If Paxil or Zoloft are being recommended, you might want to form your own second opinion by reading some testimonials written by those going through Paxil or Zoloft withdrawal.
Psychiatrists and doctors have done only a small amount of research into exploring what they call the SSRI discontinuation syndrome despite many complaints from those taking the drugs. (SSRIs are a class of compounds broadly used as antidepressants.)
Before going off patent, Paxil made $11.7 billion in sales for GlaxoSmithKline and Zoloft made $30 billion in sales for Pfizer. Both SSRI drugs continue to be sold today along with generic counterparts created post-patent by other companies. Back in 1997 the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry published a research paper that attempted to explore all the medical literature and any controlled studies on SSRI withdrawal symptoms. They did find evidence that such symptoms like “flashes in my peripheral vision and headaches”, “random flashes of split-second dizziness…like a mild electrical jolt in your brain” and “electric shock phenomena” were real and, of course, suggested further study rather than suggesting action to protect patients taking the drugs.
They also reported these symptoms could last “up to 3 weeks” – quite a modest time period compared to patient reports.
Paxil and Zoloft withdrawal symptoms topped the SSRI list with these:
- gastrointestinal symptoms
- abdominal discomfort
- myalgias (muscle pain)
- “electric sensations”
- abnormal dreams
- “withdrawal buzz” – intense distracting sensation within the head and disorientation or dizziness
- visual hallucinations
- crying spells
- paresthesias -a sensation of tingling, tickling, prickling, pricking, or burning of a person’s skin
One of the few controlled tests the researchers reported was done on a group of patients given Paxil for stuttering. (Why an antidepressant was given for stuttering was not explained.) Six weeks on Paxil, then half the group were taken off Paxil and half got a placebo. They discovered those coming off the drug experienced euphoria followed by aggression and suicidal impulses along with dizziness, blurred vision, nausea lethargy and insomnia.
The descriptions of the medical researchers seem coldly impersonal when contrasted with descriptions written by the patients experiencing the withdrawal.
Here are a few stories from people trying to get off Paxil.
“I’ve been taking Paxil 20mg for 12 years…a month ago I went down to 10mg and I am now down to 5mg. Even tapering slowly, I have had TERRIBLE withdrawal. I have had severe headaches and lightheadedness, and have felt very depressed, like I can just cry all day. My dreams have been crazy at night; I have been having a lot of nightmares that I wake up from. It has been awful and if I didn’t exercise like I do, working out 6 days a week, I really feel like I’d be suicidal. Tomorrow I take my last 5mg. It is so terrible I have been tempted to go back to 20mg. But I am determined to get this evil crap out of my body. I just want everyone to know that they aren’t alone and wanted to share my story. I am hoping to make it through this…”
I did not have serious mental issues. I was originally prescribed Paxil to treat mild situational anxiety. I am shy in social and work settings. I have been trying to wean myself off of Paxil for 7 months. I am better able to manage the symptoms at this point, but am unable to stop taking the drug. As I lowered my dosage from 40mg/day to 10mg/day over the course of 4 months, the withdrawal symptoms became unbearable. I was confined to my living room for most of that time. Once I finally finished weaning, I entered a two month window of clarity. I felt clear minded and confident in a way that I hadn’t experienced in years. Unfortunately, I crashed about two months after stopping Paxil entirely. I was again confined to my living room floor, feeling desperate and suicidal. I was forced to start taking Paxil again because I felt that my life was in danger. I have been able to get back to 10mg/day, but my quality of life has diminished again to bare existence”
This person then lists over 30 symptoms he’s had during Paxil withdrawal, none of which he had before taking the drug.
Here is one from the UK:
“I am just at the start of my fourth withdrawal – some four weeks in – and I am determined for this withdrawal to be my last. I am planning this withdrawal over two years and reducing using the liquid form of Seroxat, coming down from 30mg to nil. (Paxil and Seroxat are brand names for the same drug – Paroxetine) I’ve been on this drug for 11 years, since I was 19, and I have almost killed myself on each of the three previous attempts at withdrawal…”
Another patient writes:
“I was prescribed Paxil by my doctor during an especially stressful time in my life. I had no history of mental illness nor was I diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. I took this medicine, actually a very low dose, from 2001 – 2005. When I decided to stop taking it, I cut my dose back gradually and weaned myself off of it entirely. I began having gastric distress. This began as I was cutting back on the Paxil and continued long after I quit taking it. I had diarrhea every day for 2-1/2 years. This lasted all day long, every day. It affects everything that I do, from what kind of job I have, where I go, vacations, where and what I can eat. I have had many tests run by specialists and there is no other cause for the diarrhea…
It is known this drug causes bowel incontinence, bloating, horrible gas and pain along with the chronic diarrhea.
I wish I had known what this drug would do to me before I started taking it. Please do your homework. The doctors will not tell you about the side effects and withdrawal symptoms, nor will GlaxoSmithKline, the makers of Paxil. Can you guess why they don’t tell you? $$$$$$$$$$$$$$”
Here are some descriptions of Zoloft withdrawal:
“Briefly: I stopped taking Sertraline (Zoloft) in early January. My daily dose at that time was extremely high: 300, even as high as 350 mg. a day. I’d been on it for over 4 years–it was prescribed following a knee injury in an aftershock of the Northridge earthquake… the doctor thought the antidepressants would give me an extra boost to help my recovery.
