3/30/2001 – LSD to Prozac and back to LSD?!

In the last half century we have witnessed Eli Lilly bring America LSD and
then Prozac. Now that the public has been brainwashed about the “benefits” of
Prozac and its clones, it is time to once again attempt to sell us on LSD.
After admitting in this article the truth of the argument I have made for ten
years against the SSRI antidepressants – they work like LSD in the brain (”
Nichols says there is some indication these drugs work on the serotonin
pathway in the brain, the same target of the selective serotonin reuptake
inhibitor drugs Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft, used to treat depression, anxiety
and obsessive compulsive disorder.”) they now work to sell us on the
“benefits” of LSD. After all, if we can as a society have given similar drugs
– the SSRIs – such a warm welcome, we must now be ready to accept LSD, the
CIA’s drug of choice for a mind control experimentation, with welcome arms as
well.

Has the world gone completely mad?! Obviously! We now have the National
Institute on Drug Abuse encouraging us to use a drug, already declared
dangerous and of no medical use, when they are suppose to educate us on the
dangers of it. Perhaps the name of the institute should be changed to the
National Institute for Production of Drug Abuse. At this point it would
certainly be more appropriate. Clearly they are counting on their lack of
educating the public about drugs to have produced enough public ignorance of
drugs and their effects so as to allow them to get away with this one. As I
have said repeatedly, the drug companies count on our memory loss. They
expect us to forget within a generation our experience with a drug and then
pull the same drug on us again. They generally give it a new name, or a new
twist, but the more you learn about drugs, the more you realize that the
drugs remain the same.

Obviously on this one they are counting on mass stupidity among the general
population for its acceptance. I would hope that everyone of you is working
as hard as you can to educate all around you to the dangers of these drugs.
Time is of the essence! If you have not yet figured out that we are in a
battle for our lives, you have missed something. Our society as we have known
it and our future is at stake. The Brave New World is here. And with them
feeling so confident as to take such a bold and blatant step as this all that
can be said at this point is, “God help us all!”

Ann Blake-Tracy, Executive Director,
International Coalition For Drug Awareness
www.drugawareness.org

http://abcnews.go.com/sections/living/DailyNews/hallucinogen010322.html

A computer-generated model of the LSD molecule. (Heffter Institute)

MedicalHallucinogens?

Researchers Studying Possible Medical Use of LSD, Peyote, Psilocybin

By Robin Eisner

N E W Y O R K, March 22 Could shrooms or LSD help the mentally ill?

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
Hallucinogens Among Oldest Drugs
Trials Must Be Rigorously Designed
Critics: Risks Outweigh Benefits

At Harvard, a psychiatrist is studying whether the hallucinogenic cactus
peyote creates any long-term memory or attention problems in the American
Indians who take the drug as part of religious rituals.

A University of Arizona psychiatrist is poised to begin researching whether
taking the hallucinogen psilocybin under controlled circumstances may help
people suffering with obsessive compulsive disorder.

And another Harvard psychiatrist is in the beginning phases of designing a
protocol that may employ LSD or another hallucinogen to see if it helps
terminally ill people suffering from depression and pain.

With some support from the private New Mexico-based Heffter Institute, these
researchers, along with others in the United States and abroad, represent a
small movement of scientists looking at the possible medical benefits of
hallucinogens for some psychiatric conditions.

Hallucinogens Among Oldest Drugs

Hallucinogens are among the oldest known group of drugs that have been used
for their ability to alter human perception and mood, according to the Drug
Enforcement Agency. They have been used for medical, social and religious
practices.

More recently, synthetic hallucinogens have been used recreationally, with
hippies from the ’60s, such as the now deceased ex-Harvard psychology
professor Timothy Leary, first promoting their use with the famous slogan,
Turn on, Tune in, Drop Out.

Today, hallucinogens are deemed drugs of abuse by the DEA, with no known
medical benefit. Approximately 8 percent to 10 percent of high school
seniors tried a hallucinogen in the past year according to a University of
Michigan study of drug use.

It remains unclear how these drugs exert their action in the brain, but
anecdotal evidence and some earlier studies indicate they may help a variety
of psychiatric conditions, says David E. Nichols, founder of the Heffter
Institute, in Santa Fe, and professor of medical chemistry and molecular
pharmacology at Purdue School of Pharmacy in West Lafayette, Ind.

