RELEASE: REdressing Long-tErm Antidepressant uSE in general practice

About the RELEASE Study

Our research seeks to improve the lives of millions of people by decreasing unnecessary and potentially harmful long-term (>12 months) use of antidepressants in general practice. Our research is a cluster randomised controlled effectiveness-implementation trial in general practice targeting people on long-term antidepressants with no indication for continued use. RELEASE includes resources and supports necessary to safely taper and stop these drugs to minimise adverse drug effects and improve quality of life.

Australians are amongst the highest users of antidepressants in the world (around 1 in 7 adults). Increasing use is due mostly to increasing long-term use in general practice against clinical guideline recommendations. The Australian 2020 Productivity Commission Mental Health Inquiry report identified antidepressant prescribing in general practice and associated adverse drug effects as an issue for “priority reform”.

Many people experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when they attempt to stop antidepressants. Withdrawal symptoms are readily misconstrued by both doctors and patients as impending relapse resulting in ongoing and long-term antidepressant drug use. Hyperbolically slow tapering of drug dose can minimise withdrawal symptoms, but implementation in Australia is negligible because there is low awareness and recognition of withdrawal symptoms and drug-specific tapering protocols, and requisite drug mini-doses are not readily available.

RELEASE addresses this evidence-practice gap. The outcomes of our research will include a validated antidepressant discontinuation model including practical resources where currently there are none, and proven implementation strategies to foster sustainable improvement in primary mental health care including for urban and rural general practice.

Research team

  • Professor Katharine Wallis
  • A/Professor Maria Donald
  • Dr Mark Horowitz
  • Professor Joanna Moncrieff
  • Professor Harvey Whiteford
  • Dr David King
  • Dr Nancy Sturman
  • Professor Rob Ware
  • A/Professor Joshua Byrnes
  • A/Professor Adam Geraghty

Funding

The RELEASE study is supported by a grant from the UQ Mayne Academy of General Practice. MRFF 2020 Clinician Researchers: Applied Research in Health (Australian Government).

Researchers

Professor Katharine Wallis

Professor Katharine Wallis

Mayne Professor and Head,
Mayne Academy of General Practice
Head, General Practice Clinical Unit
Dr Maria Donald

Associate Professor Maria Donald

Deputy Director - Research
Centre for Health System Reform and Integration
Associate Professor
General Practice Clinical Unit
Dr David King

Dr David King

Senior Lecturer
General Practice Clinical Unit

Associate Professor Nancy Sturman

Associate Professor
General Practice Clinical Unit