IT is one of the most contentious issues in medical science: have antidepressants being over-prescribed, and do some patients simply find them impossible to stop?
Dr Gordon’s decision to speak out now follows a landmark new position statement issued on May 30 by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, at UK level, calling for “greater recognition of the potential in some people for severe and long-lasting withdrawal symptoms on and after stopping antidepressants”.
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It was hailed as a “dramatic u-turn” by campaigners who feel that psychiatry has spent decades denying there was any problem at all.
In Scotland, the number of people being prescribed antidepressants has been climbing steadily to a current record high of over 902,000.
Nonetheless, the Royal College of Psychiatrists contends that the drugs remain under-prescribed and many who need them are missing out.
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Others, like Dr Gordon, believe they have been over-prescribed and, for some patients, do more harm than good.
They question why nearly all existing trials covering the drugs’ safety and effectiveness cover periods of just eight to 12 weeks when many people spend years, if not decades, taking them.
Many studies have also been funded by pharmaceutical companies.
Recent parliamentary inquiries into prescription drug dependence at Holyrood, Westminster and the Welsh Assembly heard hundreds of patient testimonies of crippling withdrawal symptoms such as brain zaps, paranoia, suicidal thoughts, loss of sexual function, feelings of terror and burning sensations.
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Others told how they had suffered permanent damage which left them housebound or unable to work despite taking antidepressants as prescribed, and stopping them gradually.
Yet for many patients suffering depression they are no doubt a life saver. Dr Gordon himself stresses that he would never want to minimise the experience of those who have benefitted.
But if withdrawal is a bigger problem that previously thought, we face a major public health scandal.