BACP, alongside the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), has welcomed a call by the Royal College of Psychiatrists for the official guidance on coming off antidepressants to be updated and reflect the full range of patients’ experiences.

Guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) suggests most people should be able to come off antidepressants over four weeks.

But the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych) said there needs to be a greater focus on how to help patients who have problems when withdrawing from antidepressants.

It said that the NHS’s IAPT programme should be expanded further to ensure that talking therapies are always available when appropriate as a complement, or alternative, to antidepressants.

We are campaigning for NICE to improve and update its guidelines on treatment of adults with depression. We are also helping to create guidance, in conjunction with the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Prescribed Drug Dependence, and other organisations, for therapists working with clients taking psychiatric medication.

BACP and UKCP have responded to RCPsych’s report with a joint statement.

Enhance care

Our Chief Professional Standards Officer Fiona Ballantine Dykes and UKCP's Chief Executive Sarah Niblock said: 

“We welcome today’s statement from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, which highlights the risk to some people of severe and long-lasting withdrawal effects from antidepressants, and the associated risks of overprescribing. If heeded, this intervention could substantially enhance care for people with depression and allow them to make better informed choices about their treatment.

Talking therapies

“It’s essential that people with depression have access to the right treatment for them, which is why we and other organisations continue to campaign for NICE to create a fit-for-purpose guideline for the treatment of adults with depression. Treatment choices must include a range of evidence-based talking therapies which, in many parts of the country, are sadly lacking.

“We are also currently producing guidance, in partnership with the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Prescribed Drug Dependence and the British Psychological Society, for therapists working with clients taking psychiatric medication. This will, in part, serve to reduce the disconnect between prescribers and therapists. Today’s statement, in highlighting the distress caused to many people by withdrawal effects, illustrates why this guidance is so important.”

The NICE Guideline for depression in adults was last issued in 2009 and is currently being updated.

RCPsych has issued the new report after it listened to the experience of patients and clinicians, including GPs.

President Wendy Burn, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: 

“We know that NICE is working on updating its guidelines and want to see them more in keeping with what we’re hearing from some patients – and GPs – about the range of experiences of coming off antidepressants.

"As psychiatrists, we are duty-bound to take on board the concerns of patients who've experienced more severe and long-lasting adverse effects of withdrawal from these medications.

“Antidepressants can be very effective for treating moderate to severe depression, particularly in combination with talking therapies, and what we want is guidance that best supports their use.

“While we cannot change that guidance ourselves, we will share our report with NICE and Public Health England (PHE) and hope it will be reflected in updated guidance from them.”

Read RCPsych’s full statement.