On Sunday 14th October 2018 the Herald carried as its main story “Antidepressants: new drug withdrawal crisis for thousands of Scots”. I was one of those who shared some of my experience in this article.
The Editor of the Herald offered this view:
Below are a few of my short films that consider my experience of an SSRI antidepressant:
I was recently asked if I might write a short (500 word) summary of my experience. I share this here:
Name Peter J. Gordon I am a 50 year old married man with two children. I have been taking an antidepressant for twenty one years. I have found it impossible to successfully withdraw from this drug which I was first prescribed for social anxiety by my GP. I first experienced withdrawal symptoms with this antidepressant, an SSRI, when I tried to stop taking it, this being 6 months after initial treatment. I found myself dizzy, flu-like and had severe buzzing noises in my head. The only way these experiences would stop was by retaking my antidepressant. Over the next seven years I tried, unsuccessfully, to gradually reduce my antidepressant. This was very difficult as the proprietary forms did not facilitate tapering. Whilst trying to withdraw, from a drug that I had become dependent on (but did not want to take), I continued to suffer withdrawal symptoms, in particular insomnia (rapid and frequent waking), vivid dreams, headaches, and flu-like symptoms. My mood also dropped and my temperament was irritable and unpredictable. In 2004 I was prescribed a liquid form of my SSRI, and using micro-pipettes I reduced my dose as slowly as I could over 12 months. Even so I still experienced the withdrawal symptoms described above. I persisted only because I did not wish to take this drug indefinitely. A drug that had been prescribed for social anxiety but had ended up making my life far worse. In the weeks after finally stopping my SSRI antidepressant I was aware that my mood had become low despite having never suffered depressive disorder and having no family history of this. I became suicidal. After a number of medical consultations I ended up in psychiatric hospital. From the first hospital I ran away and tried to hang myself. However the curtain rail broke. I was then admitted to another psychiatric hospital and commenced on multiple psychotropic medications. I was then given ECT treatment which did not really help. So I was continued on high doses of sedative medications and recommenced on my original SSRI antidepressant. It took much more than a year to recover. I was off work for most of this time. My family, wife and two young children, suffered dreadfully. I mean more dreadfully than I can put into words. I work as an NHS psychiatrist. I prescribe antidepressants and did so readily, educated as I was by the Industry sponsored “Defeat Depression Campaign”. When I shared my experience of SSRI withdrawal with my colleagues I found that I was not believed. Having been a psychiatric patient they no longer seemed to find credible my subjective experiences. I learned that to raise this matter with my colleagues negatively affected how I was ‘professionally’ considered. If I have felt so disempowered - as a colleague - this surely raises questions how genuine the professional determination is to listen? I mean to listen and value the experience of those who have had less than positive experiences of medication. Yet, we have a dearth of EBM on long-term treatment with antidepressants.