In a new study from UCL, researchers found when people stop taking antidepressants after a long period of use, just over half (56%) experienced a relapse within a year, compared to 39% of those who stay on medication.
Their findings can help doctors and patients to make an informed decision together on whether or not to stop their antidepressants after recovery from a depressive episode.
Prescriptions of antidepressants have increased dramatically over recent decades as people are now staying on antidepressants for much longer.
In the study, the team examined 478 primary care patients in England who had been taking long-term antidepressants (citalopram, sertraline, fluoxetine, or mirtazapine) and who felt well enough to consider stopping. 70% had been taking the medication for more than three years.
Half of the study participants stopped taking their medication and half continued. Those who discontinued their antidepressants were given reduced dosages for up to two months as part of a tapering regime, before being given placebo pills only.
Over the following year, 56% of participants who discontinued antidepressants experienced a relapse (a new episode of depression), compared to 39% of participants who kept taking them.
Of the 56% who experienced relapse after discontinuation, only half then chose to return to an antidepressant prescribed by their clinician.
The researchers say that some relapses, as well as possible withdrawal symptoms, might not have been severe enough for the person to decide they needed to return to their medication.
Those who discontinued their antidepressants were more likely to experience withdrawal symptoms. Despite this, by the end of the study, 59% of the discontinuation group were not taking antidepressants.
These findings add to evidence that for many patients, long-term treatment is appropriate.
The researchers suggest that some patients might decide to stop their antidepressants, knowing the risk of relapse, but they should discuss this with their doctors.
If you care about depression, please read studies about long-term use of depression drug may cause addiction and findings of single dose of this psychedelic drug may reduce depression, anxiety for years.
For more information about depression treatment and prevention, please see recent studies about long-term use of depression drug may increase risk of type 2 diabetes and results showing that this therapy could benefit people with depression, chronic pain.
The study is published in The New England Journal of Medicine. One author of the study is Dr. Gemma Lewis.
Copyright © 2021 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.