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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SSRIs: Withdrawal is Sometimes More Severe Than the Original Problem.

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

Although this article at least acknowledges the problem with
rebound where the initial problem seems like nothing compared to the withdrawal

effects and rebound effects, it does not address the seriousness of withdrawal.
What is described here sounds like a piece of cake compared to what so many go
through in antidepressant withdrawal!

The FDA warns that abrupt withdrawal can possibly lead to
suicide, hostility or psychosis – generally a manic psychosis. Those are hardly

the milder withdrawal effects mentioned below! ALWAYS withdraw very, very
gradually so that you only have to deal with these milder withdrawal
effects.

________________________________
Paragraph two reads:  “It seems hard to imagine that

stopping a medicine could trigger the same symptoms it was
supposed to treat.
Sometimes the reaction is actually
more severe than the original problem.

Paragraph nine
reads:  “Another class of medications that can trigger withdrawal

includes antidepressants such as Celexa, Effexor, Paxil and
Pristiq.
Many people who quit these drugs experience  ‘brain
zaps,’  dizziness or the sensation of having their  ‘head in a
blender,’ along with shivers, high blood pressure or rapid heart rate.”

http://www.sgvtribune.com/living/ci_13913666

Rebound symptoms may keep many on drugs

Posted: 12/02/2009 10:46:51 PM PST

When people take
certain drugs for anxiety, insomnia, heartburn or headache, they are trying to
ease their discomfort. They surely don’t intend to make things worse, yet
sometimes that is what happens when they go off the medication.

It seems
hard to imagine that stopping a medicine could trigger the same symptoms it was
supposed to treat. Sometimes the reaction is actually more severe than the

original problem.

Doctors occasionally have difficulty recognizing this
rebound effect, because they may assume that the patients’ difficulties are
simply the return of the original symptoms.

During the 1970s, Valium and
Librium were two of the most commonly prescribed drugs in America. These popular
tranquilizers eased anxiety and helped people sleep.

When they were
stopped abruptly, however, some people developed withdrawal symptoms that
included severe anxiety, agitation, poor concentration, nightmares and insomnia.
Many doctors just couldn’t imagine that such symptoms might persist for weeks,
since these drugs are gone from the body within several days. Nowadays, the

withdrawal syndrome from benzodiazepines like Ativan (lorazepam), Valium
(diazepam) and Xanax (alprazolam) is well-recognized.

Other drugs also
may cause unexpected withdrawal problems. Quite a few people have trouble
stopping certain heartburn drugs. Here’s an example from one reader: “I have
been taking Protonix for heartburn for about six months. After learning of

potential ill effects from long-term use, I tried to stop taking it. After
about a week, I had to start taking it again due to severe heartburn – the
rebound effect, I suppose. I asked my provider how I should go about
discontinuing its use, but she did not know.”

Many physicians assumed
that severe heartburn upon discontinuation was the reappearance of the

underlying digestive problem. In the case of medications such as Aciphex,
Nexium, Prevacid, Prilosec and Protonix, however, an innovative study
demonstrated that perfectly healthy people suffer significant heartburn symptoms
they’d never had before when they go off one of these drugs after two months of
taking them (Gastroenterology, July 2009).

In addition to
benzodiazepines and heartburn medicines, other drugs can cause this type of
rebound phenomenon. Decongestant nasal sprays are notorious for causing rebound
congestion if used longer than three or four days. We have heard from people who
got hooked and used them several times a day for years.

Another class of
medications that can trigger withdrawal includes antidepressants such as Celexa,
Effexor, Paxil and Pristiq. Many people who quit these drugs experience “brain
zaps,” dizziness or the sensation of having their “head in a blender,” along
with shivers, high blood pressure or rapid heart rate.

All these
medications have two things in common: Stopping suddenly triggers a rebound with
symptoms similar to those of the original problem, and providers have very
little information on how to ease their patients’ withdrawal difficulties.

Patients deserve a warning before starting a drug that may be difficult
to stop. Providers should learn how to help patients stop a medication when they
no longer need it.

Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist. Teresa Graedon holds
a doctorate in medical anthropology and is a nutrition expert. Write to them in
care of their Web site: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com

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Ann Blake-Tracy’s December 13, 2006 to the FDA

Ann Blake-Tracy, head of the International Coalition for Drug Awareness, author of Prozac: Panacea or Pandora? & Our Serotonin Nightmare. For 15 years I have testified in court cases involving antidepressants. The last 17 years of my life have been devoted to researching, writing, and lecturing about these drugs.

Two of my nieces in their early 20’s, a decade apart, attempted suicide on antidepressants, the first on Prozac, the second just a month ago on Wellbutrin.

Due to time constraints I refer you to my September, 2004 testimony on the damaging effects of inhibiting serotonin metabolism – the very mode of action of antidepressants. Impairing serotonin metabolism results in a multitude of symptoms including suicide, violent crime, mania and psychosis. Suicidal ideation is, without question, associated with these drugs.

Rosie Meysenburg, Sara Bostock and I have collected and posted 1200 [now 3000] news articles documenting many exaggerated acts of violence against self or others at www.drugawareness.org with a direct link to www.ssristories.drugawareness.org

Beyond suicidal ideation we have mania/bipolar increasing dramatically. Antidepressants have always been known to trigger both.

According to the Pharmaceutical Business Review in the last 11 years alone, the number of people in the U.S. with “bipolar” disorder has increased by 4.8 million. [a 4000% increase]

Dr. Malcolm Bowers of Yale, found in the late 90’s over 200,000 people yearly are hospitalized with antidepressant-induced manic psychosis. They also point out that most go unrecognized as medication-induced, remain un hospitalized, and a threat to themselves and others.

What types of threats from manias?

Pyromania: A compulsion to start fires

Kleptomania: A compulsion to embezzle, shoplift, commit robberies

Dipsomania: An uncontrollable urge to drink alcohol

Nymphomania and erotomania: Sexual compulsions – a pathologic preoccupation with sexual fantasies or activities

Child sex abuse has increased dramatically with even female teachers going manic on these drugs and seducing students. The head of the sex abuse treatment program for Utah estimated 80% of sex crime perpetrators were on antidepressants at the time of the crime. While Karl Von Kleist, an ex-LAPD officer and leading polygraph expert estimated 90% – strong evidence of manic sexual compulsions that demand attention.

Diabetes has skyrocketed, has been linked to antidepressants, and blood sugar imbalances have long been suspected as the cause of mania or bipolar. Anyone who has witnessed someone in insulin shock would see the striking similarity to a violent reaction to an antidepressant.

If there has been any increase in suicide since the black box warning it is due to doctors not knowing how to get patients off these drugs safely.

Clearly far too many lives are being destroyed in various ways by these drugs.

WARNING: In sharing this information about adverse reactions to antidepressants I always recommend that you also give reference to my CD on safe withdrawal, Help! I Can’t Get Off My Antidepressant!, so that we do not have more people dropping off these drugs too quickly – a move which I have warned from the beginning can be even more dangerous than staying on the drugs!

The FDA also now warns that any abrupt change in dose of an antidepressant can produce suicide, hostility or psychosis. And these reactions can either come on very rapidly or even be delayed for months depending upon the adverse effects upon sleep patterns when the withdrawal is rapid! You can find the CD on safe and effective withdrawal helps here: http://store.drugawareness.org/

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