Nichols says there is some indication these drugs work on the serotonin
pathway in the brain, the same target of the selective serotonin reuptake
inhibitor drugs Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft, used to treat depression, anxiety
and obsessive compulsive disorder.

He founded the institute in 1993 to help give scientific credibility to
medical research on hallucinogens. After years of fund-raising, the
institute now has enough money to help scientists do serious research.

Trials Must Be Rigorously Designed

Since opinions are so strongly held about hallucinogens, it is essential
that any studies in this area be performed with the most rigorous modern
methods and great care to have an impartial approach, says Dr. Harrison
Pope, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, who is leading the
four-year peyote study in American Indians.

Funded largely by the National Institute of Drug Abuse and Heffter, Popes
group will be comparing three populations of American Indians peyote users
in religious ceremonies, alcoholics, and local tribespeople to see if
peyote use is associated with cognitive problems.

Pope is also developing a trial to follow up on studies from the ’60s and
’70s suggesting that hallucinogens helped ease anxiety and depression in the
terminally ill and also reduced their need for pain medication.

The challenge is to design the study in such a way that if the drug shows
benefits, skeptics are convinced, and if it doesnt help, proponents of
hallucinogenic use dont challenge the research as inadequate, Pope says.

Psilocybin mushroom

These studies take time to develop to get that scientific imprimatur. They
also need to get review, by local medical institutions and governmental
regulatory authorities. The DEA and the FDA is still reviewing a protocol by
Dr. Francisco Moreno, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University
of Arizona in Tucson, hoping to study a chemically synthesized psilocybin
for obsessive-compulsives. His hospital gave him permission to start the
study.

A protocol of psilocybin and depression in Switzerland also is undergoing
revision before it is submitted to the government authorities there, Nichols
says.

Critics: Risks Outweigh Benefits

Some scientists, however, question the potential risks of these studies.

The problem with this kind of research is that when average people hear or
read about them in this preliminary stage they might think these drugs could
be good for them now, says Una McCann, associate professor of psychiatry at
Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. But it remains unknown until the studies
are finished, McCann says.

Dr. Gregory Collins the director of the Alcohol and Drug Recovery program at
the Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio, believes the risks outweigh any
benefits.

Some of these drugs have been shown to have long-term consequences in
healthy people, Collins says. I would be reluctant to try them in the
mentally ill.

Nichols, however, defends the research. I think we will find some medical
benefit of these drugs, Nichols says. There is no other drug class that
doesnt have some medical utility.

605 total views, 3 views today

1/11/2001 – More Self Harm Seen with SSRI Therapy Than With Tricyclics

Now, a report out of the UK debunks a popular marketing
strategem of SSRI manufacturers–that SSRI’s are inherently
safer because they are less toxic in overdose. This study
recently published in the British Journal of Psychiatry clearly
points to a great risk of self-harm with drugs like Prozac, Zoloft
and Paxil over the older tricyclic antidepressants. Mark
———

More Self Harm Seen with SSRI Therapy Than With Tricyclics

http://psychiatry.medscape.com/reuters/prof/2000/12/12.29/20001228clin013.html

WESTPORT, CT (Reuters Health) Dec 28 – Significantly more
instances of deliberate self-harm occur in patients prescribed a
selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) than in those
prescribed a tricyclic antidepressant (TCA). In their report in the
December issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry, UK
investigators caution that the choice of antidepressant for
patients at risk should not be based solely on overdose toxicity.

In this prospective study, 2776 deliberate self-harm events
occurred in 1954 individuals attending the Derbyshire Royal
Infirmary in 1995 and 1996. Dr. Stuart Donovan, of University
Hospital, in Nottingham, and associates observed that the most
frequent method of self-harm was medication overdose, and
paracetamol (acetaminophen) was the medication most
frequently involved

In the cases of antidepressant overdoses, SSRIs were used
more often than TCAs, in 16.0 and 11.8 cases per 10,000
prescriptions, respectively. The relative incidence of self-harm
events was significantly higher in those prescribed SSRIs than
in those prescribed TCAs. Exposure times were similar for the
two types of drugs.

Dr. Donovan’s group adds that SSRIs may have been prescribed
more often following unsuccessful use of a TCA, making it
possible that “a greater proportion of more ‘difficult to treat’
patients may have been prescribed SSRIs and this may
manifest as a greater risk of deliberate self-harm.” However, they
emphasize that the reduced overdose toxicity of SSRIs
compared with TCAs “does not extrapolate to a reduced risk of
deliberate self-harm.”

