Preparing for 'pharmageddon'
Posted: Wednesday, June 15, 2011 6:00 am | Updated: 7:42 am, Wed Jun 15, 2011.
Carol Bordner wrote me from prison. She’s in the clink for attempting to blow away her husband with a .357 Magnum at their home in Mount Laurel.
At her sentencing last month (she got 10 years), Bordner told the judge that the prescription sleep drug Ambien had taken her mind for a “whirl,” and that she shot her husband in the head.
I wondered, in a previous column, if there’s something to what she said. This is based on personal experience with the drug Singulair. It’s rare that I even take aspirin. But when I was prescribed Singulair in April, I turned into a raving loon, flipping off drivers in traffic and snarling and shouting my way through the day.
When I Googled it and discovered that the side effects of Singulair include sharp changes in personality, I tossed the pills.
Which is why I don’t dismiss Bordner’s Ambien defense. She writes: “I’ve repented every day for not knowing I could be one of the few to experience ‘side effects from hell.’ “
About 20 percent of the American population pops prescription pills every day. I wonder how many Carol Bordners are out there? How many murders or attempted murders, or road-rage cases, or incidents of shouting, domestic abuse or general mayhem have resulted from the marvels of pharmaceutical science?
This week, the Guardian newspaper reports that some 30,000 Americans died last year from accidental overdoses and abuse of prescription drugs.
The feds told the paper that prescription drugs are causing Americans to die each year at a rate higher than the “black tar” heroin and crack cocaine epidemics of the 1970s and ‘80s combined.
Call it “Pharmageddon.”
Bordner, who is 67 and a grandmother, didn’t ask questions when she was prescribed Ambien by her doctor in Moorestown. She trusted his judgment.
“Since then,” she writes, “I’ve read that Ambien shouldn’t be given to senior citizens and shouldn’t be taken for longer than three weeks. I received my 90-day supply via telephone.”
Several readers called to tell me their horror stories from prescription drugs. A man said he had been prescribed Prozac in the 1990s, and believes it scrambled his brain and drove him to attempt suicide. He said he is a member of “Prozac Survivors.”
Prozac is the most prescribed antidepressant in America, but it has been linked to hundreds of suicides, a side effect of the drug.
“Did you know that airline pilots are allowed to take Prozac and still fly?” the man asked.
I didn’t. Swell. That’s all we need depressed but medicated pilots.
I asked the man what had depressed him that he required a drug.
“Life in general,” he said.
If this is all it takes to get a supply of mind-altering drugs like Prozac, no wonder 30,000 people died last year.
Road rage. Attempted murder. Suicide. As Carol Bordner writes, the side effects of prescription drugs can be hellish if you are prone to them. Here’s the copy from an Ambien TV commercial:
“When taking Ambien CR, don’t drive or operate machinery. Sleepwalking and eating or driving while not fully awake, with memory loss for the event, as well as abnormal behavior such as being more outgoing or aggressive than normal, as well as confusion, agitation and hallucinations may occur. Don’t take it with alcohol, as it may increase these behaviors. Allergic reactions, such as shortness of breath, swelling of your tongue or throat, may occur and in rare cases may be fatal. Side effects may include next-day drowsiness, dizziness and headache. In patients with depression, worsening of depression, including risk of suicide, may occur.”
Egad! Why do doctors prescribe this junk? How about suggesting a warm glass of milk, counting blessings, and reading Psalms or Keats or Dickens as a way to prepare one’s mind for a restful night’s sleep?
I know, it sounds silly. Pill popping is much more sophisticated and “scientific.”
But be prepared for your own Pharmageddon.