Cohen on Weighing the Benefit of Antidepressants

A Los Angeles Times column about the difficulty of coming off antidepressants quoted Social Welfare Professor David Cohen, whose research focuses on psychoactive drugs. The column noted that the number of Americans age 12 and over who use antidepressants has tripled over the last two decades. For some patients, ongoing treatment is the best option for a functional life. Others may opt to wean themselves from the drugs, which must be done with care to prevent severe withdrawal symptoms. “Users themselves must decide about meds’ helpfulness in their own lives,” said Cohen, who is associate dean for research and faculty development at UCLA Luskin. Two recent studies by Cohen looked at clinical trials funded by the pharmaceutical industry that appeared to misinterpret withdrawal symptoms as relapse, bolstering the case for staying on the medications and raising questions about the reliability of the trials.


Cohen on Challenges of Tapering Off Antidepressants

Social Welfare Professor David Cohen’s comments on the side effects of coming off antidepressants were featured in a recent article in TheBody. A 60% increase in long-term antidepressant use between 2010 and 2018 has prompted research on “discontinuation syndrome,” or the intense side effects that make it difficult for patients to taper off. According to Cohen, “Coming off anything that alters how your brain functions, even coffee or tea, will provoke some kind of reaction. The brain is no longer getting that feedback from the drug, and it reacts to the removal.” After patients of one study rated their withdrawal experience, Cohen explained that “those who rated [their withdrawal] as most severe were coming off the fastest.” Experts recommend careful planning for coming off antidepressants, including a tapering plan, flexibility and a strong support system. “Go slow, and stay in your comfort zone. Feel it out as you go,” Cohen recommended.