Patients Express Anger at Doctors’ Ignorance About Antidepressant Withdrawal Effects

Antidepressant users share their frustrations towards a healthcare system that overprescribes but is ill-equipped to support with discontinuation and withdrawal symptoms.

20
3041

Despite the astonishing increase in the prescribing and long-term use of antidepressants, many medical professionals remain ignorant of how to support patients in safely discontinuing antidepressant drugs and navigating withdrawal symptoms.

A recently published study highlights the frustration felt by antidepressant users who have suffered from a lack of professional support and suggestions for how doctors and healthcare systems can better support people coming off of antidepressants.

Although helpful for some, antidepressants can have adverse side effects prompting many to discontinue their antidepressants. This process, however, is described as severely challenging because of antidepressant withdrawal or the “physical and emotional symptoms that can emerge days, weeks or months after stopping antidepressants, which sometimes surpass the problems for which the drugs were prescribed.”

This difficult process and the well-documented lack of support by health professionals have forced patients to seek advice from online peer support groups, where people share their lived experiences of antidepressant withdrawal and provide support to others.

The need for support is not surprising since it is estimated that “approximately half of the tens of millions of people taking antidepressants will experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to reduce or come off them,” write researchers John Read, Mark Horowitz, Joanna Moncrieff, and Stevie Lewis, who has experience of withdrawal from antidepressants and is a member of The Lived Experience Advisory Panel for Prescribed Drug Dependence.

The young patient at the reception in the hospitalTo inform health services about which supports are most needed during the process of reducing or discontinuing antidepressants, an anonymous survey was administered to members of online withdrawal support groups. Seven hundred eight members completed the following sentence: “A public health service to help people come off antidepressants should include…”.

The team of researchers reviewed all responses and categorized them according to themes. Participants were from 31 countries, with more than half either living in the USA or the UK.

The following seven themes occurred most: ‘Prescriber Role,’ ‘Information,’ ‘Other Supports/Services,’ ‘Strong Negative Feelings regarding Doctors/Services, etc.,’ “Informed Consent When Prescribed,’ ‘Drug Companies,’ and ‘Public Health Campaign.’ The most common response is that doctors must be better informed about withdrawal symptoms and how to help patients discontinue antidepressants gradually and safely. Furthermore, doctors need to believe patients about their withdrawal symptoms and not assume that the symptoms are because of their diagnosis of depression.

Many respondents highlighted the need for doctors to create an individualized plan that includes scheduled tapering. Other respondents pointed out challenges related to not having small enough doses to taper, one participant explicitly noting the need for “user-friendly methods” which would be “safer than the current method of counting tiny beads or grinding up tablets and weighing powder.” Another participant expressed, “I still have no clue how I am accurately going to divide one small table into ten identical pieces.”

Some respondents also reflected on initially being prescribed the drugs and criticized doctors for advertising antidepressants as entirely safe and not providing informed consent regarding the risk of withdrawal symptoms. In reference to this, many respondents suggested a public health campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of antidepressant withdrawal. Other supports and services mentioned included 24-hour crisis support and phone lines, psychotherapy and counseling, support groups, and patient-led services.

This paper also provides 125 direct quotes from participants, which illustrates strong feelings towards an entire healthcare system, including pharmaceutical companies, which have contributed to their suffering as antidepressant users. For example, respondents wrote:

“At some point in time, somebody is going to take this fight to where it needs to be – at the throat of big pharma – I hope I live to see that day…It is actually a crime that pharma companies can have these drugs on the market for 30++ years and not make it blatantly obvious the effects they can have on the human body.”

One expressed the need for doctors to “believe that withdrawal is very real and very dangerous and can last for a very long time after cessation of the drug.”

Another shared that “Drs and the pharmacist seem to know nothing helpful, and their comments and advice regarding the effects of the medication are more harmful than good.”

It is important to note that this survey is not representative of all people who take and choose to discontinue antidepressants. Findings also do not adequately represent the opinions of all service users because most participants identified as “White/Caucasian” and had college degrees. However, findings such as this must serve as a call to action for the healthcare system to adequately educate doctors on withdrawal and support those who choose to discontinue the use of antidepressants.

Mad In America and similar allies, such as the International Institute of Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal (IIPDW), support this cause and have several resources available:

  • The MIA Drug Withdrawal Resource page has information about withdrawal guides, educational courses, research studies, and personal withdrawal studies. Here you can also find a directory of providers who help people taper from psychiatric medications.
  • MIA also has a summary of antidepressant withdrawal protocols
  • And the IIPDW now has 1-hour training video to “explain the details of how to safely taper antidepressants, which will allow [prescribing medical professionals] to convert this guidance into improved clinical care.”

 

****

Read, J., Lewis, S., Horowitz, M., & Moncrieff, J. (2023). The need for antidepressant withdrawal support services: Recommendations from 708 patients. Psychiatry Research, 326, 115303. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2023.115303 (Link)

20 COMMENTS

  1. So, no class action lawsuits? Nobody goes to prison?
    Something is either a crime or it’s not a crime. If it’s a crime and then it’s only about, “here’s what you can do to help yourself now that you have been the victim of a crime by doctors and pharmaceutical companies. Good luck” then why even bother. Just admit to people that they got screwed, they’re on their own, and they will only be putting themselves in more danger by trying to have a conversation with the doctor about what his drugs did to them.

    Report comment

  2. As one of the millions of people who had the common symptoms of antidepressant discontinuation syndrome misdiagnosed as “bipolar.” From the “bipolar” definition at the time:

    “Note: Manic-like episodes that are clearly caused by somatic antidepressant
    treatment (e.g., medication, electroconvulsive therapy, light therapy) should not count
    toward a diagnosis of Bipolar I Disorder.”

    https://www.amazon.com/Anatomy-Epidemic-Bullets-Psychiatric-Astonishing-ebook/dp/B0036S4EGE

    Because the psychiatric and psychological industries didn’t even learn that “brain zaps” are one of the common symptoms of antidepressant discontinuation syndrome until 2005.

    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/247806326_'Brain_shivers'_From_chat_room_to_clinic

    There is good reason why “Patients Express Anger at Doctors’ Ignorance About Antidepressant Withdrawal Effects.” This “ignorance,” “cognitive dissonance,” and/or outright denial has resulted in uncompensated malpractice, on a massive societal scale.

    Report comment

  3. If people really want to help they should get them to admit that we were just guinea pigs. That “doctors” did a giant decades long experiment on the most vulnerable people in society to see what would happen and along the way they made billions of dollars off of us and our suffering. And now turns out people don’t do well on toxic forced drugs. If anyone wants to help they should admit this isn’t just about withdrawal or whatever the new term they’re calling. It is. Many of these changes, this damage is permanent. The life losses are permanent. The time lost is permanent.

    This study is frankly so patronizing and disrespectful. The idea that this is the “help” that is being offered to us is sickening.

    Report comment

    • I think ‘discarded lab rat’ is the best description of how I feel.

      One solution is to require doctors, pharmacies, and drug companies to contact ALL former patients who have previously been prescribed a drug that has been determined to have effects different than those promoted. In other words follow the same victim notification laws as required with other crimes. Treating doctors like they are above the law only ensures that they act like they are above the law.

      Report comment

      • That’s a good description! I feel that way too.

        That’s a good plan. If it’s a crime, treat it like a crime.

        It does no good to victims of crime to “validate” then with, “oh, that was criminal what they did!” and then refer those victims to self-help and let the criminals off the hook. “Good luck getting off all those drugs and still being alive in 5 years!” Plus the fact that it was the victims of the crime who contributed *all* of the data about how to taper from these drugs. Have they been credited?

        Report comment

    • They didn’t do an experiment as they weren’t particularly interested in the results. I would say they just wanted to make money and justify their existence as doctors. They will only stop when people stop treating them as doctors and start looking for solutions elsewhere.

      Report comment

  4. Most definitely, the fact that it takes decades and decades for the psychiatrists to claim knowledge of the common adverse and withdrawal effects of their antidepressants and antipsychotics, is absurd. Especially since, for example, all doctors – including the psychiatrists – were taught decades ago in med school about anticholinergic toxidrome … yet none of them now know this?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toxidrome

    It’s absurd, and I would even say, systemic, criminal insanity … on the part of a too greedy, and completely unethical, psychiatric industry.

    But they do say, “the inmates are running the asylums.” And those with “cognitive dissonance” and/or denial regarding the common adverse and withdrawal symptoms of the psych drugs are the most “delusional,” or unethical, people of all.

    “Oh what a tangled web we weave … When first we practice to deceive.” “Patronizing and disrespectful” it is, to utilize medical information one was taught in med school, against one’s patients – especially after first promising to “do no harm.”

    Psychiatry unethically, and I think largely intentionally, decided to participate in mind boggling betrayal of society, based upon information they were taught in med school … and the mainstream medical community chose to follow along, because such massive betrayal and malpractice was “too profitable” to not participate in. At least that’s what a pediatrician told me, regarding her desire to NOT want to stop psych drugging innocent children.

    Report comment

    • Wow, very revealing comment from the pediatrician.

      I won’t be surprised if, decades from now, it’s revealed that pharma provided malpractice insurance or other protections to psychiatrists who prescribed the most drugs. And how is it that no one who was harmed by this form of malpractice seems to be able to get a lawyer to represent them?

      You’re right, Someone Else, that this is systemic and because it is systemic, individuals get off easy. It’s just the way things are. They were just “doing what they were taught” by the industry that funded them.

      Report comment

      • Drugging up the best and brightest American children is “A-okay … to maintain the status quo,” is what I was told by – in my opinion, a delusions of grandeur filled, God-complexed, attempted thieving psychologist … and I do have the legal evidence of his attempted thievery – a couple years ago.

        Neurotoxic poisoning the best and brightest American children to “maintain the status quo” systems, that are systemically destroying our country from within … that might be the most appallingly wrong – to the point of downright evil – comment I’ve ever heard from a scientifically “invalid” DSM “bible” biller.

        Report comment

    • It’s not just psychiatric drugs. Most drug research is funded and fudged by the pharmaceutical companies which made sure the laws changed to prevent effective scrutiny of its data and allow for drugs to be put on the market faster than ever; it’s similar to the way the tobacco industry dodged responsibility for decades. So the best (and only) real defense is developing a healthy skepticism about modern medicine’s drugs and the doctors who prescribe them.

      Report comment

  5. How come an attorney told me that as far as he knows you can’t hire your own attorney in a commitment hearing? That you’re just stuck with whoever they appointed for you?
    Anyone know about that?
    I Want to hire an attorney that will actually represent ME. Is there such a thing?
    Why is it that because I have a mental illness diagnosis I no longer have civil rights? I no longer have the right to due process???? Huh?

    And how (hypothetically. This did not happen to me. But could) could I police wellness check result in a
    Felony conviction for possession?
    (Hint: they don’t need a warrant in wellness checks for things incidentally found to be admissible in court)

    Report comment

    • A lot of lawyers (or all that I contacted, and that was quite a few) wouldn’t take cases against psychiatrists. Likely because of the role that psychiatry and psychology have, historically and still today, played in incarcerating innocent women and children for our – way too paternalistically organized – Western societies … especially for the unethical, paternalistic pastors, at least from my experience.

      I will also say that – as a “one in a million” medical researcher, according to the former head of family medicine at one of the most well respected hospital systems in America – it did take me three years to decipher and research into my medical records to find the medical evidence re: anticholinergic toxidrome. Yet the statute of limitations on malpractice is two years. The statute of limitations on “complex iatrogenesis” should be extended. And let’s hope, some day, the lawyers will start doing their job.

      Report comment

LEAVE A REPLY