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Three Cheers for SSRIs

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When Prozac first hit the market in 1988 people were frightened of it. TV talk show hosts like Phil Donahue dedicated entire episodes to the new antidepressant claiming the drug caused people to do crazy things like put their babies in the oven or try to commit suicide.

Once the negative exposure surrounding the Vista Lab drug died down people quickly learned that Prozac was good news. The SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) antidepressant was the biggest thing to happen in psychiatric pharmacology since the advent of antidepressants in the 1960’s that included drugs like Elavil and Anafranil.

Prozac’s function involves balancing levels of Serotonin in patient’s brains thereby improving moods for many. It didn’t take long before millions of Americans went on the drug, some with tremendous results. In the years that followed, other SSRI’s were developed including Zoloft, Paxil, Lexapro and others, and have met with great success for many.

There is a reason why these pharmaceutical companies are doing so well selling these drugs. It’s because they work and today 11% of the population in the United States takes the drug regularly. The vast majority of patients taking Prozac agree that taking a chemical to improve their quality of life is worth it.

Depression, sleepiness or insomnia, unexplained aches and pains, fatigue, loss of interest in doing things a person used to love are all signs of a possible brain chemistry imbalance. Anyone with these symptoms would be remiss not to ask their doctor about antidepressants. In addition the drug can be prescribed for post partum depression and PMS.

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January 6, 2010 - 4:55pm
EmpowHER Guest

Yes - what a miracle drug! I've seen 2 people I know and love succumb to them. My sister has gone through hell for the last 12 years, and given countless drug cocktails. It started when she was going through a divorce, and she was prescribed zoloft to help her ‘through the rough patch’. There was a little euphoria at times. Then, rather than making her feel better, she started to act crazy– manic. The more crazy she felt, the more doctors took that as evidence that she needed MORE drugs! I also lost my marriage to these wonder drugs. My husband thought he was having health problems, with numb finger tips and dizzy spells. The doctor said it was only anxiety and put him on zoloft. No warnings of side effects were given. Within weeks of starting zoloft, he became very cold, and very cruel. He also began drinking HEAVILY on a daily basis (and driving drunk - which he had been vehemently against in the past.) He started telling surprised friends "I feel like I'm 21 again!" over and over again. He stopped loving me, our family...our life and picked up and moved away from our city. It happened so fast, it was like the person I loved was killed in a car accident. This man I knew and loved for 20 years vanished before my eyes. I think of the countless MILLIONS who have had their emotions blunted from experiencing normal love, sadness, compassion. They leave their marriages, engage in risky behaviour and don’t care about the consequences. Don’t doctors realize, then when you quiet the stress and anxiety, you can’t help but also quiet the conscience, the heart and the spirit. Where in the medical journals will they account for all the lost souls to these drugs?

September 11, 2009 - 11:20am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

I'm so sorry. That's one of the saddest stories I have ever heard. What you're saying is totally true. The poor person on the drugs can't stop taking them and they don't see that there is anything wrong with their behavior. When I was taking Lexapro, I was acting like a teenager and lying to my husband about drinking and thinking everything was funny. My husband and my mother both told me they thought I was going insane and would never be the same again. My husband said he thought he was going to have to leave. And there was nothing you could tell me to make me stop acting this way and I tried and tried to stop taking it but never could. It is very addictive, they say it's not but it is. After I stopped taking it, I became very depressed for several months but that finally went away in about 2 months. The only reason I never started taking it again was because I was more terrified of what would happen if I did than how bad I felt. The thought of taking it again scares me more than anything in the world, even dying.

