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Antidepressants:
Some Facts You HAVE to Know

©2002 by OAIM

My Personal Experience.

The “Chemical Imbalance” Myth. 2

Adverse Side Effects of Antidepressants. 3

Frequently Reported Adverse Effects of Prozac. 3

How to Get Off of an Antidepressant 4

 

My Personal Experience

 

In the early ‘90’s, I was in a deep depression.  There had been some losses and disappointments in my life and I was not handling them very well.  Inside myself I was aware the dissatisfaction with life and the turmoil was not something that was a mental problem, but I could tell the root of it was a spiritual issue and I raged against God for the wrongs that had been done against me.  Life was totally void of joy or even enjoyment, and I felt numb about almost everything.

 

When I was 9 years old I had accepted Christ as my Savior, but now that choice was feeling like a millstone around my neck, forcing me to come to grips with evil in the world and whether or not God was really good.  I wanted God to be held accountable for the wrongs He had done to me.  I wanted some justice!  Forget those pathetic platitudes that the Christians around me were trying to feed me.  I wanted answers to my questions!  How could a “loving” God have let all those awful things happen to me?  I wanted to stop being a Christian and live like “real” people did, with all the happiness I saw in so many non-Christians around me, but I didn’t have the first clue as to how to do that.  I had grown up Christian and the only life I knew was going to church and reading the Bible.  I raged at God yet again for ruining me for a “normal” life.  I felt I couldn’t be Christian and I couldn’t be a non-Christian.  I was trapped as a non-being, not accepted anywhere in either world.  I hated God; I hated myself; I hated everyone.

 

The leadership of my church coerced my family to believe that my mental problems were so severe that I required immediate psychiatric evaluation and I was taken by force to a hospital that would give me the necessary examinations, both physical and mental, on an in-patient basis.  And so, I sat, as a prisoner, in a room that had a metal mirror (no glass for fear I’d hurt myself), no door on the bathroom so I could never be completely alone and they wouldn’t even let me have my journal because it was spiral bound and they wouldn’t allow the wire.  Why had this happened?  How had it come to this?  Why hadn’t anyone just talked to me?

 

I submitted to all the examinations they wanted to give me, both physical and mental, attended sessions for the “inmates”, underwent an EKG, opened my mouth and said, “ah”, and took the MMPI (a 600 question psychological inventory) for the third time in my life.  But no one talked to me about the state of my spirit.

 

Finally the diagnosis was in.  “Clinical depression.”  Physically, there was nothing wrong, so obviously the problem must be mental.  The solution?  Prozac.  No counseling, just a little pill.

 

In a way, I have to admit that at that time, I was very relieved.  They were going to give me a pill and it was going to make all this raging inside of me against God go away.  What a relief!  There wasn’t something I had to change inside myself.   All that had happened wasn’t my fault!  I was innocent and had done nothing wrong that could have caused any of this.  And I took the pill.

 

Within a few hours, I started to feel better, lighter, as if those problems were much smaller than they had been before I took the pill.  Finally I had a reprieve from the fatiguing wrestling with God that I had been doing.  I didn’t feel like wrestling anymore.  My brain started thinking again.

 

Sleep had been my refuge for leaving my problems behind me.  I slept so I wouldn’t have to fight God or the feelings inside of me.  But this night was different.  I used to have no problem sleeping at any time, but when I laid down, my brain wouldn’t shut off.  Instead it raced.  It seemed to me like the squirrel I used to watch from my window, first running here and then running there, always on the move, never stopping to rest.  My body was exhausted, but sleep eluded me.  It was 2 am before my brain could be quiet enough to allow sleep to come over me…and at 4 am I awoke, my mind racing once again, full of thoughts of everything past, present and future.

