This section presents research and personal experiences relating to the use of and withdrawal from antidepressant drugs. You can use this page to:
- Learn about research on antidepressants and withdrawal effects.
- Read blogs and listen to podcasts related to withdrawal from antidepressants.
- Access other resources related to withdrawal from antidepressants.
Click here to select another drug type.
Frequently Asked Questions
What causes withdrawal symptoms?
The exact mechanism is unknown, but a proposed theory is that, over time, the body adapts to the presence of the drug by altering the number or sensitivity of neurotransmitter receptors. When the drug is reduced or stopped, these adaptations are uncompensated for by the drug and the result is withdrawal symptoms. This adaptation is known as oppositional tolerance and is proposed as the reason that withdrawal can persist long after the drug is ‘out of the body’. Click here to read a more detailed account of how psychotropic drugs act on the brain.
Are antidepressants addictive?
Doctors will sometimes reject any suggestion that psychiatric drugs can be addictive. As far as the technical distinction between dependence and addiction is concerned, this is correct. However, it would be misleading if the assertion that psychiatric drugs ‘are not addictive’ was used to imply either that the drugs are without risk, or that they cannot lead to dependence. For some people, dependence can be a result of using antidepressant drugs exactly as prescribed.
How many people will suffer withdrawal effects when coming off antidepressants?
There have been only a small number of research projects looking at the number of people reporting withdrawal when coming off antidepressants. In a recent UK survey undertaken by Professor John Read and Doctor James Davies, 56% of people experienced withdrawal effects, with 46% of those describing the effects as severe. Many factors influence the likelihood of withdrawal including the length of time on the drugs, the dosage taken, the age of the person taking them and whether other prescribed or street drugs are also involved. A wide range of experiences are reported between those who can come off relatively easily with mild, short-lived symptoms, to those who experience protracted withdrawal lasting many months or sometimes years.
What are recommended tapering speeds?
The time taken to taper from psychiatric drugs is highly variable and dependent upon many factors and personal preference. Professional groups often recommend very short tapers, in the range of four to six weeks, but feedback from those with lived experience is that longer, more gradual tapers are preferable when aiming to minimise withdrawal effects. Recent research is providing evidence that tapering will often need to be months to years rather than days to weeks. You can read more in our withdrawal protocols document.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence advises doctors to gradually reduce anti-depressant dosages over a four-week period. But, it adds, some patients will need longer to adjust and updated guidelines are expected to come out later this year. The Royal College of Psychiatrists, meanwhile, says the fact some patients who stop or reduce their dosage experience significant withdrawal symptoms “needs greater recognition”. The BBC recently reported the experiences of those attempting to withdraw.
Blogs and Personal Stories
Antidepressant Withdrawal Resources
Rxisk – maintains a searchable database of adverse effects of prescription drugs that have been reported to the FDA in the United States, Health Canada, and to RxISK.
Surviving Antidepressants – Volunteer-led peer-support for tapering off psychiatric drugs and for withdrawal syndrome and tips about coping with symptoms.
Inner Compass Initiative – provides information, resources, tools, and connecting platforms to facilitate more informed choices regarding all things “mental health”.
Will Hall’s Harm Reduction Guide to Coming Off Psychiatric Drugs.
Tapering Strips – an innovative option for gradual reduction of prescribed psychiatric drugs.
Paroxetine Paxil Seroxat SSRI Withdrawal – formed to help and support those in need of help coming off of the SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) known by the name of PAXIL, SEROXAT or generically as PAROXETINE.
Mirtazapine (Remeron) – Withdrawal + Support Group – created as an extra form of support (other than that of your own personal medical health care team) to help make you feel better whilst on your experience with Mirtazapine (also known as Remeron).
Sertraline, side-effects and withdrawal symptoms – Following some very distressing personal experiences we have decided to form this group so that people who are prescribed this medication can discuss how it has affected them both on and withdrawing from this drug.
Sandy Steingard – MIA’s psychiatric drug withdrawal course, Stuart Shipko – Antidepressant withdrawal and drug toxicity, Stuart Shipko – A psychiatrist explores the terrible side effects of Paxil and Prozac, Peter Gøtzsche – Sexual Dysfunction & suicide as side effects of antidepressants, Stuart Shipko – Doctor’s don’t talk about the side effects of SSRI antidepressants, Anne – SSRI withdrawal, first two weeks off, James – Mirtazapine tapering strips, a video diary.