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Withdrawing patients from antidepressants
  • Relevant BNF section: 4.3


Around 1 in 5 people experience an episode of major depressive illness at some time in their lives, and many experience relapse or recurrence.1 To prevent early relapse, most experts now recommend several months' treatment for patients with acute episodes of depression. Patients considered at high risk for recurrence of severe depression may need long-term maintenance treatment.2,3 Doctors have to advise their patients whether and when it is prudent to stop treatment, and must be alert to potential problems when antidepressants are withdrawn. The two main problems are relapse or recurrence of depression, and effects arising from withdrawal of the drugs themselves. We discuss the withdrawal of antidepressant drug treatment in adults with unipolar depression.

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