 

Two more nights of the same pattern followed.  My body was so exhausted I didn’t want to move it, but my brain was always going so fast that I couldn’t rest.  I called my local doctor to ask (speaking so rapidly it was probably hard to follow what I said) if this could possibly be a reaction to the medication and he told me he didn’t think it was.  However, he would be glad to give me a different medication that would be better.  I agreed and he prescribed Zoloft.

 

Zoloft only continued the scenario.  I felt as if I was going to burst from the racing inside of me.  Was this really the answer?  Sure, I wasn’t having to deal with my raging against God (indeed, I found that I could not be angry at anything under the influence of the drugs), but was this how I was going to have to live, with my mind flying at breakneck speeds and my body receiving only two hours of rest a night?

 

I decided to stop the Zoloft.  Within a couple of nights, I slept sound, my body gratefully replenishing its resources in sweet sleep.  My brain slowed gradually and was back to normal in a week.

 

What happened to me is not unusual.  We often see drugs given as the answer to depression.  The reaction I had, I have found out, is quite common among antidepressants and was so obvious with Prozac from the very first that the company who manufactured it used tranquilizers to sedate people in their clinical trials to balance out the effects, which was a practice that specifically violated FDA (Federal Drug Administration) rules.

 

My own experience with Prozac and Zoloft and the numerous people we encounter on these and other antidepressant medicines has caused me to find out where the truth lies in this issue of whether or not to medicate those who are depressed.  My discovery is absolutely astounding!  There is much out there that is being hidden from common people and many general practitioners are too overwhelmed with their practices to read the fine print that tells of the dangers of antidepressants.

 

The “Chemical Imbalance” Myth

 

Most people I’ve talked to who have started on an antidepressant will tell me that their doctor prescribed it because s/he said that they had a “chemical imbalance” in their brain that was causing the depression.  To that, my question would be, “Exactly what medical tests did your doctor do to make that determination?”  There is no medical test out there that can diagnose someone with depression.

 

Dr. Gary Almy [1] , a psychiatrist for over 25 years, spoke at a conference I went to last year.  He said:

 

The way I think about mental illness...this means someone is having trouble with their thinking, or their feeling or their behaving. And the only thing a psychiatrist like myself has to go by in terms of assigning somebody a diagnosis or putting a label on them is what they're thinking and what they say and what they do. That's all we've got. We don't have any blood tests; we don't have any skin tests; we don't have anything that is objective other than listening to what people say and watching what they do and hearing about it from their relatives and friends...You shouldn't be deluded into thinking that psychiatrists are like infectious disease doctors where they can actually treat a real disease and watch it go away. Psychiatrists very rarely have that privilege to treat a real disease and watch it go away. [2]

 

In fact, considering depression as a disease is, according to Dr. Peter Breggin, [3] “selling ‘depression’ as a disease.” [4]   His opinion is that all the hype surrounding antidepressants is merely a marketing ploy, and a successful one at that.

 

If you want to make people buy a product, you have to convince them that they want or need it.  To market psychiatric drugs, people need to be convinced that they have “diseases” that can be “treated” with the drugs…the word “depression” has come to mean a “disorder” or a “disease” by dint of aggressive marketing.  In reality, depression is always recognized or identified on the basis of how an individual feels. [5]

 

Depression is not a biological condition, but one that is rooted in our feelings and emotions.  Therefore, a biological test is not able to diagnose someone with depression.  “Depression is never defined by an objective physical finding such as a blood test or brain scan.”[5a]  Breggin likes to compare the biochemical imbalance theory to the bad bile theory that was used over a century ago.

 

He continues to say very plainly, “In reality, science does not have the ability to measure the levels of any biochemical in the tiny spaces between nerve cells (the synapses) in the brain of a human being.  All the talk about biochemical imbalances is sheer speculation aimed at promoting psychiatric drugs.” [6]

 

I’m not going to go through every bit of documentation out there for this, but when you start seeing that the drug manufacturer of Prozac made over 26% of their revenue, with other antidepressants sporting similar percentages of their drug company’s income, [7] the picture takes on a different perspective.  What if these drug companies are manipulating their testing data in order to hurry drugs past the FDA in order to raise their profits?  Why do we see commercials on TV for drugs, encouraging us to ask our doctor if that drug is right for us (shouldn’t our doctor be the one to decide this)?

