Lori Heitman
I was on Cymbalta 90 mg for approximately 4 years. During this time I was also prescribed Temazepam for sleep and Xanax .05 prn for anxiety. I took everything as prescribed but was noticing side effects, such as ”brain zaps” after a late or missed dose. I knew something was wrong but did not know how to go about getting off Cymbalta.
In June 2008 my son found me unconscious on the kitchen floor, with a suicide note at my side. He called 911, but hid the suicide note. This was the start of a 15 day nightmare in the local hospital’s ICU. I was not breathing on arrival & had to be put on a ventilator for two days minimum. From here the details are not clear to me. The hospital called in an addiction specialist, I believe they did a rapid detox with Ativan. This only made me sicker. I was still in the ICU, suffering from extreme hallucinations while i was getting visited from friends and family. I have never been so embarrassed in my life. I was told that on several accounts that my requests for basic needs were denied because I was ”crazy”. When they finally got me off Ativan, I was sent to the psychiatric floor for approximately 36 hours. Upon my release the psychiatrist told me to go home and continue on the medication. The same medication which they had detoxed me for only I knew better and now am completely drug free and have never felt better. I have since tried to get answers about my ordeal, but haave hit a brick wall. Several doctors have told me to forget about it, one local psychiatrist even told me that I should let him hypnotize me so i would forget about the whole ordeal. I would just like my story to be documented in hopes that it might prevent someone else from going through such a horrible ordeal.

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PAXIL: Athlete Wrongly Given Pacemaker for Paxil-Induced Heart Malfunction – FL

NOTE FROM Ann Blake-Tracy (

Although Paul’s case is an older case I have only this week found my copy
of excellent this article so had not been able to send it out before now,
but feel it is extremely important to include in our database. Others need to be
aware of the effects of SSRI antidepressants upon the heart, even in those who
are in excellent physical condition. I would encourage you to read the entire
article as it is full of very important information of drug approvals, financial
ties between drug companies and the FDA, Paxil withdrawal effects, the common
ignorance of doctors about these adverse effects and their unwillingness to
admit them even in the face of glaring evidence.
His “abnormal” heart rhythms come from having the benign “athletic
heart syndrome,” a sign of a super heart. The original fainting was probably due
to taking Paxil; the later problems were likely due to withdrawal from it.
Even with this confirmation, Paul had to go to more than 20 doctors
before he found one who would remove the pacemaker. Paul is recovering from his
ordeal; he is able to walk a mile now, although previously he could run 50.

The Science
of Deceit

by Burton Goldberg

The mainstream media
regularly reports on the “dangers” of “unproven” herbal remedies and
supplements. But what is the reported number of people who have died from using
herbs and supplements? According to the FDA, between 1993 and 1998, federal,
state and local agencies reported a total of 184 deaths, most of which were
associated with weight loss formulas. Compare that to the reported number of
people who die in hospitals because of the side effects of properly prescribed
pharmaceutical drugs: more than 100,000, every year. You can add to that the
number of patients killed in hospitals because of “medical errors”: another
100,000 or so. Those statistics are from the Journal of the American Medical
Association (JAMA). This means that the ordained guardians of our health kill as
many people every week as died in the September 11 terrorist attacks.

And that number only includes people who died in hospitals. A 1998
JAMA article estimated that more than 2 million people require hospitalization
every year because of the adverse side effects of drugs. Moreover, it is widely
conceded that the number of adverse reactions and fatalities attributable to
prescription drugs is actually many times the number

Statistics aside, let’s put a face on what I’m
talking about. Paul Domb is the son of a dear friend of mine. Two years ago,
Paul was a 41-year-old endurance athlete who had run thousands of road races,
hundreds of triathlons and other world-class endurance events. Paul had
regularly trained twice a day for 20 years to stay in competitive shape, so it
was hard for him to understand why he should begin to experience anxiety and
panic attacks. He went to a psychologist who, after a few sessions, recommended
that Paul take the antidepressant drug Paxil. Paul was reluctant, but his
anxiety was affecting his work in corporate real estate, so he started taking a
daily dose of 20 mg.

About three weeks later, Paul was set to begin
an early morning swim when he felt his heart suddenly speed up. For the first
time in his life, he felt faint and lost consciousness. He fell backward,
crashing onto a metal pool chair. He revived after several seconds, and felt
ready to continue his workout, but his training partner convinced him to take it
easy and go home. Paul related the incident to his wife, who insisted he go to
the hospital for an examination.

