Dizzy and Nauseous Withdrawing from Generic Wellbutrin

“I am not going to go away! I want some answers!”

 

I am a 49 year old Wife and Mother of 4 who has been successfully taking Wellbutrin for depression since April of 1996. I take 450 milligrams a day. (2 pills 3x daily) Friday morning July 28, 2000 I woke up feeling dizzy and nauseous with horrible pains in my stomach. I had felt “funny” the night before so I went to bed early. I soon developed severe diarrhea. I thought I had contacted a bad case of the flu. My symptoms got worse as time went on. I was completely drained. I had no energy. I had to drag myself around the house and had to lay down every few minutes. The room was spinning and I constantly felt like I was going to vomit, but I never did.

At one point, late Friday evening, I considered going to the emergency room. A Doctor friend of mine came over to examine me and recommended that I get a colonoscopy. He thought it must be my colon. I had a colonoscopy and had my inner ear examined. I was told I probably had an inner ear infection and that I was experiencing vertigo. I have had vertigo before and it lasted for one, two, maybe 3 days at the most. I was going into my 3rd week and I was still dizzy and nauseous. In addition to all this, I experienced a kind of a strange vibration going on inside my head. It felt like something was shaking, similar to the machines that mix paint! Also, the right side of my face felt a pressure and I truly thought I must have a brain tumor! It was so horrible!

Friday, August 25, 2000, I happen to catch a 20/20 about the withdrawal symptoms after going off an antidepressant. The people they interviewed had the exact same reactions as myself. I could not believe it. Everything they had, I had, including the brain thing. They called it a feeling like an electric shock in the brain! I was curious as to why I was having all of these withdrawal symptoms because I had not stopped taking my antidepressant, Wellbutrin. I looked at my bottle and noted the day I had my last prescription filled was the day before I got so violently ill. I also noted that for the first time since 1996, I had been given the generic brand. I have been on Wellbutrin for a very long time without any symptoms until I had the generic. (Bupropion)
Something has to be done! People need to be warned of these complications. I do not want anyone to go through what I had to go through! I wrote the producer of 20/20 and told her what had happened to me. I want to know if anyone else has had a similar experience with the generic.

I am not going to go away! I want some answers!

Rosemary Durkin Snyder
4kids@compuserve.com

 

8/28/2000

This is Survivor Story number 13.
Total number of stories in current database is 96

441 total views, no views today

Weight Gains on Effexor ER

“In less than a year I have gone from 120lbs to more than 200lbs.”

 

After I had my daughter I became depressed and my family doctor put me on Zoloft and lorazipam. Around the same time my OBGYN put me on the Deproprevara shot for birth control. When I rapidly gained weight the doctor suspected the Deproprevara. I was taken off of it and my Zoloft script was increased. My family doctor said that this would help with weight loss as well as the depression. Why not kill two birds with one stone?

The weight came off but every 3 months or so I noticed that my depression, along with panic and anxiety attacks, would return and be worse, so the Zoloft and lorazipam scripts continued to be increased in dosage. When I approached my family doctor about my concerns on the increased dosage without relief she suggested that I change medications. I was immediately switched to Effexor XR.
I am still taking Effexor XR and since I switched, my weight gain has been tremendous. I am also sleeping most of the day, and I crave alcohol. I am a smoker but as of late, I have increased my habit from less than a pack a day to about 2 and 1/2 packs a day.

In less than a year I have gone from 120lbs to more than 200lbs (I am 5’6″, and 27yrs old). When I started these drugs I was a water aerobics instructor, and taught 6hrs of swimming lessons Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Now I can barely get out of bed in the afternoon to clean the house. I need help. I know what it does to me body and brain when I simply miss a dosage, let alone quit it completely.

D.R.

 

8/17/2000

This is Survivor Story number 14.
Total number of stories in current database is 96

388 total views, 2 views today

Suicidal Wife on Paxil Shoots Husband

“I know it’s the Paxil.”

 

Attached is a photo of my sister Suzanne and her family. They live in Silverton, OR. She married Matthew Miles @ 5 years ago and they had Maddie on October 13, 1997. Suzanne’s 2 older girls, Brittany, 17, and April, 13, are from previous relationships. Suzanne began taking Prozac quite a number of years ago (about 7) and everything was fine. Then last year she said it wasn’t helping anymore. Her doctor told her to double her dosage. It started making her feel crazy – twitching, anxiety attacks. So they switched her to Paxil. She began taking Paxil in mid-January 2000. On February 29th, she shot and killed her husband Matthew. He was just 31 years old. Maddie has lost her father. My nieces’ have lost their mother and is in jail for killing him. My sister says that she started feeling suicidal and went to her husband’s work to kill herself in front of him. She doesn’t know why but she shot him instead. She and Matt had recently separated and I know the DA is going to try to say that she was distraught over the breakup, but I know it’s the Paxil. After reading all of the emails sent by you and reading the articles on the internet, we now need to prove that it was the Paxil and not just a woman killing her husband for leaving her.

I hope that your lawsuit will help in the fight of changing how these drugs are prescribed. They are dangerous and should not be prescribed like they are in most cases – “Here – try this. See if this helps.”

I’m so sorry for the loss of your son. I can’t imagine what it might be like losing your child.

