SSRI Anti-Depressants : Harmful Or Helpful?


“It is absolutely horrendous that they have such disregard for human lives.”
Professor Peter Gotzsche, Nordic Cochrane Centre

I’m blogging over 9 years (I started this blog in 2007), and in that time I have read tons of stuff about SSRI anti-depressants, psychiatry, and the pharmaceutical industry. I have focused my attention, in particular, upon the SSRI anti-depressant drug Seroxat, and the pharmaceutical company that manufactured it- GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). However, even before I started this blog, I had been educating myself about SSRI’s, the pharmaceutical industry, and ‘mental illness’ related issues. All in all, I have been reading, writing and researching about this stuff since at least 2001 (15 years). I had a particularly bad reaction to Seroxat, and I have no love for the pharmaceutical company who created it (GSK). I think GSK should have warned me about the dangers of Seroxat, and I believe that by suppressing information on Seroxat over the years, much harm was caused to me and to many many others.

The story of Seroxat is still as scandalous as ever.

I am particularly disturbed at how GSK behave generally too. They are an extremely sociopathic company, and they have absolutely no regard for patient well being, the law, or basic human values or ethics. They have been proven numerous times to be corrupt, devious and downright evil in how they behave. They have been fined numerous times for breaking ethical and legal codes in varous countries, however in their home turf of the UK it seems (because of the vast wealth that they bring there and the huge influence they have upon academia/industry etc) they are never brought to book. There are over 1000 blog posts on this blog detailing how GSK have corrupted doctors, the regulators and psychiatry, and I think my blog backs up my opinion on these subjects- ten fold. I had hoped, that by documenting GSK and Seroxat, others might not end up damaged by a pharmaceutical drug like Seroxat, I did it to bring awareness, it was that simple. I didn’t expect this blog to become the force that it has, I didn’t plan on being a blogger. I experienced an injustice from being prescribed the dangerous drug- Seroxat. I should have been warned, and I wasn’t. I met others who suffered because of Seroxat, and I felt compelled to do something about it- this blog spawned as a result of that impetus.

I have had some people e-mail me and thank me for saving their life, others have sent words of support and encouragement, or mentioned how my writing validated their experience, and I have received a lot of kindness because of my writing, and all of this has been extremely humbling for me, but none of this was planned.

(I have also had some psychos/stalkers/assholes and others who have pestered me from time to time- but those idiots will never stop me from helping others and bringing awareness).

Nevertheless, in all that time, and after digesting so much information about all this stuff, one of the most striking aspects of all this which I noticed is – just how polarized the debate about SSRI anti-depressants has been- over these years. There are those who swear blind that SSRI drugs are really helpful, and that the ‘risks’ are worth the (so called) ‘benefits’. There are people (usually biological psychiatrists) who claim that anti-depressants save lives, and they claim that SSRI anti-depressants are vital in the treatment of depression. Then there is an opposing camp who claim that these drugs are causing suicides, and that there risks far out weigh the benefits. I fall (like most reasonable people) somewhere in the middle…

I believe, or actually, in fact- I know (from my own experience, of almost 4 years on the SSRI Seroxat) that these drugs can be extremely harmful for a lot of people. I do understand that they can be somewhat helpful to others (perhaps very short term with close monitoring in extreme cases, or in a hospital setting), but I believe that the harms far out weigh the ‘benefits’. I also think that the so called ‘benefits’ are largely illusory, and often quite transient and subjective (if they exist at all). The benefit is an illusion just as much as the effect of any mind altering drug/substance is an illusion. Nevertheless, the only people who really know if these drugs are harmful or helpful are the people who take them. I don’t think that these drugs are helpful long term, nor do I think they should be prescribed as first line treatment.

These are potent, heavy, seriously addicting psychotropic/psychoactive/mind altering drugs; they are powerful and their affect on the mind is extremely difficult to predict in each individual. Some people will experience increased anxiety, increased suicidal ideation, hallucinations, distortions in their reality/perceptions/personality etc, and others might not experience these effects too badly. Most will experience some, or variations of these effects over time, and the longer you’re on them the more toxic you become. Withdrawal from them is often horrific too. However, most people will experience the physical side effects of nightmares, sweating profusely, stomach problems, irritability, tension, sexual side effects, nervous system side effects etc. The physical side effects in themselves can be extremely debilitating and disturbing. These drugs are quite toxic physically and they have been way too over-prescribed to too many people, mostly without adequate monitoring or informed consent.

It seems to me that those who defend the drugs without question are usually biological psychiatrists with a vested interest (either directly through pharmaceutical affiliation or indirectly through other means of the psychiatric profession) in keeping knowledge of the harms of these drugs as suppressed as possible.

