St. John’s Wort and Acute Insomnia

“SJW must be as powerful a serotonergic as Prozac.”


I was so interested when I saw your web site, because from what everyone is saying, serotonin should be added to our drinking supply. Yet not enough is truly known about the brain.

Here is my story. It’s not entirely related to a drug per se, but to St. John’s Wort. I took SJW extract for three weeks in November, three droppers full a day, hoping to stave off winter depression before it hit. I then developed SEVERE insomnia that landed me in the ER twice, and then in the Psych unit. Had a sleep study to no avail. Since then I haven’t been able to sleep without ambien or halcion, despite having no prior history of insomnia. And they keep giving me more serotonergic drugs! I can’t see what it could be besides the St. John’s Wort! And I am only 22!

Zoloft was the worst drug they put me on, and gave me a dissociative panic attack for days on end. I don’t know exactly what my disorder is, but I had a deranged SPECT scan with massive overactivity. Serotonin is a double-edged sword. Watch out! All the research is definitely not in on this one. When I was younger and used to do LSD I had a lot of the same effects that SSRI’s give. They are not that dissimilar.

I would be highly interested if you ever run across anyone who had a severe disabling insomnia somehow induced by excess serotonin. I have talked to one person who had exactly the same thing happen, after a few Prozac, and it turned out they also had a carcinoid syndrome. Now, I know I don’t have this, but I don’t know how to explain any of what I have been through without mentioning the St. John’s Wort, because until that day I was 100% fine, and since then I have been unable to sleep and feeling restless. They had put me on tricyclic antidepressants and then several different SSRI’s which honestly haven’t improved things, and which I secretly discontinued. It’s not like I am depressed anyway, and in fact was in the Psych Hospital for sleep deprivation and released because they couldn’t find any evidence of a mental problem. They said maybe I was manic, but I wasn’t really hyper and had no response to Lithium or Depakote. Then they withdrew that diagnosis, only to say they didn’t know what was wrong with me.

But the thing about the SJW is this: I was on it for about three weeks of a black mood, when I honestly felt my mood lift… then I called everyone and said, “Gee this stuff really works!” Then within days the massive insomnia came. Now my mood is not so great, and I still can’t sleep. So I fail to see what induced it otherwise. All in all it’s weird. SJW must be as powerful a serotonergic as Prozac. I don’t think, if it’s so powerful, that it could really be free of side effects, even if it is natural. That is a rather grandiose claim, made by Howard (? Harold) Bloomfield, the doc who did all the SJW research. My three cents:)

Note from Ann Blake-Tracy:

Something to consider is that “Sleepless in California” had used a drug (LSD) in the past that produces high levels of serotonin. It may be that St. John’s Wort used by someone who has higher levels of serotonin already may find that they have adverse reactions to St. John’s Wort. This would also raise questions about those who have previously used an SSRI using St. John’s Wort. And to answer the question about higher levels of serotonin and insomnia, I refer you to the information in my book PROZAC: PANACEA OR PANDORA? which demonstrates that high levels of serotonin will lower the metabolism of serotonin and results in insomnia.

(Sleepless in California)

Years 2000 and Prior

This is Survivor Story number 81.
Total number of stories in current database is 96


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Serotonergic Poisoning on Paxil

“My teeth no longer feel like my teeth and I have horrible electrical feelings in my mouth.”

I was being treated for a bipolar depression with St. John’s Wort, and my doctor prescribed Seroxat (Paxil). This was in June 1999. I became seriously ill within three days and then had all sorts of drugs thrown at me for my “depression.”

All these brought various horrors with them. In fact I suffered “serotonergic poisoning” for 22 months.

There was no acceptance of my constant statement that Seroxat was responsible (although I was taken off it after a while). There are no words to describe what it felt like. I could so easily be dead, for several reasons.

I feel terribly disabled now with a variety of neurological damage caused by the experience. e.g.. My teeth no longer feel like my teeth and I have horrible electrical feelings in my mouth. This is called ‘OFD.’ Of course I am receiving medication for this.

In summary I could say that my life is wrecked, but I try not to make sweeping statements for my own sake.

I am progressing as bravely as I can and want to make as good a recovery as possible. This is the only way, otherwise I would truly despair, and if I have any choice in the matter I am not going to let this win. This is the real me talking, rather than the drugs.

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12/30/2000 – McDermott on Prozac, Paxil AND Deseryl?

If the Boston Herald’s source got it right, McDermott was on one heck of a
combo!!! All three are contraindicated in mixing any of the three with even
one of the others, much less two!! His serotonin levels must have been out of
sight using three serotonergic meds! No one should be surprised that he went
psychotic on this combination, even if the drugs were given in succession,
rather than together.

