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A new study suggests there is “a great deal of uncertainty about the benefits” of antidepressants


A study finds that doctors should stop prescribing antidepressants because “there is no decent evidence that they work better than a placebo.”

  • One in six British adults takes antidepressant pills, which raises concerns
  • Study Suggested Overuse of Tablets and Risk Withdrawal Symptoms
  • University College London experts say there remains ‘a great deal of uncertainty’
  • They urged doctors to give the drugs “to a smaller number of patients for shorter periods of time.”










A study found that doctors should stop prescribing antidepressants because there is no decent clinical evidence that they work better than a placebo.

One in six British adults take the tablets, but there is growing concern about their overuse and the risk of withdrawal symptoms and side effects.

Experts at University College London reviewed all the existing evidence about common antidepressants and concluded that there was still “a great deal of uncertainty about the benefits”.

They urged doctors to give the drugs “to fewer patients, for shorter periods of time” because many struggle when they stop taking them.

Doctors should stop prescribing antidepressants because there is no decent clinical evidence that they work better than a placebo, study finds (stocked image)

The study found that much of the evidence came from trials lasting only six to 12 weeks and that “the results do not meet the line of clinically significant difference” between antidepressants and placebo pills.

The study, published in the journal Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin, comes after the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) decided last month that the NHS should offer patients with mild depression group therapy sessions before taking the pills.

Lead author Dr Mark Harwitz said: ‘The prevalence of side effects may be higher among those who have been taking antidepressants for more than three years, and can include emotional numbness and mental ‘blurry’.

Patients who attempt to withdraw from their treatment often experience withdrawal symptoms: they can include anxiety, insomnia, depression, agitation, and appetite changes, and they can interfere with social functioning and professional life, especially if treatment is stopped suddenly.

One in six British adults takes the tablets, but there is growing concern about overuse and risk of withdrawal symptoms and side effects (stored image of Seroxat tablets)

One in six British adults takes the tablets, but there is growing concern about overuse and risk of withdrawal symptoms and side effects (stored image of Seroxat tablets)

Dr. Harwitz found that the results in teens and children were “less convincing” even though the number of people aged 12 to 17 taking antidepressants has doubled since 2005.

The study said antidepressants may work in treating severe depression, but added: “The drawbacks may outweigh the positives for those with mild to moderate depression or those whose symptoms are not yet classified as depressive.”

Its authors concluded: “In light of this uncertain balance between benefits and harms, we should revisit the widespread and growing prescription of antidepressants.”

The latest data shows that around 7.8 million adults in England take antidepressants.

The most common medications are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as sertraline.

Prescriptions are also 50 percent higher for women.

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