Avoiding Collateral Damage: Prescription Drug Addiction and Antidepressants

Avoiding Collateral Damage: Prescription Drug Addiction and Antidepressants

In spite of an FDA Public Health Advisory in 2004 warning about the serious risks associated with all antidepressants, the number of Americans taking the drugs has climbed to 17 million, and prescription drug addiction and abuse continues to accelerate across the country.

The FDA’s advisory asked drug makers to add a ‘Black Box’ label warning to all antidepressant packaging of the dangers of suicidal thoughts and ideas as a side effect of the drugs. The advisory came after a public hearing at which expert witnesses, family members of victims, and survivors of antidepressants, testified about suicide and violent acts committed by people taking the medications. The FDA advisory, according to many experts as well as the public, did not go far enough.

Among the 32 antidepressants named were Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, Luvox, Paxil, Lexapro, Effexor, Elavil, Serzone, Remeron and Wellbutrin -- all equally capable of leading to suicide and mania, especially among younger patients.

The use of prescription drugs has become so accepted that many Americans don’t think twice about popping pills for almost any complaint. In fact, we have even read about mothers feeding antidepressants to children to stop bed-wetting.

Because getting drugs from the doctor is such a routine part of American life, prescription drug addiction has overtaken illicit street drug addiction in many regions. What many people don’t realize is that antidepressant drugs are just as dangerous, in their way, as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and the other common addictive street drugs.

The general complaints about antidepressants, from many experts including physicians, psychologists, psychiatrists and research scientists as well as thousands of former users, are these:

  • Antidepressants are linked to mania and violent acts against others
  • Antidepressants can lead to suicide, especially among young people
  • Antidepressants can lead to dependence, and are difficult to get off of
  • Antidepressants can cause dozens of side effects, some even permanent
  • Double-blind research shows that a placebo (sugar pill) often works just as well.

Many other side effects cited as reasons to avoid antidepressants are:

  • Agitation
  • Akathisia (severe restlessness)
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Decreased libido
  • Dependence
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Excessive urination
  • Headache/migraine
  • Hypomania (pervasive elevated or irritable mood)
  • Indigestion
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Impulsivity
  • Low blood pressure
  • Mania (extremely elevated mood, unusual thought patterns and psychosis)
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea
  • Panic attacks
  • Rash
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Tremor
  • Vomiting
  • Weight gain
  • Weight loss.

Sexual side effects can include loss of libido in both men and women, and interference with normal sexual functioning. These can persist for months or even years after stopping the drugs. These have led some sufferers to self-treat with other drugs, resulting in even worse problems, including prescription drug addiction.

Antidepressants are linked to numerous types of mania:

  • Pyromania: A compulsion to start fires
  • Kleptomania: A compulsion to steal, shoplift, embezzle, or commit robberies
  • Dipsomania: An uncontrollable urge to drink alcohol
  • Nymphomania and erotomania: Sexual compulsions and pathologic preoccupation with sexual fantasies or activities — the manic opposite of the usual loss of libido or disinterest.

Serotonin syndrome, also called serotonin toxicity or serotonin toxidrome, is a potentially life-threatening adverse drug reaction that can occur after taking some antidepressants. Other deadly reactions have also occurred when antidepressants are mixed with other prescription and over-the-counter medications, and a long list of common food types as well.

Drug interactions have proven particularly dangerous for people with a prescription drug addiction who take an antidepressant to try to “come down”. Spikes in blood pressure, liver inflammation, heart attacks, strokes and seizures have all been recorded.
Many drug abuse experts have serious concerns that America’s love affair with psychoactive drugs, including antidepressants, is what has been leading the way to the current prescription drug abuse epidemic.

If you, or someone you know, is taking antidepressants and desires to get off these dangerous drugs, do not stop taking them abruptly. Always seek the supervision of a medical doctor, or speak to an experienced counselor at a qualified medical drug detox center for professional advice.


Rod MacTaggart is a freelance writer that contributes articles on health.

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