Sept, 9 2000
Go to More Wellbutrin/Zyban Bio- Neurological Side-Effects
Back to Foreword
I was prescribed the drug for suspected peri-menopausal symptoms versus possible depression. Initially, this tentative diagnosis was made by a gynecological PA. She was led to believe it could be helpful if used just prior to each menstrual cycle. I took two 100 mg pills over the ensuing four-month period following my consultation with her. I experienced a noted flattening of emotion, diminished physical sensation, and a feeling of depersonalization after ingestion each time. When it became clear that my original complaints were getting no better, I solicited the advice of an internist, who concurred with the PA's tentative diagnosis and instructed me to continue with the prescription on a full time basis. After taking the drug as prescribed for 3.5 days I found myself being uncontrollably thrown to my kitchen floor after days of very frightening physical and mental symptoms, the victim of an apparent acute dystonic reaction to the drug, resulting in a frantic 911 call made by my daughter that saw my subsequent transport to my local ER department via ambulance - oxygen, and IV's administered.
As I was being transported, the attending lead paramedic made specific recommendations to the ER department as to tests that needed to be performed upon my arrival. When admitted into the ER unit, I was given an IV drip of Valium, and was hooked up to a heart monitor, my temperature and vitals taken. The lead paramedic stayed at the hospital for an extended time, as she was very concerned that none of the tests she believed to be in order were being called for. After a heated disagreement between herself and the attending physician, she was dismissed. I was released with a poorly disguised, patronizing and unashamedly amused observation that I had experienced an episode of probable hyperventilation, the suggestion that I may be suffering from "other underlying problems" of a psychological nature, a written prescription for a small number of 2 mg Valium, and instructions to follow up with my primary care physician. My official record states a diagnosis of "muscular contractions and possible drug side-effects." Odd, hyperventilation and psychological problems have yet to be acknowledged to illicit muscular contractions.
I was at no time given even a cursory neurological examination, though my official records show this area to have been "normal." Upon discharge, I was unable to ambulate on my own, having been relegated to a wheelchair whilst still experiencing the horrifying experience of having to "remember" to inhale, furtively willing my body to stop it's trembling and periodic jerking, unable to hold even my upper body steady or erect in any fashion. I was disorientated by my altered sense of consciousness, and horrifically mystified as to why I was being discharged. In retrospect, it is now clear that I had been diagnosed long before I was ever seen by the attending physician, to the tune of something along the lines of "Malingering Housewife on Antidepressants Syndrome." Very neat, tidy, ego-saving and cost efficient. As one of the side effects of this drug is extreme urinary urgency, upon discharge I had to be literally hoisted by my husband from the wheelchair onto the toilet in the hospital's ER waiting room, surrounded at it's base by others' urine, my sock-clad feet soaked with the filth by virtue of having been drug along behind the body they were attached to. My legs were totally incapable of supporting me. As I was wheeled out to the parking lot, I was terrified that I would not make it home alive. I struggled to control my jerking movements, thinking surely I must be losing my mind. After all, if an attending ER MD saw no reason to admit me, I must be a hysteric - it must be all my imagination. I didn't dare let on that I was going to "lose it" at any moment.
In the ensuing days and months, I was treated as a "psych" case, told to wean off the Valium, and that I most probably had underlying "emotional" problems by a number of MDs. They were correct on the emotional front. I was an emotional disaster area. Those I had turned to for help had written me off, simply because they had never bothered to read what was written in the two page Wellbutrin product insert that would have afforded me the respect and the medical attention I so desperately needed. My involvement with these MD's began with my husband attempting to obtain the follow up appointment for me the Monday following the Saturday ER visit. He was curtly informed that none would be forthcoming for at least an eight day period, despite his pleas for help concerning my continuing jerking, flushing, urinary immediacy, inability to ambulate unaided, wild temperature fluctuations that required layers of clothing and blankets to somewhat contain my uncontrollable shaking, my inability to speak coherently and obvious extreme illness that kept me confined to the couch often curled in a fetal position, around the clock. My thinking was black, frightening, and jumbled. Often, I could not think cohesively at all. My children checked on me constantly to see if I was still breathing. THEY knew I was very ill. They had known it from the moment they heard my cry for help as I had hit my kitchen floor two days prior; they were the ones screaming at me to keep breathing, my lips turning blue, as I writhed about uncontrollably, my body curling tightly in on itself in grotesque posturings, my eldest attempting to hold me tightly to herself as she desperately pleaded with the 911 operator to come to our aid that fateful evening - an evening that has completely redefined all of ours lives ever since.
