Dr David Healy… “Study 329 Trick, Treat or Treximet”…


Study 329 Trick, Treat or Treximet

October, 31, 2016 | 21 Comments

Paroxetine (Paxil/Seroxat) linked with increased risk of birth defects when taken in early pregnancy



Using paroxetine – a drug prescribed to treat conditions including depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder – during the first trimester of pregnancy may increase newborns’ risk of congenital malformations and cardiac malformations.

That’s the conclusion of a recent analysis published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. Paroxetine is the active ingredient of GlaxoSmithKline’s once blockbuster but now off-patent Paxil/Seroxat.

Up to one-fifth of women of childbearing age experience depressive symptoms that often lead to mild to moderate depression, and prescriptions for antidepressants during pregnancy have increased in recent years. The most common drugs for treating depression in pregnant women are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and up until 2005, one drug in that class – paroxetine – was considered to be safe for use during pregnancy. A small unpublished study conducted by the manufacturer, however, suggested an increased risk of cardiac malformations in infants exposed to paroxetine before birth. Subsequent studies using various study designs in different populations across Europe and North America generated conflicting results in terms of statistical significance, although a trend remained towards an increased risk.

To provide a comprehensive assessment of the effects of paroxetine on newborns, a team led by Professor Anick Bérard of CHU Sainte-Justine and the University of Montreal, conducted a literature review and meta-analysis of all relevant studies published from 1966 to 2015. The investigators uncovered 23 eligible studies.

Results of meta-analysis

Compared with no use of paroxetine, first trimester use of paroxetine was associated with a 23% increased risk of any major congenital malformations and a 28% increased risk of major cardiac malformations in newborns. The investigators noted that the baseline risk of major malformations is 3% and of cardiac malformations is 1%; however, any increase in risk is significant, especially when considering that the benefit of using selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors during pregnancy – when changes in metabolism cause the drugs to be cleared from the body at a faster rate -is debatable.

“Given that the benefits of antidepressants overall, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors including paroxetine specifically, during pregnancy is questionable at best, any increase in risk – small or large – is too high,” said Prof Bérard, adding: “Indeed, the risk/benefit ratio suggests non-use in women with mild to moderately depressive symptoms, which is 85% of pregnant women with depressive symptoms. Therefore, planning of pregnancy is essential, and valid treatment options such as psychotherapy or exercise regimens are warranted in this special population.”

Paroxetne, Birth defects, Risk, Pregnancy, Meta-analysis, British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology

Neurobehavioral Effects of Maternal SSRI Use Linger in Newborns

The fact that psychiatrists are even discussing (and researching about) the negative effects of SSRI’s in the brains of newborn babies- as if babies on anti-depressant’s in the womb is somehow acceptable and normal- is extremely disturbing on my opinion..

The long term damage from these drugs has yet to be studied.. we won’t know the effects on the fetus or babies until the next generation grows…


Neurobehavioral Effects of Maternal SSRI Use Linger in Newborns

Megan Brooks

November 11, 2015

Related Drugs & Diseases

Neurobehavioral effects of prenatal exposure to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) extend beyond the first 7 to 10 days of life, a new study suggests.

The findings also suggest that use of a benzodiazepine plus an SSRI is associated with more significant problems in infant neurologic functioning than use of an SSRI alone. This could be because of the underlying disorder and symptom severity or the neonate’s inefficiency in metabolizing multiple drugs, the investigators note.

Importantly, they point out, “in agreement with the current practice guidelines of the American Psychiatric Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, these findings do not support discontinuing SSRI medication in the third trimester of pregnancy for those women who have been successfully managing their depressive symptoms with SSRIs throughout pregnancy.”

“We did not find evidence that stopping the medication early changed outcomes, so stopping the medication to prevent infant difficulties is unfounded at this time (and not stopping is the current ACOG/APA recommendation),” first author Amy L. Salisbury, PhD, associate professor, Departments of Pediatrics and Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Alpert Medical School at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, told Medscape Medical News.

However, “more consideration may need to be given to women who require the use of a concomitant benzodiazepine,” she said.

The study was published online October 30 in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Direct Effect

The investigators examined the course of infant neurobehavioral functioning during the first month after birth, using a standardized assessment tool. The infants’ mothers either were depressed during pregnancy and did not choose to take medication (n = 78); were depressed and chose to take an SSRI (n = 65) or an SSRI and a benzodiazepine (n = 14); or were not depressed and did not take any medication (n = 86).

“Prior studies suggested that 30% of infants have difficulty adapting to withdrawal of SSRI medication after delivery and that this lasts up to 7 to 10 days. Our main findings suggest that the difficulties last at least 14 days and may last through the first month, especially for infants whose mothers also took a benzodiazepine. The difficulties included more startling, tremors, low muscle tone, and high irritability,” said Dr Salisbury.