Jill Robertson
2321 Eaton Avenue
San Carlos, CA 94070

 

7/31/2000

This is Survivor Story number 15.
Total number of stories in current database is 96

411 total views, 1 views today

Awake for 800 Hours Straight and Unable to Function after just 25mg of Paxil

“Did I undergo a ‘chemical lobotomy?'”

 

In January of 2000 I fell into a deep depression over complications following laser eye surgery.

[Note from Dr. Tracy: Keep in mind that many go into depression after surgery as an after effect of anesthesia and/or pain killers – many of which are also serotonergic medications. The logical thing to do in this instance is to rest, get good nutrition and wait out the after/withdrawal effects rather than adding yet another serotonergic drug as is done so often.

I had no family locally, and was calling them daily for support. I became unable to focus at work, so they urged me to get medical treatment. I asked my psychotherapist for a reference; he sent me to a family practice MD. That is when things went from bad to worse.

I had no psychiatric history prior to this and had always been a healthy, physically active (a real athlete), artistic (songwriter), productive individual. I am a software engineer, and so I also had a mentally demanding job which I excelled at. That all changed after taking Paxil, which this MD gave me after only a 5 minute consultation (he had never seen me before). Unfortunately I was a nervous wreck at that point, and did not ask any questions. He did little more than read from the “starter kit” literature:

“Paxil – indicated for depression, indicated for OCD…”. If it had been Prozac the alarm bells may have gone off, but I had never heard of ‘Paxil’ and was desperate for help. I left with the twenty-one day starter kit.

I took the first 10 mg pill on a Friday, and only took 25mg (2.5 tablets) of Paxil over the next four days. But this seemingly innocuous amount made my life hell. I could no longer sleep, EVEN A MINUTE, for five weeks! That’s correct, I was up 24hrs a day for the next five weeks, staring at the ceiling and locked in a mental fog around the clock. I emphasize this because it is so amazing. I would not have believed that it was humanly possible to go that long without sleep, but I lived through it. It would be five weeks before my eyes would close again.

I should have known I was in trouble when the first pill started the insomnia, made me hop around like a rabbit, while the second 10mg pill gave me the sensation of my frontal lobe being set on fire. It sent me into a drug trip, fantasizing about my death constantly. I didn’t seem to have control of my thoughts either, as my mental processes seized up like gears that haven’t been oiled. My drug sensitivity probably made me very vulnerable to adverse effects. But my very pure organic diet should have helped to counter the adverse effects. I had eliminated all caffeine from my diet years ago due to this chemical sensitivity. It also took much longer than normal to awake from anesthesia after any surgery, and my natural energy level was always very high.

Because of being trapped in this zombie-like state, I was having suicidal urges for the first time in my life. Also, I tried to work, but I would just come in to the office, sit for a few minutes in front of the monitor and then turn around and leave. I couldn’t initiate and complete anything even of moderate mental complexity, even responding to e-mails, so it was hopeless. Thoughts would just fizzle out.

How to escape this living hell? After day four my feeling was “I have to get these things out of my system!”. So I took nothing else (although the MD said “cut it back to half a tablet”). Every day I was desperately wanting to fall asleep, even for a few minutes, but it just wouldn’t happen. When would the Paxil leave my system — what was happening? As the sleepless days progressed, I got foggier and foggier, finally to the point that even dialing a phone number became a mental feat.

This downward spiral progressed for the full five weeks, until my parents came to get me. I was no longer eating, no longer leaving the apartment for anything, and was simply wasting away. So, five weeks after quitting cold turkey and getting zero sleep in that time, I was admitted to a hospital as I was unable to function.

In the psychiatric ward I was given Zyprexa, Klonopin and Depakote, having been diagnosed there as manic (who wouldn’t be after being up day and night for five weeks?). This was a misdiagnosis, I believe, and more drugs in my system just fanned the fire. I was able to finally get 2-3 hours of sleep a night, but I found that a drug induced sleep is not a restful, refreshing sleep.

I then went home to stay with my parents as I was unable to care for myself for the first time in my life (I am 36). A psychiatrist in my parents hometown kept me on these three medications for another week until he switched to Effexor for a week, followed by Neurontin for several weeks, and then he added Zoloft in mid-March. I was reluctant, but my well-meaning parents were completely trusting and would not let me skip any prescribed medication as I was still suicidal. I took just one 50mg dose of Zoloft and I immediately “locked up again” mentally as before. The insomnia resumed, too. I begged my parents to take me to see someone else. Unfortunately this guy was the only psychiatrist in a 50 mile radius, but we persisted and found someone an hour away.

This MD was the first medical professional to actually acknowledge that the psychotropics made me suffer. She recommended that I have nothing else, and return to an organic diet (which I had been on since 1990!). She gave me dietary guidelines for depression, most of which I had been following already. It took less time to get back to sleeping at night after the Zoloft (was my body building a tolerance?), but after a week or so I was sleeping 3-4 hrs. a night.

It is now July and I have had no medication since. Yet, I have a foggy feeling still, my memory is not as sharp, and my abstract reasoning/problem solving ability is compromised. I feel a vague numbness in my forehead also, similar to a mild hangover, a lingering reminder of the near catatonic state I was in originally. Nothing is the same, nothing is as sharp or clear or enjoyable as it was before. Dr. Joseph Glenmullen’s book “Prozac Backlash” has given me some insight into what may have happened to me. Did I undergo a ‘chemical lobotomy’ and lose axons or other brain tissue? It is a scary thought. But I have learned some things.

