‘No plan’ for those who want to come off anti-depressants

By Jennifer Hough

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Mainstream medicine is "vehemently defending" anti-depressants which may in time been seen as addictive and troublesome drugs and will not have the same level of use as they have now.

Limerick-based Dr Terry Lynch, author of the controversial book Beyond Prozac, told the Irish Examiner that just as the medical profession had admitted that benzodiazepines were addictive and harmful in some cases, he believed the same could happen with commonly used anti-depressants known as SSRIs.

Dr Lynch said he had dealt with several cases where people were trying to withdraw from the tablets.

"It is common for people to experience withdrawal symptoms. People find it very difficult to come off the drugs and it is not supported in society. Doctors don’t support. They don’t want people to come off them and there is no plan for people who do."

Dr Lynch, who also trained as a psychotherapist, said he only took people off medication when he was satisfied they could cope.

"I put a plan in place and they feel supported and I only do it when I am certain the person is ready."

Dr Lynch said, because of the medical approach to mental health problems, there was "huge enthusiasm" for drugs, but when major problems in terms of addiction ensued later, there was no safety net for people who were stuck with it.

"It happened with barbiturates years ago and with amphetamines and now particularly with benzos. Because the addiction was initiated by the professionals through prescribing, I think there may be a certain amount of guilt and avoidance of the issue within the profession because of it."

Dr Lynch said the core problem at the heart of the mental health system was the way people’s problems were interpreted.

"If doctors are convinced that the problem is biological, they are going to continue looking for a biological solution.

"It would not be uncommon for a psychiatrist not to recommend counselling or psychotherapy because they feel the person is not ready for it. The long-term use of medication without a focus on recovery is highly questionable.

"There is clear evidence people can recover and this should be the focus — instead the focus is on maintenance."

Dr Lynch said the theory of a "chemical imbalance" was simply a lie, and a reason given to legitimise the widespread prescribing of pills.

"Drug companies learned a long time ago the way to sell their drugs is to persuade the medical profession there is something wrong.

"The only thing SSRIs have been demonstrated to do is to interfere with the uptake of serotonin between brain nerve cells.

"We have no idea if that is a good thing or a bad thing, what normal levels should be in the first place, so no idea what abnormal levels are. It’s a great story and a great way to sell the idea."

Dr Lynch said that although it was difficult to speak out against the medical "brotherhood", his only interest was the truth.

"If you do speak out you become quite alienated, but I am OK with that— I know I am very unpopular in certain circles but I don’t care."

This appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Tuesday, March 06, 2012

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Anti-depressant drugs - Investigate claimed link to suicides

Monday, March 05, 2012

When an autopsy expert with 30 years of experience suspects a possible link between suicide and the use of powerful anti-depressant drugs, it becomes a matter of the utmost concern and one that warrants immediate investigation.

The grave doubts expressed by former assistant state pathologist Dr Declan Gilsenan lend considerable weight to calls for action on this controversial issue. The authorities would be failing in their duty of care to the public if they do not heed his concerns over the number of suicide cases where he had carried out autopsies on victims who had recently started taking the anti-depressants in question.

Known collectively as SSRIs, they include popular drugs such as Prozac, Zoloft, Lexapro, Paxil, and Celexa, which are available on prescription from a GP. Significantly, fears about a suspected connection between suicides and this family of drugs arise at a time when a frightening number of young Irish men are taking their own lives. This fully justifies his call for doctors to be more careful about prescribing and for people to be monitored more carefully.

Dr Gilsenan, who retired last year, says he has seen "too many suicides" among people who had started taking the drugs. In his considered view the evidence was "more than anecdotal" and he now hopes to raise the matter with Kathleen Lynch, minister of state with responsibility for mental health.

An urgent meeting with the minister is being sought by a delegation organised by campaigner Leonie Fennell, whose son took his own life after killing a friend, having just started a course of anti-depressants. He is believed to have taken more than the prescribed amount. Since her son’s death, Ms Fennell has campaigned tirelessly to raise awareness about the potential dangers of anti-depressants.

This controversy is further complicated by the claims and counterclaims of a long-running row between doctors and psychiatrists over the use of such drugs. According to Prof David Healy, the pharmaceutical industry is being protected by psychiatry. He accuses psychiatrists of coming out in defence of the drugs being used, and of regularly offering apologies for industry. If Dr Gilsenan is right, there can be no denying that in the public interest, action is required to resolve this controversy once and for all. It should be easy enough to establish if statistical grounds exist to corroborate his assertion of possible connections between suicide and the use of powerful anti-depressants. There is an onus on the minister to meet the proposed delegation sooner rather than later. Nor should she hesitate to take action to resolve this controversy and put people’s minds at ease. With lives possibly at stake, it is imperative to examine the concerns voiced by Dr Gilsenan without fear or favour.

1

This appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Monday, March 05, 2012

Anti-depressant drugs - Investigate claimed link to suicides

Monday, March 05, 2012

When an autopsy expert with 30 years of experience suspects a possible link between suicide and the use of powerful anti-depressant drugs, it becomes a matter of the utmost concern and one that warrants immediate investigation.

The grave doubts expressed by former assistant state pathologist Dr Declan Gilsenan lend considerable weight to calls for action on this controversial issue. The authorities would be failing in their duty of care to the public if they do not heed his concerns over the number of suicide cases where he had carried out autopsies on victims who had recently started taking the anti-depressants in question. Known collectively as SSRIs, they include popular drugs such as Prozac, Zoloft, Lexapro, Paxil, and Celexa, which are available on prescription from a GP. Significantly, fears about a suspected connection between suicides and this family of drugs arise at a time when a frightening number of young Irish men are taking their own lives. This fully justifies his call for doctors to be more careful about prescribing and for people to be monitored more carefully. Dr Gilsenan, who retired last year, says he has seen "too many suicides" among people who had started taking the drugs. In his considered view the evidence was "more than anecdotal" and he now hopes to raise the matter with Kathleen Lynch, minister of state with responsibility for mental health. An urgent meeting with the minister is being sought by a delegation organised by campaigner Leonie Fennell, whose son took his own life after killing a friend, having just started a course of anti-depressants. He is believed to have taken more than the prescribed amount. Since her son’s death, Ms Fennell has campaigned tirelessly to raise awareness about the potential dangers of anti-depressants. This controversy is further complicated by the claims and counterclaims of a long-running row between doctors and psychiatrists over the use of such drugs. According to Prof David Healy, the pharmaceutical industry is being protected by psychiatry. He accuses psychiatrists of coming out in defence of the drugs being used, and of regularly offering apologies for industry. If Dr Gilsenan is right, there can be no denying that in the public interest, action is required to resolve this controversy once and for all. It should be easy enough to establish if statistical grounds exist to corroborate his assertion of possible connections between suicide and the use of powerful anti-depressants. There is an onus on the minister to meet the proposed delegation sooner rather than later. Nor should she hesitate to take action to resolve this controversy and put people’s minds at ease. With lives possibly at stake, it is imperative to examine the concerns voiced by Dr Gilsenan without fear or favour.

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