Helen Stokes-Lampard – LBC Radio – 21st July 2018

Discussion starts about 1 hour into the programme.


Ian Payne, presenter for LBC Radio, led a discussion on antidepressants following on from the press coverage of antidepressant prescribing rates in England.


Ian Payne has bipolar disorder and is taking an antidepressant and mood stabiliser for this.  He said the medication had “saved his life”.  His mother is also taking an antidepressant following the death of her husband.  He said she is now “too happy”, the implication being that the medication was the reason for this.

Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of RCGP, was a guest on the programme.   Ian Payne asked her about the long-term effects of taking antidepressants.   She said that with the modern antidepressants they are generally regarded as safe in long term use, there isn’t much concern about harm and that people like Ian should get a lot of reassurance that it seems fine.   She did not inform the public that there are no long term studies and that in fact the long term effects on the brain are completely unknown.  She then said that the old antidepressants had side effects such as tricyclics whilst other drugs have problems with addiction and withdrawal issues.   But the modern antidepressants do not seem to suffer in those ways.   I take it from this that stopping SSRIs does not cause withdrawal symptoms and therefore anyone listening should feel free to stop their medication  without undue concern about slow and safe tapering.

This is in line of course with the incorrect statement published in a letter to The Times newspaper by Profs Wendy Burn and David Baldwin, a statement which remains unsupported by any scientific evidence and statements made by Professor Clare Gerada in a Royal Society of Medicine podcast that antidepressant withdrawal is largely unproblematic.  The message to the public is very clear.



Perhaps Prof Stokes-Lampard does not keep up-to-date with the relevant literature on this subject of withdrawal symptoms from SSRIs which are virtually identical to those from benzodiazepines.


RCGP is clearly not concerned about the many harrowing patient accounts submitted to the Scottish Parliament or about the ongoing campaign regarding the many harms experienced by patients online.  This reflects the lack of concern harmed patients encounter in the consulting room when trying to discuss the many disabling effects they are experiencing either due to taking their prescribed antidepressants or from tapering off them.  It is often the case that the prescribing doctor will mistake withdrawal symptoms for relapse and this is understandable when they are being advised that withdrawal symptoms are generally mild and short-lived.


Prof Stokes-Lampard then said that she was surprised by the prescribing statistics in children but stated that GPs never prescribe antidepressants to children, that is done by psychiatrists.  She expressed concern about teenagers and stated that GPs do not prescribe antidepressants to teenagers but will continue to prescribe when the medication is initiated by a psychiatrist.

She talked about parity of esteem and reduction of stigma and the fact that more people are coming forward for help and this is a good thing.  It is a pity that patients reporting harms from SSRIs are not welcomed in the consulting room in the same way as patients with mental health issues.

She talked about the importance of close relationships in alleviating loneliness.  Of course one of the biggest issues for those harmed by SSRIs or suffering from withdrawal issues is the isolation.  This is due to (1) the physical and mental suffering (2) the disbelief and dismissal of doctors (3) resulting disbelief of family members and friends.  For many the main source of help and contact is online.  There seems to be no concern that many of us can no longer participate in normal life.

The discussion was then opened up to the public.   The first caller felt that antidepressants are a cop-out.  Ian Payne responded “I know you are wrong”.  He then described the drugs as “food, nourishment for my brain, it is like making sure you have a drink”.  Ian then says “I had a chemical imbalance in my brain and the only way to balance that out was to take a drug that restored the equilibrium …”.  He also said that if he misses his medication for a day he feels a bit odd, this suggests that he has become physiologically dependent on the drug.

Another caller, Jane, had a breakdown at age 17.  She has been on antidepressants for 30 years.   Her doctor told her she has a chemical imbalance in her brain.  The doctor also said if you were diabetic would you not take insulin or if you had high blood pressure would you not take blood pressure tablets.  Ian Payne responded “Exactly”.   At certain times, she has tried to come off them.  She switched antidepressants and felt terrible. She then repeated that she has a chemical imbalance in her brain and will need to take tablets for the rest of her life.

The next caller, Ishmael, was a doctor.  Ishmael thinks it is a great thing that we are using more antidepressants but he had not read the press articles.  He had been on antidepressants himself as a teenager, age 19.  He also said that what the general public needs to understand is that if you lack insulin, you get diabetes.  It is exactly the same with depression, you get depression because some of the neurotransmitters in your brain have stopped functioning.  What antidepressants do is they restore your brain back to normal so that you can function in a normal way.  We are very lucky, we live in an era when we can get the medicine we need for this.

