Zoloft Hell

“I knew I had to get off of this drug to save my sanity.”

I was prescribed Zoloft for mild anxiety. Now I know I the mild anxiety I had was nothing compared to the horrible side effects of Zoloft. I experienced them immediately after the first pill. I took it for a total of only five weeks, the last 11 days on 50 mg……….a relatively low dose……or so they say?

In short, my side effects included what I call “electrical brain surges” (I feared I was losing my mind), persistent diahrrea every morning, a total loss of appetite (I don’t mean depressed appetite, I mean I lost all appetite or interest in food to the point I had to force food for nourishment); severe panic attacks upon awakening; tachycardia (I have been on 0.125 mg Digoxin for 3 years for this condition and I believe Zoloft made it worse, but this cannot be proven) and a feeling of detachment from reality (I believe this may also be called depersonalization)……….The last side effect that developed was nausea.

So…….into my fifth week on Zoloft which was Day 11 on 50 mg. I told my doctor about these symptoms and she said to taper off the Zoloft. The next morning I was so weak and dehydrated from the diarrhea I went to the Emergency Room (my second E.R. visit, the first visit to the E.R. was early into the course of Zoloft, after panicking all morning I was scared there was something really physically wrong with me). The E.R. doctor was apprised of everything that I was experiencing and told me NOT TO TAKE ANOTHER ZOLOFT. In fact he said to me, “If you were my wife or sister, I would tell you to NEVER have taken it.” Despite my PCP’s plan of tapering which would have meant another four days of 25 mg. I did what the E.R. doctor recommended and never took another one.

I was give I.V. fluids and Phergan for nausea, an abdominal x-ray and they did some blood work. He advised that I would probably continue with some side effects until it was out of my system. I am now into Day 12 being Zoloft free and am finally returning to normal. Yes, side effects continued, especially bouts of nausea which I could attribute to nothing and have had bad headaches also.

I personally know two people on Zoloft. One friend has been on it for just over a year and swears it’s a miracle drug for her. She is taking it due to mild depression. The other person has only been on it for about two months but he loves it as well, Also prescribed for depression (He is depressed because he hates his job and work environment).

I can only report to you MY EXPERIENCE on the drug. The only other prescription meds I am on is Digoxin and Lipitor (10 mg.) which I have taken for just over one year. I know they say there is no drug interactions with these drugs, but I have my doubts.

I am involved in an exercise program now to deal with any anxiety, and honestly I have not had any anxiety or panic since getting off of this drug. I fear for people who are on these drugs long term.

Maybe I am in a rare class of people whose bodies cannot tolerate the drug. My PCP SHOULD have known better than to let me go on for FIVE WEEKS with the side effects, as I reported them to her on MORE THAN ONE occasion.

At any rate, I am off the Zoloft and it will be a LONG TIME before I am able to forget the experience. One last thing I’d like to say about how it affected my brain……….Although I was not suicidal, I could understand, for the first time, how someone could end it all just to find some peace. That, in itself, was scary to me……..that I could totally understand why someone would kill themselves.

There were also several times when I thought I was going to end up on a psych ward, I was afraid I was on the verge of a psychotic break with reality…….I think when I realized that I was having these thoughts, I knew I had to get off of this drug to save my sanity.

Julie Shields

 

This is Survivor Story number 46.
Total number of stories in current database is 77

10/5/2003

 

Prozac prescribed for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

“It was, by far, the most terrifying experience of my life; I literally felt like I was losing my mind, being taken over by an alien force.”

 

To make an excruciatingly long story tolerably short, I was given Prozac for Chronic Fatigue syndrome by my GP. I was on it for a year with no major problems, in fact I quite liked the unsought-for increase in confidence, sociability, etc.

After stopping, I began experiencing a whole host of ‘mental problems’ that I’d never had before. This began as a strange and almost indescribable difference in perception; it was as if I saw things without any emotional response. Even the simple, everyday things — looking at a tree, a dog, being in a roomful of people listening to conversation – took on a bizarre, otherworldly aspect. It was as if I were on some kind of anesthetic while still awake. This escalated over a period of several months until it took on the form of full-blown depersonalization disorder. At the same time, I began experiencing episodes of derealization and extreme LSD-like experiences, a constant experience of mental impairment, and severe loss of short-term memory. My doctor said he’d never heard of such a thing and referred me to a psychiatrist, who proceeded to tell me that this wasn’t caused by the drug, but that my ‘illness’ had gotten worse. ‘What illness,’ quoth I. ‘Your depression,’ quoth he. When I told him that never had depression, just fatigue and food allergies, and I’d certainly never had any of these extreme forms of mental illness before or anything remotely like them, he looked at me blankly for a minute, and then somehow convinced me that they had just ‘happened,’ that my condition had just coincidentally deteriorated, that I’d always ‘really been depressed’ and just hadn’t known it, and that what I needed to do to make these things go away was to go back on the drug. I was in desperate straits, scared out of my wits and appeared to have no other options. I did as he said, re-started Prozac. All the symptoms immediately got worse. I was having constant, unremitting LSD-like experiences, horrible, nauseatingly violent dreams, a constant state of unremitting depersonalization and derealization to the point where I could barely function. It was, by far, the most terrifying experience of my life; I literally felt like I was losing my mind, being taken over by an alien force.