Infants with concomitant benzodiazepine exposure had the “least favorable” neurobehavioral assessment scores and highest number of central nervous system stress signs. Nearly all of the women (90%) who used benzodiazepines reported using them through delivery; 80% used them during the first postpartum month.

The researchers note that limitations of their study include a relatively small sample size of women with concomitant benzodiazepine-SSRI use and heterogeneity in depression characteristics. The study only included full-term, healthy infants across all groups, and therefore the findings may not be generalizable to infants born earlier in gestation or to mothers with more varying health conditions, they add.

“Overall, this study suggests that the difficulties some infants have after prenatal exposure to an SSRI may not be due solely to adaptation or withdrawal but to the more direct effect of the medication on their development”

Scientific American: Many Antidepressant Studies Found Tainted by Pharma Company Influence


Many Antidepressant Studies Found Tainted by Pharma Company Influence

A review of studies that assess clinical antidepressants shows hidden conflicts of interest and financial ties to corporate drugmakers

Tom Varco/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

After many lawsuits and a 2012 U.S. Department of Justice settlement, last month an independent review found that antidepressant drug Paxil (paroxetine) is not safe for teenagers. The finding contradicts the conclusions of the initial 2001 drug trial, which the manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline had funded, then used its results to market Paxil as safe for adolescents.

The original trial, known as Study 329, is but one high-profile example of pharmaceutical industry influence known to pervade scientific research, including clinical trials the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires pharma companies to fund in order to assess their products. For that reason, people who read scientific papers as part of their jobs have come to rely on meta-analyses, supposedly thorough reviews summarizing the evidence from multiple trials, rather than trust individual studies. But a new analysis casts doubt on that practice as well, finding that the vast majority of meta-analyses of antidepressants have some industry link, with a corresponding suppression of negative results.

The latest study, published in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, which evaluated 185 meta-analyses, found that one third of them were written by pharma industry employees. “We knew that the industry would fund studies to promote its products, but it’s very different to fund meta-analyses,” which “have traditionally been a bulwark of evidence-based medicine,” says John Ioannidis, an epidemiologist at Stanford University School of Medicine and co-author of the study. “It’s really amazing that there is such a massive influx of influence in this field.”

Almost 80 percent of meta-analyses in the review had some sort of industry tie, either through sponsorship, which the authors defined as direct industry funding of the study, or conflicts of interest, defined as any situation in which one or more authors were either industry employees or independent researchers receiving any type of industry support (including speaking fees and research grants). Especially troubling, the study showed about 7 percent of researchers had undisclosed conflicts of interest. “There’s a certain pecking order of papers,” says Erick Turner, a professor of psychiatry at Oregon Health & Science University who was not associated with the research. “Meta-analyses are at the top of the evidence pyramid.” Turner was “very concerned” by the results but did not find them surprising. “Industry influence is just massive. What’s really new is the level of attention people are now paying to it.”

The researchers considered all meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials for all approved antidepressants including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, atypical antidepressants, monoamine oxidase inhibitors and others published between 2007 and March 2014.

If the authors did not report any conflict of interest, as is typically required, the researchers examined random samples of articles published by the corresponding author in the same year for relevant declarations of conflicts. Two investigators not aware of the author’s names or potential conflicts assessed whether the meta-analysis included any negative or warning statements about the drug in the abstract or conclusion of the article.

Although a third of the papers were written by industry employees; of the majority of authors, 60 percent were independent, university-affiliated researchers with conflicts of interest. For the 53 meta-analyses where the author was not an industry employee and did not report any conflicts of interest, 25 percent had unreported conflicts of interest that the researchers identified in their search and included in their evaluation. “The meta-analyses that have industry links are very different than those that don’t have industry links,” Ioannidis says. Those with industry ties had much more favorable coverage and fewer caveats. “Conversely, when no employees were involved, almost 50 percent had caveats,” Ioannidis says.

Meta-analyses by industry employees were 22 times less likely to have negative statements about a drug than those run by unaffiliated researchers. The rate of bias in the results is similar to a 2006 study examining industry impact on clinical trials of psychiatric medications, which found that industry-sponsored trials reported favorable outcomes 78 per cent of the time, compared with 48 percent in independently funded trials.

Ioannidis believes that pharmaceutical companies should be restricted from funding meta-analyses to safeguard objectivity. He is fine with industry funding for other types of research, “but not when it comes to the final appraisal of whether should patients take this drug or not,” he says.

All of the major pharmaceutical companies were represented in the review, including GlaxoSmithKline; Eli Lilly and Co., maker of the popular antidepressant Prozac (fluoxetine); and Pfizer, which makes Zoloft (sertraline chloride). “As to meta-analyses,” Pfizer is an “active participant” in the conversation “about how to define scientifically robust frameworks for reanalysis of data,” wrote Dean Mastrojohn, Director of Global Media Relations at Pfizer, when reached for comment.

By definition, a meta-analysis should be “as comprehensive as possible a review,” says Andrea Cipriani, a psychiatry professor at the University of Oxford who was not involved with the study. “Clinicians are bombarded by information” and turn to meta-analyses “because they don’t have the time to do a full critical appraisal for themselves. The word means ‘shortcut to a lot of evidence.’”

Cipriani agrees that it is important to point out the manipulation of meta-analyses are by the pharmaceutical industry. “We need to highlight that these meta-analyses are more a marketing tool than a science,” he says. But Cipriani, who had seven articles flagged in the review for reported conflicts of interest, thinks that it is an oversimplification to condemn all studies with industry ties. Rather, Cipriani advocates transparency and says that the main problem is the lack of disclosure. To his credit, even with conflicts of interest present Cipriani included caveats in the conclusion or abstract in two of his papers. He was one of the few researchers with stated conflicts to do so, however.

According to Cipriani, academic journals, the gatekeepers of scientific evidence, are the ones who should be responsible, both for looking into conflicts of interest and weeding out those studies whose conclusions do not match up with the supplied data. That was part of the problem with Study 329, led by Martin Keller, then a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University, which reported all data accurately but misleadingly downplayed the teen suicide risk and exaggerated the benefits in the conclusions.

But journals often have their own conflicts of interest, something Cipriani acknowledges. Ioannidis and his colleagues originally tried to publish their latest study in psychiatry journals that they thought would be more pertinent, but the reception was cold. “Some people felt pretty angry about it and many of their editors have strong ties to the industry.” Ioannidis says.

Publication bias, where journals have shown a preference for new, positive and exciting results over replication of past studies—an essential part of the scientific process—is also a widespread problem within scientific publishing. This trend exists regardless of funding source or treatments assessed. In a study also published last month Turner found publication bias and inflated results in several National Institutes of Health–funded studies on psychotherapy.

Antidepressants are one of the largest pharmaceutical markets, with sales of $9.4 billion in the U.S. in 2013. Cipriani and Ioannidis believe the problem extends to other drugs with high market value, such as heart and cancer medications. “The whole field needs some soul searching,” Ioannidis says.

Jake’s Amendment : Very Important Bill In Ireland About Iatorgenic Suicide ( Anti-depressant/Drug Induced)


Sinn Féin publish ‘Jake’s Amendment’ Bill to provide for verdicts of Iatrogenic Suicide by a Coroner – Mac Lochlainn

16 July, 2015 – by Pádraig Mac Lochlainn TD

Sinn Féin TD Justice Spokesperson Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has today published a bill, to be known as ‘Jake’s Amendment’, to amend the Coroner’s Act 1962 to allow for a Coroner to return a verdict of iatrogenic suicide.

Speaking in the Dáil today, Deputy Mac Lochlainn outlined the background to the Bill and paid tribute to the parents of Jake McGill Lynch who have campaigned vigorously for a change in the law.

Deputy Mac Lochlainn said:

“On the 20th March 2013, 14 year old Jake McGill Lynch, shortly after being prescribed the antidepressant – Prozac, ended his own life using a firearm. Jake, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, was given the antidepressant drug, despite research stating that the drug has no benefit for children with Asperger’s and despite the emerging evidence of harm.

“In the midst of their grief, Jake’s parents have come to understand that their personal tragedy is one that has been shared by thousands of families whose loved ones have died as a result of antidepressant-induced suicide.

“I welcome Jake’s parents, John and Stephanie, to the public gallery today. They have worked tirelessly to bring attention to this issue and to campaign for a change to the law.

“Their request is simple. They want the Coroner’s Act to be amended so that a Coroner can return a verdict of iatrogenic, medically induced suicide where such is the case.

“It is an issue that must be highlighted. A verdict of Suicide, returned in accordance with the provisions of the Act of 1962, must be differentiated from a verdict of Iatrogenic Suicide. Iatrogenic Suicide is the ending of one’s own life where the effect of medical treatment undertaken by the deceased, including any prescribed medication, is the primary cause of such an action.”

Deputy Mac Lochlainn said that they understood that the publishing of the Bill was symbolic.

“It is obvious that the Coroners Act of 1962 is no longer fit for purpose and should be repealed and replaced with an amended version of the Coroners Bill 2007 as a matter of priority. In the amended version of the 2007 Bill, there should be a comprehensive list of verdicts open for a Coroner or a jury as the case may be, to return. This list should, when it is finally amended, contain provision for a verdict of “Iatrogenic Suicide” to be made.”

“I hope that the Government will support this Bill.”

Psychiatric Failure In Ireland : Brothers Shane and Brandon Skeffington – “Another Murder Suicide In Ireland?”

Another Murder Suicide In Ireland?

This is a very tragic case where it seems that an older brother, Shane Skeffington, (20) stabbed his younger brother, Brandon, (9) to death. Apparently this was completely out of character and there were no previous signs that he would commit such a violent act particularly towards his brother. Shane, then went on to kill himself. According to reports he was under psychiatric care and (like most young people) had dabbled in drugs such as cocaine and cannabis, but what I would be more worried about was the so called psychiatric ‘care’ he received. It’s often the psychiatric drug treatments which are the compounding factor in these cases. This website’ antidepaware ‘ has correlated thousands of similar cases of psychiatric drug related deaths.


Some Questions Which The Media Need To Probe:

Were meds involved? What kind of psychiatric ‘treatment’ did Shane Skeffington receive? and for how long? did he express suicidal or violent thoughts under this ‘care’ and to whom? Was he prescribed SSRI’s? (or an anti-psychotic or other drug) If so, why was he not monitored for emerging aggression, akathisia (an extreme nervous system condition which drives people psychotic), or suicidal/homicidal ideation (all known SSRI side effects which are even included now in warning leaflets).

Regardless of whether he received drugs from a psychiatrist or not, it is clear to me that psychiatry has failed this young man and his younger brother. If psychiatry was successful then why do so many of its patients either never get better or get worse and go on to kill themselves or others? Psychiatry is a wealthy institution but they always complain of a lack of funding- but what we need to ask is why are consultant psychiatrists paid astronomical salaries? Surely some of that money could be used to provide funding for intensive psycho-therapeutic interventions such as in emergency cases like this one? Why are these obviously very vulnerable, disturbed and frightened young people just drugged and thrown back out on the street without proper care and proper warnings? why does psychiatry get away with lying to the public about the dangers of medication?

Something is wrong here, terribly wrong. I don’t care what anyone says- psychiatric consultant and high level psychiatrists salaries are obscene- particularly when you consider their absolutely dismal track record. Nobody gets cured! And once people enter the psychiatric system they either get worse or they die- what does that tell you? We need complete transparency, which doctors and psychiatrists in Ireland are in the pocket of drug companies? Which ones receive honoria and payment for research etc,  and how is this pharmaceutical/psychiatric alliance funded in Universities and hospitals?


Parents’ frantic attempts to save stab boy Brandon

THE parents of a little boy who was murdered by his older brother before he took his own life desperately tried to save the nine-year-old child.

Brandon Skeffington (9) was still alive when his mother and father returned home and found him bleeding heavily on the stairs at their home near Tubbercurry, Co Sligo.

And the Herald can today reveal that a 15-year-old sister of the two brothers who died was also in the house when the horrific stabbing occurred.

It is believed she did not witness the fatal knife attack on Sunday evening.

Shane Skeffington (20) had been receiving psychiatric treatment in a mental hospital just days before the tragedy happened.

He was last night described as a “ticking time-bomb” and was implicated in at least two drug-fuelled assaults before he stabbed his innocent brother Brandon to death.

The killer used a large kitchen knife from the house to stab Brandon once in the chest before their parents arrived home just before 8pm.

Little Brandon was desperately clinging to life when he was discovered by his shocked parents Carmel and Shane senior at the top of the stairs in their home.

But the horror got even worse, when Mr Skeffington discovered the body of their eldest son in a shed at the back of their property moments later. They immediately contacted emergency services.

Senior sources say that there was no premeditation in relation to the attack and that Shane was “very fond” of his younger brother.

“In fact, all the available information is that Shane thought the world of Brandon and there were no significant issues there,” said a source.


Sligo Tragedy

22 Jul

Shane and Brandon

The recent tragedy unfolding in Sligo (Sunday July 20th 2014) is currently a huge media story in Ireland. Two parents, Shane senior and Carmel Skeffington, came home from a shopping trip to find two of their sons dead. Shane (20) who was babysitting, had stabbed his brother Brandon (9) twice, before hanging himself in the garden shed. Brandon died from his wounds a short time after his parents came home and found him. The community are devastated, no-one saw this coming. Little Brandon idolised his older brother and newspaper reports say they had a great relationship. The media frenzy is palpable, from laying the blame at a couple of minor drug offences, to the ease of access to kitchen knives.

I suppose I should be prepared for my own son’s story to be linked whenever a murder/suicide occurs. Today’s Irish Daily Mail referred to my son, also Shane, and the ‘rise in kitchen-knife killings’. My new found friends, whose children have tragically killed themselves, and sometimes others, might have an opinion on whether to lock up the bathroom presses (medication), kitchen cupboards (knives) garden sheds (hoses, ropes and shears) or maybe someone should confiscate grandma’s knitting needles and sewing scissors? Maybe, just maybe, the newspapers need to focus on another similarity?

The tragedy unfolding in Sligo has revealed that Shane (the older brother) was recently released from Sligo General Hospital where he was receiving psychiatric ‘care’. We know what psychiatric ‘care’ usually consists of: pills, pills and more pills – mind altering drugs which double the risk of suicide and violence. The investigation should start with what drug this young man was prescribed; was it cipramil, the same as my son? Most likely it was an SSRI antidepressant (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor), the family of drug which can cause suicide, violence, worsening depression, mania etc, etc.

