Over half of antidepressant users suffer withdrawal - study

Associate health minister Peter Dunne said the abuse of prescription drugs are creeping up on us...
The study found just 1% of participants recalled being told about withdrawal effects when prescribed the drugs. Photo: File

A survey of 1800 people prescribed antidepressants has found only a handful were warned by doctors about the medication's potential withdrawal or addiction side-effects.

Over half experienced withdrawal effects after coming off the medication and a third reported addiction.

The study, published in the International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, was carried out by the University of Auckland and the UK's University of East London.

It found just 1% of study participants recalled being told about withdrawal effects when prescribed the drugs.

Have you ever been prescribed antidepressants and experienced side effects? Send our heath reporter an email: mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

Considering the high rates of antidepressant prescriptions nationwide and globally, and the variation in the length of time prescriptions last, the study authors said, users and doctors need to be made more aware of potential withdrawal issues.

More than 10% of adults are prescribed antidepressants annually in some countries.

According to the study authors - Claire Cartwright and Kerry Gibson of the University of Auckland and John Read of the University of East London - recent increases in prescribing can be explained more by repeat prescriptions than new patients, raising the question of whether the medications are addictive.

Of the 1829 New Zealanders who answered the online survey, 44% had been taking antidepressants for more than three years and were still taking them.

Withdrawal effects when stopping medication were reported by 55% and addiction by 27%.

Paroxetine had particularly high rates of withdrawal symptoms.

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