In the summer of 2009 my lovely son Shane was 22 and was about to commence his final year in college (studying Irish and Theology in TCD). Shane seemingly had a great life, he was handsome, funny, had plenty of friends and was much-loved by everyone. I don’t think I’m remembering with rose tinted glasses when I say, that being the eldest child, he was adored by his younger siblings and that the feeling was mutual. There was a lot of fun and noise in our home. However, that year there was a glitch - Shane had recently broken up with his long-term girlfriend and was struggling to come to terms without her. For his heartache, a doctor prescribed him citalopram (AKA Celexa and Cipramil). What happened shortly afterwards changed our lives forever and ended Shane’s. The following is the timeline of events before Shane’s death a mere 17 days after being prescribed citalopram.
Day 1 – Shane was prescribed citalopram (20 mg).
Day 2 - Shane phoned the doctor to say the drug ‘didn’t suit him’ and was making him ‘feel weird’. The doctor told him to persevere with the drug as the side effects usually settle down.
Day 5 - Shane took the remaining 23 citalopram tablets altogether in an attempted overdose. He slept for many hours and survived - but his body was quivering and he looked like someone suffering with Parkinson’s disease.
Day 11 – I drove Shane to our family doctor, where he was seen by a locum. This doctor repeated Shane’s prescription for Citalopram, at a lesser dose of 10mg.
Day 17 - Shane, who was never diagnosed with anything other than ‘a relationship break-up’ and never had a violent bone in his body, took a knife and killed his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend and then himself.
In retrospect, it’s difficult to see how the doctors (or us, his family) couldn’t see an adverse reaction so obvious. However, what happened after Shane’s death was equally bizarre and perhaps even more telling. We knew (and publicly expressed) that the only thing that stood out in Shane’s total change in personality was the prescription for the SSRI citalopram. However, Irish psychiatry were apoplectic. They preceded to involve themselves in the media frenzy, issuing statements that the drugs are safe and that it was far more likely that Shane’s underlying ‘mental-illness’ caused his actions – despite never having met him. Representing Irish psychiatry and uninvited, one of their members (Professor Patricia Casey) even turned up at Shane’s inquest (with her legal team in tow), to refute our claims. Despite her attendance, the jury rejected a suicide verdict, mainly thanks to the testimony of our expert witness, Dr David Healy, who expressed the view that in certain cases (like Shane’s), SSRIs can cause a person to become uncharacteristically suicidal and violent. Prof Casey (who incidentally worked for many years with Lundbeck, the makers of citalopram), spoke to the media on the steps of Coroner’s court, stating that there were ‘aspects of the evidence which the college [of psychiatry] took issue’. While the verdict still stands, the involvement of Irish psychiatry in Shane’s case spoke volumes and in my honest opinion, was a new low in dealing with a grieving family.
While sadly for us, we now exist without Shane in our lives, we have met so many amazing people who are doing fantastic work to warn others, just like ‘Butterflies for Joe’ is doing. Awareness is growing and will continue to grow – please inform yourself before allowing your child/husband/parent to take psychiatric drugs (particularly SSRIs).
Woody Witzcak written by his wife Kim
On August 6, 2003, Woody was found hanging by the rafters of his garage, dead at age 37. He died of Zoloft-induced suicide. Woody wasn’t depressed nor did he have a history of depression or suicidality or any other mental illness.
Woody loved life and all that this world had to offer. He was a compassionate, loyal husband, son, brother, uncle, godfather and friend. He was outgoing, gregarious, smart, had a huge personality. Everyone loved him.
Woody had just started his dream job as Vice President of Sales with a start up company two months prior and started having trouble sleeping which is not uncommon for entrepreneurs. So Woody went to see his regular internist was given the antidepressant Zoloft off-label for insomnia. The doctor said Zoloft would take the edge off and help him sleep. Five weeks later, Woody took his own life.
The 3-week Pfizer-supplied sample pack that Woody came home from the doctor with automatically doubled the dose unbeknownst to him from 25 to 50mgs after week one. No cautionary warning was given to him or his family about the need to be closely monitored when first going on the drug or dosage changes. In fact, Woody’s wife was out of the country on business for the first 3 weeks he was on the drug.
Within days Woody experienced many known side effects like profuse night sweats, diarrhea, trembling hands, and worsened anxiety. He also experienced other side effects like akathisia known only to drug companies/FDA but not to Woody, his doctor or his family. Woody was extremely sensitive to foreign substances in his body, deadly allergic to penicillin. He didn’t like to take over-the-counter medications (like Sudafed, Excedrin, or Nyquil), or to drink caffeine, or have more than one glass of wine or beer.