Was this young man suffering from akathisia, a severe reaction which occurs with SSRIs, where a person cannot sit still and feels the urgent need to escape from their own body? A full investigation would examine the effects of the ‘care’ this young man received- it certainly didn’t work. Someone needs to answer for these two deaths, blaming it on a 20 year old boy ‘who loved his brother and all his family’ is not good enough!

Brian from AntiDepAware has compiled a list of over 2000 suicides and homicides where antidepressant were involved. The evidence is there if you look for it.

This tragedy has all the hallmarks of being SSRI-induced. The signs to look out for are (1) out of character (2) recently been to the doctor or psychiatrist and (3) totally out of the blue. Dr David Healy did a comprenhensive  report for my son’s inquest. He testified to the dangers of these drugs and that he believed the drug Citalopram (aka Cipramil or Celexa) caused my son to behave so uncharacteristically. The inquest jury rejected a suicide verdict on account of Dr Healy’s testimony. His report is here.

The devastation left behind in Sligo is mind-numbing; 2 boys suffering a violent death, parents left in devasted bewilderment, in a world which will never be the same again. I believe with all my heart that the mental health care Shane Skeffington received is to blame for these two deaths! I also believe that these deaths were preventable. Kathleen Lynch, the minister with responsibility for mental health, was informed (by 3 experts) of the dangers of these drugs; she did nothing. Enda Kenny and James Reilly were also made aware; they did nothing!


The Guardian (Peter Gøtzsche) : ‘Psychiatric Drugs Are Doing Us More Harm Than Good’


Psychiatric drugs are doing us more harm than good

As with benzodiazepines in the 1980s, the UK is prescribing SSRI antidepressants at a staggering rate – and to no good effect
'More than 53m prescriptions for antidepressants were issued in 2013 in England alone.'

‘More than 53m prescriptions for antidepressants were issued in 2013 in England alone.’ Photograph: travel-and-more/Alamy

We appear to be in the midst of a psychiatric drug epidemic, just as we were when benzodiazepines (tranquilisers) were at their height in the late 1980s. The decline in their use after warnings about addiction led to a big increase in the use of the newer antidepressants, the SSRIs (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors).

Figures released by the Council for Evidence-based Psychiatry, which was set up to challenge many of the assumptions commonly made about modern psychiatry, show that more than 53m prescriptions for antidepressants were issued in 2013 in England alone. This is almost the equivalent of one for every man, woman and child and constitutes a 92% increase since 2003.

Sales of antidepressants have skyrocketed everywhere and are now so high in my own country, Denmark, that – if the prescriptions were equally distributed – every citizen could be in treatment for six years of their life. The situation is even worse in the US, where direct advertising of prescription drugs to the public is permitted and where more psychiatrists were “educated” with industry hospitality than any other medical discipline.

I began to realise the scale of the problem when I was persuaded seven years ago to become a tutor for a PhD thesis on whether history was repeating itself, by comparing benzodiazepines (“mother’s little helper”) with SSRIs. This research has established that people get as hooked on SSRIs as they did on benzodiazepines, and 37 of 42 withdrawal symptoms were the same for SSRIs as for benzodiazepines.

It is hard to believe that so many people have become mentally disturbed and that these prescription increases reflect a genuine need, so we need to look for other explanations. There seem to be three main reasons for the huge growth.

First, the definitions of psychiatric disorders are so vague that many healthy people can be diagnosed inappropriately. Second, some of the psychiatrists who wrote the diagnostic manuals were on the industry’s payroll, and this may have also led to significant diagnostic inflation. Third, the companies’ behaviour has been worse in psychiatry than in any other area of medicine, with billion-dollar fines paid for the illegal marketing of psychiatric drugs for non-approved uses. The rise in sales reflects patient dependency on these SSRIs: they may have great difficulty stopping even when they taper off the drugs slowly. Withdrawal symptoms are often misdiagnosed as a return of the disease or the start of a new one, for which drugs are then prescribed. Over time, this leads to an increase in the number of drug-dependent, long-term users.

Another major problem with psychiatric drugs is that they can cause the symptoms they are supposed to alleviate. Unfortunately, psychiatrists tend to increase the dose or add another drug when a patient reports negative effects.

The problem is that many of these drugs simply do not work as people suppose. The main effect of antidepressants is not the reduction of depressive symptoms. They are no better than placebo for mild depression, only slightly better for moderate depression, and benefit only one out of 10 with severe depression. In around half of all patients, they cause sexual disturbances. The symptoms include decreased libido, delayed orgasm or ejaculation, no orgasm or ejaculation and erectile dysfunction. Studies in both humans and animals suggest that these effects may persist long after the drug has been discontinued.

The US Food and Drug Administration has shown that antidepressants increase suicidal behaviour up to the age of 40, and many suicides have been reported even in healthy people who took the drugs for other reasons (for example, for stress or pain). Another report also said that, among people over 65, antidepressants are believed to kill one out of every 28 people treated for one year, because they lead to falls and hip fractures. Indeed, it is not clear whether antidepressants are safe at any age.

