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The untold dangers of SSRI antidepressants

How Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft and similar medications can destroy your life

The following article has a special importance to me.  Part of the reason is personal: I've seen what it did to me and to my wife; part of it is not quite so personal, but close-to-home: a neighbor killed himself as a result of being prescribed this type of medication.  (You can read about it at The Hidden Dangers of SSRI Medications: A more personal look at this prevalent danger.)

When we look at the world around us and see the strange, anti-social behavior of others, or feel alarmed at the rise of diabetes and heart disease, autism and obesity, we need to take another look at root causes.  A good many of them might be right here: the burgeoning use of SSRI medications for an ever-growing list of complaints.

It's time there was a stop to this.

About Dr Ann Blake Tracy, Ph.D.:

Dr. Ann Blake Tracy holds a Ph.D. (Doctor of Health Sciences), with an emphasis on psychology, and is the Executive Director of the International Coalition for Drug Awareness, a non-profit group organized to raise awareness about dangerous prescription drugs.

Dr. Ann Blake Tracy is the leading expert in the world on serotonergic medications (Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Luvox, Celexa, Lexapro, Sarafem, Fen-Phen, Redux, Meridia, Effexor, Serzone, Wellbutrin, Zyban and other SSRI antidepressants).  She has testified as an expert witness in court cases involving these drugs for more than nine years (as of 2003), and has also lectured extensively about the dangers of these drugs.  She is the author of a 425-page book on the subject, entitled Prozac: Panacea or Pandora?  The Rest of the Story on the New Class of SSRI Antidepressants.

Dr. Tracy has worked for ten years to develop a safe method for withdrawal from SSRI antidepressants, as well as for rebuilding the bodies and brains of those who have used them.  For over 13 years, she has closely followed the work of Gary Young, and recommends the use of therapeutic-grade essential oils for repairing the damage caused by these drugs.  According to Dr. Tracy, nothing reaches the brain and begins the body's own healing process faster than essential oils; and the many adverse effects of increased serotonin can be dealt with effectively with their use.

Dr. Tracy has appeared on television shows such as 20/20, Dateline, Leeza Gibbons, Geraldo and 60 Minutes.  Cover stories about her work have been published in US News and World Report and Insight Magazine.

Adapted from the audiocassette tape, Essential Oils: A Better Choice,
by Dr. Ann Blake Tracy
Training Tape #44; © 2002 Essential Science Publishing.

FDA-approved medications: a potent risk to your health

Editor's note:

This article, while factual, should not be construed as medical advise.  Although it points out some real dangers about the use of SSRI medications — dangers that your doctor probably has not told you about — for some people (roughly 25%), these medications are still quite helpful; for others, they can be used with minimal harmful effects.  For some, the dangers of not having the medication exceed those of the drug.  You need to decide this, in consultation with your healthcare provider.  I am not qualified to make that decision for you; and, if you're taking such a medication, you need to test your thinking about this against an objective third party.

I would also caution you never to stop taking an SSRI medication without adequate support.  Your prescriber should know what you're doing and provide support as you wean off the medication.  And, you should always have someone to monitor your mood from day-to-day.

One of the most dangerous things you could do is to abruptly stop taking a SSRI medication.  Getting off the medication needs to be done slowly, under the watchful eye of an objective third party.

The International Coalition for Drug Awareness website asks, "Did you know: You have a seven times greater chance of dying walking into your doctor's office than you do getting behind the wheel of your car?  Prescription drug adverse reactions are the third leading cause of death in America."

The fact is: Every year, approximately 200,000 people die from adverse prescription drug reactions.  Another 80,000 die from recognized instances of medical malpractice.  (For more on this, see the article, The American Health Care System in Crisis.)

It would now appear that you can add to this equation the epidemic rise in suicide and suicide/murder, road rage, autism, diabetes, obesity and cancer.

The culprit in this growing crisis?

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI) antidepressants.

