The Dark Side of Antidepressants | Chris Kresser

The Dark Side of Antidepressants

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This week’s article in my continuing series on depression and antidepressants will examine the physiological, psychological and social consequences of antidepressant use.

Although these drugs are generally considered to be safe by the media and amongst medical professionals and patients, a close look at the evidence suggests otherwise.
Antidepressants have serious and potentially fatal adverse effects, cause potentially permanent brain damage, increase the risk of suicide and violent behavior in both children and adults, and increase the frequency and chronicity of depression.
Chronic use of antidepressants also promotes dependency on drugs rather than empowering people to make positive life changes, and places a tremendous burden on healthcare systems in the U.S. and abroad – but I will discuss those issues in next week’s article.

Physiological side effects

The adverse effects of antidepressants include movement disorders, agitation, sexual dysfunction, improper bone development, improper brain development, gastrointestinal bleeding, and a variety of other lesser known problems. These are not rare events, but the most significant harm comes only after months or years of use, which leads to the false impression that antidepressants seem quite safe.

More than half of those beginning an antidepressant have one of the more common side effects (Brambilla et al. 2005).

While some side effects may not carry serious health risks, others do. Gastrointestinal bleeding can become a life-threatening condition, and improper bone development in children is a serious problem that can lead to increased skeletal problems and frequent bone fractures as they age. It has been shown that serotonin exposure in young mice impairs their brain’s cerebral development (Esaki et al. 2005), and many researchers believe that the use of SSRI medications in pregnant mothers and young children may predispose children to emotional disorders later in life (Ansorge et al. 2004).

Another problem with the side effects caused by antidepressants that is often not discussed is the likelihood that additional medications will be prescribed to control them.

It is well-known that Prozac produces anxiety and agitation, so physicians often prescribe a sedative (typically a benzodiazapene) along with it. Since recent studies have shown that antidepressants cause gastrointestinal bleeding, doctors are starting to prescribe acid-inhibiting drugs such as Nexium to prevent this side effect. These drugs also inevitably cause side effects, which may lead to the prescription of even more drugs. (This is not uncommon, as I pointed out in last week’s article.)

Psychological side effects

Perhaps the best known psychological side effect of SSRIs is “amotivational syndrome”, a condition with symptoms that are clinically similar to those that develop when the frontal lobes of the brain are damaged.

The syndrome is characterized by apathy, disinhibited behavior, demotivation and a personality change similar to the effects of lobotomy (Marangell et al. 2001, p.1059). All psychoactive drugs, including antidepressants, are known to blunt our emotional responses to some extent.

Clinical studies of SSRIs report that agitation is a common side effect. When Yale University’s Department of Psychiatry analyzed the admissions to their hospital’s psychiatric unit, they found that 8.1% of the patients were “found to have been admitted owing to antidepressant mania or psychosis” (Preda et al. 2001). Agitation is such a common side effect with SSRIs that the drug companies have consistently sought to hide it during clinical trials by prescribing a tranquilizer or sedative along with the antidepressant. Studies by Eli Lilly employees found that between 21% and 28% of patients taking Prozac experienced insomnia, agitation, anxiety, nervousness and restlessness, with the highest rates among people taking the highest doses (Beasley et al. 2001).

From their inception, antidepressants have been recognized as having a worrisome capacity to incite changes between episodes of depression (characterized by dysphoria, insomnia, low energy, poor concentration, reduced appetite and diminished libido) and episodes of mania (characterized by euphoria, increased activity, rapid speech, racing thoughts, diminished need for sleep, hypersexuality and diminished impulse control).

Several reports suggest that SSRIs are associated with movement disorders such as akathisia, Parkinson’s disease, dystonia (acute rigidity), dyskinesia (abnormal involuntary choreic movements) and tardive dyskiniesia (Gerber & Lynd 1998).

These movement disorders are serious enough on their own. However, what is even more alarming is the potential for akathisia to induce aggression and suicide.

Akathisia, a condition of inner restlessness or severe agitation, is the most commonly occurring movement disorder associated with psychoactive drug use.

Akathisia-related violence receives specific attention in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Akathisia has been shown to increase violent behavior and suicide, and antidepressants are known to cause akathisia.

Suicide

After years of foot-dragging and thousands of excess suicides, the FDA finally admitted that “two to three children out of every hundred” could be expected to develop suicidal thoughts or actions as a result of antidepressant therapy (Harris 2004). The risk of suicide events for children receiving SSRIs has been three times higher than placebo. (Healy 2005). Amazingly, no bans or restrictions have been placed on their use in children in the U.S.

While the increased risk of suicide in children has become better known, most people are unaware that a similar risk exists for adults. When adult antidepressant trials were re-analyzed to compensate for erroneous methodologies, SSRIs have consistently revealed a risk of suicide (completed or attempted) that is two to four times higher than placebo (Healy 2005).

Turning short-term suffering into long-term misery

A growing body of research supports the hypothesis that antidepressants worsen the chronicity, if not severity, of depressive features in many subjects. Antidepressant therapy is often associated with the poorest outcomes. In a large, retrospective study in the Netherlands of more than 12,000 patients, antidepressant exposure was associated with the worst long term results. 72-79% of the patients who relapsed received antidepressants during their initial episode of depression. In contrast, only one of the patients who did not relapse received no antidepressants during or following the initial episode. (Weel-Baumgarten 2000)

Longitudinal (long-term) follow-up studies show very poor outcomes for people treated for depression in both hospital and outpatient settings, and the overall prevalence of depression is rising despite increased use of antidepressants (Moncrieff & Kirsch 2006).

Epidemiological observations have long held that most episodes of depression end after three to six months. However, almost half of all Americans treated with antidepressants have remained on medication for more than a year (Antonuccio et al. 2004).

Long-term effects of antidepressants

Antidepressants have been shown to produce long-term, and in some cases, irreversible chemical and structural changes to the body and brain.

The administration of Prozac and Paxil raises cortisol levels in human subjects (Jackson 2005, p.90). Given the fact that elevated cortisol levels are associated with depression, weight gain, immune dysfunction, and memory problems, the possibility that antidepressants may contribute to prolonged elevations in cortisol is alarming to say the least.