 

In the US, we believe that if the FDA says a drug can be used, then obviously it is okay.  But through his research, Dr. Breggin warns of 8 myths about the FDA that just aren’t true:

 

  1. FDA approval means that a drug is safe.
  2. The FDA makes sure that a drug is tested on thousands of patients before it is approved.
  3. Antidepressants are not mood-altering, they directly improve the disease of depression.”
  4. Antidepressants are like insulin for diabetes, they provide essential missing substances.
  5. Antidepressants don’t cause abnormalities in the brain, they correct biochemical imbalances.
  6. Antidepressants aren’t in any way similar to stimulants like amphetamine and cocaine.
  7. Antidepressants don’t cause withdrawal problems; you can stop them without any ill effects.
  8. Antidepressants can’t make you psychotic unless you have a preexisting mental illness. [8]

 

To all of these, he states that “NONE OF THE ABOVE IS TRUE. (Emphasis mine.) [9]

 

Does that shock your world?  If it does, keep reading.  This is only the tip of the iceberg.

 

Adverse Side Effects of Antidepressants

 

If you are presently taking an antidepressant, take a look at this chart and see if you have been experiencing any of these side effects.  These are not listed for the common person to find, but if your doctor will read the fine print in his medical journals and his Physicians Desk Reference, he will find these are the side effects listed for Prozac (most antidepressant drugs that are SSRI’s have the same effects).  The term “frequent” is given to any effect that occurs in more than 1 percent of those involved in the trials. (This is what the FDA considers "frequent." [10]

 

Frequently Reported Adverse Effects of Prozac

 

Compiled from the 2001 Prozac Label

Nervous System

Digestive System

 

Insomnia

16-33%

 

Nausea

21-29%

Anxiety

12-15%

Diarrhea

12%

Nervousness

11-14%

Anorexia

8-17%

Somnolence

13-17%

Dry mouth

9-12%

Dizziness

10%

Dyspepsia

7-10%

Tremors

10%

Flatulence

3%

Libido Decreased

3-11%

Vomiting

3%

Abnormal Dreams

1-5%

Weight Loss

1.4-2%

Agitation

frequent

Weight Gain

frequent

Amnesia

frequent

Increased Appetite

frequent

Confusion

frequent

Nausea and vomiting

frequent

Emotional Instability

frequent

 

 

Sleep Disorder

frequent

 

 

Body as a Whole

Cardiovascular System

 

Chills

frequent

 

Hemorrhage

frequent

Headache

21%

Hypertension

frequent

Asthenia (Weakness)

9-21%

Vasodilatation

3%`

Flu Syndome

3-10%

Palpitation

2 %

Fever

2%

 

 

Sensory System

Respiratory System

 

Abnormal Vision

3%

 

Pharyngitis

3-11%

Ear Pain

frequent

Yawn

3-11%

Taste Perversion

frequent

Sinusitis

1-6%

Tinnitus

frequent

 

 

Skin and Appendages

Urinary and Genital System

 

Sweating

7-8%

 

Impotence

2-7%

Rash

4%

Abnormal Ejaculation

7%

Pruritis (itching)

frequent

Libido Decreased

4%

 

 

Urinary Frequency

frequent

 

 

Please keep in mind that the numbers in this chart reflect the numbers given out by the drug companies.  You can be assured that the actual numbers are much higher than this.  Most tests that determine how detrimental a drug is will be performed by the drug company itself or will be funded by money from a drug company.  It is to their advantage to make the numbers appear in their favor.