SSRI antidepressants: their wide use and dangers

In 2003, somewhere between 28 and 30 million Americans had taken Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil or some similar SSRI antidepressant.  That's about one in every 10 people.  (With the growing use of these medication for other kinds of complaints, that number is a lot higher today.)  The majority of these were not clinically depressed.  These drugs are currently being prescribed for everything from depression or anxiety to PMS to smoking cessation to ADD.

But, there are some serious problems with this:

But there's a much greater reason for concern: suicide and suicide/murder.

SSRI drugs and suicide

On June 19, 2003, the FDA, following the lead of the British MCA, ruled that Paxil should not be given to kids 18 or under, because of the increased risk of suicidal impulses.  But is that risk limited to children?  Or to Paxil, for that matter?  With 50,000+ suicides in America each year, and the growing phenomena of mass murders and murder/suicide, this is clearly an issue that demands more honest investigation.

But, from what can be seen of today's FDA/Pharmaceutical Company joint venture, we're not likely to see it anytime soon.

Anecdotal report from a British nurse to Dr. Ann Blake Tracy, October 1998:

After being on Prozac for some time, I started having bad reactions.  It was causing joint and muscle pain; but I also became concerned that I was developing signs of Cushing's Syndrome.

I was very pro-Prozac, and wouldn't have listened to anything said against it, until I started having these problems.  I thought it was saving my life, while all the time, it was insidiously and slowly killing me.

When I first heard about your book [Prozac: Panacea or Pandora?] on the internet, I was interested, but quite skeptical.  However, since reading it, and having suffered so many problems with Prozac, I have come to the conclusion that the book is brilliant.  I've tried to fault the research and reasoning, but could not — and still can't.

I would like to extend my thanks to you for your heroic stance on this enormously important issue.  I have tremendous respect and admiration for your hard work, determination and courage in pursuing this subject so vigorously, against so much powerful opposition, for the benefit of people like me.  Your integrity puts many, if not most, doctors and psychiatrists to shame.  It's reassuring to find that there are a few people in the world who are prepared to fight for the truth, for the benefit of mankind.

Dr. Ann Blake Tracy has given of her life to be an informant, educator and teacher, and has marched against the odds — as many have, and continue to do.

Edited transcript from a lecture by Dr. Ann Blake Tracy:

Prozac, Paxil and the Wenatchee Sex Ring

The CBS Evening News carried a report entitled, "Unhappy in Utah".  It named Utah as the antidepressant capital of the nation.  Almost 10 years before, they wanted to do a story on antidepressants, and came to me and asked where the highest use of these drugs was.  Since I named Utah as the leader in the use of these drugs, and they didn't want to come that far west to do the story, it was dropped — until now.

But, where were they when that story finally aired?

In Wenatchee, WA, of all places.

I had previously gone to Wenatchee, WA and lectured there.  At that time, a Dr. Jim Goodwin had every one of his 800 patients on Prozac or Paxil, earning him the name "the Pied Piper of Prozac".  Because this man was drugging so many children, I warned the people that, if they didn't stop him, they would end up having to deal with all sorts of false accusations of sexual abuse.

About six months after I sounded that warning, a 10-year-old girl, whom Dr. Goodwin had placed on Prozac and Paxil, started going around town with her foster father (who happened to be the sheriff), and said, "We had an orgy at that house and that house and that house and that house."  In all, about 43 people were wrongfully imprisoned in what became known as the Wenatchee Sex Ring.  In one family, both the father and mother were imprisoned for two years, their children taken from them and drugged in foster care.

The State of Washington is now working on a $100M lawsuit filed against it for this fiasco.

Wenatchee: A microcosm of a much larger problem

A reporter from the BBC, who had gone to Wenatchee to cover the story, called me from England after the CBS Evening News story aired.  That reporter called me to ask, "Why can't you Americans understand what's going on, just by looking at Wenatchee, WA?  You've got a microcosm here.  I went in a checked all the stats for that city the year after Dr. Goodwin began to prescribe these drugs in massive quantities."

She was shocked to find things like domestic violence, suicide, suicide attempts, rape, and murder, all of these things, skyrocketed within a year.

And, she said, "I can't understand why America can't see this."

Statistics related to SSRI drug use in Utah

But, back to Utah.

