Withdrawal – What we Know and Don’t Know3 min read

Antidepressant Withdrawal – What we Know and Don’t Know

My Doctor/Psychiatrist told me that I have to take an antidepressant to correct a
chemical imbalance in my brain, is this true?

No, it is a myth, we cannot test or measure the state of neurotransmitters in your brain, the
American Psychiatric Association disavowed this myth in 2011(1). It is a pharmaceutical
company invention (2).

How many people experience withdrawal effects?

It varies according to which drug is used, at what dosage, and for how long. Recent
studies (3) are showing the number affected to be greater than 50% of those taking the
drugs. The UK Royal College of Psychiatrists did their own survey (4) (now removed) which
showed that 63% reported withdrawal effects.

Why does my doctor/psychiatrist keep saying ‘discontinuation syndrome’ when I
mention withdrawal?

Discontinuation syndrome is an invented term (5) which minimises the role of the drug in the
harm caused and steers users away from addiction terminology. While dependence and
withdrawal have some features in common with addiction, they are not accurately
described using just this approach. What you are experiencing is an effect of withdrawing
from a drug, not of discontinuing treatment.

Why does my doctor insist that ‘once the drug is out of my system’ I will be fine?

Because not all doctors understand the effects of antidepressant drugs on the brain (6). A
heavy drinker or smoker may suddenly stop drinking/smoking, but the effects on their brain
and nervous system continue to be felt long after they have quit. Antidepressant drugs
change the brain in ways we don’t currently understand. These adaptations (7) to the drug
are responsible for withdrawal effects.

What does withdrawal feel like?

It’s a highly variable experience ranging from mild symptoms which pass quickly, to
profound symptoms that sometimes persist for many years. In a 2017 survey (8), 46% of
those reporting withdrawal symptoms described them as ‘severe’. Most common reported
symptoms (9) are insomnia, dizziness, fatigue, digestive problems, anxiety, panic,
depression, agitation. Withdrawal symptoms can sometimes mimic depressive or anxious states but should not be confused with relapse (10).

I am worried about dependence, what should I do?

The most important thing is never stop your drugs suddenly, this can be dangerous. Talk to
your doctor but be prepared as many doctors do not have the information to be able to
help. Withdrawal is a unique experience, with no fixed rules.

There are some excellent and
reliable online sources for help including:
• theinnercompass.org
• madinamerica.com/drug-withdrawal-resources
• survivingantidepressants.org
www.jfmoore.co.uk August, 2018
Antidepressant Withdrawal – What we Know and Don’t Know

References (to read these online visit www.jfmoore.co.uk/ltw.html)
1. http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/blogs/couch-crisis/psychiatry-new-brain-mind-andlegend-chemical-imbalance
2. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-depression-just-bad-chemistry/
3. http://roar.uel.ac.uk/7402/
4. RCPsych survey (now deleted)
5. https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/side-effects/201107/antidepressantwithdrawal-syndrome
6. http://time.com/3399344/antidepressant-changes-the-brain-study-finds/
7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4118946/
8. http://roar.uel.ac.uk/7402/
9. https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/370338
www.jfmoore.co.uk August, 2018

What we know about antidepressant withdrawal V1

James Moore

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