The All Party Parliamentary Group for Prescribed Drug Dependence today publishes two new pieces of research which indicate that many doctors and psychiatrists may be failing to warn patients about the potential risks of antidepressants, and subsequently fail to recognise withdrawal symptoms. Furthermore, sources of NHS support for patients, such as NHS 111, were found to be unhelpful.
The first report, ‘Antidepressant Withdrawal: A Survey of Patients’ Experience’, was authored by researchers at the University of Roehampton on behalf of the APPG, and is based on the results of a survey of 319 UK patients affected by antidepressant withdrawal.
64% of patients surveyed claim not to have received any information from their doctors on the risks or side effects of antidepressants, while only 2.5% of patients found NHS 111 to be a helpful source of support during withdrawal. In addition, responses to the survey make clear that the impact of antidepressant withdrawal can be devastating for some individuals with severe withdrawal reactions, with 30% of respondents reporting being off work indefinitely due to the severity of their symptoms.
The second report, ‘Voice of the Patient: Petition Analysis Report’, identifies failure points in the health care system based on the testimony of 158 individuals impacted by prescribed drug withdrawal who responded to two petitions lodged with parliamentary Petitions Committees in Scotland (1) and Wales (2) in 2017. The report concludes that the failures encountered by the respondents will require systemic change. Both reports will be submitted to Public Health England as part of its review into prescribed drug dependency and withdrawal, due for publication in spring 2019.
Dr James Davies, of the University of Roehampton, commented: “The majority of the people we surveyed and who responded to the petitions indicated that they were never properly informed about the risks associated with antidepressants, including withdrawal. This undermines the principle of informed consent, which is essential if patients are to make a proper assessment of the harms and benefits. This is very concerning, particularly as the survey shows that severe antidepressant withdrawal can have a devastating effect on patients’ lives, including long-term disability. Furthermore, the research suggests that patients who suffer from withdrawal mostly find existing sources of NHS support, such as 111, unhelpful.’
Sir Oliver Letwin MP, chair of the APPG, said: ‘These reports indicate that many doctors are unaware of the potential harms of antidepressants, and fail to communicate the risks to their patients. This highlights the need for additional guidance and training in this area, and we hope that Public Health England will consider this as part of their current review into prescribed drug dependence. Furthermore, it suggests that existing NHS sources of support are inadequate, and new dedicated services, including a 24 hour national prescribed drug withdrawal helpline, are therefore urgently needed.’
The report ‘Antidepressant Withdrawal: A Survey of Patients’ Experience’ can be found at this link: http://prescribeddrug.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/APPG-PDD-Survey-of-antidepressant-withdrawal-experiences.pdf
The report ‘Voice of the Patient: Petition Analysis Report’ can be found at this link: http://prescribeddrug.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Voice-of-the-Patient-Petition-Analysis-Report.pdf