December 2012

Updated - See last entry down at the end - September, 2013

New Update - See further entry - October, 2017

New Update -
See further entry down at the end - December, 2021

Hi there, WARNING: Happy pills! – SSRI anti depressants:

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), of which Prozac (fluoxetine) was the first. Other SSRIs are Zoloft (sertraline), Paxil (paroxetine, known as Seroxat in the UK  and Aropax in Australia), Celexa (citalopam), Lexapro (escitalopram), and Luvox (fluvoxamine). Other newer antidepressants included in this list are Remeron (mirtazapine), Anafranil (clomipramine) and the SNRIs Effexor (venlafaxine), Cymbalta (duloxetine) and Pristiq (desvenlafaxine) as well as the dopamine reuptake inhibitor antidepressant Wellbutrin (bupropion) (also marketed as Zyban).

"One person in five will experience some form of mental illness each year, and almost half the population at some stage during their life,"1 the most common types are depression or anxiety problems.

"The majority of mental illnesses begin between the ages of 15 - 25 years".2

There is a big social stigma about anything to do with mental illness, and people keep this to themselves.

But I think it’s time someone spoke out with this WARNING! :

1. Some Doctors are too quick to prescribe anti-depressant drugs to people experiencing depression or anxiety, before exploring alternatives.

2. These anti-depressant drugs can with some people, have bad side effects, both physical and behavioural, and if you stay on the drug too long, you can end up with more problems than you started with.
The behavioural side effects can be worse, because usually you are not aware you have these until you come off the drug.

3. Some of the drugs are addictive, you can become totally dependent on them.*

I have just had nearly four months of sheer hell, recovering from an anti-depressant drug (paxil/sold as aropax in Australian) that I was stuck on for many years.
I’ll outline later, as an example, the horrible side effects this drug had on me.

As happened in my case, if you try to stop taking the drug, you start feeling very sick again –depression or bad anxiety etc. – So you think – ‘heck I must be really sick and better go back on the drug.’ But this is just the withdrawal effects of the addiction or dependency on the drug, that are kicking in and hanging on.

In the last two years, I made two more gutsy determined attempts to get off the anti-depressant drug I was on (paxil/aropax), but each time I ended up feeling so sick, I was verging on feeling suicidal.

The doctors are given free samples of these different anti-depressant drugs by reps from the drug companies. So the doctors are able then to often give the patient the first box of pills for free...

4. People need to be told that if they or a family member are ever put on an anti-depressant drug, they should work very hard to be on it only a number of months, so they don’t become drug dependent.

5. It’s more important to use alternatives to anti-depressant drugs: exercise, relaxation/ breathing/meditation techniques, counselling, and a better diet (less sugar- highs and lows etc).

6. Be informed! Don’t self-medicate, but be informed. Use the Internet- look up the drug you are given. There are many information sites, and more importantly, discussion forums on the Internet, where people describe their experiences on these drugs, potential side effects and effectiveness etc…

I was stuck on paxil/aropax for many years. In the last four or five years, the drug seemed to be losing it’s effectiveness. After my local doctor tried me on two other drugs, neither of which seemed to work, I ended up on Paxil again but on twice the dose!

The side effects got much worse, although I was still unaware oblivious to the behavioural side effects, and getting sick on the second drug was probably just the paxil/aropax withdrawal effects kicking in.

Paxil/aropax is still one of the most commonly prescribed antidepressant (SSRI) drugs prescribed to people today.

Paxil / aropax(Aus) is now a very old drug, it has a ‘scatter-gun’ approach in that it targets five different chemical areas/aspects of the brain.

In June 2012 GlaxoSmithKline, the company that makes this drug, was fined 3 billion dollars mainly for bribing doctors to prescribe this much older and addictive drug to young people. See article extracts below.

I’m just so relieved that I am now finally free of this drug. After nearly four gruelling months of withdrawal, I’ve rid my head of these chemicals, so now I’m starting to feel clear headed, and feel my old normal self again.

(Click paxil aropax withdrawal syndrome and paxil withdrawal youtube to see the horrendous experiences people have had to endure trying to get off this drug. (It the above links, click Open this content in a new window.) 

     In the first link above you’ll find the youtube clip of a Sydney girl that was prescribed Aropax in Year 11. She describes her experiences as she tries to get off the drug many years later.)

                  This drug has even inspired street protest marches! See 'Best Answer' :
                                                                        (Right mouse click/ Open in new window)

Please remember that if you or a member of your family, or a close friend, is ever prescribed an anti-depressant type drug, how they can be effectively informed about the drug, not to stay on it too long, and how it is very important to pursue the alternatives to the drug that I outlined above. The hidden side effects of these drugs can be very damaging.

I hope this information can be of help to other people.


P.S.  The only physical side effects that persisted with me while I was on this drug, was weight gain, occasional mild nausea, and sometimes having exhausting bad dreams that left me feeling on waking as though I had already done a ten hour day!

With regard to the behavioural side effects, I have cut and pasted below some extracts from a discussion forum. Most of these behavioural side effects I could personally vouch for as likely credible.

They are from, different peoples descriptions of the the behavioural side effects they experienced on this anti depressant drug paxil/aropax:

Extracts from ‘paxil behaviour side effects’ – extracts from this discussion forum thread – different people discussing their experiences with paxil / aropax (Aus).

- Antidepressants can numb people emotionally, make them less empathetic, callous, and generally less considerate of the feelings of others. They can also causes problems with judgement, impulsiveness, and personality change.

- Because the focus initially is on whether or not the person is responding to the medication and because the side effects above can happen slowly over time, it's sometimes hard for the person taking the AD and their significant other to notice.

- Take it from someone who has "been there" , and lost friends .... through paxil addiction and side effects...the erratic behaviour and out of character stuff is very very common with this drug .....

- Now that I'm coming out of the fog, I can see everything a bit clearer, it's embarrassing .... What would I give just to go back and do things a little different?

- It's very common for those on Paxil (or other SSRIs like Zoloft) to not care about the impact of their actions on others... It's also common during… the point where the Paxil is not effective anymore.

- Weight gain is almost universal in those taking Paxil. They cannot help it, it's a side effect of the drug.

- She is now off paxil all together for several weeks now. She says she can feel her feelings again and it’s like she was wearing cotton around her feelings for years and now she can feel again.

- I think Paxil could definitely have caused some of your wife's behavior. I was an unemotional zombie on Paxil, manic at times, slept a ton, gained 20 pounds ….did odd and insensitive things, and made impulsive decisions.. You can't see these things when you are on it though, only when you come off does it open your eyes.

- Approximately 8 years Paxil 20 mg. Side effects: weight gain, personality changes, no motivation, memory loss, stomach problems, ….excessive eating, vivid [bad] dreams.

- I had no idea that paxil was so invasive.

- Paxil turns people into uncaring and unemotional zombies. Somehow Paxil blocks our sense of what is [socially] right and what is wrong... [and at times your social skills can just disappear!]

- Things are much better now. I recognize him again and today he cares about consequences and other people's feelings.

 - The changes that Paxil had caused in him were absolutely unbelievable. Thank goodness they have disappeared.

Read more:

If you read more on this above forum , as you scan down, you’ll see the terrible extent of the behavioural changes that this drug  induced in these people;

'Scotty' and 'Trying 66' in the above forum/link for example, shows you disturbing behavioural side effects, that can occur with some people on these drugs, and may have links to the violence incidents shown in the green link below.

Also some of the contributors such as ‘Pantela’ and ‘Charlie’ believed that “...this type of reaction is by no means limited to Paxil" and that other SSRIs such " Zoloft, Lexapro, Celexa, Prozac, Effexor, Cymbalta all have the potential to do exactly the same thing!”)

These antidepressant drugs can have with some people, an emotionally deadening effect.  This could well be contributing to relationship break downs, as well as anti-social behavior that ranges from 'out of character' bad manners, to mania (silly eratic behaviour), or even aggression in extreme cases.


More case stories from around the world.   

The second person, in this above forum / link, struck a chord with me!

New York Times Published: July 2, 2012

GlaxoSmithKline [the drug company that makes Paxil/Aropax] agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges and pay $3 billion in fines for promoting its best-selling antidepressants for unapproved uses ….

In the case of Paxil, prosecutors claim GlaxoSmithKline employed several tactics aimed at promoting the use of the drug in children, including helping to publish a medical journal article that misreported data from a clinical trial.

Prosecutors said the company had tried to win over doctors [to encourage them to prescribe the drug] by paying for trips to Jamaica and Bermuda, as well as spa treatments and hunting excursions...

A warning was later added to the drug that Paxil, like other antidepressants, might increase the risk of suicidal thoughts in teenagers.

2 July 2012

GlaxoSmithKline [the drug company that makes Paxil/Aropax] paid U.S. medics to prescribe potentially dangerous medicines to adults and children.
The enormous settlement – believed to be the largest ever for a drugs firm…
It bribed doctors to prescribe Paxil to children even though the authorities had not approved its use for under-18s.

Carmen Ortiz, the US attorney for Massachusetts, said: ‘GSK’s sales force bribed physicians to prescribe GSK products using every imaginable form of high priced entertainment, from Hawaiian vacations to paying doctors millions of dollars to go on speaking tours, to a European pheasant hunt, to tickets to Madonna concerts.’

GSK also admitted distributing a misleading medical journal article about Paxil while failing to publish data from other studies that showed it was not effective in treating depression in young people…. concerns it triggered suicides.

Why did this drug company GSK bribe doctors to promote one of their SSRI drugs that is now over twenty years old, and not one of their more recent and improved drugs? See below...

*Antidepressants such as SSRIs have some dependence producing effects, most notably a withdrawal syndrome.

Their dependence producing ['addictive'] properties .. withdrawal symptoms nonetheless may be quite severe and even debilitating. SSRIs have little abuse potential, but discontinuation can produce disturbing withdrawal symptoms that may be indistinguishable from a reoccurrence of the original illness.[32] Since physical dependence is a reality, discontinuation should be discussed with a medical practitioner before beginning treatment with this class of drugs.” [Some GPs do not seem to know about this ‘discontinuation syndrome'.]
Of all of the SSRI drugs, Paxil/ Aropax is extremely difficult to stop taking or withdraw from.

"In late 2004 media attention was given to a proposed link between SSRI use and juvenile suicide. For this reason, the use of SSRIs in pediatric cases of depression is now recognized by the United States FDA as warranting a cautionary statement to the parents of children who may be prescribed SSRIs by a family doctor."
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor(SSRI)

Extreme behavioural side effects

SSRI antidepressants linked to increasing juvenile violence.
If you ever wondered what was happening in society...
where young people could step over the line like this, I think this could be
a big part of the answer
: -  violence / incidents

Working to the advantage of the drug companies, is the reluctance of the people who have had bad experiences on these SSRI antidepressant drugs, to complain openly about the product, because of the social stigma attached to any kind of mental illness.


Is this for real?

Articles: Behavioral Side Effects of Antidepressants

Although antidepressant medications help to relieve the symptoms of depression, they also may produce unpleasant or even dangerous side effects. While many of these side effects are physical, some potentially dangerous behavioral side effects may also develop. Behavioral side effects may indicate that the antidepressant is not having its desired effect, warns the Helpguide website; therefore, all behavioral side effects should be reported to a doctor as soon as possible.

Patients taking antidepressants may display other unusual behaviors or act out of character. They may act recklessly, change their sleeping patterns or suffer from extreme hyperactivity. Even if the unusual behavior seems relatively harmless, all individuals who show sudden or significant changes in behavior should have these side effects reported to a doctor as soon as possible.

Emotional side-effects of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors: qualitative study
Some participants felt their personality had changed in some way, or been lost, leaving them ‘like a shell’. In some ways, they were not the person that they used to be.
Participants reported that specific aspects of their personality, and, in particular, emotional aspects, had been changed or lost, such that they were a different person.
These changes were attributed by participants to their SSRI antidepressant. Some participants believed that at times their antidepressant had made them behave quite out of character.