At a recent conference for the leadership of an organization based in Utah, I met 10 of its leaders in one day, and out of those 10, two came to me with absolutely horrifying murder / suicide situations from their personal lives.  That's how massive this problem has become; almost everyone has been touched by this phenomenon.  All as a result of these SSRI antidepressants.

But that's not all.  Over the past decade in Utah:

That's what I've dealt with over the last 10 years.

It's absolutely incredible what we're seeing; but, as you consider how these drugs work, and what they do to your body, and what they do to your brain, you'll begin to see why this is happening.

"All I could feel was anger"

You need to understand that, when you use a chemical in an attempt to block a bad feeling, you can't target only a bad feeling.  You're blocking all feeling.

Many people, who've been prescribed these medications, choose to come off them — despite the risk of recurring depression.  The reason they report is that they could no longer feel anything — not good, not bad, not love, not hate.  Many of them say that all they could feel was anger.

Dr. Candace Pert: Alarmed at the monster she helped to create

Dr. Candace B. Pert, Research Professor at the Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, D.C., was one of the two developers of the serotonin binding process that made these drugs possible.  She made a statement in Time Magazine (October 20, 1997), calling these drugs monsters, and saying that she is alarmed that she had anything to do with their creation.

Lack of safety studies, and safety concerns of long-term use

And, Dr. Pert notes, there is a decided lack of safety studies relating to long-term use.

Prozac statistics you have not heard:

Here are a few very significant statistics that have been lost in the debate about SSRI antidepressants.  Scott Tips, an attorney who practices in the area of food-and-drug law, points out that, as of 1992 — a mere four years after Prozac was put on the market — it had already compiled a frightening track record.

  • There have been 23,067 officially-filed adverse-reaction reports, including
    • 1,436 suicide attempts, resulting in
    • 1,313 deaths.
  • These 23,067 adverse-reaction reports represent the largest number of reported adverse reactions of any drug in history.

And that was in 1992.

The rule of thumb on officially-filed adverse reactions is, for every reaction registered there are between 10 and 100 that never see the light of day.

Do the math.

It comes to between 230,000 and 2,300,000 severe adverse side effects.  And that was 12 years ago; and before it was prescribed for all the things it is now.  The numbers are much worse by now.

Studies not telling the real story:

A lot of studies have been done, attempting to prove that Prozac is safe and effective; but they mask the actual responses of people to Prozac.

Why isn't this being reported more vigorously in the media?

She warned that, with these SSRI antidepressants, especially in longer-term use, we would see the same cardiovascular problems we saw with Fen-Fen and Redux.  You see: the drugs we're discussing here aren't just Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Luvox, Effexor, Celexa, Lexapro, Sarafem and Anafronil; but also Fen-Fen, Redux, Meridia.  These diet pills also work on serotonin levels.

Never in the history of medicine has the developer of any particular medication come out as strongly as Dr. Pert did; especially while the drugs are still on the market.  Four years later, how many patients are being told that the developer is alarmed at the monster the doctor is handing to them?

With Fen-Fen and Redux, we learned that high serotonin levels produce a gummy, gooey, glossy substance that builds up on the heart valves, and keep the valve from shutting.  The lawsuits are still being filed four years later.

We also know that high serotonin will cause a gummy, gooey, glossy substance to build up in the brain tissue.  We call that Alzheimer's.

Dr. Pert warned of these things.

Serotonin and the brain: a flawed hypothesis for depression

With 50 years of research on serotonin behind us, we know of other reasons why you should not increase serotonin levels.

Serotonin is a substance that naturally exists in the brain.  However, Dr. Felix Shulman, an Israeli scientist who did the initial research on serotonin, found that it was toxic to the brain.  (That's kind of a different story than you get on all the TV ads you're seeing every day, isn't it?)  He said that is was a toxin, and would cause individuals, who were not able to metabolize this particular chemical, to suffer from anxiety and depression.

"But," you say, "I thought serotonin was low."

Well, the whole serotonin hypothesis is backwards.

