Withdrawing from Paxil has been a Nightmare

“Feelings of suicide and hopelessness are worse now than ever.”

 

I liked your comments on Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft. I have been on Paxil since 1995, and it has been a nightmare. I am slowly getting off the drug on my own, without telling my doctor. Believe me, I am cutting back VERY slowly because of how long I have been on it. I have gotten worse over the years, and not better, and have told my doctor so, but to no avail. Feelings of suicide and hopelessness are worse now than ever.

I know that many people wish there was a drug that really would help without the incredible side effects, such as weight gain, etc. By the way, I have gone from 180 (my ideal weight) to 240 pounds during the time I have been on Paxil. That in itself is depressing.

Tom Gadowski
27627 El Capitan Dr.
Warren, MI 48092-3078
(810) 751-6791

5/2/2000

This is Survivor Story number 23.
Total number of stories in current database is 96

 

 

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Nurse Tells of Horrors after Gaining Weight on Prozac

“Prozac is a dangerous drug!!!!! It has changed my body, my health, my financial status, influenced my marital status and almost destroyed me.”

 

Hi Ann Blake-Tracy,

Tomorrow will be 77 days off Prozac.

I feel relieved and elated that I have made it this far…and feel good. I hope my story can help some of the readers, as I have been on a real rollercoaster ride with this drug.

Let me start at the beginning. I have been prescribed and have taken sporadically antidepressant drugs for about 29 years. I have been diagnosed as bipolar but have neither manic episodes or deep depression. I do have time to time mild depression which causes some anxiety in my day to day living.

Three years ago a psychiatrist, seeing me for 10 minutes as a requirement as an adjunct to my one on one therapy with my therapist, prescribed Prozac. I was started on 20mg per day and within 1 day could feel it “kicking in” and making the world tolerable again. I immediately felt that I had really needed this drug..and why did I wait so long to feel better….as the weeks wore on however, the initial good feelings for my fellow man were replaced by transient feelings of anxiety…feeling that I couldn’t cope with things, situations… and an ongoing feeling that I didn’t want to deal with anything anymore.

I also started to gain weight…..mostly craving fast food and sweets…..at the end of 3 years I have gained 65 pounds and have the appearance of a cushinoid patient with upper body weight, buffalo hump, facial weight. I look different..I don’t look healthy. I also quit a job that I had for 7 years and started job hopping…had 4 jobs in one year. Financially..somehow I went from good credit…to bad credit with my 2nd mortgage becoming a reality to get my life back. I also divorced a husband of 26 years and remarried…but I believe that was a good choice. Would I have made different choices without the Prozac….I don’t know…….I weaned myself off the drug after reading your book and feel so much better mentally…..I have started another job and have stuck to it…I feel I have myself back again.

The only problem is the weight…..I can’t seem to get it off………Do you have any suggestions on diet types for this problem? I know the Cortisol is directly at fault…does it continue??? How do we stop it? I am a nurse and have been trying to research it on my own…what I have found is disheartening…..effects may last 2 years…….any suggestions….

I have also sent your book to my daughter who was also on Prozac..and my other daughter on Paxil….. Both are off the drugs after weaning…and doing better…..Prozac is a dangerous drug!!!!! It has changed my body, my health, my financial status, influenced my marital status…..and almost destroyed me……Please write back on any suggestions you may have on diet to crack this weight..I am 52 years old.
———–

Note from Ann Blake-Tracy:

Whatever you do as an ex-SSRI user, DO NOT try the high protein diet craze that is making a come back in spite of destroying the health of so many in the 1970’s! Ex-SSRI users are becoming EXTREMELY ill trying to follow this diet. I personally believe the reason for that is that the serotonergic drugs, while impairing one’s ability to break down serotonin, also impair one’s ability to metabolize proteins. This would make high protein diets very dangerous for them. Good nutrition, walking, sufficient water intake, proper sleep, and good fats Vs bad fats have always been the keys to weight loss. Check out Udo Erasmus’ book, “Fats the Heal, Fats that Kill” at www.edoerasmus.com.

Susan in Michigan

4/17/2000

This is Survivor Story number 24.
Total number of stories in current database is 96

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My 18-Year Old’s Bizarre Behavior on Prozac

“At no time …did any one mention Prozac’s side effects.”

My 18 year old son has been on Prozac for the last year and a half.
Initially, I brought him to a counselor for some mild anxiety he was experiencing (shyness in social situations, etc.) The counselor (a licensed MSW) prescribed Prozac, saying that it would greatly reduce Jeff’s anxiety. Indeed, after two weeks Jeff reported feeling better, being more relaxed in school and in social situations. Over the next 6 months or so, however, I began to notice some disturbing symptoms (excessive sleepiness at times and at other times extreme agitation along with an inability to concentrate on schoolwork).I told his family doctor, who suggested cutting his dose of Prozac, from 20 mg. to 10 mg. Shortly after this time, Jeff began to develop a severe drinking problem. He frequently came home so intoxicated that he could not stand and remembered nothing the next morning. His grades in school also started plummeting: during his senior year in high school, his grades went from B+ to failing. He was extremely agitated, anxious, unable to sit still or focus. At this point his counselors recommended that his Prozac be upped from 10 to 20 mg.

