Background: Stopping antidepressants is often difficult due to withdrawal. Taperingstrips were developed to facilitate antidepressant discontinuation according to the recently described Horowitz-Taylor method, allowing for personalised titration of discontinuation to the intensity of withdrawal. A taperingstrip consists of antidepressant or other medication, packaged in a 28-day roll of small daily pouches, each with the same or slightly lower dose than the one before it. We previously reported that the short-term success rate of antidepressant taperingstrips was 71%. Here, we examine longer-term outcome after 1-5 years.
Methods: Patients whose doctor had ordered taperingstrips between January 2015 and December 2019 were sent a questionnaire for participation in anonymised research in January 2020. Of 1012, 483 participated, of whom 408 (85%) had attempted antidepressant tapering.
Results: Of the 408 patients included, 192 (47%) had used strips for tapering venlafaxine, 142 (35%) for paroxetine and 74 (18%) for other antidepressants. Median length of antidepressant use was 4 years, and most (61%) had tried to come off without taperingstrips at least once. After 1-5 years, 270 patients (66%) remained off antidepressants after tapering their antidepressant, 6 (2%) had successfully reduced their medication, 87 (21%) had restarted due to (self-reported) relapse, 35 had restarted for another indication (9%), and 10 (3%) reported another outcome. People with more severe experience of withdrawal prior to tapering, and people who had been on antidepressants for a shorter period of time, were more likely to remain off medication after 1-5 years.
Conclusion: The previously reported 71% short-term success rate of taperingstrips in the most severely affected group, was matched by a 68% rate after 1-5 years. The evidence-based approach of personal tapering to counter withdrawal, as used for drugs causing withdrawal, for example, benzodiazepines, may represent a simple solution for an important antidepressant-related public health problem, without extra costs.
- drug withdrawal symptoms
- patient medication knowledge