Drug withdrawal effects are real — (The Roanoke Times)

SSRI Ed note: Woman provides detailed account of the nightmare of withdrawing from Lexapro, notes that this real phenomenon is not believed.

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The Roanoke Times

Susanna Bingley

Bingley lives in Blacksburg and is a teacher.

I just read your article about Rodney Startz, the Radford man accused of killing his former girlfriend at a Wal-Mart (“Man blames shooting on pills,” Feb. 20). This man claims that withdrawing from the antidepressant Lexapro caused the irrational and volatile state of mind that led him to shoot another human being.

I stopped taking Lexapro six weeks ago, and I am here to underscore the seriousness of the effects of withdrawal from this drug.

While, of course, I don’t condone murder, I think people should understand that there is a syndrome called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors withdrawal syndrome. It one day may pertain to them.

An SSRI is a common type of antidepressant, and many people take antidepressants. Shamefully, doctors often seem comfortable with putting people on drugs, but have very little knowledge of how best to get them off those drugs. We, as a society, have rarely challenged that.

Coming off a drug like Lexapro results in weeks, often two months even, of effects similar to withdrawing from heroine or methadone, which patients often do in a medical facility under a doctor’s care. The difference with SSRI withdrawal is that it’s not taken seriously or even acknowledged.

Alongside a host of debilitating physical symptoms are psychological disturbances such as extreme nervousness and irritability, hallucinations, suicidal thoughts, impaired concentration and depersonalization (a sense of unreality or loss of self).

The corporations that manufacture these drugs purposefully keep us, the public, ignorant. They clearly stand to lose big by educating us about the horrors of withdrawing from their products, which are, in many cases, for temporary use anyway.

Drug companies’ Web sites typically offer little or no information on withdrawal, only that one should consult his or her physician before stopping a drug. But most physicians, including mine here in Blacksburg, are ignorant of what a patient experiences during withdrawal.

If a judge normally weighs a defendant’s state of mind during the commission of a crime, he or she would be horribly remiss not to learn about what SSRI withdrawal syndrome does to a person when that is a factor, and to consider that information in a sentencing decision.

In doing so, the courts will help society become more informed about all the drugs that circulate in our veins, and we might be better able to avert such tragedies as occurred when Startz shot and killed a former girlfriend.