Things went from bad to worse-his drinking increased, he barely graduated from high school (he was on home study because he was exhibiting bizarre, sometimes threatening behavior in school, and was suspended).At no time during this period did any one mention Prozac’s side effects or the possibility that Jeff was having a serious reaction to this drug.

Finally, towards the end of summer ’99, when he picked up his prescription from the pharmacy, he read the label and noticed some of the possible side effects, pointing out to my husband and myself that these were the same things he’d been experiencing. We made a family decision to stop the Prozac, not realizing that the fun was just beginning. About a week after stopping the Prozac, Jeff began to have panic attacks (something he’d never experienced before).Along with the shaking, irregular heartbeat and anxiety, he experienced strange sensations in his head and a buzzing sound in his ears. We went to see his doctor, who didn’t make the connection-he sent him to a psychologist to treat the panic attacks, not suspecting that the problem might be Prozac withdrawal (nor did I). For the past 2 months, his symptoms have grown steadily worse: he’s been in the emergency room for severe headaches, has seen a neurologist, had many expensive tests, and been diagnosed with Migraine.

No one made the connection between his symptoms and the fact that he had stopped the Prozac abruptly (all doctors knew of his decision). It wasn’t until I saw Dr. Tracy on the Leeza show recently that I started to suspect that this might be the problem. Since then I’ve been researching Prozac on the internet and am amazed at the information I’m finding! I’ve spoken to Jeff’s doctor who was as surprised as I about these complications (I printed and mailed him lots of info.)I will order your book, as I want to know what I can do to help my son at this point apologize at the length of this e-mail, but I had to tell this story to someone.
Thank you.

Followup Letter to Dr. Tracy:
Dear Dr. Tracy,
Thank you for your kind response to my e-mail. It’s obvious that this is an issue very close to your heart. It’ s easy for me to see how frustrating this battle can be: the more information that I find on this topic, the more appalled I become that the medical and psychiatric professions are allowing this to happen to unsuspecting and trusting patients. Amazingly, Jeff seems to be doing much better. Just within the past week, his headaches have all but disappeared, and his anxiety level is greatly diminished. It’s been about 2 1/2 months since he stopped taking the Prozac- from what I’ve read however there can be delayed withdrawal reactions, so I’m not sure we’re out of the woods yet. I’ve been very busy printing information that I find on the internet and sending Jeff’s doctor and counselors letters and packets of information. My hope is that they will at least begin to question these drugs and do some research on their own. I’d like to show you an excerpt from the letter I wrote to the psychologist Jeff was referred to for the panic attacks he experienced shortly after discontinuing the Prozac. I am particularly annoyed with this doctor because he told me that Jeff’ panic attacks were the manifestations of OCD and that he needed to be on medication. From letter to Dr. Robbins: Coincidentally, now that Jeff’s withdrawal symptoms seem to have abated, he is much more like the son I once knew. He’s more relaxed, he’s stopped drinking, his sense of humor is back, and he’s actually able to focus on schoolwork ( he got an A on a recent College Comp. paper.)What does this say about Prozac? Basically, I feel that this drug took my son away from me for two years! I have also written a letter to the Rochester editorial page; a Speaking Outessay. I’ll let you know if they print it. If there’s any way I can help you with this cause, please let me know .I feel very strongly about it: this drug took my 16 year old son, who had been identified as gifted, was well-liked by his peers, and had a great sense of humor, and reduced him to a barely functioning shell of a person. I am thankful to you and God for rescuing us from this terrible shadow that hung over our lives.

Yes, I would like my e-mail (the original and this reply) posted on your website. You may include my first name and e-mail address. I would also like to remind people who’ve had negative experiences with Prozac or another anti-depressant to send a med-watch complaint to the FDA. The number for your local FDA is in the Federal organization section of the phone book. There is also a link from this ICFDA web site.] The more complaints they get the more likely it is they’ll investigate (I hope, unless they’re in this with the drug companies- but that’s a whole different topic)

Patti582@aol.com

2/27/2000

This is Survivor Story number 27.

Total number of stories in current database is 96

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12/1/1999 – Few Patients Satisfied With Antidepressants

Here’s some interesting new information about the efficacy of SSRI
medication as reported by people who really know something about
it–the patients. Mark

Study: Few Patients Satisfied With Antidepressants

12.43 p.m. ET (1743 GMT) November 30, 1999

NEW YORK — Just a third of patients on long-term antidepressant drug
therapy report being very satisfied with their treatment, according to
results of a new survey.

http://www.foxnews.com:80/js_index.sml?content=/health/113099/antidepress.sml

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I Survived A Cocktail of Anti-depressants and Dexedrine

I progressed to severe suicidal feelings.”

 

I thought I was maintaining well on Welbutrin and Dexedrine. While later researching overdose effects of anti-depressants, I realized that my doctor was balancing overdose effects of both medicines by raising one or the other. When a family trauma occurred that caused me to feel threatened for the well being of my children, my “mama hormones” took effect and caused an aggressed state that surged during PMS.

I was “protecting” my children from their own father who wouldn’t keep the perpetrators away from the home (his family). I progressed to severe suicidal feelings. My Doctor still yet knowing of this tried to prescribe sleeping pills to help with my sleeplessness. Even though I had never acted out suicide (the fear of not succeeding throughout my ordeal sustained me), I was afraid of these pills because the consequence was less severe than scarring my skin or breaking my spine.

Unfortunately while in a fight with the father of my children, after throwing glass glasses into the wall, in a fit of despair of the damage I realized I was doing with this relationship and my children’s emotional well being, I picked up a piece of glass and tried to slit my wrist. My first ever attempt at suicide.

I started counseling with a counselor of the same clinic at another location. My doctor at my third month appointment after this episode, changed my prescription to Prozac as well as the Dexedrine. Was still trying to give me sleeping pills because I had resorted to Marijuana (one of my recovered addictions broken) to help me relax enough to sleep. She was aware of this ASAP after I started.

So the change was done with this awareness. I started to notice symptoms of what I felt was ADHD (this doctor had diagnosed me after numerous drug therapies as Severe Depression/ADHD though I was not hyperactive). When I called to complain of symptoms, she tried to raise the dosage of the Prozac. I complained that the symptoms were of ADHD, so felt that the other should have been raised.

She conceded without a closer follow up appointment. At my PMS – I experienced a psychotic episode in one of my suicidal states of taking my children’s perpetrator (a minor) and his family at their home and killing them and my self with the media there because I was upset at the system for not intervening with this young person when he needed help (this person is also a victim of Prozac and Ritalin introduced at nine years of age which caused anger outbursts that didn’t stop with the medicine being stopped).

But unsafe people abound on both sides of the families and all I could think was who would be at the funerals consoling my children. This also kept me from acting out aggression and getting myself put into jail. I slept three hours or less a night. I was “driven”.

My Doctor’s nurse kept canceling my appointments a month at a time. After the third cancellation, I started to get upset. I had an episode after being late for the third appointment with a nurse that was cancelled because I got lost in the bus system. I walked in and was refused to be seen. After arguing with the receptionist, I stormed off and “popped” open a solid oak door that slammed into the wall and walked close to six miles in the heat of the day (I live in Texas) before I called my children’s father to pick me up.

The break in the car rejuvenated me to stay up still yet to another three hours sleep. I was also in a PMS state. I finally got through to the office management (a nurse and receptionist was intercepting me from reaching them) whereas this doctor soon left and personnel was cycled out. I started with a new Doctor in the same office that my counselor was at that was newly hired with this clinic. He withdrew me from the Prozac and started me on Neurontin first.

It seemed to aggress me more. I would be doing dishes and feel a bubble of suicide feelings surface without provocation of trauma. Tegretol pretty much the same. When he wanted to try Depakote I couldn’t the first time because I would go into tears from fear. I tried it finally after the second time and it had the same effect as Neurontin. Finally he used Topamax. –-12 hours –- I neutralized.

Unfortunately though it made me oversensitive to trauma, most particularly trauma associated to childhood trauma. I’ve since discovered that symptoms I had been describing to the first Doctor was of PTSD. I had memories from my childhood surface after the death of an adult mentor that I had repressed. I overreacted from trauma with withdrawal and weeping episodes. Again unfortunately, I started to recognize the patterns starting with Phil Hartman’s wife and the mass murder/suicides to my psychotic episode and started to outcry. I cried at work (which I’m still suffering from the consequences of). I cried to my Doctor of twenty years (who at my last appointment had security guards in the lobby)

I cried to my daughter’s school when I associated this teacher’s grabbing my daughter in the face and raging at her to a probable connection of my same scenario because her children were diagnosed as ADHD and she was sure she had ADD. No one could understand that I was out crying a past state. A lady at work told me of road rage with a near miss with her son in the car and she chased this little old lady down the road and if she had been able to have stopped this lady she would have literally killed her. She was on Zoloft. The clinic I was at was having a lawsuit filed against them from the husband of a lady who begged to be institutionalized and was refused whereas she committed suicide.

This lawyer refused to represent me. I started to realize after several calls to several lawyers that that was a strike against me, still being alive. I was a risk. My Doctor leveled me off the Topamax by lowering the dosage when I would feel the aggressed state start to impose to where I am totally off of all the drugs. I am exactly where I was before I started to take all of the medications. I have PTSD with severe depression. I have suffered from the symptoms all but the six years with the attempt for help, with these symptoms. My son was on Ritalin, then Dexedrine. His pediatrician had been regulating his dosage which was extremely high. I’ve taken him off of the medication, but because of his obvious failing grades, I’m getting extreme pressure from his teachers. I’m still in recovery, this family is still in recovery and have yet a break for a real breather from our ordeal.

