Effexor gave me the urge to take my life.

“Anybody who says Effexor is not dangerous is lying”

 

I am 36 years old with 2 children. Last year was a traumatic year, splitting up with my children’s father, losing a baby, working 46 hours per week and starting another relationship with mentally cruel man. In September my doctor put me on Effexor 75mg for depression, which started me on a downward spiral with hideous side effects.

Anybody who says Effexor is not dangerous is lying. After 2 months on the drug, I stuck a hose to my exhaust pipe of my car, took 2 sleeping tablets so I would not wake up and get out, and went to sleep. EIGHT hours later I awoke, and drove home dejected and angry. All of this was on 300mg of Effexor. I plummeted even further, slashing my wrists over 100 times, and never once did I miss a dose.

I was sleeping approx 4 hours per night, put on 10 kilos with no real change in my diet and the brain zaps were very real. I decided to wean myself off the tablets against my doctors advise, and had the worst week of my life. Fast-forward to now 6 weeks later, and I truly believe Effexor gave me the urge to take my life. I feel fantastic, in control and nearly normal. I no longer plot my death or have the urge to cut. The only thing I can thank Effexor for is sorting out my true friends in this world. My suicide attempts were very serious ones, not telling anybody beforehand and by all accounts I should be dead. If it were not for unleaded petrol, I would be. The difference is, it would not be from suicide, it would have been from Effexor.

 

2/9/2002

This is Survivor Story number 43.
Total number of stories in current database is 48

440 total views, no views today

My Boyfriend Committed Murder Thanks to Effexor

“(His doctor) cut him off his medication ‘cold turkey’ and put him directly on Buspar.”

 

Hi. I’m very distraught. I desperately need some help. My boyfriend, who had been on 225 mg of Effexor for over a year, started having severe headaches. By the way, I need to mention that this doctor never even did bloodwork on him before putting him on anti-depressants. Steve has always been such a kind caring person. But, my soon to be ex-husband had been stalking us constantly and threatening our lives. Well, after Steve complained of these major headaches to his doctor, the doctor told him to come in for an appointment (which he did). Once there, the doctor never evaluated him. He cut him off his medication “cold turkey” and put him directly on Buspar (which takes weeks to take effect). I never knew that there was such a thing as withdrawals until I started looking for anything I can find to help Steve. You see, one week and one day after being cut off his medication like that, Steve “blacked out” and drove to my soon to be ex husbands house, and shot both my ex and my ex’s mother to death. He doesn’t even remember going there. NOW, he’s in jail, looking at two counts of first-degree murder. From all I’ve found lately, withdrawals from this terrible drug can and does trigger this in people. Plus Steve thought he had the flu. He was very sick for a week after the medication was taken from him. So, he started taking Ny-quill and Tylenol cold and flu. I just found out today that this is a HUGE no with an SSRI in your system. No one told him about ANY of this. I’m so hurt right now. I don’t want Steve to spend the rest of his life in prison (or worse) for something he had no control over. He is only 33, and we were (and still are) engaged. His doctor never warned him of these withdrawals. We didn’t even know they existed. I also found out that my ex was on massive dosages of Paxil, plus two other antianxiety and antidepressants. No wonder he acted so crazy! All that stress plus all the reactions of these medicines HAD to be what made Steve “snap”. I just hope I can help him prove it to the jury and get him acquitted. Now that he has that poison completely out of his system, he is back to being the Steve I know. Hardly anyone, even the guards can believe Steve could do something like that. They always tell me what a nice man he is! I forgot to mention, he is a Christian. He doesn’t believe in violence at all. PLEASE help me to help him. I love him, and my children and I all want him back home, where he belongs. In MY opinion, the makers of Effexor and his doctor are the ones who should go to prison. Steve isn’t the first one this has happened to apparently, and unless someone stops these people from putting dangerous drugs in people’s bodies without informing them of the risks, I’m afraid he won’t be the last one it happens to. I’m sorry I rattled on so long, but I’m desperate. I want my fiancée back! I’m also VERY scared, because MY doctor put ME on Paxil after this. Now that I’ve seen all this stuff about Paxil, as well as Effexor. I’m petrified.

