Doctors have been told to warn millions of patients about the severe side effects of antidepressants.
In a major victory for the Daily Mail, the Royal College of Psychiatrists today admits for the first time that coming off antidepressants can cause side effects lasting for months.
And in a move that could significantly reduce the over-use of the pills, the influential body said the potential harms of withdrawal are so serious that all patients should be warned of the risks when they are first prescribed the drugs.
For years, health officials have played down the difficulty of withdrawing from antidepressants, insisting side-effects were ‘mild’ and last no more than a week or two. But in a new ‘position statement’ published today, the Royal College admits some patients experience ‘severe’ side effects which can last weeks or even months.
In a major U-turn, it said the risk should always be discussed with patients when they are prescribed the drugs – and called on NHS watchdog NICE to change its guidance to reflect this position.
Britons use more antidepressants than almost every other country in the Western world – which experts believes is partly due to a lack of awareness about the withdrawal problems.
Campaigners hope the new position – which is expected to be written into NICE guidance later this year – will cut the huge over-prescription of the pills.
It is a major victory for the Mail, which for the past two years has been working with campaigners to highlight the plight of those left struggling to come off prescription drugs.
The Royal College has changed its position after hearing countless patients’ stories highlighting the devastating impact of withdrawal – with the worst-hit experiencing nausea, anxiety, insomnia and agitation.
Psychotherapist Dr James Davies of the University of Roehampton, an outspoken critic of the overuse of antidepressants, said last night: ‘This is a huge, dramatic shift in position by the Royal College.
‘It’s a real step forward in trying to stop the widespread harms that have been experienced by people trying to come off these drugs.
‘We have been working very hard to persuade the Royal College to change its position and it has been the Daily Mail that has been giving voice to the research community that has called for a change.’