At the hospital, he underwent an
extensive battery of tests. They took Paul’s medical history, asking what
medications he was on, and took brain scans, electrocardiograms and various
other tests. Paul’s electrocardiogram measuring his heartbeat rhythms showed an
unusual pattern. A cardiologist specializing in heart rhythms was called in. He
told Paul that he needed to put a catheter up Paul’s groin to stimulate the

heart in an effort to reproduce the earlier arrhythmia. Paul refused, but the
physician told him that a previous patient with the same symptoms who refused
the test died soon after. Scared into it, Paul took the test. Afterward, the
doctor came back with the bad news: Paul had a rare disorder called Brugada
Syndrome. Without having a pacemaker/defibrillator inserted, he was told, his
heart could suddenly stop and he could drop dead at any moment.

There was worse news: The disease was genetic and the possibility
existed that Paul’s 5-year-old daughter had the same condition and could die at
any time.

Paul had the pacemaker inserted. Unfortunately, his
doctors did not take into account that he was a competitive athlete, and they
set the parameters of the pacemaker wrong. Whenever Paul went to sleep, his

heart rate dropped below “standard,” and the device would rapidly pace his
heart. Paul was unable to get more than two hours of sleep at a time. Although
the doctors eventually reset his pacemaker, that was just the beginning of what
became almost six months of physical and emotional hell. He was nauseated, but
vomiting brought no relief. He frequently had convulsions. Electric shocks would
shoot through his body 30 or 40 times a day, sometimes violent enough to cause
him to fall. He started having recurring thoughts of suicide ‹or violence
toward others. And through it all he was tortured by the fear that his daughter
was going to die because of the genes he had passed on to her. Paul traveled the
country, seeking an answer, but no doctor could help him. So Paul buried himself
in research, trying to find a solution to his problems. And then one day he
happened to catch the TV news show 20/20. On it were people describing exactly
the same symptoms as he had, only they didn’t have Brugada Syndrome ‹they were
suffering side effects of trying to withdraw from Paxil.

Paul could
hardly believe it. His doctor had told him to stop taking Paxil before his heart
surgery. Paul started studying Paxil, and what he found shocked and enraged him.
He discovered an astounding pattern of apparently deliberate deception by
SmithKline Beecham (now called GlaxoSmithKline), the manufacturer of Paxil,
withholding information on the dangers of this drug from the FDA and the medical
community. In June 2001, GlaxoSmithKline lost a lawsuit when a Wyoming jury
awarded $6.4 million to the family of a man who killed three relatives and
himself after taking the antidepressant. The verdict was based on the company’s
failure to sufficiently warn doctors and patients that the effects of the drug
could include violence. It has since come to light that 20% of patients
worldwide who were prescribed Paxil for depression stopped taking it because of
suffering adverse effects. And effects of withdrawal include intense insomnia;
vertigo; electric shocks; profuse night sweats; nausea; extreme confusion;
intense fear of losing sanity; and thoughts of suicide and homicide. A class
action filed in San Diego, representing thousands of victims of Paxil is

Paul then went to an expert: Pedro Brugada, the physician
son of Dr. Ramon Brugada, for whom the condition is named. Brugada the younger
looked at all of Paul’s records and told him that he didn’t have Brugada
Syndrome. Other experts concurred. Paul was told that the hospital’s original
procedure to reproduce arrhythmia “would’ve brought a horse down.” His
“abnormal” heart rhythms come from having the benign “athletic heart syndrome,”
a sign of a super heart. The original fainting was probably due to taking Paxil;
the later problems were likely due to withdrawal from it.

Even with
this confirmation, Paul had to go to more than 20 doctors before he found one
who would remove the pacemaker. Paul is recovering from his ordeal; he is able
to walk a mile now, although previously he could run 50. Despite off-the-record
confirmations of incompetence and negligence in Paul’s misdiagnosis and
treatment, not one physician would sign a letter to that effect, or agree to
testify on his behalf. Now, multiply Paul’s story by thousands, by millions,
every year, and you can understand my anger over sensationalistic headlines
about the “dangers” of taking herbs like St. John’s wort.

