Antidepressants can save lives. At best, they work. At worst, they are a sticking plaster, hopefullyenabling people to hold it all together until they getother help in the form of talking therapies. Eitherway, they are not supposed to be long-termmedication. But whether depression is now betterdiagnosed or we live in sad times, more and morepeople are taking the pills and the weeks extendinto months and years. In some cases, the users findthey can't stop.
"I am currently trying to wean myself off," one told researchers, "which honestly is the mostawful thing I have ever done. I have horrible dizzy spells and nausea whenever I lower mydose."
"The withdrawal effects if I forget to take my pill," another reported, "are severe shakes, suicidal thoughts, a feeling of too much caffeine in my brain, electric shocks, hallucinations, insane mood swings … Kinda stuck on them now cos I'm too scared to come off."
"While there is no doubt I am better on this medication," said a third, "the adverse effectshave been devastating when I have tried to withdraw - with 'head zaps', agitation, insomnia and mood changes. This means that I do not have the option of managing thedepression any other way."
These anonymised accounts come from a report last year to the all-party parliamentary groupfor prescribed drug dependence and published in the journal Addictive Behaviors. They give aflavour of the reality of dependence on modern antidepressants, the SSRIs (selectiveserotonin reuptake inhibitors).
The most famous is Prozac, AKA fluoxetine, once portrayed as a wonder drug that would makethe world rosy and shiny again for all of us, without the dangerous dark side of Valium and therest of the benzodiazepines. Not only was it harder to overdose on SSRIs than on "benzos", the experts said; it was also easier to come off them.