Even Docs get killed by Akathisia

September, 11, 2018 | 16 Comments


  1. Johanna,

    Thank you for challenging the lack of reference to AKATHISIA in considering “doctor-suicide”.

    We are not taught to recognise, or to understand prescription drug-induced akathisia in our undergraduate or post-graduate medical training.

    This is a shameful omission in medical education.

    We are only likely to begin to understand just how lethal, and how life-destroying this common and very serious adverse drug reaction is, when one of our family has had akathisia misdiagnosed as “Serious Mental Illness”.

    In response to a current headline in a G.P. magazine: —


    I wrote the following comment:

    “Several classes of prescription drugs cause akathisia which is the common denominator underlying medication induced suicide”.

    “The increasing and overwhelming agitation, writhing restlessness, and emotional blunting which are the dominant features of SSRI/SNRI induced akathisia are vulnerable to misdiagnosis as worsening or “emergent serious mental illness/illnesses”.

    “The prevalence of clinically significant akathisia in those taking these drugs has been reported as 20%”.

    “We are told that these drugs are used (apparently?) prophylactically in some doctors where adverse professional circumstances have caused vulnerability to depression”.
    (R.S.M. Podcast).

    “As far as I am aware, no meticulous drug history, record of changes of (akathisia inducing) psychotropic medication, dose increase, decrease, or additional psychotropic drug augmentation is routinely made available as a component of the Inquest Reports on our colleagues who have died by alleged suicide”.

    “Surely a greater awareness of akathisia, the risk of misdiagnosis, and the associated risk of induced suicidality justifies detailed, unbiased, objective investigation”.

    “If denial, and unwillingness to address the most serious ADR of SSRIs and SNRIs
    predominates, how can it be known whether or not these tragic deaths in our colleagues are being mis-classified as “suicide”?”

    “The life-long devastation of their families becoming even more unbearable as a result of a potentially incorrect verdict”.

    Clearly my concern applies to all other families whose loved ones may have been lost as a result of the widespread prescriber ignorance of this common and unbearable “medication”
    adverse reaction.

    Did they all really “die by suicide”?

  2. Crime Scenes..?

    Join The Club…That’s when I got pissed and I couldn’t shut up..

    “So how did I get involved in these crime scenes? Why am I so obsessed with doctor suicides? Three reasons. 1) I was a suicidal physician in 2004. I thought I was the only one. Maybe I was just too sensitive and idealistic. I have a personal stake in this issue. I feel it to my core. 2) Eight years later, I discovered doctor suicide is quite literally a hidden epidemic! It came as an absolute shock that so many of my colleagues were dying by suicide. 3) What created my relentless 24/7 obsession was the discovery that these suicides were being covered up—by my very own profession! That’s when I got pissed and I couldn’t shut up.


    This is incredibly persuasive and pervasive talk…from Dr. Wible…if I was a doctor I could feel very sorry for myself..

    We don’t have a Dr. Wible in the UK, yet, but, it runs along the lines of Doctor Creep which we have noticed starting here when patients are more or less accused to causing doctors’ suicides by complaining.

    “Doctors choose suicide to end their pain (not because they want to die). Suicide is preventable if we stop the secrecy, stigma, and punishment. In absence of support, doctors make impulsive decisions to end their pain permanently. I asked several male physicians who survived their suicides, “How long after you decided to kill yourself did you take action—overdose on pills or pull the trigger?” The answer: 3 to 5 minutes.”

    “Ignoring doctor suicides leads to more doctor suicides. Let’s not wait until the last few minutes of a doctor’s life when heroic interventions are required.”

    3 to 5 minutes is key to Akathisia.

    It comes out of nowhere
    It comes out of somewhere
    It is ruthless
    It takes no prisoners

    “Doctors sometimes suffer because of patients’ need to place them on a pedestal. They are idealised as quasi-divine healers, without the same vulnerabilities or disabilities as the rest of us. Doctors who are asked to treat other doctors find it difficult as well. Many feel slightly embarrassed when seeing colleagues. They find it hard to accept that a doctor could have two personae – a strong, powerful medic on the one hand and a frightened and sick individual on the other.”



    A frightened and sick individual
    Akathisia came out of nowhere
    It came out of somewhere
    It is ruthless
    It takes no prisoners
    The Patient
    A frightened and sick individual

    A heroic intervention, Johanna.

  3. When do we begin to forget that as social animals we like and must communicate with each other. If those in desperate emotional need cannot open up and talk and yes be listened to and not dismissed as some person with a disease then maybe their would be less of us dying.

