By Greg Wright.
4 March 1998
Prozac turned ‘loving husband into a monster’ says ex-wife whose family life was ruined by the drug. A mild-mannered man says he tried to murder his wife and grand-daughter after taking the “wonder” anti-depressant drug Prozac.
Albert Nicholson was a pillar of the Bradford community who had kept bouts of depression in check by using the anti-depressant Lithium. But within days of being advised to take Prozac by his GP he claims he became a violent, alcoholic bully who tried to kill members of his own family.
Mr Nicholson, now 56, has now stopped taking Prozac but has lost everything and is now under the care of Bradford Social Services. He is convinced the deterioration in his health was caused by Prozac and wants his story to act as a warning to others.
Mental health charity MIND said yesterday that it had received other reports of people wanting to kill themselves and members of their family after taking Prozac.
Supporters of Prozac say it is an effective treatment for depression which enhances the powers of serotonin, a chemical naturally present in the brain which governs mood swings.
Many of Britain’s 500,000 Prozac users say this chemical wizardry has cured a sweep of mental ailments, including depression, paranoia and eating disorders with few noticeable side-effects.
But Mr Nicholson’s ex-wife Maimi, 57, who lives in Undercliffe, Bradford, hates the drug. “It has been a horror story for the whole family,” she said.
“Before taking Prozac he had been a successful man with a wife, a house, four children and a good job at the Post Office as an electrical engineer. “He had been on Lithium all his life, but in 1989 his GP asked home if he would like to try Prozac. “Within three days it was having an absolutely horrible effect – it had changed his whole personality. He had been a placid, easygoing kind of person but was now violent and abusive.
“Once when I was walking on the pavement with my granddaughter Kirsty, who was two at the time, he mounted the pavement in his car and tried to run us over. We even hid behind a gate but he just carried on.
“He lost his job because when he went into work people complained about his breath because it smelled of alcohol and about his behaviour. I divorced him and his condition became even worse. He left home and became a down-and-out. Even though I am divorced from my husband, I still love him.
“Prozac is no wonder drug – it has destroyed all our lives. It turned a loving husband into a monster.”
Mr Nicholson, who now lives at the Summerfield Residential Home in Keighley, said: “Before I took Prozac I was OK, even though I had occasional bouts of depression.
“But after I started taking Prozac my whole personality changed. I became more aggressive and and started drinking more heavily. I even tried to run down my wife and granddaughter, although I have no memory of doing this. Prozac increases your confidence beyond the limits of what you are capable of doing. I felt super-confident – as if I ruled the world, but my whole life was falling apart.
“I stopped taking Prozac 18 months ago when I got really bad. But my life has gone terribly wrong since I started taking it.”
The family has lost touch with the GP who first prescribed Prozac for Mr Nicholson but they want other doctors to exercise caution when recommending the drug as a cure for depression.
A spokesman for MIND said: “We are not against the drug by any means but we think it should be used together with some form of counselling.
Use of the drug had increased by 700 per cent over recent years. It had gained a reputation as a personality enhancer and there has been concern about the widespread use of it because it may not be suitable for everyone.
“We have had cases of people who have felt suicidal after taking it. There was a woman who had suffered from mild depression for years and within three years of starting to take Prozac she felt suicidal and even felt like killing her own children in a suicide pact.”
A spokesman for Eli Lilly, the manufacturers of Prozac, said: “The safety and efficacy of Prozac has been thoroughly tested, evaluated and reviewed.
“Both the Committee on the Safety of Medicines here in the UK and the Food and Drug Administration in the US have cleared Prozac of any association with violent behaviour. In fact the evidence suggests that Prozac actually may lower levels of aggression.”