In fact, the reduced risk of morbidity following overdose is offset
by the higher risk of self-harm by other methods in patients
taking SSRIs.

Br J Psychiatry 2000;177:551-556.
Copyright © 2000 Reuters Ltd. All rights reserved.

426 total views, 2 views today

Unprepared for the Horrendous Withdrawal from Effexor (update 4 months later)

“Sometimes it felt as if my brain was shuddering in my skull…”

 

I realize that this is what most would consider a long letter. However, it is only a brief summation of my own personal experience. Please, especially those of you who are parents or grandparents, teachers or counselors, just take the two minutes it takes to read it, then just put it in the back of your mind. Or pass it on.

Anti-depressants are quite often being cavalierly dispensed to the population in general. Also, they are prescribed to help kids who’ve been on Ritalin for years get through the difficult process of the cessation of that drug. And now the manufacturers of these drugs are planning to produce it in smaller doses for their next target population: pre and elementary school aged children! These drugs have a very high percentage rate of undesirable and sometimes dangerous side effects.

Several years ago I broke my wrist, which caused me to develop a rare condition known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. One of the medications I was given to try to control the pain was Effexor. Effexor is a serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or an SSRI. These drugs are commonly known as anti-depressants. Prozac is probably the most commonly known drug in this class. I was on this drug for less than 6 months when, for reasons of my own, I decided I wanted to get off. That’s when my nightmare began.

One cannot just stop taking these drugs. There is a tapering off process which must be followed. This is because there are very often serious and debilitating withdrawal symptoms. However, I was not told of these symptoms, and I now know that the doctor did not know about them, either. He told me only that nightmares were a common occurrence during this process, and that I might also experience “mild, flu-like” symptoms and “slight confusion.” During this initial, original prescribed tapering off process, which was supposed to take about 2 weeks, I experienced vivid and terrifying nightmares. I could not shake these off for hours after I had wakened. Since I was extremely tired, I napped a lot. Each time I napped, there would be a nightmare, and the process would repeat itself several times daily. I really was unprepared for their intensity and lasting after-images.

Then came the day I was to stop taking it. To make a long story short, these were some of my symptoms: A weird visual thing would happen for about a second, about 4 times a minute. I can only compare it to what it feels like to try to track the arrow of the mouse across the page. But I knew it was not my eyes that were doing this, I could feel it was my brain. (October, 2000: I’ve just found out that the term for this is “staccato vision”). I also experienced what people who have this call a sensation “like electric shocks” or “jolts” to my whole body which also occurred for a split second every 15 seconds or so. When these occurred at night, in the dark, they were accompanied by a flash of white light. It’s as if I were “whiting out” (instead of “blacking out”) for just a split second every 15 seconds or so. These incidents began to increase in intensity and began to be accompanied by panic and/or paranoia flashes. Eventually, just moving caused such dizziness and disorientation that I had to hold onto whatever was around me to walk. Sometimes it felt as if there were a magnet to one side of me, pulling me that way. The “slight confusion” I experienced is something I can only imagine is what beginning Alzheimer’s patients must feel like during the initial stages of their eventually terminal mental decline during the time when they are still aware that something is really going wrong. Sometimes it felt as if my brain was shuddering in my skull a sensation that has come to be called “Brain Shivers” or “Brain Flips” by many. Numerous other things were happening as well, but I don’t want to get too long-winded here. I just want to give you all some idea of some of the kinds of things that were happening.

So, I made an appointment with the prescribing doctor, and a friend was kind enough to take me there. But the doctor did not believe me! He said that it couldn’t be the Effexor, that I probably had some neurological problems and that if the symptoms persisted, I should see a neurologist. But I KNEW it was the Effexor, so I went home, took another pill, and felt fine within the hour. Then I got on the ‘net. What I found there was astounding! Tons of people, all with the same things happening to them, reaching out to anonymous others and saying, “Help! What is happening to me?” These I found on bulletin boards, NOT on product information sites put up by the people who are selling the stuff.

I tried calling the Drug Company to find out what was happening to me and how to stop it. I never did reach them. Fortunately for me, my primary care physician had heard of these symptoms and knew how to deal with them. She advised a long, slow tapering off process, telling me that it could take one to two months for me to be able to get off. Also fortunately for me, she told me to take as long as I needed.