My studies of the research literature in this whole area lead me to a very uncomfortable conclusion: the way we currently use psychiatric drugs is causing more harm than good. We should therefore use them much less, for shorter periods of time, and always with a plan for tapering off, to prevent people from being medicated for the rest of their lives.

SSRI Devastation … “once you’ve survived withdrawal, you are just glad to be alive…”


Lives ‘left in ruin’ by rising tide of depression drugs

More people are being put on the pills but some experts are now warning they do more harm than good. Julia Llewellyn Smith reports

Jo Thompson

Jo Thompson ended up in hospital on anti-anxiety pills, and wanted to die when she stopped them  Photo: Geoff Pugh/Telegraph

But in 1995, a bout of flu left Henry, then 31, exhausted and lethargic. He visited his GP, who told him he was depressed, and prescribed the world’s most popular antidepressant, Prozac. “Everything appeared completely benign — he said depression was a common complaint, the drugs would fix it and then I’d stop taking them.”

More than a decade later, Henry was far from cured and still taking antidepressants. “None of the drugs I was prescribed made me feel better, and most made me considerably worse. But every time I stopped them, the symptoms of what I thought was depression — but now know were of withdrawal — returned even more strongly, so I went back to the pills.”

By 2009, he was so unwell that he had to give up work. Finally, suspecting the drugs were the cause of his problems, he quit them, only to enter a new hell.

“It was torture. I thought I was going to die, and I didn’t care. For two years, I was in severe physical pain and so weak I lay all day on the sofa. My cognition was severely affected, I was dizzy, with blurred vision, I couldn’t read a bedtime story to my son and couldn’t remember things that had happened just a few seconds previously.”

Henry — who does not want to reveal his last name because of pending legal action against the drugs manufacturers — is just one of an estimated four million people in Britain taking antidepressants, a number that is rising sharply.

Last year, 53 million prescriptions were issued for antidepressants in England alone, nearly double the number prescribed a decade ago, and a six per cent increase in the past year. According to recent research, one in three British women and one in 10 men now take the medication, including popular brands such as Prozac, Cipramil and Seroxat, at some point in their lives.

But a growing number of experts now believe depression is vastly overdiagnosed and the drugs can cause far more harm than good.

This week, a new organisation, the Council for Evidence-Based Psychiatry (CEP), whose members include psychiatrists, academics and withdrawal charities, is launching, to educate the public about the risks of antidepressants. A keynote speech will be given by Prof Peter Gøtzsche, co-founder of the Cochrane Collaboration, an international, non-profit organisation that examines vast amounts of medical data to help doctors and patients reach informed conclusions about health.

Prof Gøtzsche, author of Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime: How Big Pharma has Corrupted Healthcare, believes that some drug companies have obfuscated the truth about antidepressants, much as tobacco firms attempted to hide the dangers of cigarettes.

“My research has led me to the uncomfortable conclusions that these drugs help very few people. They are often being taken needlessly and, in many cases, ruining lives.

“GPs and psychiatrists hand out these drugs for the most unbelievable reasons — when patients are having marital problems, have failed exams, split up with their boyfriends — occasions that would make anyone feel sad and stressed but don’t indicate clinical depression.

“In such cases, and also in truly depressed patients, the patients will feel better anyway with the passing of time, but doctors and patients attribute their recovery to the antidepressants. When they stop the drugs, withdrawal symptoms will often make them feel bad. This is often misdiagnosed as the depression not being cured, so they are told to continue taking the pills, sometimes for life.”

Jo Thompson, 31, an NHS researcher, was prescribed antidepressants three years ago for anxiety about her university final exams. “What I was going through — worrying about the future and choices I was making — was completely normal, in retrospect,” she says.

Her GP wrote her a prescription for lorazepam, a potent benzodiazepine or anti-anxiety drug, which are currently in vogue, with 16.5 million being prescribed in the UK last year, and to which around one million people are thought to be “accidentally” addicted — compared with 300,000 illegal heroin and crack cocaine addicts.

Miss Thompson took the pills but rather than feeling calmer, she went “through the roof”. “Within days, normal life became unmanageable,” she says. “I stopped eating. I’m a very sociable person but I became a hermit. Any sudden sensation terrified me, to the point where I daren’t step into the shower, so I stopped washing. I thought I was going mad.

“In my naivety, it never occurred to me that they might be the drugs’ side effects. They had been given to me by a doctor to make me better, so how could they be making things considerably worse?”

Miss Thompson ended up in hospital. “I was a shivering shell, not sleeping at all,” she says. Increasingly concerned at doctors’ insistence on trying different antidepressants and upping doses, she discharged herself and decided to stop the drugs overnight. As with Henry, and 72 per cent of antidepressant users surveyed by CEP, doctors had given her no warning about the dangers of “cold turkey” withdrawal from benzodiazepines.