In a study designed to investigate the anatomic effects of serotonergenic compounds, researchers at Thomas Jefferson University found that high-dose, short-term exposure to SSRIs in rats was sufficient to produce swelling and kinking in the serotonin nerve fibers (Kalia 2000). Research performed by a different group of investigators showed that antidepressants can kill neurons and cause structural changes similar to those observed in Parkinson’s in rodents.

I want to emphasize that what I’ve covered here is only the beginning of the story when it comes to the adverse effects of antidepressants. There are volumes of published research and many books which present this information with much more detail. I recommend Peter Breggin’s landmark “Brain Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry” and Grace Jackson’s “Rethinking Psychiatric Drugs” as resources if you are interested in pursuing this further.

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  1. I dont right english very wel so sorry if my spelling is bad, my name is miguel i started having depresion 4 months ago.. Because of this my girlfriend left me, i droped out of school and things are really bad. One month after having panic attacks and anxiety problemes i went to a doctor, he gave me an antidepressant called rivotril, i started taking them then after a few weeks i knew that they were to strong, so i only tok them for a month and i got of them.. My anxiety and panic attackas never got any better … Im still preatty bad and i have no idea when all of this is going to go away.. I think im having side effects from the antidepressant because i feel dizzy, and i have nausea all day! Its all really hard for me because ive allways been a happy kid, i love partying and i had a lot of friends before all o this happened .. I just hope i can be normal again

    • Hi Miguel
      I also first experienced debiltating depression(anxiety) while in university (30 years ago). That started me on a journey of self discovery through psychology/therapy, which was very eye opening. I continued my journey in spiritual pursuits, which was even more eye opening. I now believe that depression is the soul’s way of telling you that something is wrong in your beliefs(about yourself) or the way your living your life and we should listen to that warning- NOT take drugs to mask the pain. I have learned to be careful what I am thinking about or meditating on and to listen to MYSELF- my true self- to get directions out of depression.
      God bless you and keep digging for the truth and most of all stay hopeful. You CAN overcome!
      CSC

  2. I’m against psychiatry. When I said expanding I meant tools for measuring brain activity and chemical in the Brain. Which gives credence to the expansion of neurophysiology and neurobiology. Disproving the discipline of psychiatry. I think psychiatry will become obsolete when professionals realize that brain function is a neuro problem.

  3. I was and have been on citalopram for 6 years. I can say with all honesty, it helped with my depression to some extent, but only while I was on them, so if it was correcting a so called imbalance or improving my neurons or helping my brain in any way, then why I am I all of a sudden 6 months off the drug and suffering depression once again? If they were so magical they would have fixed something

    I can also tell everyone that, I was not as bad before I went on them, now I am off them, I am worse much more. with increased anxiety.

    • Hello anonymous, first I have to ask if you’re a doctor? I was diagnosed with depression 16 years ago and have been on 18 or 19 different antidepressant drugs in that span of time along with other drugs to “enhance” the effect of the drug(s) I was taking. In addition I went through three and half years of psychotherapy. Like anyone who suffers from depression the main goal is to feel normal again. And because of that goal they will rely on anything the doctor gives them with the hopes that will be the result, normalcy. In my case, very little bloodwork was ever done yet I was told I had a chemical imbalance in my brain and that I would be on medication for the rest of my life. As I’ve come to understand depression, it can occur in anyone’s lifetime and may or may not need to be treated with medication. If treatment with medication is needed, upon seeing symptoms of relief a doctor should proceed to wean you off that medication to see if it’s something that truly is an imbalance. And I might note that the imbalance that I referred to has to do with the serotonin levels in your brain. What’s interesting is the scientists conducting the study which I believe you’re referring to state there is no evidence that depression is a serotonin deficiency syndrome. Furthermore, your comments state that SSRI antidepressants promote neurogenesis in the hippocampus which, to date, have not been validated. This isn’t to say that people with depression don’t need to take antidepressants, far from it. But they should also educate themselves on the various medications available, the side effects, the suggested length of time to be administered and pose questions to their doctors instead of just turning their lives over to drug. Once I started researching my issue with depression and started cognitive behavioral therapy, many things changed in my outlook and opinion on an antidepressant drugs. This started when I had to switch psychiatrists and my new psychiatrist immediately weaned me off or decreased the dosage of three quarters of the medications I was on at that time. That was approximately four years ago and have since stopped taking antidepressants altogether under my doctor supervision. I read in a previous post something about the use of antidepressants to treat depression versus antidepressants continuing the effects of depression and that I feel is a very scary prospect and was potentially what kept me on the up-and-down roller coaster for far too many years. The fact of the matter is that these medications haven’t been around that long and to my knowledge there are no studies that show what the long-term adverse side effects could be. Again, that’s not to say that people should not use medication in the treatment of depression, however the effects of overuse could cause irreversible damage. Even though I no longer need antidepressants, my life is not normal or rather the way it was before depression entered my life.

  4. I would like to say psychiatry is useful but not without the accompanying of neurology and infectious disease. But even from a purely psychiatric basis, you can’t determine solely by looking at someone that they should be put on an antidepressant. How can you thoroughly or indefinitely determine whether a person needs some type of medication to control a “chemical imbalance” in the brain that is if its organic if you don’t measure the chemicals or the displacement or depletion of chemicals or a diagnostic for monitoring and measuring neurophysiological impairment and to me psychiatry needs to join forces with neuroscience, in fact psychiatry is neuroscience to me. It involves the brain. But Chris is right, these drugs are complicated and it can mimic the symptoms you had before. Now I’m not satin we should do away with psychiatry if anything I’m calling for expanding it but with more accessible diagnostic tools for determining whether people actually need them. And that is where research comes in. Same thing with cancer. Think of all those people who couldn’t the follow up care to determine whether they had it or not. And then the type of treatment they receive. First thing you learn in medicine. Do no harm.

