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The Perils of Prozac
Part I

Note: If you or anyone you know are currently taking an SSRI and are doing well on it do not discontinue your medication based upon this article. Although the information presented here may be cause for concern, it does not mean that you will become violent while taking SSRIs. In fact, if you discontinue a medication that is working well for you, you may risk withdrawal symptoms, depression or suicidal feelings. You should never discontinue any medication on your own. Always consult your physician first.

INTRODUCTION

In the wake of the recent school shootings in Littleton, CO, we are left shaking our heads wondering what went wrong and how can we prevent such a tragedy from recurring. Fingers have been pointed at everything from lax gun control laws to the parents themselves. Blame has also been laid at the feet of the antidepressant drug Luvox, which one of the boys was being treated with. This is not the first time one of the new generation antidepressants called SSRIs, or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, have been implicated in acts of violence. This week we begin a series of articles examining the connection between these "wonder drugs of the 90's" and violence.

A DISTURBING TREND

During recent years homicide has decreased to a low not seen since the late 1960's. Oddly enough, however, "murder/suicide", road rage, school violence and workplace violence have increased during this time period. Could this rise be due to SSRIs? The International Coalition for Drug Awareness would have us believe so. Their home page cites this troubling statistic:

'The first Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor to be released was Prozac in January of 1988. Since then we have had Zoloft, Paxil, Luvox, Effexor and Serzone. We also have had SSRIs that are diet pills. These are Redux & the "fen" of phen/fen. The time frame for these new drugs is exactly the same as the time frame for the 7% rise each year in "road rage".' (Author's Note: A reader was kind enough to point out that there are actually only five drugs which fall into the class called SSRIs - Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Luvox, and Celexa. Effexor and Serzone belong to a class called Newer Antidepressants and Redux is not an anitdepressant at all. While I did quote this from someone else, I should have noticed the inaccuracy. Many thanks to Donald Cameron for pointing out the error.)

Whether this assertion is true or not, a visit to the Bureau of Justice Statistics Homepage does confirm these types of crime as being growing concerns in modern America.

No other drug in history has become such a cultural icon as Prozac has. The Prozac Pez Web Page gives just an inkling of the status that Prozac holds in our society. According to an article found on the Prozac Survivor's Homepage, there are now in the United States approximately 36 million people who have taken an SSRI - 30 million as an antidepressant and 6 million as a diet drug. That is one out of 7 Americans, both adult and children, who have taken an SSRI. If Prozac is responsible for even a small portion of violent crimes and suicides, then this is indeed cause for alarm.

IN THE NEWS

One has only to pick up a recent newspaper or switch on the TV to see that SSRIs are increasingly being blamed for violent crimes in America. Here is a sampling of recent news stories involving an SSRI and a violent crime:

April 28, 1999 - A Washington Post article reveals that the Littleton, CO youth who opened fire and killed several of his classmates was rejected by the Marine Corp earlier this year because he lied about the fact that he was taking a prescription antidepressant called Luvox.

June 8, 1998 - An Associated Press article reveals that Brynn Hartman, wife of comedian Phil Hartman, had the antidepressant Zoloft in her bloodstream when she murdered her husband in his sleep and then later turned the gun on herself. The attorney for the family argues that because Mrs. Hartman had had alcohol and cocaine before, Zoloft was the only new variable and therefore must have been responsible.

June 1, 1998 - An article in The Oregonian raises questions about Prozac's relationship to violence after a sixteen-year-old boy, Kip Kinkel, guns down his parents and then his school mates at Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon. Kinkel had been prescribed the antidepressant drug Prozac for his depression.

January 1, 1998 - A Star Bulletin article reports that the role of Prozac in a Maui murder-suicide will be argued in a June 2, 1998 hearing in Honolulu's federal court. Five years prior, William Forsyth stabbed his wife 15 times then propped a knife on a stool and stabbed himself. He had been on Prozac for two weeks at the time.

December 8, 1997 - Time magazine article reports that INXS lead vocalist Michael Hutchence was found naked and dead hanging by a belt attached to the closing mechanism of his hotel room door. A bottle of Prozac was found in his room just after the suicide.

Next:  Read one woman's true experience with becoming violent of Prozac. 

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