 

Another interesting factor is that there are many symptoms that do not appear on this label in the US but they do appear on the Prozac label in other countries.  Among these adverse effects are mania (an overly inflated sense of self which often presents itself as the person feeling invulnerable and can manifest itself in violent ways), akathisia (where someone feels as if there are ants crawling around inside of them neurologically and it becomes difficult to sit or stand still for any length of time), and dyskinesia (a movement disorder that causes spasms in muscles in any part of the body, strong spasms can sometimes be mistaken for a seizure).

 

“In Great Britain, an editorial in the world’s most prestigious medical journal, Lancet, warned that SSRIs were associated with ‘the promotion of suicidal thoughts and behavior,’ and more recently the British regulatory agency put a suicide warning on the label for Prozac.” [11]   Why would Great Britain feel it was necessary to take this step even though the US FDA did not at first?  Well, eventual reports flooded into the FDA and the FDA finally mentioned that suicidal thoughts might be associated with Prozac, although they did not mention it as one of the possible side effects.

 

One of the really scary things about all of these possible side effects is that the drug companies have not studied whether these effects are temporary and will go away when the drug is stopped or will continue permanently.  For some reason, the drug companies do not see this as something people would be interested in.  “When pressed to justify the company’s failure to find out if the brain can recover from Prozac-induced changes, including the death of serotonin receptors, Fuller [the head of research at Eli Lilly and Co.] replied under oath, ‘I don’t see that that would be of any value to know that.’” [12]   Why wouldn’t people be very interested in knowing that when they took a specific drug and had an adverse reaction whether that reaction would be with them forever or would go away when they stopped taking the drug?

 

How to Get Off of an Antidepressant

 

If you are presently taking an antidepressant and you find the above facts chilling, here are some steps Dr. Breggin advises you to take to get off of the medicine.  Please note that although your doctor may say that whichever antidepressant you are taking does not cause withdrawal symptoms, be aware that they do.  They usually will cause you to crash if you try going off of them cold turkey.  We do not advise this at all.  When you begin to withdraw from them, they will usually cause depression or any of the adverse side effects above.  If you taper off of the medication gradually, you will often not have these side effects.

 

Here are Dr. Breggin’s steps to get off of psychiatric drugs.

 

First, especially if you have been taking large doses for a long time, find an experienced professional to help you go through the withdrawal process.

 

Second, if you experienced serious emotional problems before you started taking the drug, be sure to get psychological [13] help before, during, and after the withdrawal process. [Obviously, OAIM recommends biblical counseling instead of psychological counseling.]

 

Third, tell close family members or friends that you’re withdrawing from a psychoactive drug.  Explain that withdrawing from antidepressants can cause depression or mania.  Ask them to tell you if you start to behave in a manner that’s at all worrisome or alarming.  You want others to be watching over you because it’s often difficult to be objective about your own behavior during drug withdrawal.

 

Fourth, unless you are having a serious adverse drug reaction that requires withdrawing more quickly, go slow, even slower than you think you need to.  If you lower the drug dose no faster than 10 percent each week for ten weeks, it will usually help to avoid most serious withdrawal reactions.

 

Fifth, don’t believe your medical doctor if he or she claims that antidepressants don’t cause withdrawal problems.  Many doctors are ignorant about antidepressant withdrawal reactions.

 

Sixth, pay attention to how you feel during the withdrawal process except in any emergency under medical supervision, don’t reduce the doses any faster than feels comfortable or safe to you.  Be alert to a possible drug withdrawal if your mood begins to swing up and down, if you become irritable or angry, if you get odd sensations in your head or skin, if you have trouble sleeping, if your digestive system gets upset, or if your body feels ill.

 

Seventh, if you start to have what seems like a serious withdrawal reaction, immediately consult with a professional who has clinical experience.  At the same time, you might ask your doctor about resuming your previous dose -- the one you were taking just before your last reduction.  If you are having a withdrawal reaction, returning to the previous higher dose will usually provide rapid relief.