My daughter’s school is trying to get me to take her to get diagnosed as ADD when she’s suffering from trauma reactions from her prior teacher. I have refused and have had insinuations of being a bad parent. All I could do was sit there near tears and make the comment “You have to sit in my chair to understand why I feel the way I do”. I researched the medicines based on the Topamax Anti Epileptic drug in my college Psychology book and discovered the Limbic System. The Amygdala and the Hippocampus hadn’t even had a real name in that book, but it described a part of the brain that if one side were disabled, the monkey subject would show severe aggression at the slightest provocation, and severe docileness when the other part was disabled. I ironically identified with that. Prozac/Dexedrine and Topamax.

I theorized that the Dexedrine blocks of Trauma Reactions that makes you pull back from fire when the fingers are burned. Which in the evolution of infant to adult progression can get stuck like a scratched record when trauma occurs – the variables differing in intensity and level of cognitive ability and recovery depending on completion of assimilation of the trauma (if at all) at the level of the cognitive ability when the trauma occurred. If I had been withdrawing publicly from drug addiction (which I have withdrawn from all my addictions privately), I would have received more support than what I received from what I was prescribed. It also concerned me that I was more accepted while I was in my aggressed state than the traumatized state crying. I had been raging with my family for two years.

I realized I was out of control, I took responsibility for the consequences. I worked to keep the responsibility of my actions when it concerned my children so that they could at least not be made to think they were responsible for my severe reactions. I took my daughter to a counseling appointment of mine so that I could get help in interaction with her. Both of my children had their counselor to help balance against me. I called the police on myself when my children’s father and I had gotten physically violent the second time within a six-month span in a fifteen-year relationship because I was afraid of losing control. One of the Police Officer’s told me he was on Prozac. No one listened to me. Until I became traumatized from the realization to where my children and their father had been for two years.

Than I was a threat because I vocalized my trauma. I worked with animals as a teenager – Domestic and Feral. I watched all the nature shows. I could fit the scenarios across the nation to the Wonders of Animal Behaviour. “Instinct”. Hormonal/Chemical urging of nesting instincts male/female. Territorial instincts. Abortion of young and newborn infants because of the inhospitable and contaminating environment. That’s my story. I never did as much damage with my own addictions as was done to me from a professional’s prescription of our society’s addiction. We have “red dyed” Limbic System’s out their waiting for the introduction of drug addiction, of ignorant and sloppy professionals mixing unmixable drugs, ready to pop out there like powder kegs. I grant permission to publish anonymously my story.

Thank you for this outlet and validation

(Withheld on request)

11/22/1999

This is Survivor Story number 28.
Total number of stories in current database is 96

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Ph.D. Plans Derailed on Zoloft

“Being “Zoloft free” has allowed me to see the negative side effects not easily seen while on the medication.”

 

I am a 28 years old and currently residing in Michigan. I most recently was studying as a graduate student in Cellular and Clinical Neurobiology Ph.D. program at Wayne State University located in Detroit, Michigan. However, I recently learned I would no longer be allowed to continue the program due to my poor performance in each of my enrolled classes during this, my first semester as a graduate student. Since learning, a month ago, about the termination of my appointment as a graduate student, I have reasons to believe my performance in the courses was influenced greatly by a medication I was taking. Two years prior to my entering the graduate program, I had a rather distressing situation in my life occur. So distressing was this particular situation, I found myself unable to sleep well at night, nor study for upcoming exams in the classes I was attending at my undergraduate institution (Brigham Young University). I chose to see a school physician. After hearing of my condition, he suggested I begin taking a medication called Zoloft (Sertraline) and didn’t hesitate to write me a prescription. I later learned this medication belonged to a family of medications called Serotonin Selective Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs).

Another factor, which I’m sure influenced my physician’s decision to prescribe Zoloft, was that I had been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) about 10 years prior to this incident. My physician suggested I begin with a 50mgs/day dose and increase the dosage in 50mg increments weekly until reaching a maximum dosage of 200mgs/day. Admittedly, some of my OCD symptoms decreased, however, over the course of time, the side effects would soon greatly outweigh the benefits.

I began taking Zoloft during the last three weeks of my second to last semester at Brigham Young University (BYU). I needed only to finish two courses to graduate, which I took the following semester. During the weeks beginning Zoloft, my physician wanted to visit with me at least once a week to follow-up on the Zoloft’s affects. During these visits I was consistently told what a wonderful medication Zoloft was and how much of a decrease in my OCD symptoms and anxiety I would see after a few weeks. The before mentioned distressing situation, which involved a disheartening ending of a relationship with my girlfriend, would virtually disappear my physician told me. In fact, my physician went so far as to say my OCD was likely the cause of my breakup with my girlfriend and that once the Zoloft helped me gain control of my OCD, I would most likely decide trying our relationship again. Looking back now, nothing is further from the truth. I think because of this positive rhetoric about Zoloft’s acclaimed benefits, I naively began believing I was experiencing a reformed and changed self, freed from the bonds of OCD and able to finally be “normal”. However, after two years of being on the medication, getting C grades in my final two classes at BYU, and most recently, kicked out of my graduate program, I’ve learned the harsh reality that Zoloft has only served to make things worse than before.

