For anyone interested in the effects of drugs, the website SSRI stories has been an inspiration. Rosie Meysenburg, its creator, was recently diagnosed with cancer and is terminally ill. The story of how she came to create SSRI stories shows what people can do to hold the powers that be to account.
DH: How did you get started with SSRI stories?
RM: I had spent ages trying to quit smoking. Eventually, in 1992, my doctor persuaded me to try Prozac. I took it for eight weeks during which time my behavior got stranger and stranger and I ended up in hospital. I had no idea what caused the problem until my husband, Gene, suggested it might be the Prozac. So I called the Mental Health Association here in Dallas and asked, “Do you know anyone else who has had a reaction to Prozac? Is there somebody I could talk to?” She said, “Oh, we have a number here for the Prozac Survivors Support Groups.” So she gave me their number and I called them. They talked to me for a long time on the phone and sent me a ton of literature. Well I couldn’t believe it — there were testimonies from Dr. Teicher and others.
I got my medical records and they showed the doctors thought I had a manic reaction to Prozac although I don’t think it was manic; I think it was more nutty. I was angry about the fact that they knew it was the drug but hadn’t told me but there wasn’t too much I could do then — this was 1993. After that I wrote a letter to the FDA which they used in Motus vs. Pfizer — a letter that asked if they could put the same warning on their package insert as Germany had.
Then the Internet started in 1997 and I sat down and I went through the phone book and I called practically every physician in the city in which I lived. I’m a determined person. I asked them if I could find anything about Prozac on the Internet that would show that it could cause harm would they be interested? About 22 of them said yes they would be. I went into Alta Vista — the search engine before Google — I typed in Prozac. There wasn’t too much else you could type in except Zoloft and Paxil. And sometimes I’d put “plus suicides” or “plus murder” whatever and I came up with all kinds of things. This is how I started my message board — it was to these people and some of them were very interested, which kept me going.
Then Mark Miller who lost his 13-year-old son to a Zoloft-induced suicide became involved. He put up a website for Ann Tracey — I didn’t really know who she was. I found her on the Internet and so I sent her some emails and she wrote back. She said, “The Zoloft suicides? Can you find a phone number for these people, Rosie?” So I had a domain where you can find phone numbers and I found them and she called them and told them what had happened to their children. We had a whole list of phone numbers. We did that until about 2004.
Ann started pursuing another line of business although she still tried to find time to help on the SSRI cause. But then the FDA announced online — we watched the FDA announcements like a hawk — a meeting concerning antidepressants/suicide and children. We had about 25 names of parents of children who had committed suicide.
I think the FDA was astounded. They started out with the five minutes they were going to give to each parent to present their case. Then they went to three minutes and finally two minutes. I mean the FDA has these meeting every day and two or three people show up for issues like how many nuts should we put in the cookies? If you’re allergic to peanuts, what should the warning be? I think by law they are required to put an FDA meeting notice in one newspaper and they happened to put it in the Arlington, Virginia, newspaper because my husband Gene talked to a man whose son had committed suicide who saw the FDA announcement in the newspaper and then pretty well everybody came from either finding out about it by themselves or from contact through Ann Tracey, Mark Miller, or myself.
So we went to the 2004 meeting and the FDA placed a black box warning regarding suicidality and children under the age of 18, and then in 2006 that same black box warning for the 24-year-olds and under. I looked at my computer in my saved box and I had 1,000 messages; probably 300 were suicides and another 250-300 were murders, and then there were assaults and all kinds of different things.
DH: When was this?
RM: This was May 2006. I had over 1,000 media articles regarding antidepressants and murder, murder-suicides, suicides, assaults, school shootings, road rage, air rage, etc. My husband Gene set up the initial database for me.
I spent probably 20-25 hours a week doing that and the rest of time I spent with family and friends. I posted every post that’s up there. Can you believe it — 4892! Curious the way I feel about SSRI Stories. On the contact page for SSRI Stories everybody thanked me. I said to Gene that there will be a lot of people just saying, “Oh you’ve got to be kidding me; this cant be true.” Instead I’ve received these emails from the contact page of SSRI Stories with people saying “Thank you. I understand now what happened to my brother or my sister.”
