LEXAPRO: Journalist Has Side-Effects: Not Sure Lexapro is Working: U.S…

NOTE BY Ann Blake-Tracy (www.drugawareness.org):

From the last paragraph in the article below I quote the author: “I will say only this: I no longer count on Lexapro to make me well. Which is to say I no longer fret if I miss a day or two, I no longer rush to the drug store to get my refills, and I place far more importance on getting my life in order: regulating my alcohol consumption, getting a decent night’s sleep, exercising (I’m not the only depressive who’s become an amateur triathlete) and, corny as it sounds, pausing at intervals to ponder my blessings.”

Although there are some good ideas mentioned here that I have been recommending forever for depressives such as the great importance of sleep and exercise and counting one’s blessings, there are other things that could produce life-threatening consequences for both the author who is using an SSRI or those around him. Those areas of grave concern are the consumption of alcohol with an antidepressant and the lack of concern about skipping a pill or picking up a refill for his Lexapro – both all too common with antidepressant users.

Why are they common although dangerous? They are common because of two side effects produced by these drugs:

1, Antidepressants can produce overwhelming cravings for alcohol as well as a tolerance for alcohol and then when mixed can produce toxic effects leading to psychotic breaks.

2. Antidepressants produce what the patients call the “I don’t give a damn” attitude leading one to not care about missing a pill or refilling a prescription. The grave concern with this is the warning put in place by the FDA along with the Black Box warning of suicide. That FDA warning is that ANY ABRUPT CHANGE IN DOSE of an antidepressant can produce suicide, hostility or psychosis – generally a manic psychosis. Skipping a pill is an abrupt change in dose as is starting or stopping the use of one of these drugs or switching the brand of antidepressant you are taking. If you survive a manic psychosis instead of being told what caused that psychotic break, you will likely be diagnosed as Bipolar and/or spend the rest of your life in prison for what you did while psychotic. The possibilities can be more than just frightening!

Paragraphs 18 through 22 read:

” ‘How’s the Lexapro working’?”

” ‘I don’t know’.”

‘Agnosticism, I’ve found, is a common refrain among my medicated friends. We’re feeling OK, thanks. Is it the pill? Natural cycles? A good week at work? The fact that the sun is shining? Not always apparent. The only thing we’re really clear on, honestly, is our side effects. Nausea, nightmares, hypomania, agitation, headaches, decreased sex drive, decreased sex performance … the list is exquisite in its variation. My first two nights on Lexapro, I lay for hours on the precipice of unconsciousness, unable to take the last plunge. To fall asleep, I had to get a prescription for Ambien, which I then spent another week weaning myself off. To this day, the prospect of sleep holds a mild terror for me that it never did before.’

‘Oddly enough, the side effects are often the pills’ best advocates. If we’re feeling that crappy, we figure something of great moment is happening inside us. What’s harder to accept is the alternative explanation — that, when it comes to depression, we’re still wandering in the dark. As Charles Barber, author of “Comfortably Numb,” argues, scientists don’t really know how antidepressants work. ‘They change the brain chemistry, but the infinite spiral of what they do from there is very unclear’.”

“So if you don’t know how something works, and you can no longer credibly claim it does work (even some industry spokesmen are beginning to qualify their claims), you’re not left with much of a fallback position. The placebo effect is real — the body actually does heal itself when it believes it is being healed — but it is founded on faith, and in the wake of the JAMA study, it’s becoming harder and harder to maintain that faith except through a rather larger act of denial.”

http://www.salon.com/life/feature/2010/04/05/is_my_lexapro_working/

Monday, Apr 5, 2010 04:01 EDT

My antidepressant gets harder to swallow

As studies shed doubt on certain psychiatric drugs, I wonder: Do I really need my little white pill?

By Louis Bayard

Salon

I take it every morning, right after I brush my teeth. A single white pill, with the letters F and L stamped on one side, the number 10 on the other. It’s so small it nearly disappears into the folds of my palm. You could drop it in my orange juice or my breakfast cereal, and I’d swallow it without a hitch.

And, for the last three years, I have been swallowing my Lexapro — and everything that comes along with it. And, apparently, I’m not alone.

