Serotonin may be our most primitive neurotransmitter and so on theoretical grounds alone there was reason to think that the Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibiting drugs (SSRIs) – sold as absolutely and completely safe, the only danger lying in not having them when you needed them – might have significant effects, not all of which would be good.
In 1993, I chaired a symposium for Pfizer marking the launch of sertraline (Zoloft) in the UK. I made this point about how Primitive Serotonin is and suggested that because of this we all should keep a close eye on the effects of these new SSRI drugs.
Around 15% of the populations of most Western countries are now keeping a close eye on these effects – primarily because they can’t get off the drugs and are forced to live with the consequences.
Women are more affected than men – because more women are on them than men, and women, particularly older women put on them for hot flashes – no nervous problems at all – can find them close to impossible to get off, and because while both men and women can become suicidal, homicidal and dependent on treatment, women have additional effects that are even more devastating.
There are very few drugs besides the sex hormones that interfere with reproductive function as much as the SSRIs do.
They increase miscarriages – see Kulin et al reference in Healy et al 2010
They increase voluntary terminations – likely for a range of reasons, including birth defects but also a certain amount of disinhibition and impulsiveness – Kulin et al in Healy et al 2010.
They increase rates of serious birth defects such as cardiac malformations and neural tube defects – Healy et al 2010.
They increase rates of behavioural abnormalities (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) in the children of women who have been on them through pregnancy – Healy et al 2016
They increase Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder in women taking an SSRI while pregnant – See Malm et al in Healy et al 2016
They decrease fertility because of lowered sperm counts in men – as well as in adult rats (One, Two , Three), rodents in utero (One, Two) which is all supposedly being investigated by the European Medicines Agency..
As a result of all this and the effects of SSRIs on libido and sexual function (see below) we now have Falling Birth Rates – US birth rates are now below Replacement Rates and other countries are likely in the same position.
The single most common thing that SSRIs and most antidepressants do is to interfere with our ability to make love. Within 30 minutes of a first pill, capsule or tablet, there will be some genital numbing or irritability, a muting of orgasm and delay in ejaculation and over time this leads to a loss of libido.
Post SSRI sexual dysfunction (PSSD) was described in 2006 but it was clear that even then there were people who were affected for over a decade. Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder (PGAD) had been described even before this.
It is also now clear that Enduring Sexual Dysfunction on SSRIs had been reported to regulators as early as 1987. Before these drugs came on the market, companies knew these risks existed.
For a history of this story which starts in 1961 – Healy 2020.
For Genital Numbing – Healy et al 2018
For Muted Orgasm and Delayed Ejaculation – Healy et al 2018
For Loss of Libido – Healy et al 2018.
For features of PGAD, its history and links to withdrawal of treatment – Goldstein et al 2021 This horrific condition leads women to have the nerves to their pelvis cut or even have a clitoridectomy.
If you want to keep up to date on possible breakthroughs in treatment in this area – filing a RxISK Report will get you into our system and onto a list to be informed about developments.
Alienation of Affection
Serotonin reuptake inhibiting antidepressants – most antidepressants – can cause a change of personality and an emotional numbing that leads to marriage break-ups. The partner left behind is pretty confident that but for the drug this would not have happened but as things stand at the moment if a doctor is treating your husband or a teenager and you know things are going wrong it is impossible to get a hearing.
Women are believed when something is wrong with a young child – the books all stress that a mother should be believed even if the tests don’t support what she is saying. But soon afterwards, she is transformed into someone who can’t be believed. Privacy laws now mean that there is no input from someone who knew the person before they began treatment – before they had an alienation of affection.
One of the consequences of this is Marriage Breakup. A husband on treatment walks out, or a wife walks out and one or other of them regrets it when the treatment stops and they come back to their senses – Appendix 7 and the Who Cares in Sweden and related posts.
Until relatively recently it was possible to take a legal action against someone – a marriage counsellor, a mistress, a clergyman – for Alienation of Affection. It is for certain that pharmaceutical companies knew that their drugs could produce the kind of personality changes that might lead some people to walk out on a family and a marriage. Abby on the Chicago Sun-Times has recently picked this up from the perspective of having to live with someone who as a result of treatment is now an empty shell of the person they once were.