The research demonstrates that serotonin levels are high in such disorders as schizophrenia, autism, mania, mood disorders (including depression and anxiety), organic brain disease, mental retardation, Alzheimer's and anorexia.

Anyone want to stand in line for those?

And yet, we have been led to believe that what we need to do is increase serotonin levels.  It's utter non-sense!

How SSRI antidepressant drugs increase serotonin levels

The way Prozac, Paxil, Celexa and these other drugs increase serotonin levels is by impairing your body's ability to metabolize it.  They literally interfere with your metabolism.  As a result, serotonin will build up in the system.

But, when serotonin builds up, it will produce impulsive murder and suicide, depression, anxiety, irritability, pains around the heart, difficulty breathing, worsening of bronchial complaints, tension and anxiety, that appear from out of nowhere.

It will also produce reckless driving.  (I was talking about Road Rage long before you heard the term.)

From the research that has been on-going for the last 50 years, we know that the build-up of serotonin in the brain — due to the body's inability to metabolize it — will produce these things.  The list is long.

Court Cases: There is no justice

I've testified in court cases related to the adverse effects of SSRI drugs for the last 10 years (as of 2003).  An article in the Washington Times Insight Magazine included a chart of some of these cases.  Here are just a few of the really famous cases, just to give you an idea of the types of reactions we're talking about.

I just mentioned these highest-profile cases; but, there are many others.  You need to know that Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Luvox, Celexa, Sarafem, Fen-Phen, Redux, Meridia, Effexor, Serzone, Wellbutrin, Zyban, or any one of the other SSRI antidepressant drugs, induced every one of these tragedies.  This is happening right under our noses; people are dying everywhere; but, it's not brought to you on your evening news.

It's just horrible that we're not being told what is going on.

And you should know this, as well: When the big pharmaceutical companies settled these court cases, the agreements included gag orders.  These families can't tell you what I'm telling you here.  So, while the families get some compensation for their loss, there is no justiceNo responsibility or guilt is ever officially attached, and these companies are allowed to continue on, business as usual.

Eli Lilly: the Prozac / LSD connection

The Eli Lilly Pharmaceutical Company introduced Prozac to the world.  It made so much money for Lilly that everyone else copied it, to get their cut of that Golden Goose.

Editor's note:

It has been brought to my attention that LSD was not developed by Eli Lilly; it was developed by the Swiss pharmaceutical company, Sandoz (now merged with Novartis). 

The researcher in charge of its developement was the pharmacologist Dr. Albert Hoffmann, a long-term employee of Sandoz, which provided most of the LSD used for illegal tests, performed by the CIA on prisoners and the mentally ill, in the US.  A lot of the LSD that was sold on the streets of the US was also provided by Sandoz.

It seems that Lily, later on, got a licence and produced the drug for a short time, before it was banned in the US in the mid/late 1960s.

Thank-you, Tatina, for bringing this to my attention.

But, you need to know something else about Eli Lilly: They are the ones who also gave us LSD.

I don't think any of us would believe it today; but, in 1956, when Eli Lilly introduced LSD, we were told that it was going to cure mental illness and alcoholism, and aid in psychoanalysis.  What you must understand here is that LSD, as well as PCP, is a serotonergic agent.  It works almost identically to these new SSRI antidepressants.

Remember: PCP was approved by the FDA as a safe and effective prescription medication, and was on the market for seven years before it was pulled.  It took an act of Congress to get LSD off the market.

There are times when I wonder if all that Eli Lilly did was pull out all of their old files and say, "Let's call it Prozac this time, and see how far we get."

For years, I've done radio shows with a doctor who calls these new antidepressants a slow-fuse LSD.

Antidepressants and cortisol: The complete deterioration of the body

In order for you to understand what causes people to do something so awful, and so completely out of character for them, you have to look at what is happening in their bodies while on drugs like Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Luvox, Celexa, Sarafem, Fen-Phen, Redux, Meridia, Effexor, Serzone, Wellbutrin or Zyban; what is happening in their brains; and what is happening to their cortisol levels.

A single, 30 mg dose of Prozac — that's a pill and a half — given to someone who has never taken the drug before, and who never takes it again, will double his or her cortisol levels.