I now know that the chance of a doctor completely informing you is slim. He may not even be withholding information: He just may not know himself of all of the possible side affects. I also know that there is no “standard dosage” that is safe for everybody. If you are drug sensitive, perhaps it is better to start with a half a tablet of a new medication than to risk an extreme reaction as I did? Or, better still, to avoid drugs at all costs… to be used only as a last resort.

Good health to you all.

Bruce

7/25/2000

This is Survivor Story number 16.
Total number of stories in current database is 96

570 total views, 2 views today

Is there a steroid effect with Prozac

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I regain my desire to write and paint when I finally get off Prozac?”

 

I was placed on Prozac a few years ago and tried to stop using it several times. Each time I did, I begin feeling dizzy at times and nauseous. Not long after I begin using Prozac, I started to ‘itch’. My ears itched especially, and the palms of my hand began to appear dry. Are there some ‘corticosteroids’ in Prozac?

[Note: You will find in Prozac: Panacea or Pandora? that there is a DOUBLING of Cortisol levels with only one 30mg dose of Prozac. This would give a VERY powerful corticosteroid effect.]

Now there’s a claim that antidepressants help women in menopause. What’s next?

Prozac is supposed to be now OKed for OCD. Well, it didn’t work for me. I did realize a particular habit it produced for me that was OCD. Every day at noon, I would drive to the same thrift shop stay for about 45 minutes then return to work. If I didn’t go I felt as though something was wrong. I really felt I had to go.

I must say, I believe MOST individuals have some form of OCD. Of course if a company can market a drug, initially meant for one disease, for another disease (problem) whatever euphemistic title applied, then the more $$$ for their corporation. I wonder if someday there will be a “Antidepressant,” rebellion because of the medicines/drugs/chemicals prescribed to persons.

Children are being doped up to keep them quiet so their parents can go to work and not worry about their ‘normal’ activities. I suppose certain mental problems are a continuing trend. “My kid is more of a problem than yours?” “I’m on more med that you?”

I realize I am ranting by writing, but I am so frustrated and disappointed. And, when one complains about such things, what’s one of the first, if NOT the first question one is asked, “How old is the person.” Then, too often, it’s the VICTIM on whom the FAULT is placed.

I know there was a time while taking alprazolam that showed bizarre conduct on my workplace in NJ. I told my supervisor I would apologizes to the person, but I was told NOT to because apparently my conduct was to be kept quiet. I was placed on leave of absence because of my condition. While that conduct occurred, I was under treatment and had been for some time. My conduct was definitely out of character, impulsive, and destructive to my reputation.

The snowball began when I commenced having panic attacks and was ultimately depressed I needed to see a doctor/psychiatrist/counselor. I saw all three. The first med. I was given was Xanax, then Imipramine, I have a list written somewhere, although the list may be got from my former physician, in NJ. Although, with the patient/physician confidentiality law, I suppose one has not access to the files.

I truly hope I can stop using Prozac. Presently I am not under a Dr care and auspices. When we left NJ nearly a year ago, I was given a Prozac prescription 3 month supply, I have been opening the capsules and dividing the contents by thirds. Every other day I would use a third. I suppose when the company I worked for 12 years downsized me in March 1999, I was also egotistically downsized.

That’s another thing, in the past I wrote poetry well, and in an instant. While using Prozac, I lost so much of my artistic desire that I actually became more depressed. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I regain my desire to write and paint when I finally get off Prozac?

Sincerely

Lorraine B. Jacobs

 

7/2/2000

This is Survivor Story number 17.
Total number of stories in current database is 96

361 total views, 1 views today

Is there a steroid effect with Prozac

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I regain my desire to write and paint when I finally get off Prozac?”

I was placed on Prozac a few years ago and tried to stop using it several times. Each time I did, I begin feeling dizzy at times and nauseous. Not long after I begin using Prozac, I started to ‘itch’. My ears itched especially, and the palms of my hand began to appear dry. Are there some ‘corticosteroids’ in Prozac?

[Note: You will find in Prozac: Panacea or Pandora? that there is a DOUBLING of Cortisol levels with only one 30mg dose of Prozac. This would give a VERY powerful corticosteroid effect.]

Now there’s a claim that antidepressants help women in menopause. What’s next?

Prozac is supposed to be now OKed for OCD. Well, it didn’t work for me. I did realize a particular habit it produced for me that was OCD. Every day at noon, I would drive to the same thrift shop stay for about 45 minutes then return to work. If I didn’t go I felt as though something was wrong. I really felt I had to go.

I must say, I believe MOST individuals have some form of OCD. Of course if a company can market a drug, initially meant for one disease, for another disease (problem) whatever euphemistic title applied, then the more $$$ for their corporation. I wonder if someday there will be a “Antidepressant,” rebellion because of the medicines/drugs/chemicals prescribed to persons.

Children are being doped up to keep them quiet so their parents can go to work and not worry about their ‘normal’ activities. I suppose certain mental problems are a continuing trend. “My kid is more of a problem than yours?” “I’m on more med that you?”

