly apparent from the experiences shared by some patients and clinicians, including GPs, that some patients can suffer from more severe symptoms that can last much longer.

This may affect those who have been prescribed antidepressants over a long period and who have stopped their use too quickly.

While antidepressants are a vital, potentially life-saving treatment option for those with more severe depression, their use needs to be carefully managed says the Royal College.

This includes prescribers discussing the potential benefits and harms with patients, regular reviews of their use and effective withdrawal management.

NICE should update its withdrawal guidelines, last issued in 2009 and currently being updated, to make them “clear, evidence-based and pharmacologically informed to help guide gradual withdrawal from antidepressant use”.

President Wendy Burn, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “We know that NICE is working on updating its guidelines and want to see them more in keeping with what we’re hearing from some patients – and GPs – about the range of experiences of coming off antidepressants.

“As psychiatrists, we are duty-bound to take on board the concerns of patients who’ve experienced more severe and long-lasting adverse effects of withdrawal from these medications.

“Antidepressants can be very effective for treating moderate to severe depression, particularly in combination with talking therapies, and what we want is guidance that best supports their use.

“While we cannot change that guidance ourselves, we will share our report with NICE and Public Health England (PHE) and hope it will be reflected in updated guidance from them.”


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