Let me also point out that the so called “Prozac defense” HAS been used
successfully several times. And as far as I know Kip Kinkle’s attorney never
used the information on the drugs in his murder case.

Prozac would also have been found guilty in a case that is almost identical
this one – that of Joseph Wesbecker in Louisville, KY, who also after being
treated with Prozac went on a shooting spree with an AK47 where he worked.
That is it would have been used successfully if Eli Lilly had not bought off
the plaintiffs in the middle of the trial and then neglected to disclose that
payoff to both the judge and the jurors. Judge John Potter deserves a metal
for taking Lilly and the plaintiffs to court and forcing them to admit the
truth of what happened. Although it took him a couple of years he said that
he did it because he did not want his courtroom turned into an advertising
agency for Prozac and pointed out that this is a public safety issue.
Amazingly Lilly has used that case to defend their drug ever since! (Although
my book discusses the Wesbecker case briefly, the book Power to Harm covers
the Wesbecker case in detail.)

Ann Blake-Tracy, Executive Director,
International Coalition For Drug Awareness

“According to the source, who is familiar with the still mounting case,
McDermott had been taking Paxil, Prozac and Desyrel – all of which are SSRIs
designed to treat depression, social phobias or anxiety.”

Source: Suspect was taking drugs for depression

by Dave Wedge, Tom Farmer and Jose Martinez
Friday, December 29, 2000

The hulking computer technician accused of gunning down seven of his
co-workers at a Wakefield high-tech firm this week suffered from a host of
mental illnesses – including schizophrenia – for which he was taking a trio
of antidepressants, a source told the Herald yesterday.

Accused killer Michael M. McDermott at his arraignment Wednesday. (Staff
photo by Matthew West) “He’s got some serious psychological issues and a
long (psychiatric) history,” the source said of 42-year-old Michael
“Mucko” McDermott.

McDermott, a divorced Navy veteran from Marshfield who lived most recently in
Haverhill, suffered from severe depression, paranoia and schizophrenia, and
had been in psychiatric treatment for some time, according to the source who
spoke on condition of anonymity.

To cope with his mental disorders, McDermott was prescribed several Selective
Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRIs, designed to increase brain
serotonin. Low levels of brain serotonin can lead to depression and anxiety

A source familiar with the investigation said McDermott’s supervisors at
Edgewater Technology Inc. did not appear to know he was using the medication.

McDermott is being held without bail on seven counts of first-degree murder
in Tuesday’s massacre at Edgewater. Prosecutors have said McDermott wielded a
shotgun and semiautomatic rifle with premeditated precision and extreme
atrocity, hunting down workers in the company’s accounting and human
resources offices but letting others flee unharmed.

He was arrested by police who found him sitting in the lobby near the bodies
of two of his victims. At least two Edgewater employees witnessed the
rampage, including one woman who hid behind a chair and her coat beneath a
desk in the accounting office, where two of her co-workers were killed.

Middlesex County District Attorney Martha Coakley has said McDermott may have
been seeking vengeance over the impending docking of his paychecks by
Edgewater to satisfy an IRS demand for back taxes. Sources say the IRS orders
would have left McDermott with just $275 every two weeks.

But investigators also are looking for clues about what drove the man to kill
by delving into the contents of computers seized from McDermott’s office and
home, where police also found bomb-making literature and materials. One
source said McDermott had attempted to wipe out the hard drive of his office
computer the day of the shootings.

Yesterday, neither Coakley nor McDermott’s defense attorney, Kevin
Reddington, would discuss the case or McDermott’s mental state and
psychological history. However, at Wednesday’s arraignment, Reddington raised
the specter of an insanity defense by saying his client had been seeing
psychiatrists and asking the judge to OK his continued medication.

Insanity defenses rarely succeed. The so-called Prozac defense has been
unsuccessfully attempted in dozens of murder cases nationwide, including in
the case of Kip Kinkel, the teenager who killed his family and two
schoolmates in Springfield, Ore.

According to the source, who is familiar with the still mounting case,
McDermott had been taking Paxil, Prozac and Desyrel – all of which are SSRIs
designed to treat depression, social phobias or anxiety.

The source also said orders have been sent by doctors to the Middlesex County
Sheriff’s office so McDermott can receive his medications in the Cambridge
jail. He will be examined by psychiatrists some time in the next week, the
source said.

The revelations about McDermott’s psychiatric history emerged as his
co-workers returned to St. Joseph’s Church – where so many of them had sought
refuge and solace in the hours after the shootings – for a memorial service
in honor of their seven slain colleagues.

“We’re all hurting and grieving, but I can’t tell you how much we’re pulling
together as a team,” Edgewater Technology Chief Executive Officer Shirley
Singleton said after meeting with her employees for the first time since the

The company has started a memorial fund for the families of the slain workers
with a $70,000 donation. Singleton also said grief counseling, which began
yesterday at the firm, would continue as long as employees need help.