I realize I am ranting by writing, but I am so frustrated and disappointed. And, when one complains about such things, what’s one of the first, if NOT the first question one is asked, “How old is the person.” Then, too often, it’s the VICTIM on whom the FAULT is placed.

I know there was a time while taking alprazolam that showed bizarre conduct on my workplace in NJ. I told my supervisor I would apologizes to the person, but I was told NOT to because apparently my conduct was to be kept quiet. I was placed on leave of absence because of my condition. While that conduct occurred, I was under treatment and had been for some time. My conduct was definitely out of character, impulsive, and destructive to my reputation.

The snowball began when I commenced having panic attacks and was ultimately depressed I needed to see a doctor/psychiatrist/counselor. I saw all three. The first med. I was given was Xanax, then Imipramine, I have a list written somewhere, although the list may be got from my former physician, in NJ. Although, with the patient/physician confidentiality law, I suppose one has not access to the files.

I truly hope I can stop using Prozac. Presently I am not under a Dr care and auspices. When we left NJ nearly a year ago, I was given a Prozac prescription 3 month supply, I have been opening the capsules and dividing the contents by thirds. Every other day I would use a third. I suppose when the company I worked for 12 years downsized me in March 1999, I was also egotistically downsized.

That’s another thing, in the past I wrote poetry well, and in an instant. While using Prozac, I lost so much of my artistic desire that I actually became more depressed. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I regain my desire to write and paint when I finally get off Prozac?

Sincerely

Lorraine B. Jacobs

 

This is Survivor Story number 17.
Total number of stories in current database is 96

7/2/2000

323 total views, no views today

Unprepared for the Horrendous Withdrawal from Effexor (update 4 months later)

“Sometimes it felt as if my brain was shuddering in my skull…”

 

I realize that this is what most would consider a long letter. However, it is only a brief summation of my own personal experience. Please, especially those of you who are parents or grandparents, teachers or counselors, just take the two minutes it takes to read it, then just put it in the back of your mind. Or pass it on.

Anti-depressants are quite often being cavalierly dispensed to the population in general. Also, they are prescribed to help kids who’ve been on Ritalin for years get through the difficult process of the cessation of that drug. And now the manufacturers of these drugs are planning to produce it in smaller doses for their next target population: pre and elementary school aged children! These drugs have a very high percentage rate of undesirable and sometimes dangerous side effects.

Several years ago I broke my wrist, which caused me to develop a rare condition known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. One of the medications I was given to try to control the pain was Effexor. Effexor is a serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or an SSRI. These drugs are commonly known as anti-depressants. Prozac is probably the most commonly known drug in this class. I was on this drug for less than 6 months when, for reasons of my own, I decided I wanted to get off. That’s when my nightmare began.

One cannot just stop taking these drugs. There is a tapering off process which must be followed. This is because there are very often serious and debilitating withdrawal symptoms. However, I was not told of these symptoms, and I now know that the doctor did not know about them, either. He told me only that nightmares were a common occurrence during this process, and that I might also experience “mild, flu-like” symptoms and “slight confusion.” During this initial, original prescribed tapering off process, which was supposed to take about 2 weeks, I experienced vivid and terrifying nightmares. I could not shake these off for hours after I had wakened. Since I was extremely tired, I napped a lot. Each time I napped, there would be a nightmare, and the process would repeat itself several times daily. I really was unprepared for their intensity and lasting after-images.

Then came the day I was to stop taking it. To make a long story short, these were some of my symptoms: A weird visual thing would happen for about a second, about 4 times a minute. I can only compare it to what it feels like to try to track the arrow of the mouse across the page. But I knew it was not my eyes that were doing this, I could feel it was my brain. (October, 2000: I’ve just found out that the term for this is “staccato vision”). I also experienced what people who have this call a sensation “like electric shocks” or “jolts” to my whole body which also occurred for a split second every 15 seconds or so. When these occurred at night, in the dark, they were accompanied by a flash of white light. It’s as if I were “whiting out” (instead of “blacking out”) for just a split second every 15 seconds or so. These incidents began to increase in intensity and began to be accompanied by panic and/or paranoia flashes. Eventually, just moving caused such dizziness and disorientation that I had to hold onto whatever was around me to walk. Sometimes it felt as if there were a magnet to one side of me, pulling me that way. The “slight confusion” I experienced is something I can only imagine is what beginning Alzheimer’s patients must feel like during the initial stages of their eventually terminal mental decline during the time when they are still aware that something is really going wrong. Sometimes it felt as if my brain was shuddering in my skull a sensation that has come to be called “Brain Shivers” or “Brain Flips” by many. Numerous other things were happening as well, but I don’t want to get too long-winded here. I just want to give you all some idea of some of the kinds of things that were happening.

So, I made an appointment with the prescribing doctor, and a friend was kind enough to take me there. But the doctor did not believe me! He said that it couldn’t be the Effexor, that I probably had some neurological problems and that if the symptoms persisted, I should see a neurologist. But I KNEW it was the Effexor, so I went home, took another pill, and felt fine within the hour. Then I got on the ‘net. What I found there was astounding! Tons of people, all with the same things happening to them, reaching out to anonymous others and saying, “Help! What is happening to me?” These I found on bulletin boards, NOT on product information sites put up by the people who are selling the stuff.