Jonathan sends in a message saying the chemical imbalance has been disproved, it is false .. Ian Payne makes a sarcastic dismissal of that.  And says “No”.

Ann, a psychiatric nurse, called in.  She also takes antidepressants.   She believes that GPs are too quick to prescribe because they do not know what else to do.   Ian Payne then talks about grief developing into something physical which creates a chemical imbalance.

Ian Payne then read out my tweet …

“Absolutely we are over prescribing antidepressants, patients cannot get off the drugs, they are being harmed by the drugs, many seriously harmed.”

He responded by saying that he could only talk about his personal experience and stated “I don’t think that is true”  .. so he extrapolated from his personal experience and concluded my statement was untrue.  Incredible.

Jennifer then phoned in and said antidepressants are a very good thing.

Ian Payne then said he had self-medicated with Clonazepam previously, bought from the internet, and had become addicted.  I am not sure if this was prior to his need for antidepressants but I assume so.  Did he perhaps withdraw from Clonazepam (Klonopin) and then find that he needed antidepressants, that is very common in the benzodiazepine withdrawal support forums.  Klonopin is not available on prescription in the UK but is widely prescribed in the US.  It is regarded by patients as one of the most difficult benzodiazepines to withdraw from and can result in extreme mood swings as you go though the withdrawal process as well as deep depression.  I have suffered from such mood swings for the first time in my life as a result of stopping Nitrazepam, the withdrawal process does indeed create a chemical imbalance of GABA and glutamate which has a knock-on effect on other neurotransmitters and hormones.  It can take months or even years to recover.  In my case it is over 5 years now and I have yet to feel anything approaching normal.

Ian Payne then said to his listeners  “you do get better” .. but he is still on medication, more than one kind of medication, and believes he may be on the medication for the  rest of his life.  Perhaps he just meant he is now feeling better.

He quoted from a Harvard study which states that depression is not caused simply by a chemical imbalance but he does not seem to realise that this contradicts what has been said previously in the programme.

Paul was the next caller.  Paul felt that doctors are not getting to the cause of depression.  Paul took antidepressants for mood fluctuations and they made him feel weird.   He took himself off the medication.  The call had to be cut short due to noise.

Max said the drugs make people not care about things and he also said the mass shooters in the US were on them.  Ian Payne dismissed this as a sweeping statement when in fact it is quite true.   He then said the medication did not make him feel like picking up a klashnikov .. the listeners are left to draw their own conclusions.

I have listened to this interview several times and I am deeply dismayed by it  I have therefore submitted a complaint to LBC radio.

Complaint submitted to LBC Radio – 21st July 2018

The discussion was extremely unbalanced and misleading to listeners. Prof Stokes-Lampard did not inform the public that there are no long term studies of antidepressants and long-term risks and benefits are unknown. She did not mention the risks of dependence or the immense difficulties associated with withdrawal.  No other professional was invited to speak to provide some perspective.

Ian Payne, did not allow for a balanced conversation, allowing his own beliefs and experiences of mental illness/medication to drive the conversation. He dismissed out of hand my comment on Twitter without providing any valid reason.

“Absolutely we are over prescribing antidepressants, patients cannot get off the drugs, they are being harmed by the drugs, many seriously harmed.”

He was unaware that I am harmed by prescribed antidepressants and benzodiazepines, an active campaigner and hugely knowledgeable about this subject. Public Health England is conducting a review of prescribed drug dependence and University of Southampton is running a 6 year research programme into antidepressant withdrawal.

Ian Payne further dismissed out of hand a caller who suggested antidepressants are linked to mass shootings, of course this is a well-known fact. See Panorama “A Prescription for Murder?”

He talked about a “chemical imbalance” an idea that is totally out-dated and no longer supported by RCPsych. He compared antidepressants to insulin for diabetes, another outdated idea.

This programme simply added to the public perception that antidepressants are unproblematic and safe to consume and is likely to simply fuel demand for these drugs.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists has similarly misinformed the public on this subject and a formal complaint has now been submitted to the Secretary of State for Health on this matter.

If you check my Twitter feed for today you will see the many comments I have made directly to Ian Payne with relevant weblink.    @benzosarebad







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