My Reaction to Zyban and Wellbutrin

“When my husband came home from work, he found me on the bathroom floor unable to move my left side, babbling and drooling, having difficult breathing.”

 

I would like to relate my experiences with Zyban (Wellbutrin). In December, 1997 I decided to quit smoking. My doctor prescribed Zyban. Within 3 days of taking the drug, I began to notice changes in my personality. I became more agitated, anxious, angry, and nervous. At first I attributed it to the holiday season, my husband being away for work reasons, and the stressful job of renovating our home and other reasons. By day 6 I was violent, crying continuously, unable to concentrate, shaking violently, rocking, unable to remember a thing. Fortunately (how sad to say this), I had a friend who had had an allergic reaction to medication several years before and recognized what was happening to me. She stayed with me until all hours of the night and suggested my doctor put me on an anti-anxiety drug (Xanax). It took about 3 months, but the medication did help lessen most of the side effects. However, my memory and concentration never returned to what it was.

Throughout this, my doctor insisted that I had anxiety disorder and that there was no way the Zyban could continue to affect me months later. This diagnosis was due in part to Glaxo Wellcome’s insistence that the drug would be out of my system after 30 days with no remaining side effects. It was also decided that I stop my birth control (depopreva) in order to balance my system again. Besides a hormone test and complete blood work up, no other tests were ever done. The strain of my body trying to regulate itself was too much. In March, 1999 I had a complete relapse again. (Note: It takes 12-18 months for the body to re-adjust itself after depopreva shots end.) I contacted Glaxo and was told by the person on the other end of the phone, that they did not know how hormones would affect the use of the drug and that no tests were ever run concerning this. I have tried to find out if this was correct, but I find nothing but dead ends.

By this time I had a new doctor. Gratefully, he realized that something was wrong and sent me to a brain neurologist/psychiatrist. He, too, contacted Glaxo. Now since it was well over a year since I had stopped the Zyban, he was told the same thing as my first doctor. It couldn’t be the Zyban, it was something else. I had a blood test and he relied on hormone tests over 1 year old – taken the month I quit the shots. Since all tests showed nothing, I quote: “Since the symptoms are so much like manic depressiveness, let’s treat the symptoms and worry about the cause later.” I was placed on Depakote and nothing else was ever done. Depakote did not seem to work well, especially at times of ovulation and menstruation. He kept upping my dose. At 150 mg I had a reaction. I became extremely “high” by 10 am. When my husband came home from work, he found me on the bathroom floor unable to move my left side, babbling and drooling, having difficult breathing. I had been there nearly 45 minutes alone. He rushed me to the hospital. The emergency room doctor claimed I had a seizure, the neurologist (who never came to see me) said it was a manic high and to stay on the Depakote, just at a lower dosage. Needless to say, I fought that and stopped taking it.

My husband and I were never given a final diagnosis – I am waiting for the papers from the hospital to see what the final decision was. Since then, my problems have worsened. I now stammer quite often, am losing mobility in my left arm and hand. The doctor has even had to give me a shot of Valium to stop uncontrollable shaking and spasms of my entire body. I am continuously tired and weak, shake a lot, my memory is worse, my ability to form sentences at times impossible, my anxiety and anger heightened. There is fear now that the compounding of the drug reactions may have caused permanent neurological damage. Unfortunately it will be almost 4 months before I can seen at major medical university for testing. I have been given lorazepam to control any further shakes and spasms. The idea of being on a drug the rest of my life so I can walk and talk is not a pleasant one.

During my struggle, I have become co-spokesperson/organizer for a growing group of people experiencing long-term side effects from either Wellbutrin or Zyban. Though the problems and their severity vary, we have found that we do share common lasting effects, mainly shakes, memory, and word-finding difficulties. We number over 30 with letters being received almost weekly. With so little information available to doctors, most cases are being misdiagnosed, if diagnosed at all, a few of us are working together to find our own answers. Though it is a slow process, occasionally we doing have encouraging findings.

For example, the patient information from a Walgreen Pharmacy in South Bend, Indiana says that the side effects MAY go away after stopping the drug. We hope that this is a partial admittance from the company that our problems are real and may be soon there will be answers to our problems. In the meantime, the search goes on. Though my experience is with Zyban, possibly compounded by my use of Depakote, many others are experiencing the similar problems with other medications. We are the guinea pigs for these =93new generation=94 drugs that seem to be put out on the market too quickly. The product information for doctors list 180+ side effects possible from Wellbutrin/Zyban, with many of these recognized AFTER the drug=92s release to the general public.

