This is Survivor Story number 39.
Total number of stories in current database is 77
14-Year Takes His Own Life on Prozac
“My son didnt want to be on this drug. He claimed it made him feel weird.
Kevin Neil Rider
October 2, 1985 -to- June 3, 2000
I want to tell you a little bit about our son. He was a terrific kid, an honor student attending the gifted and talented (Accelerated Learning Lab) at Lakeridge Junior High School in Orem, Utah. He was well liked by his peers. He had a sense of humor that would tickle your funny bone. He was ordained as a teacher in our LDS ward. He was working towards his Eagle Scout designation. He was gifted in writing, and was becoming quite an accomplished tenor sax player. He was a friend to the friendless, and was always looking out for anyone who he saw as an underdog. He truly had a sensitive soul, and was an introspective young man.
When he was twelve I made an appointment with our primary care physician because of my growing concern that he might be dealing with depression. He seemed to be unusually sad at times. He had put on some weight and was very self conscious of this. He developed an aversion to Scouting activities if it included the possibility that he might have to put on his swimming trunks. The other factor that played into my concerns was that his father had fought depression for most of his life. I wondered if there was a genetic predisposition to depression. I didnt want my baby to have to suffer through life as my husband had… (He hated me calling him my baby, but he was my youngest… hell always be my baby).
Our doctor convinced me that Prozac was right. He told me of how two of his own kids had suffered such serious depression that he had to fly out and pick them both up from LDS missions. Once he got them on Prozac, they were fine, and were able to successfully complete their missions. Three months into his Prozac therapy I took my son back in to see if there was something else we could try. My son didnt want to be on this drug. He claimed it made him feel weird. I believed he was struggling with the idea that he might have some kind of brain disorder, and he didnt want any of his friends to know that he had to take crazy pills, as he referred to them. I tried to alleviate his fears by using the same reasoning my doctor had used with me ? that there was nothing to be ashamed of in having a chemical imbalance. It was no different than a diabetic who had to take insulin for their chemical imbalance. We returned to our doctor to discuss my sons struggle with being on this drug. Our doctor explained that sometimes you have to experiment to get the dosage right. I asked him what he knew about St Johns Wort, which I had heard helped with depression. He was very much against any product that you could simply pick off any shelf in a regular supermarket. He explained that St Johns Wort did not have any guarantee of safety, whereas Prozac had been proven safe, and had FDA approval. He determined that what my son needed was a higher dose, and promptly doubled it to 20 mg. per day. I watched my son closely for awhile, trying to determine how he was doing. At times it appeared that he was doing better. At other times, much worse. It was like a roller coaster ride…. I think my son gave up trying to explain how he felt. Maybe he felt as if nobody really understood what he was going through…. Maybe it was just because he was such a good kid and was trying not to rock the boat. Maybe he considered that adults must know what was really best for him…
Well, I could go on and on…. So many things happened. We dealt with three different experiences while he was on Prozac that just about scared me to death. I wondered if his abnormal behavior had anything to do with the drug, but then passed it off… Maybe gifted kids were just different. Maybe their perceptions and feelings about life were just heightened. Maybe it was just the fact that he was entering those adolescent years. I knew these years could be trying, as I had three other adolescents in the home at this time.
We had invited one of his best friends (who had since moved to St. George), to come and stay for the summer. The summer before, we had done the same, and I was hoping it wouldnt be the beginning of a new tradition! Just kidding… These two had known each other since they were five years old, and the distance between them made it hard to keep in touch. They were making all kinds of plans for the summer… Four wheeling with dad, biking the Provo trail to Bridal Veil Falls …. maybe even signing up for summer football together. The football coach at Mt. View High School already had his eyes on my son because of his large stature…
The night before he died, I had worked late. I came home to hear the boys whooping it up in his bedroom over what I thought was some silly Sega game. My daughter was pounding on the wall, telling them to shut up so she could sleep. I thought of intervening, but then thought, Oh, let them be boys… its only for the summer… That was the last time I heard his voice. The next morning he woke up, removed a handgun from my husbands safe, walked out into the orchard and shot himself in the head…..
Our hearts are broken. Our tight knit little neighborhood was in shock and disbelief. I saw more young men and priesthood leaders cry than I hope to ever have to witness again…but then tears can begin the process of healing…
There just werent any answers…. Why? For awhile, I just wanted to lay down and die myself…. I began reading everything I could find on suicide, searching for answers. Then I turned to books that were written to help survivors of suicides. One day, I was leafing through the mail and came upon a book club offering 4 Books for 4 Bucks. One of the titles listed was Prozac Backlash, by Dr. Joseph Glenmullen. The title just seemed to jump out at me. I wondered what Backlash meant. My son had been on Prozac… Was there something here that I didnt know about? I ordered the book, and when it arrived began reading it. It seemed as if a revelation was being opened before my very eyes… My sons abnormal behavior was described perfectly by some of the case studies detailed in the book. Even before finishing the book, I knew that this was the answer to what seemed an unanswerable question to my sons death. I realized then, that my son died as a result of a horrible reaction to withdrawal from Prozac. I struggled alone with my conclusion for several days. I reasoned with myself, Is this one persons opinion, or are there others who also believed these drugs could be so dangerous?