She declined to discuss the shootings that claimed the lives of Jennifer
Bragg Capobianco, 29; Janice Hagerty, 46; Louis Javelle, 58; Rose Manfredi,
48; Paul Marceau, 36; Cheryl Troy, 50, and Craig Wood, 29.

State and federal authorities are seeking the origin of McDermott’s weapons,
including the AK-47-style rifle and 12-gauge shotgun that he is alleged to
have used to kill the four women and three men, a .32-caliber pistol found in
his pants pocket and a large-caliber hunting rifle found in a locker by his

Haverhill police began looking for McDermott late Christmas Eve after someone
reported hearing gunfire in the woods near Crystal Lake, where a man fitting
his description was spotted by a car with the license plate “MUCKO.”
Officers traced the car back to McDermott’s apartment but could not locate
him despite several more visits Christmas Day.

One day later, investigators believe McDermott lugged the weapons unnoticed
into the Harvard Mills complex, one law enforcement source said. Two
soft-sided gun cases were found under his desk.

“He walked them right in and placed them under his desk,” the source said.
“They had a skeleton crew working that day and no one apparently saw him or
recognized what the cases were for.”

The source said McDermott loaded the shotgun with buckshot at his work
station before embarking on his killing spree. The source, a longtime
investigator, said the carnage he witnessed in the shooting’s aftermath left
him shaken.

“I was sick to my stomach over it,” he said. “It was unlike any other
murder scene because it was in a work setting. It was almost surreal. One of
the (dead) women had her head resting on her arm like she knew she was going
to get it.”

Meanwhile, gun control advocates held a rally outside the State House to urge
lawmakers to ban the sale of assault weapons like McDermott’s. Although
Massachusetts already has the country’s toughest gun law, it does not ban the
sale of assault weapons manufactured before September 1994.

“They have no legitimate use in a civilized society other than for law
enforcement,” said Stop Handgun Violence co-founder John E. Rosenthal.

Kevin Sowyrda, spokesman for the Gun Owners Action League, declined to
comment specifically on an assault weapon ban but said, “The last thing we
need in this period of mourning are political rallies.”

Donations may be made to the Edgewater Wakefield Memorial Foundation, Box
2133, Wakefield, Mass. 01880-6133. Donations may also be made at Fleet bank

Karen E. Crummy contributed to this report.

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4/17/2000 – Heat deaths related to medication raised

The inability to handle heat has been a common report from
patients for years with the serotonergic medications. Many
patients also find that it continues after coming off the
medication. Now the Dallas Morning News brings us some
insight into the dangers of that reaction.

Ann Blake-Tracy

Heat deaths related to medication raised
Dallas Morning News (April 17, 2000).

DAYTON, Ohio – Findings from health authorities have doubled
the number of deaths related to psychiatric medications taken by
the mentally ill during last summer’s fierce Midwestern heat

New figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention in Atlanta and the Cook County medical examiner’s
office in Chicago show that at least 23 of the estimated 300 dead
were mentally ill people who took medicines that made them
especially vulnerable to death from intense summer heat.

The total could be higher because not all coroners where heat
deaths occurred performed toxicology tests. The medications
interfere with the body’s thermo-regulatory system, hazards
known to physicians but seldom publicized.

Common drugs included Mellaril, Elavil, Prozac and Zoloft.

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10/17/1999 – Fen-Phen Settlement on Shaky Ground

To our ICFDA Subscribers–

It was announced on Friday that American Home Products, maker of Redux
and Pondimin, is being sued by 11,000 plaintiffs. Now the majority
of those afflicted with heart and lung problems from the drug, 8,000
in all, say they are not interested in the proposed $3.75 billion
settlement offer.

Why should they be?

“I don’t know if there is an individual in the United States that would
qualify for $1.5 million under this settlement,” said Marc Bern, whose
New York City law firm represents 5,000 plaintiffs.

This case should serve as a warning to those companies now marketing
other SSRI medications which can have similar adverse effects in their
patient population. The users of these serotonergic medications
represent a much larger population than Fen-Phen users–now upwards
of 50 million individuals worldwide!

If this is the largest product liability suit to date, what might the
future bring?

For the full story, click on the link below.–Dr Ann Tracy, Executive
Director, ICFDA

Settlement on Shaky Ground
Thousands of Fen-Phen Users May Reject Offer

By Amy Westfeldt
The Associated Press

N E W A R K, N.J., Oct. 14 — Thousands of people suing American Home
Products Corp. for injuries allegedly suffered while taking the
fen-phen diet drug combination won’t participate in a proposed $3.75
billion settlement, threatening the resolution of one of the largest
product liability cases ever, lawyers say.

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