Why is this significant?  Research indicates that high cortisol levels cause:

These are just a few of the things that can happen as a result of the increase of cortisol from these drugs.

When you're literally doubling your cortisol levels on a daily basis, your body is completely deteriorating.  I can't think of anything more damaging to the body — or the brain — than that huge increase of cortisol.

Paxil and breast cancer:

We've just learned that there's a 700% increase in breast cancer with Paxil.

I referred to a friend of mine in my book, Prozac: Panacea or Pandora?  She's the one who got me interested in SSRI antidepressants, because of the reactions I saw in her.  She died of cancer two years ago.  She was on Paxil, and just couldn't get off of it.

The link between SSRI antidepressants and diabetes:

In a deposition I gave for the makers of Zoloft a couple of years ago, the lead attorney for this company said, "Why are you telling everyone that these drugs are causing such a huge increase in diabetes?"  I said, "Well, because so many patients were reporting that they were becoming diabetic, I checked the stats for the State of Utah.  I found that the year after Prozac hit the market, diabetes shot straight up.  Up to that time, it had been pretty much at a plateau, just a very gradual incline."  (Besides, diabetes is listed as a side effect of Zoloft in the product insert.)

He asked, "Do you know if that's the case nation-wide?"  I told him that I hadn't had time to check those stats; but, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised.  In fact, I would expect it to be the same.

It was no more than three or four months later that the CDC came out with statements telling us that there had been a huge rise in diabetes in the last decade; a 70% increase in those 30-40 years old.

And the cause?


Was somebody rushing to protect themselves?

You bet they were.

Prozac, Paxil, Celexa and other SSRI antidepressants and weight gain:

As noted above, when you increase cortisol levels, you experience edema, water retention — weight gain.  People on these SSRI antidepressants average 60-70 pounds in weight gain.

SSRI antidepressants and Autism:

We've just heard that there has been an alarming increase in autism in recent years.  Remember what I said about high serotonin levels?  They're found in autism.

This is a really significant issue.

Bear this in mind: Doctors are keeping pregnant women on these medications throughout their pregnancies.  Many nurses are extremely upset about this, and are reporting this to me.

I had one patient who was on Prozac, and she had three autistic children before it dawned on her that it might be her medication.  How many more of those are out there?  We don't know.  No one is looking for them.

You need to know that, when a drug affects the brain, we will not know to what extent that brain has been damaged until it's fully developed.  That means, we're not going to know for perhaps another 10 years what kind of damage has been produced by keeping pregnant and nursing mothers on these medications; and of course, by then, it's way too late.

SSRI antidepressants and brain, liver and pancreas damage:

In the beginning, my concern with these medications was not the changes in personality we have been seeing, but liver and pancreas damage.

Serzone has just been found to cause liver damage; and, there is now a black box warning on that particular drug.

One of my patients, a young man who had never touched alcohol in his life, was told by his doctor that he had the liver of a 50-year-old alcoholic.  That was after only a year on Prozac.

We now have studies showing that Prozac turns brain cells into corkscrew shapes, which is a nice technical, medical way of saying it screws up your brain.

The build-up of SSRI drugs in the system

One argument for the safety of these drugs is that they are easily eliminated through the liver and kidneys.  However, studies show that seven-to-ten percent of Caucasians don't have liver function that is adequate to metabolize these drugs.  And generally, the test that could indicate if you are one of these people is not done before these medications are given.

What is more, these drugs are highly protein-bound, and accumulate in brain tissue at an alarming rate — 100 times greater than in the blood.  This means that it takes a long time to flush these medications out of your system.  (That's why I've had to produce an hour and a half long tape explaining how you come off of these drugs without suffering the terrible withdrawal effects.  It's called, "Help!  I Can't Get Off My Antidepressants", and is available from YL Wisdom.)

The comparative effectiveness of these drugs:

One of the really tragic elements of this whole subject is that there are such safe alternatives to these drugs.  For example:

So my question is: Why on earth are we subjecting ourselves to this, and the possibility of these terrible side-effects, when we know that exercise or a sugar pill can do it for us anyway?  And do a better job.