    Talking to friends and relatives and other professionals who don’t so readily reach for the prescription pad seems so much the better solution when do people stop listening to those who experience emotional turmoil. Dismissed is disengaged and desraught. If we choose to leave emotionally distressed people out of our sites and dismiss them with prescriptions then this world’s whole population is at risk.

    This is the social disease not the so called mental illness.

  4. This one was personal for me – and not just because I have been in Dr. Shaffer’s shoes, more-or-less. But also because he was an orthopedic surgeon. And I can imagine how he felt when told he would have to be “on meds for life,” because I know what he sees around him. I see far too much of it in workers’ comp these days.

    Patients go from the Back Clinic to the Pain Management Clinic (getting hooked on opioids and benzos) and from there to the Psych Clinic (where they get god-only-knows what else, and often pronounced bipolar to boot). Within a year or two their lives are in ruins—if they’re alive at all. There are so many ways to die: suicide, diabetes, seizures, accidental poly-drug overdose, even bowel impactions. I suspect a lot of doctors must say to each other quietly: If I ever get like that, just shoot me, OK? Just get it over with.

    “Anxiety” and trouble sleeping are probably the top mental-health problems among MDs. So I also suspect there are a LOT of benzo-dependent doctors in the USA, given their expanding use in the last ten years and the ignorance of addiction and withdrawal issues. Some may struggle with worsened anxiety and other impairments, while others feel pretty good until they try to stop. Not sure which group poor Ben Shaffer was in, but not surprised his doctors had no clue about benzo withdrawal. And he was a top surgeon, so you know he was consulting the Very Best Doctors! That’s not always a blessing …

  5. The very sad thing about all of this is that doctors are turning to the very drugs that are harming their patients any life that is lost to suicide is one to many when I high profile doctor takes his own life because he is suffering the effects of the very drug that is designed to help and is labelled with a mental illness it must be hard to do you job without being judge by your fellow workers , but the thing for me is everyday men women children are sadly taking there own lives because these doctors dismiss the harm that is happening in front of their very eyes and are told by these doctors that it is all to do with a underlying condition when it’s clear it’s drug induced anxiety depression akathisia so the patient is medicated further leading to suicide as they are not believed and it’s the only way out

    It’s a shame that patients are not treated with the same sort of respect as doctors I have first hand experience of what this is like I am currently of my medication for 19 months I have been living in a hell ever since my doctor withdrew me cold turkey I visit the doctor frequent and tell him that I have felt suicidal everyday but I am told it’s my original symptoms the ones I didn’t have before meds but I am called a liar but when I die at the hands of suicide no reporter will make a case about about me and how we need to protect me and others as we are not high profiled enough to worry about

    With the amount of doctors now loosing their lives to suicide surely the medical profession should realise the harm that the drugs are doing is also costing lives of the patients that they are supposed to be helping why are we not honouring all those lost souls that reported to their doctors how they felt only to be misdiagnosed or disbelieved

  6. Really moved by your response, Johanna. There is also something I find especially disrespectful about how Dr. Wible spoke about his death. At least when we are alive and we are told what’s happening to us isn’t, we can try to defend ourselves (often with little success). Dr. Shaffer didn’t get the opportunity to refute her characterization of of him and what went wrong.

  7. “He was told he would need medication for the rest of his life.”
    My 20 year old daughter was subject to this same prognosis the day before her suicide. After just over 3 years on various up, down and off doses of Citalopram she was told that she could need medication for the rest of her life. I have presumed since 2007 that GPs really knew that here were risks attached to antidepressants but prescribed them anyway to anyone as a get well quick fix. It seems doctors are just as ignorant of the horrendous consequences as my 20 yr old daughter and I were back in 2007. Maybe now more questions will be asked- and answered.