 

Eighth, if you are trying to withdraw from several psychiatric drugs, it’s generally best to withdraw from one at a time.  Withdrawing from two or more drugs at once can be confusing.  If you begin to have a withdrawal reaction, you may not be able to figure out which drug is the culprit.  In complex situations involving several drugs, you and your doctor may benefit from reading Your Drug May Be Your Problem:  How and Why to Stop Taking Psychiatric Medications by me [Dr. Peter Breggin] and David Cohen.

 

Ninth, it’s not uncommon to run into a stubborn withdrawal reaction while trying to taper off the very last dose of the drug.  Some of my patients have found it helpful to take tiny amounts of the drug -- small fractions of the smallest recommended dose -- to ward off the last vestiges of the withdrawal reaction.

 

Keep in mind that my observations and suggestions are not intended to provide a complete guideline to withdrawing from SSRIs or any other psychiatric drugs.  I urge people to get support from a trusted, experienced professional, as well as from family and friends, when going through a potentially difficult drug withdrawal. [14]

 

I believe Dr. Breggin is giving very good advice here.  Many doctors see some of these side effects and instead of reducing the dose, they increase the dosage and thereby increase the problems.  Some of them will add other medications to counteract these side effects and these new medications will cause even more side effects that need to be counteracted with even more medications that cause even more side effects…and the cycle gets worse.

 

If you are taking antidepressants, I really think you have to read the book The Antidepressant Fact Book by Dr. Peter Breggin.  I think you owe yourself that.  And you need to provide the doctor who has prescribed you with that medication with the same book so he can see the information for himself.

 

The drug companies and their ads are very convincing, but we need to really look at what is truth and what is hype.  In those Zoloft commercials, when they say your depression “might” be caused by a chemical imbalance, is that a factual statement or not?  If it were, do you really think they would use the word “might”?

 

Let us be wise by researching such things and by looking with suspicion at the secular world around us, a world that does not run by godly principles, but by self-centered, greedy terms.  Their goal is not love-oriented.  “Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”  Matthew 10:16



[1] Dr. Almy is a Christian psychiatrist who, after years of trying to deal with his problems in a psychiatric way, realized that there was something missing.  He and his wife became Christians.  When seeing the basic tenets of psychiatry through Christian eyes, he saw that they were contrary to what the Bible taught.  Through is own comparison of psychology and Christianity, he has written a book, How Christian Is Christian Counseling?  which I highly recommend you read.  It is a logical, intellectual defense for Biblical counseling that chooses not to use psychology at all.  He compares the basic foundational beliefs of Christianity and psychology and shows how they are not at all compatible.

[2] Dr. Gary Almy, “Witnessing to the Mentally Ill”, Defend the Faith 2001 Conference put on by Families Against Cults, P.O. Box 491, Carmel, IN  46082-0491.

[3] Dr. Peter Breggin is a psychiatrist who has been used many times as an expert witness in trials against drug companies.  Because of his position, he has had access to see many of the internal memos and test results that were hidden from the public.  His books, The Antidepressant Fact Book, Talking Back to Prozac:  What Doctors Aren’t Telling You about Today’s Most Controversial Drug, and Psychiatric Drugs:  Hazards to the Brain, among many, are exposés based on what he found while going through the drug companies’ private files.

[4] Breggin, The Antidepressant Fact Book, p. 17.

[5] Ibid.

[5a] Ibid., p. 21.

[6] Ibid, p. 21.

[7] Gary Greenberg, “The Serotonin Surprise,” Discover Magazine, July 2001, p. 67.

[8] Breggin, The Antidepressant Fact Book, p. 8.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid., p. 65.

[11] Ibid., p. 80.

[12] Ibid., p. 40.

[13] Obviously we do not condone psychological help.  We believe you should seek out a sound Bible counselor who can help you examine your relationship with God.

[14] Breggin, The Antidepressant Fact Book, p. 131-133.

CrossDaily.com

 

 

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