Mother of Four Suffers Extreme Anxiety on Prozac

“Please God, let people learn about this so that it does not happen to others.”


Hi, I am a 32-year-old mother of 4. I have a wonderful husband, and family. When my baby was a couple weeks old, I went to the doctor (nurse practitioner) to have my thyroid checked out. She asked how I was doing, and I said I was doing really good but I was tired and irritable. (Being a mother of 4 and a new baby that is how I was supposed to be.)
She recommended Prozac, so I thought what the heck I will use it. She sent me home with a 5-day supply, and a prescription. I was on it for 15 days when I totally freaked out. I woke up with period-like cramps because I was due to start my period, and then I got a full blown panic attack. My body was on fire the skin burned from head to toe. I broke out into a cold sweat, but was hot. It was awful.

For the next 3 1/2 weeks it continued. I thought I was going crazy. In this time I saw 2 ER doctors, 2 Endocrinologists (to make sure it was not my thyroid) and 3 different family practitioners. They all said I had developed panic attacks, and sent me to a psychologist, who prescribed Ativan and Xanax which made things worse. Then a sleeping pill. Well I did not use these drugs only a couple of times.

On the 15th day of taking Prozac, I stopped taking it because I knew it had to be the Prozac although the doctors did not agree. And I never touched it since. It has been 33 days since I have taken Prozac and I am better. At least I am sleeping better. But the anxiety is awful and I still have panic attacks. I have been told to maybe try another SSRI to help with the panic and anxiety and I say NO WAY!

I will never touch the stuff again, I am so scared I have to get better. I have 4 children to take care of. And it is wearing on my husband. Sometimes I think maybe I just went crazy, and the Prozac had nothing to do with it. But then my family all says it was the Prozac.
Please God, let people learn about this so that it does not happen to others. I was a lucky one who was smart enough to not take anything else. What about those who don’t know better. How will they end up? I would have been dead or in a mental hospital. Who would have taken care of my children? I thank my sister-in-law. She has been my support through this. She talked me through my panic attacks, and I love her very much. She really cared about me, and without hers I am not sure where I would be.

Please post this and pass the word along. and anyone please feel free to contact me I am here for anyone who needs support.



Years 2000 and Prior

This is Survivor Story number 66.
Total number of stories in current database is 96

732 total views, no views today

One Woman’s Experience with Prozac

“I feel that many women get drugs [because doctors] cannot spend time over a period of several years with a patient to discover what is really wrong.”


Several years ago I got divorced and was of course very upset during this period. I went to several “talk” therapists who I did not feel comfortable with. Like buying any other service you have to shop around for someone who can help you that you also feel comfortable with, whether it is drug and/or talk therapy. After running through several therapists, I ended up with a drug-oriented therapist who prescribed Prozac and monthly monitoring sessions. I then took the Prozac for “depression” (due to on-going life problems and some poor life skills of course I was depressed) for six months and decided not to take it any more for the following reasons:

a. during the six months I took the Prozac, I got six ear and/or sinus infections. I usually get one to two bad colds a year, maybe the flu or a strep throat.

b. my joints ached clicked, especially in my jaws. My dentist of long standing took x-rays and discovered “previously undiagnosed” TMJ and I had to go through expensive dental therapy for this during the time I was on the Prozac. The dentist asked me if I was taking any prescription drugs, which I told him about the Prozac. He said he had done part of his internship in a mental hospital, as well as working there on a part time basis to earn money for school, and Prozac and Zoloft were often given to the patients to chill them out and be more controllable for the staff, and not to really help them with any illnesses or anything going on in their lives.

c. various other “miscellaneous” symptoms including weight gain, a lot of weight, even though this medicine was also supposed to make me both lose weight and not want to eat as in Meridia (affects serotonin levels). I did not want to eat for about the first two weeks I was on this drug (about the standard life-cycle of over-the-counter diet medicine available at your local drug store, and then as it began to “work” (“it takes a month to work,” said the doctor), my appetite returned plus some. In my experience it is supposed to make you “happy” but it makes you “overeat happily”, or keep on with your behavior that needed change before the drugs or in other words happily not address whatever your issues were before you started taking the Prozac.

d. my blood prolactin levels went way up. At my next gynecological exam I told the doctor (the gynecologist, not the psychiatrist) about the weight gain and the prolactin levels. Before I even had a chance to say I was on Prozac, he said “are you taking anti-depressants” and that in his experience these were common side effects of taking anti-depressants. This was a very good doctor who I had seen for years, and he knew I was in the middle of a divorce. His opinion was that the anti-depressants were not going settle a bad life experience and I should get someone to talk to rather than prescribe drugs and that if I really wanted something to “take the edge off so I could cope,” there were many older, way milder, and more effective drugs to take, just for a short time, until things calmed down in my life.

e. I never had anyone suggest that maybe a complete physical would also help. I am still very overweight and they want to give me Meridia for it. My insurance will not pay for this or Xenical because they say there are too many side effects they said it causes enough side effects for them to begin to see it as “uneconomic” because they would have to pay to cure the (preventable and avoidable) side effects and that they won’t pay for it and that it would be foolish for me as well to pay out of pocket good money that I don’t have for something with many serious side effects and minimal/marginal good effects. I have also been on birth control pills for medical reasons not to do with avoiding pregnancy (another story) with similar effects to the Prozac.

f. I stopped taking the Prozac, fortunately no side effects, and found a therapist that I liked, in this case a “feminist.” Unfortunately by this time my insurance was close to running out so I had to space out visits, and then I had to pay out of pocket because I had to change to a health plan she did not use.

