In 1995 I had a very frightening experience that I have never discussed publicly before. At that time the main symptoms I was experiencing were frequent panic attacks. My psychiatrist at that time had the perfect solution: an SSRI antidepressant. He told me this drug was the best on the market and that it had no side effects. As most psychiatrist he had been fooled by the drug reps.
A few days after I started taking the SSRI terrible thoughts came into my mind. I wanted to harm my wife and newborn son. Every time I saw a knife or thought about one I got an incredibly strong urge to injure them. I had never experienced anything like this before. This went on for some time and I obviously did not dare tell anyone, neither my psychiatrist nor family. I continued taking the drug and suffered in isolation. The feeling gradually disappeared.
I had the same experience in 2003. At that time I was terribly depressed and in and out of hospital. The doctors who were treating me had no idea how they could relieve my suffering. I was taking various drugs. New drugs were being tried or the dosage changed. My wife, who is a scientist, was very worried about all the drugs I was ingesting. By looking at the scientific literature she realized that some of them were being prescribed above the recommended dosage. I did not listen to her.
The violent thoughts struck me during the summer. As before, seeing or thinking about knives created an almost irresistible urge to harm my wife and two children. I was terrified. My wife sensed that something was seriously wrong when I asked her to hide all the knives in the apartment. I was able to tell her in a roundabout way what was going on in my mind. I also alerted some of my friends. I was finally hospitalized at the end of the summer. And the solution to stopping my thoughts was … yes, you guessed correctly: bilateral ECT. As a result big sections of my memory from this year were permanently erased. I was able to piece it together by talking to my wife and reading emails I sent.
In 1995 and 2003 I experienced a terrible feeling. The guilt that these thoughts create is beyond describing. It haunted me until June 2009, when I read a book that has gradually enabled me to escape this crushing guilt. I cried when I read these lines in Dr. Peter R. Breggin’s book Medication Madness (2008):
Within a week of starting Prozac, Emily began to become obsessed with killing her mother. Never before had thoughts like these entered her mind. She imagined taking the eight-inch chef’s knife from the kitchen. She saw herself sneaking up on her mother at an unsuspecting moment … and plunging it into her back. The drive to kill wasn’t wrapped in any reason, excuses, or rationalization. Emily didn’t feel upset with her mother. In her words: ‘It came out of nowhere’ (p. 58).
This was me in 1995. Now I felt absolved. But Emily’s story did not explain fully what happened to me in 2003. I had to read further into Dr. Breggin’s book to find an explanation:
Consistent with most of the cases in this book, severe adverse psychiatric reactions often take place within a day or two of starting or changing a dose of SSRI antidepressant, or adding other drugs (p. 135).
This is exactly what I experienced in 2003. I felt absolved again.
In a recent paper Yolande Lucire and Christopher Crotty list diverse drugs that “all induce suicidal and homicidal thinking as an occasional side effect.” More specifically, Thomas J. Moore, Joseph Glenmullen, and Curt D. Furberg list 11 antidepressants that have consistently been tied to elevated risk of violence, “even when compared with antipsychotics and mood stabilizers, which are used in psychiatric patients populations in which violent acts may occur.” In 1995 I was taking one of these antidepressants, and two in 2003.
This experience has made me feel violated by psychiatry. I have longed for justice after I realized that the psychotropic drugs were most likely responsible for the violent thoughts that I had towards the people I love most dearly. Why didn’t anyone tell me about this possibility? Even though reading Breggin’s book relieved me of most of my guilt, it did not make me very optimistic that difficult subjects like these would eventually be discussed openly.
Shortly after reading Medication Madness I realized that this would never happen. It was Dr. David Healy’s book Let Them Eat Prozac (2004) that made me realize this:
No matter how many physicians or others reported to SmithKline suicides or homicides they thought related to [Paxil/Seroxat], SmithKline would deny any evidence for causation while there was no randomized controlled trial evidence. The fact that they had never undertaken any trials and had no plans to do so smacked of washing their hands in the face of crucifixion (p. 222).
We all remember stories where individuals committed unspeakable acts violence against their loved ones. At the invitation of Big Pharma and complicit psychiatrists I am in the horrible position of understanding what was going on in the mind of some of these individuals. I assume that there are many more of us who did not give in to this terrible urge. I hope my story will relieve the crushing guilt of some of these individuals. Now I finally feel vindicated.