If the patient does not get this product information along with the drug, they are possibly aware of only 10 side effects. I know that many of the newer drugs are helpful, but too many are not. We need to bind together to stop the money-making machines that are jeopardizing our health, the health of our children, and possibly the health of the next generation. We need assurance of proper testing and results and that long-term problems are recognized prior to the drug=92s release, not after. Or, for that matter, that long-term problems even exist. If long-term problems have been discovered, follow-ups and treatment need to be available to those suffering them, no matter how small the percentage. With hopes, groups such as yours will bring more awareness to the general public and will make sure that future drugs will be released with more care and information.

I thank you for the opportunity to share my experience.

Debby Gincig Painter

 

Years 2000 and Prior

This is Survivor Story number 95.
Total number of stories in current database is 96

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After 3 months on Paxil, my hell started.

“Anybody who is thinking about taking medication for depression should think again.”

 

Everything started about 8 – 9 years ago.

I was going trough menopause and was feeling horrible. My doctor prescribed me Paxil. I took it for 6 months. I was not feeling very good on it because my underling problem was menopause. I got off the drug very slowly. I was not feeling very bad by slowly discontinuing the medication. About 3 months lather my hell started. I was having electric shocks (my doctor said that I had pinched nerve), flue like symptoms, I was vomiting and could not sleep.

I was suicidal. All I wanted to do is die. My therapist sent me to psychiatrist. He put me on Depakote for manic depression. I was going trough hell on Depakote. I was having horrible depression. I do not know why or how I went to gynecologist. I was put on natural estrogen and progesterone prescribed by doctor (from companding pharmacy). Suddenly I got better. I decided to get off Depakote. But because I was afraid to get off the drug knowing what Paxil did to me I stayed on it for maybe 7 years.

After I decided to get off Depakote I went through another hell.

I believe that I got dependent on the drug because every single time I was getting off I had to go back on medication. I remember when I was asking my psychiatrist whether I would have to be able to get off the medication that he told me that 90% people have to stay on it for rest of their life’s. Now I know why. By that time I was reading a book from Peter Breggin “Your drug may be your problem.” I was determined to get off the medication no matter what.

I was able, by increasing my hormones. For 6 months I was feeling wonderful. After 6 months I was feeling miserable again. I could not increase my hormones because I was on relatively high dose, so I was prescribed Remeron. I have been on it only for 2 months 15 mg and I am trying to get off it again.

I am going trough hell again. It feels like somebody is cutting my whole body. The physical withdrawal symptoms are worst then mental. By using this relatively “safe” drugs I am going trough hell and I am suicidal. I developed chronic insomnia. I cannot eat or sleep. My only solution is suicide. Anybody who is thinking about taking medication for depression should think again

Viera

 

1995

Years 2000 and Prior

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

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A Nurse’s Panic Attacks on Prozac and Paxil.

“I am terrified of these meds, and hope I can be emotionally healthy again.”

 

I’m writing because I am looking for information that may assist me to understand some bizarre symptoms that happened to me while taking SSRI’s. I was taking 40 mg of Prozac from Sept. 1995 until July 1996 then my MD added phentermine so I could lose weight. By the time Nov. 1996 came around I was completely out of control, my husband said he didn’t know me anymore, luckily for us we became pregnant with twins and I immediately stopped both meds. Don’t recall having any side effects. After my twins were born I started having major sleep deprivation and intrusive thoughts about harming my babies.

I called my MD office and told the receptionist I thought I might be suffering from PPD and could I go back on Prozac, my MD never spoke to me directly and started me back on 40 mg. q day. I immediately started to feel some relief and was contented that I was headed in the right direction, when after 7 days I had the scariest experience of my life. I was lying on the sofa singing to my now 7 mo. old baby when suddenly my whole body felt as though I numb ( sort of like when I got the epidural ) I couldn’t breathe I was sure I was about to die. I called the paramedics , went to the ER to be told there is nothing wrong with me. They gave me 2 mg of Ativan and sent me on my way. I saw my MD 3 days later who said it was not a reaction to the Prozac and I needed a MRI to r/o MS (although he said MS doesn’t present like this) a bronchogram to r/o asthma and a 24 hr halter monitor to r/o arrhythmia’s. Well needless to say I quit the Prozac and didn’t return. I have had major anxiety disorder ( I’ve not had that Prozac severe panic attack except one other time…. when they put me on Paxil 10 mg. again 7 days of treatment and whamoo the same symptoms) My MD said its because I have such high anxiety that I reacted to the Paxil. meaning it wasn’t the drug it was my anxiety. So now I’m going through cognitive behavioral therapy, I am terrified of the meds, and I hope I can be emotionally healthy again.