g. Unfortunately the health insurers do not like to pay for talk therapy, it seems to me because it easier to pay for one 15-minute visit monthly than for one or two weekly sessions that might go on for a year or two, in addition to visits for medication if the person needs that as well. It also seems that there is no way to “shop around” for a person who can help you without using up your allowed visits. So people who could use the help end up with not enough help or the wrong help or no help or end up in a clinic.

h. I feel that many women get drugs (because they are women, a social issue) and that doctors either do not understand what the drugs really do or cannot spend time over a period of several years with a patient to discover what is really wrong that may take a while to discover, such as endometriosis, PCOD, women’s physiology, life problems, and we just get pills thrown at us to make us happy with the status quo instead of just listening. We know the doctors have many patients and not much time and we don’t need them to kiss the ground we walk on but we would like to feel that we are listened to.

Thanks for letting me vent.

Years 2000 and Prior

This is Survivor Story number 70.
Total number of stories in current database is 96

550 total views, 1 views today

My Alcohol Craving on Prozac

“I am feeling so angry and deceived by the medical profession.”


I was shocked to read the report on alcohol.html (Alcohol Cravings Induced via Increased Serotonin) I was on Prozac for 8 miserable years. During that time I gained a lot of weight but more importantly I constantly craved alcohol, like daily. The psychiatrist and psychologist lectured me about drinking yet I continued, always feeling guilty and ashamed. I am not now, nor have I ever been an alcoholic!
Last November I weaned myself off Prozac, I was concerned that my weight dropped so rapidly but not feeling ill, I was pleased. More importantly, at the same time I lost all desire to drink alcohol. I am feeling so angry and deceived by the medical profession. I was never told that Prozac was the reason for my huge weight gain never mind the alcohol craving. This is shocking information and I thank you.

Ann K.


Years 2000 and Prior

This is Survivor Story number 48.
Total number of stories in current database is 96

694 total views, no views today

Young Son’s Frightening Reactions on Zoloft, Prozac and Luvox

“I just know they will want to give him SSRI’s and I can’t let him go through that again.”


I’m writing to you about my son’s experience with three of the SSRI’s. First I give you permission to use this story on the Internet, but I don’t wish my name to be used and I don’t wish my e-mail address to be used.

My son was diagnosed with OCD when he was in the fifth grade. He was 11 years old at the time, but he’d had OCD for a couple of years before we took him to a therapist. He is now 17 years of age and doesn’t take any SSRI’s because of the bad reactions he had with Zoloft, Prozac, and Luvox.

The first drug he was given was Zoloft. I forget what age he began taking it but I believe he was 13 at the time. The first day he took Zoloft he began feeling much better which they said was unusual because it usually takes a week or more for it to take affect. After about a month of taking Zoloft he had bad reactions so they took him off it. After awhile they gave him Prozac and in about a month he was having reactions to it also.

He always was such a loving child, but he started to change before our eyes. He had always been so nice with our dogs and cats but now he was trying to mistreat them. We had to watch him all the time for fear of what he might do to them. He was going to therapy at the time and of course, they didn’t believe that the Prozac was the culprit. In fact the therapist told us we should call the police if he kept mistreating our pets. He said they wouldn’t take him to jail but would talk to him and tell him what he was doing was wrong.

We couldn’t do such a thing to him so we just kept an eye on him when he was outside alone. Finally, they decided the Prozac wasn’t working and decided to try Luvox. By this time he was 14 years of age. As usual the drug worked for about three weeks then all hell broke loose.

We had to watch him all the time. We had a very large dog and it loved to watch our son when he’d go out to practice basketball, but Ryan didn’t like that anymore so one day I was watching out the window and there he was lifting the doghouse, which was one of those dogloos, with the dog in it and turning it over. It scared the dog so bad that from then on whenever Ryan came out the poor dog would run into his doghouse and hide.

We also have cats and whenever they noticed Ryan coming near to them they’d run, for fear of what he might do to them. He also changed toward all of us. Sometimes if I was sitting at the table with my back to him he would come up behind me and put one hand on each shoulder and press down as hard as he could. He also did this to his older sister.

It got to the point where we were becoming afraid of him, but we didn’t let him know that. I should tell you here that Ryan’s OCD ritual consists of repetition of speech, it’s too difficult to explain, but suffice it to say it’s a very aggravating thing for him and for his family.

He depended on us to answer him in a certain way so we were drawn into the ritual with him. One day when we went to therapy the therapist pulled me aside and told me when Ryan did the ritual I should say to him that I wouldn’t cooperate with him anymore. One evening I decided I’d try it because the ritual he was going through at the time had gone on for over an hour and I really couldn’t stand it anymore.

So I said to him what the therapist had told me to say and he began acting like he was totally crazy. Believe it or not, our entire family which consists of one older brother and one older sister and my husband and myself were up the entire night with him ranting and raving and running all over the house and trying to run outside.

At one time he went to the drawer where I kept the butcher knives and got a knife out and acted like he was going to stab himself. We got it out of his hand and then he took off running to his bedroom which was upstairs. I don’t know how I did it, but I was right behind him and made it in the door before he could lock me out. It was a nightmare for all of us.

We didn’t have any sleep all night and neither did he. He talked every minute for almost twelve hours. We had an appointment with the therapist and doctor the next morning and took him in early. He was pacing in the waiting room talking constantly. He was actually talking out of his head. When we went into the doctor’s office Ryan’s therapist was sitting in the room also and Ryan didn’t even notice him being there.