When I first started my message forum I got a threatening letter from somebody when I had my own name up there, although I still kept up with my message board. Now that I’m dying I guess I’m less worried about them beating up on me over Prozac you know. I used to be worried about all these shooters out there but now I don’t care who knows my name.
I am pretty sure FDA have ignored SSRI Stories. But when I look at the stats, Homeland Security goes in there quite a bit and looks at some of the cases. A lot of people are coming in from the military. The big thing I’ve had is people making comments on sections because my stat counter gives the web address. For instance one comment said, “My friend John Smith didn’t know why we were having all these school shootings and he went into SSRIs Stories and now he knows why.” I think it’s helped raise awareness, and I see a lot of people making comments because they come up in the stat counter with the URL or their website and I can click on their website and they’ll say things like, “Have you seen SSRI stories? It’s unbelievable but I think it’s true.” Stuff like that.
So I don’t know how many people have actually looked at SSRI Stories. As far as the index goes we’ve had maybe 300,000 or 400,000 people look at it, which isn’t a lot but which is still quite a bit. On the individual stories we’ve had close to 1 million people looking at them. It seems like in the individual stories approximately one out of every four people will go from the individual story into the index or cover page.
But I can’t really say what kind of impact SSRI Stories has had. What I feel is that more people are being injured out there by this than we realize. Someone I know told me he has a neighbor on one side just died on Paxil and Zoloft, while on the other his neighbor just died on Celexa. Before that neighbor died she said she thought the police were taping her and she had begun to drink heavily and to act crazily.
DH: Did your friend not know your work and warn his neighbors?
RM: Well he only found out afterward. He could see the personality of one of his neighbor’s change but he didn’t know for sure and he felt he couldn’t go into it in-depth because this was his neighbor and he was embarrassed. Beside even when I was on Prozac I failed to spot the connection.
One day I went up to the bank and there was a lady there. She began talking about Prozac to me and she said that when she was on Prozac she killed her dog and then, right there at the bank counter, she started crying. I said “Why did you kill your dog?” and she said that he’d become incontinent and all of a sudden on Prozac she got aggravated with that so she took him to the vet and had him put to sleep. And then she started crying. She said her dog was her best friend. And I said to her, “What was it about the Prozac that made you do this?” And she said it made her more aggressive. It makes you more unfeeling and more aggressive. Of course, she only had her dog put to sleep. I’m not saying she committed a major crime. Her pet was incontinent. He was probably old and would have died soon anyway but the point is that this is happening to a lot of people.
About two or three months ago there was a case in a town near Dallas where a 20-year-old man, who was taking Champix and Prozac at the same time, went around in the middle of the night and burned down 10 churches. No one of course had been killed because the churches were empty but the jury gave him life in prison. This article on SSRI stories talks about Prozac and Champix and it does say the perpetrator blamed the Champix because he didn’t know if he’d actually done it or if he’d dreamed it. But you see the Prozac can cause you to kind of go into a manic rage also and out of this you get a pyromania, or a kleptomania or nymphomania, and then on the Champix he was kind of like in a dream state. Anyway he’s 20 years old and will spend the rest of his life in prison.
DH: Why did the issue of people becoming violent get your attention?
RM: Well because you know in United States it’s always been a tradition not to print suicides. The only way you can tell is if they have a little clue in the obituary or if it says “he died suddenly.” Whereas, the UK and other countries do print suicides. They’ll say “committed suicide.” That’s why I have so many cases from people in Australia and Canada of suicides but very few from the US. However if it’s a controversial suicide or suicide of a famous person, people will want to know what happened to them, and then they’ll print it because everyone will say “Oh my gosh, this famous actor died. How did he die?” But I’m just talking about ordinary people who aren’t high profile. Also the big problem in the US is the drug advertising and of course the media is dying. Some of the newspapers have gone out of business — the only thing that keeps them alive is the drug ads.
