After nearly five years, I am trying to come off seroxat for the fourth time. I plan to keep a diary of my efforts and to discuss a few issues relating to the greed and lies of GSK, the makers of the drug, the woeful ignorance of the real effects of this drug amongst the medical fraternity and hope to find out what help is available to the thousands of people who struggle to come off it.

Tuesday, 2 January 2007

Bl00dy bubbles

Rather a fittingtopic to be preoccupied with today after my local side, West Ham's six-goal drubbing yesterday.

Liquid seroxat is a sickly, nominally orange (though in reality generic fake fruit) flavoured viscous substance, less runny than cough mixture, a little more so than the innards of a fairly warm Cadbury's caramel. It is very sweet indeed, almost as though it had been designed for children (hmm - wouldn't surprise me) and requires a vigorous shake to ensure the drug component is uniformly distributed within the gloop. I personally think this doesn't work very well because my body always knows as soon as I go liquid. I get headaches and abdominal pains pretty quickly.

Once the bottle has been shaken,a rubber stopper with a hole in it is attached to the neck. The syringe is inserted in the hole, the bottle is turned upside down and deplunging can commence. Normally the first half a centimeter or so is just air but this is not a problem. A little plunging gets rid of it and deplunging can resume. I take the plunger up to just above 5ml to allow for the change from pills to liquid and the inevitable and intractable problem of the little bubbles formed through shaking. The liquid is too thick for them to rise to the surface to be dispersed. I then plunge the contents onto a spoon. I find myself licking the spoon clean and plunging several more times to mke sure I get every last drop of the devilish substance. This morning, I even licked the bottom of the syringe - I hate myself! I find the sugar makes my teeth squeak.

Yesterday, I found myself getting somewhat bogged down in the seroxat-related weight gain issue. I suppose it's the most obvious physical reminder of my dependency. I've never had any other problems taking the stuff, though I know a couple of people who it made very unwell as soon as they started taking it and who came off straight away, and there have been plenty of stories about it's tendency to increase the risk of suicide, especially amongst children (see, and in some cases has been implicated in homicides (see (paxil is the brand name for seroxat in the US). No, my problem has always been trying to get off the stuff. At first, I thought I was going nuts again. I believed the whole point of the new generation of antidepressants was their non-addictive nature. On a couple of occasions, I forgot to take a dose and by mid-afternoon, had terrible stomach pains, could no longer focus properly and felt unsteady on my feet. I thought I was getting sick and it was only when I got home and realised I'd forgotten to take my pill and found my symptoms disappear within 10-20 minutes that I made the connection.

You don't have to look for long on the web to find plenty of people who have had similar and frequently far worse experiences. When I first looked at, I was terrified, closely followed by furious. I'm a fairly cynical person (except when it comes to romance and Christmas) so I presumed that, knowing the havoc wreaked by the previous generation of antidepressants, the drug companies themselves and, failing that, the regulatory authorities would have a strict testing regime in place prior to any drug being put to market. Yet it seemed to be the same story again - drug released, expensively marketed, especially in the UK to GPs, prescriptions handed out in their millions and slowly, very slowly, questions begin to be raised. It seems to me that millions of people have been used as guinea pigs for a very powerful drug.

It's not difficult to see why seroxat and other drugs of its type have been so successful. Western countries have experienced a rapid increase in people manifesting symptoms of anxiety and depression, probably imho brought on by the social dislocation, systemic insecurity and advertising/media culture of post-industrial capitalism. They don't have full-blown psychiatric disorders but may have a range of frightening symptoms (eg, panic attacks) that they feel they need help with. In December 2004, the government suggested to GPs that cognitive behavioural therapy or exercise programmes be encouraged prior to prescibing pharmaceutical remedies, but for years, cash- and time-strapped GPs had been handing out prozac et al like the proverbial smarties. Even now, CBT is not available in many areas (either because there aren't enough trained therapists or the are insufficient funds available) and where it is, there might be a wait of months or years. To someone in a situation where they cannot cope with life anymore, this is much too long. Early intervention is crucial in treating mental health problems if they are not to become more serious. SSRIs are no more than sticking plasters but for too long, they have been the only help available.

The question of what to do with the ranks of the depressed is a whole other question (answers on a postcard). What concerns me is:
  • how far has the medical establishment (medical practitioners, drug companies and the regulators) accepted there is a problem? I think the answer is they have been forced to accept it- see changes to the patient information leaflet for seroxat
  • if the withdrawal issue has been broadly accepted as something that effects a significant proportion of seroxat users to varying degrees, what help is being offered to those people suffering withdrawal problems? I don't have much of an idea on this in general but my own experiences suggest the answer is not a lot.
  • is information getting through to all the professionals who need to know so that appropriate advice can be given? This is of particular importance in respect of seroxat and pregnancy. See I have been under investigation for infertility for two years and have been told repeatedly that there are no contraindications regarding having a baby and taking seroxat. I found this stuff two weeks ago and am for the first time eternally grateful that I didn't get pregnant and will not be trying again until I am clean of this stuff.

No comments: