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Deseret News

By Ann Blake Tracy 

Published: Monday, Sept. 23, 1996 12:00 a.m. MDT  

Recently a second youth was sentenced for contributing to the tragic deaths of two young women last summer because they provided alcohol to Laramie Huntzinger. Yet in the year that this case has been in the news, not one mention has been made of the very strong mind-altering effects and multiple combinations of the drugs that had been prescribed to this young man, even though these drugs contributed far more to this tragedy than the alcohol did.

Two years before this tragic accident Laramie, at age 14, had been prescribed Prozac. (Although this drug has never been approved for use in children or adolescents, doctors continue to prescribe it in these age groups – much as they once prescribed Prozac manufacturer’s “wonder drug” of the ’60s, LSD, to pregnant women because it was thought to be such a “safe and effective” medication.) As Laramie began to react to Prozac, his prescription was changed to a stronger Prozac-like medication, Paxil. We now know that both of these drugs accumulate in the brain at a very high rate – Prozac at 100 times the rate of blood – producing toxic brain levels and manifesting in adverse drug reactions.

We also know that any of these Prozac-like medications should not be used in combination, as this increases the possibility of a serious life-threatening reaction – the serotonin syndrome, with which few physicians are as yet familiar. But due to the high accumulation, especially in brain tissue as opposed to blood levels, taking these medications back to back can also produce this serious reaction.

Laramie’s prescription drug use did not end there. His medication was next switched to another drug in this same group, Zoloft. Now under the influence of three SSRI antidepressants, he was being given a Ritalin-like drug, Cylert, to produce some form of alertness out of the overwhelming stupor he must have found himself in due to the heavy overdose of the antidepressants.

And then to help him sleep, because all the other medications produce insomnia, he was given another antidepressant, amitriptyline, which greatly impairs one’s ability to operate a motor vehicle.

Recent studies demonstrate that Prozac magnifies amitriptyline by 10 times or greater and Paxil magnifies it by possibly 40 times!

If all this were not enough of a formula for disaster, recent studies indicate that increased serotonin (which all of these drugs do increase) produces cravings for alcohol. Clearly Laramie was incapable of functioning long before he took the keys to the car, headed for the party and reached for a glass of beer – which, by the way, had the least mind-altering effect of any of the chemicals he was using.

It should be obvious to anyone who does not have a financial interest in these drugs that Laramie Huntzinger, along with the two young girls who lost their lives that night, never had a chance.

The greatest honor we can pay to these young people is to learn from their deaths that we must stop drugging ourselves and our children into unconsciousness so that this tragedy is never repeated. Until we pull our heads out of the sand about our rate of mind-altering prescription drug use that is two to three times the national average, we will witness similar tragedies that claim more and more innocent victims.