The dark side of antidepressants
Although these drugs are generally considered to be safe by the media and amongst medical professionals and patients, a close look at the evidence suggests otherwise. Antidepressants have serious and potentially fatal adverse effects… increase the risk of suicide and violent behavior in both children and adults, and increase the frequency and chronicity of depression.

Chronic use of antidepressants also promotes dependency on drugs rather than empowering people to make positive life changes, and places a tremendous burden on healthcare systems in the U.S. and abroad – but I will discuss those issues in next week’s article

Psychological side effects
Perhaps the best known psychological side effect of SSRIs is “amotivational syndrome”, a condition with symptoms that are clinically similar to those that develop when the frontal lobes of the brain are damaged. The syndrome is characterized by apathy, disinhibited behavior, demotivation and a personality change … (Marangell et al. 2001, p.1059). All psychoactive drugs, including antidepressants, are known to blunt our emotional responses to some extent…


Personality Structure and Out of Character Behaviour
We now have legal psychoactive, blood-brain barrier passing drugs, acting on the serotonergic system (SSRI's), the dopaminergic system (SDRI's) and the nor-adrenergic system (SNRI's) in the brain. ..Serotonin, dopamine and nor-epinephrine (nor-adrenalin) are the key-neurotransmitters involved with the construction of your personality structure, as stated by doctor C. Robert Cloninger. Every drug that acts on the serotonergic system will affect (indirectly) the other neurotransmitter systems (dopaminergic, nor-adrenergic) in the brain (and visa-versa), thereby affecting your personality structure…

A Public Health Problem of Epidemic Proportions

Adverse reactions are most likely to occur when starting or discontinuing the drug, increasing or lowering the dose or when switching from one SSRI to another. Adverse reactions are often diagnosed as bipolar disorder when the symptoms may be entirely iatrogenic (treatment induced).Withdrawal, especially abrupt withdrawal, from any of these medications can cause severe neuropsychiatric and physical symptoms. It is important to withdraw extremely slowly from these drugs, often over a period of a year or more, under the supervision of a qualified and experienced specialist, if available. Withdrawal is sometimes more severe than the original symptoms or problems.

There is a grave concern among advocates that adverse reactions are greatly underestimated by the public, the medical profession, and the regulatory authorities. Each of these stories in our list can be interpreted as an adverse reaction and in most cases we have highlighted the portion of the article that refers to evidence of bizarre behavioral change consistent with drug reaction. In some stories causation is acknowledged and the juxtaposition of these stories with those where it goes unrecognized as well as the repetition of themes and circumstances is chilling. ..

    I’m finally off Aropax /Paxil, or as they are calling it in the States ‘Paxhell’!


Update - Sept.2013 - The 'Rebound effect'- There are many references in literature and case examples, noting that there can be a brief spike or temporary return of the symtoms and side effects, starting at about the six month period after withdrawal:

New Update - October, 2017 - The ‘rebound effect’ is very real. After going through the terrible withdrawal period to get off Aropax/Paxil towards the end of 2012, I looked forward to being well again. I had lost 18 kilos and looked healthier and thought the horrible side effects of the drug were all in the past. But looking back, this wasn't the case. While I found examples where people had only started to experience a return of the side effects of the drug at about the six month period after discontinuing the drug, this time period is not fixed. I think I started experiencing side effects again early in 2013 before a full six months had elapsed from when I had stopped taking the drug during the previous year.

With hindsight it is not surprising that this should happen, that you should still experience the side effects during the year after you’ve stopped taking the drug, especially if you had been stuck on the drug for many years. In my case I was dependent and trapped on the drug for nineteen years. This is difficult to put into words, but it is comforting in a way to know that I was not alone and that thousands of other people in other countries have also been trapped on this drug for similar lengths of time. Is it any wonder that the drug was such a money spinner for the drug company(GSK) or that they tried promoting it so aggressively.

