Disclaimer: If you are currently considering stopping or reducing your SSRI dose please do NOT abruptly quit your medication and always work with your healthcare provider before making any changes. For further information please read our full disclaimer at the bottom of this article.
In the last 26 years, no other type of drug has become more prescribed across all demographic groups than antidepressant and anxiety medications, also known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). In fact, a 2017 study found one in six American adults were taking an SSRI or related psychiatric drug. SSRIs have become so common today it’s like they’re the aspirin of the 21st century. At the same time, doctors regularly prescribe SSRIs to millions of people for all kinds of off-label reasons like back pain, insomnia, and fibromyalgia. Not only were these drugs never tested or approved for such uses, but prescribing them in this way is shockingly legal.
What patients are rarely told is that SSRIs have serious side effects that often cause radical mood and behavior changes that result in violence and suicide. This is leading to catastrophic consequences for families who never knew their loved one was under the influence of an SSRI when tragedy struck.
Tales of Tragedy
SSRIs include drugs like fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), fluvoxamine (Luvox) and others. The internet is awash in tragic stories from the families of patients who either killed themselves or killed others and then took their own lives while on these drugs. In fact, the number of these tragic stories has become so large that they’ve been compiled in various online databases such as SSRIstories.net and SSRIstories.org, where over 12,000 nightmarish experiences are broken down into categories like suicide, homicide, and assault.
More often we’re hearing of how SSRIs have ruined the lives of young people like 14-year-old Naika Venant of Miami who hung herself live on Facebook. It would later be revealed that she was taking Zoloft at the time. Then there’s the tragic story of a teenager who bludgeoned his father to death with a hammer and crowbar, then repeatedly stabbed his mother in the face with a pair of scissors just weeks after being prescribed Prozac. He would later tell investigators that at the time of the crime, “I didn’t feel real.”
Suicide and Violence Connection
These tragedies continue to mount while the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has made no effort to pull SSRIs off the market, all while admitting in the insert for every SSRI:
“Antidepressants increased the risk compared to placebo of suicidal thinking and behavior (suicidality)…All patients…should be observed closely for suicidality… anxiety, hostility, aggressiveness, impulsivity, akathisia (psychomotor restlessness), hypomania, and mania…that are severe, abrupt in onset or not part of the patient’s presenting symptoms.”
Among the numerous medical studies that conclusively show antidepressants increase the risk of suicide, violence, and homicide at all ages, researchers from the British Medical Journal wrote:
“It can no longer be doubted that antidepressants are dangerous and can cause suicide and homicide at any age. It is absurd to use drugs for depression that increase the risk of homicide and suicide when we know that cognitive behavioral therapy can halve the risk of suicide in patients who have been admitted after a suicide attempt and when psychotherapy does not increase the risk of murder.”
A study from the Yale University School of Medicine of more than 1,500 cases of patient violence showed that 31 drugs were disproportionately connected to violent behavior toward others. The majority of those drugs were antidepressants, followed by sedatives and other psychiatric drugs for conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
A three-year study from Sweden found patients were nearly 20% more likely to be convicted of a violent crime when on SSRIs than when they weren’t. For the 15 to 24 age group, the risk of committing a violent crime was 43% greater than when they weren’t on SSRIs, and this risk was significant even at low doses. A Harvard study echoed these results, especially for those under age 24 whose likelihood of suicidal or violent behavior doubled while on SSRIs.
Consequences & Cost
While the drug companies remain closed-fisted with their data regarding adverse events from antidepressants, the lawsuits continue to pile up. By 2009, GlaxoSmithKline had already paid out more than $1 billion in wrongful death lawsuits from Paxil. Forest Laboratories, the maker of Celexa and Lexapro, has settled over 30 lawsuits costing more than $313 million that included fraud charges for illegally marketing SSRIs to children and giving kickbacks to doctors for prescribing the drugs. In fact, there are so many class action lawsuits in process for most of the SSRIs that it’s difficult to get an accurate total on all the payouts because they keep increasing daily.
Medicating the Military
If there is one sector of society that’s under a greater assault by SSRIs, it’s the military. According to the Military Times, one in six service members is on some type of psychiatric drug. The push to severely medicate the military happened during the second war in Iraq and Afghanistan where troop suicides were higher than combat fatalities and mostly among troops who had never been deployed. This completely discredited the standard claim that military suicides were a result of combat duty or PTSD.