“I had no idea of the horrors that awaited me. Every second of the day was hell. I was a zombie, but one that couldn’t sit down. I just paced up and down, and asked my parents if I was going to die. I couldn’t be left alone. In the car, I was overwhelmed with the urge to throw myself out on to the motorway.”

When Miss Thompson later tackled her GP about his lack of advice, he became very defensive. “He just mumbled about not having any training,” she says.

During his time as an NHS psychotherapist, Dr James Davies, co-founder of CEP, was amazed at how freely antidepressants were handed out. “People were being medicated entirely unnecessarily, when they weren’t suffering from mental-health disorders but from understandable, sometimes even necessary, human experience.”

Although official advice is to prescribe antidepressants in conjunction with counselling, in practice long waiting lists mean this rarely happens.

“It’s cheaper and quicker to prescribe antidepressants than investigate the root cause of sadness,” says Dr Davies. “The other problem is mental health practitioners aren’t introduced during training to the growing body of critical research on the drugs.”

Antidepressants enjoy global popularity (the World Health Organisation recently warned that antidepressant use in many countries had gone “through the roof”, with one in 10 people in Iceland taking the drugs), but they were invented only by accident, when scientists searching for a tuberculosis cure noticed, in 1952, that sick people became more cheerful after taking the anti-infection drugs they were developing.

No one understood how the drugs worked, but since mental illnesses were usually tackled through partial lobotomies, brain injections or the electroshock treatment recorded by Sylvia Plath in The Bell Jar, a straightforward pill was hugely appealing.

Over the following decades, drug companies explained that depression was caused by a chemical imbalance that drugs could cure. But this theory has never been proven. “These drugs create a chemical imbalance, which is why it is so difficult for patients to get off them,” says Prof Gøtzsche.

In fact, he says, there’s little evidence that antidepressants help anyone. “In cases of mild depression, their effect is small. Nice [the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence] recommends that antidepressants are not routinely prescribed for people with mild depression. But even in severe cases, research shows only 10 per cent of people will feel better than if they used a placebo.

“Some people ask me if I’m worried that by pointing this out people will decide to come off their drugs and become very ill,” he continues. “But I’m not afraid of that, provided patients taper off their drug slowly in collaboration with their doctor. What I’m afraid of is the harm being done to so many healthy people.

“Furthermore, there are case reports in patients and controlled experiments on animals that suggest that the drugs could perhaps cause permanent brain damage; we are currently studying this.”

Miss Thompson is still suffering. “Three years have passed, but the ringing in my ears has never gone away and I’m so much more anxious than previously about things that would never have once concerned me. But once you’ve survived withdrawal, you are just glad to be alive.”

Nine years after he began withdrawal, Henry estimates he is only 80 per cent better and has just returned to work.

“Last year, a psychiatrist told me it’s unlikely I ever had depression at all, I was just run down and needed rest. Because I innocently accepted my GP’s diagnosis, I’ve lost 20 years of my life,” he says.

Peaches Geldof, Elliott Smith and Paxil (Seroxat/Paroxetine)

Elliott Smith

Most people (in the UK and Ireland at least) will have heard by now about the tragic death of 25 year old Peaches Geldof. Peaches was the middle daughter of Irish musician Bob Geldof (of Live Aid fame) ,and after years of British tabloid coverage, plus a career in writing, modeling and TV, she was a celebrity in her own right. At the moment, we don’t know, how or why Peaches died, as her post-mortem results were inconclusive… but this brings me to the second tragic death that I want to write about: the musician Elliott Smith,

I came across the tragic musician Elliott Smith, in an article I was reading about Peaches Geldof. Apparently she was a big fan of his, and mentioned him several times in tweets before she died :


In the weeks before she died, Peaches Geldof revealed her admiration for an artist who committed suicide by stabbing himself through the heart after struggling with addiction to drink and drugs.


“The 25-year-old wrote movingly of Elliott Smith, an American songwriter who is thought to have killed himself at the age of 34 in California after enduring years of mental illness and addiction problems.


Miss Geldof, a prolific poster on the social media site Twitter, wrote how the critically-acclaimed musician had been inspired to write songs that arose from his mental anguish.


Her comments are certain to invite speculation about her mental state in the days leading up to her death. Her former publicist Ray Levine, responding to the news, said: “Peaches lived with a deep sadness from childhood.”


A month ago she wrote a lengthy post on the meaning behind Smith’s song “Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands”, which she described as “his most vitriolic song” about friends who sought to rescue him from drug abuse.


Elliott Smith had a history of depression, substance abuse and alcohol abuse. He was a troubled, sensitive soul, and he was obviously in a massive amount of emotional pain. He was also prescribed a massive amount of psychiatric drugs over his short life:

For several years, he had been taking liberal mixtures of antipsychotics, antidepressants, anti-anxiety agents, anti-seizure medication, amphetamine-based attention-deficit-disorder medication, antidepressant-based ADD medication, and narcotic painkillers.