So my question is this: Have you heard of this type of reaction and is there anywhere that this information is published? I’m a registered nurse and a human being that wants some validation so please help if you can.

Years 2000

This is Survivor Story number 71.
Total number of stories in current database is 96

1,203 total views, no views today

Descent into Hell on Prozac

“But how do I live with the fact drugs took away five years of my life???”

 

Thanks for your e-mail on 5-31-95. I ordered your book and read it. The book was a real eye opener, and it perfectly described my own descent into hell from 1989 to 1994 due to meds (in particular Prozac). Initially, I was put on Prozac in Oct.1988 due to clinical depression. I was definitely depressed at the time and responded fairly well to the Prozac at first. Prior to Prozac, I had urges to hurt myself, but never really did. By January 1989, I was cutting myself up with everything I could find. This all consuming hurting binge resulted in frequent trips to ER, hospitalizations, etc. The thoughts would not stop and I would prowl around the house for hours looking for just the “right” thing to hurt myself with. I spent one whole year with my hemoglobin around 6-7 (my usual is 14) because of blood loss. Once I almost died. The frightening part is my psychiatrist just kept upping the Prozac, finally to 80mg and then added Anafranil, Melleril, Tegretol, klonopin, on and on. I wish I could fully describe this nightmare. I was labeled Borderline–Psychotic—OCD—Bi-polar. I was convinced by the doc that I was crazy and it was just taking time to find the right meds. NO ONE questioned that maybe the meds were the problem. As for me questioning it, I did and was told “no way.”

And I guess when someone is doing such bizarre stuff they start believing they are crazy, especially since I was so driven to do this stuff. Once I had a idea in my head, I had to do it. I have scars and skin grafts where I injected Drano into my body and skin grafts where I burned my hand to the bone with cigarettes. I was afraid I would hurt my kids…I had urges to shoot them with our rifle (we disposed of the rifle real quick) and I was afraid for them to come in the kitchen for fear I’d stab them. Your book brought back this nightmare. I just kept thinking as I read it “Oh, my God!”

In January 1994, my doc added Cytomel to boost the Prozac (and everything else I was on.) Then he added the Fastin and Pondimum (diet pills) because I had gained 50 pounds in a year (no wonder). Then I really did flip out. Think my brain finally said “enough is enough.” So the new doc took me off everything, slowly added low doses of Depakote and that was 14 months ago. I have been fine. No obsessive thoughts, no urges to hurt myself, no urges to kill my kids….I’m just about as “normal” as normal can be. I have a very successful private practice as a Licensed Professional Counselor.

Ann, after reading your book, I felt relieved to realize my “crazy” episode has little chance of returning since I’m convinced the reaction was med related. On the other hand, I feel really angry that my family and I went through hell for five years possibly due to medication. I also feel a little stupid since I’m in the mental health field and maybe should have caught on faster to the problem (I was to busy reading up on the DSM-III-R to check out each new diagnosis they gave me.) Not too long ago I tried to find an attorney who would help me recover the financial costs from that last hospitalization, because that I KNEW was not me, but rather mismanagement of meds and too many meds from the doc. But after I talked to three, I quit. Seems they are a little reluctant to take psych cases. But how do I live with the fact drugs took away five years of my life??? How do I explain this “Miraculous” recovery from obsessive thoughts of hurting, killing, etc.?? I don’t think someone comes out of that kind of 5 year hell, and be instantly cured by a low dose of Depakote. You did me a real favor…..a giant boost to my self-esteem.

So…you’ve heard my story…I realize probably just one in hundreds. Sorry this is so long. Sort of felt good to tell my story at last to someone other than a doc who will “label” me.

Thanks!! I will recommend your book to any clients I have who are on SSRI’s.