By the time I stopped I was showing signs of serotonin toxicity (constant anxiety) and was also (according to my husband and dentist) grinding my teeth like crazy every night. I decided to stop cold turkey, and prepared for a few bad days at least, knowing a little about potential withdrawal effects. So, at first, the dizziness, nausea, “electric shock” feelings, wild dreams, etc., didn’t bother me all that much.
After two straight weeks, though, the continuation of those symptoms plus other ones–itching (not tingling or burning) all over my body, something I’m sure were seizures (a feeling of suddenly falling, sort of “blacking out” but not quite, followed almost instantly by tremendous muscle jerks in my legs or arms … it was almost impossible to get to sleep at night from the itching, “falling” and muscle spasms. .. It is now nearly three months since I stopped taking the Zoloft. …I’ve put on somewhere between 10-15 pounds over the past two months. My energy is low; I feel like I’m slogging through water much of the time… It’s not getting worse; it’s just lasting and lasting and I feel exhausted and unsure how to proceed. Whatever they say about these drugs being “not addictive” — I could testify that I have reached a point where I literally crave my Zoloft, where the only thing stopping me from calling the pharmacy to refill my still-existing prescription is will power.
I believe it’s an issue of tremendous importance — to people like me, certainly, but also to the thousands if not millions of people who thoughtlessly and trustingly pop their antidepressant pills just to make it to work every day. Not to mention the future generations of children who, if they have their way and start using these drugs for so-called “early childhood” psychiatric illness, may end up having their brains scrambled forever. The specter of permanent, unalterable damage is truly frightening…”
And another person writes:
“Please, please, PLEASE someone tell me how long these withdrawal symptoms are supposed to last?! I’ve been tapering off, 25mgs. every two weeks from 150mgs. and am now at 50mgs. This weekend I should be cutting that down to 25mg but I don’t even think I’m going to make it through the damn day! My symptoms are the same as others … dizziness, nausea, anxiety, eye/vision problems, irritability, going to slam my head into a wall, slam others as well … when it the name of all that is holy will it stop?! I seriously contemplated stopping my car over a major bridge yesterday and jumping.”
This person has a withdrawal symptom no one has solved:
“I stopped my Zoloft cold-turkey (I know… I know) about a week ago and I have been feeling like I just want to die. To escape the pain it’s caused, that is. I’ve been on 100mg for about 2 years and it’s the absolute hardest drug to come off of…. My head feels heavy; I wish I could just rip it off sometimes. It’s like a headache but not. I couldn’t shower for about 3 days because I couldn’t stand up long enough to do so! My head would feel light and I would get dizzy and I would get heart palpitations and then my vision would start to go so I would have to lay down very quickly. I’m still having the palpitations and the head pain. My eyes are very itchy; don’t know if that’s a side effect or not. I, too, have gained quite a bit of weight from being on the Zoloft. And I’m another who would have refused to take it had I known about such side effects…
My ears have been clicking and popping for 2 months now. It started when I stopped the Zoloft, but I’ve been everywhere to try and figure out what’s going on. I’ve been to 3 ears, nose and throat doctors and 2 dentists because two of those docs thought it could be TMJ. So I went to a TMJ specialist… he told me I had none of the symptoms. The clicking is driving me so crazy that I just can’t do it anymore. I sleep as much as I possibly can just so I don’t have to deal with it. I was in the emergency room last night because I was crying so bad because I just can’t take it anymore… Well, I got a CT scan and it ends up coming back perfectly normal… The doctor suggested I go to my family doctor and talk to her about going BACK on the Zoloft because he believes that’s the only thing that will EVER help this stop.
NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! I don’t WANT to go back on that xxx!!!! I don’t ever want that back in my body. I’ve got enough problems now thanks to that stupid drug!!!!! … I refuse to take any more SSRI’s.
These companies need to be held RESPONSIBLE for what they do to us. They COVER the symptoms, they don’t CURE them. Not to mention the fact that they create brand NEW ones!!! Something really needs to be done. I can’t live my life this way and I shouldn’t have to! None of us should!! We give in because we feel like we’ve lost all hope and that there’s no other choice. But they know exactly what they’re doing. And if they don’t, they certainly don’t seem to care!
No one else’s ears click?? I don’t know what to do. It feels hopeless.”
This person is correct –the drug companies don’t care about these patients and these stories. Many of these people had no mental or emotional problems to start with but were prescribed these drugs for various reasons by a family physician they trusted. Side effects and withdrawal symptoms were not mentioned.
It’s ironic that in June 2012 GlaxoSmithKline paid a tiny amount in a class action lawsuit for falsely advertising that Paxil was non-habit forming or addictive and for failing to disclose the risk of possible symptoms if a user stopped taking Paxil.
“Class Members of the Paxil class action settlement who can provide Proof of Purchase can receive a full refund of the out-of-pocket expenses they paid for Paxil during the Class Period, provided the total amount of claims does not exceed $8.5 million.
Class Members without Proof of Purchase can still file a claim to receive up to $80 of out-of-pocket expenses, provided the total amount of these claims does not exceed $500,000.”
Imagine going through the horrors of this drug and receiving an $80.00 refund and knowing the drugs are still being sold to new victims.