The problem facing biological psychiatrists who defend the use of SSRI’s -almost evangelically – is- the cat is now fully out of the bag. You can’t defend these drugs in an extreme quasi-religious manner anymore without coming across as some kind of irrational zealot nutcase, because even the most eminent drug experts (the Cochrane group for example) now agree that there are serious issues with these drugs and in fact these drugs are very likely causing more harm than good. It has taken a few decades for the truth to finally become known, but the widespread consensus seems to be leaning towards the fact that these drugs are causing serious harm to a considerable number of people, and they have been for a very long time.

There will always be some biological psychiatrists who (seemingly desperate to hang on to some semblance of power and prestige in their own insecure minds) will defend these drugs like they are some kind of sacred religious iconography. They deem any criticism of the drugs as close to some kind of blasphemy. They imagine that if the drugs they dish out are undermined in any way, they themselves will be undermined also, and their beliefs and ideology will be debased as a result.  With their ego, their profession and their world view under threat of extinction from the truth, some of these psychiatrists can get very irrational and volatile indeed. Their egos just cannot take this perceived assault so they continue to deny despite the evidence rendering their denials redundant and ridiculous, because denial is all they have left as a defense.

Unfortunately, the ship of reason has sailed, and those psychiatrists are not on it.

These hell-fire and brimstone biological psychiatrists are few and far between nowadays, as most ‘clever’ psychiatrists are slowly starting to change their own discourse about SSRI’s so as to make it appear that they were never fully behind the widespread use of them in the first place (most of them really were, but at least some of them have the appearance of decency-or ‘devious intelligence’- to accept the truth and follow the tide of consensus).

It must be very difficult for some psychiatrists to accept that the drugs which they have been peddling for a very long time have perhaps harmed (and in some cases killed) many of their patients. It understandable what a hard pill of truth this might be to swallow (pardon the pun) for some of these individuals but the truth is self evident now. However continuing to deny the realities of the side effects of these drugs, and the harms that they caused, and continue to cause- is not acceptable.

Defending the drugs as a means of protecting the psychiatric ideological paradigm -at the expense of patients’ lives and public health- is utterly reprehensible- in my opinion.

There have been a flurry of articles, in the media recently, about the side effects of SSRI’s and much debate has ensued. However, instead of writing my opinion on each, I think it might be best to combine them all in one post.

The latest damning article about SSRI’s and their dangers comes from the Telegraph UK. The Telegraph article is based on a study from the Nordic Cochrane group. The Cochrane group are among the most respected (and widely cited) academics in the field of medicine.

Here are some excerpts from the article:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/12126146/Antidepressants-can-raise-the-risk-of-suicide-biggest-ever-review-finds.html#disqus_thread

“…Antidepressants can raise the risk of suicide, biggest ever review finds

Antidepressant use doubles the risk of suicide in under 18s and the risks to adults may have been seriously underestimated, researchers found

Antidepressants can raise the risk of suicide, the biggest ever review has found, as pharmaceutical companies were accused of failing to report side-effects and even deaths linked to the drugs.

 

An analysis of 70 trials of the most common antidepressants – involving more than 18,000 people – found they doubled the risk of suicide and aggressive behaviour in under 18s.

 

Although a similarly stark link was not seen in adults, the authors said misreporting of trial data could have led to a ‘serious under-estimation of the harms.’

For years families have claimed that antidepressant medication drove their loved ones to commit suicide, but have been continually dismissed by medical companies and doctors who claimed a link was unproven.

The review – the biggest of its kind into the effects of the drugs – was carried out by the Nordic Cochrane Centre and analysed by University College London (UCL) who today endorse the findings in an editorial in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

After comparing clinical trial information to actual patient reports the scientists found pharmaceutical companies had regularly misclassified deaths and suicidal events in people taking anti-depressants to “favour their products”.

Experts said the review’s findings were “startling” and said it was “deeply worrying” that clinical trials appear to have been misreported….”

Tarang Sharma of the Nordic Cochrane Centre, Copenhagen, Denmark admitted: “The analysis suggests that clinical study reports, on which decisions about market authorisation are based, are likely to underestimate the extent of drug related harms.”

Four deaths were misreported by one unnamed pharmaceutical company, who claimed they had occurred after the trials had stopped.

One patient strangled himself unexpectedly after taking venlafaxine but because he survived for five days, he was excluded from the results because it was claimed he was no longer on the trial while he was dying in hospital.”