I want to make clear that I’m not an irresponsible student nor am I lacking in intelligence. I graduated from BYU with a 3.4 GPA in Pre-Physical Therapy. Some of my classes included Inorganic Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Physics, Medical Physiology, Anatomy, Genetics, and Calculus. The competition for good grades at BYU speaks for itself. The average GPA and ACT scores for the incoming freshman class last year were a 3.7 and 27 respectively. There are very intelligent students at BYU and the competition is fierce. My respectable graduating GPA of 3.4 clearly demonstrates my ability as a student. Remember, only two of my classes at BYU were taken while on Zoloft, both of which I received C grades.

Since my arrival here in Michigan, I’ve been seeing a psychiatrist. Interestingly, she is a member of the department (department of psychiatry) I belonged to as a graduate student. She specializes in mood and anxiety disorders. It is interesting to me that while I was struggling so hard to study, concentrate, and deal with other issues (what I know believe to be the side effects of the Zoloft), she didn’t once suggest I discontinue the Zoloft to see if my condition would improve. In other words, it’s very ironic that psychiatrist in the Department of Psychiatry at Wayne State University (considered a “prominent” research institution) couldn’t help one of the departments own graduate students who was dealing with a condition in which their department claims they specialize in for research. How remarkable that a research scientist in psychiatry, working at a prominent research university, specializing in mood and anxiety disorders did not think to ask the question, “maybe the Zoloft is the reason for this young man’s problems”. This is clear and conclusive evidence that medications such as Zoloft have not been thoroughly studied or tested.

Since discontinuing the Zoloft I’ve noticed some remarkable discoveries. I began tapering by 50-mg increments. I decreased my dosage to 150mg beginning November 2, 1999. I then tapered down to 100mg beginning November 5, 1999. I then went down 50mgs every nine days (November 5-14: 100mgs; November 14-23: 50mgs; November 24: 0mgs). During my first week of tapering (around November 4th or 5th), I had an experience were I was driving down the street I live on after school when I noticed a group of teenagers in the middle of the road. There was about five of them walking side-by-side spanning from one side of road to the other. For some unknown reason, I became extremely mad about this situation. I was mad these teenagers felt they could “hog” the whole street. During this fit of anger I stepped down on the accelerator and speed up. I remember I had a burst of rage, which I would say was uncontrollable, come over me. I thought the teenagers would hear my car accelerate and move out of the way, thus I would scare them good. However, I didn’t slow down in time enough and the teenagers didn’t move fast enough. My anger had impaired my rational judgement. I ended up clipping one of the teenagers with my right front bumper, knocking him to the ground and just about running over a second teenager. I ended up backing up my car and scolding the teenagers for walking in the road. However, during the rest of the drive home, I was dumbfounded about what I had just done. This kind of anger and uncontrollable rage was very unlike me. What was I thinking? I came inches from killing two teenagers. The experience really shook me up. After thinking about what had just occurred I could only attribute this rage and anger to my tapering of the Zoloft. I decided from that time forward, I would pay special attention to controlling my anger until I was completely off the medication.

It is now day 42 since completely discontinuing the Zoloft. Being “Zoloft free” has allowed me to see the negative side effects not easily seen while on the medication. While on the medication I saw a significant decrease in the quality and quantity of my sleep at night. I began to see large dark circles under my eyes. I was also quit lethargic during the day. I remember sitting in my graduate school classes and fighting very hard to stay awake. I remember looking around the lecture room and asking myself why the other students were not as exhausted as I was. Before beginning Zoloft I would exercise about 3-4 times/week. Since beginning the medication I struggled to exercise once or twice a week. I began to develop a rather severe chronic muscle pain in my neck and shoulders. This pain became so great I would avoid studying at times because of the position my neck and shoulders would have to be in for long periods of time. This neck and shoulder pain persisted even after two months of physical therapy. Not long after beginning Zoloft I noticed fungus infections underneath a couple of my fingernails.

However bad the physical side effects were, they couldn’t compare with the mental side effects of Zoloft. After beginning Zoloft, I noticed a significant decrease in my motivation to accomplish goals I had before set. I noticed a significant decrease in my ability and desire to concentrate. I also noticed a significant increase in my forgetting things such as appointments, where I put things, names, and other information people had told me. I noticed a very significant increase in addictive behaviors. I became addicted to the Internet, video games, sugary foods, sex, and highly stimulating activities. All of these behaviors were completely unlike me. So why didn’t I discontinue Zoloft much sooner than I did? Because over the course of several months my physician had coached me about the positive side effects of Zoloft. After listening to his counsel I believed I would never function at complete normalcy throughout life without the medication. Therefore, I attributed any bad effects to my own personality and not to the medication. That conclusion, looking back now, is far from the truth.

The side effects that interfered most with graduate school, were the increase of my addictive behaviors, decreased motivation, and my decreased ability to concentrate. These side effects combined to virtually eliminate my ability to take notes, study from the texts, or study for exams. As stated before, I attributed these side effects to being my own personality. I began to believe my personality had become flawed in some manner and that I needed to learn more self-control or self-discipline. Since being off the medication, I have learned I didn’t develop a inherently flawed personality (comparing how I was in graduate school to how I was during my undergraduate school years). I’ve learned the difference in my personality was due directly to the effect Zoloft was having on my mind. Unfortunately, I didn’t discover this until just before being terminated as a graduate student.

