By Hwaa Irfan
In 2002, the state of mental health worldwide reflected the developments of the 20th and 21st centuries. The increasingly fast pace of living, of being pushed onto treadmill that will not allow one to step off, and the overwhelming feeling of being out of control of one’s life are but the side effects of the dehumanizing experiencing of modernity for many.
Mental disorders once found mainly amongst adults are now found amongst children. The World Health Report, “Mental Health: New Understanding, New Hope” reported that 10-20 million children worldwide have one or more mental or neurological problems. The so-called ‘war-on-terrorism’ has done much to advance this situation, and the nature of the super powers thirst for control over the world resources as if we are running out of time. It is not only affecting those directly exposed to the destabilization strategies of the US, but also those physically safe in the West as a sense of a safe future dwindles spreading as the illusions of the current economic system wanes.
By 2002 over 450 million people worldwide have a mental or neurological problem, amongst whom 121 million have depression and 1 million annually commit suicide, 60% of which are a result of depressive disorders or schizophrenia (or maybe the antidepressants themselves). The World Health Organization report projected that depression will become the fourth leading disease worldwide by 2020 – in 2011, we seem to be on track.
Antidepressants and the ‘Side Effect Factor’
Tricyclic antidepressants were first developed in the 1950s. Second generation antidepressants, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI), currently represent 95% of prescribed antidepressants. Both tricyclics and SSRI drugs alter the chemical workings of the brain thus affecting the neuro-transmitters serotonin and noradrenaline. It is assumed that these drugs increase the activity of these neurotransmitters but no one actually knows how these drugs work. It is also assumed that fewer side effects are attributed to SSRI, the main reason why they are to largely replace tricyclics.
In the UK, 3 million prescriptions are given annually. In the US, SSRIs are commonly prescribed for depression, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD). The most controversial SSRI is Prozac.
A Lethal Remedy
The effects can be lethal as highlighted in the revealing study of psychiatrist David Healy from Wales, who looked at 20 healthy volunteers. Half were given Zoloft and the other half were given an antidepressant that does not target the brain chemical serotonin. After two weeks there was a switch in drugs. The SSRI recipients had become dangerously agitated and suicidal. After the two-week period, a 30 year old wife and mother became obsessed with the idea of throwing herself in front of a car. Even though Healy was surprised, he remained neutral on the subject and served as an expert witness in many cases gaining access to many company records of clinical trials.
In a civil action against Pfizer, the manufacturers of Zoloft, discovered an unpublished 1980 study in which healthy female volunteers were given Zoloft or a placebo. After four days, the trial was cancelled due to complaints of agitation and apprehension.
Healy was also a witness in the Forsyth case, which changed his position on SSRIs. The 61-year old father and husband, William Forsyth, retired in Hawaii after a successful life. Retirement proved difficult for him affecting marital relations. Marriage counselling helped until three years later when he became unsettled again. He was prescribed Prozac by a local psychiatrist. By the second day he felt terrible and put himself into hospital care. Still taking Prozac, he felt well enough to go home after 10 days. His grown son and daughter returned to find both parents dead in a pool of blood on the 11th day. Their mother had been stabbed 15 times and their father impaled himself. A year after the incident, there were 160 suits filed against Eli Lilly ranging from homicides and suicides to other forms of violence. Eli Lilly had engineered Zoloft for Pfizer.
Of the 160 cases, Lilly did not lose a single Prozac case. Now known as Fluoxetine, Prozac represented a third of all Lilly’s income. Some cases were dismissed and others ‘settled out of court’. It was not until 1999 that the suit against Lilly by Susan and Bill Forsyth went to court. They refused to settle. Susan commented:
“I know that with all their power and money I don’t have much of a chance but I have to try.”
The Forsyths argued on the basis of their observations that the company knew that Prozac psychologically hijacks the user. The worst effect of Prozac is an illness called akathisia described as a unique form of inner torture brought on by psychiatric drugs. Initial clinical trials, in fact, had warned of this illness as far back as 1978, 10 years before Prozac hit the market. Minutes from Lilly’s team revealed that:
“some patients have converted from severe depression to agitation within a few days. In one case the agitation was marked and the patient had to be taken off the drug. There have been a fairly large number of reports of adverse reactions.”
A letter sent to the company from the Committee on Safety of Medicines in 1984 stated that,
“during the treatment with Prozac, 16 suicide attempts were made, two of these with success as patients with a risk of suicide were excluded from the studies. It is probable that this high proportion can be attributed to an action of the preparations.”
In 1985, German authorities sold Prozac as Fluctin where warnings of possible akathisia and suicide were required on the packaging. Reports surfaced when Prozac was marketed in 1988. In the American Journal of Psychiatry two psychiatrists and a nurse observed that,
“two patients fantasized for the first time about killing themselves with a gun and one patient actually placed a loaded gun to her head. One patient needed to be restrained to prevent self-mutilation.”
