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UEL professor John Read calls for more antidepressant withdrawal support services

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Professor John Read says the withdrawal effects from antidepressants can no longer be denied by drug companies

Less than one per cent of the 867 people taking antidepressants across 31 countries surveyed for a new University of East London-led study had been told anything about withdrawal effects or dependence.

The largest survey of its kind to date, it found that more than half of people who tried to come off or reduce antidepressants reported some degree of difficulty; 28 per cent found it “very difficult”, while 40 per cent reported ‘addiction’, described by 39 per cent of them as ‘severe’.

According to Professor John Read, Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of East London, author of the study, “The fact that withdrawal effects from antidepressants are common and frequently severe can no longer be denied by the drug companies. Hopefully withdrawal support services for the millions involved will finally be introduced in the new year.”

“Not telling potential users of antidepressants that there is a good chance it will be hard to come off breaches the ethical principle of informed choice.”

The majority (59 per cent) of those surveyed for the paper, published this week in Addictive Behaviours, had been taking antidepressants for more than three years; 29 per cent of them had been doing so for at least 20 years.

Dr Read is also co-author of a new guidance to support people in withdrawal, endorsed by the UK’s four major psychotherapy organisations launched earlier this month in the Houses of Parliament.

The ‘Guidance for Psychological Therapists: Enabling conversations with clients taking or withdrawing from prescribed psychiatric drugs’, which will support clients to better understand the difference between emotional distress, relapse and the side and withdrawal effects of psychiatric drugs, will be available online at www.prescribeddrug.info.

“After being involved with these issues for 40 years, I am delighted to finally see psychologists, therapists and counsellors being urged to get properly involved, in an informed, ethical, evidence-based manner, in what is a central issue in the lives of so many of our clients,” he said.