 

6/12/1995

Years 2000 and Prior

This is Survivor Story number 40.
Total number of stories in current database is 96

886 total views, no views today

My Side Effects from Prozac (Prescribed for Unipolor Depression)

“… more than 10 minutes passed and she whipped out her prescription pad…”

 

Hello,

I’ve just visited your website and have taken advantage of the “email me with your story” area. Thought I should, anyway.

I was on Prozac for unipolar depression in 1994. I stayed on it only for 6 months and weaned myself off it. My brother-in-law is a pharmacist and so I was able to understand the correct way to get off this drug.

I went off it because of what I perceive to be side-effects. Granted, it did perhaps obscure my depression. It didn’t disappear but, it enabled me to stand back and re-evaluate how to tackle it. So in that light, not having a mind that was very negative, I was able to opt for alternative help and a different approach to my depression. Presently, it is very well under control and I’m more cognitive about it than I ever was pre-Prozac.

Having said that, I must report my perceived side-effects. After about 2 weeks on 20 milligrams once a day, I began to feel awfully hyper. I talked a blue streak at work and remember people getting up and sitting elsewhere during breaks. Also, I would just say whatever came into my mind without really evaluating it before speaking as most people do.. (or some, anyhow 🙂 Also, my eyes were weird. I had episodes when my eyes would kind of shake, if you will. Like it does when one watches a home movie and the video shakes. Except they were faster. This happened frequently. I would also salivate a lot, having to swallow often.

To my credit, I realized this was the drug. Also, what made me quite suspicious was the fact that after struggling with depression – rather realizing that was what was wrong with me for about 20 years of my life, I swallowed hard and sought help, insisting to my MD that I WAS actually depressed and that I NEED to see a shrink. I waited for that appointment for approximately 2 months. I went to see her. Upon arriving in her office and giving her a brief profile of myself – no more than 10 minutes passed and she whipped out her prescription pad and wrote me an order for Prozac. I was terribly suspicious. She wasn’t the slightest bit interested in listening to what I had to say or why I felt I should talk to her. That was my red flag.

There you have it.

Kathy Garner

Years 2000 and Prior

This is Survivor Story number 90.
Total number of stories in current database is 96

839 total views, no views today

Klonopin, Paxil and Depakote prescribed for Stress and Anxiety

“…there seemed to be some kind of psychological wall in my mind, and I couldn’t get any words past it.”

 

After 2-1/2 years of severe long-term overwork, I passed out at work one day in late Fall 1993. My doctor ran tests on me and determined that I was not ill in any way, I was simply suffering from stress and overwork. I began seeing an MFCC, who in March advised that my doctor prescribe Klonopin for anxiety. I was started out at 1.5 mg per day. Despite specifically asking about side effects etc, my doctor failed to inform me either that it was addictive, or that it would interfere with my memory and attention span. I would never have gone on it if I had known. Those effects, of course, impaired my ability to do my job and made things worse instead of better.

Over the next four months, as my condition deteriorated, the dosage was increased, I deteriorated faster, and so on until I suffered a total breakdown in mid-July, by which time I was on 3.5 mg per day. At or about this time, my therapist suggested I should go on Paxil. I declined, insisting I wasn’t depressed, I was exhausted and over stressed. A week or two later she tried a different tack, and persuaded me to try it by telling me it would give me more energy. I was so utterly drained and exhausted that I was willing to try anything. The initial dosage was 20mg per day. The Klonopin dosage was maintained.

I felt even more lethargic on Paxil, and stopped taking it after a week. My therapist told me that I hadn’t given it time to start working, and persuaded me to go back on. I began to experience personality changes, and became withdrawn and verbally aggressive. At the beginning of September, I suffered my first severe dissociative episode. I took a 10-mile late-night stroll across the Santa Clara Valley, barefoot, wearing only cotton slacks and a T-shirt. After apparently walking several miles up the middle of US 101, I eventually wandered into a hotel lobby in Milpitas, where I collapsed from exposure. The hotel called paramedics, who took me to hospital, where I was sedated, treated for hypothermia, and discharged.

My therapist, in response to this, doubled my dosage to 40mg. On the higher dosage I began to display severe personality changes, and began to suffer acute paranoia, uncontrollable mood swings, severe agitation and akathisia, intermittent hysteria, asthenia, continuous tremors, and frequent agonizing “ice-pick” headaches (my former wife’s term). I began to spend more and more of my time in dissociated, depersonalized states, and had great difficulty sleeping. When I finally did get to sleep, it took me hours to muster the strength to get out of bed when I woke up. I moved into a separate room from my wife. After some rather alarming behavior on my part, we agreed to remove all of our firearms from the house and leave them with a friend for safe keeping, and we also agreed that I would not know which friend. (I was still rational some of the time.)