  5. Stogie,

    I would like to respond to your comment about Psychiastrists. Psychiatry and especially psychology are useful more so psychology then psychiatry unless its related to neurology. I find that before advancements inmedicine be it pediatrics to infectious disease, neuroscience and everything in between people were turning to psychiatry as an explanation for ilnesses An conditions they had not discoveredand have yet or are just discovering now. now there is the reality of psychological changes and fundamentally and even as an applied field that’s justified but I find that the medical community hastely turns to psychiatry for a variety of reasons. The first being a quick easy approach to treating someone without clinical observation or other clinical medical evaluations and avenues of approach in various specialities and body systems. Also I find the pharmecutical aspect to be a big reason. Also treating the piblic with antidepressants has become a way of avoding giving people proper medical care and treatment. its far easier cost wise to put someone on a drug like an antideressant that has nothing to do with their medical condition then it is to give that person extensive treatment. ive seen enough to know that we are now giving out antidepressants fir stomach aches and to young children especially then we are exploring the full extent of medicine. Thats not to say paychiatry isnt useful it is but making correlations with psychiatry neurological biochemistry and neurology and disease. In fact it can be said for allot of conflicts in medicine arise because we try to compartamentalize the body’s systems too much, and not accepting the fact that its all interrelated. Even in emergency situations. there is the ideological aspect, of control. Now there are a whole host of other reasons which then become more narrow and on a patient to patient basis. So my interpretation is that there must be a global view on the human body as well as a narrow view of the different systems and also a much more thorough investigation and inquiry into a patients causes an exposures. If someone leaves in a moldy house if say the chances of them developing a psychiatric or chemical deviation in the brain are great but what good is it if we’re drugging people without taking into account everything this person has been exposed to. From tick bites to undiscovered illness to diet. And that 9/10 we are exposed to so much that disease develops from infection and if related to the brain, and psychological symptoms or symptomatic coditions disease and conditions is responsible.

  6. Chris,

    I wanted to ask how I can remove my question or paraphrase it. I think expounded on your forum in too much detail about the extent of everything without sending you a private email an I realize people can read that on a public forum. I was recovering from a procedure and was in allot of pain and going over allot of exposures and my past experience with those medications. Can you delete it? Or is there a way I can delete it?

  7. Hi Doctor, Do you know much about the SSRI Citalopram? I was taking it for 6 years.
    Do you have much info about this drug? And its effects on the brain, body etc?

    Also Doctor do know much about the anti convulsive drug Lamotrigine? I was also taking this for over 5 years as It helped my Depersonalization disorder but I am not sure what damage I have done to my brain.

    I very worried about this long term damage I have caused from these drugs

  8. Chris,

    I am enjoying this series but I think there is some information missing, specifically what effects SSRIs have on the body, brain chemicals, hormones, etc. You are quick to discredit the drugs by comparison to placebos and to point out the negative side effects but you don’t discuss at all how these drugs work from a biochemical standpoint. I see you question the method of measuring how well they increase seratonin but you don’t explain what effects increases in seratonin would have on a person. I would love a more thorough overview of these drugs from your perspective but unlike most of your work this series seems to skip over the biochemistry part and jump straight to discrediting the drug on only a few points (placebo and side effects). It is obvious that you have a vendetta against antidepressants but you are usually better at presenting the whole picture/myth which is why I am having a hard time buying in to your conclusions on this topic.

    • There is no way to study the actual biochemistry of any psych. medicine-none and this is the issue. They have hypotheses but they cannot be tested. In physical sciences if a hypothesis cannot be tested it is of no use.
      All we know is that the drugs effect the brain. We have no idea why or how. Children should never be given these during brain development.
      Please investigate infectious and autoimmune neurology this makes more sense.) (P.A.N.D.A.S., alzheimers post mortem studies reveal infected brains –that we can actually see!!, also there have been cases of mental illness that cleared when antibiotics/antivirals were given for another infection — mental illness doesn’t happen for no reason and infection/autoimmune (other side of infection coin) is NEVER looked at by Pshychiatrists–b/c they know it is the cause.

  9. Robert,
    Weening off a psych drug has to be done very slowly! Believe me I lived through hell weening quickly off of Paxil after 14 years on the drug. Very painful experience-unbelievable! Your brain has to readjust to normal settings and this takes time. It effects almost every system in your body. You need lots of support/monitoring from family, friends and, if you have an understanding doctor that would help, but many doctors have no idea what the effect of drugs is in the long run (or the short run). Stay calm and do not overreact to withdrawal symptons and if you need to go back on meds and then ween more slowly, you should do it. God bless you and hang in there. CSC

  10. I can attest the truthfulness of the side effects of ADs because I’ve LIVED it. I innocently was first prescribed Prozac and a few years later Paxil for depression and then anxiety, when I was 28. That was 18 years ago. I gradually went from a highly intelligent graduate student in architecture to a complete IDIOT and almost homeless. It wasn’t until I came to my senses about 6 years ago and tried to get off of Paxil (very gradually) that I realiized that my brain literally could not function without it. I could not return to my old brain. After accepting this painful truth, I now am on the lowest dose I can manage and am functioning but I am NOT the person I used to be. Interestingly, when I reduced the dosage of Paxil, my cognitive abilities (that got me through a very difficult graduate school program) began to come back. However, I am nowhere near what I used to be. I miss myself…and so does my family. My memory is completely shot and I am crippled in my profession. I make all kind of excuses as to why I cannot remember this or that. Anyway, I am a survivor and will make the best of the life I have left to live and am committed to telling others about these horrible (evil) drugs. CSC

    • Zoe, I am so sad to hear your story:( you are so right with antidepressants being connected to brain injury- it is scary,I know because being on Effexor ruined my ability to concentrate,I have to really slow down when I read or the words get all combined,I have dizzy spells,vertigo and tremors in my body (un controlled movements) almost like Parkinson’s. It’s not fun living like this,and I will never let my doctor prescribe these again. They wanted to put my daughter on them just because she has stomach issues! They will prescribe them to “anyone” beware people,get thorough testing before you go on these.

      • Thank you for your empathy and thank God you are wise enough to steer clear of these drugs. My advice: do WHATEVER it takes to change your life so that you can cope WITHOUT brain-damaging drugs.
        God Bless
        CSC

    • Perhaps Prozac and even Paxil are not the right meds for you. You could still be depressed as well. Depression and anxiety manifest themselves in many ways. I have fought this battle for almost 20 years and recently had my 4th episode of major depression after 11years of remission. It’s been hell and I hate trying the different medicines but I hate feeling the bad even worse!!!