The U.S. has lost Freedom of the Press in an unusual way. The newspapers and TV cannot mention that the perpetrator was on an SSRI because the media is afraid the pharmaceutical companies will pull their ads.
DH: Why do you think people are so reluctant to think that the drugs may be causing a problem?
RM: I think it’s because they don’t ever stop to think that it might be the medication. I mean in the sense that I was on Prozac for nine weeks while I was losing my mind but I never once thought of the Prozac. My husband, Gene, was the one who finally figured out what was happening to me.
DH: Why are we so slow to finger the drug?
RM: Because we’ve never really had a prescription drug before that’s caused so much violence and murder and mayhem. We’ve had the antibiotics for years and, of course, the illegal drugs. They were mostly made illegal because they were addictive, but we often think they cause psychosis, especially cocaine and methamphetamines. Pretty potent. However none of the school shooters were on those illegal drugs. That’s something.
DH: Why, given so many school shootings being linked to these drugs, do you think the coin hasn’t dropped? What is it about the United States that makes people so reluctant to think the drugs could be responsible?
RM: They say that in United States anybody who wants to can have a gun. So they blame the guns. And we did have one school shooting where the person was not on an SSRI in Kentucky and reporters write about this case all the time but neglect to mention the other school shooting. Strange. In Columbine, that second kid Dylan Klebold’s records were sealed, so nobody knows his toxicology. But you know there have even been 3 or 4 girls that did these shootings. And not all of the 65 school deaths were shootings — some were stabbings. And nobody seems to catch on. I don’t want to say nobody because while I go to my other stat counter, Go-stats, I’m amazed at the number of people that have typed in the words “antidepressant plus school shootings,” but there’s nobody in power seeing this.
Bill O’Reilly, a famous TV talk show host, says there is an epidemic of women school teachers molesting their male students. He says that his program receives at least one report a week. SSRI Stories has 16 media articles of women school teachers who molested their male students while on medications for depression. One case, in Canada, was even a “won” case in the sense that the jury decided the SNRI Effexor had caused this type of weird nymphomaniac behavior.
We have won 29 legal cases so far, that we know about. If you go into SSRIS stories cover page and click on won cases you can see them all there. About 8 were homicides and 12 were murder attempts. One was an air rage case in a diplomat from England. There was a very early Zoloft case and a murder that was won 1994 that I found in the archives. Nobody had heard about it. It happened in South Carolina. So that means at least 29 judges or juries have decided to acquit on the grounds that the antidepressant caused the criminal behavior.
The other thing that gets me about these SSRIs is, not only do people become violent, they become extremely violent especially the women. They become so terribly violent they will stab somebody 200 times. There was the case in England of the man who stabbed his wife 200 times and then walked next door and stabbed his neighbor’s furniture another 200 times. So this is what’s kind of scary about it. We have about six people on death row here in United States, I think four of them are women who killed their children while they were on Prozac or Zoloft or something. One was a physician’s wife out in California and she killed her three children and then tried to kill herself and didn’t die and now she’s on death row.
DH: Do you think there’s anyway for us to raise the profile of these cases and create a resource for people to get help?
RM: That’s another bothersome issue — nobody’s put up a list of attorneys or physicians or anything. I did ask one or two people to help me post but nobody wanted to — they’re all so busy. Everyone’s so busy and it takes a lot of time. I can’t do the kind of work it would take to set up a list of physicians or attorneys but in future time somebody might be able to set that up.
When I first got caught up in the SSRI debacle I felt so sorry for the victims — people that were murdered or committed suicide. But the more I got into it the more sorry I felt for the perpetrators. So many of them were so young. Ben Garris was a young boy at the age of 15 who took Zoloft and it made him suicidal so they placed him in a prestigious hospital, Shepherd Pratt, and switched him to Prozac. He told them that he felt violent and they wrote in the hospital notes that he felt violent but they said he was being manipulative. He told me in his letter that he also told them to protect the other patients because he felt so violent. But they didn’t write that in the notes. Anyway he ended up killing a nurse who was on duty there. He got life in prison without the possibility of parole. So he was 16 when he went to prison and he’ll be there until he dies.
