College responds to Panorama programme on antidepressants

BBC Panorama reported last week that over two million people in England have been taking antidepressants for more than five years.

The programme questioned whether patients are being prescribed antidepressants unnecessarily or receiving the right information and support to stop taking medication when no longer needed.

The episode charted changing advice to patients about the effects of antidepressant withdrawal over the past 30 years, including from the College.

Professor Wendy Burn, College President 2017-2020, told the programme that the College had updated its advice in 2019 after she heard testimony from patients who experienced severe withdrawal effects.

Professor Burn also emphasised the benefits of antidepressants for patients:

“Throughout my long and extensive career, I have seen people benefit from antidepressants. I see them working in my clinical practice, I see lives being changed by them.”

With more than eight million people prescribed antidepressants in England alone, the College has sought to reassure patients about the importance of seeking medical advice before deciding to stop taking antidepressants.

The College published a response on our website which was also promoted via social media. The response featured in both the BBC Panorama programme and in subsequent coverage by BBC News, The Times and others.

With antidepressants increasingly in the headlines, the College continues to engage with journalists to ensure that their reporting is balanced. We also want to ensure that antidepressants are recognised as a clinically recommended treatment that are effective at reducing the symptoms of moderate to severe depression, particularly when used in combination with talking therapies.

The College also has resources on antidepressants and stopping antidepressants.

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