Between 1996 and 2005, the number of Americans taking antidepressants doubled. According to the Centers for Disease Control, antidepressants are now the most commonly prescribed class of drugs in the U.S. — ahead of drugs for cholesterol, blood pressure and asthma. Of the 2.4 billion drugs prescribed in 2005, 118 million were for depression. Whether the pills go by the name of Lexapro or Effexor or Prozac or Wellbutrin, we’re downing them, to the tune of $9.6 billion a year, and we’re doing it for a very good and simple reason. They’re supposed to be making us better.

Which leaves a quite massive shoe waiting to drop. What if these costly, widely marketed, bewitchingly commonplace drugs really aren’t fixing our brains?

The implications are troubling, and not just for the pharmaceutical industry. In a study published last January by the Journal of the American Medical Association, scientists conducting a meta-analysis of existing research found that antidepressants were unquestionably “useful in cases of severe depression” but frankly not much help for the rest of us. “The magnitude of benefit of antidepressant medication compared with placebo,” the study’s authors concluded, “may be minimal or nonexistent, on average, in patients with mild or moderate symptoms.”

In other words, antidepressants work, but only because we believe they’re working. If we’re not seriously depressed and we’re taking a tricyclic or a serotonin reuptake inhibitor or a norepinephrine booster, we’d fare about as well with a sugar pill. Which means that antidepressants are, to borrow the phraseology of Newsweek writer Martha Begley, “basically expensive Tic Tacs.”

And so, like millions of Americans, I’m left with the problem of it: that little white pill that travels down my gullet every morning. What is it really doing down there — up there? What if it’s not doing anything? Is there any good empirical unassailable reason that I should be swallowing it day after day after day? If I stop believing in it, will it stop working?

More than half a century has passed since the first antidepressants were prescribed, but it’s fair to say that the opposition to them coalesced in the 1990s, with the explosive sales growth of Prozac. As critics like David Healy and Ronald W. Dworkin warned that Big Pharma was medicalizing sadness for profit, the widespread usage of ironic terms like “happy pills” conjured up visions of smiling zombies wandering through sinister dreamscapes. Eric G. Wilson, in his overwrought “Against Happiness,” actually envisioned a day when antidepressants would “destroy dejection completely” and “eradicate depression forever.”

Looking back, we can see that both critics and advocates were working from the same premise: that these drugs change us in some fairly profound way. (Even pro-drug Peter Fisher [Kramer], in his bestselling “Listening to Prozac,” worried about the cost of making people “better than well.”) But as researchers like Irving Kirsch and Guy Sapirstein are increasingly finding, the truth may shade more toward the comic end of the spectrum. Far from transforming us, antidepressants are leaving us pretty much as they found us. Emperors in gleaming new clothes.

The more I ponder my experience, the less surprised I am. I turned to medication because I couldn’t stop crying in public places — Starbucks was a popular spot — or imagining my death. (Crucially, I never got around to planning it.) And because I realized that although I was meeting life’s core requirements, I was not always exceeding them. And because, after a couple of years of sessions with an empathetic therapist, I came to believe that my wiring really had shorted out, that some form of grayer matter had fastened itself to my brain and was hard at work, siphoning away my joy.

I remember watching the camcorder footage of my son’s first birthday party and being shocked by the sight of myself, staring back at the camera with sad eyes. Depression had always been a sporadic companion, but in my 43rd year, it began to take up permanent residence. I felt like I was walking around on rotting floorboards. I cried. I lost my temper on the flimsiest of pretexts. I saw myself dead.

At which point medication seemed like a reasonable alternative. Before another week had passed, I had secured a low-dosage prescription for Lexapro, prescribed not by my therapist but by my primary-care physician. (Even that’s not quite true. It was the doctor who was taking my doctor’s patients while she was on vacation.)

“Who’s going to monitor this drug?” my partner asked.

“Um … you? Me?”

When it came to Lexapro, all my responses had the same interrogative lilt. If someone asked me how I was feeling, I’d say, “Better, I guess?” When asked if I would recommend Lexapro to others, I’d say: “Maybe kind of?”

This was the most surprising part of the whole experience: that the transformation or malformation I had expected to feel never quite arrived, that in the course of ramping up my serotonin levels, I should remain so freakishly myself.