      • Hi DenDug
        I have learned through my experiences that the best chance one has of overcoming depression/anxiety is to face it head on with your fully functioning brain. Psychology/therapy was very helpful to me in digging into why/how a person come be overcome with this pathology. I always suggest digging deeper to find the TRUTH. Sometimes we have been so damaged by childhood or adult experiences that we have to retrain our beliefs about ourselves and RADICALLY change our lives in order to overcome. It is a BATTLE but I know it can be overcome without succumbing to brain damaging drugs. Also helpful for me was my spiritual journey and discovery of God/Source/Universe(whatever works for your own soul). When I realized that there was a higher being that loved and cherished my true self that gave me even greater strength to not feel I had to conform/alter myself, which was causing me great psychological pain: i.e. depression/anxiety. Unfortunately I learned that after years of using these drugs and the damage was done. But I have faith in God/Goodness and the Universal truth: “No pain, no gain”. And the lessons I’ve learned I am committed to telling others about.
        God’s blessings to you and prayers for your success/victory in your journey friend- keep digging!
        CSC

        • For what it’s worth, all of the downsides of your experience with antidepressants match my experience of depression. For me, personally, “facing it head-on” has been a total bust–something I have tried and failed at for the better part of a decade. Not that there aren’t incremental improvements to be made; there are, but those tiny improvements barely scratch the surface compared to how I’ve felt with a combo of a radically changed diet plus a low dose of prozac.

          And I tried going off the prozac after a bit, hoping that the diet alone was enough, but that didn’t prove to be the case. The combo is what works for me–what gives me *myself* back. I know exactly what you mean about missing yourself, because that’s how I feel untreated. This is not to negate your experience, but merely to say that there is a wide variety of experiences, and we are all different.

          • Hi Erin,
            I respect your truth/experience. I would only re;y that sometimes it requires a massive paradigm shift in beliefs through education and seeking Truth in order to radically change your beliefs and therefore combat persistent depression. In many cases, when one looks at one’s life, it actually would be “crazy” to NOT be depressed. For me depression is an alarm…”Warning, Warning, something is very wrong!” Drugs are the the easiest answer but again, I also understand the devastating pain of deep depression. I came to a point that I literally looked at depression as an evil enemy that HAD to be conquered. I was going to find the truth if it killed me. I hope/pray the best for you and your journey, but I feel it is a moral duty for me to tell my story and what happened to me. Nothing is worth damaging the brain permanently in my opinion.
            All the best to you,
            CSC

        • Zoe,
          You have it right. Life is supposed to be hard and the answer is to work through life’s challenges without the use of drugs whenever possible. Cognitive reasoning and spirituality are the answer to life’s challenges. I have a daughter who was once upon a time a brilliant person and her mother put her on Prozac at an early age. It changed her in a dramatic way. She has been emotionally damaged by the use of this drug. She went from being brilliant with a bright future to an emotional cripple. She is now barely able to function. I tried to get her off of the drug but the next thing I knew my ex wife had gotten both my daughters and herself and new husband on prosac. I am saddened by this terrible turn of events. Drugs like Prozac should only be prescribed to people with severe depression and not given as a quick an easy fix for people who are going through a rough patch in life.

        • Good for you for working hard to find natural healing. I used the Dr. Abrams method to get relative off the physch drugs, then the alpha-stim to complete the healing. NOw I am looking for a cheaper model of the machine

    • Hi Maisy Mae,
      I’ve been working an unbelievable schedule so not able to check emails till now…sorry I am not responding till now. I am so sorry to hear your story. Believe me I KNOW exactly what you’re talking about. I felt like Rip Van Winkle when I started my slow wean off antidepressants (still on an extremely low dose out of necessity now, as noted in my post). It was a surreal experience. Evil, evil drugs. However, I was DETERMINED not to lose the rest of life, once I realized how much damage the long term use had caused, and to salvage what I could. My goal now is to INFORM as many people as possible of the reality/truth of long term use of these drugs. It is absolutely RECKLESS for medical practitioners to be prescribing these drugs to depressed (or mildly depressed) people, or for any other reason. It’s like the “expert” who knows “just enough to be dangerous”, with all kinds of unintended consequences that the patient has to survive. I think that the American public is decades away from the full realization of what I now KNOW. I hope/pray that you will be hopeful and take care of yourself from now forward and continue to spread the WORD. Perhaps this is your one of your life purposes, to experience something as horrific as this in order to warn others??
      Take care and God bless you,
      CSC

    • Zoe,
      I’m am so sorry to read your post yet I feel I am now not alone in the belief that the medications I took to help me have only made things worse. Perhaps through sites and posts such as yours will people start to surface and the real issue of “legalized addiction” be addressed.

  11. I am not at all convinced that your conclusions are sound. Your comments are anecdotal and may or not be a fair representation of the cases you discuss. I take Zoloft and have not experienced any mania whatsoever, and the drug eliminates my anxiety, it does not agitate it. I think you are reacting to either very small percentages of adverse reactions in proportion to the whole, or there are other factors involved besides SSRI’s.

    A group of highly qualified psychiatrists from places like Harvard discuss the benefits of SSRIs and rebut a lot of the alarmist claims here:

    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2011/aug/18/illusions-psychiatry-exchange/

    • I’d like to point out that my hospitalization was due to being ordered to stop effexor immediately by a supposedly “qualified psychiatrist” because he decided one day that he wanted to switch it out with welbutrin. As you can imagine, my trust in “highly qualified” psychiatrists is pretty much non existent. They’re kind of like highly qualified philosophers. Qualified in what, you’re not exactly sure… but hey, he’s got a Ph.D. hanging on his wall so he must know everything, right?

    • Stogie,
      May I ask how long you have been taking your antidepressant??? I’m not negating it’s effectiveness for you but there are massive gray areas when it comes to the dispensing of antidepressant drugs and the length of time which they should be used.

