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BPS responds to new study suggesting antidepressants might be largely ineffective

21 December 2021

The BPS has responded to a new study published in the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin which concluded there was no strong evidence that the drugs were effective.

Dr Roman Raczka, chair of the BPS’ Division of Clinical Psychology, said:

Research into the effectiveness and the long-lasting impacts of anti-depressant drugs is always welcome. Recognition of the severe withdrawal symptoms which some people experience when they stop taking antidepressant drugs is vitally important and is an important step towards providing better treatment for people with depression.

Of course, antidepressants can have a place in the treatment of depression for some people with more severe symptoms, but it is important that their use is weighed up carefully against the risk of harm to the patient. The latest draft guidelines from NICE, (currently under consultation), which encourage offering psychological treatment options before anti-depressants are encouraging.

We strongly believe that treatment for depression should be based initially on the use of evidence-based psychological treatments, but in order for this to happen access to psychological therapies must be drastically improved. Where waiting lists are long, where services do not exist or where people are presented with a limited choice of psychological alternatives, antidepressants can sometimes be seen as the only treatment option or are provided as a stop-gap until psychological therapy is available.

With the pandemic exacerbating existing mental health issues, and piling more pressure on mental health services, we urgently need increased funding to begin to reverse the damage done by the chronic underfunding of the psychological professions. We must have the workforce in place to deliver these vital services for those who need them, this includes psychologists based in Primary Care Networks to support GPs and enable early intervention.

Alongside increasing funding and growing the workforce it is important that we also begin to understand some of the psychological and social causes of depression, like poverty, inequality, adverse childhood experiences, trauma, and social isolation. Only by ensuring people can gain access to the psychological support they need will we be able to reverse the trend in anti-depressant prescribing.”

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