I hope to hear from others who have gone through this nightmare, and maybe offer me a ray of hope for Steve.

Cheryl
sapphire_eyes2@hotmail.com

 

1/16/2002

This is Survivor Story number 48.

Total number of stories in current database is 48

514 total views, no views today

A Nurse Speaks out about Prozac, Effexor and Zyban

“I have discovered many, many horrifying things about these drugs.”

 

An online friend recommended Ann Blake-Tracy’s book, which I haven’t gotten or read yet, but definitely will within the next few days. I decided to look for info on Dr. Tracy on the web, and discovered the ICFDA site. I have just read several personal accounts of others’ SSRI nightmares, and now find myself in tears, and in need of sharing my story, which it is very painful to do and probably will be for life.

I and my wife are both registered nurses. In late 1997, I had gone through a bad bout with the flu and decided I should seek help to quit smoking. My doctor at the time prescribed Zyban. I had almost quit (down from 2-3 packs/day to a couple of cigarettes per day) when I developed erosive and infective esophagitis and duodenitis, along with other ulcers. At that time, I stopped taking the Zyban, although I can’t recall for sure why.

A few months later, my wife said that my moods seemed better when I was on the Zyban, so the doc wrote a scrip and put me on Wellbutrin. Unfortunately, he did not suggest, nor did we consider, more conventional treatments, such as therapy or counseling. I regret that he, or we, had considered such, because the esophagitis was the first (physical) problem, and the least of many problems, both physical and psychological, which lay ahead.

After a time, while seeing a new physician, a discussion over the fact that the Wellbutrin did not seem to be helping any more ensued. So, the new physician changed me to Prozac. It wasn’t very long after the Prozac that I woke up one morning, went into the kitchen to fix myself some coffee, and passed out right there in the kitchen for no known reason. Our oldest Daughter, nine years old at the time, came running to the kitchen, where she discovered me trying to climb up the island in the center of our kitchen.. I was totally disoriented for a few moments, had a splitting headache, and had managed to fracture a toe during the fall. Although I managed to get reoriented, I was left with a totally debilitating headache.

Over the next four weeks, during which I was unable to go to work, I was hospitalized twice, underwent some horrendous and totally useless treatments for a diagnosis of “intractable migraines,” and the only thing that relieved the headache at all was Demerol and Phenergan. Of course, this left me just as unable to work as the headache itself. Near the fourth week, my wife noticed a “knot” in my cervical area. She went to the neurologist’s office with me, where I told one of the two doctors treating me for the migraines about the knot. When the doctor seeing me that day told me there was no knot (???), I fired him on the spot and told the nurse I wanted to see his partner. The second physician not only located it, but administered a trigger-point injection that almost totally relieved the now four-week old headache completely within an hour or so.

I returned to work within about a week, feeling relief from the headaches. But a friend suggested I quit the hospital where I had a good paying, although highly stressful job, and I did so, rather impulsively, without realizing the further financial devastation I was about to cause our family. Only part of the four weeks I had been out of work were covered by leave time, which had set into motion a serious financial crisis for our family.

Within months, I was out of a good paying, full-time job, the business proposition my friend had made turned out to be nothing but hollow promises, bill collectors were breathing down our necks, we were in danger of losing the home we had not long before purchased, and I was sinking into a bout of depression that most people could never imagine.

The next serious visit with my regular doctor included a discussion about the fact Prozac was not only not working, but that I was becoming extremely tired in the afternoons. So he suggested switching to Effexor, which he said “gives most patients sort of a boost.” I agreed, again, without any consideration or discussion of therapy or counseling. Looking back, depression was sort of logical. Within the last three years, I had been through a very bitter divorce, remarried, adopted the two stepdaughters that mean the world to me, purchased a house, gone through major health problems, walked away from a good job, had a promise of a great business partnership vanish into thin air, and was approaching total financial ruin. Perhaps I did have one or two reasons in all of that to be just a little depressed? But the story gets worse, much worse.