The side effects, if they return in the year after you have stopped taking the drug, can also last for a substantial length of time. I my case I think this was for seven or eight months before I was clear headed enough to feel as though I was myself again. So for a total of almost five full years after this drug had stopped working properly, it had had an adverse effect on my life. It is not surprising that many lives can be ruined by these drugs.

I don’t know how other people were able to adjust in their life after finally being free of this pervasive drug. In my case, although I could think clearly and felt as though I was myself again, taking the drug for that length of time left me feeling shattered. With people trying to come off these brain drugs, I have often read the term, ‘then stuck of the drugs merry-go-round’.  This is what also happened in my case as well. Although I could think clearly and felt as though I was myself again, I started a long and terrible period of serious anxiety and gruelling depression. This lasted in varying degrees for a further three years!

I was only able to survive this further period of three years through the help of my doctors, and support of my family and friends. I was put on a combination of newer drugs that didn't give me any horrible side effects. At one point when I was at my lowest and people were concerned that I might not be able to continue, I declined my psychiatrists recommendation that I be hospitalised and just ‘gutted-it-out’ and continued working. I continued working because surprisingly, when I was actually ‘on-the-job’ it was the one time I had a respite from the gruelling anxiety and depression. I think this was because of the distraction for my mind of being occupied in working, and in a role that I had enjoyed and had given me much professional satisfaction for many years.

I don’t know why I was so sick or why it lasted so long. I think the new drugs I was put on and the combination of the drugs and when I took them played a big role in me finally getting better. It was like the sun slowly coming out after a very long period of dark and depressing bad weather. Many times during that period I thought I would never feel happiness ever again. But I did survive it. I have been able to reduce the drugs to just two and I do feel well and normal again.

I have maintained this blog about my experiences with mental health because as many other people have found, it helps with the healing process. I think it is also important to help inform people, as many others are now doing, that these so-called anti-depressants which are designed to affect the chemistry of the brain, can with some people have very harmful and potentially dangerous side effects. It is also an important message to make, that no matter how black and seemingly hopeless your life can seem with mental health problems of severe anxiety and depression, you must not give up because with the right professional help and the correct drugs used responsibly it is possible to get well again.


New Update - December, 2021 - Recently I cleaned out my study and came across one of the letters that have been written by my psychiatrist or psychologists over the years to be posted or handed back to my local doctor. This one, from my psychiatrist at the time, had for some reason, probably because I had forgotten about it, had not made it to my local doctor or Psychologist.

In the letter he makes an oblique reference, as much of an admission that any doctor I think would make, to the fact that a past SSRI anti-depressant brain drug I was on, had terrible side effects on me and caused a lot of grief.

What is helpful, though in the letter, is to be reminded of another effective drug-alternative tool that anyone can use if suffering from extreme anxiety or depression. It is known as CBT or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. It is a therapy that teaches you what causes people to think in certain ways, what your underlining thought patterns are that is causing you painful anxiety and depression, and then ways of changing those thought patterns.

I learnt about CBT from a book I was given, called 'Feeling Good: The Clinically Proven Drug-Free Treatment for Depression.'' by David D. Burns, MD. On the cover it proudly states that it is a national bestseller and that over four million copies are in print. In a three or four month period the information and exercises described in the first half of this book helped me tremendously. It really helped me to climb out of a really desperate state I was in at the time, and function for a while more easily. I remember now being keen to tell my Psychiatrist about the book so he might be able to us it and tell others.

The local doctor who I relied more on for help in later years, was good at counselling people with mental illness and tended to follow a drugs remedy approach, which eventually worked for me, rather than making referrals to psychologists.With regards the 'Mindfulness or ACT’, this is another drug free therapy. I have heard that it can also be very helpful but I have had no experience with it myself.

The drug Seroquel XR, that is referred to in the letter, is one off the two drugs I am still taking. It is a drug that is usually proscribed for people who have a serious bipolar condition, but in smaller doses can help with the thought patterns associated with people with troubling anxiety. The main thing is, if you reach a point where you are stuck on a drugs regime, if you can find the right combination of drugs and the right dosages, they can bring you relief and you can function happily and normally for longer periods of time.