The idea of an Alienation of Affection legal action is worth revisiting. It would open up extraordinary perspectives if the pharmaceutical company trying to deflect responsibility attempted to put the blame on the doctor as the learned intermediary and the doctor countered by saying s/he was bound by privacy laws not to take into account what a partner was saying.
The horror is that companies advertised their drugs as keeping families together – preventing depression pulling them apart, as this advert for paroxetine shows.
The same emotional numbing and change of personality leads female schoolteachers to abuse underage male pupils. The most famous portrayal of this was in Zoe Heller’s Notes on a Scandal. Around the time of writing, Heller had been taking an SSRI.
There are many legal cases involving schoolteachers who have sex with underage boys with the schoolteacher typically having been on an antidepressant at the time – Appendix 8. In some case it seems the women are driven to completely out of character behaviour in order to feel – they are otherwise emotionally so heavily numbed.
One of the most striking instances of emotional numbing lies in a detail mentioned above. Antidepressants cause alcoholism and, even when pregnant, women find they can neither stop the antidepressant nor the alcohol with the result that women taking an SSRI are 10 times more likely to have a baby with fetal alcohol syndrome than women who are not on them.
The most horrific of emotional numbings appears likely to underpin the homicide of children by their mothers – Appendix 9.
Antidepressants and Evidence
There have been 30 RCTs of antidepressants in adolescents – all negative. Despite this, Antidepressants are the second most commonly taken drugs by teenage girls. In part this is down to the fact that almost all articles on these drugs are ghostwritten and there is no access to the data from clinical trials so companies can have articles claiming that in this trial their drug worked well and was safe when regulators have decided the trial didn’t show the drug worked and there was good evidence it wasn’t safe.
- The articles on antidepressants and children embody the greatest divide in medicine between what the data shows when we get access to it and what the academic publications claim – Children of the Cure and Healy, Le Noury, Jureidini 2018
One of the consequences of young women being put on these drugs which don’t work for them is that they develop Treatment Resistant Depression, a condition that didn’t exist before antidepressants and they go on to seek Medical Assistance in Dying.
Another consequence of antidepressants is an obsessive focus on mental health – particularly among younger people, where a culture has developed that any negative emotions are a sign of mental health issues – to be fixed with a pill. The boredom and confusion and anxieties that once drove people to find a purpose in life are now treated as thought they are a glitch as Joe Davis has described in Chemically Imbalanced.
It’s as though in the final episode, the Vampires vanquish Buffy.
Antidepressants are Forever
These dependence producing meds are particularly difficult for women over 50 to stop – See the RxISK Withdrawal Posts. As a result they put us on track for polypharmacy when other medicines we may need get added in and bring us to a point when we are on over three drugs (bad) and maybe over five drugs (very bad) – partly because we are on a drug or drugs (see below) that are doing nothing for us but which we cannot stop.
Or they may lead to prescribing cascades when other drugs are given for what might appear to be unrelated reasons such as treating the enduring broken or poor sleep antidepressants cause, or the bowel and bladder problems, or the vision problems they cause. Antidepressants even accumulate in hair and can cause grey hair, rotting teeth, poor vision and early dementia.
Antidepressants have become a gateway drug to being on five or or more psychotropic drugs in addition to being on many other drugs.
A hint of disinhibition leads to mood stabilizers, typically two not just one – an antipsychotic and an anticonvulsant. The antipsychotic leads to a loss of focus – this is what they do – but the loss of focus is read as ADHD and leads to the prescription of stimulants, often more than one and increasingly with a dopamine agonist thrown in. All of these extra drugs can cause depression so extra antidepressants are added in.
We know that five or more drugs reduce life expectancy, increase hospitalizations and impair quality of life. And for the last decade, before Covid, US life expectancies had stalled and in some groups had fallen – US Life Expectancy . In addition if you catch Covid, it looks like this polypharmacy can reduce your chances of surviving – Dennis the Menace gets Covid.
The Quiet Life
Antidepressants do something useful for Joe Biden, Donald Trump and the Pope especially if they don’t consume one. Far more than the benzodiazepines ever did, they make us quiet and subservient and put us at the mercy of experts, who based on a Fake ghost-written literature gaslight us. We focus on ‘treating’ our glitches rather than changing the world.
This isn’t a bad dream from which we will wake up. But it is time to wake.
“Frozen Venus” © created by Billiam James is adapted from Sandro Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” and “The Outcast”.