The boy with the ponytail who played with fire

He is 6’4” at least – 192 cm. He has blonde hair tied back in a ponytail. When he first suggested making a program about SSRIs I was not very helpful – very little of the media coverage by 60 Minutes or anything else has ever seemed to make much of a difference. They may have just increased the sales of antidepressants by keeping the names of the various drugs in the limelight. And he was suggesting more talking heads which the cutting edge of journalism tells me is past tense.

But he was persistent and turned up on my doorstep, putting himself up in a very cheap hotel, because as I found out later he had almost no money. Many of the people I put him in touch with as he and his son Elias wound their way literally around the world making their program were far more generous than I in accommodating them in their own houses.

Who is He?

Who was he? He is Swedish and his wife Mexican – a striking genetic and cultural mix. She makes wrought-iron jewellery. He had been a classical musician but had decided orchestral living was not for him. This had led him to film-making. But finding work was difficult.

He was gifted. Seeing him edit the huge volumes of material he amassed, produce graphics to illustrate points and carve out a distinctive story line all in the apartment in Stockholm in which they lived – you couldn’t but be impressed. This was a far cry from BBC or CBS or CBC or NBC studios. When I went to visit him in Stockholm, the American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo had just come out and it was difficult not to think of Lisbeth Salander.

Swedes would listen he said. He knew his countrymen and women. They still believed what they heard on the news and read in newspapers and they just needed to be told the truth up front. This didn’t seem completely naïve to me, Swedes are a bit like this. I was certain the rest of the world wouldn’t listen but if one country really did take the message on board who knows…

Who Cares in Sweden?

The central idea was all his. He and Elias both had friends who were put on an SSRI who had lost their personalities.  The drug produced a lack of caring that had spreading consequences for everything. Both had lost friends and families. But no-one said anything.   Jan talked to eight doctors about it and they all told him he was wrong, “the medicine did not have these effects”.  Finally he talked his friend off the medication and his personality was reborn.

If the doctors instead had answered:  “That was interesting, I will keep that in mind.”  … then he probably wouldn’t have started the project.

He ended up coming to me because he began by asking Swedish doctors to participate in the film and noticed that almost all said no. It would be too dangerous for their careers to be involved. He was regularly asked by doctors and politicians and others if he belonged to the Scientology Church. This puzzled him as he knew nothing about Scientology. He was also not anti-medication – several family members had been greatly helped by medicines.

Slowly he came to the view that Swedish journalists didn’t talk about the obvious corruption in Sweden because they didn’t care about the issue.  For Jan the idea that a great deal of money from the pharmaceutical companies is being used to corrupt society is a non-starter as an explanation.

This is the case even though doctors are being corrupted. As he puts it “there is money that is being distributed as cash in small envelops,  hand-to-hand or as repayment for consultant missions. The money can also be found hidden as funds for research or equipment or as invitations for doctors and journalists to international meetings. These offers are mostly sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry –  all kinds of “services” seduce the recipients.

“Doctors end up getting trapped. On return home their colleagues never find out what really happened. They show their respect or feel envy for their colleagues who receive higher salaries, reputation and influence. Only a few people in Sweden acknowledge today how bad the situation is. Ignorance is massive”.

“That’s why we had to travel to foreign countries in order to find people willing to speak to us. As individuals we can’t make big changes or tell politicians, journalists or the justice system what to do. But as a production company, we are definitely able to produce films that may be helpful for society. There are many people searching the Internet for information about side effects that doctors have been taught to deny”.

Swedish Catatonia

I knew nothing about his views when we met first. I was struck by another idea of his. If the treatment could produce something like this in his friend, there seemed to him to be no end to the implications. Would any of the contracts his friend might have entered into during this period, from business contracts to relationship contracts, to legal contracts, to property deals be valid? Were the contracts anyone entered into while on these medicines – stockbrokers, bankers, lawyers – valid?

The more he explored the more he found firemen who were aware of the effects on them or on those who had set fires by accident or on purpose, judges who were aware of the effects within the legal system, doctors treating children who knew of the effects – all of whom facing the problem turned mute and were paralyzed.