They wanted to send him to the hospital but I wouldn’t let them because I didn’t want him to be drugged up even more. We quit the therapist and haven’t been back since. That was almost three years ago. I did take him off the Luvox slowly. Now he doesn’t go to any therapists because I just know they will want to give him SSRI’s and I can’t let him go through that again.


Years 2000 and Prior

This is Survivor Story number 53.
Total number of stories in current database is 96

565 total views, no views today

Cataracts from Prozac

“I have seen four eye doctors and they all are stumped as to why I got cataracts.”


I was on Prozac for about half a year and stopped taking it because I could no longer tolerate the side effects. Now four years later I have developed cataracts in both eyes (20/200) and had to have my natural lens replaced with “plastic”.
I’m only 38, never abused my self and have always been healthy. I am a pilot / flight instructor and have always worn ray ban sunglasses. I have seen four eye doctors and they all are stumped as to why I got cataracts. Do you think that the use of Prozac may have caused cataracts? And are there others out there going through this besides me? I’d really like to know.

If the doctors Glenn has seen were aware of the doubling of cortisol levels with only one single 30 mg dose of Prozac, they would not be stumped as to why he got cataracts. This type of steroid effect has long been linked to cataracts and many other serious physical effects. For any additional information on eye problems reported with SSRIs see Prozac: Panacea or Pandora? (800-280-0730)



Years 2000 and Prior

This is Survivor Story number 42.
Total number of stories in current database is 96

919 total views, no views today

Suicidal Wife on Paxil Shoots Husband

“I know it’s the Paxil.”


Attached is a photo of my sister Suzanne and her family. They live in Silverton, OR. She married Matthew Miles @ 5 years ago and they had Maddie on October 13, 1997. Suzanne’s 2 older girls, Brittany, 17, and April, 13, are from previous relationships. Suzanne began taking Prozac quite a number of years ago (about 7) and everything was fine. Then last year she said it wasn’t helping anymore. Her doctor told her to double her dosage. It started making her feel crazy – twitching, anxiety attacks. So they switched her to Paxil. She began taking Paxil in mid-January 2000. On February 29th, she shot and killed her husband Matthew. He was just 31 years old. Maddie has lost her father. My nieces’ have lost their mother and is in jail for killing him. My sister says that she started feeling suicidal and went to her husband’s work to kill herself in front of him. She doesn’t know why but she shot him instead. She and Matt had recently separated and I know the DA is going to try to say that she was distraught over the breakup, but I know it’s the Paxil. After reading all of the emails sent by you and reading the articles on the internet, we now need to prove that it was the Paxil and not just a woman killing her husband for leaving her.

I hope that your lawsuit will help in the fight of changing how these drugs are prescribed. They are dangerous and should not be prescribed like they are in most cases – “Here – try this. See if this helps.”

I’m so sorry for the loss of your son. I can’t imagine what it might be like losing your child.

Jill Robertson
2321 Eaton Avenue
San Carlos, CA 94070



This is Survivor Story number 15.
Total number of stories in current database is 96

706 total views, 1 views today

Awake for 800 Hours Straight and Unable to Function after just 25mg of Paxil

“Did I undergo a ‘chemical lobotomy?'”


In January of 2000 I fell into a deep depression over complications following laser eye surgery.

[Note from Dr. Tracy: Keep in mind that many go into depression after surgery as an after effect of anesthesia and/or pain killers – many of which are also serotonergic medications. The logical thing to do in this instance is to rest, get good nutrition and wait out the after/withdrawal effects rather than adding yet another serotonergic drug as is done so often.

I had no family locally, and was calling them daily for support. I became unable to focus at work, so they urged me to get medical treatment. I asked my psychotherapist for a reference; he sent me to a family practice MD. That is when things went from bad to worse.

I had no psychiatric history prior to this and had always been a healthy, physically active (a real athlete), artistic (songwriter), productive individual. I am a software engineer, and so I also had a mentally demanding job which I excelled at. That all changed after taking Paxil, which this MD gave me after only a 5 minute consultation (he had never seen me before). Unfortunately I was a nervous wreck at that point, and did not ask any questions. He did little more than read from the “starter kit” literature:

“Paxil – indicated for depression, indicated for OCD…”. If it had been Prozac the alarm bells may have gone off, but I had never heard of ‘Paxil’ and was desperate for help. I left with the twenty-one day starter kit.

I took the first 10 mg pill on a Friday, and only took 25mg (2.5 tablets) of Paxil over the next four days. But this seemingly innocuous amount made my life hell. I could no longer sleep, EVEN A MINUTE, for five weeks! That’s correct, I was up 24hrs a day for the next five weeks, staring at the ceiling and locked in a mental fog around the clock. I emphasize this because it is so amazing. I would not have believed that it was humanly possible to go that long without sleep, but I lived through it. It would be five weeks before my eyes would close again.

I should have known I was in trouble when the first pill started the insomnia, made me hop around like a rabbit, while the second 10mg pill gave me the sensation of my frontal lobe being set on fire. It sent me into a drug trip, fantasizing about my death constantly. I didn’t seem to have control of my thoughts either, as my mental processes seized up like gears that haven’t been oiled. My drug sensitivity probably made me very vulnerable to adverse effects. But my very pure organic diet should have helped to counter the adverse effects. I had eliminated all caffeine from my diet years ago due to this chemical sensitivity. It also took much longer than normal to awake from anesthesia after any surgery, and my natural energy level was always very high.