My sexual activity with my wife had begun to fall off considerably, and the activity we did engage in was plagued with strange problems I had never encountered before. I was having trouble functioning sexually. Ejaculation was becoming more difficult to achieve and I was experiencing painful sensations when aroused. My temper was getting more and more out of control — I developed a very short fuse, to say the least, resulting in all sorts of angry behavior that was totally new to me. Even worse, I began abusing my children. Even though I felt terrible after mistreating them, it was as though there was a second, horrible person inside of me, which I could not control, yet at the same time I kept thinking I could, or would at least be able to when the medications gained control over my depression once and for all. The medications never did. And it almost put an end to my life.

I was already having more frequent bouts of self-destructive behavior following episodes of losing my temper and in other ways losing control with the people I loved, most notably wife and our two daughters. I was oscillating between days of wanting to hide out from the world and days of mania, thinking I could do or achieve anything. Simple, everyday bumps in the road of life became mountains I felt unable to scale. This past December, our oldest daughter revealed to my wife the horrors of what I had become while my wife was away working at night as a nurse. In order to do what any loving mother would probably do, my wife told me the relationship was over and that I was never to return to our home again. Even worse, she told me that I would not see our daughters again until they were both grown and could decide on their own whether or not they wanted to see me again.. This was almost the fatal blow.

I started walking in the rain, with the temperature not much above freezing outside. It was then that I most seriously considered putting an end to my life physically — I was already dead emotionally. All that was left was an empty shell. The real me seemed lost forever, although I really had no idea where I had gone or why. I was walking along a major highway and saw an 18-wheeler coming downhill toward me. “Here is the perfect way to end it all and do it quickly,” I thought to myself. I stepped onto the pavement, into the path of the oncoming rig. He blew his horn and moved into the opposite lane of the highway where there was, fortunately for him, no oncoming traffic. Almost in disgust, I began to step forward a few more steps to once again place myself in the path of the truck. But something else suddenly crossed my mind: I actually had a mental image of our two daughters, screaming “I’m sorry, Daddy,” at my funeral. I knew this was not the way to end it. I began walking along the side of the road again, still hearing the air horn of the 18-wheeler blasting in my ears. I then thought of simply walking into the woods, sitting down by a tree, and actually allowing myself to die of hypothermia, which I was already beginning to experience in the almost freezing rain. My hands and feet had gone almost totally numb, with what had been intense pain now beginning to give way to oncoming frostbite.

A passing logger saw me on the side of the road and pulled over to offer me a ride. Two other vehicles had already done so, but I had waved them on saying “I’m fine, just leave me alone.” But something had changed. Perhaps the cold rain and intense pain I was feeling was jolting me back to reality. Unfortunately, the reality I was experiencing was neither hopeful nor acceptable to me at the time. I climbed into the truck and the driver took me to the nearest store, where I gave the attendant a dollar bill in exchange for dialing the long distance number where I could reach my wife. She agreed to my request to come and meet me. She took me to the home of my parents. Knowing that I did not want to live, yet not totally ready to just curl up and die, I asked them to take me to the hospital, where I had myself admitted for suicidal depression.

The next morning, I met with the psychiatrist and told her everything. I left nothing out. I wound up being transferred to an intensive treatment program for further help once the suicidal crisis was behind me. I was to the point I had nothing to hide any longer. I told her everything, as I did my therapists. This triggered notification of the authorities who immediately ordered me out of the home for good and set into motion an intense legal struggle that is still ongoing.

After being discharged from inpatient treatment, I told my psychiatrist that I did not think the Effexor was working right and might be causing me more problems. She seemed to think that dosage was just too low, so she increased the dosage from 75 mg per day to 150. I had to take it in the mornings because I had long before discovered that if I took Effexor in the evening hours, there was no possibility of getting any sleep. Within a few weeks, I was having daily, afternoon depression and anxiety attacks that were very intense and seemed not to be triggered by any particular thoughts or circumstances. One Friday afternoon, it hit me that my Effexor dose had been doubled. I was also now having panic attacks in public places and was becoming terrified of going anywhere. I called her office immediately and insisted on discontinuing the Effexor and on seeing her. I was told I could see her the following Tuesday afternoon. I agreed to that, and immediately began to taper myself off the Effexor. Since all I had was 150 mg capsules, my only choice, without getting a new prescription, was to space the doses out. I did so by skipping the next morning dose, and taking the following morning’s dose 12 hours late — around 8:30 p.m. An interesting but revealing thing occurred. Instead of severe afternoon panic attacks, the next really bad episode occurred during the early morning hours following that next dose, which I had taken in the evening instead of morning. I needed no further evidence to convince me that Effexor was in fact causing my depression and anxiety attacks.