It is, in fact, one of the amusing side effects of living in the age of pharmaceuticals that you can always compare your lack of progress with those nearest and dearest to you in this case, my mother. Not a lunch goes by that one of us doesn’t say to the other:

“How’s the Lexapro working?”

“I don’t know.”

Agnosticism, I’ve found, is a common refrain among my medicated friends. We’re feeling OK, thanks. Is it the pill? Natural cycles? A good week at work? The fact that the sun is shining? Not always apparent. The only thing we’re really clear on, honestly, is our side effects. Nausea, nightmares, hypomania, agitation, headaches, decreased sex drive, decreased sex performance … the list is exquisite in its variation. My first two nights on Lexapro, I lay for hours on the precipice of unconsciousness, unable to take the last plunge. To fall asleep, I had to get a prescription for Ambien, which I then spent another week weaning myself off. To this day, the prospect of sleep holds a mild terror for me that it never did before.

Oddly enough, the side effects are often the pills’ best advocates. If we’re feeling that crappy, we figure something of great moment is happening inside us. What’s harder to accept is the alternative explanation — that, when it comes to depression, we’re still wandering in the dark. As Charles Barber, author of “Comfortably Numb,” argues, scientists don’t really know how antidepressants work. “They change the brain chemistry, but the infinite spiral of what they do from there is very unclear.”

So if you don’t know how something works, and you can no longer credibly claim it does work (even some industry spokesmen are beginning to qualify their claims), you’re not left with much of a fallback position. The placebo effect is real — the body actually does heal itself when it believes it is being healed — but it is founded on faith, and in the wake of the JAMA study, it’s becoming harder and harder to maintain that faith except through a rather larger act of denial.

Of course, even the most ardent critics of antidepressants caution strongly against sudden withdrawal. (Those side effects suck, too.) And few scientists will deny that drugs help people with severe unipolar depression. But what of the rest of us? Should we find some way to make ourselves believe in our little white pills again? Or should we find other things to believe in? Should we, in fact, begin to rethink our relationships with our brains?

I don’t bring much in the way of ideology to these questions. I’ve always felt that the rise of Prozac and its ilk at least had the salutary effect of removing the stigma attached to depression. Reconfigured as a chemical condition, it could now be owned and acknowledged and treated. But by translating it from the personal to the pharmacological, we may have left people even less empowered to combat it.

It’s bracing to see how depression is treated in other countries, where the relationship between drug manufacturers and physicians isn’t quite so hand-in-glove. Great Britain’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, for example, recommends that, before taking antidepressants, people with mild or moderate depression should undergo nine to 12 weeks of guided self-help, nine to 12 weeks of cognitive behavioral therapy, and 10 to 14 weeks of exercise classes. They should, in short, work on themselves before they can be worked upon.

Unfortunately, as Barber notes, that’s work, and not always pleasant. If we are to be honest with ourselves, we should admit that the drug companies aren’t the only ones who want that pill. We want it, too. If every last antidepressant were to vanish from the market today and a new one were to appear tomorrow, promising greater benefits than before, which of us would not line up? There is, after all, a strength in numbers, whereas grappling with yourself — your self — is a lonely business.

But it is, finally, a necessary one. The little white pill sits in my palm. In the glare of the bathroom light, I give it a good hard searching look. And then once more I clap it in my mouth and swallow it down.

Maybe, as one team of researchers has suggested, it’s the triumph of marketing over science. Maybe, as Samuel Johnson once said of second marriages, it’s the triumph of hope over experience. Maybe I’m just weak.

I will say only this: I no longer count on Lexapro to make me well. Which is to say I no longer fret if I miss a day or two, I no longer rush to the drug store to get my refills, and I place far more importance on getting my life in order: regulating my alcohol consumption, getting a decent night’s sleep, exercising (I’m not the only depressive who’s become an amateur triathlete) and, corny as it sounds, pausing at intervals to ponder my blessings. And also appreciating the ways in which my brain and body regulate their own climate through such time-honored techniques as the crying jag. Which is no less effective for happening in the middle of a busy Starbucks.