There is a condition called Catatonia that can be induced in animals by facing them with tasks such as having to distinguish between an oval and a circle in order to get a reward. As you gradually start making the oval more circular and the circle more ovoid, the dog or other animal gets distressed and finally freezes.

We can cope with judgement calls about responsibility when people who are normal do things and when people who are on an LSD-trip do something – especially if the person has been slipped the drug without knowing it. When someone in the midst of an LSD trip steps out of a twenty-fifth floor window, we do not regard this as suicide. LSD works on the serotonin system. Start making it harder to distinguish between normal and treated serotonin systems and both people and Society freezes up.

A Norse Myth

I felt I was being educated about the drugs by someone who had no background in the issues. It was a story that definitely needed to be made if only because it has the dimensions of a Greek tragedy or myth.

The SSRIs are after all a Swedish invention. Arvid Carlsson who later won a Nobel Prize produced the first SSRI, zimelidine, 3 years before Prozac was made. Carlsson deliberately made an SSRI whereas Lilly only produced one as an accidental by-product of a search for a quite different drug. Zelmid was also brought to the market in 1981, 7 years before Prozac. See Let Them Eat Prozac for a history of what happened next.

Can antidepressants and even Zelmid cause suicide? According to Carlsson in 2000 yes – “we have known this for a long time”.

But it doesn’t stop there, Stockholm is of course the place where Stockholm syndrome was born.

In August 1973, a bank robbery at the Kreditbanken in Stockholm triggered a 5-day siege with bank employees held hostage. The media camped outside. After the siege ended, to the surprise of everyone many of the hostages, as if hypnotized, spoke well of their captors.  “Stockholm syndrome” was born. Now recognized as common, the conditions that trigger this change in behavior seem to be isolation, a fear that your life is at risk and kindness on the part of the hostage takers.

Disease isolates us as profoundly as incarceration or anything else might. Our lives are at risk, and our doctors who control the exit to freedom are almost certain to be kind. But not a single doctor is trained to manage Stockholm syndrome, to suspect that apparent insouciance or congenial conversation might conceal deep unhappiness with a proposed course of treatment or worse again alarm at new problems that have emerged on treatment.

Doctors are also increasingly likely to suffer their own Stockholm syndrome. If something goes wrong with a treatment a doctor gives, even though the label may concede that the drug can cause the problem, the makers of the drug and other doctors will deny that it is likely to have done so in any particular case. Speaking up about a problem, once the material of medical advance, is now a recipe for professional suicide.  A doctor attempting to rescue a patient is likely to be accused of being a persecutor who takes patient hostage by withholding effective treatment.

Offers to describe problems at professional meetings are turned down. Journals are ever less likely to accept publications outlining a new problem. Invitations to apply for better jobs, to attend conferences, or simply to go with colleagues to local eateries funded by drug companies are ever less likely to happen for doctors linked to adverse events. Those holding doctors hostage have been very kind indeed – there are ever fewer medical departments or medical conferences not awash with company support, when it comes to paying for meals with colleagues most doctors have forgotten what a credit card looks like, and of course in supplying drugs they supply the objects that make doctors desirable.

What can a Hobbit do?

“We all must take advantage of freedom of speech and freedom of press. This is what the small individual can do in a democracy. Thereafter it’s up to the professional journalist and politician to act. The truth is that Sweden needs help from foreign politicians, scientists and journalists. It is very sad to have to admit that many homicides, school shootings and other horrible killings are linked to medication and that this fact is being suppressed as journalists exclusively talk about weapons”.

“Many people decide to stop their medication when they start getting the “numb feeling” or the “derealisation feeling”. However, in the majority of cases, doctors insist they continue until the side effects “disappear”.

So Jan Akerblom made Who Cares in Sweden.  This is playing with fire. He has taken on the Swedish establishment for real. Lisbeth Salander is the myth, Jan Akerblom the reality. See this link.

“Our conclusion is that, the best advice, in order to clarify any problems is to talk to the person’s family, friends and colleagues. The person themselves may not be aware of the side effects, the change of personality, the problems he or she creates . People sometimes say that the “medicines work” precisely because they just don’t care anymore”.

This conclusion about what he had to do and also what needs to be done to clarify individual problems are exactly the conclusions that Rosie Meysenburg came to that led her to create SSRI Stories.

