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Interesting Article About Antidepressant Addiction

Discussion in 'Social' started by kimG, Aug 6, 2006.

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  1. kimG

    kimG Well-Known Member

    Found this article while surfing the 'net. Thought people here would be interested in it. What do you all think??

    From Yahoo!

    Antidepressants prove addictive to some

    By MATT CRENSON, AP National Writer

    When Gina O'Brien decided she no longer needed drugs to quell her anxiety and panic attacks, she followed doctor's orders by slowly tapering her dose of the antidepressant Paxil. The gradual withdrawal was supposed to prevent unpleasant symptoms that can result from stopping antidepressants cold turkey. But it didn't work.

    "I felt so sick that I couldn't get off my couch," O'Brien said. "I couldn't stop crying."

    Overwhelmed by nausea and uncontrollable crying, she felt she had no choice but to start taking the pills again. More than a year later the Michigan woman still takes Paxil, and expects to be on it for the rest of her life.

    In the almost two decades since Prozac — the first of the antidepressants known as SRIs, or serotonin reuptake inhibitors — hit the market, a number of patients have reported extreme reactions to discontinuing the drugs. Two of the best-selling antidepressants — Effexor and Paxil — have led to so many complaints that some doctors avoid prescribing them altogether.

    "It's not that we never use it, but in the end I will tend not to prescribe Effexor or Paxil," said Dr. Richard C. Shelton, a psychiatrist at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Shelton has received grant support from the makers of both drugs and consulted for a number of other pharmaceutical companies.

    Patients report experiencing all sorts of symptoms, sometimes within hours of stopping their medication. They can suffer from flu-like nausea, muscle aches, uncontrollable crying, dizziness and diarrhea. Many patients suffer "brain zaps," bizarre and briefly overwhelming electrical sensations that propagate from the back of the head.

    Though not exactly painful, they are briefly disorienting and can be terrifying to patients who don't know what they are experiencing. There are case reports of people who have just quit antidepressants showing up in hospital emergency rooms, thinking they are suffering from seizures.

    Toni Wilson certainly didn't know how unpleasant going off Zoloft could be when her doctor recently switched her to Wellbutrin, telling her that the new drug would "take the place of" the old one. The two antidepressants actually work on entirely different neurochemical systems, so going straight from one to the other was equivalent to quitting Zoloft cold turkey.

    "After about three days I felt real anxious and irritable," the Kansas woman said in an e-mail message. "I would shake, not eat much, it felt like little needles in my body and head."

    Cases like Wilson's would be virtually nonexistent if physicians took more care in weaning their patients off antidepressants, said Philip Ninan, vice president for neuroscience at Wyeth, the maker of Effexor.

    "The management of discontinuation symptoms is relatively easy if you know about it," Ninan said, and noted that Wyeth had made efforts to educate both physicians and patients.

    Yet surprisingly few doctors know enough about SRI discontinuation to manage it effectively. A 1997 survey of English doctors found that 28 percent of psychiatrists and 70 percent of general practitioners had no idea that patients might have problems after discontinuing antidepressants. Awareness may have increased since then, but the phenomenon is so little studied that no one has done the necessary research to find out.

    The condition's prevalence is equally mysterious. Studies put the rate at anywhere from 17 percent to 78 percent for the most problematic drugs.

    So little is known about it that researchers aren't even exactly sure what causes the symptoms. It may be related to the fact that the brain chemical affected by most of the antidepressants on the market today, serotonin, does a lot more than regulate mood. It is also involved in sleep, balance, digestion and other physiological processes. So when you throw the brain's serotonin system out of whack, which is essentially what you're doing by either starting or discontinuing an antidepressant, virtually the whole body can be affected.

    Generally the drugs that are metabolized most quickly cause more severe symptoms, Shelton said. Effexor, which breaks down in a period of hours, is one of the worst SRIs in that regard; Prozac, which has a half-life of about a week, is considered the best.

    Some doctors have been able to minimize withdrawal symptoms in patients who are quitting Effexor or Paxil by gradually switching them over to Prozac, then tapering them off the more easily discontinued drug.

    Critics of the pharmaceutical industry complain that drug companies downplay the severity of drug discontinuation symptoms. The prescribing information companies provide to doctors warns that patients occasionally experience mild symptoms when they stop taking SRI antidepressants, but imply that tapering off the medication can prevent problems. Medical journals describe the ill effects of going off the drugs as "mild and short-lived," and usually avoidable if the dose is tapered.

    "I don't think they're difficult to go off," said Alan Schatzberg, chairman of the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Stanford University School of Medicine. "The vast majority of people aren't that sensitive."

    Schatzberg recently chaired a Wyeth-sponsored panel of physicians that offered guidelines for how to manage "antidepressant discontinuation syndrome," the preferred medical term for what a layperson would think of as withdrawal. He has also served as a consultant to several other pharmaceutical companies.

    Terms like "antidepressant discontinuation syndrome" demonstrate the pharmaceutical industry's efforts to downplay the problem, charged Karen Menzies, an attorney who has been involved in litigation over the phenomenon.

    "Withdrawal is the word that is used in Europe," she said.

    In December 2004 Britain's drug regulatory agency issued a report that warned that all SRIs "may be associated with withdrawal" and noted that Paxil and Effexor "seem to be associated with a greater frequency of withdrawal reactions."

    But drug companies insist antidepressants can't cause withdrawal because they are not technically addictive. Even so, many patients who have gone through the experience say it feels like withdrawal to them. Some can't work, drive, socialize or do other everyday things for weeks.

    "You just feel awful," said a New York children's entertainer, who asked not to be named for professional reasons. He has taken a small dose of Effexor for eight years rather than suffer through the withdrawal experience. But he said the inconvenience is worth it for the benefits the drug provided him when he needed it.

    Taking SRIs indefinitely is not an attractive option for many patients because it means putting up with unpleasant side-effects such as weight gain and sexual dysfunction. For women who want to have children it's an especially risky choice; researchers have documented withdrawal in newborns whose mothers were taking antidepressants, and some SRIs have been linked to birth defects.

    Having to keep taking Paxil makes O'Brien angry because she feels at the mercy of GlaxoSmithKline, the company that makes it.

    Though a GSK spokesperson said the symptoms associated with discontinuing Paxil are generally mild and manageable, in O'Brien's eyes the company is profiting by having hooked her on one of its drugs.

    "If they ever did quit making Paxil, I'd be in so much trouble," O'Brien said. "What really makes me mad is if I can't get off it, why am I paying them? They should be paying me."
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  3. purdyamos

    purdyamos Active Member

    I presume Paxil is the American name for paroxetine. Over here it's called Seroxat, and I lost nearly a decade of my life to it. The withdrawal has been widely reported in the UK, which is great for me because when I say I was on a bad prescription drug people will actually say "was it seroxat? I've heard about that." I wouldn't know where to start in explaining my seroxat hell and the full ramifications it had on my life, but I'll try to summarise.

    The worst thing for me in fact, was not the horrendous cold turkey. It was the years of being dosed up to the eyeballs, paralysed with side effects that the doctors claimed didn't exist. OK, my mental problems were blotted out, but so was my entire personality. I had no sense of agency. I was literally zombified. I'm a very proactive, responsible person and I was destroyed. The weight gain was horrendous in my twenties when I should have been out meeting people and enjoying my youth. I was so dead all my friends drifted away. The career I'd been trying to build in between bouts of illness was killed off. I lost all my contacts and prospects. I had no capacity for thought or activity. And it was definitely the drug that did it because within a couple of days of coming off it, my 'real' personality came back with a vengeance. My GP couldn't believe what was happening. And most of the weight just fell off without even trying.

    I had been on very high doses of seroxat, over the recommended limit, I found later, and it took a good five to six months before I could consider myself properly functioning. Even then I would regularly have seixures which I never had before being on the drug. The immediate withdrawl was very frightening and I was totally isolated and alone in coping with it, with the sole exception of my lovely GP. Memories of physical pain fade, but I remember the pain filling my legs was so bad that I seriously considered sawing my legs off because I thought that would hurt less.

    To be fair, a lot of what I suffered was probably a massive upsurge of supressed ptsd and anxiety, plus the limitless rage and fury I felt (still feel) that my most energetic, ambitious years had been stolen from me. I will never get that time back. When I came off the drug, I literally felt that I was the age I was when I went on them. The intervening years were a useless blur.

    I feel that the destruction of my friendships, career and network of existence caused more damage to my life than the original problem would have. I have had terrible times since coming off the drug, but all the time I feel that I am alive, I'm a spirit in a body making my way along the big journey. And it's got a massive hole in it that I can't stop mourning. I am middle aged and Ididn't have the chance to enjoy being young.

    Psychiatrists continue to deny that the damaging effects of their treatments can be counter-productive in 'helping' the people they are prescribed to. I have met other victims of long-term seroxat damage who have had the same story as me, but not for so many years because they had people close to them and I was totally alone. There was no-one to speak up for me. Some people take it for a while and it's good for them. But others have not been so lucky and they're still not being believed.

    :angry-fla :angry-fla :angry-fla
  4. YoungAndAngry

    YoungAndAngry Well-Known Member

    I've been on Effexor XR for over 8 months now...
  5. anthony

    anthony Silently Watching Founder

    Nice find Kim.

    The drug companies want you to believe they are the best thing since sliced bread, so you continue taking them forever in a day. Offcourse they want you to get addicted to them, because it means their salaries are going to continue being paid. If people really read about what they were taking, most would never take it. They have to make the information available, though they do try and hide it well, though the net is making it more accessible now to get the information.

    The problem is, is that some of the medications do actually work, and you do need them during the uncontrolled stages of PTSD, otherwise most of us wouldn't make it past PTSD, we would all be dead. But then we must withdraw from them, and that is some of the worst effects known unfortunately, but it must be done.
  6. purdyamos

    purdyamos Active Member


    What you say is right, and would be fine if the professionals were conscientious and monitored your recovery in an ideal way. I suppose around the world we're all being treated by completely different health services, so it's difficult to compare notes.

    Unfortunately, I have had to rely on the British NHS psychiatric system, which is so dire it's unbelievable. Often you're lucky to see the same consultant more than once, back up support is almost non-existant, and the attitudes of many of the staff can be simply dreadful. The service has been starved of funds for many years, and is a national disgrace. Once you're on a drug, you're on it indefinitely. The safety net has huge holes in it, and many people fall through.
  7. anthony

    anthony Silently Watching Founder

    Purdy, that is when you need to be more persistent than the slack arse doctors working in unsuitable conditions, because it is your health, not theirs. If you are having side effects, don't worry about what they say, demand to come off one drug on onto another to see how those side effects are.

    Even better, go see a naturopath in your area, get away from prescription medication all together and try different natural alternatives, most of which work better than prescription drugs, and most of which have little side effects compared to the high rate that prescription drugs offer.
  8. permban0077

    permban0077 Policy Enforcement Banned

    While docs and companies say SSRIs are not addictive I do believe WHO says they are. Dependent is the word they like to use, not addictive. Splitting hairs if you ask me. Withdrawal is withdrawal. They have me on a low dose of zoloft and I hate taking it but will wait until xanax I am on is finished getting worked out of my system before I quit it too.

    I am scared of Zoloft because years back they put me on it when going through a break up with my very short lived marriage. I was told non addictive. When I stopped taking it I was hit with blind rage, I trashed my home, holes in walls, injured my self I was having so much fury that when I was tearing everything up I did not even notice I was hurting myself. A friend got over quick and talked to an ER doc over the phone they said it is so addictive I was mis informed and called in a bottle right away and that was sight unseen! That last bottle I used to taper my self off and swore I would never touch it again. But here I am on it, but butted heads with my doc as I would not go above the initial dose. I don't want too have such a far drop this time to go.

    A friend of mine just finished taking effexor. She was sick as dog with throwing up and the electric zaps. She took ginger root to help her stomache and benadryl to help ease withdrawals and told me do not let them put you on it!
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