Three years and however many dollars later, can I honestly say Lexapro has made me a happier person? No. Has it usefully complicated my thinking? Maybe. In my pre-pill days, I regarded happiness as a form of grace, descending upon me whether or not I was worthy of it. Now I think of it as something that, however elusive, is there to be sought. Swallowing a pill every morning is not, in my mind, an act of obedience but a tiny spark of volition, a sign that I’m willing to find the light wherever it’s hiding. My Lexapro may be no better than a Tic Tac, but it’s a daily reminder that I won’t take depression’s shit lying down.

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I am a Prozac Survivor

“I think this experience will haunt me for the rest of my life.”

 

My name is Charly, I am a Dutch man and I live in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. My age is 33 years, now on 8 august 2000. After 4 years I think it’s time now to tell about my Prozac experience that have changed my belief system and my total way of living. I think this experience will haunt me for the rest of my life and I think I’m ready to face that fact now. I’ve tried to “just forget it” in all kinds of ways, but for me it’s like once you’ve been there, there is no return. I have a few good friends who really try to understand me in this feeling, but I also know that’s too much asked from them. I arrived at the place were I really wish to meet and talk to other Prozac/SSRI Survivors and I hope this story will be the start of this.

In February 1994 I visited my family doctor and told him about my depression because of a stranded relationship. Because I had heard and read about the “magnificent new wonder-drug” Prozac and it’s far fewer side effects then other anti-depressants I asked him for a prescription. I didn’t needed any psychotherapy cause I knew very well the background of my depression and it wasn’t that bad. If I had only knew then, what I know now, I wasn’t depressed at all, I was feeling down and I just wanted to feel better, happy, not sad. -later I would find out what a real depression was after Prozac hitting me hard-

My family doctor prescribed me Prozac 20 mg daily. About 5 to 6 times I took a monthly cure of Prozac 20 mg daily with intervals of a few months. My first response on Prozac was pretty good, I became more active, but looking back on that period I also became more reckless and naive, less bright and focused on my environment (people and circumstances). I was completely convinced of the innocence of this product and believed that it could actually help me feeling better. The only side effects that it gave me at first were some flu-like symptoms (like shaky), some nerve twitching beneath my right eye and a dry mouth, nothing very serious. My dream recall increased tremendously and they were more rich and vivid then ever. I’ve ended the last cure of Prozac (30 days) in April 1996.

On Friday 2 august 1996 (about 4 months later) I went to my family doctor for another 30 day prescription of Prozac because I still felt somewhat down the last few months. I took one pill that afternoon and went out of town to pay a visit to my parents. While driving in my car for about a half a hour I suddenly felt a strange kind of dizziness in my head. I felt inconstant contractions to be followed by a very painful stitch at the right side on top of my head, then followed by a feeling as if a bloodstream went down on my forehead.

A milky mist came down upon my eye sight, although I still could see, thank God. From my neck an extremely burning sensation radiated throughout of my whole body, especially my spine, arms and legs. My whole body felt like burning inside. Then a stiffening of my body followed and I had a constant feeling of “electricity pain” in my whole body. My body felt electrified, constantly. It’s very hard to explain this feeling, but it’s like goose-flesh so much intensified that it hurts and keeps your body tensed…constantly ! (-It feels like you don’t have a body anymore, but only “wires” connected to high electricity-)

I drove my car upon the verge and came in a state of shock. I remember that my first thought was: “It’s over, this is a stroke and parts of my body will be paralyzed”. Then I realized that couldn’t be the case cause I could still move my body parts and I could still talk, but inside I was completely panic- stricken. What is happening to me ? My God what if this won’t go away ? “I must keep my head cool, stay calm and drive on” were my thoughts.

I only parked for a few seconds upon that verge to check out if I still could function and drove on in the direction of my parents house. The whole incident, from the start of feeling dizzy, till the drove on to my parents, lasted less then 1 or 2 minutes. It took one Prozac-attack to blew away my comfortable feeling of self, of me in my body ! The milky mist that came down upon my eye sight would stay for days. First thing I did when arriving at my parents house was immediately calling the family doctor who tried to convince me that this was just some side effects I was going through and I should keep on taking the Prozac, which I did not, because in the state I was in, this stuff just had to leave my system, immediately. I’ve contacted 5 other doctors who all said that if this was a Prozac induced side effect at all, it would pass away within a few days. It didn’t. I was so scared, I was so shocked and unknown of what happened to me, and the responding of the doctors knocked me out. Physically and mentally I became a wreck, fractured. All I could do was lay down and trying to sleep.

