Be on the alert for antidepressants with unhappy side effects — (Rochester Democrat and Chronicle)

Original article no longer available

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (NY)

December 20, 1999

Author: Patti Curtin

As a nation, we have been shocked and confused by the string of bizarre murders and suicides in recent years.  Many of these crimes have been committed by people with no history of violence. Eric Harris (Littleton, Colo. killings), Kip Kinkel (Oregon school shootings), Brynn Hartman (murdered comedian Phil Hartman and committed suicide) and others all committed violent, shocking crimes. One link among them and perpetrators in similar cases is that they were all taking one of the popular antidepressants: Prozac, Zoloft or Luvox.
These drugs are prescribed for children and adults for mild depression and anxiety. The drugs alter seratonin levels in the brain, which is thought to have a beneficial effect on mood disorders. Unfortunately, we have been fooled into a false sense of security about these antidepressants by drug companies that value profit over moral responsibility. In truth, Prozac and the other antidepressants are powerful psychiatric drugs that tamper with the brain’s biochemical balance, and for many people, this can have devastating consequences.
The Physicians’ Desk Reference includes among the many common side effects of Prozac: agitation, abnormal thinking, sleep disorder, anxiety, confusion, nervousness, and headaches. Less common side effects include: hostility, paranoid reactions and hallucinations.  Rare side effects include antisocial behavior and suicidal thoughts.  The medical community and the multi-billion dollar drug companies know this. Yet, they continue to prescribe these medications for minor mood disorders, oftentimes to young children with developing brains.
According to a 1998 Washington Times article,  “from 1996-1997, the number of children ages 5 and under taking the most commonly prescribed antidepressants climbed from 8,000 to 40,000.” According to the same article, the FDA admits that  “only a handful of studies exist on these medications in children, despite stepped-up federal pressure on drug companies to test the products for youth.”  Clearly, no one knows the long-term ramifications of widespread use of these drugs, which is particularly concerning in regard to their use for children. So why are they still on the market?  I’ve asked myself this many times since I recently discovered that bizarre symptoms experienced by a member of my family for the past two years are directly related to his Prozac use.  This drug was prescribed for mild anxiety, but the drug’s ill effects far outweighed the initial benefit.  It was not until he tried to give up Prozac because of the serious side effects that we began to realize just how powerful a drug this is.
Symptoms began to develop: severe headaches, panic attacks, odd sensations in his head and stomach distress. He was experiencing withdrawal symptoms from abruptly discontinuing Prozac.  The doctors didn’t warn us that the dosage needs to be tapered off gradually because the body develops a dependence on the drug. Please, if you or a family member has had Prozac, Zoloft or Luvox prescribed for depression, anxiety, or other conditions, research these drugs thoroughly before taking them.  Depression and anxiety are common emotions, and often we just need assurance that we are not alone, and some strategies for coping with a difficult time. Doctors, patients, and most importantly the FDA, need to stop the doping and duping of America. Curtin lives in Webster.  Copyright (c) Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Gannett Co., Inc. by NewsBank, inc. Record Number:  roc9942094359492