When I saw the psychiatrist on Tuesday, I told her that the Effexor was worse than the Wellbutrin and Prozac had been. She looked at me and said “Wellbutrin and Prozac? I didn’t know you had ever taken those.” After discussing my history with those drugs, she agreed that I wasn’t tolerating antidepressants at all, and told me to taper myself off the Effexor as I saw fit and was comfortable with. I have not taken another dose of Effexor since that 8:30 PM dose two days prior to seeing her. Just as interesting is the fact that I have also had no need or desire to take Ativan, which she had wound up giving me in order for me to sleep and combat the increasing anxiety.

Despite the legal battle my wife and I are now facing, not only for the possibility of putting our family back together again, but very possibly for my own freedom from being cast into prison and out of society, my love for my wife, children, and life has returned. Once I got my head cleared enough to do so, I decided I wanted to learn more about the three drugs — Wellbutrin, Prozac, and Effexor, to try and figure out why they weren’t working right for me. Instead of just finding out how they were NOT working, I have discovered many, many horrifying things about these drugs. Not only are they all in the same class (SSRI’s), but there is more than significant information that leads me to believe that all of the psychological problems that emerged — none of which I had experienced prior to being started on all these drugs — were very likely triggered by the drugs.

So, in order to stop smoking, which I still have not done, my doctor put me on Zyban… the next 3-1/2 years or so of my life became a living hell for me and my family. What they have been through hurts as bad as thinking about my own plight. I would gladly spend the rest of my days in prison, or in hell, if that were necessary for them to be safe. But I am not a monster. In fact, life has become simpler and clearer to me than it has been in years. Not because of the tragedy, but because I am free of the serious and devastating effects of these drugs.

As I have said to others, with complete honesty, I would not wish what has happened to us on my worst enemy. Mentally, I have a totally new lease on life. But it was not until I took control of it and stopped the SSRI’s that I was able to obtain it. Sadly, there is a chance that the legal system is going to prevent me from ever being with my family again, which I am not totally sure I will survive. They mean everything in world to me. And in a society where marriages and families are routinely thrown out like household garbage, I feel no remorse whatsoever about my family taking precedence over my own individual needs, career needs, or anything else. I would rather die fighting for the chance to be with me family, to simply love them, support them, and share everyday life with them, including the tough parts, than to give up on them. They ARE my life, who, and what I am.

If only one of those doctors had ever said “Before we prescribe this (new) drug, why don’t you talk with a counselor or therapist?” it is very likely none of these tragic events would have ever occurred. Now I am stuck in a legal system that will probably never show any leniency or compassion, not understanding that these drugs can do these sorts of horrible things to ordinary people. Unable to afford a high-profile attorney (having to go with a public defender) who most likely has little real interest in fighting for me or my family, I am likely to lose my freedom, my family, and in turn my life. The latter is more truthful than I can convey, because if I lose my wife and daughters, the most meaningful part of me will be gone. I would never commit suicide — I promised my wife that for her and the girls — but I would die a slow, horrible death, withering away into a dark eternity, having no will live to live. Suicidal ideations and having no will to live are two very different things, yet they both lead to the same thing.

I pray that I will not be cast out of society like a disgusting, horrible, uncontrollable demon. I am not a threat to anyone. But the drugs that caused all of this are a very serious threat.

3/11/2001

This is Survivor Story number 5.
Total number of stories in current database is 34

622 total views, no views today

Falling Apart Withdrawing from Effexor

“I know from now on I will check more into a drug before I begin taking it.”