From that moment on I would stay and move into my parents house for about one year. I couldn’t work anymore, I couldn’t focus anymore, I had changed from a self-confident grown man into an extremely anxious pitiful man, locked up inside, not able to function anymore. I got more then terrified, I couldn’t rationalize anymore, I just couldn’t bring my thoughts to the right proportions, and believe me, you would be terrified too, cause you think you’re going crazy, out of your mind (of course Prozac/SSRI Survivors all know how that’s like). It was very difficult for my parents, but they’ve cared for me as good as possible in that period, not really understanding what happened to me and not able to communicate with me.

The first 14 days I went straight into hell, just pure and plain hell. My body, my nervous system, became extremely oversensitive and totally out of control. It’s difficult to explain but I wasn’t in control anymore but my brains were, sending signals of pain throughout of my whole body. It was the most frightening experience I ever had in my whole life. My body felt as if it was turned inside out. It scared me so much and I had no idea if there was coming any relief of this. I didn’t committed suicide, but I don’t know what I had done if that bit of a relief didn’t came after 14 days. My ego (what you think you are) blew away into pieces. Boundaries that belonged to my personality structure were far exceeded. It’s an intrusion of your integrity that is not easily to describe but I’ll try to explain: I had thoughts and emotions that were not mine (but artificially produced by my brain), thoughts and emotions that didn’t belong to my personality, my character, that which makes me the person I am. Thoughts that were racing in the middle of my fore head like “resonating clouds of gas”.

The thoughts were extremely immoral, offensive, negative and from a self-destructive kind. I was embarrassed by these thoughts and so afraid, not able to stop them. The thoughts were extremely clear and strong, I actually could “hear” the thoughts and it’s very difficult to explain how that’s like, but “resonating clouds of gas” fits the closest description. It’s through this experience that I can better understand now how a phenomenon like telepathy might work.

Next to it I experienced exaggerated feelings of compunction. I condemned myself for “sins” from my childhood, like molesting the cat. The emotions that came up were so horrible with thoughts like: “how do you think to live on with this ?”, again, I just couldn’t rationalize anymore, as responsible as “I” made myself for these “sins”. Also I “saw” in my minds eye (and you have to understand that I saw it so clearly, like in a very vivid dream experience) symbols that scared the shit out of me, spires (like in the dark ages), people with masks, etc., all kind of bizarre and scrappy. I got oversensitive for coffee, herbs, etc.. I was extremely oversensitive for light and sound, which caused me pain upon top of my head, symptoms you can best compare with meningitis. My neck was heavily contracted. I couldn’t watch any movie with more or less contained violence. It scared me, my nervous system just couldn’t bear it.

Nightmares that I experienced were horrible, violent, frightening and so realistic that after awakening it took me some time to realize that I was already awake, and that this was a nightmare, not happening in real-time. That was another symptom: the filter between my sense of reality and my dreams got blurred. I felt like I was in a dream-like state (locked up inside) and couldn’t woke up from it. I still have this symptom occasionally, after 4 years now. In one of the nightmares I was raped by a good friend of mine, it was so horrible. Can you imagine someone very close to you, you really know well, you care for this persons integrity and you have a realistic nightmare being raped by this person. Then you “wake up” from this nightmare not realizing that you are awake already. Sometimes at night I woke up with such pressure on my chest (it literally felt as if someone was pushing on my chest) that I had difficulty with breathing. A lot of nights I even didn’t dare to sleep alone. My heartbeats were heavy and up-speeded along with the excessive sweating of my body, especially at night. I really do not understand why I didn’t drove in panic to the hospital at some nights, but I didn’t. At some nights I didn’t dare to sleep at all, because of the realistic nightmares that gave me a feeling as if something evil did came over me. I was also afraid to wake up being totally paralyzed, and the feeling of this being possible was very strong. It felt like anything could happen, I wasn’t in control anymore.