It took me 10 MONTHS! During that time, the symptoms mentioned above continued, although diminished enough for me to be able to function almost normally. But other things began to happen. I saw things out of the corners of my eyes, which were not there. We all do that, but this was pretty constant. One thing I saw which I never told anyone about until it had stopped was a big, hairy rat about 1 foot long, scurrying around corners. Keep in mind that I was not on this drug because I was in any way mentally unbalanced, it was merely to help with the pain. I saw, and still see occasionally, a pinpoint of violet shimmering light. Also, things would seem to be moving out of the corners of my eyes. A spot on the wall, for example, I would think was a spider crawling until I looked directly at it, when I would realize it was just a spot on the wall. These things did not scare me, but they were frequent and startling and bothersome.

I took my last little crumbs of Effexor in September of 1999. End of story?

Unfortunately, no. It is now the end of July, 2000, and I still experience some of the same symptoms, although they are manageable. I also have experienced monstrous headaches. The first one, back in September, lasted 4 days. I thought I was going to die. I even told my son that I might die. I debated about that for a while, but did not want him to wake up and find me dead one morning. Fortunately, I’m still here. My headaches began to decrease in length, and now they seem to last only 2 hours or so. They go away within one minute. Sometimes I’m just achy all over. I guess that experience is the “mild, flu-like” symptoms I’d been warned about. I still have days I call “my stupid days”, and they usually signal the beginning of episodes lasting several days, involving vertigo, dizziness, short anxiety attacks, some euphoria occasionally, the “brain shivers”, and numerous other weird symptoms, and culminating in a headache. Then I’m fine for however long it lasts. Sometimes I feel whole body tremors, not enough to make me twitch, and they are not unpleasant, but they’re there and they shouldn’t be.

I am concerned about this. I want to know why, after not taking this drug for so long, I am experiencing this “discontinuation syndrome”, and when will it stop? I have not yet found the answer.

I finally did get in touch with the Drug Company to ask them these questions and they took down all my information. They have never explained why, and they have never followed up. They would not talk to me about my symptoms, they would only talk with my doctor. And this was not OK because the doctor did not believe me! (This was not the prescribing doctor who hadn’t believed me when I first tried to get off, this was the doctor who’d prescribed the tapering off process.) But I told her to call them and talk to them, and it was pretty easy for them to shine her on, since she didn’t believe me anyway. And they sent her a letter advising a slow tapering off of the drug, which I’d already done, of course, AND a “report” from a closed symposium on SSRIs sponsored by the a drug company ‘way back in 1996! (Which, of course, did not address the issue.)

The more research I’ve done on these things, the angrier I become. Because the drug companies have known about these things for years. Many people and their families have gone through much, much worse than I have. Some people have never been able to get off the drugs.

Now, what would YOU do if you were manufacturing these things? You’d probably say’ “Whoa! We need to stop selling these things until we can find out what’s causing this. We’d better get in touch with each and every one of those people who are having these extreme reactions, do whatever we can to help them, and to identify what it IS about them that makes them react differently than those who have no problems with the medication.” Well, not only are these companies not doing this, they are manufacturing the drugs in smaller doses so that CHILDREN can take them! Yes, Prozac is currently being tested on pre-school aged children! And although these drugs have not YET been approved for use in children, the numbers of children aged 6-12 being prescribed Prozac has risen from 41,000 in 1995 to 203,000 in 1996. Currently, in 2000, 2.3 million children in the U.S. are on anti-depressants. The official literature on these drugs says that they are safe for pregnant women to take! And there are documented cases of newborns being born with the more evident withdrawal symptoms (which the drug companies are ignoring because nobody can prove it. Isn’t that horrible?!). The companies that manufacture these things are re-naming Prozac “Seraphim” or something and doctors are prescribing it for PMS!

Are these drugs harmful to absolutely anyone who takes them? Of course not. And for many, these drugs have proven to be beneficial. However, they are NOT only being prescribed for major, long-term depressions, but for such things as the Holiday Blues and teenage angst! But the percentage risk for horrible and even deadly side effects is extremely high. (See the 3rd link below.)