When I finally was sent to a local neurological facility, I was met with the same preconceived impression, namely the need to wean from the Valium, the high improbability that the drug had anything to do with my physical or emotional state, and that I should seek psychological help. Unbelievably, the neurologist was so inept and observably disinterested in my expressed concerns that in her assessment of my case she documented my need to stop the offending drug, which I had never taken again after my first ER visit weeks before!
One evening a little over a month after my initial ER visit and cessation of the bupropion, I experienced a powerful inability to "get enough air". The room began to close in on me. I experienced a total collapse, with the inability to do more than mumble incoherently. My husband and daughter literally drug me to my feet, outside into the cold desert night in the hopes that the air may "bring me around." When my eyes began rolling back in my head and my husband could no longer keep me erect, my daughter was forced once again to call 911. When they arrived I was barely conscious and found it all but impossible to speak. My body would not respond to my will. I was nothing more than a limp rag doll, my will as impotent as if non-existent. I was again hoisted onto a gurney, given oxygen, an IV, and transported to ER. A young paramedic who had been an attendant during my first ambulance transport looked down at me en route to the hospital as I struggled to speak. "Let me get this straight," he said, "Don't try to talk. You never had anything like this happen to you. You took this drug and you've been f…ed up ever since, correct?" Tears streamed out from under my oxygen mask. He just shook his head while resting his hand on my shoulder. Someone believed me…unfortunately, he was someone who did not belong in the ranks of the powers that be…
Unbeknownst to me, upon arrival at the ER unit, I was admitted as a psych admit. Once again I was given no neuro exam and yet my records indicate that I was. The attending physician suggested I may have been suffering from Valium withdrawal. I had only tried to taper for a few days. I was again released and told to follow up with a neurologist and my primary care physician. Whist waiting for these appointments to materialize, I was once again confined to my couch, being administered Valium every four hours around the clock, which only minimally contained my out of control body. A few days later I ended up in Urgent Care, intermittently jerking and convulsing, nearly passing out from profound somnolence. I was briskly escorted into a private room due to the disturbing impact my contortions were having on the children there. My visit resulted in treatment via a regular saline IV drip, (which I was assured could "do wonders"), a diagnosis of "convulsions of unknown etiology", a recommendation to seek psychological help, and a prescription for a drug which was directly contraindicated for one of the neuro movement disorder conditions which are to this day being investigated after fighting constantly with my HMO for qualified diagnosticians - namely, dyskinesia. I was told off the cuff by the attending nurse during that visit to never take anything they prescribed as she worked part time at the local prison and was constantly having to deal with the contortions, seizures and serious problems being experienced by the prisoners there who had been given Wellbutrin. We did not fill the prescription as I had already suspected I was suffering from paroxysmal dyskinesia, among other neuro disorders, due to my own research.
