Tens of thousands relying on social media support groups when attempting to withdraw from antidepressants 

The journal Therapeutic Advices in Psychopharmacology published, on the 18th January 2021. ‘The role of Facebook Groups in the management, and raising of awareness of, antidepressant withdrawal: Is social media filling the void left by health services?’  

A recent enquiry by Public Health England established that antidepressant withdrawal is experienced by about half of people who try to reduce or come off their medication. It can be a debilitating, long lasting process, often made worse by the lack of medical support and understanding.

There are currently no NHS services specifically designed to assist people to safely withdraw from antidepressants or other psychiatric drugs. The research paper reports on 16 Facebook support groups raising awareness of, and supporting individuals tapering off, antidepressants. The 16 groups had over 67,000 members. Membership was found to be growing at about 28% annually, and was more than 80% female. The groups included in the research are probably the tip of the iceberg.

Lead author, Dr Ed White, who himself suffered severe and very frightening withdrawal symptoms after trying to stop the antidepressant venlafaxine, commented:

‘I was alarmed when I found tens of thousands of people online seeking help with stopping antidepressants, many of who are in a perilous state after being tapered too fast by their prescriber.  

Online peer support has become such an important avenue of care for people suffering antidepressant withdrawal and needing guidance to safely taper of these medications in the absence of medical backup from Doctors’. 

Co-author Professor John Read, of the University of East London, is an advisor to the Medicines Policy Unit of NHS England and NHS Improvement, which is coordinating the implementation of Public Health England’s recommendations for ‘Improving the support available from the healthcare system for patients experiencing dependence on, or withdrawal from, prescribed medicines.’ He is also chair of the International Institute for Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal Professor Read commented:

‘Millions of people around the world have been crying out for help getting off psychiatric drugs for decades and supporting one another in the meantime.  

It is very encouraging that the NHS is now planning to provide long overdue support for people struggling to withdraw from antidepressants, benzodiazepines and other prescribed medicines.’ 

 INCREASED PRESCRIBING DURING PANDEMIC 

Even before the pandemic, one in six people in England were prescribed antidepressants annually, with even higher rates for women and in deprived areas. Professor Read added:

The huge increase in antidepressant prescribing during the pandemic is alarming. These drugs are not recommended for mild or moderate depression, and certainly not for grief from the loss of a loved one, or economic hardship. Very few people are told about withdrawal effects when first prescribed antidepressants. So we are creating problems for thousands of people in the future without them even knowing about it. We can expect even faster growth in these online support groups in the coming months’ 

6 Replies to “Tens of thousands relying on social media support groups when attempting to withdraw from antidepressants ”

  1. My life has been ruined by psychiatric meds. It’s time for people to become aware of how dangerous drugs are

    1. I am sorry to hear Mark that your life has been ruined by psychiatric meds. I am afraid that I have had the same experience. Well done to Dr Ed White, Sherry Julo and Prof John Read for this paper which starkly reveals that our experience of prescribed medication is all too common.

      aye Peter

  2. Almost 8 years off benzos. Diagnosed for w/d, left to fend for myself by family, and the whole world thinks this is a mental illness. There is nothing like benzo w/d, and after 8 years, I am still in incredible pain which changes and rotates and I am not sure I can outlast this still .Very little resources and I’m in a dump apartment I cannot even keep clean. There is no help.

    1. I am so sorry to hear this Robb. I am in a similar position with SEROXAT. There is so little help. Stay as strong as you can and I hope your iatrogenic suffering will improve with time.

      aye Peter

  3. I’ve been experiencing akathisia and other iatrogenic symptoms for several years now. While it is better now than it has been in the past, it can still be very debilitating and has prevented me from essentially living a full life. I also have visual snow which has not improved at all. To date I have not received any validation for these symptoms, with some doctors stating that they were ‘symptomatic of my mental health condition’ while more recently I have been given an FND diagnosis.

    I have tried to see Dr Healy but the CCG won’t fund this and he doesn’t see any patients privately. If anyone knows of any private doctors in the UK that will recognise iatrogenic harm then I’d like to hear about them – I think having the validation won’t change what happened but will certainly help me, psychologically. The alternative is seeing someone in the NHS who practices in my local NHS foundation trust (TEWV) but it’s a long shot.

    1. I do hope your iatrogenic symptoms will lessen further over time. I hope that somebody might be able to guide you to a doctor who understands and can help you.

      aye Peter

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