Because of being trapped in this zombie-like state, I was having suicidal urges for the first time in my life. Also, I tried to work, but I would just come in to the office, sit for a few minutes in front of the monitor and then turn around and leave. I couldn’t initiate and complete anything even of moderate mental complexity, even responding to e-mails, so it was hopeless. Thoughts would just fizzle out.

How to escape this living hell? After day four my feeling was “I have to get these things out of my system!”. So I took nothing else (although the MD said “cut it back to half a tablet”). Every day I was desperately wanting to fall asleep, even for a few minutes, but it just wouldn’t happen. When would the Paxil leave my system — what was happening? As the sleepless days progressed, I got foggier and foggier, finally to the point that even dialing a phone number became a mental feat.

This downward spiral progressed for the full five weeks, until my parents came to get me. I was no longer eating, no longer leaving the apartment for anything, and was simply wasting away. So, five weeks after quitting cold turkey and getting zero sleep in that time, I was admitted to a hospital as I was unable to function.

In the psychiatric ward I was given Zyprexa, Klonopin and Depakote, having been diagnosed there as manic (who wouldn’t be after being up day and night for five weeks?). This was a misdiagnosis, I believe, and more drugs in my system just fanned the fire. I was able to finally get 2-3 hours of sleep a night, but I found that a drug induced sleep is not a restful, refreshing sleep.

I then went home to stay with my parents as I was unable to care for myself for the first time in my life (I am 36). A psychiatrist in my parents hometown kept me on these three medications for another week until he switched to Effexor for a week, followed by Neurontin for several weeks, and then he added Zoloft in mid-March. I was reluctant, but my well-meaning parents were completely trusting and would not let me skip any prescribed medication as I was still suicidal. I took just one 50mg dose of Zoloft and I immediately “locked up again” mentally as before. The insomnia resumed, too. I begged my parents to take me to see someone else. Unfortunately this guy was the only psychiatrist in a 50 mile radius, but we persisted and found someone an hour away.

This MD was the first medical professional to actually acknowledge that the psychotropics made me suffer. She recommended that I have nothing else, and return to an organic diet (which I had been on since 1990!). She gave me dietary guidelines for depression, most of which I had been following already. It took less time to get back to sleeping at night after the Zoloft (was my body building a tolerance?), but after a week or so I was sleeping 3-4 hrs. a night.

It is now July and I have had no medication since. Yet, I have a foggy feeling still, my memory is not as sharp, and my abstract reasoning/problem solving ability is compromised. I feel a vague numbness in my forehead also, similar to a mild hangover, a lingering reminder of the near catatonic state I was in originally. Nothing is the same, nothing is as sharp or clear or enjoyable as it was before. Dr. Joseph Glenmullen’s book “Prozac Backlash” has given me some insight into what may have happened to me. Did I undergo a ‘chemical lobotomy’ and lose axons or other brain tissue? It is a scary thought. But I have learned some things.

I now know that the chance of a doctor completely informing you is slim. He may not even be withholding information: He just may not know himself of all of the possible side affects. I also know that there is no “standard dosage” that is safe for everybody. If you are drug sensitive, perhaps it is better to start with a half a tablet of a new medication than to risk an extreme reaction as I did? Or, better still, to avoid drugs at all costs… to be used only as a last resort.

Good health to you all.



This is Survivor Story number 16.
Total number of stories in current database is 96

877 total views, no views today

7/24/2000 – Prozac [Sarafem] and PMS – What’s in a name?

Once again we thank Vera Hassner Sharav, President, CIRCARE: Citizens for
Responsible Care & Research, a Human Rights organization, for passing on this
interesting commentary on Prozac’s name being changed to Sarafem for PMS. The
dangers of interaction leading to serotonin syndrome – a life threatening
complication of serotonergic medications – is most obvious in all of these
name changes.

Ann Blake-Tracy


Prozac and PMS – What’s in a name?
Leonard Holmes, Ph.D.

Drug companies are doing some interesting things to the names of their
products. The FDA recently approved the chemical fluoxetine for the treatment
of symptoms related to PMS – Premenstrual Syndrome (officially known as PMDD
– pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder). Fluoxetine is sold by Eli Lilly and
Company under the name Prozac. Will women with PMS be taking prescriptions
for Prozac to their pharmacist? Not likely. Lilly has decided to rename the
drug Sarafem when it is prescribed for this problem. Why the new name?
Lilly’s official position follows:

The additional trademark will help with educational efforts for this largely
underrecognized disorder while reducing confusion about the differences
between depression and PMDD. (Lilly Newsroom 7/00)

What about the confusion that is added by two different names for the same
chemical? What happens when a patient gets Prozac from one doctor and
Sarafem from another?

Prozac has a mixed reputation. While some have hailed it as the first in a
class of wonder drugs others have implicated it it in some cases of suicidal
behavior. There have never been any substantiated cases of suicidal behavior
traced to Prozac or any other antidepressant. Lilly has a response to these
rumors too:

Concerning media allegations of Prozac and suicide there is no credible
evidence that establishes a causal link between Prozac and violent or
suicidal behavior. In fact, in September 1991, a panel of experts appointed
by the FDA found no credible evidence of a causal link between the use of
antidepressant drugs, including Prozac, and suicidal or violent behavior.
(Lilly Newsroom quoted 7/00)

This is not the first time that a drug company has given a new name to the
same medication. In 1997 bupropion was approved for smoking cessation. This
medication, better known by the trade name Wellbutrin was re-christened Zyban
when used for smoking cessation. That’s why the Zyban ads warn you not to
take it if you are taking Wellbutrin. Not much fuss was made about this at
the time, but it seems to have started a trend.