He had reduced his prescription intake to five drugs: Klonopin, an anti-convulsant tranquilizer; Remeron, a semi-sedative antidepressant; Strattera, a non-stimulant ADD treatment; Neurontin, which treats partial seizures; and Adderall, a nice way of saying “speed.”


He was also prescribed Paxil (Seroxat/Paroxetine):


Friends staged interventions. There were hospitalizations. At some point, he told me, aided by Paxil, he simply willed himself back into the light with this personal mantra:

Things are going to work out and I am never going to stop insisting that things are going to work out.

Elliott Smith killed himself by stabbing himself in the heart. Depression does not make people kill themselves in these violent ways, but depression aided by psychiatric drug side effects does. It was not until the SSRI age that we saw such an inordinate amount of violent self harm, suicide, homicide etc amongst the depressed and anxious demographic. These drugs make you dream of violence, you literally sleep dreaming of violence, so imagine what they are like when you are awake?

From someone who has suffered from depression, and from someone who has also been prescribed psychiatric drugs (Seroxat/Paxil in my case) I can honestly say that it was very likely the psychiatric drugs that killed Elliott Smith. The medication merry-go round destroyed him. However, of course when someone famous dies, the media always focuses on the individual’s past problems with alcohol, illegal drugs, or the emotional disorder they were suffering from, their personalities, personal life, or their psychiatric diagnosis. Rarely, if ever, are the multitudes of psychiatric drugs mentioned as a possible cause, because these lethal drugs are legal. These drugs are prescribed by your doctor, and ironically, these drugs (and the companies that make and push them) are protected more by the law then you, or I, or anyone else… that’s the real tragedy

RIP Peaches Geldof.

and RIP Elliott Smith…




Take The Guardian Survey on Antidepressant Efficacy and Effects


Do antidepressants work?

The prescription of antidepressants is growing faster than for almost any other drug – in the UK and around the world – but the debate over their effectiveness rages on. Have you ever taken or prescribed antidepressants? Share your experiences anonymously in our online survey

Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft antidepressant tablets.
Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft antidepressant tablets. Photograph: Jonathan Nourok/Getty Images

Proponents say they save lives and help millions of people. Critics say the science is questionable. What’s unquestionable is that the use of antidepressants is surging around the world. In some countries, prescriptions have more than doubled in a decade. Around one in 10 European adults are estimated to take the pills. In the UK, The Health and Social Care Information Centrefound that more than 50 million prescriptions for antidepressants were issued in England alone last year, the highest ever number and a 7.5% rise on the year before.

The Guardian and its partners in Europe – Le Monde, El País, La Stampa, Gazeta Wyborcza and Süddeutsche Zeitung – want to hear from patients and doctors around the world about their experiences of taking and prescribing antidepressants. Responses to the form below will feed into a special report by our six newspapers planned for later this year.

To take part fill in the form anonymously below. Please only take part in the survey if you are over 16.

For further information about depression, or talk to someone about it, please visit Mind’s website http://www.mind.org.uk, or Mindfull for 11-17 year olds.

Are you over 16?
We can not accept submissions from people under the age of 16
  •  Yes, I am over 16
  •  No
Are you a doctor or a patient or both?
  •  I am a patient. Please go to question 1
  •  I am a doctor. Please go to question 13
  •  I am both. Please answer all questions
1. Name
You do not need to give your real name
2. Where do you live (town/country)?
3. Date medication first prescribed:
4. Brand and dosage:
5. Length of time taking antidepressants:
6. Describe how you came to be prescribed antidepressants:
7. Were you offered an alternative to medication?
8. Did you stick with the prescription:
9. How did you feel three months after you took the medication:
10. Describe the process of coming off the medication: was it easy? Were there side-effects?
11. Would you say antidepressants helped you?
12. How are antidepressants viewed in your country?
Can we use your answer for publication?
  •  Yes, entirely
  •  Yes, but do not use my name
  •  No
Contact details – will be treated as strictly confidential
You do not need to supply contact details. If you supply your contact details a Guardian journalist may contact you for more information
13. Doctors: Name
Please supply your real name. We will keep you anonymous but it will help us in confirming your status as a registered doctor.
14. Which country did you train in and which country do you now practice in?
15. Can you describe the process involved in deciding whether to prescribe antidepressants?
16. Can you describe the process in deciding which antidepressant to prescribe?
17. Do you have any formal training in psychiatry?
18. Do you ever feel under pressure to prescribe antidepressants? If so, why?
19. Do you offer patients alternative therapies ?
20. Do you believe there is a ‘prescribing culture’ in general practice in your country?
21. What support is available for people suffering from depression in your country and do you think it adequate?
22. How are antidepressants viewed in your country?
23. Contact details
Please supply contact details so we can confirm your status as a registered doctor