I tried calling the Drug Company to find out what was happening to me and how to stop it. I never did reach them. Fortunately for me, my primary care physician had heard of these symptoms and knew how to deal with them. She advised a long, slow tapering off process, telling me that it could take one to two months for me to be able to get off. Also fortunately for me, she told me to take as long as I needed.

It took me 10 MONTHS! During that time, the symptoms mentioned above continued, although diminished enough for me to be able to function almost normally. But other things began to happen. I saw things out of the corners of my eyes, which were not there. We all do that, but this was pretty constant. One thing I saw which I never told anyone about until it had stopped was a big, hairy rat about 1 foot long, scurrying around corners. Keep in mind that I was not on this drug because I was in any way mentally unbalanced, it was merely to help with the pain. I saw, and still see occasionally, a pinpoint of violet shimmering light. Also, things would seem to be moving out of the corners of my eyes. A spot on the wall, for example, I would think was a spider crawling until I looked directly at it, when I would realize it was just a spot on the wall. These things did not scare me, but they were frequent and startling and bothersome.

I took my last little crumbs of Effexor in September of 1999. End of story?

Unfortunately, no. It is now the end of July, 2000, and I still experience some of the same symptoms, although they are manageable. I also have experienced monstrous headaches. The first one, back in September, lasted 4 days. I thought I was going to die. I even told my son that I might die. I debated about that for a while, but did not want him to wake up and find me dead one morning. Fortunately, I’m still here. My headaches began to decrease in length, and now they seem to last only 2 hours or so. They go away within one minute. Sometimes I’m just achy all over. I guess that experience is the “mild, flu-like” symptoms I’d been warned about. I still have days I call “my stupid days”, and they usually signal the beginning of episodes lasting several days, involving vertigo, dizziness, short anxiety attacks, some euphoria occasionally, the “brain shivers”, and numerous other weird symptoms, and culminating in a headache. Then I’m fine for however long it lasts. Sometimes I feel whole body tremors, not enough to make me twitch, and they are not unpleasant, but they’re there and they shouldn’t be.

I am concerned about this. I want to know why, after not taking this drug for so long, I am experiencing this “discontinuation syndrome”, and when will it stop? I have not yet found the answer.

I finally did get in touch with the Drug Company to ask them these questions and they took down all my information. They have never explained why, and they have never followed up. They would not talk to me about my symptoms, they would only talk with my doctor. And this was not OK because the doctor did not believe me! (This was not the prescribing doctor who hadn’t believed me when I first tried to get off, this was the doctor who’d prescribed the tapering off process.) But I told her to call them and talk to them, and it was pretty easy for them to shine her on, since she didn’t believe me anyway. And they sent her a letter advising a slow tapering off of the drug, which I’d already done, of course, AND a “report” from a closed symposium on SSRIs sponsored by the a drug company ‘way back in 1996! (Which, of course, did not address the issue.)

The more research I’ve done on these things, the angrier I become. Because the drug companies have known about these things for years. Many people and their families have gone through much, much worse than I have. Some people have never been able to get off the drugs.

Now, what would YOU do if you were manufacturing these things? You’d probably say’ “Whoa! We need to stop selling these things until we can find out what’s causing this. We’d better get in touch with each and every one of those people who are having these extreme reactions, do whatever we can to help them, and to identify what it IS about them that makes them react differently than those who have no problems with the medication.” Well, not only are these companies not doing this, they are manufacturing the drugs in smaller doses so that CHILDREN can take them! Yes, Prozac is currently being tested on pre-school aged children! And although these drugs have not YET been approved for use in children, the numbers of children aged 6-12 being prescribed Prozac has risen from 41,000 in 1995 to 203,000 in 1996. Currently, in 2000, 2.3 million children in the U.S. are on anti-depressants. The official literature on these drugs says that they are safe for pregnant women to take! And there are documented cases of newborns being born with the more evident withdrawal symptoms (which the drug companies are ignoring because nobody can prove it. Isn’t that horrible?!). The companies that manufacture these things are re-naming Prozac “Seraphim” or something and doctors are prescribing it for PMS!

Are these drugs harmful to absolutely anyone who takes them? Of course not. And for many, these drugs have proven to be beneficial. However, they are NOT only being prescribed for major, long-term depressions, but for such things as the Holiday Blues and teenage angst! But the percentage risk for horrible and even deadly side effects is extremely high. (See the 3rd link below.)

Please, unless you are chronically depressed or have something really, really severe, stay away from this class of drugs. And please, NEVER EVER put a child on these things! I am an intelligent, articulate, resourceful middle-aged woman. When a wave of panic starts to wash over me, or any other of these weird things start to happen, I can tell myself to just hold on, it’s just the after-effects of the drug, it will go away, I should take a deep breath and relax, etc. Do you think a child or a newborn could do the same? I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a child in school and to suffer the kind of confusion I’ve been through and manage to learn anything, let alone be involved in a physical activity or sport! This has been going on for nearly 2 years with me, and I don’t know when it will end!

Thank you for taking the time to read my story. This has been a BRIEF synopsis of what my life has been like for the past two years. And it’s nothing compared to what others have been through.