And there was a 13-year-old girl in Iowa who killed her great aunt. Stabbed her to death. She was on Prozac. She was given life in prison and the reason I knew it was that my sister sent me the article from the Des Moines Register that said she was on Prozac and that she was the youngest person to be sentenced to life in prison in Iowa. These are just some of the cases of the children.
DH: Have you had any help from any group or anyone?
RM: When I first started thinking about setting up SSRI Stories on the Internet, I sent a prototype of the way SSRI Stories would look to Sara Bostock who had lost her beautiful talented daughter to a Paxil-induced suicide. Sara believed that the prototype needed to have a “movable database,” and she hired a computer person to fix the prototype. She also paid for the server for over five years and helped me by posting 200 of the stories that I had saved in my computer. She even invented the name “SSRI Stories.” She believed in SSRI Stories and this gave me the energy I needed to carry out the work on the website. So SSRI Stories owes a lot to her and also to Ann Tracy for her early work.
But, no, other than these two people and my husband being my technician, nobody has come forward to help. There are other people doing a lot of work on psychotropic drugs but they are worn out themselves keeping different sites going. One person did write to me offering to help but I don’t know anyone who can keep up with SSRI stories because of changes in Google.
For years I went into Google and it said up above images, “Google News,” etc. I would click on Google News Advanced Search. Then when I clicked on Google News I would type in the word “antidepressant” and for that day it would say, for example, March 1, 2010, two hours ago something about an antidepressant that maybe killed somebody. I would quickly scan that to see if it was one of our cases. Then that would say four hours ago, six hours ago, and I could do that day till I was done with that day. I would type in “antidepressant” and “antidepressants,” and “anti-depressant” and “anti-depressants,” and I could get it all for that day. Then I’d type in “medication plus depression,” then I’d type in “medication plus depressed,” and “medication,” and so on. And I’d type in Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa — there were nine of them I typed in — and they would come up one hour ago, three hours ago from all over the world. That was what was amazing.
Now when you go to Google news and type in the word “antidepressant” it will come up first of all with Wikipedia. Then it will say four days ago, then two days ago, then six hours ago — it’s 18 times as much work. With just one person trying to do it and then getting sick, it’s got to be too much. Before I was sick, when they changed that, I went ahead and set up a Google alert. Do you know what Google alerts are? I would type in “antidepressant plus murder” and I would type in my email address and have them send me a Google alert for “antidepressant + murder.” That’s an email that they sent to me personally. I was able to work off that for about eight months. I would probably get about 75 of those a day, most of them didn’t have anything to do with antidepressants plus murder. They’d say someone was murdered back in 1910 or something but too bad they didn’t have antidepressants then.
I would have to go through a lot of those that said nothing but then all of a sudden I would come across one that did — that’s how I came across the case of the schoolteacher who was acquitted of molesting a minor male student because of her Effexor usage. After that I typed into Google “Effexor + teacher,” “Prozac + teacher,” “Celexa + teacher,” etc. Then I’d get into a lot of things like a teacher says Effexor is a great drug for whatever.
DH: How old were you when you created SSRI stories?
RM: Well I’m 74 now, and I put up my first 1000 cases that I’d saved for 10 years in 2006 — so I was 69. I was in good health then.
DH: What did you work at?
RM: I was a music teacher. I went to Catholic University of America in Washington and then transferred to Drake University and got my bachelor of music education in Iowa. I taught for three years and then moved to Omaha where I met Gene. We got married and moved to Houston, Texas. He worked on the moon shot back in 1963, 1964. We lived there till 1968 and then we moved to Dallas. I got in touch with Andy Vickery of Houston over the Sargeant Steven Christian case here in Dallas. So I knew Andy Vickery and Rick Ewing before I even put up my message board.
DH: You’re a former music teacher who at the age of 69 creates SSRI stories. What could other people do to make a difference?
RM: Well I think other people should be watching the personalities of people.