Please, unless you are chronically depressed or have something really, really severe, stay away from this class of drugs. And please, NEVER EVER put a child on these things! I am an intelligent, articulate, resourceful middle-aged woman. When a wave of panic starts to wash over me, or any other of these weird things start to happen, I can tell myself to just hold on, it’s just the after-effects of the drug, it will go away, I should take a deep breath and relax, etc. Do you think a child or a newborn could do the same? I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a child in school and to suffer the kind of confusion I’ve been through and manage to learn anything, let alone be involved in a physical activity or sport! This has been going on for nearly 2 years with me, and I don’t know when it will end!

Thank you for taking the time to read my story. This has been a BRIEF synopsis of what my life has been like for the past two years. And it’s nothing compared to what others have been through.

Update, October, 2000:

In the few months since I wrote this, I found that these continued withdrawal effects after not haven taken the drug for a long time is a phenomena which has not one but two names: PANES (Persistent Adverse Neurological Effects) and “Intractable Withdrawal”. This phenomenon was noted as early as 1996, before I began taking Effexor. How can the pharmaceutical companies deny the existence of something that has occurred enough to even have a name?

Several months ago I was driving with my son on the freeway at night and I felt fine. Out of the blue, a wave of disorientation and that peculiar form of dizziness I associate with my “Effexor Episodes” came upon me. I found myself in the middle of two lanes with no remembrance of which one I had come from. I was too scared to look in the rear view mirror to see what was behind me. I heard my son yell, “What are you doing?” A car was breaking to the left of me. I asked my son which lane I should go into and he told me to go right. Fortunately the freeway was not crowded. I was dizzy and scared and felt as if I was going to pass out. Soon there was an exit and I took that off the freeway and my son continued the drive home. I have not driven at night since.

I am a 50 year old woman with an excellent driving record. I made it. I feel sure that if there had been more cars on the freeway there would’ve been a terrible accident. Children from the ages of 6 up are being prescribed these drugs. They are getting their learners permits and at age 16 are given driver’s licenses after passing very easy tests. Maybe you or a loved one will be in a car next to one someday. Maybe you’ll be in an airplane piloted by a pilot who’s missed a dose, directed by an air traffic controller who’s trying to get off this stuff. Maybe you’ll be next to a taxicab driver or a bus driver or a commuter who is suddenly euphoric or has a momentary panic attack. I won’t drive at night, and am careful about where and when I drive in the daytime. But I really don’t think that many can afford to do that. I think they’ll just drive and hope for the best. And that is really, really scary to me.

Louise Mangan

7/1/2000

This is Survivor Story number 19.

Total number of stories in current database is 96

375 total views, 1 views today

Staccato Vision, Whiting Out and Brain Shivers on Effexor

“Please, unless you are chronically depressed or have something really, really severe, stay away from this class of drugs.”

 

Dear Friends and Acquaintances,

I realize that this is what most would consider a long letter. However, it is only a brief summation of my own personal experience. Please, especially those of you who are parents or grandparents, teachers or counselors, just take the two minutes it takes to read it, then just put it in the back of your mind. Or pass it on.

Anti-depressants are quite often being cavalierly dispensed to the population in general. Also, they are prescribed to help kids who’ve been on Ritalin for years get through the difficult process of the cessation of that drug. And now the manufacturers of these drugs are planning to produce it in smaller doses for their next target population: pre and elementary school aged children! These drugs have a very high percentage rate of undesirable and sometimes dangerous side effects.
As many of you know, several years ago I broke my wrist, which caused me to develop a rare condition known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. One of the medications I was given to try to control the pain was Effexor. Effexor is a serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or an SSRI. These drugs are commonly known as anti-depressants. Prozac is probably the most commonly known drug in this class. I was on this drug for less than 6 months when, for reasons of my own, I decided I wanted to get off. That’s when my nightmare began.

One cannot just stop taking these drugs. There is a tapering off process which must be followed. This is because there are very often serious and debilitating withdrawal symptoms. However, I was not told of these symptoms, and I now know that the doctor did not know about them, either. He told me only that nightmares were a common occurrence during this process, and that I might also experience “mild, flu-like” symptoms and “slight confusion.” During this initial, original prescribed tapering off process, which was supposed to take about 2 weeks, I experienced vivid and terrifying nightmares. I could not shake these off for hours after I had wakened. Since I was extremely tired, I napped a lot. Each time I napped, there would be a nightmare, and the process would repeat itself several times daily. I really was unprepared for their intensity and lasting after-images.