Update, October, 2000:

In the few months since I wrote this, I found that these continued withdrawal effects after not haven taken the drug for a long time is a phenomena which has not one but two names: PANES (Persistent Adverse Neurological Effects) and “Intractable Withdrawal”. This phenomenon was noted as early as 1996, before I began taking Effexor. How can the pharmaceutical companies deny the existence of something that has occurred enough to even have a name?

Several months ago I was driving with my son on the freeway at night and I felt fine. Out of the blue, a wave of disorientation and that peculiar form of dizziness I associate with my “Effexor Episodes” came upon me. I found myself in the middle of two lanes with no remembrance of which one I had come from. I was too scared to look in the rear view mirror to see what was behind me. I heard my son yell, “What are you doing?” A car was breaking to the left of me. I asked my son which lane I should go into and he told me to go right. Fortunately the freeway was not crowded. I was dizzy and scared and felt as if I was going to pass out. Soon there was an exit and I took that off the freeway and my son continued the drive home. I have not driven at night since.

I am a 50 year old woman with an excellent driving record. I made it. I feel sure that if there had been more cars on the freeway there would’ve been a terrible accident. Children from the ages of 6 up are being prescribed these drugs. They are getting their learners permits and at age 16 are given driver’s licenses after passing very easy tests. Maybe you or a loved one will be in a car next to one someday. Maybe you’ll be in an airplane piloted by a pilot who’s missed a dose, directed by an air traffic controller who’s trying to get off this stuff. Maybe you’ll be next to a taxicab driver or a bus driver or a commuter who is suddenly euphoric or has a momentary panic attack. I won’t drive at night, and am careful about where and when I drive in the daytime. But I really don’t think that many can afford to do that. I think they’ll just drive and hope for the best. And that is really, really scary to me.

Louise Mangan

7/1/2000

This is Survivor Story number 19.

Total number of stories in current database is 96

376 total views, 1 views today

Staccato Vision, Whiting Out and Brain Shivers on Effexor

“Please, unless you are chronically depressed or have something really, really severe, stay away from this class of drugs.”

 

Dear Friends and Acquaintances,

I realize that this is what most would consider a long letter. However, it is only a brief summation of my own personal experience. Please, especially those of you who are parents or grandparents, teachers or counselors, just take the two minutes it takes to read it, then just put it in the back of your mind. Or pass it on.

Anti-depressants are quite often being cavalierly dispensed to the population in general. Also, they are prescribed to help kids who’ve been on Ritalin for years get through the difficult process of the cessation of that drug. And now the manufacturers of these drugs are planning to produce it in smaller doses for their next target population: pre and elementary school aged children! These drugs have a very high percentage rate of undesirable and sometimes dangerous side effects.
As many of you know, several years ago I broke my wrist, which caused me to develop a rare condition known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. One of the medications I was given to try to control the pain was Effexor. Effexor is a serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or an SSRI. These drugs are commonly known as anti-depressants. Prozac is probably the most commonly known drug in this class. I was on this drug for less than 6 months when, for reasons of my own, I decided I wanted to get off. That’s when my nightmare began.

One cannot just stop taking these drugs. There is a tapering off process which must be followed. This is because there are very often serious and debilitating withdrawal symptoms. However, I was not told of these symptoms, and I now know that the doctor did not know about them, either. He told me only that nightmares were a common occurrence during this process, and that I might also experience “mild, flu-like” symptoms and “slight confusion.” During this initial, original prescribed tapering off process, which was supposed to take about 2 weeks, I experienced vivid and terrifying nightmares. I could not shake these off for hours after I had wakened. Since I was extremely tired, I napped a lot. Each time I napped, there would be a nightmare, and the process would repeat itself several times daily. I really was unprepared for their intensity and lasting after-images.

Then came the day I was to stop taking it. To make a long story short, these were some of my symptoms: A weird visual thing would happen for about a second, about 4 times a minute. I can only compare it to what it feels like to try to track the arrow of the mouse across the page. But I knew it was not my eyes that were doing this, I could feel it was my brain. (October, 2000: I’ve just found out that the term for this is “staccato vision”). I also experienced what people who have this call a sensation “like electric shocks” or “jolts” to my whole body which also occurred for a split second every 15 seconds or so. When these occurred at night, in the dark, they were accompanied by a flash of white light. It’s as if I were “whiting out” (instead of “blacking out”) for just a split second every 15 seconds or so. These incidents began to increase in intensity and began to be accompanied by panic and/or paranoia flashes. Eventually, just moving caused such dizziness and disorientation that I had to hold onto whatever was around me to walk.
Sometimes it felt as if there were a magnet to one side of me, pulling me that way. The “slight confusion” I experienced is something I can only imagine is what beginning Alzheimer’s patients must feel like during the initial stages of their eventually terminal mental decline during the time when they are still aware that something is really going wrong. Sometimes it felt as if my brain was shuddering in my skull a sensation that has come to be called “Brain Shivers” or “Brain Flips” by many. Numerous other things were happening as well, but I don’t want to get too long-winded here. I just want to give you all some idea of some of the kinds of things that were happening.