FDA and pharmaceutical companies:

Reintroduction of disreputable drugs under a new name

One thing I will never understand is why, when a drug has been pulled from the market because of the harm it has caused, it is re-introduced under a different name.

That is what happened with Redux: After Redux and Fen-Fen were pulled from the market, Redux was re-introduced to the market under the name Meridia.

Are we supposed to expect a better result this time around?

USA Today found that more than half of the experts on FDA advisory committees "have financial relationships with the pharmaceutical companies that will be helped or hurt by their decisions."  We also learned that the FDA is trying to get approval to receive funding for 55% of their employees from the drug companies, in effect, making them drug company employees, working at the FDA.

[Note: I believe Dr. Tracy is referring to the User Fee program called PDUFA, where pharmaceutical companies pay a fee for the FDA's review of new drugs.  It was a controversial funding solution adopted to help bolster the FDA's limited budget, and speed up the approval process for new drugs.

While this may seem like a creative way to deal with funding shortfalls, it effectively removes the objective outsider status of these people, and may well explain this agency's quick approval of drugs that are later found to be harmful, and its efforts to gut the protection afforded by DSHEA, and gain greater control over nutritional supplements.]

Therapeutic-Grade Essential Oils: An effective alternative

As I mentioned before, essential oils come to the rescue.  Let me give you a few examples.

One woman had suffered brain damage from Zoloft — they had found lesions on her brain — but simply using the Clarity and Joy blends from Young Living quickly repaired the problem.  She says that, now that we have the Brain Power blend, she would have used that, as well.  So, the oils are actually repairing brain damage caused by these drugs.

I got a call from a woman I've worked with for about four years.  She had a terrible reaction to Prozac; a very immediate reaction that she hadn't been able to recover from.  She tried all kinds of alternatives.  Finally, just this last week, she called and said, "I have to tell you: Those oils really work!"  And, I said, "Yes, I know.  That's why I told you to use them four years ago."  And, she said, "Well, I just got the Brain Power and the Clarity; and, for the first time in years, I actually got up in the middle of my favorite television program and did some housework."  She said, "For the last four or five years now, I've had to have a maid come in for this."

Another woman has a son who had a terrible reaction to these drugs.  As he was heading off to play golf with his grandfather, she asked him to put some of the Balance™ blend on the back of his neck.  His grandfather had seen him just three days before; but, the effect of the Balance™ blend was so profound, he left the golf course and went back to where he could get a phone, called the mother and asked, "What on earth did you do to this kid?"  He said that, from a range of 1 to 10, today has been an 11 or 12.  This mother said that she just couldn't believe the difference in her son.  And, it was only the first time he'd used the Balance™ blend.

Why essential oils have such a profound effect

The most significant thing essential oils do is to get the pineal gland working again.  The pineal gland metabolizes 50% of the serotonin in the system.  After using these antidepressants, which inhibit the metabolizing of serotonin, you need to get it working again, to clear out the overload.

When that pineal gland is overloaded, the result is something like that experienced by Andrea Yates.  She said that she felt possessed, like someone else's brain was in her head.

The pineal gland is known as the third eye, the seat of the soul.  It's the connection to the higher self, the connection to the spirit.  With high levels of serotonin in the brain, that connection is literally severed.

Therapeutic-grade essential oils that are high in sesquiterpenes — like frankincense, myrrh, sandalwood, lavender and peppermint, and the blends that contain these oils — are especially helpful in this clearing process, because sesquiterpenes have the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, to oxygenate the brain and clear out plaques and toxins.

So please, make use of the oils, and tell people about them.

But it's also extremely important to rebuild your ability to control blood sugar.  (That's probably why you had the depression to begin with.)  And, the oils can be very helpful here, as well.

There is help.  You have an alternative.  You don't have to turn to these drugs.  You don't have to put your brain into a sleepwalk state, and cause yourself to act out your worst nightmare.  (Andrea Yates' children dying was her worst nightmare.)

Be good to yourself.  You're the only you there is.


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