    • Harvard psychiatrists are part of the psychiatric – big Pharma axis that profits from expanding the myth of mental illness and its lucrative treatment in drugs they push. No one is going to do studies that matter because drug companies that fund them aren’t interested in research that could destroy this business and most career conscious doctors and researchers want to toe the line. The mass of anecdotal evidence is building and the truth is coming out of a huge medical fraud that has literally ruined lives and without doubt wrecked and lost more lives than have been saved. Only a tiny percentage of people need these drugs, the truly suicidal, delusional, psychotic and dangerous, most even those “depressed” need help but not drugs. The drugs are a win win for doctors and drug companies, if they seem to work it’s because the person was going to get better with time anyway (plenty of research that they have no effect on lifting depression beyond placebo and the passage of time) and if they make things worse, then the patient gets more diagnoses or it’s all down to a worsening of a condition that didn’t really exist in the first place. I have seen enough to evidence if this now and been through it myself. Keep taking the drugs if you want but realise that you could very easily wind up dead as a result. Or worse, homeless, penniless and in jail because you went on a manic spree and when you come off the drugs you will know what caused it – and there will be people like you now that you tell who as you do now, simply won’t believe it. But it happens. Look at these people who’ve killed their kids and friends who never would have done anything like that if they weren’t being treated with powerful mind altering drugs.

        • There is no mental illness so deep as that experienced by the brain destroying effects of Prozac and Zoloft. Lucky for me I survived a life changing event in the form of an hours long argument with myself and the end of a gun I had pointed at my head while on a mighty prozac depression lifting (sic) two week after start episode, that the PTSD that resulted from that life experience finally kicked in enough for me to totally rebel against the entire system and say NO, or I and perhaps others would be possibility dead from SSRI poisoning. The thing is, I had to actually fight the system when I said NO even though it was the very system that said YES to lies that allowed the Prozac SSRI torture and destruction of my brain and life to begin with.

          What are the long term effects of the poisoning?

          How can anyone trust the medical society when they push this poison on children, even by threat of legal action in some cases?

          • I’m so sorry this happened to you prozac survivor. How are you now?

            I STILL have severe 24/7 akathisia a year after going on citalopram and now have severe withdrawal syndrome on top after going in more drugs. I tried to reinstate unsuccessfully and have been completely med free for 3 months. I’ve been in acute withdrawal for almost 7.

            I really would like my life back now.

      • Actually, there is evidence that the antidepressants don’t really work. Only in the severe depression was there any difference at all between pills a placebo. (even in those cases the amount of improvement was not really very great) I took the stuff, and I feel like it made me worse. I was kept on it for years. I finally stopped listening to the psychiatrist and pitched the pills. I have been fine for almost two years. Getting off the stuff was h*LL. I am so proud. I find it strange that I have completely recovered from my “incurable” genetic depression. hmmmm

  12. I agree with Anonymous. There are many who are quick to bash the use of antidepressants, as well as medication in general without any empirical evidence. These are usually the people who do not know how debilitating depression can be. If it not were my antidepressants, I would be unable to get out of bed, wash or feed myself. With the help of modern medicine, I am able to function as a productive member of society, make sound decisions, and carry on a meaningful life. Just because a substance is “unnatural” does not mean it’s bad for you; conversely, just because something is natural doesn’t mean it is good for you. Arsenic is natural, and so is lead. Without the assistance of these “evil pharmaceutical companies”, I would be in an institution. And also, I am not a “sheeple” type. I am a medical professional myself.

        • Just so you all know- empirical evidence is fairly easy to skew.

          They call it ‘statistics’.

          I know because I study this at the PhD level.

      • The big pharma alarmists have an even more sided view. They think everyone should be on a cocktail of their dangerous mind-robbing drugs.

    • Thank you. Excellent comment! I, too, am able to function well in society and in my personal life because of Lexapro. Without it, I would probably have killed myself. The dark veil of depression is horrific.

    • I was put on antidepressants and antipsychotics as early as age 6 due to a visit with a psychiatrist as the result of a divorce. Up to age 17 I was prescribed almost everything in the book, and was hospitalized due to withdrawal symptoms on one occasion. My doctor retired and the doctor that replaced him was able to ween me off of everything. I can tell you that I am a different person without them. It was difficult initially and my moods were very unstable for a few months after, but looking back it was worth it. I can feel things. In the beginning it was amazing because I had honestly forgotten what it was like to feel human. Yes, I have been depressed since. It happens. Life happens. But I’d rather be depressed occasionally with a legitimate reason than depressed all the time and not know why. The feeling of not being truly in control of your emotions is terrifying. I felt terrible on the medication… all the time. My entire childhood was consumed by it. I slept all the time, never felt like doing anything. I barely made it to school. I’m just glad I was strong enough to get through the withdrawal symptoms. Alot of people end up hooked for life. I think the reasons behind my negative view of these substances are more than justified and I have more than enough experience to back them up. I have medical records (that I have copies of) That do not state a diagnosis but provide a record of medication prescribed. I was a child. What was done to me was wrong both ethically and scientifically. I’m lucky that I was able to learn to cope with life as well as I do, since I grew up strapped into an emotional wheelchair of sorts. And they wonder why more and more adults can’t deal with the stress of daily life. I understand that there are people that may legitimately need this stuff, but there are many who are on antidepressants that don’t need them. And it doesn’t take a medical professional to figure out basic chemistry concepts. When you screw with chemical balance in a person’s brain and the person’s doesn’t have a prior imbalance, it’s going to throw everything off kilter. There needs to be more preliminary testing before the prescription is written. And I mean real, concrete, science based testing with real results; Sitting there at a desk and nodding as you say something along the lines of “well since you’re sitting in my office crying because your dog died yesterday you’re obviously clinically depressed” doesn’t count.