Since discontinuing the medication, every one of the before mentioned negative side effects has been reversed. My sleep has improved significantly, both quantity and quality. The dark circles under my eyes have virtually disappeared. My neck and back pain have improved greatly. In fact, I often times forget I ever had neck and back pain. The fungus under my fingernails began clearing up immediately after my discontinuing the medication. My energy level during the day has greatly improved. I no longer feel lethargic. I am back to exercising about 3-4 times/week. I’ve seen, at least, a 40% improvement in my motivation to accomplish goals. My ability to concentrate has increased significantly. One of the biggest improvements has been my ability to remember appointments, where I put things, peoples names, and other extraneous information other people tell me. My addictive behaviors have decreased significantly. I no longer crave sweet foods, the thought of playing a video game makes me sick, I rarely spend time on the Internet. I still struggle with some sexual addictions I developed while being on Zoloft, but even those are far more controllable now. Unfortunately, I discovered this information too late to reverse the consequences Zoloft had on me and my ability to retain my graduate student appointment

I am writing this letter to express my frustration and disappointment about a FDA approved medication that has had such a profoundly negative effect on my life. Something needs to be done so others aren’t mistakenly given treatments, which result in negative consequences. Or even worse, treatments that have potentially devastating consequences because of a pharmaceutical company’s agenda to push a particular drug through the “research red-tape” to get it out to market and make a “buck”. During the difficult time I had with my girlfriend, had one of the health care specialists said, “maybe the problem is that the girl you are dating just isn’t the right girl for you” and encouraged me to stick it out, I wouldn’t have to withdraw from my graduate program. Then again, maybe not. Looking back now, it’s easy to see the girl I had been dating was not the right girl for me, I didn’t need medication to have a relationship, and in retrospect, I didn’t need medication to make a decision either, just someone to help me work things out. In fact, the medication only served to make my life, in a more global sense, worse.

 

Years 2000 and Prior

This is Survivor Story number 74.
Total number of stories in current database is 96

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How Prozac Shattered My Life.

“I believe that any innocence that I held before these events occurred has now been dashed but I am never without hope.”

 

I have “hummed and hawed” for the last three days about writing to this address – people who have experienced a negative reaction to Prozac are perhaps understandably reticent about publicizing their experience, in the belief that what they will say will be treated with some skepticism, if not disbelief. These preparatory remarks are perhaps my response to the professional incredulity the medical fraternity, rightly or wrongly, give to their patients when anecdotal evidence is offered that contradicts their expected prognosis.

I had great faith in my doctor, in the treatment of what was a reactive depression brought about by work-related stress. I still have that faith, although it is not blind as it was before thanks to your pages on the WWW.

I am prompted to write because of “Patty’s” description of her husband’s course of treatment. The similarities to my own situation, after having spent some two years on Prozac, are remarkably similar. The devastation that has been wrought by my illness is now past, and I am now a sadder but wiser person. I have little to gain by writing other than to add to the growing list of patients who have had an adverse reaction to Prozac. But perhaps by writing others may persist and recognize that Prozac and the serotonergic syndrome are not figments of the patient’s imagination, but worthy of protracted study and explanation. I seek not to apportion blame, but to understand and be understood.

Without going into gross details, I had been taking Prozac with little positive effect for some 8 months from June 1994 until mid-way through 1995 before recognizing the possibility that there was something not quite right with my response to the medication. My agitation had gradually increased from the start of the prescription. It was a slow but steady rise in my tolerance of others, a deepening insomnia and above all the nightmares; nightmares that took me back to events that had happened when I had been a police officer nearly 15 years previously. I would jerk awake or my sleep would be interrupted by hyperreflexia. For some three months my average sleep was no more than one hour per night. The thought of sleep itself began to horrify me. The most obvious signs now as I look back were a feeling of electricity pumping through my body, the feeling that my limbs were charged and tingling.

I had been experiencing a tightness in the chest and was eventually taken into hospital, where blood tests showed that I had had a heart attack. Further tests eliminated this and it was put down to stress.

Sadly, I did not tell my doctor of these events, as I felt these were signs of my continuing decline into a deeper depression. My public life was no different, but my private life deteriorated rapidly as I struggled with the lack of sleep. I was prone to fits of crying and started to inexplicably want to harm myself. I banged my head against walls until I bled, tore shirts from my body, pleaded for help from my partner. My physical rage was barely controllable, but luckily for my partner, directed solely at myself. Verbal abuse at this stage became my only outlet. Anxiety became a single factor in all that I did. Whatever I thought I was about to accomplish in terms of work, I saw was imperfect. I became fearful of the most innocuous of social situations and work-related situations, although my work performance was unaffected. I hid this from all except my partner who tolerated everything believing that I would “come right”. My fear was simple – I was losing grip on reality and madness was not far away. A reluctance to communicate these events was eventually my undoing. The dosage of Prozac was increased as I related only those events that affected me physiologically.

Following some further work-related disagreements, I did not sleep for some seven or eight days. My internal rage became intolerable. I resigned from work and promptly collapsed mentally and was placed in a private hospital for sleep. Lithium was prescribed and the dosage of Prozac increased. I spent two days crying and did not sleep one bit, the nightmares returning almost the moment that I dropped of to sleep. My body sang with pain and I remember crawling into the corner of my private room crying. I saw myself spending Xmas on the streets, begging for food. I begged to be released from hospital and was. All I wanted was to go home, but my home life was now shattered irretrievably.

I felt cut off, entirely isolated from those that I loved and cared about and so three months later I left after another argument, more alone than alone. There was of course no change in my medication. Somehow I managed to obtain another job and hid my fear in work, but my private life and mental well-being was slipping beyond my grasp. Suicide was not an option that I had considered in all seriousness, but now it became a logical way out of the intense flailing that I gave to myself. I weighed up all the options and decided to take my life. It was the only way out; the only rational act that I could follow.

My fear of being found out – that I was mad – was such that I still did not report what was actually happening in my mind. Having decided on a course of action – my car with a pipe attached to the exhaust – I set about convincing myself that I could do it. Somewhere inside I could not muster the courage and broke down in tears. A call to a crisis center brought temporary relief. I still continued working, and those hours when I could deal sanely with people, were ones that held hope.

I took up sport again and played competitively, until I damaged my ribs and was prescribed a anti-inflammatory drug.

My sleep prior to this period was still plagued by nightmares and this incredible jerking of my limbs. Again, I put this down to the extreme personal stress that I was under. What other explanation could there have been? And the dosage of Prozac was evidence that I was not responding well enough.

Two days after I took the anti-inflammatories, I prepared for sleep. I felt a growing agitation and the electricity beginning to spark through my limbs. I began to tremble uncontrollably and I wanted to run and run this pain out of my system. I got to the stage where I considered jumping out of the window of the third floor flat in which I was staying. I have no recollection of anything from that night other than the fear that I felt. In desperation an ambulance was called. I struggled to keep my mind in place as the tremors increased. I kept saying, “I’m going to jump! No, I won’t. I won’t!” My heart raced, my mind raced and I saw everything that I wanted in life slipping away.

Taken to the emergency section of a major hospital, I was placed in a priority queue, strapped onto a gurney. The humiliation still rankles. I was not seen for another three hours, by which time the “panic attack” as it was described, had subsided. I told the doctor of my medication, and my suspicions that it was the combination of Prozac with the anti-inflammatories that might have been the problem. The response was luke warm, as I explained my medical history. I was told that a report would be forwarded to my doctor and I was released in the early hours of the morning, on my own recognizance”.

It was only at this stage that I began to question the use of Prozac. But who was I to correct the knowledge of the medical profession? My dose was increased. Again, because of certain delays in seeing my doctor, I gained confidence again, and submitted myself to the further dosage.

It is now some 18 months since these events, and following acupuncture treatment from my GP for the continuing “pain”, I began to seek another explanation for my continuing moroseness. Gradually (and wrongly!) I tried cold-turkey and eventually a change in psychiatrist last December, 1997. This brought a change in medication and with it a gradual return to normality.

At no stage (and this is current) has it ever been discussed that Prozac may have been a contributing cause to my continuing illness. Indeed, that it may have masked what appears to be a particularly traumatic set of events, has never been canvassed.

I now live with hope, an intuitive hope that I believe that Prozac may have been in some way a contributing cause to what on the face of it was a work-related stress problem, that had become far worse as a result. Of course, I have no empirical reason to believe that this unconfirming data is of any consequence to the scientific community.

Since being off Prozac there have been no bouts of anxiety (other than the more healthy kind), my sleeping has gradually increased to five hours per night, my nightmares have all but disappeared and above all there is a relative sense of a return to who I was.

Throughout this period of time, I have continued to work, hiding my private fears through enforced isolation from those that I care deeply about. There is a cost of course – an immense emotional cost. I am only troubled now by a search for truth, a truth for which, I may of course, never find an answer. Mental illness carried with it a stigma; a stigma about whether what we have become has any rational cause. Any self-knowledge that can be gained through the horrors of what I have gone through, from the absolute despair of confusion and loss of those that we care about the most, is tinged with intellectual and emotional frustration. It requires a faith and trust in those around us. I believe that any innocence that I held before these events occurred has now been dashed but I am never without hope.

I do not know whether these words will be of use, or my experience in anyway enlightening. I know that your work is important to a future generation, a future generation that may be educated to question more extensively than I myself have done.

Thank you for your time. May your work continue and prosper.

Two Years After Prozac: An Update

“It has been some time since this was written and you may be interested in a follow-up that reveals perhaps the more insidious side of the “idiosyncratic drug reactions” that are so often innocently missed.”

I am the “AG” who appears on the “Survivor’s Links” under the title “How Prozac Shattered My Life” on your web site.

It has been some time since this was written and you may be interested in a follow-up that reveals perhaps the more insidious side of the “idiosyncratic drug reactions” that are so often innocently missed. I have now been “off” Prozac for almost two years and, although almost back to normal, I was recently diagnosed with Left Ventricle Hypertrophy (an enlarged heart) and Hypertension in April 1999. I am currently on medication to reduce my blood pressure (which has been very successful) and lucky enough to be treated by a heart specialist who is specializing in serotonin and its relationship to high blood pressure.

