Tag Archives: fluoxetine

J.J.’s story

4 years is nothing. 4 years is a black spot on a clean canvas that you can only really see if you step over those red rope barriers in museums that stop you from getting too close. But 4 years of depression and anxiety left my life paralyzed from the early teens onwards. It came in waves, waves of not being able to leave my bed, wishing I was dead, crying until my eyes were burning and my brain felt like it was under a hydraulic press.

Being 15 – noting that I’m 16 now – my mother was desperate. She was frustrated, blaming herself, my father, mostly just me, though. I couldn’t face going to school, so I missed most of the high school experience, I couldn’t even leave my room most days.

We tried aromatherapy. I had candles and drank herbal mixtures and dropped two drops of flower water onto my tongue a day. I had mouth sprays and scent sticks and special herbal chewing gum. That didn’t work so well.

We tried tapping, sort of like massage therapy. I’d tap areas of my body and tell it I will go to school tomorrow. I didn’t.

We tried therapy. My mother took me to a counsellor named Mindy who made me cinnamon tea. Later, I saw an Anne who let me play with the fidget toys she had in a box in the corner. Then I got to the top of the CAMHS waiting list and I saw a Sandra who brought in aromatic play-dough to make me feel more relaxed. Then I got to an Adrienne, who had a fun accent. After her came Linda, who said ‘breasts’ too much.

Then I got Dr Tom.
I’d done CBT – it hadn’t helped. I was missing my GCSEs due to anxiety – I was thrown deeper into depression. My relationship with my mother was angry yells and her being disappointed in me every time she saw me (or, that’s what it felt like to a 15-year-old).

I couldn’t live like this anymore.
Dr Tom explained, in much detail, that medication – Fluoxetine, 20mg – was a last-ditch effort to try to keep my 4 years of misery from becoming 5.

I’d had friends who’d benefitted from taking medication, so when I wasn’t opposed to the idea, my mother agreed. Desperate times and all that.

Dr Tom had explained the side effects to me, and how if they surpassed the two-week mark, I was to call his office immediately. Dizziness, nausea, suicidal thoughts. I was willing.

The first few days, I was dizzy. My head felt heavy and I felt like I was floating. No nausea, no suicidal thoughts.

A week later, I did get a dark cloud over my head. It didn’t last long, but it was there.

A week later, I’d tidied my room. The first time in months.

A month later, I looked up courses in local colleges. I didn’t cry about missing my GCSEs.

6 months later, I set up a board of aspirations and was slowly ticking them off.

A year later, I bought a pet budgie, whom I look after. That’s a lot of responsibility for someone who couldn’t look after themselves last year.

When the time came to come off of my meds, I had no side effects. I was living. I was alive. I had plans, I didn’t look around and hate where I was in life. I was something. Not nothing. 4 years of dark at the end of the tunnel, and suddenly there was light. And it wasn’t a train coming right at me this time, I’d actually found the end of the tunnel!
I’ve been off Prozac for a few months by now. I dyed my hair the other day and laughed when it didn’t come out the way I wanted it to.

When I was 13, if my hair wasn’t right, my anxiety would have me missing days of school to cry on my bedroom floor. My bird, Archie, is my best bud, and likes to sit on my shoulder. I volunteer at an animal rescue and walk the dogs. I used to cross the street when one was coming towards me. I want to learn sign language. I’m going to a concert next year. I go to a drama club. I take the train. I read books. I spend time with my friends. I smile at strangers. I’m not angry anymore.

Prescription drugs can be awful. It can turn something bad into something worse and make someone scared into someone scary.
But I’d been scared for so long.
And I’m not anymore. I’m unsure that I ever will be again.
Whatever prescription drugs are to you, I wish you luck, and remind you there is hope.
cool. peace.

BBC File on Four program on Antidepressants in Children

A recent BBC File on Four program on Antidepressants in Children, presented by Paul Connolly, has drawn disparaging comments on posts here. Here is some background detail. I was interviewed for the program. My messages were as follows:

  1. That the trials of Prozac in children were identical to the trials of other SSRIs and other antidepressant drugs in this age group – negative. There are more negative Prozac trials for depression in this age group than for any other antidepressant.
  2. Part of our problem s that MHRA and NICE don’t want to be seen to go back on judgements they made 14 years ago when they licensed Prozac. Better children die than regulators lose face.
  3. That all of the literature in this area is ghost or company written.
  4. That there is no access to data from clinical trials – MHRA don’t have access, NICE don’t have access – no-one does.

It was clear to me that Paul Connolly, although expressing shock just like Chris van Tulleken some months before at what I laid out, was not going to include this material. Chris was somewhat the braver of the two. He rather subtly skewered NICE – but probably too subtle for most people. A week before the programme ran, there was an email from File on Four saying that owing to space constraints I was one of several people being omitted.

What File on Four ended up was a combination of the irritatingly anodyne and bizarre. What is the definitive answer about whether antidepressants work, Paul Connolly asked – no one knows he said. There are definitive answers the public deserve to be told about but FoF bottled it. Doctors are all at the mercy of clinical trials, he said, before turning to Ian Goodyer, someone who has pushed antidepressants for children for years who said on the basis of the biggest trials with 475 children he could tell us that fluoxetine (Prozac) worked in 67% of cases rising to 80+ %. I’d fail a medical student who offered me this answer if presented with the results of the TADS trial – the one Goodyer was talking about. There is no good evidence fluoxetine worked in this trial. Goodyer omitted to tell us that there were 34 suicidal events on fluoxetine compared to 3 on placebo. Goodyer made something of the fact this was the biggest trial of Prozac which sounds good but isn’t the biggest – not by a longshot. Even if it were the biggest, Goodyer fails to appreciate that the bigger the trial the greater the chance you can show snake oil works. If drugs are worth it, small trials are all that is needed. Prozac, fluoxetine, is in fact the drug with more negative trials than any other. These points are irritating. The bizarre one was that FoF made Andrea Cipriani out to be the radical outlying voice. AC’s work is totally controlled by industry – he knows he has no access to the data and his work is based on ghostwritten or company written reports . He’s a very nice man but the idea that he is a voice for caution as regards the use of antidepressants is bizarre.

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