September 24, 2009 - 6:09pm
EmpowHER Guest

I have contacted approximately 12 attorneys and have been told that the drug companies are not held accountable for effects of their drugs unless they are consistent among all patients (ie, unless every patient suffers the same exact symptoms, which I find really idiotic b/c a basic premise of these drugs in the first place is that each person would have varying levels of all chemicals in their brains and thus would have differring reactions to the chemical alterations.) That's why the drug companies make so much money, not because their drugs are so good. They are not held accountable for any of the murder and mayhem they create. The poor individuals are. Why do you think Lexapro was approved by the FDA for adolescents age 12 to 17 years 20 days after the DOJ sued Forest for marketing to pediatrics, when according to reports, the FDA had no new information? Apparrantly for years, medicaid had been paying for claims for off label use of the drug and then someone found that out in an audit. (Nice work Medicaid.) Medicaid would have stopped paying for those prescriptions and there would apparrantly be thousands of teenagers withdrawing from Lexapro all across the U.S. Specific to Lexapro, Forest Labs has settled a lawsuit with stockholders for $65 million who purchased stock in Lexapro when it first came out b/c they misstated the adverse affects of the drug. Currently, one law firm I spoke to is taking Lexapro side effects, behavior-related incidents but only for people under the age of 24.
My situation is this. In Dec. 2007, my husband and I were seeing a marriage counselor. I have been a heavy drinker (on the week-ends mostly for most of my life but have never gotten into any trouble because of it and would mostly drink with my husband on week-ends, etc.) My drinking was getting worse in response to my dog's death (I had her for 15 years) my grandmother's death, and my poor relationship with my husband and financial problems. I also worked 6 days a week. I believe I was mostly exhausted and I had anorexia and bulimia as a teenager (I am now 42) which appears to be a precursor to the alcohol use. I believe that my father's suicide was a precursor to my developing and eating disorder. One bright spot in this is that I now have a much better understanding of what happened to him (my father) and have been able after 27 years of blaming myself for his death to understand that I did not cause it. He and my mother had financial problems and six children. He and my mother had been treated by the same psychiatrist over the course of 3 to 5 years and both given numerous anti-psychotics, anti-depressants, and traquilizers. I had no knowledge until the past year of any drugs my father was given, only I knew my mother was given several, even though after 20 years of no medication, she remains psychosis-free, so she was never psychotic to begin with. My mother only remembers the name of one drug he was given, Imipramine, or Elavil. Finally, after 3 years of this "treatment", he became severely catatonic, I beleive now, from akathasia. He would lay on the couch constantly, saying how he was "too nervous" to do anything. He began to become paranoid and I beleive break from reality, he would ask my mother if she thought the neighbors could hear them talking thru the windows and if they said he was a homosexual. Finally he left my mother to live with a girlfriend and six months later committed suicide by walking in front of a train. This was in 1981.
One night I drank too much because I was mad at my husband and ended up getting a drunk in public. Oh well, in light of what happened next, this is no big deal. But for this, I got my life almost completely taken away from me.
The marriage counselor who is a licensed substance abuse counselor and not a doctor or psychiatrist advised my to go to the doctor for drugs upon my telling him that I got a drunk in public and that I seemed to need to drink about every 10 days or I would get depressed and cry and that I also previously had anorexia and bulimia. (I have since found a link in that I was severely addicted to bulimia, and I read that when you throw up, endorphins are released. I have always been so puzzled at how I became addicted to such a behavior, since it was not a substance, a fact that no matter how much I discussed this fact of the previous eating disorder, no professional seemed to know this very important piece of information.)
I went to my husband's doctor, whom I had never seen before (because I don't like going to the doctor and rest of this will explain why) he had me fill out a form for depression and determined me to be moderately depressed and gave me Lexapro and Rozerem (because I could not sleep) I have read since that Lexapro is to be used for Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I was not sleeping and working 2 jobs, so I hardly think I qualify for Major Depression and there is nothing generalized about my anxiety, it revolves around my weight, my finances and possible tragic accidents that could befall people I love (which is perfectly in line with my previous life experiences.) I was unable to continue to take the Rozerem because I could almost not stand up after waking up if I took it for more than 2 nights in a row. I continued to take the Lexapro, and at first it made me feel better, I believe it's because I was high. Twenty days later I got a DUI. Now I have lived off the same street in about different places all within about 3 miles of each other for the last 17 years and have no criminal record (except that one drunk in public.) By February, my drinking was so bad that my husband and I went to the doctor asking for Antabuse. He would not give me that and gave me Campral instead. That drug has an insert which shows that study particpants taking that drug are 3 times as likely as people not taking it to engage in suicidal thoughts or behaviors and more interestingly, that it helps control drinking cravings but they don't know how it works. How could that be? It's like cave men looking at lighting, we don't know what this is but we see what it does! He then referred me to an addiction center to get the antabuse. The psychiatrist there gave me antabuse and told me that he was stumped as to what was wrong with me and to obviously quit drinking. I brought all my medications with me, the Lexapro, Rozerem, & Campral, and he said it was fine to take this combination and add antabuse to it. My drinking continued to become worse and more and more I was thinking about killing myself, but I knew it was a side effect of the drugs. My blood pressure over the nine months I took Lexapro went from 120/80 to 145/110. I was getting more and more nervous and was continuing to drink and be obssessed with drinking. I even tried a hypnotist (that actually worked the best for awhile.) I had even called the police and told them I was drinking and they came and gave me another drunk in public. (I believe that I thought it was funny and exciting to continue to get arrested.) During one of my follow up visits to refill the Lexapro, the doctor started kissing me and grabbing my breasts. I admit that I was attracted to him but I knew that he was married and and so was I so I made it a point to never act on this because I am too old to be fooling around like that wasting people's time while they are trying to run a business. I wish he would not have done that b/c that just opened the flood gates. I then showed up at his house one night drunk and his wife called the police on me so I got another drunk in public. The next day his wife called me on my cell phone, (she must have gotten the number from him.) I started to become terrifed when I got home the next day and drank again and then called the doctor and told him I was going to kill myself and started cutting my wrists, for which I was sent to a psyhicatric ward for 2 days against my will. When I spoke to the CSB person and he was reading my file, he was laughing hysterically because the origional person who interviewed me that night got the story wrong and said that I was involved in a physical altercation with the doctor and his wife (which was not true.) Get a mental picture of this: I show up at his house and myself, the 40 year-old female alcoholic patient, the 40 year-old doctor, and the doctor's wife, who is also a doctor involved in a three way fist fight??!?!?!? I think the person who wrote that is a good candidate for a pee test.
My drinking continued to be out of control and, finally, my husband forced me to go to a rehab. for 2 weeks in July of 2008. There, I spoke with the psychiatrist and told him that I needed to be taken off of this Lexapro, I finally realized I was getting more and more anxious and abnormal and obsessive and more and more obssessed with this doctor, drinking, and just wanting it to be over and killing myself. He said that Buspar would be good to take for the anxiety. In this rehab, they gave out lots of medication. One woman was so intoxicated after being presribed medication (she was normal the first few days I was there) that she couldn't walk without assistance and was seeing trolls in her room. (I don't think that rehab will do her much good, because she will sober up when she gets out and then probably need a drink.) This rehab also admitted me with no ID, just my insurance card and 2 pool passes since I had no driver's license. This rehab. and the addiction center I went to all tried to tell me I was alcohol dependent. Although I have never had withdrawl symptoms. I think I would be the first to know if I had physical dependence. I would have to always have a drink but my BAC was always 0 with no symptoms anytime they would take it. In addition, they were telling me I had Post Acute Withdrawl Symptoms which are incredibly close to the side effect of Lexapro, if you compare them side by side, they are almost Identical.
Lexapro Side Effects: Post Acute Withdrawl Symptoms:
headache, nervousness, or anxiety Mood swings
nausea, diarrhea, dry mouth, or Anxiety
changes in weight Variable energy
sleepiness or insomnia Irritability
increased sweating, Tiredness
fatigue Variable concentration
Disturbed sleep