I was told I must undergo a psychiatric evaluation by my medical group, which did not come to pass until over a month after my initial ER visit. I was luckier than most of my fellow victims when going for my psychiatric evaluation; I was seen by a psychiatrist who was also a neurologist. I was definitively cleared of having any underlying organic psychiatric conditions and diagnosed with marked cogwheel rigidity and other neurological abnormalities that indicated definite neurological damage. Yet, unbelievably, this man also informed me that in his opinion it was highly unlikely that the drug could have anything to do with my physical problems. His contention was the limited time of my exposure did not warrant a cause and effect relationship, and that I would have a "hell" of a time, as he put it, proving it. He ordered a number of blood tests and recommended an MRI be performed. He was a psychiatrist, used to dolling out all manner of psychogenics. Obviously, he too had long since stopped reading his PDR. Were he, or the Urgent Care doctor, other MDs, or so-called neuro specialist whom I had sought help from to have looked into it's hallowed pages, they would have discovered that by the manufacturer's own admission (and qualified disclaimer) a minimum of 1/100 people were reported to have experienced dyskinesia and dystonia, dubbed as a "frequent" phenomena, in their postmarketing reports and clinical trials reports. They would have also noted such conditions as myoclonus, extrapyramidal syndrome, akathesia, disturbed concentration, blurred vision, abnormal neurological examination, urinary frequency and urgency, agitation, etc., etc., etc., all from which I continued to suffer. The manufacturer's product insert information has been changed numerous times over the years since the drug's introduction, as the side effects listings have increased as the drug has been used by a larger portion of the population. The listings serve to protect the manufacturer from suit and accountability, as the law protects them as long as any particular side effect is mentioned, albeit disclaimed due to the nature of the "uncontrolled" clinical trials and post marketing reports from which they are gleaned. Bottom line, the buck is passed to the particular MD who has not waded through its massive contents, influenced only by the assurances of the manufacturer's product reps, the company's slick promotional brochures, "educational" seminars and journal publications. Ergo, ignorance is bliss for all concerned, with the exception of those unfortunate enough to be at the receiving end of the results of such brilliantly engineered ignorance. Even the original prescribing PA, when informed of my dystonia asked, "what's that?"!
My MRI as per the psychiatrist's recommendation was completed, revealing brain damage supportive of dyskinesia and dystonia, both neurological movement disorders. It also revealed basal ganglia damage. That was the beginning of the story almost three years ago. I presently live with an addiction to diazepam, the dosage now increased to twice it's original usage for oftimes uncontrollable movement disorders, the inability to work outside my home, as I continue to attempt to deal with my incapacity to care for the family whom I love so very dearly - my husband of 30 years and 3 children still at home. My eldest daughter at home, now 21, has had to take over nearly all of my former responsibilities. I continue to experience seizure type activity, extreme collapses, have lost over 23 pounds and more…with no cure, no help in sight…
It must be kept in mind throughout this brief that I am most definitely a different bird than most. I researched everything I could get my hands on whilst shaking, convulsing at times, jerking, stuttering, experiencing great confusion, lack of comprehension and attempting to "appear" normal, though I could barely drive at times, concentrate, whilst my vision was becoming worse with each passing day. Once I realized that I was considered a "basket case" early in my disability, I learned the medical community could not be depended on for their supposed expertise in the area I was dealing with. I am by nature an inquisitive, independent, goal orientated woman; one who has been known to plant trees at seven months pregnant and install my own irrigation system, lay cement, working right along side my husband in our landscaping business. I know how to endure pain and how to persevere despite all odds, especially when it comes to doing things right and getting to the bottom of things. When I realized my very life hung in the balance, I took NO ONE'S word as gospel. I set out to find out for myself the truth behind the effects of the drug that I knew was at the root of my problems. I repeatedly pressed for kidney tests, any test, that could confirm my belief that the drug was still active in my body long after cessation. I was told across the board that the probability of the drug still being present was all but impossible. Though I never imagined that those within the medical community were in such complete ignorance as to the effects and properties of this drug, once I realized they could kill me by their ignorance, I pressed on, fighting my drug induced bodily dysfunctions and mental limitations. It has come at a great cost, and many, many times I have been driven to the edge of despair.
The average individual who is harmed by this drug trusts the medical community they go to for help. All too often I have learned through my many, many contacts with them, they have taken their doctors' highly uninformed pronouncements as gospel, oftimes accepting additional drugs that have served to severely harm them as patients even further. They are deemed "depressed", "manic-depressive", "psychotic", whatever psychiatric flavor of the day will get them off their brilliant psychiatrist's or original prescribing MDs backs and onto another mind-bending and life-destroying drug. When this occurs, they are often incapable of doing much more than giving up, succumbing to their emotional and physical hells, induced by the effects of the mind bending "cocktails" they are given so as to further nail down their MD's and so-called specialist's diagnoses of having "mental" or "psychiatric" problems unrelated and independent of their exposure to the original offending drug.
BACK TO TOP
Back to  Foreword...