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Antidepressant Withdrawal Symptoms Severe, Says New Report

Patients’ reports of severe withdrawal symptoms that leave them unable to handle getting off the drugs belie manufacturers’ claims that their products have only “mild and self-limiting” withdrawal symptoms, The Guardian reports. The drugs involved include both SSRIs such as Prozac and Seroxat and benzodiazepines such as Valium.

In actuality, withdrawal problems are so difficult for patients to deal with that reviewers of prescription policy at the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in the UK are suggesting urgent changes in how doctors treat patients. “Existing Nice guidelines fail to acknowledge how common withdrawal is and wrongly suggest that it usually resolves within one week. This leads many doctors to misdiagnose withdrawal symptoms, often as relapse, resulting in much unnecessary and harmful long-term prescribing,” the reviewers said.

It doesn’t matter which side of the Atlantic you’re on, major depression is one of the most common disorders reported and, with that, antidepressant usage has continued to rise over the years. What’s even more disturbing is that it’s not just adults who are taking these drugs; in Scotland alone, antidepressants prescribed to children under age 12 quadrupled between 2009 and 2016.

Unfortunately, the most widely used remedy for depression is also among the least effective. In addition to a long list of potential side effects (which include worsening depression and suicide), 40 percent of people with major depressive disorder treated with antidepressants do not achieve full remission.

Perhaps more importantly, studies have repeatedly shown antidepressants work no better than placebo for mild to moderate depression, so if you're taking these drugs, you’re assuming a lot of risk — including addiction to the treatment drug — in exchange for a very small chance of benefit.

One of the most interesting points that have been raised in the past year or so is that, while many people believe depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain — therefore “fixable” with a drug — we’re finding out that it’s not truly a chemical imbalance that causes depression.

It’s quite possible that people who are depressed may have an imbalance of certain chemicals in their brain. But to speculate that that imbalance is the cause of their symptoms is overly simplistic. For instance, it’s known that psychological stress can cause biological changes in the brain, including a reduction in the size of the hippocampus, which is used for learning and memory. In turn, it’s known that some people with depression have a smaller-than-average hippocampus.

As Harvard researchers have pointed out, depression is likely the result of multiple environmental and biological factors, including faulty mood regulation by the brain, genetic vulnerability, stressful life events, nutrition, medications and medical problems, among others. Fortunately, there are many alternatives to drugs for treating depression, including nutritional interventions, light therapy, exercise and more.

If you’re struggling with depression, you needn’t suffer in silence. Seek help, from a counselor, a holistic psychiatrist or another natural health practitioner to start the journey toward healing.

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