Over the past two decades, the numbers of prescriptions for SSRIs — selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors — have increased for children and teenagers.
These drugs are said to mitigate behavioural difficulties. Yet, the United States appears to have more bizarre incidents involving young people every year. All sorts of shocking things that never happened to 50+s seem to have become commonplace with some under the age of 40. The rest of us wonder why society is spiralling out of control.
Is it poor guidance at home?
Or is something else at work here? What if it were the drugs?
This post discusses the role of SSRIs in behavioural disorders, including unheard-of drug and alcohol abuse in adolescents. I was particularly interested to find a mention of self-mutilation — cutting — which has become increasingly frequent since the 1990s. Cutters — mostly girls — might well be taking SSRIs, as will be explained below.
What follows are six testimonies from a page called ‘Index to SSRI stories’. It includes 25 years’ worth of news stories about the effects of SSRIs on young people. This is a great resource for parents and teachers, featuring a collection of news stories involving murder, mass shootings and suicides — all of which are SSRI-linked.
Every once in a while, however, a few success stories appear. Excerpts follow, with more information at each link. Emphases mine throughout:
Mar 2 2008 by Catherine Evans, Wales On Sunday
STANDING alone in the dark on a deserted hill, 18-year-old student Bethan [pron. ‘Beth Ann’] Jones pulled back her sleeve and ran a pocket knife across her arm.
As the blood flowed, she felt her worries ebb away. But the scars remained.
On the outside, Bethan appeared to be a popular, happy teenager and conscientious student.
But for years Bethan hid a secret shame – she was self-harming.
As the rest of the nation celebrated St David’s Day yesterday, the former English and religion student at Bath University spoke to Wales on Sunday about her painful past and her plans to set up the first self-harm support centre in Wales.
“Not many people know that March 1 – as well as being St David’s Day – is Self Injury Awareness Day,” said Bethan, who works at the DVLA in Swansea.
“I’m working on a new registered website to offer help and support to others who self-harm. I run the Scar Tissue website – which helps more than 450 people to prevent self injury. But what I really want is to set up the first self-injury support centre in Wales.”
Now 26 and living in Cwmdare in the south Wales valleys, Bethan still doesn’t fully understand why she started to cut herself.
“When I cut myself for the first time it scared me half to death. I honestly don’t know why I did it. I had a penknife that I carried around to clean my horse’s hooves and I used that to cut myself. I got an adrenalin rush from it and soon I was cutting myself every day,” she said …
It was her own failed suicide attempt that forced her to get help.
“I overdosed on anti-depressants and that’s when my family found out about it and I finally tried to get help,” said Bethan.
– SSRIs linked to craving for alcohol and illicit drugs (Canada, 2010) (emphases in the original in this story):
Last Updated: June 28, 2010 12:37pm
An Oakville teen using an anti-depressant drug died after hanging herself while “affected by depression, cocaine and ethanol,” a coroner’s jury ruled Monday.
Sara Carlin, an 18-year-old scholar and outstanding athlete committed suicide on May 6, 2007, at her Oakville home, 14 months after she had began taking the anti-depressant drug Paxil, which is a type of drug known as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs). She had also been using cocaine and drinking heavily.
Carlin’s parents, Neil and Rhonda were visibly pleased after the jury released its verdict and also made several recommendations aimed at preventing similar suicides …
SSRI Stories note: The Physicians Desk Reference lists “Alcohol Craving” as an infrequent, but not rare, side-effect for Paxil. Also, SSRIs may cause a craving for illegal drugs such as cocaine by inducing mania or mood swings in those taking such antidepressants. According to earlier newspaper accounts, this young girl began drinking alcohol and using cocaine after starting on the Paxil.
Psychopharmacologic Drugs Advisory Committee and the Pediatric Subcommittee
of the Anti-Infective Drugs Advisory Committee
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
5600 Fishers Lane
Rockville, MD 20857-0001
Dear Committee and Subcommittee Members:
I am here today to tell you about my experiences while taking selective seratonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants as a child and teenager in the late eighties and early nineties.
I was first diagnosed with major depression in 1983 at the age of six, and started on the older form of tricyclic antidepressants. In 1988, when I was twelve years old, my doctor started me on Prozac, touting it as a miracle drug that would finally cure my stubborn feelings of depression stemming from early childhood trauma.
Once on Prozac, the relatively mild depression I felt mixed with a new and terrifying anxiety that I had never experienced previously. When I reported this anxiety to my doctor, he simply upped my dose of Prozac. I immediately began to experience insomnia, for which I was given a mild sedative to help me sleep at night. I felt a horrific inner restlessness, a feeling of wanting to jump out of my skin, that I now know is called akasthisia.
For about two years, my dosage of Prozac was continually being raised in hopes that it would finally start to work. From the beginning, I began to suffer from brief but regular periods of racing thoughts that I could not control. All this anxiety and restlessness was simply attributed to my worsening “illness.” I began to have intense thoughts of cutting myself, killing myself. It occurred to me that I should act on my thoughts of self-mutilation, and began to slice my wrists and forearms with razors. This too, was chalked up to my advancing mental illness, and I began a long downward spiral of hospitalizations, which fed the feelings of depression and anxiety. In 1991, at age sixteen, while taking Zoloft, I made my first bona fide suicide attempt, swallowing an entire bottle of painkillers. I cannot even recall the reason for doing so. I became completely unable to control feelings of terror and rage that seemed to come out of nowhere, surpassing any teen angst or depression that I had ever heard of.
