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Physicians’ Knowledge of Antidepressant Withdrawal Effects: A Survey

A. H. Young, M.D., Ph.D., and Alan Currie, M.D.

Published: June 1, 1997

Article Abstract

Background: While the incidence of discontinuation events in controlled studies of serotonin reuptakeinhibitors ranges between 34.5% and 86%, only a small number of discontinuation reactionsare reported to national data bases of spontaneously reported adverse drug reactions. It was hypothesizedthat the disparity was due to lack of knowledge amongst physicians about the potential for antidepressantdiscontinuation reactions. Method: Therefore, a questionnaire was mailed to 100 psychiatristsand 100 general practitioners (GPs) in northeast England to assess the knowledge base and tovalidate this assumption. Results: Fifty psychiatrists (50%) and 53 GPs (53%) responded to the questionnaire.Of the respondents, 36 (72%) of the psychiatrists and 16 (30%) of the GPs were aware thatpatients may experience antidepressant discontinuation events; 33 (66%) psychiatrists and 22 (42%)GPs had had experience with patients who had discontinuation symptoms; and 10 (20%) psychiatristsand 9 (17%) GPs said they always caution patients about the possibility of discontinuation events.Conclusion: According to the results of the survey, a sizable minority of physicians denied being confidentlyaware of the existence of antidepressant withdrawal symptoms. Education about discontinuationreactions, including the hallmark features, symptoms, and course, is needed for both psychiatristsand family practice physicians

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Volume: 58

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