My mood swings continued to become more rapid, more erratic, more powerful, and more uncontrollable. I was aware at some level inside that I was on a roller-coaster ride through Hell that I didn’t have any desire to be on, but I didn’t seem able to communicate that fact or do anything to try to escape it. I also didn’t yet know that it was the drugs doing it. In mid-October I suffered a catatonic episode that lasted about eight hours; I was unable to speak for about three or four days afterward. I am sure the physiological equipment worked, but there seemed to be some kind of psychological wall in my mind, and I couldn’t get any words past it. I had to communicate by hand signs and written notes.

My therapist’s response was to conclude that I had spontaneously developed bipolar disorder. She called in a psychiatrist from Walnut Creek, who – on the basis of a 20-minute interview with me and 20 minutes with my wife – decided that she was right, and prescribed Depakote IN ADDITION to all the other medications. I don’t remember the dosage. I spent the next three weeks in a kind of haze; I can remember almost nothing about it. The mood swings didn’t stop, but now I was kind of disconnected from them. Disconnected from pretty much everything, as a matter of fact. I think if anything, things were still getting worse, only now I didn’t seem to care, because it wasn’t happening to me, it was happening to some nebulous other person who lived in my body.

On November 11, some time in the early hours of the morning, I took a massive overdose of everything I had on hand at the time, which was around 30 tablets of Depakote, 60 of Paxil, and close to 100 Klonopin. I also made several cuts in my left arm with a Samurai sword. Alerted by our cats, my wife found me and took me to O’Connor Hospital, where I was detoxed and confined for California’s mandatory 72-hour hold after any apparent suicide attempt. I was then transferred to the inpatient therapeutic community at Good Samaritan Hospital. I was given no medications at all for the first week or so, except for a sleeping pill (Dolman, I think) after I was unable to sleep for the first 3 consecutive nights and was experiencing severe symptoms of sleep deprivation. After about a week, the consulting psychiatrist in charge of my treatment recommended I resume a low dosage of Klonopin. I did so, but at this time I was beginning to finally find out some substantive information about the drugs I had been on, and at Thanksgiving I discontinued the Klonopin altogether. I was transferred to the outpatient program around the beginning of December, and discharged altogether on December 15. My behavior was still frequently irrational, and apparently emotionally abusive, though I was mostly unaware that I was acting irrationally. My wife and I sought marital counseling in January, in April, we separated, and my wife asked me to move out. I remained living in a separate room until I was able to move out of the house in July.

In the intervening 19 months, I have avoided any medications at all, except for the past few months. About two months ago I came down with a bad cold, in treatment for which I used a cough syrup and a nasal decongestant (generic Sudafed). I experienced an overdose-like reaction to the Sudafed, and immediately stopped using both the Sudafed and the cough syrup. I still experience occasional tremors, occasional brief anxiety attacks, brief attacks of akathisia, and difficulty sleeping. My circadian clock appears to be completely out of whack. My memory is very unreliable, though slowly improving. It seems that most of the actual information is still there, but many of the pointers are hopelessly scrambled, making me unable to get at the memories. I have a lot of trouble with what I call “dyslexic fingers” – my typing has slowed down considerably, because I make large numbers of errors in which my fingers type all the right letters, but in the wrong order, and occasionally I look at the screen to find I’ve typed complete gibberish and have no idea how I managed to do it. (I catch and correct almost all of my errors, but I never used to make those kinds of errors at all.) My co-ordination does not seem to be affected otherwise. I also still suffer from occasional (though thankfully, less frequent) flashbacks, which can still reduce me more or less instantly to complete hysteria. I am being treated (by a DIFFERENT therapist) for post traumatic stress disorder, though we seem to have made comparatively little, if any, progress lately. I have an agreement with both my new doctor and my new therapist that any kind of medication is out of the question.

Well, that’s the history, to date. (And I’m feeling proud of myself, because for once I managed to tell the whole story without getting hysterical.)

Years 2000 and Prior

This is Survivor Story number 83.
Total number of stories in current database is 96

1,534 total views, no views today