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The University of Southampton has announced its involvement with a NIHR (National Institute for Health Research) funded study aiming to help patients withdraw from unnecessary long-term antidepressant treatment.
Professor of Primary Care at the university, Tony Kendrick, has suggested that between 30% and 50% of patients who are taking prescribed antidepressants could be given an alternative treatment and avoid the side effects of medication.
Over the past 10 years, antidepressant prescribing rates have greatly increased with now more than a staggering 60 million prescriptions being issued in England each year.
Professor Kendrick is leading the new £2.4 million six year study to identify safe and economical ways of helping mental health patients through the difficult process of withdrawing from the use of long-term antidepressants.
“We appreciate that stopping antidepressants is not easy. Withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety and low mood, are usually temporary but feel similar to the reason why patients were first put on antidepressants. Therefore people are understandably reluctant to come off the medication – they feel like they’ve slipped back again.” – Professor Kendrick.
Given that Wessex Scene recently uncovered that 81% of Southampton students have been affected by a mental health problem, news of this study is very encouraging to hear. While the prescription of antidepressants can be an extremely effective treatment for illnesses like depression and anxiety, the looming prospect of withdrawal symptoms results in many patients continuing to take their medication for far longer than is perhaps needed
Professor Kendrick believes this intervention will highlight cases in which the prescription of antidepressants may not even be necessary in the first place. He hopes that the study will “identify where alternative treatment methods could be best used” and that the programme could result in the publishing of practical guidance for both patients and professionals.