Increase in use of sedatives and anti-depressants – Prof David Healy and Prof Veronica O’Keane

Sense and Nonsense

This blog post concerns something which I would like to revisit- the dangers of SSRI’s and my personal experience with them.

This is a radio clip from RTE- the Irish national broadcaster-  it’s from October 2012.

(note- when you click on the link- ignore when it says ‘error’, press the play button and it should work)

It’s very interesting because it is a discussion between two very high level academic psychiatrists- Professor Veronica O’Keane and Professor David Healy- about the worrying increase in Sedatives and SSRI’s.

Professor Veronica O’Keane is of the belief that SSRI’s are safe, effective, non addictive and essential drugs in the treatment of depression- a disorder which she believes can be effectively treated with SSRI’s.

David Healy believes that this increase in SSRI usage is not necessarily because more people are being prescribed them but because people are addicted to them- hence an increase in scripts each year. Some people are on SSRI’s for 10 to 15 years or more now- David Healy thinks this is a worrying world trend and the effects of SSRI’s long term could be worse than the scandalous sedative abuse of previous decades.

Veronica O’ Keane thinks that depression is not a condition than goes away- and she agrees that anti-depressants are being prescribed over long periods of time. She also believes that they are being prescribed appropriately.

She seems also think that patients are ‘opting’  to take SSRI’s because they believe in them.

David Healy says that these drugs are incredibly hard to come off- that there are virtually no controls on their prescription-

Veronica disagrees.

David Healy says that, even in short term- healthy volunteer trials- people can go on to commit suicide and aggressive acts. Healy also believes that there is a strong placebo effect with SSRI’s.

Veronica O’Keane mentions the Irish suicide ‘expert’- Prof Kevin Malone of St.Vincents hospital- she says according to these experts- ‘treating depression is the most striking known example of a therapeutic intervention that works’.

She also says that ‘it is recommended that anti-depressants are maintained in individuals who relapse’.

Healy mentions the fact that the black box warnings in America state that the risks of SSRI treatment include suicide.

Healy says that the problem with anti-depressants is ‘ the kind of information Veronica depends on is extraordinarily poor- it’s not accurate and is written by the pharmaceutical companies for her- almost all the public trials are ghost written and most trials have been unpublished.

Veronica says that the black box warnings only apply to those under the age of 24.

Veronica says that the problem here is not anti-depressants but depression- and that depression is the real killer.

She says that anti-depressants save lives – because they reduce suicide.

She also says ‘the people who prescribe them are more sophisticated than depending on randomized control trials from the pharmaceutical industry’.


Professor Veronica O’Keane is of the belief that SSRI’s are safe, effective, non addictive and essential drugs in the treatment of depression- a disorder which she believes can be effectively treated with SSRI’s.


I would like to challenge Veronica’s claims.

I would like Veronica to explain to me why since coming off Seroxat over 10 years ago- I have not needed any psychiatric intervention whatsoever – I was originally diagnosed with depression at 21 by a psychiatrist. I was told by my GP (who supplied 3 month scripts over 3 years) that I would likely need to take SSRI’s for life to treat my depression. I came off Seroxat when I was 25- and I haven’t needed an SSRI (or anything else) to treat my depression since- am I an aberration Veronica? 

How is it- that after being diagnosed with clinical depression by one of your psychiatric colleagues I have somehow been able- for the past 10 years- to function without an SSRI? How come I have been able – for the past 5 years- to attend one of the toughest universities – in the country that I live- without psychiatric intervention? How is it possible that as a ‘clinically depressed’ indiviual- post SSRI treatment I have felt better than I ever did off them and awful when I was on them? 

Perhaps Veronica would like to know what I felt like on an SSRI- in my case Seroxat?

Veronica says that the problem here is not anti-depressants at all- but depression- and that depression is the real killer.

Veronica also says that the black box warnings (of suicide-self harm etc) only apply to those under the age of 24.


If depression is the real killer Veronica- then why is it a well known (but little publicized) psychiatric fact- that in the majority of individuals- depression will pass on its own accord without any psychiatric intervention?

Why- when I was on Seroxat- did I feel suicidal for days on end- intensely aggressive- have violent urges- disturbing dreams- night sweats- constipation – panic attacks- hallucinations-aggression- akathisia- personality changes? How come I suffered more on the drugs than I did with my original depression? How come drug treatment almost killed me?

Why- during withdrawal- did I experience these horrible side effects even more intensely- for months and months after my last SSRI dose? 

According to Veronica- remarkably – this is just because I was under the age of 24…

And  for anyone above that age- or over 65- the black box warnings on SSRI’s (which include suicide/homicide/aggression/akathisia etc) apparently – according to Veronica- miraculously don’t apply!

How strange? so if I was 24 or over- I would have had a fantastic time on an SSRI would I Veronica? No side effects? 

That’s really interesting- because, when I was 24, I was still on an SSRI- and if anything I felt worse than I had ever felt in my life. 

Why is 24 the magic number Veronica? 

Can you explain that to me- to your patients, and to the public? 

Veronica O’ Keane thinks that depression is not a condition that goes away- and she agrees that anti-depressants are being prescribed over long periods of time. She also believes that they are being prescribed appropriately.

I would like to ask Veronica how come many people – like myself – diagnosed with depression – live contentedly without any psychiatric intervention?  

We live without any drug regime- Are we super-human? 

How does Veronica justify that anti-depressants are being prescribed appropriately?

In my case- I saw my GP every 3 months- sometimes longer- 6 to 9 months. I was literally left stranded on a drug- which was slowly poisoning my body -and with my mind- enslaved to it because I could not come off it-

this is the ‘norm’ when it comes to psychiatric drug treatment. How does Veronica see this as appropriate? 

Veronica says that depression is not a condition which goes away- yet her colleagues in the UK psychiatric association state on their website that depression can often lift on its own accord after a few months- and depression has often been compared to the flu- it comes and goes.

Throughout the ages it has been considered melancholia- an integral and completely normal facet of the human condition. A fact of life- not something to fear, but an essential part of the process of living. 

Veronica seems also think that patients are ‘opting’  to take SSRI’s because they have confidence in them. And she wants us to know that she has confidence in them.


If Veronica thinks that patients are ‘opting’ for SSRI’s, she is gravely mistaken- I was offered nothing but SSRI’s- no counseling no talk therapy- no psychologist -no psychotherapist. How is that an ‘option’? One type of treatment available is hardly an option is it Veronica?

She says that people take SSRI’s because they believe in them? Apparently- she thinks that people have confidence in them- Surely- this is indicative of a placebo effect then Veronica? Because by its very nature- the placebo effect- works- because people believe that something is helping. 

But is mere belief enough justification for prescribing vulnerable people a drug with controversial links to suicide, homicide, aggression and birth defects?

Veronica also says ‘the people who prescribe them are more sophisticated -than depending on randomized control trials from the pharmaceutical industry’.

Veronica, you know- as well as I do- that most people are prescribed these drugs by their GP- and most GP’s have practically no training in psychopharmacology, psycho-therapy or in depth psychiatric disorders. GP’s are simply clueless when it comes to dealing with the problem of SSRI’s. They have no training in dealing with possible side effects- side effects which can actually mimic and exacerbate the symptoms of psychiatric disorders-  but according to Veronica as soon as you reach the age of 24 you don’t have to worry about black box warnings of fatal and dangerous SSRI side effects- and if you’re over 65- apparently your prospects of an SSRI dream without dangers are even better! 

Seriously Veronica- do you think people are really that gullible? 

These drugs are banned for Under 18’s- because they have been proven- to cause more suicides- and serious debilitating problems such as an increase in self harm- yet according to your logic- all those risks miraculously disappear after someone passes 24 years of age. How about someone who is 23 years and 364 days old? Is an SSRI risk free for them?

Do you really expect us to believe that your average garden- variety GP is a sophisticated drug expert? – someone with a weight of knowledge of SSRI’s like- Dr David Healy? 

Give me a break Veronica.

And also- you have contradicted yourself by claiming that these ‘sophisticated SSRI prescribers’ are more dependable than randomized clinical trials from the pharmaceutical industry. It is these ‘randomized clinical trials’ which are the problem Veronica- it’s what your entire argument for drug efficacy is based upon?

If you- yourself- believe that the prescriber- needs to be more sophisticated than the data about the drugs- then in effect- you are admitting that the data is unreliable? 

If the data on efficacy is unreliable, and the pharmacological experience of the prescribers are too- this is hardly a strong argument for the effectiveness and safety of SSRI’s is it Veronica? 

No, in fact the truth is- your argument is nonsense- and it seems tragically you are so blinded by the psychiatric ideological stance which you are professionally aligned to- that you fail to see the wood for the trees. 


We are supposed to trust your so called  (imaginary) ‘sophisticated’ prescribers? before the clinical trial data?