I have no scientific reason to believe that there is any connection between my taking of Prozac and my heart problems, although my heart specialist (for whom I purchased and gave a copy of Ann Tracy’s book) is currently wading through the literature to see whether a link can be established. There is no family history of hypertension to the best of my knowledge, but I had left out an important medical fact from my original story.

I was briefly hospitalized for a “Heart attack” in 1995 some nine months or so after I had started taking Prozac (1994) (NB I believe that the date in my original story should read 1994 not 1995 – my fault I am afraid but the chronology is important.). Blood tests had shown that I had had a “heart attack”, but an angiogram confirmed that there had been no damage to my heart, and the tightness in my chest was put down to stress, and was dismissed as unimportant. I say “unimportant” simply because the threat (which it might have been) was dismissed, because there was no “damage” seen. My blood pressure at that stage was moderately high, but did not, at that stage require medication, as it was within the bounds of “high normal”.

In November 1998, I was referred to a sleep disorder clinic in order to sort out problems I had with sleeping, and following tests I was referred to a heart specialist as my blood pressure was high. In February 1999, I was diagnosed with Left Ventricle Hypertrophy and Hypertension following a cardiogram which identified the enlargement.

I am currently a very physically fit 46 year old and I am pleased to say well on the mend mentally. The mental scars remain and I write first to relate that recovery is slow, but it is recovery nonetheless. That four letter word “hope” is so important. Often it has been a real test of personal perseverance and a little courage. I do not believe that any of what I have achieved in the past eighteen months would have been possible without Ann Tracy’s indomitable attitude towards making us all aware of the lack of information about the long term effects of SSRIs. Again, I owe her much.

Once again my thanks to you for the life-saving work that you are doing.

Alastair Gumley

Years 2000 and Prior

This is Survivor Story number 80.
Total number of stories in current database is 96

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09/18/1999 – Robert Kirkwood, ICFDA Director, Speaks Out

Mr. Robert Kirkwood of Lebanon, Tennessee, lost his family to
antidepressants. He now serves as an area director in Tennesse, and
only weeks after his loss, he is courageously trying to educate others
to the dangers these drugs pose. This article appeared recently in the
Smithville Review. It’s entitled–

Grieving father warns of drug dangers: Wife, mother who took lives of
their two young children was under treatment.

http://smithvillereview.edge.net/index.ez?viewStory=474

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09/16/1999 – ABC News Transcript 9/15/99–SSRI Effectiveness

Thanks to one of our ICFDA Directors for obtaining the following for us:

The following message is a transcript of last night’s ABC News with
Peter Jennings: a message about the SSRIs. Tonight Peter Jennings will
discuss the “side-effects” of the SSRIs.
———————————————————————–
Peter Jennings ABC News: September 15, 1999

Peter Jennings: “Just when is the drug actually making a difference?
Antidepressants are very popular these days: sales are up 17% from just
last year. Millions and millions of prescriptions now are being
written to
battle depression and mood swings. Tonight, are these drugs really
doing
everything that people think they are? Here’s ABC’s Deborah Amos ”

Deborah Amos: “These depression fighting pills are 60 – 70% effective in
bringing relief according to the medical literature. But Thomas Moore,
who
studies drugs at George Washington University, says the numbers are
misleading”

Thomas Moore: “Millions of Americans believe that the benefits of these
drugs are much greater than they are”

Deborah Amos: “To investigate, Moore analyzed all drug company tests on
five major drugs submitted to the FDA prior to market approval: for
Paxil,
Zoloft, Effexor, Serzone and Prozac. The effectiveness of the drug was
measured against a placebo or sugar pill.”

Thomas Moore: “The effect of antidepressants drugs on depression is
only
very little different than the effect of a completely inactive placebo.”

Deborah Amos: “The highlight of Moore’s finding is the case of Prozac
with
more than $2 billion dollars in U.S. Sales. About 90% of Prozac’s
overall
effectiveness is about the same as patients taking nothing stronger
than a
sugar pill. But the label for antidepressant drugs, the prescribing
detail
for doctors, usually do not spell out the small overall differences
between
the drug and the placebos.”

Thomas Moore: “At the very least the FDA product labeling should
include a
more balanced picture of all the information they have received about
the
drug, – about all the clinical trials.”

Deborah Amos: “”The FDA says it does not put that kind of detail on the
label because it is not helpful in predicting individual outcomes. So
what
does it all mean for patients, when a placebo can have almost the same
benefits as a dug, and particularly, when a drug can have unpleasant
side-effects , —- that feeling – jumpy to <sum><sum><sum><sum><sum>

(a psychologist from the University of Conn., who has teamed up with
Thomas
Moore.)

?: “It suggests that the frontline of treatment for depression should
be
psychological rather than chemical.”

Deborah Ames: “The problem is that good therapy is expensive and not
always available. Pills are cheaper and more easily available. Deborah
Ames, ABC News, New York.”

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