Between 2002 and 2011, military spending on drugs exploded more than 123% from $3 billion to $6.8 billion with more than one third of that amount, $2.7 billion, on antidepressants alone. This is the exact timeframe in the years after 9/11 and during the Iraq-Afghan wars when military suicides began to take off. During 2013, when the Military Times exposé was written, the army reported 73,103 prescriptions for Zoloft, 38,199 for Prozac, 17,830 for Paxil and 12,047 for Cymbalta had been dispensed to troops.
That was about the time Ivan Lopez, the Iraqi war veteran, opened fire on April 3, 2014 at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas, killing three people and wounding 16 others before killing himself. At the time of the shooting, Lopez was being treated for anxiety and depression.
When the military and press blamed the event on PTSD, Dr. Stephen Xenakis, a 30-year brigadier general in the army’s mental health sector and chief psychiatrist at Fort Hood during the 1980s, stated that the vast majority of people with PTSD do not become more aggressive, and that there was “about a 90% chance” that Lopez was on multiple psychotropic drugs and “these drugs definitely could have made him more homicidal.”
Dr. Peter Breggin is an expert on SSRIs and the military, and the author of several studies and more than 20 books. He has testified before Congress on the catastrophic effect of what he calls the “disturbing and rampant practice” of “over-drugging troops.” He also acts as a medical consultant to military attorneys who represent soldiers accused of committing violent crimes while on SSRIs. In regard to Lopez, Breggin stated, “It’s inevitable that he was on psychotropic drugs, and almost certainly more than one.” Pointing out that Lopez was under the care of a psychiatrist, Breggin emphasized, “When you see a psychiatrist, you get increased medication.”
Medicated Mass Shooters
Lopez isn’t alone. In fact, where health information is available, details show nearly all perpetrators of mass shootings happening in the U.S. since 1999 have been on some type of anti-anxiety or antidepressant medication. These include the incidents at Columbine High School (’99), Thurston High School (’99), Granite Hills High School (’01), Red Lake Indian Reservation (’05), Virginia Tech (’07), Northern Illinois University (’08), Century Movie Theatre Aurora, CO (’12), Sandy Hook Elementary School (’12), MGM Grand Hotel Las Vegas (’17), and many more. The Citizens Committee on Human Rights (CCHR) has compiled a list of over 30 mass shootings or school violence events where SSRIs were being taken by the perpetrator, and their list only runs through 2013.
When we choose to look deeper, it becomes apparent that what many are calling a gun crisis in America is actually a drug crisis, a medically manufactured one. This is underscored by the fact that mass shootings are not unique to the U.S. and have occurred in countries with strict gun control laws like France, Japan and Finland, where Matti Saari, killed 10 people before killing himself at the Seinajoki University of Applied Sciences in Kauhajoki, Finland in 2008. Saari was taking an SSRI along with a benzodiazepine, which has similar side effects.
Quitting with Caution
Depression is a struggle for many people, but in nearly all cases doctors rush to prescribe dangerous SSRIs before even considering natural interventions. Many doctors don’t realize that most of the body’s serotonin is produced in the gut, not the brain, and restoring emotional equilibrium involves getting the intestinal microbiome back into balance. There is a reason they call the gut the “second brain.” We must place a greater emphasis on helping patients experience positive emotions again, instead of dampening all feelings (including empathy) through toxic chemicals that drastically alter their mental state and personality.
Even more incredible, The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that more than two thirds or 69% of people on antidepressants aren’t depressed and don’t meet the clinical criteria for depression. This is also in spite of the fact that a 2010 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that SSRIs like Paxil and Prozac are no more effective than a placebo. That’s right. SSRIs don’t even work, and patients reported as good or better results just by taking sugar pills. Even so, SSRIs remain some of the most prescribed drugs in the U.S.
If you are currently taking SSRIs, do not abruptly quit the medication. As dangerous as SSRIs are, even at small doses, quitting all at once can result in drastic withdrawal effects. Talk to your doctor about tapering off the medication until you’re free of it. During the process, it’s crucial to keep loved ones informed of how you’re feeling on a daily basis. Share with your doctor information about integrative therapies for depression such as restoring gut health, hormone balancing, dietary changes, meditation, and others. There are many ways to treat depression naturally without placing yourself under the influence of highly powerful and toxic psychotropic drugs like SSRIs.
For more health insights from Dr. Sadeghi, please visit beingclarity.com to sign up for the monthly newsletter or check out his annual health and well-being journal, MegaZEN here. For daily messages of encouragement and humor, follow him on Instagram at @drhabibsadeghi.