 

Leonie Fennell is a dedicated patient advocate, and genuine mental health activist, who has done stellar work in bringing awareness to the dangers of SSRI medications (her focus is on the SSRI Cipramil in particular, and Lundbeck the pharma who makes it). Her latest post explores some of the themes which I have mentioned in my post thus far. You can read her full post here, but in the meantime here are some very poignant excerpts from it :

“...Yesterday’s BMJ article that found antidepressants double the risk of suicide and aggression in young people, made headlines worldwide. From America, Australia to india, caution was advised when prescribing in this age bracket. Not so in Ireland. The one newspaper article referring to the BMJ article can be found in today’s Irish Examiner here, entitled ‘Drug link to child suicide queried by expert’. So did it warn prescribers of the suicide and aggression risks, advise stricter guidelines or just advise caution when prescribing to children? None of the latter. Instead the Irish Examiner published an article allowing Professor Patricia Casey to question the findings of the Nordic Cochrane Centre..”


Both the Cochrane group’s report on the doubling of aggression side effects, and suicidal side effects etc, and Leonie’s excellent commentary upon it, is no surprise to me because I experienced these side effects directly from GSK’s notorious Seroxat SSRI. I know just how dangerous these drugs are. Leonie Fennell also knows just how dangerous these drugs are because Cipramil killed her son Shane, and tragically also Cipramil caused Shane to be violent- and as a result of this side effect of SSRI induced violence came the death of Sebastian Creane too. Anyone on an SSRI could end up in Shane’s altered state of mind, I’ve been there, and I know of many others, who have expressed similar experiences. These drugs can make people violent and volatile, they can literally snap your mind. Shane should have been warned and monitored properly for emerging suicidal ideation/akathisa/aggression etc. He wasn’t warned, and neither was his family, and the tragedy that followed could have been prevented had they been.

Although I have been drawing attention to these issues for a long time, it is heartening to see my views legitimized by studies from a group as prestigious and respected as the Nordic Cochrane group. It’s high time the public knew just how dangerous these drugs are for all age groups. The studies highlighting the dangers in adolescents and the young show very clear dangers, however this is the proverbial ‘canary in the coal-mine’. All ages, adults and younger, can experience the same deadly side effects of SSRI’s.

I’m not a huge fan of Peter Hitchens (I preferred his brother- Christopher), however he has been good at covering the dangers of SSRI’s and his latest article on the Cochrane study on SSRI’s pulls no punches in that regard.

http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2016/01/time-for-some-serious-thought-about-antidepressants.html

Here are some excerpts:

28 January 2016 4:26 PM

Time for Some Serious Thought about ‘Antidepressants’

I expect to have more to say about this, but today’s BMJ? UCL/ Nordic Cochrane Centre analysis of research on ‘antidepressants’ should surely change the terms on which we debate this subject.

I should say that all intelligent people should draw lessons about the difference between what they think is happening, and what is actually happening,  from two major Hollywood films – The Big Short’ and ‘Spotlight’. In both cases – the sub-prime mortgage disaster and the widespread unpunished sexual abuse of children by priests – complacency prevented serious concern for years. In both cases the alarm was raised by outsiders, and most people refused to believe what was being said.

I believe that psychiatric medication contains a similar problem, which in a few years, everyone will acknowledge as fact. But at the moment, it is still difficult to raise it without being accused of being a crank. Complacency rules.

For some years now I have been more or less begging my readers to obtain the book ‘Cracked’ by James Davies’ and to study two clearly-written and straightforward articles on the subject by Dr Marcia Angell, a distinguished American doctor, and no kind of crank, in the New York Review of Books. I link to them (yet again) here. They are devastating, not least because of their measured understatement. The alleged scientific theory (the Serotonin theory) which underpins the prescribing of such drugs is, to put it mildly, unproven. The drug companies themselves have kept secret (until compelled to disgorge them by FoI requests) research results which suggest their pills are, again to put it mildly, not that effective.

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2011/06/23/epidemic-mental-illness-why/

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2011/07/14/illusions-of-psychiatry/

Dr Angell’s articles are themselves reviews of important recent books on the subject.

I have also drawn attention to the huge sums of money involved, and to a recent case in which a major drug company was fined *three billion dollars* for (amongst other things) mis-selling ‘antidepressants’.

http://www.theguardian.com/business/2012/jul/03/glaxosmithkline-fined-bribing-doctors-pharmaceuticals


Hitchens is astute in his analysis of the Cochrane study. He draws attention to what I have been drawing attention to on my blog for 9 years. The reason why these drugs have been so widely promoted boils down to one thing- money.

The pharmaceutical industry makes billions on them, that’s why they have got away with all these years of cover-ups, lies, death and destruction. Psychiatry would lose its status (and its profitability) as a ‘legitimate medical specialty’ without the drugs- that’s why they deny the problems- even in the face of overwhelming evidence against their use. For psychiatry – raising awareness of the dangers undermines the profession… and we all know how highly paid some psychiatrists are don’t we?…

Nobody likes their bread and butter threatened do they?…

Nope..

