Differentiation of SSRI and Benzo Dependence/Withdrawal “Not Rational”

Kermit Cole
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Researchers from the Cochrane Center and University of Copenhagen in Denmark, publishing in the May issue of Addiction, “explore the rationale for claiming that benzodiazepines cause dependence while selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) do not.” They find that the two discontinuation syndromes were “very similar for 37 of 42 identified symptoms described as withdrawal reactions,” and that differentiating them “does not seem rational.”

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected]

4 COMMENTS

  1. It is good to read this. I’m pleased that this research has been done. It confirms our anecdotal observation based on the more than 5,000 individuals who have used our helpline. These individuals were either coming off a benzodiazepine only, a benzodiazepine with an antidepressant, or an antidepressant only (mostly SSRIs). There have been no significant differences in symptoms and the repercussions and challenges are the same. Thank you for this article.

    • This was the first comparison I made after coming off an SSRI. The symptoms seemed to ‘fit’ with Benzo withdrawal in their severity and the fact that they are, 2 years on, impairing my everyday functioning. So similar to the withdrawal problems Benzo users experience that can last a long time

  2. Withdrawal symptoms from any psychiatric drug represent nervous system damage, specifically autonomic dysregulation.

    Given how pervasive the autonomic nervous system is, this can take various forms in people, which explains the wide range of symptoms from head (e.g. “brain zaps” or dizziness) to foot (e.g. foot and leg cramps, restless leg syndrome).

    Wonder how long it will take medicine to openly acknowledge this.

  3. I’m not sure rational thought enters into the process of medicine’s love affair with SSRI’s. In my experience, most psychiatrists have little or no interest acknowledging how addictive SSRI’s are or how common side effects are. It’s an infuriating double whammy for a patient to realize that the drug that they’ve been prescribed is causing a range of health problems only to find they can’t just stop taking it without wreaking more havoc on their overall health and well being.

    I believe that many people who suffer from iatrogenic illness as a result of psych meds don’t even realize that the drugs are making them sick. In part, this is because psychiatrists either don’t ask questions about their patient’s overall health or because they don’t want to be held responsible. If I had a dime for every time I heard “correlation not causation” from my former psych doc in response to the very long list of physical ailments I endured whilst taking SSRI’s I could by myself a small island.