In the next post, we’ll see some of the consequences of Kicking the Hornet’s Nest.

RxISK: Research and report prescription drug side effects on

Search. Report. Contribute.

You and your meds. Give the real story. Get the real story.


Pharmaceutical companies have hijacked healthcare in America, and the results are life-threatening.


Dr. David Healy documents a riveting and terrifying story that affects us all.


University of California Press (2012)


Available on



  1. As described here, the most striking thing to me in many, if not most, persons on several of the SSRIs is the total blunting of affect. This is obvious even over the telephone. Some years ago I did a small study in which I made spectrograms of non-depressed, depressed and SSRI treated patients all saying the same phrase. I had a group of psychiatrists and psychiatry residents who had never seen a spectrogram before. They were told only that one axis represents loudness and the other represents time. They were shown the normal one as the control, then the others and were asked to pick out the depressed patients. They all picked the SSRI patients first then queried some of the other depressed patients. They ignored the normals. When asked why they had chosen as they did, they all said that the spectrograms that were “quieter” and “longer” (some actually said ‘flatter’) were the depressed patients. They were told afterward that they had included the patients on SSRIs and were shocked. I wish I could be confident that the lesson has remained with them.

  2. Just published in JAMA Psychiatry: “Prevalence, Correlates, and Treatment of Lifetime Suicidal Behavior Among Adolescents: Results From the National Comorbidity Survey Replication Adolescent Supplement.” The article contains the following highly revelatory statement: “Most suicidal adolescents (>80%) receive some form of mental health treatment. In most cases (>55%), treatment starts prior to onset of suicidal behaviors but fails to prevent these behaviors from occurring.” I wonder how that might be interpreted-either the treatment was completely ineffective or, just maybe, caused the suicidal behaviours?

  3. Neil Gorman says:

    I am delighted to read this post here. I have read so much about anti-depressants over the years and to me, the subject of personality change is the least discussed and worst understood.

    My wifes experience of suicidal ideation on prozac was eventually recognised for what it really was (albeit almost too late), by both her CPN and her GP. But her dramatic personality change on effexor was not and even when I brought it up with them, it was denied.

    I wrote letters, had face to face meetings with her GP, attempted face to face meetings with her CPN (which she cancelled last minute because I was a crazy husband in denial), and spend literally thousands of hours researching this. No one would give me the time of day.

    In my years of posting our story all around the web there have only been a few cases were we have been taken seriously, mostly by others who experienced similar. eg. Topix Marriages destroyed by SSRI’s thread.

    The only organisations or people that gave this any time were the more controversial types like Ann-Blake Tracy, Peter Breggin and dare I say it, Tom Cruise and the Cchr. Helen Fisher may have been the least controversial person who understood this problem. See Helen Fishers ‘Dangerous idea’ from 2007.

    Long story short I saved my wife and our marriage in the end… only just. But I lost almost everything first. Job, house, car, reputation, wife and children, and friends etc.

    I have such a long list of the crazy effects on my wife’s personality, most of which you probably wouldn’t believe. Some of it so far out it sounds like science fiction or an MKultra conspiracy…

    When you have this personality change right in front of your eyes happening to someone you know so well, you have no problem whatsoever accepting that the most of these mass shootings, family killings etc are probably in most cases caused by these drugs.

  4. There are actually quite a few papers suggesting personality changes on antidepressants, among them

    Sansone RA, Sansone LA. SSRI-Induced Indifference. Psychiatry (Edgmont). 2010 Oct;7(10):14-8. Pubmed with full text

    From the references:

    Reinblatt SP, Riddle MA. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor- induced apathy: a pediatric case series. J Child Adolesc Psychopharmacol. 2006;16:227–233.

    Barnhart WJ, Makela EH, Latocha MJ. SSRI-induced apathy syndrome: a clinical review. J Psychiatric Pract. 2004;10:196–199.

    Lee SI, Keltner NL. Antidepressant apathy syndrome. Perspect Psychiatr Care. 2005;41:188–192.

    Opbroek A, Delgado PL, Laukes C, et al. Emotional blunting associated with SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction. Do SSRIs inhibit emotional responses? Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2002;5:147–151.

    Price J, Goodwin GM. Emotional blunting or reduced reactivity following remission of major depression. Medicographia. 2009;31:152–156.

    Price J, Cole V, Goodwin GM. Emotional side-effects of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors: qualitative study. Br J Psychiatry. 2009;195:211–217.

    Bolling MY, Kohlenberg RJ. Reasons for quitting serotonin reuptake inhibitor therapy: paradoxical psychological side effects and patient satisfaction. Psychother Psychosom. 2004;73:380–385.

    Fava M, Graves LM, Benazzi F, et al. A cross-sectional study of the prevalence of cognitive and physical symptoms during long- term antidepressant treatment. J Clin Psychiatry. 2006;67:1754–1759.

    Wongpakaran N, van Reekum R, Wongpakaran T, Clarke D. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor use associates with apathy among depressed elderly: a case-controlled study. Ann Gen Psychiatry. 2007;6:7.

    Garland EJ, Baerg EA. Amotivational syndrome associated with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors in children and adolescents. J Child Adolesc Psychopharmacol. 2001;11:181–186.

    The below from the references in El-Mallakh RS, Gao Y, Jeannie Roberts R. Tardive dysphoria: the role of long term antidepressant use in-inducing chronic depression. Med Hypotheses. 2011 Jun;76(6):769-73.:
    Keller MB. Issues in treatment-resistant depression. J Clin Psychiatry 2005;66(Suppl. 8):5–12.

    Byrne SE, Rothschild AJ. Loss of antidepressant efficacy during maintenance therapy: possible mechanisms and treatments. J Clin Psychiatry 1998;59:279–88.

    Fava GA. Can long-term treatments with antidepressant drugs worsen the course of depression? J Clin Psychiatry 2003;64:123–33.

    Sharma V. Treatment resistance in unipolar depression: is it an iatrogenic phenomenon caused by antidepressant treatment of patients with a bipolar diathesis? Med Hypotheses 2006;67:1142–5.

    Lieb J, Balter A. Antidepressant tachyphylaxis. Med Hypotheses 1984;15:279–91.

    Cohen B, Baldessarini R. Tolerance to therapeutic effects of antidepressants. Am J Psychiatry 1985;142:489–90.

    Nierenberg AA, Alpert JE. Depressive breakthrough. Psychiatr Clin North Am 2000;23(4):731–42.

    Solomon D, Leon AC, Mueller TI, et al. Tachyphalaxis in unipolar major depressive disorder. J Clin Psychiatry 2005;66:283–90.

    Posternak MA, Zimmerman M. Dual reuptake inhibitors incur lower rates of Tachyphylaxis than selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors: a retrospective study. J Clin Psychiatry 2005;66:705–7.

    Reimherr FW, Amsterdam JD, Quitkin FM, et al. Optimal length of continuation therapy in depression. Am J Psychiatry 1998;155:1247–53.

    Sharma V. Loss of response to antidepressants and subsequent refractoriness: diagnostic issues in a retrospective case series. J Affect Disord 2001;64:99–106.

    Lieb J. Antidepressant tachyphlaxis. J Clin Psychiatry 1990;51:36.

    Mann JJ. Loss of antidepressant effect with long-term monoamine oxidase inhibitor treatment without loss of monoamine oxidase inhibition. J Clin
    Psychopharmacol 1983;3:363–6.

    Fava GA. Do antidepressant and antianxiety drugs increase chronicity in
    affective disorders? Psychother Psychosom 1994;61(3–4):125–31.

    El-Mallakh RS, Waltrip C, Peters C. Can long-term antidepressant use be
    depressogenic? J Clin Psychiatry 1999;60:263.

    Aronson TA. Treatment emergent depression with antidepressants in panic
    disorder. Compr Psychiatry 1989;30:267–71.

    Fux M, Taub M, Zohar J. Emergence of depressive symptoms during treatment
    for panic disorder with specific 5-hydroxytryptophan reuptake inhibitors. Acta
    Psychiatr Scand 1993;88:235–7.

    El-Mallakh RS, Karippot A. Antidepressant-associated chronic irritable
    dysphoria (ACID) in bipolar disorder: a case series. J Affect Disord

  5. Also see these papers and their references:

    Price J, Cole V, Goodwin GM. Br J Psychiatry. 2009 Sep;195(3):211-7.
    Emotional side-effects of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors: qualitative study.
    Full text

    Ciara McCabe, Zevic Mishor, Philip J. Cowen, and Catherine J. Harmer Biol Psychiatry. 2010 March 1; 67(5): 439–445.
    Diminished Neural Processing of Aversive and Rewarding Stimuli During Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor Treatment
    Full text

    • Denise Nativel says:

      Thanks Altostrata and Neil. We are the ones who investigate and read the studies because we see the changes of personality in front of out eyes. However, getting the treating psychiatrist or doctor to read these articles makes you the “crazy husband in denial” or “over anxious mother that won’t believe her son has a mental problem”, even although I am a pharmacist. I too have lost almost everything. Job, my profession, house, reputation, partner, son and friends etc. My son has been placed in the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital due to drugs the doctors gave him even after I had warned the psychiatrist, the pharmacist and the social worker not to use these drugs on him….and nurse stating in the hospital folder “If these cause aggression, then why are they being used?” I believe this was orchestrated by the doctor so he didn’t have to deal with me.

      We have to keep together, strength in numbers.

      Is there a way of contacting the Swedish film maker. This temperament is not only in Sweden it is around the world.

      I feel I too have a calling to educate people about prescription drugs for mental illnesses and their hazards. I have also made contact with a lady in the UK who has a good website and would glady link up with anybody else with a similar interest in getting awareness information out there for the masses.

  6. Neil Gorman says:

    Thanks Altostrata. I haven’t read them all yet, but I had a quick scan.
    Unfortunately this is similar to what I have already read on the subject, and while emotional blunting and apathy are most definitely part of what happened to my wife, it does not explain her polar shift in personality.

    This was way beyond disinterest or lack of caring. That was present on the Prozac, but what happen on the effexor was a whole different experience, and it is at this point where I get stuck with most people.

    One of the most publicized studies on personality change was the Tony Z. Tang one, which of course spun the noted changes in neuroticism and extraversion as a positive thing. I read this study as the first admission that yes, they do infact change personality… but of course it had to be good thing didn’t it?

    Perhaps if you take emotional blunting and apathy, partner it with the changes in love an attachment that Helen Fisher talks about, add some changes in neuroticism and extraversion in, a dash of disinhibition, paranoia, hostility, false memories and a general change in perception of reality, and you get a little closer to only the mental side of the effects my wife experienced.

    The problem with emotional blunting and apathy is that it only applied to her old life, her old friends and the people who she previously cared about. Her new life, new friends, new tastes, new experiences were things she was not at all apathetic about.

    She changed her political views, not something to take lightly when discussing someone who grew up through the troubles of Northern Ireland. Her taste in movies and music was different, her fashion sense changed, she changed her hair style and colour, socialized like an 18 year old, none of which can be explained by emotional blunting.

  7. Excellent Blog Post Dr Healy,

    I thought that the Swedish documentary on SSRI’s was possibly the best I have seen on the subject.

  8. It really is extraordinary, how a doctor cannot realise ‘withdrawal’ from normal behaviour.
    How can a doctor watch a person crumble before their very eyes, turn into a curled up ball, who doesn’t stop crying, who is in their surgery day and night begging for help, who deteriorates rapidly with terror and confusion, when all normal functions disappear and life becomes a living hell.

    My doctor ‘said it all’ with her comments in her referrals, having taken me off Seroxat abruptedly, to the clinical psychologist, who put me on Seroxat:
    “Her complaints are not those of depression since they are exhaustion, lack of enthusiasm, occasional palpitations, feelings of anxiety.
    She herself is adamant that there is something is wrong with her and this should not all be ascribed to domestic stress.
    Her failure to respond to anti-depressants and, in fact, her persistent complaints about their side-effects, makes me feel this is not truly a depressive illness and what she seems to suffer from is almost incapacitating anxiety.
    I really don’t see any future for this patient with anti-depressants , they haven’t worked in the past and I cannot imagine they are going to work now.
    Constantly agitated and tearful.
    She has been seen by a clinical psychiatrist with no benefit whatsoever.
    She should stick to a timetable, looking after her child, and not retire to her couch and sob and sleep.
    She is having an episode of severe agitation and has been recently hospitalised, though the main effect of that seems to have been to reinforce what I was saying, that there wasn’t really anything medically that could be offered to her”. (???)
    The last comment was two days after I was admitted to a General Hospital, four days after coming out of a mental hospital, where she had sent me.
    She goes on, ‘done best on Paroxetine’, which she is ‘still on’ – I had been off six weeks, was hospitalised twice………..
    and still she does not get it…….or does she?

    Why were we subsequently invited to stay with this woman?
    Why did I walk her dogs for her?
    Why did I spend hours discussing Seroxat with her, and give her Panorama tapes?
    Why did she say ‘I did very well’ to get off that drug..

    Stockholm Syndrome was precisely where I was, and it had become something even more sinister than that..
    Not only did she ‘stitch me up’ regarding witholding of recommended medication, she ended up lying about it..
    This woman was completely ‘off her trolley’…and quixotically ‘corrupt’…
    The damage she did was incalculable….
    But, but, but, a straight run off Seroxat, despite this deluded woman, has given power to my elbow with GSK…and my constant refusal to accept denial from this corporation…
    Who cares in Sweden?
    Who cares in Argyll??

    This is pretty shocking stuff……these are the bare bones of her comments from two referrals, where I had been off Seroxat for six weeks

  9. Sitting here thinking, as I do, and, although, it was mentioned in a Rxisk blog, a while ago, about the police, I have a dilemma, not related, to this particular blog.
    It is this.
    Hundreds of cases are being investigated, by the police, in the UK, about Sexual abuse, some not even involved with the Jimmy Saville scenario. Many, many of them going back fourty years, or so.
    I have a clear cut case of medical abuse, regarding anti-depressant medication, from my medical practice.
    The surgery have told me, explicitly, that I am time expired. Firstly, by one year,
    then, despite my persistence, by a threatening telephone call from Canada, and then a shameful letter re the doctor in question, ie her going to the Medical and Dental Union of Scotland, with even more deceit, about her appalling behaviour..
    I am probably now out of time, also, with the MHC, who give five years, as their benchmark, unless there are mitigating circumstances..
    Maybe, I am ahead of my time with all this…
    I have a classic case of Stockholm Syndrome…not just Stockholm Syndrome, something actually even more sinister, lying and corruption and deluded behaviour, from the hee hee-land doctor, which I can prove, without question.

    Should I forget all about the MHRA, MHC, and beyond, and just take this to the police and see how they deal with it??

    I don’t like airing my dirty laundry on this site, but it has to be said. I was nearly hanging from the rafters of my garage, I cut myself badly, I overdosed, from six weeks off Seroxat because a woman, despite over fourty visits, decided, by herself, that she would not take the advice of the clinical psychiatrist, watched me nearly die and then, invited me to stay with her. Walk her dogs, be her friend, and then she lies about the medication…….

    This is bad, this is very, very bad..and, I am not going to tolerate, this surgery doing everything in their power to ‘button me up’.

    This woman, was ‘off her trolley’ and ‘quixotically corrupt’ and a fresh look, might just be, my only route.

    I have the ultimate case study.
    A calamitous, diabolical study of how not to treat a patient’s withdrawal from an anti-depressant, from the medical practice.
    A calamitous, diabolical study of how not to treat a patient’s withdrawal from a local mental hospital.
    A calamitous, diabolical study from the MHRA, MHC
    A calamitous, diabolical study from GSK
    Et Cetara, Et Cetera, Et Cetera

    Who cares in Sweden?
    Who cares in Argyll??
    Who cares in the UK???

    Any thoughts, anyone……….or would I just begin to look a lot more stupid than I already feel……and get myself into ‘a spot of bovver’ with said, polis..

    Yes, yes or a no, no…..

  10. Denise Nativel, I run a support and education site for tapering off psychiatric drugs and withdrawal syndrome at

    annie, here are the NICE guidelines for doctors regarding antidepressant withdrawal:

    And the MIND UK guide, which is very straightforward:

  11. I am very grateful to Altostrata, for providing the information from Nice and Mind.
    I now have a much clearer understanding and this is hugely significant information.
    Thank you.

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