Antidepressants, Not Alcohol, Implicated in Mary Kennedy Suicide

Kermit Cole
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When Mary R. Kennedy, the estranged wife of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., committed suicide last May, initial speculation centered around the possible contribution of alcohol to her actions. However, toxicology shows no alcohol was in her body at the time. Rather, traces of the antidepressants trazodone, desmethylvenlafaxine and venlafaxine (Effexor) were present. “Even at standard doses, venlafaxine alone has been shown in at least three independent international studies to significantly increase the risk of suicide,” says one emeritus Yale professor, quoted in U.S. News.

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected]

14 COMMENTS

  1. Another significant element would be her recent drinking history– was she experiencing the severe discomfort of alcohol withdrawal? I wonder about this based on the expectations that many who suffer from alcohol addiction have re: psych drugs as magic bullets.

    I wouldn’t jump to citing this Kennedy tragedy as evidence that SSRIs can trigger suicidal thoughts, attempts and completed suicides. BUT, I would like to see a discussion ensue that dispels yet another MYTH that psychiatry has sold to a population of suffering people looking for help. The discussion should be grounded in what is known about antidepressant regarding lack of efficacy and potential of risks for fatal adverse effects— moving the public closer to a serious demand for accountability for the propagation of the full gamut of MYTHS that are poisoning our most vulnerable friends and family members.

    Bullets can kill— even “Magic” ones.

  2. I’m glad somebody brought up the possibility those medications might cause suicide.

    The combination of Effexor and trazodone or Effexor, Pristiq, and trazodone can lead to serotonin syndrome or other serious adverse reactions.

    Adding Pristiq to Effexor would have been extremely stupid but not beyond many doctors. If that or an increase in Effexor dosage was recent, the change in medication might have adversely affected her to the point of suicide.

    Trazodone alone can have severe adverse effects. It has an active metabolite, mCPP, which is used to induce anxiety for study in the laboratory.

    Effexor/Pristiq and trazodone’s mCPP are metabolized via the same liver enzyme (P450 CYP 2d6). Taking them together could cause a traffic jam in the liver leading to elevated levels of venlafaxine (and its metabolites) or mCPP or both in the blood stream.

    Any or all of these adverse reactions could be so uncomfortable as to cause someone to think of suicide as a plausible solution.

    If, as so often happens, the person had been to the doctor for help with the adverse symptoms and been told they’re signs of worsening mental illness, suicide can seem to be an inevitability.

    I certainly hope a doctor or doctors get scrutinized in the course of this investigation.

  3. Kennedy commits suicide, sadness and free will blamed, responsibility assigned to the human agent who decided to hang themselves.

    Recent devastating marital separation and lifetime of failure to kick bad alcohol habit implicated in terrible despair.

    or

    Magical thinking related to evil molecules in psychiatric drugs miraculously subverting the quantum mechanics of consciousness, evil drug makes disembodied brain of Mary Kennedy get out of bed and shower, put on clothes, eat breakfast and then gives us all a stunning crescendo of turning Mary into an automaton who rigs up a noose and kicks out the crate from under her.

    Liver enzymes also implicated by those in the know.

    • Anon, I’m not sure if I follow what your assertion is here. I agree that it’s hard to conclusively “prove” that a drug in any particular instance led to some specific behavior. But are you asserting that chemicals don’t (even sometimes) affect or influence behavior?

      What about alcohol, or PCP, etc.? Are you saying that people’s behavior when on these drugs is influenced solely by their expectations of the drug, and not any actual physiological effects? If sufficiently motivated (say, by payment), could they successfully hide the drug effects on their behavior from those around them? I would think not.

      My understanding is that even in randomized antidepressant studies, the rate of suicidal ideation is higher in people who are given antidepressants is higher than those given placebo. In these cases, the antidepressant group isn’t more depressed than the placebo group, so the difference between the two groups can’t be blamed on the original depression.

      • philroy, Anonymous etc. is of the opinion the only adverse effects that can be attributed to neurologically active drugs are some physical symptoms, such as tardive dyskinesia.

        According to Anonymous etc., neurologically active drugs cannot overwhelm cognition, emotions, decision-making, or behavior, despite massive evidence to the contrary.

        Anonymous etc. believes this position is a necessary corrective to statements linking antidepressants and suicidality or violent behavior.

  4. RFK Jr. accused his late wife of spousal abuse:

    “The abuse accusations describe a living nightmare. In the affidavit, Bobby wrote that Mary attacked him with scissors while he was in the bathtub and even ran over his dog.”

    (I suppose the drug blamers believe SSRIs caused her to pick up the scissors and run over the dog, too.)

    “Mary’s violence and physical abuse toward me began before we were married,” Bobby wrote. “Soon after Mary became pregnant with our first son, Mary, in a sudden rage about my continued friendship with [my ex-wife] Emily, hit me in the face with her fist. She was a trained boxer and I got a shiner. Her engagement ring crushed my tear duct causing permanent damage … Mary asked me to lie to her family about the cause of my shiner.”

    (A classic hallmark of an SSRI effect, I suppose the drug blamers will say)

    Things got worse after Bobby filed for divorce two years ago.

    (Maybe Bobby was on SSRIs and this is why he filed for divorce, maybe Bobby’s lawyers were on SSRIs and that’s why they helped him file the papers, maybe the paper manufacturers were on SSRIs and that’s why they made the paper that the divorce papers would go on to be printed on)

    “Her depression deepened, according to her housekeeper, and she was twice arrested on DUI charges.”

    (Driving under the influence of SSRIs!!!!)

    “A major blow came days before her death, when she learned that Bobby would likely get temporary custody of the children. Bobby felt Mary, who reportedly suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder, needed an intervention.”

    (She was a lifelong psychiatrized, labeled, drugged person, whose head was no doubt filled with the hopeless disease model lies of psychiatry, but drug blamers would rather blame SSRIs)

    “Mary is a wonderful, generous, kind, and wise person but depression and illness are now killing her. I know you have told me that her frequent suicide threats are not real. I do not believe this is accurate. I see her now sinking into a terrible darkness. She desperately needs a family intervention.”
    (SSRIs later caused her to search on the internet for how to tie a noose)

    “In the meantime, Mary had performed Internet searches on how to tie a noose, and asked her housekeeper’s husband to pick up a rope, which she claimed she needed for a sofa she was making.”

    (She was making the sofa because SSRIs told her to)

    “Bobby and the housekeeper found her hanging in the family’s barn on May 16.”

    (Bobby and the housekeeper followed the trail of SSRI packs laid out on the ground on the way to the barn)

    “Mary and Bobby wed in 1994 and had four children together, Conor, 17, Kyra, 16, Fin, 14, and Aiden, 10. ”

    (All the childrens names resemble the names of SSRIs if you blur your eyes).

    In conclusion, SSRIs, SSRIs, SSRIs….

    If they had never been invented, no one would ever kill themselves after a life of unhappiness and recent custody disputes.

    Did I mention liver enzymes?