It is not always clear to patients and doctors when and in what way a patient can best stop taking antidepressants. That while more than a million people in the Netherlands take medicines for depression and anxiety disorders. A new outpatient clinic in Amsterdam should provide a solution.
At some point, some patients feel the need to taper off with antidepressants. The patient can now feel good and hopes to be able to do without. But also because the use of the drug can have unpleasant side effects.
Much is clear about how to build up the drug, but that knowledge is more often lacking when tapering off. A multidisciplinary team of nursing specialists, psychologists, psychiatrists and pharmacists works together at the first phasing out clinic in the Netherlands at GGZ InGeest. After an intake, it is decided whether a patient is allowed to taper off. A plan is then drawn up. The reduction can be done at the clinic, but also under the supervision of your own psychiatrist or general practitioner.
According to psychiatrist and co-initiator Christiaan Vinkers, the tapering of antidepressants is not by definition a problem. There are patients who stop without problems, with the guidance of their GP or psychiatrist. The outpatient clinic is there for patients who dread tapering, for whom a previous attempt was unsuccessful or for whom there is fear that the original complaints will return.
What makes tapering off antidepressants complicated is that it is a matter of customization. Every patient responds differently to tapering. In addition, there are a lot of different taper methods and antidepressants.
The Dutch College of General Practitioners confirms that there is still little scientific evidence about the best way to stop antidepressants. Research has already been done, and there is currently some research rather how people can stop taking antidepressants.
No research is done at the completion clinic. Nevertheless, Vinkers hopes that the experience gained can contribute to knowledge about phasing out. “It would be great if we could close the clinic in a few years, that we are no longer needed and that everyone can go to their own doctor or psychiatrist.”