Then came the day I was to stop taking it. To make a long story short, these were some of my symptoms: A weird visual thing would happen for about a second, about 4 times a minute. I can only compare it to what it feels like to try to track the arrow of the mouse across the page. But I knew it was not my eyes that were doing this, I could feel it was my brain. (October, 2000: I’ve just found out that the term for this is “staccato vision”). I also experienced what people who have this call a sensation “like electric shocks” or “jolts” to my whole body which also occurred for a split second every 15 seconds or so. When these occurred at night, in the dark, they were accompanied by a flash of white light. It’s as if I were “whiting out” (instead of “blacking out”) for just a split second every 15 seconds or so. These incidents began to increase in intensity and began to be accompanied by panic and/or paranoia flashes. Eventually, just moving caused such dizziness and disorientation that I had to hold onto whatever was around me to walk.
Sometimes it felt as if there were a magnet to one side of me, pulling me that way. The “slight confusion” I experienced is something I can only imagine is what beginning Alzheimer’s patients must feel like during the initial stages of their eventually terminal mental decline during the time when they are still aware that something is really going wrong. Sometimes it felt as if my brain was shuddering in my skull a sensation that has come to be called “Brain Shivers” or “Brain Flips” by many. Numerous other things were happening as well, but I don’t want to get too long-winded here. I just want to give you all some idea of some of the kinds of things that were happening.

So, I made an appointment with the prescribing doctor, and a friend was kind enough to take me there. But the doctor did not believe me! He said that it couldn’t be the Effexor, that I probably had some neurological problems and that if the symptoms persisted, I should see a neurologist. But I KNEW it was the Effexor, so I went home, took another pill, and felt fine within the hour. Then I got on the ‘net. What I found there was astounding! Tons of people, all with the same things happening to them, reaching out to anonymous others and saying, “Help! What is happening to me?” These I found on bulletin boards, NOT on product information sites put up by the people who are selling the stuff.

I tried calling the Drug Company to find out what was happening to me and how to stop it. I never did reach them. Fortunately for me, my primary care physician had heard of these symptoms and knew how to deal with them. She advised a long, slow tapering off process, telling me that it could take one to two months for me to be able to get off. Also fortunately for me, she told me to take as long as I needed. It took me 10 MONTHS! During that time, the symptoms mentioned above continued, although diminished enough for me to be able to function almost normally. But other things began to happen. I saw things out of the corners of my eyes, which were not there. We all do that, but this was pretty constant. One thing I saw which I never told anyone about until it had stopped was a big, hairy rat about 1 foot long, scurrying around corners. Keep in mind that I was not on this drug because I was in any way mentally unbalanced it was merely to help with the pain. I saw, and still see occasionally, a pinpoint of violet shimmering light. Also, things would seem to be moving out of the corners of my eyes. A spot on the wall, for example, I would think was a spider crawling until I looked directly at it, when I would realize it was just a spot on the wall. These things did not scare me, but they were frequent and startling and bothersome.

I took my last little crumbs of Effexor in September of 1999. End of story?

Unfortunately, no. It is now the end of July,2000, and I still experience some of the same symptoms, although they are manageable. I also have experienced monstrous headaches. The first one, back in September, lasted 4 days. I thought I was going to die. I even told my son that I might die. I debated about that for a while, but did not want him to wake up and find me dead one morning. Fortunately, I’m still here. My headaches began to decrease in length, and now they seem to last only 2 hours or so. They go away within one minute. Sometimes I’m just achy all over. I guess that experience is the “mild, flu-like” symptoms I’d been warned about. I still have days I call “my stupid days”, and they usually signal the beginning of episodes lasting several days, involving vertigo, dizziness, short anxiety attacks, some euphoria occasionally, the “brain shivers”, and numerous other weird symptoms, and culminating in a headache. Then I’m fine for however long it lasts. Sometimes I feel whole body tremors not enough to make me twitch, and they are not unpleasant, but they’re there and they shouldn’t be. I am concerned about this. I want to know why, after not taking this drug for so long, I am experiencing this “discontinuation syndrome”, and when will it stop? I have not yet found the answer. I finally did get in touch with the Drug Company to ask them these questions and they took down all my information. They have never explained why, and they have never followed up. They would not talk to me about my symptoms, they would only talk with my doctor. And this was not OK because the doctor did not believe me! (This was not the prescribing doctor who hadn’t believed me when I first tried to get off this was the doctor who’d prescribed the tapering off process.) But I told her to call them and talk to them, and it was pretty easy for them to shine her on, since she didn’t believe me anyway. And they sent her a letter advising a slow tapering off of the drug, which I’d already done, of course, AND a “report” from a closed symposium on SSRIs sponsored by the a drug company ‘way back in 1996! (Which, of course, did not address the issue.)

