Evelyn Pringle February 7, 2006
The Glenn McIntosh family has to introduce 12-year-old Caitlin, with a photograph because that is all they has left. Caitlin committed suicide 8 weeks after being prescribed the SSRIs, Paxil and Zoloft.
"We were told that antidepressants like Paxil and Zoloft were wonder drugs, that they were safe and effective for children. We were lied to," Caitlin's father said.
According to Glenn, his daughter was a straight "A" student, an artist, and a talented musician who loved animals and wanted to be a veterinarian.
With the onset of puberty, Caitlin seemed to be having trouble coping, and was also having sleeping problems due to a mild seizure disorder.
"We wanted to help, of course," her father explains, "so we took her to our family physician, who prescribed her Paxil."
Right off the bat, Caitlin did not do well on Paxil, so the doctor took her off the drug. About a week later the family went to see a psychiatrist and Caitlin was put on Zoloft.
According to Glenn, "She then started having strong suicidal ideations, along with severe agitation known as akathisia and hallucinations, and she was put in the adolescent ward of a mental hospital to balance her meds."
Once she entered the hospital, the situation got worse as Caitlin was put on more and more psychiatric drugs to treat symptoms and behaviors that Glenn says he now realizes were caused by the SSRIs to begin with.
When she was released from the hospital, the downward spiral continued until the day that Caitlin used her shoe laces to hang herself in a bathroom at school.
"Let me be very clear about something," Glenn said, "the dramatic and severe symptoms that led to my daughter's suicide manifested only after she started taking antidepressant drugs."
"The pharmaceutical companies have known for years that these drugs could cause suicide in some patients," Glenn said. "Why didn't we?"
Grieving the loss of their 14-year-old daughter Dominique, Lorraine and Robert Slater also make the point that, "informed parental consent is only possible as long as full disclosure is made by the pharmaceutical companies, the FDA, and the medical community."
"How can teenagers be allowed to be given antidepressants that were never approved for adolescent consumption, only for adults?" Lorraine wants to know. "How come the medical profession doesn't fully disclose the possible harmful and fatal effects of medication as well as watch carefully for diverse effects on its adolescent population?"
Shortly after she was prescribed Celexa, Dominique attempted suicide. She was treated by several mental health professionals after her initial adverse reaction to the first SSRI.
And, each time they met with professionals, her parents explained that the drugs seemed to maker Dominique's condition worse rather than better. Unfortunately, as so often happens, the adverse reactions and behaviors caused by the SSRIs, were treated as a worsening of an underlying condition and Dominique was prescribed other drugs from the same class.
"Dominique's mind and behavior were slowly being altered to the point that she became very agitated, irrational, ultimately suicidal," her mother recounts, "because none of the so-called medical professionals acknowledged the drug's role in her irrational and suicidal behavior or properly withdrew her from their suicidal effects."
On February 6, 2003, Dominique was switched to the SSRI Effexor, and during the two weeks that followed, her doctor doubled the dose.
The morning of February 21, 2003, Robert dropped his daughter off at school and they said goodbye as usual. Around 11 am, Dominique told her teacher she needed to go outside for some fresh air. She left classroom and never returned.
Next to nothing is known about Dominique's activities from the time she left school on February 21, until her body was found 3 weeks later in the Delta Mendota canal in California on April 14, 2003.
Lorraine is still racked with guilt and blames herself for giving her daughter the prescribed medication. "How can you imagine I feel, knowing now that I was slowly poisoning my daughter every day as I was dispensing her antidepressant medication?" she said.
Tom and Kathy Woodward's daughter, Julie, who had no history of suicide or self-harm, hung herself in a matter of days after being prescribed Zoloft. "Julie began experiencing akathisia almost immediately," Tom recalls.
But he knew nothing about Zoloft's side effect of "akathisia" at the time. The doctor had stressed that Zoloft was safe and had very few side effects. He never advised Tom and Kathy about the possibility of violence, self-harm, or suicidal acts and the information they received with the drug never mentioned self-harm or suicide either.
According to her parents, Julie was a young woman who had everything to live for. Just weeks before her death, she had scored high on her SATs and was excited about starting college.
However, "instead of picking out colleges with our daughter, my wife and I had to pick out a cemetery plot for her," Tom said. "Instead of looking forward to visiting Julie at school, we now visit her grave," he added.
Like so many other cases of suicides of young people on SSRIs, Julie's body apparently could not handle the drug. "We now know from a blood test from the coroner's office, that she was not metabolizing the drug," Tom said.
Tom and Kathy are angry at government officials. "The FDA has placed the interests of the drug industry over protecting the American public," Tom said, "if the trials don't favor a drug, the public never hears of them."
"It is clear that the FDA is a political entity," he continued, "and its leadership has protected the economic interests of the drug industry."
Tom believes that suppressing unfavorable studies should be illegal, "the drug industry must be compelled to produce all of their findings and studies," he said.
Cheryl and Mark Miller lost their 13-year-old son, Matthew to suicide, after a psychiatrist gave him Zoloft. His parents were told that Matt had a chemical imbalance that could be helped by a new, wonder drug called Zoloft.
"It was safe, effective, only two minor side effects were cautioned with us - insomnia, indigestion," they said.
While on the drug, Matt became agitated, could not eat, sleep, or sit still. The night before the family was set to leave for vacation, Matt hung himself in a bedroom closet from a hook, barely higher than he was tall.
"To commit this unthinkable act," Mark said, "he was able to pull his legs up off the floor and hold himself that way until he lost consciousness."
His parents had no warning of their son's plan to kill himself. Mark had never spoken about suicide or threatened to commit suicide.
Mark and Cheryle have since learned that Matt's doctor has served as "a well-paid spokesman for Pfizer," the maker of Zoloft.
Terri Williams' 14-year-old son, Jacob, was an exceptional athlete and participated in both the varsity and junior varsity football teams at his school.
In September 2000, Jacob seemed to lose interest in school activities except for football, and a conflict arose with regard to his grades and school attendance. As a result, his parents attended a conference in October 2000, at which the school administrator suggested that Jacob might be depressed and recommended seeking medical help.
Terri contacted Jacob's pediatrician and made an appointment for the same afternoon. The doctor prescribed Prozac, and three weeks later increased the dose.
Shortly after he started taking the drug, Jacob complained of having strange bad dreams and shortly after the dose was increased, his mother noticed an aggressive behavior which had not been there before. "Jacob also became destructive and destroyed some of his favorite things," Terri said.
When questioned, Jacob told his mother, "I don't know what is making me do this." Terri wrote it off to normal adolescent behavior and did not pursue the issue further.
On December 5, 2000, Terri found Jacob's body hanging from the rafter in their attic. He had hung himself with his own belt. He left a letter on the ladder leading up to the attic for his parents, thanking them for giving him 14 years of a happy life.
After her son's death, his friends told Terri that they had noticed the same changes in Jacob, that he had become short tempered and verbally aggressive.
"Had I known that this was a potential side effect, suicide," Terri said, "I would have never allowed my son to take the drug Prozac."
And the sad fact is, the FDA could have warned Terri, because by 1998, according to the FDA's adverse reaction reporting system, Prozac alone had already accumulated over 40,000 adverse reaction reports, including over 2,100 deaths, far more than any other drug in the history of the reporting system.