So, I made an appointment with the prescribing doctor, and a friend was kind enough to take me there. But the doctor did not believe me! He said that it couldn’t be the Effexor, that I probably had some neurological problems and that if the symptoms persisted, I should see a neurologist. But I KNEW it was the Effexor, so I went home, took another pill, and felt fine within the hour. Then I got on the ‘net. What I found there was astounding! Tons of people, all with the same things happening to them, reaching out to anonymous others and saying, “Help! What is happening to me?” These I found on bulletin boards, NOT on product information sites put up by the people who are selling the stuff.

I tried calling the Drug Company to find out what was happening to me and how to stop it. I never did reach them. Fortunately for me, my primary care physician had heard of these symptoms and knew how to deal with them. She advised a long, slow tapering off process, telling me that it could take one to two months for me to be able to get off. Also fortunately for me, she told me to take as long as I needed. It took me 10 MONTHS! During that time, the symptoms mentioned above continued, although diminished enough for me to be able to function almost normally. But other things began to happen. I saw things out of the corners of my eyes, which were not there. We all do that, but this was pretty constant. One thing I saw which I never told anyone about until it had stopped was a big, hairy rat about 1 foot long, scurrying around corners. Keep in mind that I was not on this drug because I was in any way mentally unbalanced it was merely to help with the pain. I saw, and still see occasionally, a pinpoint of violet shimmering light. Also, things would seem to be moving out of the corners of my eyes. A spot on the wall, for example, I would think was a spider crawling until I looked directly at it, when I would realize it was just a spot on the wall. These things did not scare me, but they were frequent and startling and bothersome.

I took my last little crumbs of Effexor in September of 1999. End of story?

Unfortunately, no. It is now the end of July,2000, and I still experience some of the same symptoms, although they are manageable. I also have experienced monstrous headaches. The first one, back in September, lasted 4 days. I thought I was going to die. I even told my son that I might die. I debated about that for a while, but did not want him to wake up and find me dead one morning. Fortunately, I’m still here. My headaches began to decrease in length, and now they seem to last only 2 hours or so. They go away within one minute. Sometimes I’m just achy all over. I guess that experience is the “mild, flu-like” symptoms I’d been warned about. I still have days I call “my stupid days”, and they usually signal the beginning of episodes lasting several days, involving vertigo, dizziness, short anxiety attacks, some euphoria occasionally, the “brain shivers”, and numerous other weird symptoms, and culminating in a headache. Then I’m fine for however long it lasts. Sometimes I feel whole body tremors not enough to make me twitch, and they are not unpleasant, but they’re there and they shouldn’t be. I am concerned about this. I want to know why, after not taking this drug for so long, I am experiencing this “discontinuation syndrome”, and when will it stop? I have not yet found the answer. I finally did get in touch with the Drug Company to ask them these questions and they took down all my information. They have never explained why, and they have never followed up. They would not talk to me about my symptoms, they would only talk with my doctor. And this was not OK because the doctor did not believe me! (This was not the prescribing doctor who hadn’t believed me when I first tried to get off this was the doctor who’d prescribed the tapering off process.) But I told her to call them and talk to them, and it was pretty easy for them to shine her on, since she didn’t believe me anyway. And they sent her a letter advising a slow tapering off of the drug, which I’d already done, of course, AND a “report” from a closed symposium on SSRIs sponsored by the a drug company ‘way back in 1996! (Which, of course, did not address the issue.)

The more research I’ve done on these things, the angrier I become.
Because the drug companies have known about these things for years. Many people and their families have gone through much, much worse than I have. Some people have never been able to get off the drugs. Now, what would YOU do if you were manufacturing these things? You’d probably say’ “Whoa! We need to stop selling these things until we can find out what’s causing this. We’d better get in touch with each and every one of those people who are having these extreme reactions, do whatever we can to help them, and to identify what it IS about them that makes them react differently than those who have no problems with the medication.” Well, not only are these companies not doing this, they are manufacturing the drugs in smaller doses so that CHILDREN can take them! Yes, Prozac is currently being tested on pre-school aged children! And although these drugs have not YET been approved for use in children, the numbers of children aged 6-12 being prescribed Prozac has risen from 41,000 in 1995 to 203,000 in 1996. Currently, in 2000, 2.3 million children in the U.S. are on anti-depressants. The official literature on these drugs says that they are safe for pregnant women to take! And there are documented cases of newborns being born with the more evident withdrawal symptoms (which the drug companies are ignoring because nobody can prove it. Isn’t that horrible?!). The companies that manufacture these things are re-naming Prozac “Serafem” or something and doctors are prescribing it for PMS! Are these drugs harmful to absolutely anyone who takes them? Of course not. And for many, these drugs have proven to be beneficial. However, they are NOT only being prescribed for major, long-term depressions, but for such things as the Holiday Blues and teenage angst! But the percentage risk for horrible and even deadly side effects is extremely high.

Please, unless you are chronically depressed or have something really, really severe, stay away from this class of drugs. And please, NEVER EVER put a child on these things! I am an intelligent, articulate, resourceful middle-aged woman. When a wave of panic starts to wash over me, or any other of these weird things start to happen, I can tell myself to just hold on, it’s just the after-effects of the drug, it will go away, I should take a deep breath and relax, etc. Do you think a child or a newborn could do the same? I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a child in school and to suffer the kind of confusion I’ve been through and manage to learn anything, let alone be involved in a physical activity or sport! This has been going on for nearly 2 years with me, and I don’t know when it will end!