The more research I’ve done on these things, the angrier I become.
Because the drug companies have known about these things for years. Many people and their families have gone through much, much worse than I have. Some people have never been able to get off the drugs. Now, what would YOU do if you were manufacturing these things? You’d probably say’ “Whoa! We need to stop selling these things until we can find out what’s causing this. We’d better get in touch with each and every one of those people who are having these extreme reactions, do whatever we can to help them, and to identify what it IS about them that makes them react differently than those who have no problems with the medication.” Well, not only are these companies not doing this, they are manufacturing the drugs in smaller doses so that CHILDREN can take them! Yes, Prozac is currently being tested on pre-school aged children! And although these drugs have not YET been approved for use in children, the numbers of children aged 6-12 being prescribed Prozac has risen from 41,000 in 1995 to 203,000 in 1996. Currently, in 2000, 2.3 million children in the U.S. are on anti-depressants. The official literature on these drugs says that they are safe for pregnant women to take! And there are documented cases of newborns being born with the more evident withdrawal symptoms (which the drug companies are ignoring because nobody can prove it. Isn’t that horrible?!). The companies that manufacture these things are re-naming Prozac “Serafem” or something and doctors are prescribing it for PMS! Are these drugs harmful to absolutely anyone who takes them? Of course not. And for many, these drugs have proven to be beneficial. However, they are NOT only being prescribed for major, long-term depressions, but for such things as the Holiday Blues and teenage angst! But the percentage risk for horrible and even deadly side effects is extremely high.

Please, unless you are chronically depressed or have something really, really severe, stay away from this class of drugs. And please, NEVER EVER put a child on these things! I am an intelligent, articulate, resourceful middle-aged woman. When a wave of panic starts to wash over me, or any other of these weird things start to happen, I can tell myself to just hold on, it’s just the after-effects of the drug, it will go away, I should take a deep breath and relax, etc. Do you think a child or a newborn could do the same? I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a child in school and to suffer the kind of confusion I’ve been through and manage to learn anything, let alone be involved in a physical activity or sport! This has been going on for nearly 2 years with me, and I don’t know when it will end!

Thank you for taking the time to read my story. This has been a BRIEF synopsis of what my life has been like for the past two years. And it’s nothing compared to what others have been through.
Yours,
Louise Mangan

Update, October, 2000:
In the few months since I wrote this, I found that these continued withdrawal effects after not haven taken the drug for a long time is a phenomena which has not one but two names: PANES (Persistent Adverse Neurological Effects) and “Intractable Withdrawal”. This phenomenon was noted as early as 1996 before I began taking Effexor. How can the pharmaceutical companies deny the existence of something that has occurred enough to even have a name?
Several months ago I was driving with my son on the freeway at night and I felt fine. Out of the blue, a wave of disorientation and that peculiar form of dizziness I associate with my “Effexor Episodes” came upon me. I found myself in the middle of two lanes with no remembrance of which one I had come from. I was too scared to look in the rear view mirror to see what was behind me. I heard my son yell, “What are you doing?” A car was breaking to the left of me. I asked my son which lane I should go into and he told me to go right. Fortunately the freeway was not crowded. I was dizzy and scared and felt as if I was going to pass out. Soon there was an exit and I took that off the freeway and my son continued the drive home. I have not driven at night since.
I am a 50 year old woman with an excellent driving record. I made it. I feel sure that if there had been more cars on the freeway there would’ve been a terrible accident. Children from the ages of 6 up are being prescribed these drugs. They are getting their learners permits and at age 16 are given driver’s licenses after passing very easy tests. Maybe you or a loved one will be in a car next to one someday. Maybe you’ll be in an airplane piloted by a pilot who’s missed a dose, directed by an air traffic controller who’s trying to get off this stuff. Maybe you’ll be next to a taxicab driver or a bus driver or a commuter who is suddenly euphoric or has a momentary panic attack. I won’t drive at night, and am careful about where and when I drive in the daytime. But I really don’t think that many can afford to do that. I think they’ll just drive and hope for the best. And that is really, really scary to me.

Louise Mangan

7/1/2000

This is Survivor Story number 18.
Total number of stories in current database is 96

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