      • Thankyou Ash for your strong advice against these drugs. My doc doesn’t think twice of putting me on depressants. Once I was on Effexor and I just about lost my mind,seriously.. I felt like I was going crazy. I was only on it for a month,due to “feeling like i was phyco” then when I withdrew from them I had “zappy” sensations threw my body for two months after. I’ve had vertigo ever since-it’s been 12 years!! I’m not the same. I was put on Effexor due to my dads death,I couldn’t cope. But now I would never go back on them no matter how hard life is,I will deal with my problems head on,not being in control of your emotions or body movements is a feeling of helplessness that doctors take lightly. These drugs can throw your body chemistry off like you said- everything you said is true. I hope your feeling better,you are a VERY strong person for what you have been through. Thankyou for your post, very helpful

      • Bravo! It is truly amazing how similar our stories are.
        I was doped up on everything in the book too, starting at age 6 or 7. My mother was bi polar and scared me to death, shouting, shrieking, crying…I reacted like any vulnerable child would. My mother took me to a shrink (LOL) and I was given just about every thing ever invented for `depression.“ This was 1972. I was on all these drugs for years after as I was a minor…ritalin,lexapro,thorazine,paxil,neurotriptoline, vistaril,prozac,elavil,navane, tofranil,etc.etc. Long term—years of use. I later developed extreme headaches that would not respond to normal doses of aspirin and came close to accidentally overdosing on aspirin and pain relievers more than once because of the extreme headache pain! I worried so much that my wife would deliver our kids with brain damage or defects. THANK HEAVENS all my children are happy and healthy and nothing happened to them as a result of me being abused involuntarily with countless medications.Sadly, I am now a cancer patient, but I do not believe it is because I was fed a diet of poisonous drugs as a helpless child responding to a frighgening, abnormal environment.

      • First I have to say the fact that people are talking about this is the most important thing and I don’t believe any comment posted here can be wrong or right. By that I mean we all suffer in different ways. Some are helped with medication while others are not. I have been on antidepressants and other medications indicated to help the others I was on for over 14 years. Am I better now??? In one word…NO. Over the course of these years I was prescribed just about every drug to treat depression. Sometimes I would take one for 6 weeks with little or no results and then on to the next one. Some helped for a couple of years but then stopped working. I was told at the time of my diagnosis that finding the right medication might take years and 14 years later I’m still waiting. I’ve had debilitating episodes lasting weeks to months and I have had a year or two where I thought I was back to my old self. I guess the issue I want to raise is the ease in which these medications are prescribed and the length of time they truly need to be used not to leave out what the potential long term effects might be. Are doctors over medicating people…in my case I believe that true. As I have been researching everything now related to depression I find I’m getting more angry due to the lack of real medical data that addresses these issues. Please understand, I’m not saying that there’s not a benefit of medication for many people. My question is more related to the fact, from what I’ve found, that in many cases medication is not meant to be a long term solution but when used as such appears to be more harmful than good.

      • I was also given a med as a preteen w no testing. As a result I have struggled for about 2 years on several meds that ended me in hospitals. I finally withdrew but there seems to be short term memory loss, I am angry that I lost so much of my teen years and just want my life back. I feel like the meds were frying my brain.

    • ok those people Antidepressents work for. how long have u taken them and have u ever tried to stop.Ofcourse many pyscho active substances can seemingly help or mask symptoms in short term ie. opaites,cocaine,meth.Letme know how u feel after 10 years daily use.And if i told u all i gotta do is take some oxycontin to cure my depression i would be an addict? But i never touched opiate b4 taking prozac for acouple years only to be told oh now ur bipolar u got take antipyschotics.LoL It all comes down to the reality that most likey ur doc knows almost nothing about what is wrong and is guessing what to give u based on what works for others from what statistics? Ofcourse everyone has the same brain chemistry so that all makes perfect sense? Anyways there’s to many variable in the equation and no definite proof of anything.Ofcourse none they would admit to because that would halt their multi billion dollar legal drug dealing bussiness.The lack of or proof of effectiveness is one sided and they only use it to support what they want. Anyways some people are preceptive enough to notice increasing severity and amount of symptoms after taking or trying different meds.while others maybe never put it together and believe what their doc tell them wether it is lies or just the lies they have been taught.But what would i know im just a idiot junkie? Anyways at this point for me it really doesnt matter. i am screwed any way i go.I have used up all of the what would be considered the easy ways out.when really the easy way out or quick fix was to not take anything to begin with.So now one route left death and if it easy id done it along time ago.I just wish the doctors i went to didnt hand them out to me like they were no more dangerous then a sugar pill.And i am sure i am not the only one.They are potentially very dangerous the same or more then any other pharmy and the medical comuniity and public needs to reealize that.Nowadays they hand them out for every condition under the sun.As if it wont cause all kinds of problems.just like any normal person taking up using/abusing crack isnt gonna cause future problems.

    • If these pharmaceutical companies are making these “medicines” for the greater good and help people.

      Why then are there products being released with no low dose options for the aid of tapering of after they are no longer needed? I am referring to the likes of Pristiq which has serious withdrawl affects but only comes in a high dose of 50mg or 100mg with no real research into how patience can withdraw from these medications safely and easily?

    • Actually, there is evidence that the antidepressants don’t really work. Only in the severe depression was there any difference at all between pills a placebo. (even in those cases the amount of improvement was not really very great) I took the stuff, and I feel like it made me worse. I was kept on it for years. I finally stopped listening to the psychiatrist and pitched the pills. I have been fine for almost two years. Getting off the stuff was h*LL. I am so proud. I find it strange that I have completely recovered from my “incurable” genetic depression. hmmmm

      • Hi,
        Did you experience significant side effects? Do you have any persisting ones?

        I have stopped my ssris on 2 occasions with no improvement in sexual function….

        Best,
        Alex

  13. This great information, I hope your message is received. I am just an ordinary person who’s watched her family (sister, niece) deteriorate from drugs. I believe the long term use of Psychiatric Medications (and migraine medicine) is the cause. However it is too late to convince them and may be too late for them to pull out of it to live a normal life. My sister cannot work anymore due to joint, foot, and back pain and has sicne been diagnosed with Pageants Disease too. Her daughter (on anti-depressants as an adolescent) went to a gifted High School and studied foreign langue. After one semester of college (also studying foreign langue) had a mental break down and now is 20 and acts like an 8 year old now still trying to recover from it. Does not go to school, does not work, and instead stays at home and plays with toys. I don’t know how much we can do to get this message across but would be willing to help if I knew how. Preventative medicine, diet, exercise, and vitamin/herb therapy is the safest way to begin treatment of many mental and physical ailments.

    • What preventive medicine? Aren’t you suggesting another drug? Where would someone get vitamins and herbs? Who could tell which ones and how much to take? You do know they are not regulated and it appears to me I wouldn’t have a clue what it is.

  14. Thank you. This is quite a helpful post. But lacks credability. It is very easy to generalize when talking about psychiatric drugs and their side effects. But the fact that so many millions of people find them useful and improve their quality of life mean that you need to qualify broad statements with more quality evidence and be specific and inclusive. For example, the experiments on mice were using doses of antidepressants 10 times that used on humans. In fact, it is now known that antidepressant drugs promote neurogenisis in the hippocampus and this has been suggested as the reason why antidepressants commonly take 4-6 weeks to work fully even though they raise synaptic serotinin levels within hours or days. Perhaps a more balanced view including all data and accurate statistics would be more useful for everybody since antidepressants are not going to go away in the near future and are very useful. Have you ever suffered from depression? It doesn`t sound like it. Show me the good quality evidence base that accupunture works for depression… There isn`t any..

    • Thank you for saying so eloquently my exact thoughts – there are a lot of holes in this study, including the fact that people taking higher levels of antidepressants are more likely to have more severe symptoms – how is it possible to differentiate between depressive symptoms and depressive symptoms apparently caused by antidepressants?

    • “Have you ever suffered from depression? It doesn`t sound like it.”

      One of the hardest things about being clinically depressed is that most people don’t understand the depths of agony it brings so they criticize the fact that some people do actually need antidepressants to help them. Not to say that people without MDD have never felt depressed, as it is human emotion, but it is ENTIRELY different. Its hard to accept the fact that I really do have a disease for this very reason– most of society just cannot understand. I would rather live a short, normal, and “happy” life on antidepressants than a long, miserable one without.

      • I agree with you, I have been on antidepressants for a very long time. I am someone who never likes to take anything for a head ache. I have tried multiple times to get off them but It just doesn’t work for me, the feeling of being depressed is miserable and know I would at anytime prefer to live a short and happy life than a miserable one. Antidepressant have given me my life back, and I am able to function on a daily basis. The feeling of being happy and enjoy the day, is priceless.

    • There’s no “balanced view” of an industry that admits itself to being one of the leading causes of death in the US. Neither is there a “balanced view” of a drug that advertises one of its side-effects as “thoughts of suicide.” In contrast, how many have died or suffered from health supplements or alternative therapies? One drug alone killed 50,000 before it was pulled from the market. Vioxx is the tip of the iceberg.

      US Healthcare Third Leading Cause of Death
      http://bit.ly/18UQDTH

      It stands to reason that if a mind-altering drug can predispose someone to killing themselves, it can also manifest thoughts of killing others, and there’s no shortage of evidence to back this claim. Certainly, some patients do improve on antidepressants, but for how long? The vast majority of drugs only suppress symptoms — they do not cure. Often a change of lifestyle or diet can greatly improve the health and well-being of a troubled mind. Invasive drug therapy should be a last resort instead of the first line of defense. We don’t need more studies. We need to start holding the drug pushers accountable for their actions.

      Antidepressant Drug Warnings
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDUjCE-b-rU

      International Coalition For Drug Awareness
      http://www.drugawareness.org

      • Antidepressants aren’t meant to be a “cure,” nor are they meant for long term use. You said a change of lifestyle or diet can greatly improve the health and well-being of a troubled mind. I believe you are vastly oversimplifying the issue. These methods are ineffective for many people with Depression, especially those with severe symptoms. And moreover, how are you supposed to find the will to make major lifestyle changes when one of the primary symptoms of Depression is a loss of motivation? I highly doubt that you’ve experienced severe Depression personally, or you wouldn’t be making these rash statements. Antidepressants are useful because they make it easier to move towards these types of changes. Antidepressants may potentially increase the risk of suicidal thoughts, but the patients that are prescribed these medications are usually already suicidally depressed. It’s a risk-benefit consideration. Chemotherapy is horrible for the body, but would you discourage everyone with cancer from using this type of treatment? Something worth thinking about.

        • Hello Anonymous,

          While I respect your arguments and that you are living with a depressed love one or that you are depressed yourself, I have to ask you what it means when a shrink tells you or your loved one that, while you may have thought you would be able to get off of the drug, in actuality you will need to be on it the rest of your life because the chance of remission is so high.

          That argument is at the very least self-supporting, and I think this article is trying to address the issue that people who do stay on these drugs, for however long, gradually seem to become worse off. Agreed: living on the drug is 1000% better than feeling suicidal, but the drug is NOT going to fix the depression, merely to enable one to better COPE with it.

          .. I’m sorry but why are so few people who are depressed interested in moving beyond the drugs? Certainly they did not intend to stay on those substances their entire lives? Many people I love and care about are on these substances, for better or for worse, and I fear for their longevity because the system is stacked against letting people know just how much misinformation and commercial bias there is out there. It is in the drug companies’ best interest to get as many people as possible taking the drug- same story as with ADD. Yeah I know, suicide and ADD are very different. I agree– too bad the companies don’t see it that way.

    • Hello anonymous, when I was 12 y/o my pediatrician prescribe me antidepressants I just took them for several months, when I turned 16 my gynecologist prescribed me Prozac , which I took it for the first 2 years of medical school, then doctor switch to sertraline this one I took it everyday just one and a half year off during pregnancy . Now I am 34 y/o, a year ago I started having movements problems, as a foreign graduated medical doctor I was worried because I had what in the medical field is called myoclonus, it was so bad that the involuntary movements wake me up during the night every 5 minutes … I couldn’t sleep was a nightmare, I proceed and go for a cranial MRI, the results where so unexpected , they show cerebral cortex atrophy, I was 33 and have a brain of a 75 year old women, immediately I book an appointment with a neurologist and he told me , that kind of atrophy was seen in drug addicts, I was shocked because I never did any recreational drugs, I have never smoke and just take a glass of wine in the
      holydays, I always been trying to eat healthy and have a daily run… I knew that the only thing I have been taking strange to my body or chemical was my daily sertraline, in that moment I stopped taking it hoping the myoclonus stopped to, thanks God the movements started to diminish, I took six months to totally disappear, now my problem is the memory loss . The dosage I took was 50 mgs.not even the 100 mgs. It was small dose … I am just telling you this because even doctors didn’t realize the hazardous potential of this medication, I would never give any long term antidepressant to my family, if it’s really bad the moment they are going through I prescribe exercise lots of exercise in order the brain start generating endorphins by itself.

