Thursday, July 10, 2008

It Seems That Antidepressants Aren't So Great, After All

In my life, I have been on Zoloft, Celexa, Effexor, and Wellbutrin. The first three of those antidepressants are SSRI's (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), and Wellbutrin is a dopamine reuptake inhibitor.

I was always told by my doctors that my depression would go away once we found the right drug, and I agreed with them once I started Wellbutrin, which seemed to me to be a magic pill with instant results.

But now I think they were wrong. Completely, horribly misinformed and very wrong.

My depression was most likely sugar-induced. Our bodies are not capable of consuming sucrose without many, many negative effects including anxiety, depression, obesity, hypoglycemia, diabetes, and so much more. (Read "Sugar Blues" for a more complete picture.) But I've written about this in a previous post.

The thing I've learned today, and which is making me cold to my bones, is about the antidepressants that my well-meaning doctors prescribed to cure me.

I always wondered why the list of side effects that came with each prescription were the exact symptoms I was trying to avoid: trouble sleeping, agitation, increased suicidal thoughts and anger. But I took the pills anyway.

I never felt better when on any SSRI. I slept most of the time, was emotionally numb, found it hard to concentrate, didn't want to eat, and, on Celexa, couldn't even drive because I was so out of it. I also never stopped feeling horrible; only a great numbness and lethargy overtook me, and I didn't have the energy to do anything about it except bang my hand against the wall -- to feel, at least, something. (That was on Zoloft.) On Effexor, I had no appetite at all, and my roommate had to force me out of bed and make me eat. Alternately, on that same drug, irrational anger and rage would overtake me, and I would imagine doing horrible things to myself and to other people. Thankfully, I only ever imagined.

In the list of side effects for Effexor, one more thing has quietly been added: homicidal ideation. There are reported cases of people actually acting out things they wouldn't normally do while on these drugs, the worst one I've heard of being the mother who drowned her five children in the bathtub.

I am not kidding.

And Effexor does not stand alone. All these drugs have been shown to be ineffective for treating depression while messing with the serotonin levels they claim to be helping. They act on the brain in the same ways that PCP and LSD do -- the only difference is that they take longer to work.

Even my beloved Wellbutrin, though not an SSRI, is one of the antidepressants that the International Coalition for Drug Awareness claims is dangerous.

I think I can safely say that next winter, when I start feeling blue, I'll cut out all sugar, take some vitamin D, and get lots of sunlight.

If you are taking any of these medications right now, do NOT stop cold turkey. Apparently, that makes the side effects worse. Go to the ICDA's website for their recommendations on how to slowly wean yourself off the drugs, and do it under a doctor's close supervision. The good news is that if you've been having horrible thoughts like I used to have, it's not you. It's the drugs.

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