Yet it is this same (unreliable) data which you claim to rely upon when prescribing SSRI’s in the first place? It is the same data which you cite in your argument for safety and effectiveness? This data- which Davd Healy has been trying to explain to you- is utterly useless data! It’s written entirely for you by drug companies. We cannot trust it. 

And even in cases where the data is of use- it points to serious dangers with SSRI drugs! What exactly are you saying Veronica? Because – I’m fairly smart- but you have me totally confused because of this blatant contradiction. 

These drugs are not monitored, over-prescribed, and in most cases useless and dangerous. That’s the reality. 

You should be applauding and supporting people like David Healy- psychiatrists who speak for patients- not pharmaceutical companies. Your primary interest should be with patient well being- adequate treatment- trustworthy data- but instead it seems you are rolled out- like similar SSRI problem deniers- just to defend these drugs- against any criticism or dissent. 

The only reliable data on SSRI’s comes from patient experience. Psychiatric opinion is merely conjecture. 

To know there-you have to go there Veronica.

Stop being an apologist for the Pharmaceutical industry and start actually listening to your patients.

Get your head out of that macabre and reductive DSM psychiatric manual professor O’Keane- and maybe begin to see your patients as human beings with human problems -not defunct robots. Then – and only then- may you perhaps come close to understanding  ‘depression’ and the effects of the drugs which you peddle for it. 

For more on David Healy- an ethical psychiatrist who cares about patients- a psychiatrist- not in denial- check out his website and blog. You can report your drug side effects on his website ( and perhaps bring about change.

Check them out here:

As for Veronica O’Keane… 

Pfff… Whatever…


For more on O’Keane’s distorted views and possible conflicts of interest (involving Eli- Lilly – makers of SSRI Prozac- see here-





  1. Samantha Dearnaley

    She needs her licence taking away from her, for putting people at risk, and then I think she needs putting on Olanzapine, for she is showing signs, of delusional behaviour, she thinks SSRI, are Gods. Let me remind everyone, what criteria you have to fit to be put under a section in mental health ward. If you are a danger to yourself or others, clearly she needs to be sectioned, she is clearly a danger to others, mainly her patients. Is she mentioning age 24, because the human brain is not fully developed, until the age of 25 at least, so she is still wrong on that front by a year.

  2. mark

    I bet she is on the GSK payroll or shareholder. I was given this posion for a sore arm from keyboard overuse and didn’t even know it was a psych med. 10 drug addicted years later and 2.5 years of withdrawal hell to break free with drug induced suicidal ideations daily , leaving me traumatized and still recovering …and was 38 when I went on it …perhaps they should change the black box warning to under 50 yr olds. It is a miracle im still alive…..the only reason for that is I refused to break the 6th commandment and I refused to reinstate. My healing continues.

  3. sarah

    Excellent well balanced writing about your experience of SSRI medication which the likes of Veronica O’Kane prefer to ignore in favour of speil from the pharmaceutical paymasters. People like her should actively seek information from “patients” so as to be informed about the effects of the drugs being prescribed beyond the 12 weeks clinical trial period. If she did she would have to admit that her drug company training was slightly faulty or at least questionable. I am amazed how intelligent medically qualified people like her can be so blinkered.
    You are correct that most SSRI prescribing is done by a GP with no warning issued. My 17 year old daughter was prescribed Cipramil in my presence. I was not in favour of medication but was assured that this particular one was completely safe not like the older addictive antidepressants. It was as if an antibiotic was being prescribed. She and I were told that it would take about 2 weeks for the effects to begin and she should bear with it. She did suffer side effects but persevered. After 3 years of continuous medication and a lot of what I now know were side effects of the drugs, she felt like stopping and went to the GP. The method advised for withdrawal was 20mg one day 10mg the next for a month etc.
    My daughter had only stopped completely by this method for about 2-3 weeks when she returned to the GP feeling awful. Clinical Depression was diagnosed and Cipramil reinstated. She was told -in my presence that she “could be like this for the rest of her life”
    She took her own life the following day aged 20.
    One Boring Old Man refers to medication orientated psychiatrists as “drug company reps in white coats” I guess most GPs could be their side kicks.

  4. truthman30

    Hi Sarah,
    Thank you for your comment. And my sincerest sympathies to you and what happened to your daughter. It is truly tragic how they prescribe these drugs like smarties- particularly to vulnerable young people. I can relate to what your daughter was suffering, I was in my early twenties on Seroxat- and I could have easily took my life because of the side effects of the drug. SSRI’s can be lethal My deepest condolences for your loss. It is so unfair. I hope you find some peace.

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