 

I was more depressed then usual and wanted to go on something. I have used sinequin, Pamolar, amitriptoline, Prozac, Zoloft in the past. Prozac worked for awhile then quit. At the time I went on Effexor I had not been taking anything for a number of years. I had some side effects when I began taking it, I didn’t want to eat and I was hyper, but being over weight I thought that it was great.

After awhile these symptoms stopped but I wasn’t depressed. I felt the best I had in years. After about 3 years and finding out that long term safety had never been established, I decided I wanted to get off of it. The psychiatrist didn’t agree and said I would probably have to be on it the rest of my life. I didn’t like that but said OK. I really wanted to get off it so got them to agree to help me.

I was taking 150 mg daily. so I slowly cut back to 75 mg per day and still felt okay. I did have the electric shocks that go through the body, but I had had them when I was getting off amitriptoline so just was careful about doing this slowly. I finally got down to 37.5mg, and then I really fell apart–nightmares, vivid dreams, unable to sleep well, feeling jittery, depressed.

But these feelings were different then feeling depressed. I went back to my counselor and told her, and they put me back on the Effexor. I really felt that I was having withdrawal from Effexor but they didn’t agree. I now see that the withdrawal was real. I am again (with the help of my internist) attempting to get off of it. I have told friends what is going on and have set up a support group for myself. I am going to do it real slow. I am now taking 150 mg one day and 75 mg the next. I have only had mild electric shock feeling. When I have no side effects I will lower it again.

I just don’t believe that this drug Effexor is on the market and being allowed to be used for long term use. I think even though it helped me if I had known of the trouble getting off, I may not have used it.
I know from now on I will check more into a drug before I begin taking it.

Shirley Wallstrom

12/15/2000

This is Survivor Story number 2.
Total number of stories in current database is 96

282 total views, no views today

Two Months of Hell on Luvox, Effexor, Paxil and Zoloft.

“Why don’t they tell people? What are they trying to do to us?”

 

Hi, I am not a teenager, but I was put on my first anti-depressant at 25 years of age. I was mostly depressed about my relationship at the time, but had always been anxious and unmotivated so I thought the doctor was correct.

I lived through two months of absolute Hell. First Luvox, then Effexor, then Paxil, then Zoloft…all of which I had severe tremors and dystonia while taking within days. My Dr. acted like I was psychosomatic. I became so ill during this time that I don’t recall half what happened. My now husband said it was terrifying to see me.

I quit the Doctor and am now 29 years of age. My memory is shot and if I was unmotivated prior to this, I can only say that now I am completely apathetic and disinterested in almost everything. I have tried naturopathy, acupuncture, etc. Nothing helps.

I had a minor problem before and now I think my life may be ruined. Why don’t they tell people? What are they trying to do to us?

Thank you for your page. It means a lot to know I am not alone if nothing else.

Yana
yana97@prodigy.net

Years 2000 and Prior

This is Survivor Story number 91.
Total number of stories in current database is 96

390 total views, no views today

Terrified on Effexor

“I could not even go out to my car to go to the hospital. I became terrified, I could not leave the house.”

 

I just read the article from Pat Spruill regarding [her experiences] being a volunteer on a hot-line. I too called a hot-line after about 3 days on Effexor. (The girl at the distress center was condescending and I really should have reported her but was too upset.) I became immobilized, I could not even go out to my car to go to the hospital. I became terrified, I could not leave the house. I felt like what I imagine a moose feels like looking into the headlights of a car. It was the worst experience I ever had on anti-depressants. (I have tried Prozac, Zoloft , Zyban (Wellbutrin), all with extreme negative side effects.) Had I not known that this was a reaction to the drug, I honestly do not think I would be here today. Luckily my son was home at the time. The worst of this is that when I reported it to my family doctor he said, “Oh those reactions go away after 2-3 weeks.” My pharmacist advised me that this was an abnormal reaction and not to take anymore. Depression, sad to say, is still today looked upon as something folks bring upon themselves ..even by our doctors; so the easiest way for the doctors to “keep us quiet” is to dope us up and hope we go away. (I plan to report my doctor when I find a new one.)

