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RCP calls on NICE to update guidelines on coming off antidepressants

Published on 31/05/19 at 10:34am

Guidance for patients on coming off antidepressants needs to be updated, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP).

Current guidelines say that most people should be able to come off antidepressants over four weeks.

However some patients can suffer from more severe withdrawal symptoms that last much longer than four weeks.

These harsh withdrawal symptoms may affect those who have come off antidepressants too quickly, after using the drugs over a longer period of time.

The RCP have thus called on NICE to update their guidelines – which were last updated in 2009 – in order to make them “clear, evidence-based and pharmacologically informed to help guide gradual withdrawal from antidepressant use.”

The RCP have also recommended that training should be provided to all doctors on prescribing antidepressants, programmes providing talking therapies should be expanded, monitoring systems should be introduced to provide data on when and why patients are prescribed antidepressants, and further research should be conducted into antidepressant drugs.

Wendy Burn, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, commented: “We know that NICE is working on updating its guidelines and want to see them more in keeping with what we’re hearing from some patients – and GPs – about the range of experiences of coming off antidepressants.”

"As psychiatrists, we are duty-bound to take on board the concerns of patients who've experienced more severe and long-lasting adverse effects of withdrawal from these medications.”

“Antidepressants can be very effective for treating moderate to severe depression, particularly in combination with talking therapies, and what we want is guidance that best supports their use.”

“While we cannot change that guidance ourselves, we will share our report with NICE and Public Health England (PHE) and hope it will be reflected in updated guidance from them.”

“NICE published updated draft guidance on antidepressant withdrawal last year and this is currently being consulted on. It said that when coming off antidepressants the dose should be reduced slowly “at a rate proportionate to the duration of treatment. For example, this could be over some months if the person has been taking antidepressant medication for several years.”

Louis Goss

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