  8. Can you imagine the outrage and pain I feel reading the excerpt below? We phoned repeatedly my family member’s doctor. We respected HIPAA and all that but left important information that was never considered in your “medical complex” or whatever derogatory phrase you’re all making about your own profession. He needed the multiple surgeries that led him to your benzo and neurontin cocktail but you literally killed him – he died within three years of your insane circus. Our family begged for you to help him and there was a single note in his chart, “concern family member call.” From loving family man in a productive career loved by 400 funeral attendees (how many will remember you, seriously) to a shell of a closet addict (we never even knew – he was too ashamed to tell us oxy?) with a newly minted upped dose prescription taken as prescribed (and dated to the day doses all locked up in a safebox), before collapsing. When I hear physicians hiding behind a un-fact-checked ridiculous pharmaceutical claim about chronic pain not becomeing addicted – I am outraged at your denial of complicity for “just” taking orders from a subordinate (pharmacy lunatics) in the profession and two, for having zero common sense that any 8th grader would be expected to have. Each and every one of you who benefitted from Purdue or any other $circus, please donate that money back for cleaning up this epidemic and please become ACTIVE and get Sackler’s to treat for contrition and decency, and repeatedly treat, instead of $gain from the new formulation release of bupro. Trust is BROKEN, people. And the “you” is all of you – incuding me as a sibling who is sorting out the guilt for not walking into your office and demanding your precious protected special high-horse doc time…time I will never have with my only sibling and time his children and grandchildren will never have, either. You can so callously spout off your problems here without taking action to protect the vulnerable patients who depend on you. What protected privileged psychopaths you have become. I suppose in teh end all I’ll hear is that docs are victims of narcissistic parents or whatever and I ought be kinder…or more numb.
    Patients go from the Back Clinic to the Pain Management Clinic (getting hooked on opioids and benzos) and from there to the Psych Clinic (where they get god-only-knows what else, and often pronounced bipolar to boot). Within a year or two their lives are in ruins—if they’re alive at all. There are so many ways to die: suicide, diabetes, seizures, accidental poly-drug overdose, even bowel impactions. I suspect a lot of doctors must say to each other quietly: If I ever get like that, just shoot me, OK? Just get it over with.

  9. Dear Sorting it Out,

    I share your outrage. We all do. What happened to your brother was a crime. What I was trying to say, as a patient and a paralegal helping injured workers, is that I am sick and tired of seeing people perish in a criminal system like that. I have lost some clients who were real good people, but your pain on losing your brother is more than I can fathom. If there was something about how I expressed my outrage that struck you as callous, I’m so sorry.

    This blog, and the RxISK.org blog that Dr Healy co-founded, are part of a struggle to PUT AN END to that criminal system. Most of us are NOT doctors — I’m not — and many of us have lost loved ones to mindless and heartless drugging by the medical system. I hope you will come back, take a look around, and see we are all in much the same boat.

    I do feel sad about Ben Shaffer’s death, but I sure don’t value his life more than anyone else’s. Here’s the irony, though: Doctors are taught to tell the rest of us that being on psych meds for life is a great option, and we just have to get past the “stigma.” But if someone gives them the same advice, it’s all too easy to see how they might think their lives are over. They know that the real-life outcome is usually not good. To put it mildly.

  10. Johanna, I admire the measured way that you build up to the crescendo in your ‘open letter’. You add fact upon fact so that the reader is in total agreement with you – and then, slap, you knock them out, right there, with the ‘elephant in the room’. Brilliant! I guess you have the makings of a ‘who done it’ novel, such is your brilliance in the creation of suspense coupled with a fantastic sting in the tail when least expected!
    However, as we all agree, this is TRULY SERIOUS STUFF. The fact that doctors are now caught in the ‘spider’s web’ is, on one level, heart breaking. On the other hand, doctors are human too – if so many of us ‘ordinary’ folk need these medications then, surely, it should not surprise us that doctors too ‘need ‘them. I guess the real question to ask is how many of us DO REALLY need them? Even if they were miracle cures – how many REALLY cannot cope with life? My feeling is that the answer would be ‘very few’. The problem therefore lies once these drugs are introduced.
    We should have seen this coming I guess. We live our lives non-stop these days. Burnout is surely a condition where ‘rest’ helps things to return to normal. Is there time these days to take time out to recover? Hardly – take time out and you could well find out that someone else has stepped into your shoes at work! We live on borrowed money – another reason to keep going at our health’s expense. Eventually, something has to give – often it’s our mental wellbeing that suffers.
    Waiting in the wings is the answer to all our woes – a pill or six that promise to lift all our ills and help us to rise again to our full potential. A promise too far – its acceptance our downfall. The mess created being beyond comprehension. Withdrawal from them is almost an impossibility. Doctors will declare ‘ you need these for life’, pity they don’t add that coming off them is even worse than being on them. Seroquel (Quetiapine to us in the UK) was one of the drugs you named Johanna. We have watched Shane reducing his intake of this drug for the last 3 years – parts of that journey have been absolutely horrific even at the slow rate that he is withdrawing.
    I really hope that this letter of yours shakes matters up so that the horrors of akathisia and all other horrors linked to these drugs are accepted as THE TRUTH at long last.

  11. 2 minutes ..

    11 Sep

    I am Ben’s sister. You hit the nail on the head with this


    So you wanna be a doctor to “help people.” You paid big bucks for med school.Now your life sucks. It’s not your fault. You need 3 skill sets to be a happy doctor. Med school provides only one—the technical skills. No human skills. No business skills. The truth is: Med school trains you to be a factory worker. You choose your assembly line. Wanna do treadmill OB? How ‘bout rat-race pediatrics?


    How to be a happy doctor –

    (in less than 2 minutes) ..

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