  15. And what about the GI bleeding? I had severe gutaches with Candida, thought it was cured with a year of nystatin, but my digestion has been worse and worse ever since and I am only able to eat few foods and digest few supplements. How do you know if you have GI bleeding?
    I didn’t realize at the time (08) when I quit Effexor that the panic walking I had which resulted in Plantar Fasciitis was from withdrawal. My depression did not change except perhaps to get worse. I think I need a lot of a variety of hormones to try to get better.

  16. After years of migraines (from The Pill), then quitting smoking, severe Candidiasis, hypoglycemia, severe depression, type 2 diabetes, at least a decade of antidepressants including Effexor, I awoke in 2000 with severe incapacitating chills. After several years (normal TSH) I was finally able to get enough thyroid desiccated hormone to bring my Free T3/T4 to the top of the range and start on bioidentical hormone replacement. I still have low temperature (average 95.5 am) and chills and severe depression. I quit Effexor about 3 years ago when it seemed more negative than positive. The low thyroid I thought was from many things BUT if it’s from antidepressants is it permanent? Can anything be done to repair the damage? Thanks.

  17. I’m having psicological and psysiological symptoms some of the ones you write of Effexor withdrawal, i’m now with 18 g I started taking last november with 2 capsules, but i had two other epiodes of depression with cold turkey in last 2 years.
    I don’t like how antidepressants change my power and self confidence.
    I was doing acupuncture for the last two monyhs but i had to quit because i felt going crazy.
    A Ph. Dr. told me about a supplement with Griffonia simplicifolia extract, quelate magnesium, malic acid and apple extract.
    I wrote to the laboratories that prepare them and told me that i can take it when i stop completely the antidepressants.

    I don’t feel completely fine, i’m afraid to quit Effexor because of another depresive episode, and as you say each time my depression goes chronical and feel less power in myself.

    It’s good time to leave Effexor and switch for this supplement it seems can help me enhance my self power and confidence? and maybe continue with Acupuncture.
    I also made a SCIO and ORION test who made me feel a little better with my withdrawal. But i don’t live no more, i’m afraid to get a job, i’m semiparalyzed i lost my feelings and goals,i don’t now what to do. I also try positive thougts and meditation. But i want to be myself again! my baddest feelings are in the morning.

    Thank you for your comment, i am pretty deseperate
    I hope you can answer me soon

    • I want to share my experience because Effexor withdrawal has been ruining my life, but I’m having a pretty content moment right now, and even just one hour of feeling hopeful in a day gives me hope that the end is near!
      I did a slow withdrawal from Effexor 225 mg since October 2015, just got off completely 3 weeks ago (total 7 months) I bought a bag of empty gel capsules at a vitamin store, broke open the smallest Effexor pill (37.5) and started counting out the little balls. I put five less balls in every 1-2 weeks. It’s been a very rough year, but I remained somewhat functional, if nauseated, dizzy, and emotional most of the time. I guess it really depends on your circumstances (job, family, responsibilities, etc) whether you should do it this slow and draw out milder symptoms for a longer time, or just cut it off from 15 mg and give yourself 2 weeks to have a mental breakdown and get it over with.

      When I tried to quit from 37.5, I got the “jitters” really bad, couldn’t stop moving, couldn’t sleep, and mostly felt like I was going INSANE. Some supplements and lifestyle changes have definitely helped lessen the severity of these symptoms, but nothing totally stopped them.

      While tapering, I have been seeing a Naturopathic Doctor (N.D) who has tested my adrenal glands (my corisol levels were extremely low all day, so I am taking a supplement called Phytisone, and that has made a HUGE difference in waking up in the morning and sleeping well at night) and my thyroid (was underactive, but another natural supplement has gotten that back to normal). I also take 5-HTP (lower doses at first, then more as I weaned off Effexor), 3000 mg of Omega-3 (3000 of EPA and DHA – watch out because most capsules say its 1000 mg but if you look at the actual omega 3 content, it’s only about 360 mg or so – those are useless), Vitamin D (5000), B-50 complex (50 mg of all B vitamins) a digestive enzyme before every meal to make sure I’m using the nutrients I eat, I’m supposed to eat a ton of protein (~25 g per meal, which is tough for me!) cut back on sugar, I’m eating as much natural (“clean”) basic, homemade meals as much as I can – the processed crap alone will make you miserable! And a probiotic. Now these things have been adjusted over the months, because some things made me feel sick, some things didn’t work, some things took time. I highly recommend seeing a Naturopath if you can find one, I feel a million times better just having an appointment where someone speaks with me for a whole hour, and tells me exactly what my body is doing and why.

      It took 2 weeks for me to feel okay with no Effexor (I am still on Wellbutrin 150, but I think I will get off that soon, I just hate these drugs). And by okay, I mean i have moments where I feel normal, wonderfully normal and motivated. I still crash most days, but the VERTIGO has finally stopped. My eyesight is improving, but I’ve had extreme muscle weakness, some nausea, bad appetite, weird numbing in my head, random itching sensations, and random shots of pain in all kinds of places. The worst is the paranoia that comes with this – do I have permanent brain damage? Do I have something else? What if I never get my eyes to focus? What if the blood isn’t flowing to my brain? These times I go NUTS. But I calm down usually by the next day or in a few hours. I will see my ND again next week and talk about what to do with these symptoms.

      I am also seeing a counselor and we are tip-toeing into CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and I’m still on the fence about whether or not this is effective. Learning to take time to just “sit out” of a moment, breath, and calm my nerves is helpful, but of course not always practical when I’m driving a car or working! But it supposedly takes practice and persistence… we shall see!

      I’ve considered acupuncture (have been looking up acupressure points trying to calm my symptoms) but part of my anxiety is telling a different practitioner over and over and over again what’s going on, paying a lot of money, and not having it work, or not liking the person. Or not having any symptoms when I go in, so not knowing if it really works. I am hoping that my symptoms will subside once my brain gets back into equilibrium.

      Anyway, to be honest, most of the time I feel like it will never get better and I’ll have to go back on the meds just to function. But at this moment, I think I’m making progress, so I’ll give you some hope that is so often lacking on these discussions!

  18. Read the book, “The Dark Side of Mania” by Amy and William Dunn. It’s deftly constructed at 67 pages. It’s about a manic depressive and his dark moments iin mania and what his wife felt living with him. Great read.