Shortly before Woody died, Kim found him curled up in fetal position on the kitchen floor, holding his head like a vice, crying, "Help me, help me. I don’t know what is happening to me. I am losing my mind. It's like my head is outside my body looking in.” We calmed him down and called his doctor who said you need to give it 4-6 weeks for the drug to kick in. Over the next week, Woody, optimistically, was looking for ways “to beat this feeling in his head.”
Woody’s family and friends only wish we knew then what we know now. It wasn’t Woody’s head. It was the drug.
Kim Witczak is a leading national drug safety advocate In the US and speaker with over 25 years professional experience in advertising and marketing communications. She became involved in pharmaceutical drug safety issues after the sudden death of her husband due to undisclosed drug side effect of an antidepressant. Kim co-founded Woodymatters, a non-profit dedicated to advocating for a stronger FDA and drug safety system. She co-created and organized the international, multi-disciplinary conference Selling Sickness: People Before Profitsconference in Washington, D.C. In 2016, she was appointed Consumer Representative on the FDA Psychopharmacologic Drug Advisory Committee and is on the Board of Directors of National Physicians Alliance and MISSD (Medication Induced Suicide Prevention in Memory of Stewart Dolin.) She is an active member of the DC-based Patient, Consumer, and Public Health Coalition making sure the voice of non-conflicted patients and consumers is represented in healthcare/FDA related legislative issues.
Stewart Dolin had the perfect life. He was married to his high school sweetheart for 36 years. He was the father of two grown children with whom he had a very close and meaningful relationship. He was a senior partner of a large international law firm, managing hundreds of corporate lawyers. He enjoyed his work and derived satisfaction from cultivating relationships with his clients, as well as helping them achieve the results they desired. He enjoyed travel, skiing, dining, joking around with his family and friends and an occasional cigar. He was 57 years old, and high on life.
In the summer of 2010, Stewart developed some anxiety regarding work. He was prescribed Paxil (paroxetine), a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor ("SSRI"). Stewart's prescription was filled with a generic version of Paxil, manufactured by Mylan. Within days, Stewart's anxiety became worse. He felt restless, had trouble sleeping, even asked his wife to listen to a meditation tape with him (hardly typical behavior). He kept saying, "I still feel so anxious."
On July 15, 2010, (six days after beginning the medication), following a regular lunch with a business associate, Stewart left his office and walked to a nearby train platform. A registered nurse who was also on the platform later reported seeing Stewart pacing back and forth and looking very agitated. As a train approached, Stewart took his own life. This happy, funny, loving, wealthy, dedicated husband and father who loved life left no note and no logical reason why he would suddenly want to end it all. Neither Paxil nor the generic version listed suicidal behavior as a potential side effect for men of Stewart's age.
My son was killed by two doctors who simply were too ignorant or too lazy to see that the drugs they were giving him were causing terrible problems. I only know the story now because after he died, I got and read the files and discovered that John David had clearly told these people what was wrong, but they just ignored him. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) totally supported the doctors. Sadly, what happened to my son was very typical. The only atypical part was that I found out the truth.
John David was sweet, idealistic, funny and smart. He was highly artistic, from a young age. Theatre was the love of his life and he was a talented actor and director.
John David loved life. When he was 16 a doctor told JD that he had ADHD and gave him stimulants for his alleged condition. JD took high doses of Ritalin, Adderall and Dexedrine for four years. Dr Graham never warned JD about the side effects or told him that the drugs are not suitable for long-term use. He also did not warn JD that these drugs are highly addictive, or that they negatively affect brain development.
In late summer 2004, JD was preparing to enter his 4th year at University of Toronto, Trinity College, he was working toward directing Othello at Hart House for the fall season. He decided to quit taking stimulants and told Dr Graham that this was his plan. Dr Graham did not warn him to wean himself off gradually to avoid serious withdrawal effects.
On Sept 8, 2004 JD quit the drug “cold turkey” and soon started to have serious problems. On Sept 17, he had a psychotic break and attempted suicide by slashing his throat. He was taken to North York General Hospital.
Despite having been told the facts, the hospital did not recognize that JD’s psychotic episode was a drug withdrawal reaction. This was at least partly because when they called Dr Graham, at my request, Dr Graham lied and said he had not seen JD for months. Of course, he lied because he realized what had happened and wanted to escape blame. So the hospital decided that JD had schizoaffective disorder and gave him an antipsychotic drug, Risperdal, and an SSRI antidepressant. Since psychoactive drugs were actually the cause of his problems, this was the worst thing they could have done.
JD was sent to see a psychiatrist, Dr David Dorenbaum, who loaded him up with more and more harmful drugs. These caused him to lose his ability to think, to gain huge amounts of weight, and to become suicidal. Every new problem created by the drugs led to another prescription for more drugs. We begged Dr Dorenbaum to cut back, and gave him tons of evidence that the drugs were making JD’s life unbearable. He ignored us. All the drugs caused JD to drop out of school and lose his year, to lose his social life and pretty much everything he valued.
In the end, he committed suicide partly because he was trying to get off the drugs, which gave him suicidal impulses, and partly because he was in complete despair at what the drugs had done to his life.
When we complained to the CPSO, they defended the doctors vigorously, insisting they had done nothing wrong. We later learned that they had taken away Dr Graham’s right to prescribe when a pharmacist alerted them to his bad prescribing, which killed several other young people as well as my son. The Inquiries, Complaints and Investigations Committee of the CPSO defended the doctor by making up a history of problems for my son which was total fabrication. In other words, they blamed my son, not the drugs, for what happened.
This disgraceful approach is common and should not be allowed. Because I now work for a doctor who is one of the foremost authorities on these drugs, I know the truth but many people do not. These dangerous drugs are killing and harming far too many young people, while the CPSO refuses to acknowledge the truth. The CPSO cannot be trusted to act in the public interest and has to be replaced.
Bob Fiddaman was prescribed Seroxat (Paxil) due to depression that was, in essence, due to work-related problems. What followed was a journey that took him through a tapering process of, what he believes to be, a highly addictive antidepressant. Following almost two years of withdrawal, Fiddaman's new battle with the manufacturer of the drug, GlaxoSmithKline and the UK's medicine regulator, the MHRA, took him on a more frustrating journey than he ever could have imagined. The name Bob Fiddaman has become synonymous throughout cyberspace. Google his name and you will find articles he has written, many of which have been republished by a vast army of fellow patient advocates. His blog has amassed over 2 million views since its creation.
Natalie’s life was stolen first by Prozac and later by Zoloft. She died of prescripticide at age 19.
She was an intelligent, witty, gentle person who loved animals and cared deeply about the world at large.
When Natalie was nine, the school district recommended Natalie enter a “gifted and talented” program to meet her intellectual needs. She excelled academically, but experienced some anxiety. We made the tragic mistake of taking Natalie to a psychiatrist who quickly prescribed Prozac. The doctor said Natalie was not depressed, and she prescribed Prozac for “OCD-like symptoms.”
This led us down a destructive path in which several doctors prescribed drugs Natalie did not need. They caused Serotonin Toxicity and akathisia, but doctors repeatedly failed to recognize that Natalie’s torturous symptoms were actually signs of adverse drug reactions.
When she was a teenager, another doctor prescribed Zoloft. In 2013 Natalie’s doctor increased the Zoloft dose to 200 mg—over the phone—without ever seeing Natalie. Natalie died two days later from violent, self-sustained injury. But she did not die by her own hand. Her death was precipitated by medical negligence and ignorant prescribing practices. Natalie was already suffering from akathisia and Serotonin Toxicity at the time her doctor increased the toxin (Zoloft).
Natalie, who died during her first year of college, is dearly missed.
In July 2003, at the age of 45, I experienced my first major depression. I started taking 40mg. of the antidepressant Paxil a day. By September, I was feeling mentally healthy again. After forgetting to take Paxil for a few days in February 2004, I weaned myself off the drug. I started to feel depressed again in July. My symptoms included insomnia, increased anxiety, rapid weight loss, low concentration and a lack of energy. I put myself back on 40mg. of Paxil a day.
A few days after I started taking Paxil again, I was having suicidal thoughts. I thought I could get rid of the thoughts and recover more quickly if I increased my dosage. On July 17, I started taking 60mg. of Paxil a day. Three days later, I planned my suicide. I went from planning my suicide to planning a murder-suicide to planning a murder. On July 31, 2004, I killed my 11-year-old son Ian. I was charged with first-degree murder.
In November 2004, I was diagnosed by one of the leading forensic psychiatrists in the world as being in a "major depression" with "psychotic episodes" when I killed Ian. In May 2005, his assessment was supported by another leading forensic psychiatrist, who was hired by the crown attorney. On September 30, 2005, I was judged to be "not criminally responsible on account of a mental disorder" for murdering Ian. I received an absolute discharge from the Ontario Review Board on December 4, 2009.
I hope some of the information posted on this website can help prevent suicidal and homicidal tragedies.