Plans rejected to fund a national antidepressant withdrawal helpline

The only helpline available to help people in England struggling with coming off antidepressants has had its funding withdrawn.

Towards the beginning of this year NHS England announced that local services should be made available to support people coming off antidepressants as it was revealed that more than eight million adults in the country took an antidepressant in 2022.

white medication pill on orange plastic container

Advice from the NHS recommends that a course of antidepressants, which work by increasing neurotransmitters, should be taken for at least six months after a person begins to feel better to prevent their condition from coming back. This shows that individuals can be taking antidepressants for a while, increasing their risk of withdrawal.

Taking a drug away too quickly, before the brain has had time to adjust, can lead to symptoms including low mood and feelings of anxiety, as well as physical symptoms such as shaking, fatigue and dizziness.

However, a first-of-its-kind organisation based in Bristol, known as the Bristol Tranquilliser Project, was established to try and help people battling with the effects of coming off antidepressants.

But, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Integrated Care Board (ICB), which funds the local health services, said the project was not commissioned to be a national helpline and it will close at the end of September.

One of the reasons for the ICB closing down the organisation was that they identified other similar companies that deliver equivalent services, however they appear to be focusing on sleeping pills and painkillers rather than antidepressants.

Luke Montagu is a member of a cross-party group in Parliament who has been campaigning for a national helpline to support people going through withdrawal from prescription medications.

He has said its ‘astonishing’ our NHS doesn’t already have a service to support people coming off the drugs.

‘There is now much greater awareness of the problem,’ Luke said. ‘And yet the government is still facing to fund and implement these services adequately.’

Image: James Yarema

More on this topic:

New pill approved to tackle postpartum depression

Vulnerable people’s drug prescriptions to be reviewed following Ombudsman investigation


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Help us break the news – share your information, opinion or analysis
Back to top