Years 2000 and Prior

This is Survivor Story number 88.
Total number of stories in current database is 96

322 total views, no views today

Uncontrolled Crying Withdrawing from Effexor

“Two days after my last dose was hell.”

 

One issue not brought up yet in the Effexor stories is that because it is so fast-acting, it should be taken at the same time every day. If I had known this, I would have disqualified myself from this medication.

If I had known about the withdrawal, I also would have decided to go without “this time.” But there would have been a next time. Now there won’t be a next time.
My initial complaint was a “different sort of depressed” feeling. Not like the major depressions I’ve had in the past, but uncontrolled crying and irritability. My psychiatrist, now that she is leaving her group, tells me that she was not allowed to offer psychotherapy, only drugs. I was not told this when I saw her, but I admit I was open to more drugs. I thought I had responded well to Zoloft in the past, but didn’t like being anorgasmic. I had responded very badly to Serzone. She first put me on Buspar, as she felt I was more anxious than depressed. I gave it what I felt to be a decent try (about 3 months) but the dizziness never really went away, and although I drink less than one drink a week, I was going to Tuscany and felt it quite unfair that I couldn’t drink while there. So I took myself off in about 2 weeks and one step down.
A month or so after I returned from the vacation, I was put on Effexor because of extreme fatigue, lethargy and bothersome “fuzzy brain”(that I had also brought to my GP and she had been unable to diagnose). [Note that all of these effects are listed as withdrawal symptoms with the SSRIs. Dr. Tracy]

I spent the next 5 months increasing my dosage on Effexor because it didn’t appear to be making anything worse, but I was still not better. I had also been suffering from extreme constipation (concurrent with the removal of Buspar) which after many GI tests my GI doctor ruled as “mulitcausal” and washed his hands of me.

The constipation became significantly less bothersome after a major stress date in my life passed. But by then insomnia compounded by nightmares were added to my list of symptoms.

I talked to all 3 doctors about the increasing muscle spasms I had been noticing. “That’s normal”was the most response I got. I was referred to a neurologist, who could find nothing but lessened reflexes on one leg. I was intermittently experiencing buzzing in my brain that I was afraid to mention to anyone.
I felt urges to voluntarily spasm my neck muscles, and the longer I delayed doing so, the more it felt involuntary when I finally relented (voluntary tics??). I worried about myself!!

Since I hope to get pregnant soon, my husband and I decided that I needed to get off of the Effexor — definitely not enough benefit for that kind of risk. I weaned myself in what I thought was a slow manner — a minimum of a week between drops, some drops I stayed on for 2 1/2 weeks. 5 drops in all.

Two days after my last dose (yesterday) was hell — and I also received “Prozac Backlash”in the mail. Talk about reading about yourself! I now believe that many of the symptoms that kept me on the Effexor were really withdrawal symptoms!
I would sometimes take it at 10 in the morning, sometimes at 2 in the afternoon. If I’d forgotten, I would take it at night and then try to wait until the evening the next day, but then would be back to the morning.

Now I am very worried about how long I will be experiencing all the buzzing and dizziness (ironic, my left ear says “quack quack”to me a few times a minute), the urge to spasm, the crying and irritability (thank God my husband not only understands but is very relieved to finally have a reason for some of my complaints!).

And my psychiatrist? I saw her about two weeks ago and let her know how I had been coming off the Effexor. She never mentioned any side effects or to take it slower. I indicated that I would like: 1) a short-term sleeping aide to help get my sleep schedule back on track and 2) something to take when the stress builds up to too much and I “flip”. My preference is to sleep until I am better, and I didn’t want to keep raiding my medicine cabinet for whatever heavy-duty painkillers were still in there.

What did she prescribe? Neurontin. To take “as needed”for both purposes. No wonder there is such a movement towards “alternative”medicine. I don’t know if I’ll ever trust a drug prescription again.

I am so glad I am not exposing a growing fetus to this!

L G
Austin, TX

 

Years 2000 and Prior

This is Survivor Story number 49.
Total number of stories in current database is 96

393 total views, 1 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

389 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

377 total views, no 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

382 total views, no views today