When I arrived home from rehab, my father-in-law died 2 weeks later and another week after that, I got another DUI. During which, I shoved the police officer and was charged with a felony and pinched the butt of another officer. (I believe these were dropped b/c I got copies of all my records and wrote down everything that happened and gave it to my attorney.) While I was in jail, I met numerous other people who were there for shoplifting while on Zanax and DUI's while on anti-depressants. All referred to be taken by non-medical doctors, Community Services Boards therapists referring their patients into doctors for these drugs and then getting arrested and I guess being referred for more drugs.
Finally, during the week I was in jail (I was not allowed to leave until I had a bond hearing, they were going to keep me there with no bond) I was finally able to get off the Lexapro. I had tried many times before to cut it down or stop taking it but never could. Since then, I have gone many months without drinking and my anxiety level has returned to normal. (Actually better than normal.) During the time I took Lexapro, I was able to work all day, get home at 6:30, take antabuse and drink all night, about 10 to 12 airplane bottles ( I weigh about 150 lbs.) and still be awake and wanting to go places. I don't think I could phsyically carry that out now.
I know at least 4 other people who exhibit strange, aggressive, behaviors when taking this drug. (That's just by coincidence.) Why would I, just one regular (or not) person, know 4 other people taking this same drug? A lot of people must be being prescribed it.
Although my husband and I were diligent the whole time and never gave up in seeking treatment, non of these so-called professionals seemed to be able to interperet the obvious even though they wrote it themselves numerous times "unknown to psychiatric services" '"although depressed has no psychiatric history" and all but one of these events were contained in the 9 months I was on Lexapro. If I can go thru all this and still keep my job, I never needed most of these treatments, I actually have a high level of mental fitness for what what I've been through.
The fact is, that I have never received a DUI when not taking it. Supposedly, alcoholism is a progressive disease and proponents of that would say I was going to get one any how. But I received the DUI's and was arrested numerous time while on it, so we will never know what would happened if I hadn't been taking it. Can you give me any advice?
I believe these drugs could be useful, but they have not business being prescribed in our current medical environment where there is no follow up and people are being sent out into the streets on these drugs that basically have a limitless list of unknown side effects. They belong being administered to people on an inpatient basis for short periods of time until they are fully assessed.

