Problems with Antidepressant Withdrawal

Hi Dr. Burns,

I know this will probably not be read by Dr. Burns but I’m having serious difficulty tapering off my antidepressants that I’ve taken for eight years. I’ve used Dr. Burns techniques for anxiety and mild depression and I feel I’m ready to try therapy and coping without drugs. However, I’ve tried to times unsuccessfully to get off Celexa even when tapering. The longest I’ve been able to stand the physical withdrawal symptoms of headache, nausea, vertigo, “brain zaps,” and fatigue is five weeks.

Many others have tried for years to taper slowly off their medication only to experience the same awful withdrawal!! The medical community seems to ignore this serious problem. Tens of thousands are having these issues! See for real life stories written by tens of thousands of physically dependent AD users.

Dr Burns would you please take up our cause and help us !!?

Sincerely, J

Hi J,

I’m so sorry you’re having this problem. I do speak about antidepressants in my presentations to mental health professionals, and also discussed some of the problems with them in my recent podcast on “The Truth About Antidepressants?” When I was in clinical practice I was never impressed with the benefits of antidepressants, but it was never hard to taper people off of them once the recovered using cognitive therapy. However, those were the days before the newer drugs, including SSRIs.

The newer drugs are vastly more powerful in blocking or stimulating certain brain receptors, although they are not more powerful. That may be why withdrawal is so difficult.

In his excellent book, The Emperor’s New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth, Irving Kirsch argues that the newer drugs are barely more effective than placebos, if at all. However, the do cause an increase in suicidal urges, and that is another danger in addition to side effects and problems some people encounter when trying to taper off of them.

I am not an expert in withdrawal from these drugs, but if I were in practice now I would rarely, if ever, use the so-called “antidepressants,” for a myriad of reasons.

Well, there is my rather meager attempt to support your cause! Sadly, money seems to rule, and the drug companies have tons of money for TV advertising and other forms of marketing, so the antidepressants have become big business. Research indicates that just buying a copy of my book, Feeling Good, and reading is as effective as antidepressants, or even more effective for many folks. And no side effects or withdrawal effects. And not expensive either!

I wish you the very best, and thank you for your comment.

David Burns, MD