<“Recovery”> After 14 days I saw a little light at the end of the tunnel. After 40 days the burning “electricity pain” (electrified feeling) in my body had slightly changed in an all embracing itch feeling, which was a blessing compared with the hell of inner nerve pain. The “resonating clouds of gas” thoughts in my head, slightly changed into a feeling of a “stone” in my head. This “stone” is accompanied with contractions in my forehead and radiate behind my nose to my fore teeth.

After 4 years now, the “stone” and the contractions are still returning when I work behind a computer screen (indeed right now). After 4 years I still experience occasionally shivering of my body. After 4 years I still experience a kind of alienation from my emotions and my physical body. It feels like you’ve lost a part of yourself and some un-trustable stranger substitutes that part. I’m just glad that I can live a “normal” life right now. I’m still bitter, who’s gonna give me back what I’ve lost ? The battle I’m still fighting to win, is to win myself back again, and that means:

THE COMPLETE AND TRUSTED FEELING OF MYSELF I ONCE HAD.

I know I’m not alone, I’m just one of many, a Prozac Survivor, a SSRI Survivor. I do wish to meet a lot of others now who are SSRI Survivors. Here in the Netherlands I’ve had a tremendous support by Frank van Meerendonk, the director of the Prozac Survivors Support Group (PSSG) in The Netherlands. Frank van Meerendonk has gathered a lot of information concerning SSRI’s, horrible stories, trials and neuro research. His approach is very down to earth. It’s shocking to know that there are so many people on SSRI’s nowadays in 2000 – about 40.000.000 worldwide on Prozac, not to mention the other SSRI’s- after so many victims crying out to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Among those people on SSRI’s are many children. Many children are also on Ritalin and Dexedrine, a Dopamine Reuptake Inhibitor, just like Cocaine or Speed (Amphetamine), and we all know the actions of these drugs very well.

There are NO excuses for these SSRI manufacturers, they just don’t care, they don’t listen, still going on producing copy-cat Prozac-clones, with a cute selling name, but with the SAME diabolical effect, working on the SAME serotonergic and related dopaminergic system in the brain, calling them: Prozac, Sarafem, Paxil, Zoloft, Luvox, Celexa, Anafranil, Redux, Fen- Phen, etc.. In the month of September 1997 the diet-drugs Redux and Fen-Phen had to be withdrawn by the FDA because of their serious life-threatening action’s, damaging the brain, heart and lungs. It’s obvious what is going on here ! It’s so very important to protect the (future) children against these products, these Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors and the awful arrogance of their suppliers !

I don’t know exactly how to describe this, but I definitely know that SSRI’s influence your conscience and the center of your will. I am talking by first hand experience, and after this experience it’s so very difficult to gain control back over your life again. It’s so hard to believe again that YOU are in control over YOUR mind, that YOU determine YOUR thoughts and YOUR emotions. I was not only heavily (post)-traumatized by this experience but also parts of my personality have changed. For example: I have to avoid some social situations because of my increased anxiety. I never had this before Prozac. I also have become extreme sentimental. I used to be a very bright, inquisitive individual. Now I have to force myself to be with people and to learn new things. I feel mentally raped by Prozac and it nearly killed me, but it could not destroy my essence.

SSRI’s are without any doubt the most dangerous and underestimated drugs on this planet and for what I and many other individuals have experienced, the product of pure evilness. These SSRI’s are products of pure darkness disguised as “angels of light”. It’s striking to see how they rush their “blitzkrieg”, to deceive the world, how people on them, are defending their drugs to the bone, worshipping them. It’s striking to see how our doctors have blind faith in SSRI’s and invite them to come in, like they were descendents of the Gods. It is a very frightening development of OUR future ! It’s very frightening to see the power of the almighty pharmaceutical companies, who develop and push their SSRI’s to the world, using their power by influencing the health care system and the media. It’s very frightening to watch a world of individuals fall asleep, who ridicule the cause of increasing school- and workplace shooters by using the nickname of “the Prozac Defense”. I can only hope that these individuals wake up from their dream-states in the near future, to find themselves naked and that they may see how many human lives their deceivers have destroyed in their surroundings….

–Charly–

3/11/2001

This is Survivor Story number 7.
Total number of stories in current database is 34

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