Money, it’s a crime
Share it fairly but don’t take a slice of my pie
Money, so they say
Is the root of all evil today
But if you ask for payrise it’s no surprise
That they’re giving none away
Away, away, way
Away, away, away

(Pink Floyd – Money)

Seroxat Addiction From 2003 (BBC)


A long, hard and painful process
Sarah Venn

Sarah Venn has suffered severe side effects

I remember, as a small child, feeling ‘wobbly’, as if I were on a boat, bobbing up and down.

I grew up with this feeling. By the time I was 16, various tests had confirmed that this sensation was not caused by an inner ear or balance problem.

As I grew older the wobbly feeling became worse and more problematic. After A-levels I started a law degree at Birmingham University and would travel from Coventry to Birmingham by train each day. As the wobbly sensation started to intensify, I worried that I would find myself overcome by it and stranded.

In November 1997, during my second year at University, the cause of the sensation was diagnosed as being Generalised Anxiety Disorder and my GP prescribed Seroxat to treat it. When I first started taking Seroxat I noticed no difference to the wobbly sensation, but felt detached from reality and became lethargic.

Dizzy

My legs were restless and constantly aching, I was nauseous and unable to keep food down

Sarah Venn

I would frequently experience ‘electric shocks’, which caused me to visibly jolt. The tiredness and detachment feeling affected my ability to study and travel to university, leading to the second year of my degree being postponed.

Six months into treatment there was a noticeable improvement to the wobbly sensation and I returned to university in September 1998. By Christmas 1998 the wobbly feeling bothered me on rare occasions. By now my weight had started to increase and I needed increasing amounts of sleep, but neither had become overly worrying.

In May 2000, just before I sat my degree finals, my GP decided it was time I came off Seroxat. I reduced from 20mg to nothing over a period of about two weeks.

As soon as I started to decrease, new feelings began: my legs were restless and constantly aching, I was nauseous and unable to keep food down, constantly dizzy, aching and feeling like I had the flu.

By the time I had finished reducing, I was too ill to leave my bed; I was exhausted and couldn’t see clearly, I needed help to get to the bathroom and feed myself. The GP put me back on 20mg of Seroxat and within days I recovered, just in time to sit final exams.

Suicidal thoughts

Sarah Venn

Sarah Venn in 1996

In August 2000, I moved to London to start work as a legal research assistant. That September, my father, who was on business in Singapore, telephoned me to tell me that he had just seen a newsflash about Seroxat.

I searched the Internet for more information and found many stories like mine. An article in the Guardian newspaper mentioned solicitor Mark Harvey and Dr David Healy.

I decided to see my GP about coming off Seroxat again. She recommended a more gradual tapering method and prescribed Seroxat liquid, which I measured out with a cup, cutting down 2-3mg each week. By the time I got near to 12mg, I was in physical and emotional turmoil.

The nausea had returned, along with flu-feelings, aches, blinding dizziness, exhaustion, rapid and painful successive electric shocks and depression. Most disturbing was the onset of suicidal thoughts and violent nightmares, in which I saw members of my family hurt. For weeks, I was unable to leave my bed. Friends would visit me with food parcels and cook for me.

I was studying the Bar Vocational Course at the time and trying to hold down part-time work. I was unable to do either. One night, in desperation, I called my father in tears, unable to carry on as I was. The next day he drove to London and took me to the GP, who put me on 30mg of Seroxat. After a few days at home, back on Seroxat, I had made nearly a full recovery.

Overwhelming

It has been a long, hard, painful process.

Sarah Venn

I went back to work and completed my studies. By June 2002, my weight had ballooned, and I was twice the weight at which I had started taking Seroxat. I was also requiring increasing amounts of sleep – sometimes 14 hours a night. I found it increasingly difficult to concentrate and was without energy.

Following consultation with medical staff and advisors from within my profession, I decided to postpone my career for a year to try and withdraw from Seroxat. Of particular concern were the long-term effects that Seroxat was having on my health, my weight having doubled, adding to the strain that SSRIs place on the heart.

It is now May 2003 and I am reducing from Seroxat using its liquid form and a syringe. It has been a long, hard, painful process.

I reached 16mg in the New Year, but the symptoms of withdrawal became overwhelming and unbearable and I had to increase my dose back to 20mg. I am still waiting to feel well again so that I can continue reducing, 1mg per fortnight.


Sarah is on the committee of the Seroxat Users Group.

The group was founded in the spring of 2002 by UK patients taking Seroxat to provide support to patients, their friends and families and has more than 5,000 members.

It offers support through meetings held regionally, a discussion forum and email contact with the committee members.