Thank you for taking the time to read my story. This has been a BRIEF synopsis of what my life has been like for the past two years. And it’s nothing compared to what others have been through.
Yours,
Louise Mangan

Update, October, 2000:
In the few months since I wrote this, I found that these continued withdrawal effects after not haven taken the drug for a long time is a phenomena which has not one but two names: PANES (Persistent Adverse Neurological Effects) and “Intractable Withdrawal”. This phenomenon was noted as early as 1996 before I began taking Effexor. How can the pharmaceutical companies deny the existence of something that has occurred enough to even have a name?
Several months ago I was driving with my son on the freeway at night and I felt fine. Out of the blue, a wave of disorientation and that peculiar form of dizziness I associate with my “Effexor Episodes” came upon me. I found myself in the middle of two lanes with no remembrance of which one I had come from. I was too scared to look in the rear view mirror to see what was behind me. I heard my son yell, “What are you doing?” A car was breaking to the left of me. I asked my son which lane I should go into and he told me to go right. Fortunately the freeway was not crowded. I was dizzy and scared and felt as if I was going to pass out. Soon there was an exit and I took that off the freeway and my son continued the drive home. I have not driven at night since.
I am a 50 year old woman with an excellent driving record. I made it. I feel sure that if there had been more cars on the freeway there would’ve been a terrible accident. Children from the ages of 6 up are being prescribed these drugs. They are getting their learners permits and at age 16 are given driver’s licenses after passing very easy tests. Maybe you or a loved one will be in a car next to one someday. Maybe you’ll be in an airplane piloted by a pilot who’s missed a dose, directed by an air traffic controller who’s trying to get off this stuff. Maybe you’ll be next to a taxicab driver or a bus driver or a commuter who is suddenly euphoric or has a momentary panic attack. I won’t drive at night, and am careful about where and when I drive in the daytime. But I really don’t think that many can afford to do that. I think they’ll just drive and hope for the best. And that is really, really scary to me.

Louise Mangan

7/1/2000

This is Survivor Story number 18.
Total number of stories in current database is 96

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Withdrawing from Prozac after Eleven Years

“I credit (finding the ICFDA web site) with saving my life.”

I am grateful to you and your colleagues for warning people about the dangers of SSRI’s I am withdrawing from Prozac now after taking it for eleven years. Until January of this year I was taking 60 mgs/day of Prozac. I have taken doses as high as 80 mgs/day! After experiencing a psychotic episode (one of many). In January I found the ICFDA website. I credit that discovery with saving my life and I am grateful to you and your colleagues for warning people about the dangers of SSRI’s. After tapering off of the drug for four months I took my last dose of Prozac nineteen days ago. I have experienced all of the major SSRI withdrawal effects. Right now my biggest problem is disturbed sleep patterns and extreme fatigue.

I know that it might be beneficial to seek the help of a medical doctor but after my experience with Prozac I don’t know who to trust. I know that most MDs or DOs are probably part of the medical/pharmaceutical establishment that got me into this position in the first place.

Aaron L. Swinger
5152 Burgoyne Lane
Columbus, Ohio 43220-7345
(614)459-5281

6/21/2000

This is Survivor Story number 20.

Total number of stories in current database is 96

409 total views, 1 views today

5-Year Old’s Unusual Reaction to 5-htp

“I read about 5-htp and under the recommendation of a friend.”

I have read about your research and articles about the harmful effects of Prozac, etc., and wonder if you can help me figure out why my 5-yr old son had an unusual reaction to 5-htp –a supposedly safe natural supplement.

My son Alex has is mildly autistic and has sleep problems in that he takes a long time to fall asleep (1-2 hours) and ends up going to sleep around midnight every night. I read about 5-htp and under the recommendation of a friend decided to try it to see if it would help Alex to sleep and to calm down. (At that time, he seemed to have gotten a little immune to melatonin which we used to give him once in a while to help him sleep, which was why we were looking for other means.) On the first night we gave him 100mg at 6:30 p.m. and he resisted going to bed till 9:30p.m., then fell asleep at 10p.m. However, he woke up at 3a.m. that night and stayed awake all night and all of the next day, falling asleep at 10p.m.! We didn’t give him anything that night, but to convince ourselves that his reaction was not a coincidence (he does have the tendency to wake up in the middle of the night once in a while), We gave him another 100mg on the third night at around 8:30p.m. This time he fell asleep at 9:30p.m., but woke up at 11p.m., 2 hours later! He only managed to fall asleep at 5a.m. the next morning, then woke up at 8a.m. During the time that he was awake on the medication, he looked quite disoriented and tired, but didn’t have any aggressive or extreme behaviors just real out-of-sorts.

Do you think Alex has a problem metabolizing the serotonin? Have you come across any other incidences like his?

A Note from Dr. Tracy
As those of you who have read the research in my book (Prozac: Panacea or Pandora?) know, elevated levels of serotonin are found in those who are autistic. This indicates an inability to metabolize serotonin. Therefore, ANYTHING that increases serotonin – whether you are told it is natural or not – should be expected to produce adverse effects in someone who has autistic symptoms.

L. L.

6/20/2000

This is Survivor Story number 21.

Total number of stories in current database is 96

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