Antidepressant withdrawal symptoms-telephone calls to a national medication helpline

David Taylor, Suzanne Stewart, Anne Connolly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Aims and method:

Withdrawal symptoms are associated with cessation of all antidepressants but particularly paroxetine and venlafaxine. We aimed to examine rates of withdrawal symptoms reported to a national medication helpline over seven and a half year period. All calls reporting symptoms of antidepressant withdrawal were noted from a retrospective examination of contemporaneous handwritten records.


Between October 1997 and March 2005, the national medication helpline received 22,422 calls of which 1753 (7.8%) concerned antidepressant discontinuation symptoms. Of these, 690 calls (39.36%) related to paroxetine and 252 (14.38%) to venlafaxine. Calls regarding paroxetine increased ten-fold in the month following a BBC ‘Panorama’ programme centring on problems associated with its use. Comparing number of calls with the number of prescriptions written over the same period revealed that MAOIs have the highest rate of reported reactions.

Clinical implications:Withdrawal symptoms were reported with nearly all antidepressants but most commonly with paroxetine and venlafaxine. Television programmes reporting adverse consequences of drug therapy can greatly increase reporting of discontinuation reactions. The highest rate of reporting adverse discontinuation symptoms was for MAOIs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-133
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2006


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Cyclohexanols
  • Great Britain
  • Hotlines
  • Humans
  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors
  • Paroxetine
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome
  • Television


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