Here are
some truths about the “scientific” testing of pharmaceutical drugs that you
probably are not aware of. Did you know that the research information contained
in the Physicians’ Desk Reference  (the pharmaceutical bible used by M.D.s
)is supplied by the drug manufacturers themselves? Did you know that the FDA
approves drugs not by actually doing the testing, but simply by reviewing
studies submitted by the drug manufacturers? Did you know that a drug
manufacturer needs to submit only two studies showing satisfactory results to
get a drug approved by the FDA‹even if there are even more studies showing the
drug causes adverse reactions in an unacceptably high number of cases?

Did you know that most of the articles discussing the efficacy of
drugs that are published in medical journals are studies paid for by the drug
manufacturer? And that often, as the New York Times reported last summer, the
academic scientists listed as lead authors are often just “window dressing, to
lend credibility to papers that are really the work of drug companies. The
academic scientists’ main role in such studies is to recruit patients and
administer experimental treatments. The scientists or their universities are
paid for this work.”

And did you know that a study conducted by USA
Today found that more than half of the experts hired to advise the government on
the safety and effectiveness of medicine had a direct financial interest in the
drug or topic were asked to evaluate? An analysis of financial conflicts of
interest at 159 FDA advisory committee meetings from January 1, 1998, through
June 30, 2000, found that at 92% of the meetings, at least one member had a
financial conflict of interest, while at 55% of meetings, half or more of the
FDA advisers had conflicts of interest. These conflicts included helping a
pharmaceutical company develop a medicine, then serving on an FDA advisory
committee that judges the drug.

You may not know that a significant
portion of your tax dollars earmarked for healthcare goes to research on
patentable drugs that make billions of dollars for drug companies. The
government should fund research into nontoxic, non-patentable remedies at a much
higher level than it is presently doing. This situation again points out the
need for political action, for campaign reform. For 2001, the budget for the
National Institutes of Health was $20 billion. This amount could be doubled by
2003. Approximately 83% of this is spent on research performed outside the NIH.
This is serious money, and most of it goes to developing patentable drugs.

A recent article in the New York Times revealed that the
pharmaceutical industry spent $177 million on lobbying in 1999 and 2000: That’s
$50 million more than their nearest rival, the insurance industry. They employ
more lobbyists (625) than there are members of Congress ‹and more than half of
the lobbyists are former members of Congress, congressional staff members or
government employees.

This shows how important it is to get involved
politically, and work for campaign-finance reform. It’s also time for individual
physicians to take responsibility for their actions, and stop being pawns in the
economic games played by the drug and health insurance industries. Physicians
will change only if their patients demand it. Reform will only come from market
forces, which means you: how you spend your money on healthcare, and on
charitable and political donations. Get informed, take responsibility for your
own health, and choose your doctors and medicines wisely.

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Klonopin…The Nightmare That Never Ends

“My fantasy is that there is a cure. I want my brain and my life back.”

Stage 1-Prozac

My introduction to the world of psychiatric medications came in 1993. I was experiencing difficulty with anxiety in social situations and went to see a psychiatrist for help with my problem. After about half an hour with the psychiatrist, I was handed a prescription for Prozac. This drug in conjunction with therapy was supposed to help me with my anxiety. The doctor was right. After a few weeks on the drug I was no longer terrified of social situations. I no longer felt the fear that had been there before. The problem was I didn’t FEEL much of anything else either. The drug made me fearless, emotionless and numb. After a few months on the drug I became anorexic and started drinking alcohol to enhance the effects of the drug. This behavior was not typical of me at all. I felt out of touch and kind of crazy. I couldn’t see straight or think straight. I started to not care about anything at all…especially my life. After several months on the drug, completely emaciated and out of touch I had a sudden urge to end my life. And it was that matter of fact. I went home, had a brief conversation with my roommate and then went into the bedroom and overdosed on painkillers. As crazy as this sounds…the Prozac told me to do it. I wasn’t hearing voices literally…but there was just this urge to take all those pills and my mind kept saying, “just do it, just do it.” I don’t think I really wanted to die, I just didn’t care if I lived. For me, Prozac just lowered my inhibitions TOO much.