I began searching the internet. What I found was absolutely astonishing! There were literally thousands, if not tens of thousands personal accounts, magazine articles, journal references….. not to mention several books by prominent medical doctors and scientists that refuted Lillys claims to this drug! Eventually I came across the web site for the International Coalition for Drug Awareness. I was to learn that the international director of this organization, Dr. Ann Blake-Tracy, lived right here in Utah, not forty miles from my home. I ordered her book, Prozac, Pandora or Panacea, and her tape which outlined how to safely withdraw from the SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors).
I purchased the tape for my husband, because after all I had discovered, I realized that the drug that he had been prescribed, Paxil, posed serious side effects as well. I later arranged to meet with Dr. Tracy. I learned that she has been fighting the distribution of this particular class of drugs for over ten years. I personally think she is a very courageous woman. I learned from Dr. Tracy that Candace Pert was also on the directing board of this organization. Candace Pert was actually one of two renowned research scientists who are credited with the development of Prozac. This is what she later had to say about her creation
I am alarmed at the monster that Johns Hopkins neuroscientist Solomon Snyder and I created 25 years ago. The public is being misinformed about the precision of these selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors…..
I have had so many doors open…. I believe God in his Heaven has heard my prayers, and the prayers of so many others that have suffered. I believe that my discoveries have not been mere coincidence.
I am not so very much against these drugs as is Dr Tracy, but then I havent spent the last ten years with them, either… What I have discovered in only the last few months, however, has made me believe that for some, these drugs are very dangerous, even fatal. But the most appalling thing I learned is that Eli Lillys own documents show clearly that they were aware that Prozac could cause suicidal ideation more than twenty years before the drug was ever marketed, and they withheld this information from the public! Eli Lilly chose rather to bury these findings under scientific jargon. With millions now being prescribed these SSRI drugs (for everything from compulsive shopping to headaches to PMS … not just depression), what may have been considered a small percentage of patients who experience serious adverse reactions might well translate now into thousands, maybe tens of thousands of victims….
The pharmaceuticals are forking out millions to market a one sided story about these drugs which are in turn bringing in billions. I wish I had known all that I do now about these drugs. Do you think I would have agreed to this drug if I had all of the information? Of course not… This is why Eli Lilly fought so hard to keep the research results under tight security. I wish I hadnt been so trusting. These drugs should only be administered by medical doctors who fully understand the whole spectrum of side effects, and have the time to carefully monitor each patient for whom these drugs are prescribed to determine if any benefits outweigh the horribly significant risks. Frankly, I dont think primary care physicians have adequate training or the time to monitor patients on these drugs… When all the evidence is laid out, would any doctor feel they had enough insight to safely monitor this drug? This is an issue that needs to be addressed.
As a side note, I mentioned that my husband has struggled with depression. Well, he was put on Paxil by the same doctor who had prescribed Prozac for our son. After reading about these drugs, I felt it would be best if he came off this drug. It hasnt really helped anyway. He still struggles with depression (Of course, our sons death has certainly added to this), but he is dealing with other side effects as well. He has developed a tremor in his hands. He has mentioned to me that at times he has experienced these electric like mini shocks in his head. He has become impotent. He has gained a lot of weight, which I have also learned is a peculiar side effect of Paxil. By this time I had become acquainted with Dr Tracy. I had purchased her book and tape. My husband began tapering off the drug, but I feared he was tapering too fast. But he is kind of stubborn, and wanted to do it his way. (He started taking one of his 20 mg. tablets every other day, rather than every day. About 3?4 weeks into this tapering off schedule, he went wacko. Some little incident at work threw him into a rage. I wont go into the details; suffice it to say that the experience frightened him so badly that he decided he wouldnt be able to come off of this drug.
A couple of weeks ago, I made an appointment with my doctor to confront him with what I had learned about these drugs, and to inquire as to what else we might do to help my husband get off the Paxil without suffering such horrendous side effects. He told me that there are alot of people who can take these drugs and not have any problems with them. However, he did admit that he had been hearing more complaints from some of his patients that they were having a hard time getting off of this particular drug. He said to just tell him to try it a little more slowly. In all honesty, I think I made him feel uncomfortable by addressing my concerns.
Postscript: I recently received a copy of an announcement from the World Health Organization. This watchdog agency has determined the Prozac, and most likely the other drugs within this class are addictive. Dr Tracy has been trying to get this same message out to the public for ten years!