Steve Cartun, M.D. did write to protest the renaming back in 1997. His logic
still rings true, and there is a great deal of irony in the example that he
used at the time. An excerpt:

New indications for old medications have become a staple of
psychopharmocology. Prozac, for example, originally introduced as an
antidepressant, has since garnered FDA approval for the treatment of
obsessive-compulsive disorder. Eli-Lilly, the company that manufactures and
holds the patent for Prozac, did not rename it’s product simply because it
had earned a new indication. Even though Prozac had been subjected to false
and damaging statements, Eli-Lilly chose not to fashion it in newer clothes.
The renaming of Wellbutrin by the same company that manufactures it, simply
because research studies show that it has a new and valuable use, gravely
concerns me….

The renaming of medications is a dangerous semantic. While a pharmaceutical
company can argue that a new name that gains wider use will ultimately help
the patient, I believe that such a measure treats physicians like naive
consumers who care more about a logo than the gritty science that logo
represents. Perhaps this is an alarming symptom of how trivialized the
importance of reality, at the expense of marketing, is becoming. Physicians
have already been renamed health care providers. Wellbutrin is now being
named Zyban for a new use. An industry insider once told me that the letter
“Z” is particularly useful for gaining audience attention. I hope that Zyban
gains all the attention it can to prevent this naming process from becoming a
trend. Enough misrepresentation. Convolution must be resisted. If it
continues, the meaning of health care will become even more lost than it is
now. (Cartun, 1997)

I’m afraid that Dr. Cartun’s hopes have not been realized. Lilly has renamed
Prozac to appeal to women with PMS who might otherwise shy away from the
medication. It’s hard enough to keep track of all of the different
medications out there. We shouldn’t have to keep track of multiple trade
names for the same medication from the same company.

Excerpt from a 1997 letter by Dr. Steve Cartun:

New indications for old medications have become a staple of
psychopharmocology. Prozac, for example, originally introduced as an
antidepressant, has since garnered FDA approval for the treatment of
obsessive-compulsive disorder. Eli-Lilly, the company that manufactures and
holds the patent for Prozac, did not rename it’s product simply because it
had earned a new indication. Even though Prozac had been subjected to false
and damaging statements, Eli-Lilly chose not to fashion it in newer clothes.
The renaming of Wellbutrin by the same company that manufactures it, simply
because research studies show that it has a new and valuable use, gravely
concerns me….

The renaming of medications is a dangerous semantic. While a pharmaceutical
company can argue that a new name that gains wider use will ultimately help
the patient, I believe that such a measure treats physicians like naive
consumers who care more about a logo than the gritty science that logo
represents. Perhaps this is an alarming symptom of how trivialized the
importance of reality, at the expense of marketing, is becoming. Physicians
have already been renamed health care providers. Wellbutrin is now being
named Zyban for a new use. An industry insider once told me that the letter
“Z” is particularly useful for gaining audience attention. I hope that Zyban
gains all the attention it can to prevent this naming process from becoming a
trend. Enough misrepresentation. Convolution must be resisted. If it
continues, the meaning of health care will become even more lost than it is
now. (Cartun, 1997)

1,206 total views, 1 views today

7/18/2000 – NY Times – Once Again, Prozac Takes Center Stage, in Furor

July 18, 2000

Once Again, Prozac Takes Center Stage, in Furor



Naum Kazhdan/ The New York Times

At least two recently published books say that Prozac and related
antidepressants are often indiscriminately prescribed and pose the risk of
serious side effects, but critics of those views call them alarmist and

Prozac has never been just any drug.

Soon after arriving on drugstore shelves 12 years ago, Eli Lilly’s
antidepressant transcended simple pilldom, becoming instead a cultural icon.

Hailed as a wonder drug one minute, cast as evil incarnate the next, the
green and white capsule has generated multitudes of lawsuits, and garnered
more attention than some presidential candidates.

Perhaps because Prozac treats the ills of the mind, not the complaints of the
body, it has also served as a kind of public Rorschach test, a screen upon
which Americans project deeply rooted attitudes about illness, character,
biology and free will.

So, perhaps predictably, as the drug edges into adolescence and Lilly’s
exclusive patent on the medication nears expiration, Prozac is once more
causing a stir.

More or less at the center of the newest squall are two psychiatrists, Dr.
Joseph Glenmullen, the author of a recently published book, “Prozac Backlash”
(Simon & Schuster), and Dr. David Healy, author of “The Antidepressant Era”
(Harvard University Press, 1998). They claim that Prozac and its chemical
cousins are often indiscriminately prescribed and have more serious and more
frequent side effects than the public is aware of or than the package
labeling indicates.

Many of their assertions are old ones, in particular the notion that the
drugs cause some people to become suicidal or violent, an accusation that
Lilly and other antidepressant manufacturers deny and that has so far failed
to persuade juries in product liability lawsuits.

But Dr. Glenmullen, who is on the staff of the Harvard University Health
Services, and Dr. Healy, a lecturer in psychological medicine at the
University of Wales College of Medicine, raise new fears. They suggest that
Prozac and similar drugs, like the antipsychotic medications of the 1950’s
and 1960’s, might pose a significant risk of neurological side effects, that
long-term use of the drugs might cause brain damage and that future
generations might look back on the antidepressants and other psychiatric
drugs, in Dr. Glenmullen’s words, “as a frightening human experiment.”

