While antidepressants provide support to many people, there is now evidence that millions are being harmed.
The aims of this site are:-
to share stories of people who have been harmed by antidepressants and other depression medications. See Stolen Lives.
to make people aware of the side effects of antidepressants and the difficulty of withdrawal.
to explain that adverse reactions to antidepressants can cause suicide, violence and homicide.
to draw attention to the potentially life threatening conditions of serotonin syndrome and akathisia.
We are a team of people with experience of these drugs and with access to experts. We have come together to share our knowledge and experience to help people understand the risks of taking antidepressants.
COMMONLY PRESCRIBED ANTIDEPRESSANTS
Antidepressants are drugs prescribed by doctors to treat depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder and chronic pain.
In the UK, 7.3 million people (17% of the adult population) are on antidepressants – worldwide this figure amounts to more than 100 million.
It is a common misconception that antidepressants can cure a 'chemical imbalance'. However no chemical imbalances have been proven to exist in relation to depression or any mental disorder.
Antidepressants do not cure depressive illnesses - they only alleviate symptoms for some people by making them less anxious or by boosting energy.
The Risks of Antidepressants
People can suffer debilitating side effects that may continue after they stop the drug.
Millions of people have no choice but to take antidepressants for life simply because the withdrawal effects are so severe.
Around 1 in 100 people on antidepressants can become violent or suicidal.
"While these drugs help some people in the short term, there is growing evidence that long term use leads to worse outcomes and many patients report devastating persistent withdrawal and other negative effects"
Hooked on Antidepressants - The Evidence
There is now evidence that millions are trapped into taking antidepressants indefinitely because withdrawal symptoms are so severe.
According to a review of studies led by the University of Roehampton more than half (56%) of people who stopped or reduced their intake of antidepressants experienced withdrawal symptoms, with almost half of these people (46% ) reporting symptoms as severe.
These include insomnia, stomach problems, headaches, panic attacks, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, mania, depersonalisation and depression.
In some cases reactions are so severe that patients report 'brain zaps' - these are electrical shock sensations in the brain which may extend down the body.
Withdrawal effects can be so debilitating that many people are unable to function and some people simply cannot stop.
It can take many months or years to come off antidepressants safely.
In recognition of this problem, Public Health England has recommended a national helpline to help people withdraw from antidepressants.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists have published a guide - Stopping Antidepressants.
Dr. Ed White was a co-founder of this website. He suffered debilitating withdrawal effects and took his life in October 2021
Click here to read Ed's story.
More than half of patients will experience negative side effects from taking antidepressants.
The NHS, Mayo Clinic and others list these as:
indigestion and stomach aches
blurring of vision
problems passing urine
low sex drive
heart rhythm problems
According to published data, more than 50% of users experience sexual dysfunction. In men this can mean delayed ejaculation and erectile dysfunction and in women difficulties achieving orgasm. In both there can be a loss of libido.
Because withdrawal from antidepressants can be so hard, millions will have to put up with these side effects for life. For some who manage to stop the sexual problems can get worse and become permanent.
Common Side Effects
The most dangerous time for those who react adversely to antidepressants is the first few weeks after going on them, around any change of dose (up or down), during and after withdrawal.
Serotonin syndrome is a potentially life threatening condition that can be triggered by a single dose of an antidepressant. Symptoms can include confusion, agitation, muscle twitching, sweating, shivering, diarrhoea, fits, unconsciousness and psychosis.
The NHS and similar websites around the world advise that if you experience any of the above symptoms of serotonin syndrome you should stop taking the medicine and seek immediate advice from your GP, specialist or emergency services.
A very common sign that someone is having a dangerous reaction to medication is that they develop a condition called akathisia. This may sometimes show as an inability to keep still so the person paces frenetically and is unable to sleep.
The feeling of being compelled to keep moving has been described as torturous.
One sufferer said of akathisia, "Death can be a welcome result".
Even more common is an intense inner restlessness and an emotional turmoil without any motor movements.
Akathisia can lead sufferers to harm and kill themselves or others.
With thanks to MISSD
Around 1 in 100 people have a severe adverse reaction to antidepressants and within just hours from taking a single dose can be seized with a desire to kill themselves. This is often mistaken for a sign that their depression is worsening.
Some survivors of these effects report that the desire to kill themselves stemmed from acute physical and mental agony caused by the drug, often called akathisia.
Others report that they become confused, detached from their actions and may go into a dream-like state in which they feel compelled to harm themselves and/or others.
Jon took his own life days after taking citalopram.
Click here to read about Jon.
Homicide and Violence
There have been well documented cases of antidepressants causing homicide and violence.
Like suicide, this can be the result of akathisia or an antidepressant induced psychosis.
15 courts of law around the world have attributed homicidal behaviour to a defendant's use of antidepressants leading to acquittal or a more lenient sentence.
The legal defence in these cases is 'involuntary intoxication' or 'automatism'.
Antidepressant induced violence is not always recognised by courts. The result is that there are a number of people in prisons around the world for crimes that they, and experts, believe were caused by antidepressants.
Kurt served 24 years for killing his father after a violent reaction to Prozac.
Click here to read Kurt's story.
How Effective Are Antidepressants?
Opinion is divided as to how well antidepressants work.
There is little data on long term outcomes as the drugs are only tested for 6-8 weeks by the pharmaceutical companies that make them.
Data on short term effectiveness is also limited because drug companies are not obliged to publish all of their trials.
In their guide to taking antidepressants The Royal College of Psychiatrists state: 'Overall research shows antidepressants help to reduce the symptoms of moderate and severe depression in adults. But different people have very different experiences with these medications.' Link
Some clinicians believe they are no more effective than a placebo.
In 2008 Dr Irving Kirsch from Harvard Medical School and a group of researchers acquired the unpublished trials for six antidepressants using the Freedom of Information Act (U.S.). They discovered that the drugs produced a small but clinically meaningless improvement in mood compared to a placebo for mild to moderate depression. Antidepressants and the Placebo Effect.
Other studies have reached a range of differing conclusions.