HOW very wise and balanced were the words of Dr Andy Docherty in his Agenda article (“Beware the myth of a chemical cure for depression”, March 3).

They are welcomed within the prescribed harm community because, for too long, we have felt marginalised, our legitimate concerns about what we see as the over prescribing of drugs of dependence, in this instance SSRI antidepressants, frequently minimised and even derided.

Many of us have been peddled a myth about suffering a chemical imbalance. Recent headlines surrounding a study that show antidepressants work for severe depression over an eight-week period didn’t advance our knowledge. When you consider that the present recommendation is to prescribe for at least six months and possibly longer you have to wonder what relevance this has for patients whose lived experience of these drugs is counted in years and sometimes decades, more than three decades in my case.

Few studies have been conducted into the long-term consequences of using antidepressants but we know that we have an epidemic of disabled, mentally ill in the developed world where psychiatric drug treatments like antidepressants are the norm. The Organization of Economic Cooperation noted in 2012 that more people are taking them for longer and for multiple reasons such as mild depression, anxiety and social phobia.

Getting off antidepressants can be extraordinarily hard even with a gradual taper. Many will remain on antidepressants for life, fooled into thinking they’re in relapse if they stop. Withdrawal symptoms (discontinuation syndrome doesn’t do it full justice) can be long lasting and have the same intensity as a benzodiazepine withdrawal, confirmed by the Bristol tranquilliser project which saw as many problems with SSRIs as with benzos. Why would anyone deny the immense suffering that we in the prescribed harm community have to endure? Antidepressants have adverse side-effects, not least the risk of suicide when treatment is started, the dose adjusted, or when stopping.

Babies whose mothers are on antidepressants in pregnancy often experience withdrawal shortly after birth and are at increased risk of birth defects when the drugs are used in the first trimester.

The iatrogenic harms are too many to enumerate. Antidepressants aren’t as benign as we would like them to be and we shouldn’t be using them as a sticking plaster for our many societal ills, not least economic deprivation.

Alyne Duthie,

7 Balnellan Road,