I went to several other psychiatrists to try to find an ‘expert’ who could explain all of this. Dr. Daniel Aurbach (quoted in a recent story in Newsweek as a Prozac authority) told me that he’d never heard of Prozac causing any of these phenomena, that I should not worry, it was ‘a very safe drug.’ Dr. Deborah Nadel of UCLA told me that she’d ‘bet money’ that this had nothing to do with Prozac, that I should increase the dose, and that I needed to take Klonopin for my ‘anxiety,’ and go into therapy, which I did for several weeks. Eventually, I could no longer bear the asininity of sitting in a room talking to this woman about my childhood while tripping my brains out on a drug, hallucinating and having out-of-the-body experiences, nauseatingly violent dreams (when I was even able to sleep) and not being able to remember what I did yesterday. I expressed my concerns to Dr. Nadel about the approach we were taking; she told me that I should take a neuroleptic (anti-psychotic medication). To my eternal credit, I did not throw her out the window, but, patient guy that I am, went to a few more shrinks. They all told me basically the same things:

Prozac doesn’t do this, you must have ‘already’ been mentally disturbed (or this just ‘happened,’ nothing to do with the drug), all reports of adverse effects from Prozac were started by the Scientologists, why don’t you try a neuroleptic, they’re safe in small doses, etc. etc. etc. One morning, after waking up in sheer terror from a particularly horrible dream in which men in masks were ripping first the eye-balls and then the brains out of two young girls, I went into the bathroom and sat on the toilet, letting the water in the sink run to give me something other than my mind to listen to. ‘Jesus,’ I thought, ‘what the *hell* could a dream like that possibly mean? What is happening to me?’ ‘It doesn’t matter,’ said a clear, calm voice in my mind, ‘because I’m going to kill myself.’

In that moment, I realized that I didn’t give a rat’s ass what any psychiatrist said. I was stopping this shit no matter what. I’d walked into this with a mild case of fatigue and some food allergies, and now I’m sitting here on the edge of psychosis with a voice telling me to off myself. I don’t think so.

I went to a doctor I’d seen several years before, Dr. Murray Susser, one of the foremost authorities on the treatment of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and related disorders. I knew that he had prescribed anti-depressant medications (I’d read his book), and I also knew him to be a knowledgeable, widely educated, intelligent and decent man. I told him my story. When I got to the part about everybody telling me that it ‘couldn’t be the drug,’ he looked up from his notes and said “Bullshit! It’s the drug. I see this kind of thing all the time. I don’t know how these psychiatrists can be in such denial, the literature is full of reactions like this.” We talked for a long time, figuring out a workable program for safely tapering off the drug, and for trying to get myself back in shape afterward. I left his office feeling hope for the first time in eight months.

Happily, right at that time, I found the book ‘Prozac: Panacea or Pandora?’ by Ann Blake Tracy, which I promptly read. It was like the light at the end of the tunnel; this book described everything that had happened to me in great detail, gave scientific reasons why it happened, backed it all up with solid research, included testimonials from hundreds of others in the same situation, and even gave me some insight as to how seven of the top psychiatrists in LA could be so amazingly, criminally inept.

I thought about suing them. For about thirty seconds. How could I prove what this stuff has done to me? For me, the most frightening aspect of this whole adventure, even more so than journeying to the brink of insanity, is the realization that these psychiatrists have all this power and authority to proclaim what is and isn’t real as regards your own mental function and sense of self, whether they have any real idea what they’re talking about or not. [I’ve learned that] SSRI’s can, in fact, cause LSD-like experiences, due to their artificial raising of 5HT (the chemical that LSD achieves its effect by mimicking). However, it’s not ‘fun, trippy acid’ kind of stuff. It’s more like LSD mixed with PCP mixed with anesthesia, mixed with Sulfur from the Pits of Hell, and like the energizer bunny, it keeps going and going and going…

As for depersonalization disorder (something the docs all told me Prozac couldn’t be the cause of): it’s listed right on the package insert as a possible side-effect. Too bad none of these guys thought it worth-while to give to me. Or read…..I like to learn from my experiences. In searching for positive aspects to this whole thing, I can say I now have at least some idea what schizophrenia might be like. For whatever that’s worth.

 

Years 2000 and Prior

This is Survivor Story number 82.
Total number of stories in current database is 96