These tendencies had in fact appeared soon after taking Prozac and disappeared soon after withdrawal. Within two years of marketing SSRIs, two types, fluvoxamine, and paroxetine, showed many side effects in the data from the Committee of Safety of Medicines. The problem becomes aggravated with co-prescriptions, a common practice in Australia. Using the database of the Australian Health Insurance Commission, 7252 people were found to have been prescribed SSRI and tricyclics. In some cases, both SSRIs and tricyclics were prescribed by the same doctor and 10% had more than one doctor.
These reports were disconcerting to Eli Lilly to say the least, and in 1990 the company feared bankruptcy if Prozac was withdrawn from the market. They were saved by the FDA investigation to which Eli Lilly gave handpicked data published in 1991. The study was rejected by the New England Journal of Medicine and the British Medical Journal accepted reassurances from Lilly that Prozac was safe. Despite all the internal reports that surfaced during the Forsyth trial, Lilly had won. By 1999, 2000 suicides by Prozac users were reported to the FDA and by 2001, Lilly announced another antidepressant, duloxetine, a non-serotonin selector.
An international team led by John Gordon, professor of immunology at Birmingham University, discovered this March that Prozac can stimulate the growth of brain tumors. Prozac blocks the body’s natural ability to kill cancer cells. These findings, however, are a result of laboratory tests and require clinical trials to confirm or deny them. They found that in test tubes, Prozac blocked the entry of serotonin into the tumor cells and prevented self-destruction of the cells. They had the same results with other SSRIs. So assume that if the brain neuro-transmitter serotonin is prevented from doing its ‘job’ on site, where is it being redirected within the body? If directed to the host, this would explain akathisia. Reporter Steve Connor of the Independent asked for a response from Eli Lilly who commented that,
“it is not something we can directly comment on because we haven’t been involved in it.”
Of course they dare not comment. This August, Eli Lilly was scheduled to lose its patent on Prozac which they have been fighting against in federal court. Meanwhile, their duloxetine works on three neurotransmitters instead of one and they are hoping to make up their loss on a new drug, Xigris, once again a first, this time for septic infections responsible for many hospital deaths.
Paroxetine brand name Paxil/Pexeva is another SSRI antidepressant tied to severe withdrawal complications and is also linked to birth defects. It is used to treat depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, anxiety disorder, post traumatic stress disorder (PSTD), ADHD, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Recommended to children and youth taking exams as a mood elevator, clinical studies found that some of the students experienced thoughts of inflicting self harm, or were planning to do so.
It can cause:
- Headaches, dizziness, confusion
- Heart defects
- Respiratory problems in the fetus and newborn
- Depression, suicidal thought, self harm, panic disorder, sudden attacks of extreme fear, social anxiety disorder
- Decreased libido
- Increased weight
- Tingling in extremities, musculoskeletal disorders, problems in movement
Paxil is another SSRI antidepressant for the treatment of depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, anxiety disorder, PTSD, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Paxil carries with the same set of side effects as above. Given to children, parents are advised to look out for any symptoms of adverse reaction including worsening depression, and suicidal thoughts.
Fluvoxamine brand name Luvox/Faverin is another SSRI antidepressant was approved by the FDA in 1993 for the treatment of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, social anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, and anxiety disorders. It alters the hormone level of Serotonin in the brain
Side effects include:
- Nausea, drowsiness
- Irritability, hostility, aggressiveness, hyperactive mentally or physically
- Anxiety, depression, mood swings, suicidal thoughts
- Respiratory problems in the newborn of mothers who take the medication
- Loss of appetite, weight gain/loss, constipation/diarrhea
- Sweating, fever
- Heartburn, arrhythmia, abnormal bleeding
- Muscular weakness,
- Sexual dysfunction,
Venlafaxine brand name Effexor is an antidepressant for the treatment of anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, and panic disorders. It is passed on by the mother to the newborn though breast milk.
Side effects include:
- Anxiety, restlessness, mood/behavior changes, panic attacks, impulsive behavior, hostility, suicidal thoughts/ self harm
- Problems sleeping
Desvenlafaxine brand name Pristiq is an antidepressant which affects both serotonin and noradrenaline hormonal neurotransmitters. It is a synthetic form of Venlafaxine used as a non-hormonal treatment for menopause, and major depressive disorder.