“Too many people have been lulled into thinking that they have no side
effects and no risk,” he said.

The contentions of Dr. Glenmullen, Dr. Healy and other critics, however, have
themselves drawn harsh criticism from scientists, psychiatric clinicians and
mental health groups, who view them as alarmist and overblown.

Some scientists whose studies are cited in “Prozac Backlash” to support its
thesis said that the author never contacted them about their work and they
strongly disagreed with his conclusions.

And many psychiatrists said they worried that the new dispute would
discourage people with depression from seeking needed treatment.

“Some of the statements that Glenmullen makes are simply outrageous,” said
Dr. Frederick Jacobsen, a psychopharmacologist in Washington. “He trashes any
benefit of the drugs and selectively quotes studies in a very biased way.”

The idea that Prozac and its later-arriving relatives are dangerous drugs
runs counter to the experience of most psychiatrists and researchers. They
see the medications — which enhance the availability in the brain of
serotonin, a neurotransmitter believed to be involved in depression — as
useful, and sometimes lifesaving, tools for treating a variety of psychiatric

In their view, the antidepressants have both advantages and limitations. The
drugs, called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or S.S.R.I.’s, are far
less lethal in overdose than the older generation of so-called tricyclic
antidepressants, making them more difficult for depressed patients to use in
suicide attempts. And they lack some annoying side effects of the earlier
drugs, like dry mouth, constipation and weight gain.

Yet 30 percent to 40 percent of patients given the newer antidepressants
receive no benefit from them, a weakness they share with earlier medications.
Studies indicate the drugs may be less effective than tricyclics for severe
depression. And the medications, like all drugs, have side effects of their
own, including loss of libido and other sexual difficulties, which occur in
anywhere from 36 percent to 75 percent of patients, and a host of other,
mostly mild, adverse reactions.

Their long-term side effects, if any, are less clear. No scientist can offer
an ironclad guarantee that Prozac and its counterparts — or for that matter,
any other potent drugs — are absolutely safe when taken continuously for
long periods.

Yet what is known, scientists say, suggests that the medications are more
benign in their long-term effect on the brain than many other psychoactive
drugs. And 12 years of widespread use have convinced most researchers and
clinicians of the antidepressants’ basic safety.

“The S.S.R.I.’s are not innocuous,” said Dr. Matthew Rudorfer, associate
director for treatment research at the National Institute of Mental Health’s
Division of Services and Intervention Research, “and they should not be used
casually. But it’s a vast overinterpretation to say that they are dangerous
and should be avoided.”

The Arguments
A Calm Critique Amid Strong Claims

r. Glenmullen and Dr. Healy said they were not opposed to the use of Prozac
or similar drugs, and that they prescribed them regularly in their own
practices. But they deplore their use for people whose complaints are very
mild and they criticize physicians who place patients on the drugs for long
periods with little or no supervision, a trend that has increased under
managed care.

Lilly estimates that 38 million people worldwide have taken Prozac since it
was introduced in 1988. And 10.3 million new prescriptions for the drug were
written in 1999, says IMS Health, a market research firm.

“For people with only mild to moderate symptoms whose functioning is not
compromised,” Dr. Glenmullen said, alternative approaches, like psychotherapy
and exercise, “are preferable forms of treatment.”

Dr. Glenmullen also educates readers of his book about the withdrawal effects
— including nausea, vertigo, flu-like symptoms, mood swings and irritability
— that can result if newer antidepressants are stopped too abruptly.
(Prozac, which leaves the body more slowly than other S.S.R.I.’s, is an
exception). And both he and Dr. Healy criticize the pharmaceutical companies,
which they say influence medical research and often minimize adverse side
effects in an effort to make their products look good.

Yet it is difficult to find scientists or clinicians who support the more
extreme suppositions of Prozac’s critics.

Dr. Glenmullen and Dr. Healy, for example, argue that neurological side
effects — including muscle spasms, facial tics, Parkinson’s diseaselike
symptoms, extreme agitation and even tardive dyskinesia, a disabling movement
disorder — are more common in patients taking newer antidepressants than the
labeling on the drug packaging indicates, and that their occurrence augurs
serious problems to come.

Such side effects are frequently produced by older medications used to treat
psychosis. But Dr. Glenmullen said it took decades for doctors to recognize
the extent or severity of the reactions.

“Do we this time want to ignore the early warning signs of these effects with
serotonin boosters?” he asks in “Prozac Backlash.” “Even if disfiguring tic
disorders turn out to be infrequent, with tens of millions of people having
been on serotonin boosters, hundreds of thousands could be affected.”

But other scientists say it is misleading to compare antipsychotic drugs,
which directly act on the neurotransmitter dopamine, with the
antidepressants, which affect dopamine only indirectly.

“If S.S.R.I.’s do in fact cause tardive dyskinesialike syndromes, and that’s
far from proven,” said Dr. William Wirshing, a professor of psychiatry at the
University of California at Los Angeles and an expert on neurological
problems caused by antipsychotic drugs, “they do at a rate so low that it’s
indistinguishable from background noise in the untreated general population.”