Stage 2-Paxil

I recovered from this ordeal and also got some help with my eating disorder, but I still had the social anxiety. I desperately wanted to go back to college, but feared the classroom setting. I was then switched to Paxil. I was on and off Paxil for a few years. It did help with the anxiety, but much like the Prozac it caused me to lose feelings and become numb (both physically and emotionally). Sex was out of the question because I couldn’t feel anything. The dose had to be increased every few months because the drug would start to lose it effectiveness and my anxiety would increase. It was like riding a roller coaster. The drug also made me feel spaced out and out of focus. The world had a haze around it. I hated being on this medication and I especially hated having to take it every day (as you must to maintain the drug level in your blood). The problem was if I skipped a couple of days, I would go into drug withdrawal so I had to stay on it or pay the price. I withdrew from Paxil several times. It was not fun and usually lasted a few weeks. Mostly it was a feeling of being out of my body, an inability to focus, incredible itching and feeling like I was in a dream. It was frightening, but always went away eventually. I finally had it with this drug and asked my psychiatrist to give me a medication I could “take as needed.” Enter Klonopin.

Stage 3- Klonopin…The Nightmare That Never Ends

My doctor did as I requested and prescribed the benzodiazepine/tranquilizer/anti-convulsant drug Klonopin. To this day I cannot believe I was on an ANTI-CONVULSANT!!! I went on .5 mg of Klonopin in September of 1996. By March of 1997, I was having difficulty with speech, could not focus my eyes, felt crazy inside, overly emotional, frequent urination and completely out of it. I knew it was the drugs and I knew this could not go any longer. It was time for me to put an end to all of this. I tapered off the Klonopin over a one or two week period and immediately went into severe withdrawal within days of stopping the drug. My body became completely numb…I couldn’t even feel myself going to the bathroom. My ears were ringing like there was a loud tea kettle constantly going off in my head. I could not focus my eyes at all. It was impossible to read or even watch TV. I was itching like crazy and it felt like bugs were crawling all over my body. I could not tolerate light or noise. I could not taste my food. I felt exhausted, but had terrible insomnia. It was the most frightening, horrific experience of my life and it lasted one month. Then I thought it was getting better, but my anxiety had turned to paranoia. I still had a lot of symptoms and now it was topped with a feeling that everybody knew and I was not even comfortable walking down the street. So the doc gave me Paxil again. This really did not help so a month later I took myself off of that. What I did not know at the time was that I had protracted withdrawal syndrome from benzodiazepines. The increased anxiety and paranoia was a symptom of this. Unfortunately, there is no happy ending to this story. I got myself off the Klonopin, but never got better from the physical symptoms the drug caused. Today (2 and a half years later) I live with ringing in my ears, muscle pain and weakness, burning feet, sensitivity to light, noise, and scents, inability to focus my eyes, clogged feeling in my ears, extreme fatigue, memory loss, tingling in my hands and arms, weakness in my left arm and more. The sad thing is I could deal with all of this if my worst symptom would go away. My worst symptom is a loss of cognitive abilities. I feel drugged all the time. It’s like I am in a dream 24 hours a day. I do not perceive my environment clearly. I can barely read or drive. I cannot think logically/organized. People say I “seem” fine, but I feel the loss in my abilities and it is devastating to me. I long for the day when I get to have ME back. I can’t wait until I can enjoy going for a drive again or going to a movie and being able to see the screen clearly and understand what is going on. I can’t wait until I can have a sharp mind again and remember events clearly again. I have missed so much this past two and a half years. I’m only 26 and I have wished to die so many times rather than go through another day in fog. I have been unable to get any help from doctors. I’ve been tested for everything under the sun…from MS to Lyme Disease. All tests are negative. The doctor who gave me the drug long since abandoned me and there are no doctors who know anything about long term withdrawal from benzodiazepines. My only help has come from others who were affected the same way by this class of drugs. They too have seen many doctors and have the found out too that they know nothing about this and cannot help. Most say it’s impossible to be affected so long after discontinuing the drug, but for those of us who have gone through it, we know it IS a reality. These drugs can have miserable consequences for a percentage of people who take them. I hope there is someone out there that can help. My fantasy is that there is a cure…something that will reverse the damage the drug caused…an antidote. For now, I wait and hope it isn’t permanent. I want my brain and my life BACK.

Pixie, the contributor of the “Klonopin…The Nightmare That Never Ends” story suggests reading this additional information on: Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome.



Years 2000 and Prior

This is Survivor Story number 55.
Total number of stories in current database is 96

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