In 1993, at the age of eighteen, I decided to take matters into my own hands as a legal adult, and to get off the antidepressants for good. Since stopping SSRI medications over a decade ago, I have never again self- mutilated, had suicidal thoughts, or entered the hospital. The suicidality simply vanished! For me, this is clear proof that the drugs must have played some kind of role in my suicidality and self-mutilation. In the past decade, not only am I not suicidal, but I have managed to travel the world, get an M.A. degree in political science from Georgetown University, and become an active participant in my society …
It is now incumbent upon the FDA to take seriously the British decision December 2003 banning all SSRIs (except Prozac) for under-18s. There is a growing and consistent body of research available that suggests a causal relationship between SSRIs and self-mutilation and suicidality in some children–and in some adults as well. The FDA must take action now regarding this grave issue of public health. The FDA needs to determine not only the issue of adverse events, but also that of efficacy. Do SSRIs really work better than the drugs they were designed to replace? Do the benefits of these antidepressants outweigh the risks for children, and adults, for that matter? Are medical professionals and the public adequately informed of the very serious risks that are increasingly associated with these drugs? In light of these risks, at the very least, isn’t it time for the FDA to require that these medications be labeled with clear warnings that can save lives? Yes, such warnings may negatively affect the sales of these drugs, which may not sit well with the pharmaceutical industry that makes them. But the FDA was created as an independent regulatory agency to serve the interests of the American public–not the pharmaceutical industry. I am here today with the high hopes that the FDA will take the necessary steps to prevent what happened to me and countless other American children from continuing to occur. Our children are not any less precious than British children–and they are in need of our protection.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy (NARPA)
THREE school merit awards are among the prized possessions of Berkeley Vale teenager Keiren Allen.
They rank slightly ahead of two school swimming carnival ribbons Keiren won earlier this year and they proudly hang in his parent’s living room.
Keiren’s merit awards contain teacher’s comments such as “impressive application” and “excellent ideas and contribution in class”.
A year ago Keiren, 13, couldn’t even complete a lap of a pool and teacher commendations were nothing more than a dream …
A turnaround came last year when Keiren, a dyslexic with major learning difficulties, was enrolled in an exercise-based therapy program run by the Dore Centre in Britain.
It stimulates the brain’s cerebellum so that the thinking part, the cerebral cortex, does not have to work so hard.
Keiren was assessed by the Dore Centre and put on a 14-month exercise program.
Mrs Allen said the results were dramatic …
“By the time he was 11 he felt suicidal and after being diagnosed with depression by a doctor we looked for something that didn’t involve medication and that’s when we hit on this program.
“He’s now getting As and Bs at school and he’s so motivated.”
For years, 16-year-old Michael Holland has been in and out of state custody. His parents blaming his troubles on the anti-depressants and psychotropic drugs he was being told to take.
“He was very suicidal. He was much threat to society. He was a danger to us, anybody that’s out there,” Mother Lori Holland said …
[Texas] State health officials say they’re already studying prescription drug abuse in the Medicaid program. So far they’ve found anti-depressants, stimulants and anti-psychotics may have been given inappropriately 10 to more than 50 percent of the time …
For Michael Holland, the biggest changes came when he was taken off mind-altering medications.
“Michael’s a junior in high school, he plays on the baseball team. Still has his ups and downs. But he’s doing better than I ever thought he would do,” father Wesley Holland said.
MS. WEBB: I am here because three years ago my daughter was suffering some symptoms that the doctor felt represented depression and started her on samples of Paxil. I trusted this decision as a mother and based on my medical background as a registered nurse.
Unfortunately, she did have an obvious worsening of symptoms. Were we aware that the antidepressant could be the cause of this? No, we were not. I am here because I agree that the FDA needs to require further studies to be done to see if it is true that certain antidepressants increase the risk of suicidality …
We could not believe the changes we saw in our daughter in the very short time she had started on the antidepressants. It was unbelievable–the rage, anger, the hostility she exhibited that night. She ended the night by cutting her wrist. Now I am learning that the changes we saw in our daughter, more likely than not, were the side effects of the antidepressant she was taking at the time.
Yes, we did report a worsening of symptoms shortly after she started the Paxil. The doctors only changed her to another antidepressant, Zoloft. She then continued to worsen and they continued to increase the dosage until she began to further harm herself with self-mutilation, cutting, overdose, numerous things. We were fortunate to get her help in the right environment with counselors who spent many hours with the children. She was taken off of the strong antidepressants and, within a short time none of the staff could believe she had done while she had been on Paxil and Zoloft. She continued there, getting counseling, and returned as the child we knew before she took these antidepressants.
Why did we not know about these adverse side effects that are now being reported in children? Was it possible the drug companies may have been aware of these adverse side effects? If we had known, I believe it is possible that maybe my daughter and our family would not have had to go through the agony and heartache we went through …
Tomorrow: The Jack LaLanne story — from wild boy to success via diet