By HOWARD FRANK
Pocono Record Writer
March 24, 2009
Marty Barbaros took his life less than two days after complaining he was denied a powerful antidepressant that could heighten suicidal thoughts if stopped abruptly.
Barbaros was found lying dead on his cell floor Sunday morning by a corrections officer during rounds. Just 27 hours before, at his arraignment on a second set of charges, Barbaros complained to District Justice John Whitesell he hadn’t received the medicine he had been taking for anxiety.
The drug, Paxil, is used in treating depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive and post-traumatic stress disorders. The maker warns against abrupt discontinuation of the drug, and close supervision under any dosage changes.
“It would not be uncommon that a discontinuation could be accompanied by suicidal feelings,” said Dr. Robert Morrow, a psychiatrist and staff physician with Pocono Medical Center.
Antidepressant discontinuation syndrome is associated with the abrupt halt of certain anti-depressants like Paxil. Flu-like symptoms, insomnia, nausea, imbalance, sensory disturbances and hyperarousal are typical, according to the American Association of Family Physicians.
“Four nights is enough to cause a discontinuation syndrome,” Morrow said.
Barbaros was arrested by police around midnight Tuesday, March 17. His arraignment was on Friday, March 20, when he complained to the judge. He was found dead in his cell on March 22.
Paxil, like Prozac, is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, part of a class of compounds typically used as antidepressants.
“You should gradually taper off to minimize the discontinuation syndrome. Paxil is more known to cause this than Prozac. It takes four to five days to completely clear out of your system,” Morrow said.
Prozac takes considerably longer.
A patient must first talk with the treating physician before discontinuing Paxil’s use, Morrow said.
“It’s a prescription drug. The antidepressants are potent medicines. People need to treat theses things with respect,” he said.