Five percent of the United States population has been on antidepressants for five years or more. And recent analysis indicates that patients find it very hard to stop using antidepressants if they’ve been using them for a long time. There’s even a term for what the patients go through. It is called Discontinuation Syndrome. That’s a fancy name for drug withdrawal, and it manifests in a variety of ways.
Sometimes it is numbness of the extremities. Some it is headache pain that feels like zaps of electricity. Sometimes it is lethargy and insomnia. Withdrawal symptoms from long time anti-depressant use are the largest reason long time users of antidepressants continue to use anti-depressants.
There are two proven ways to get off anti-depressants. The first is to never get on them at all. Yes, many people actually have brain chemistry problems that are hereditary, acute and will always need to be medicated. Mental illness is real and it is a medical condition, not a character flaw or a matter of will power. But anti-depressants are being prescribed by doctors for many, many patients that do not have an acute mental illness. People who have just suffered a loss be it a divorce or a death are getting prescribed. Doctors are prescribing anti-depressants to people who complain about feelings of depression but are never given a top to bottom physical to figure out what role, if any, medical issues are playing in the feelings of depression.
That’s why it is so important, especially for women and especially for women in their menopausal years, to get a complete physical check up before assuming they are clinically depressed and asking their mental health doctor for anti-depressants. What role are hormonal fluctuations playing? What role is nutrition/allergies playing? What role are sleep patterns playing. All of these questions can be answered by a thorough physical examination.
Before you get on, and then can not get off, anti-depressants, call Women First to get a physical so that it can be determined that anti-depressants and not medical treatment for a physical condition, are what you really need.
Learn more about the effects of long term anti-depressant use in the CBC radio piece in the player below.