August 30, 2009 - 5:38pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Would you please post your comment on our site at www.drugawareness.org as a warning to others? And by the way you ran into a dozen VERY STUPID attorneys! These lawsuits have been filed for a very long time.

Dr. Tracy

August 30, 2009 - 6:01pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Dr. Tracey,
I did put my post on drugawareness.com but I have only spoken to attorneys about suing the drug company (any class action lawsuits that are open to join) because I could obviously sue the doctor and the rehab. probably not the marriage counselor. I would not want to ruin these people's lives or put them out of business because they are prescribing these drugs as they are allowed to do. There is something wrong with this drug Lexapro because it just occurred to me also that I was becoming delusional (when sober as well as drunk) I believed that I should leave my husband and marry a muslim person because that would help solve world problems between muslims and christians. I also had more frequent desires to kill myself as time went on. I didn't share these thoughts with the doctors because I'm an intelligent person and knew that if I shared what I was really thinking with them they would probably lock me up! I am only interested in being put back in the situation I was origionally in before I took it. Allowed to drive and not out money from missing work and going to rehab and being committed.

September 24, 2009 - 5:26pm

Those on antidepressants should be seen regularly by their physician and closely monitored. I have tried numerous types and finally went to see a psychiatric nurse practioner. I see her every six weeks or so to talk to her about how I'm feeling and how the medication is working/not working. It's often trial and error on what medication works for you...some of the above people mentioned must not have been on the correct medication or dosage. Maybe they had "situational depression" where the only cure is to change their environment...
Everyone is different.

August 8, 2009 - 7:48pm
EmpowHER Guest

Three Cheers for Cocaine! I used to suffer from social anxiety disorder, and felt depressed when I was in a bad marriage and then lost my job. But then I was told I had a 'chemical imbalance' by my doctor. My seratonin was simply low...so I started snorting cocaine to sort it out. It was a MIRACLE! I had so much energy, I was happy for the first time, and really learned how to par-tay! I ditched my hubby and have my confidence back. I have a reason to get out of bed in the mornings now. Thanks again cocaine! :)

May 2, 2009 - 2:57pm
EmpowHER Guest

There cheers for SSRI'?

That's insane..

Paxil (Seroxat) almost killed me, and I know dozens of people who have had horrific adverse reactions to these poison pills.

April 28, 2009 - 1:19pm
EmpowHER Guest

"Prozac’s function involves balancing levels of Serotonin in patient’s brains."

--This is not necessarily so: nobody really knows how Prozac works, or what it's longterm effects are. The serotonin story is what drug companies would have us believe-but read psychopharmacologist David Healy for the inside story. It's appalling how little is really known about the SSRIs. Yes, everyone is different, Teri, as you say, and as the comments above (fascinating) demonstrate-- everyone has different responses to these drugs. You and many others have been helped by Prozac, but the SSRIs can be very dangerous to some people. And far from curing insomnia, they can bring it on, sometimes permanently.
Gayle Greene, author, INSOMNIAC, sleepstarved.org

April 27, 2009 - 1:42am
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