Although some neurological side effects are reported in patients taking
Prozac and similar antidepressants, researchers and clinicians say that in
their experience the reactions are infrequent; some are so rare that many
psychiatrists never see them in years of practice. In many reported cases
patients have used other medications, making cause and effect difficult to

The Prognosis
Cause for Concern or Reassurance?

any scientists said that in their views “Prozac Backlash” also blurred
distinctions between newer antidepressants and many other types of drugs. In
a discussion of possible long-term effects of Prozac and similar drugs, for
example, Dr. Glenmullen drew analogies to cocaine and MDMA (the recreational
drug known as ecstasy), which are known to cause brain damage, and diet drugs
like Redux, which was pulled off the market in 1997.

Dr. Glenmullen said research was scant on how Prozac and other S.S.R.I.’s
affected nerve cells in the brain with long-term use, but he argued that
findings on the effects of ecstasy and other drugs offered reason for concern
about the antidepressants.

“Surely we already know enough to indicate these drugs should be prescribed
far more cautiously than they typically are today,” he wrote.

But Dr. George Ricaurte, an associate professor of psychiatry at Johns
Hopkins University and a leading expert on ecstasy’s effects on the brain,
said that MDMA and newer antidepressants “are two entirely different classes
of drugs.”

“The toxicity produced by MDMA is not produced by Prozac and related drugs,”
Dr. Ricaurte said. “Quite the contrary, they prevent the toxicity of MDMA and
related drugs.”

Dr. Efrain Azmitia, a professor of biology and psychiatry at New York
University and an authority on serotonin, said he regarded the newer
antidepressants as “remarkably effective and in a way, remarkably safe,”
because unlike many drugs their mechanism of action had “a more physiological
flavor, more in harmony with the body’s natural rhythms,” offering the
possibility that “you’re not going to all of a sudden see something appear
that you didn’t see at two years.”

Dr. Glenmullen, asked about other scientists’ disparate views, said that in
his book, “I’m very careful to be really clear about when I’m talking about
S.S.R.I.’s versus other classes of drugs” and his point was that “we badly
need more research.”

The Suicide Question
‘A Needle in a Haystack’

f all the issues raised by Prozac skeptics, the most difficult for many
people to sort out is the accusation that the drug is linked to suicide, an
association that began in 1990 when a Harvard University researcher, Dr.
Martin Teicher, reported on six patients who “developed intense, violent
suicidal preoccupation” shortly after starting Prozac.

Dr. Teicher’s report was followed by a few other case descriptions from other
researchers. Some scientists offered hypotheses about how such an effect, if
it existed, might occur.

One theory centered on an infrequent reaction to Prozac and other
medications, a state of agitation and restlessness known as akathisia. In
some cases, researchers suggested, akathisia may be so uncomfortable that it
sets off suicidal thoughts, or intensifies existing suicidal impulses.

Other investigators proposed that in rare cases the drugs might paradoxically
produce a drop in serotonin levels. Lowered serotonin levels have been
associated in some studies with suicide and other forms of violence.

In the public arena, the suicide question also created a commotion. Of the
more than 100 lawsuits filed against Lilly, many have been dismissed, and
some — the drug company will not say how many — have been settled out of
court. Two have come to trial, with both resulting in jury verdicts in favor
of the pharmaceutical company. In one case Lilly paid the plaintiffs an
undisclosed amount.

By the mid-1990’s, however, most scientists had lost interest in the issue.
Several larger studies — which compared Prozac to other antidepressants or
to dummy pills, including a reanalysis of Lilly’s clinical trial data —
concluded that subjects on Prozac showed no increase in suicidal acts or
feelings; some reported that the drug reduced suicide risk. In 1991, a Food
and Drug Administration advisory committee concluded that there was no
persuasive evidence for a suicide link, allaying many people’s fears.

The consensus of most researchers was that, in any case, disentangling the
effects of the antidepressants from the effects of depression itself, a
disease that has a high rate of suicide, was difficult or impossible.

“It would always be a needle in a haystack,” said Dr. Rudorfer, of the
National Institute of Mental Health.

For its part, Lilly said there was no data supporting the idea that Prozac
increased suicidal risk. “On the contrary,” said Dr. Steven Paul, a
psychiatrist who is a vice president at Lilly Research Laboratories, “all the
available data supports the fact that Prozac reduces suicidal risk in
depressed patients.”

In reviving the issue, Dr. Glenmullen and Dr. Healy, like earlier critics,
focus on Lilly’s role in lawsuits and research. They reprise, for instance,
accusations that the F.D.A.’s inquiry was tainted by some scientists’ drug
company ties. And they criticize the larger studies of Prozac and suicide,
citing problems in methodology, and pointing out that they were carried out
by scientists financed by Lilly or working for the company.

They also recycle excerpts from internal Lilly memos, retrieved by lawyers
for plaintiffs in earlier lawsuits.

Dr. Healy recently published a study in which 20 normal volunteers, who told
researchers they had no history of depression or other psychiatric problems,
were alternately given Zoloft, an S.S.R.I., and reboxetene, another
antidepressant that has not been approved for use in the United States. Two
of the volunteers, Dr. Healy reported, became acutely suicidal while taking

Dr. Healy said that compared with the normal suicide rate in Great Britain,
the healthy volunteers on Zoloft showed a 2,000-fold increase in suicide
risk. He believes the same is true for other S.S.R.I.’s. “My estimates are
that Prozac alone has led to 25,000 people committing suicide” who would not
have otherwise, Dr. Healy said.

But the Zoloft study, published in a British journal, Primary Care
Psychiatry, is controversial. Critics said its methodology was flawed — for
example, they said, the study included no placebo control, the subjects were
employees of the hospital where Dr. Healy practiced, and no medical records
or other independent sources were evaluated to confirm the subjects’ reports
about their psychiatric histories.