Side effects include:
- Dizziness, drowsiness, fatigue, general debility, convulsions
- Dry mouth, swollen face/lips/tongue/throat, headaches
- Skin allergies, epidermal necrologies
- Respiratory problems,
- Nausea, vomiting
- Profuse sweating
- Loss of appetite, stomach problems, serious weight loss, increased cholesterol
- Problems sleeping,
- Decreased libido erectile dysfunction, anorgasmia in men, male impotence
- Confusion, loss of concentration, restlessness, mood swings, depression, suicidal thoughts
- Arrthymia, abnormal bruising and bleeding
- Lowered immunity
- Problems urinating, liver dysfunction
Varenicline brand name Chantix/Champix is an anti-smoking drug with a high violence-inducing rating. First license in the U.K. in 2006, Varenicline is a Pfizer product that reduces the desire for a cigarette can lead to flatulence headaches, stomach upsets, strange dreams and vomiting. However, Varenicline can also lead to:
- Severe allergic skin reactions
- Respiratory problems
- Behavior changes
- Gastrointestinal complications
- Gall bladder disease
- Irregular heartbeats
- Memory loss
- Mental disorders, depression, agitation, emotional disorders
- Decreased libido, urinary retention, erectile dysfunction, sexual dysfunction
- Menstrual disorders
- Musculoskeletal disorders, renal failure
- Thyroid gland disorders
- Diabetes mellitus
- Suicidal thoughts
- Problems with vision
- Sleeping disorders.
Amphetamines, or Speed is a well known drug which acts as a psychostimulant. Brand names include: Dexedrine, Dextrostat, Desoxyn, ProCentra, Vyvanse, and Benzedrine.
It can cause:
- Respiratory problems,
- Swelling of the mouth face, lips, tongue
- Blurred vision
- Decreased libido
- Confusion, depression
- Irregular heartbeat
- Growth suppression, anorexia
- Emotional disorder
- Elevated blood pressure
- Gastro-intestinal problems
- Numbness or tingling in an arm or leg
- One-sided weakness
- Painful or frequent urination
- Severe headache
- Severe stomach pains
- Severe weight loss
- Uncontrolled muscle movement
- Unusual weakness or tiredness
- Problems with speech
Mefoquine/Mefloquine brand name Lariam/Mephaquine is an anti-malarial drug, and is used in the treatment of malaria. Developed by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, U.S. as a synthetic version of quinine. Approved by the FDA in 1989 the side effects can persist for years. Those side effects include:
- Visual and auditory hallucinations
- Panic attacks, psychotic episodes
The above side effects have been reported to be so debilitating that patients are no longer able to work.
Atomexetine brand name Strattera/Tomexetin/Attentin is a drug for young people and adults with Attention Deficit and Hyperactive Disorder, ADHD that affects the functioning of the hormone noradrenaline, a neurotransmitter. Produced by Eli Lilly and Company it was approved by the FDA IN 2002. Because it increases the level of dopamine in the prefrontal cortex of the brain it limits impulsive behavior, but the feeling it creates is one of euphoria making it liable to abuse, thus addictive.
The anticholinergic affect causes constipation, dry mouth and dry eyes. The antihistaminergic affect causes weight gain and tiredness. The alpha adrenergic affect causes changes in blood pressure and tremors. The tricyclic affect causes problems of arrhythmia. Side effects include:
- Suppression of appetite
- Problems with sleep
- Increased blood pressure
- Sexual dysfunction, erectile dysfunction, male impotence
Triazolam brand name Halcion/Hypam/Trilam/Apo-Triazo is a drug to treat insomnia. It contains hypnotic properties, which opens it up as an addictive drug. It affects the chemicals in the brain. When taken to stay alert for driving etc., there is no memory of the activity. The side effects include:
- Severe allergic reaction: hives, swelling of the face, lips, tongue or throat
- Birth defects, addiction or withdrawal problems in the newborn
- Accidental falls in the elderly
- Suicidal thoughts
Modern pharmaceuticals do not thoroughly test their products to the same extent that is expected of tried and tested herbal remedies, which have hundreds of years of practice. It is only a lack of knowledge that affects the efficacy of a herb, but it is the lack of rigorous testing that makes a modern drug disabilitating, and potentially lethal.
“Amphetamines Side Effect.” http://www.drugs.com/sfx/amphetamine-side-effects.htmlAnderson, Edward. J. “Systemic Review & Guide of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors”. Drugs 1999. 57:4 (1999) 507 -33. 2.
Apimall.com. ” Eli Lilly’s Profile”.
Connor, Steve. ” Scientists Find Prozac Link to Brian Tumors”. Science: Medical . Independent.co.uk. http://Corporatewatch.org. “Pfizer Inc.” Company Profiles .
“Lariam (Mefloquine) Info.” http://www.indiana.edu/~primate/lariam.html
Verenicline Side Effects http://www.drugs.com/sfx/varenicline-side-effects.html