If they see a sudden change in the personality of somebody they’ve known for years they need to ask them “Are you on a medication?” If you ask a person “Are you taking a drug?” they often think you mean an illegal drug. So it’s a very delicate question to ask. I think when a family has a person who starts on a medication and their personality changes, they don’t realize it is the medication causing this. They just think that the illness is getting worse.
We have so many cases where, “Well, he started on Prozac and his illness was getting worse so we took him to the doctors and he doubled the dose.”
We have all kinds of cases like that. So I think people need to be aware of what SSRIs can do and how they can cause this personality change.
DH: What you’re answering though is what we need to do about this group of drugs. What I’m asking is what can people do to change the system? You’ve been an extraordinary example to people of what they could be doing.
RM: I wish that there was a group working on the SSRIs because it’s affecting so many people — perhaps as many as one out of three. There is a WEB MD article on SSRI Stories that states that one out of three people may become worse on antidepressants and even become bipolar. I mean in some the effects are just mild personality changes, they get kind of grumpy you know. But there are ones that are serious, I don’t know how often that happens, but it’s a lot.
Another thing is that the suicide rate has not really gone down in the United States. It declined a little in the 1990’s because of the good economy but the government statistics from the years 2005 to 2007 shows it’s gone up for all ages except 24 — the Black Box warning worked!
And terrible things are happening to these poor wounded warriors in Iraq and Afghanistan. They’re giving these kids antidepressants and sending them out in battle where they’re committing suicides and homicides and everything. That man from Sherman, Texas, that went into the clinic in Bagdad and shot five people dead. Remember that one? He was on PTSD drugs, one of them an antidepressant, and they had just changed his dosage the day before. Also, what was the psychiatrist taking who shot and killed 14 American soldiers at Ford Hood, Texas? They did mention in Gulf News that he was the type of psychiatrist who tended to medicate himself.
Some of the atypical antipsychotics like Seroquel and Risperdal can also cause violence and that should be brought out too. And then there’s Chantix, which has so many cases of violence. How many people are taking Chantix? Probably not very many. It’s just for people who want to quit smoking. One person did say to me, and it was a doctor, that yes Prozac is number two on the list in that recent article by Tom Moore, but everybody takes Prozac. In other words he was thinking because of the number of people, there isn’t really a problem. I said well what about Chantix, and he just nodded in a puzzled fashion. Physicians tend to be skeptical.
RM: This is what I’ve noticed from the people who have contacted me through SSRI stories. The physician does not recognize what’s happening. The patient is started on Prozac. They go to the physician and the physician says, “How are you feeling?” “Oh I feel tremendous, I feel great.” That’s wonderful, but what’s happening then is that person is going home and they are deviant, they’re divorcing their husband or wife and they’re taking off on a motorcycle — I’m not kidding this is a true story — to go to Florida and live with some beach bum who tends bar. They’re leaving their two children behind and their husband and the doctor didn’t have a clue. Because they said they felt great. That’s what’s so weird.
A lot of people type in “SSRIs and divorce.” I’m amazed the number of people who do that, or “Zoloft ruined my marriage” — I can remember that from many people. Somebody else typed in something like “Paxil made me crazy.” Those are the people who are reaching SSRI Stories, but who are they? They’re just the man in the street and not any powerful group. So we need a group to work on all of these different angles, the divorce, the hypomania, the pyromania, the kleptomania, nymphomania — I think that’s what’s happening to these woman schoolteachers. What they don’t realize is that people who go into mania and hypomania have an increased libido.
But it’s the children that disturb me the most. There is a post on SSRI Stories about a 15-year-old girl who was forced by her father to take Paxil and then to double the dose. A few days later she slit her younger brother’s throat and buried him in the back garden. I cannot imagine a young girl doing this. These are some of the really tragic cases and they are being hidden.
This why I can’t read mystery stories anymore. If I wanted to read something, I will read a comedy. Every time Gene and I went to the movies or out with friends to movies we would go to comedies. I would have to see a comedy because I would sit all day long and find those cases and I needed relief from this. All I can say is that we need some group that’s big and powerful who will pick up all the different angles there are in SSRI Stories.Share this: