06 February 2020

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) today announced the launch of a new survey for GPs, aimed at measuring their awareness of antidepressant withdrawal.

The new survey, a joint venture between the University of East London and the University of Liverpool, will also examine current practices and training needs among GPs.

Guidance used by GPs has not given adequate attention to the potential severity and duration of withdrawal effects from antidepressants, according to Dr John Read, professor of clinical psychology at the University of East London’s School of Psychology.

What is needed now is effective education and training and we hope our survey, which is independent from drug company influence, can facilitate that,"

Dr John Read, UEL professor of clinical psychology, said.

In September last year, Public Health England reported that one in six adults in the UK are being prescribed antidepressants annually, and that withdrawal effects may be more common and long-lasting than various guidelines suggested.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) amended its guidelines accordingly in October. Both bodies recommend that patients receive accurate information about withdrawal from antidepressants.

The survey questions include:
‘When discussing possible prescribing of antidepressants, how often do you inform patients of the possibility of withdrawal effects when reducing or coming off antidepressants?’

‘How would you describe your knowledge about the withdrawal effects of antidepressants?’

‘Would you like more training or information about the withdrawal effects of antidepressants?’

According to Dr Chris Dowrick, professor of primary medical care at the University of Liverpool and a practising GP, who is part of the research team, said, “Finding out what GPs know and need seems to us to be an important step towards implementing the new best practice recommendations from NICE and Public Health England.

“It is essential that we GPs are able to pass on the latest, most accurate information to our patients, and that we know how to support people who want to withdraw to do so safely and effectively.”

The survey can be accessed online.

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