Prozac, the first selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) approved in the United States, burst onto the scene in 1987. Three decades later, the drug and its eventual competitors have transformed the treatment of depression and anxiety. According to the latest data available, nearly 13% of people age 12 and older in the United States have taken an antidepressant medication in the past month (NCHS Data Brief, August 2017).
But what happens when people want to stop taking these medications? The thinking in the medical community was that patients could wean off these drugs with minor side effects, but anecdotally, many patients have reported troubling mental and physical withdrawal symptoms that last for months or even years. Finding a lack of support from prescribers as they figure out how to stop the drugs, many people have turned to online forums for advice—where some report they’ve resorted to opening pill capsules to remove a few beads, in a DIY effort to reduce their dosages more gradually.
Now, new research backs up the idea that for many people, antidepressant withdrawal might be a bigger problem than most have realized.