To conclude that Zoloft made the subjects suicidal, , said Dr. Wirshing of
U.C.L.A., “is ludicrous.”

Celeste Torello, a spokeswoman for Pfizer Inc., which manufactures Zoloft,
Prozac’s closest competitor, said the drug’s “safety and efficacy has been
proven time and again, in more than 180 clinical trials involving more than
10,000 patients worldwide.”

Meanwhile, some researchers whose early reports on the suicide issue were
cited in “Prozac Backlash” said they did not agree with the way the issue was
characterized in the book.

One is Dr. Anthony Rothschild, a professor of psychiatry at the University of
Massachusetts in Worcester and the author of a 1991 report of three patients
who developed akathisia and became more suicidal on Prozac.

“Akathisia can occur,” Dr. Rothschild said, “and in some people, who have a
previous propensity to feel suicidal and are still suffering from depression,
this can sometimes push them over the edge. But is it common? No. Can it be
easily recognized and treated? Yes.”

Even Dr. Teicher, author of the original suicide report, said he viewed the
risk for suicide as something “that clinicians need to be aware of but it’s
generally not a huge problem.”

Dr. Teicher, who along with others holds the patent on R-fluoxetene, a
refined version of Prozac that Lilly has licensed and is testing in clinical
trials as a potential successor to the drug, speculated that patients who
became suicidal on Prozac and other drugs in the early 1990’s might have done
so as a result of the higher doses prescribed by physicians. Lilly’s
exclusive patent on Prozac expires in December 2003.

Dr. Glenmullen has written to the F.D.A. requesting that stronger warnings
about akathisia and suicides be added to labels for antidepressants.

But the federal agency, a spokesman said, is satisfied that current warning
labels, which mention both akathisia and suicidal thoughts as having been
reported since the drugs reached the market, are sufficient. The agency said
it had no plans to begin another official investigation into the issue,
although it would review any new data that emerged, as it does routinely on
topics of public concern.

In the end, the message for anyone contemplating taking Prozac, Zoloft,
Paxil, Luvox or other antidepressants, scientists said, may be simply that
drugs have side effects, and the decision to take medication always involves
the weighing of benefit against risk.

“No one should really be on any type of medication for long periods of time
unless they have to,” said Dr. Azmitia, of N.Y.U. “But some people really
can’t function unless they are on these drugs.”

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Is there a steroid effect with Prozac

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I regain my desire to write and paint when I finally get off Prozac?”


I was placed on Prozac a few years ago and tried to stop using it several times. Each time I did, I begin feeling dizzy at times and nauseous. Not long after I begin using Prozac, I started to ‘itch’. My ears itched especially, and the palms of my hand began to appear dry. Are there some ‘corticosteroids’ in Prozac?

[Note: You will find in Prozac: Panacea or Pandora? that there is a DOUBLING of Cortisol levels with only one 30mg dose of Prozac. This would give a VERY powerful corticosteroid effect.]

Now there’s a claim that antidepressants help women in menopause. What’s next?

Prozac is supposed to be now OKed for OCD. Well, it didn’t work for me. I did realize a particular habit it produced for me that was OCD. Every day at noon, I would drive to the same thrift shop stay for about 45 minutes then return to work. If I didn’t go I felt as though something was wrong. I really felt I had to go.

I must say, I believe MOST individuals have some form of OCD. Of course if a company can market a drug, initially meant for one disease, for another disease (problem) whatever euphemistic title applied, then the more $$$ for their corporation. I wonder if someday there will be a “Antidepressant,” rebellion because of the medicines/drugs/chemicals prescribed to persons.

Children are being doped up to keep them quiet so their parents can go to work and not worry about their ‘normal’ activities. I suppose certain mental problems are a continuing trend. “My kid is more of a problem than yours?” “I’m on more med that you?”

I realize I am ranting by writing, but I am so frustrated and disappointed. And, when one complains about such things, what’s one of the first, if NOT the first question one is asked, “How old is the person.” Then, too often, it’s the VICTIM on whom the FAULT is placed.

I know there was a time while taking alprazolam that showed bizarre conduct on my workplace in NJ. I told my supervisor I would apologizes to the person, but I was told NOT to because apparently my conduct was to be kept quiet. I was placed on leave of absence because of my condition. While that conduct occurred, I was under treatment and had been for some time. My conduct was definitely out of character, impulsive, and destructive to my reputation.

The snowball began when I commenced having panic attacks and was ultimately depressed I needed to see a doctor/psychiatrist/counselor. I saw all three. The first med. I was given was Xanax, then Imipramine, I have a list written somewhere, although the list may be got from my former physician, in NJ. Although, with the patient/physician confidentiality law, I suppose one has not access to the files.

I truly hope I can stop using Prozac. Presently I am not under a Dr care and auspices. When we left NJ nearly a year ago, I was given a Prozac prescription 3 month supply, I have been opening the capsules and dividing the contents by thirds. Every other day I would use a third. I suppose when the company I worked for 12 years downsized me in March 1999, I was also egotistically downsized.

That’s another thing, in the past I wrote poetry well, and in an instant. While using Prozac, I lost so much of my artistic desire that I actually became more depressed. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I regain my desire to write and paint when I finally get off Prozac?


Lorraine B. Jacobs



This is Survivor Story number 17.
Total number of stories in current database is 96

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