Thousands, perhaps millions, of people who try to quit antidepressant drugs experience stinging withdrawal symptoms that last for months to years: insomnia, surges of anxiety, even so-called brain zaps, sensations of electric shock in the brain.
But doctors have dismissed or downplayed such symptoms, often attributing them to the recurrence of underlying mood problems.
The striking contrast between the patients’ experience and their doctors’ judgment has stirred heated debate in Britain, where last year the president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists publicly denied claims of lasting withdrawal in “the vast majority of patients.”
Patient-advocacy groups demanded a public retraction; psychiatrists, in the United States and abroad, came to the defense of the Royal College. Now, a pair of prominent British psychiatric researchers has broken ranks, calling the establishment’s position badly mistaken and the standard advice on withdrawal woefully inadequate.