Smoking Cessation and Psychiatric Drugs Cause the Most Suicidal and Homicidal Reactions

Rob Wipond
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The popular smoking cessation drug Chantix is the medication that most frequently makes people feel suicidal or homicidal, according to figures gathered by the Institute for Safe Medicine Practices (ISMP) and published in their QuarterWatch. And five of the other top ten medications that most often make people report feeling suicidal or homicidal are common psychiatric medications.

Using data gathered from US FDA adverse event reports between 2007-13, ISMP found that, “Varenicline [Chantix] ranked first in both suicidal/self-injurious thoughts as well as homicidal thoughts. Varenicline cases outnumbered those for any other drug by more than a 3-fold difference. For homicidal ideation cases the margin was a 5-fold difference.”

The figures have emerged at the same time as the FDA has, at the request of drug manufacturer Pfizer, softened the warning label for Chantix, and is considering removing the warnings about suicidal and homicidal ideation altogether, according to FiercePharma.

But Thomas Moore of ISMP criticized to Pharmalot the new information Pfizer has been providing to the FDA about Chantix. “The meta-analysis of suicidal behaviors included only a few of the many clinical studies, was much too small to detect these rare but catastrophic events, and was not published or peer reviewed,” said Moore. “The observational studies had even more limitations. Neither the observational studies nor the meta-analysis included the full range of psychiatric side effects reported.”

In the courts, though, the Fresno Bee recently reported that the US Court of Appeals has ordered a new trial for a US soldier, on the grounds that a trial judge should have allowed the jury to consider that “involuntary intoxication” from Chantix might have been what made the soldier commit murder. “The company has since reported paying at least $299 million to settle several thousand lawsuits,” with respect to adverse effects from Chantix, the Fresno Bee reports.

According to the ISMP figures, the antidepressants Paroxetine, Venlafaxine, Duloxetine, and Bupropion, along with the antipsychotic Quetiapine (commonly used to treat schizophrenia, but also frequently prescribed as a sleep aid or to people with dementia), were the psychiatric medications most commonly reported to cause suicidal and homicidal ideation.

ISMP QuarterWatch — September 2014 Issue

Smoke This: Pfizer Wants Serious Warnings Removed From Chantix (WSJ Pharmalot, September 24, 2014)

Pfizer preps its case for FDA pulling Chantix’s black-box warning (FiercePharma, September 25, 2014)

New trial ordered for soldier who says anti-smoking drug drove him to kill Fresno native (Fresno Bee, August 27, 2014)

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Rob Wipond
Rob Wipond is a Victoria, British Columbia-based freelance journalist who has been writing on mental health issues for fifteen years. His research has particularly focused on the interfaces between psychiatry, the justice system, and civil rights. His articles have been nominated for three Canadian National Magazine Awards, six Western Magazine Awards, and four Jack Webster Awards for journalism. He can be contacted through his website.

15 COMMENTS

  1. What about the most vulnerable with a 40% suicide attempt rate?

    I’ve had 2 suicide attempts on Modecate (Fluphenazine Decanoate) Depot injection, and my recovery followed the discontinuation of this drug. When I left Ireland and moved to the UK, I wrote to the University/Hospital (I have a genuine copy of this letter) requesting Adverse Drug Reaction Warning be sent over to the UK.

    Ireland did send an ‘account’ of me over, but without ADR warning.
    My GP Practice in the UK had used this ‘account’, now 28 years out of date, to claim for me as an ‘Severely Ill’ person (but without telling me), so I took them to the UK Ombudsman.

    The UK Ombudsman is now in receipt of a copy of this ADR Warning Request Letter – but is trying to run away from it.

    • In the Ombudsman Report of July 31, 2014, the Ombudsman refers to the Irish ‘account’ in reliable terms, even though I had sent a copy of the ADR Warning Request letter to the Ombudsman on July 1, 2014.
      When I talked to the Ombudsman lady on the phone she said ‘…don’t worry, the Irish ‘account’ is years out of date and nobody is going to take it seriously…’ – The problem is that they already have, my GP Practise used it to sponge off me, and the Ombudsman also given it credibility in the Report.
      (The ADR Warning Request Letter is genuine, and this can be substantiated)

      • The UK Ombudsman Report of July 31, 2014 Paragraph 23. “…blames any symptoms at the time to some medication to which he had a bad reaction…..” is the closest to any mention within this Ombudsman Report to near fatal ADR.

        In January 2012, I sent: A two page Statement of psychiatric experience, describing my suicidal reaction and years of disability attached to Modecate depot medication, and my recovery as a result of discontinuing this drug – to a Depot Study Research team at Galway University/ Hospital, Ireland

        http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2850.2011.01807.x/abstract

        I sent a copy of this Statement of psychiatric experience to the UK Ombudsman twice – on May 1, 2014 and again on July 1, 2014.

        • The Ombudsman Report July 31, 2014
          In reference to Paragraph 6. I had previously explained to the Ombudsman: My Recovery in 1984 with the help of psychotherapy, and my 30 years of continued wellness.

          I had also provided reliable evidence on the Drug Modecate; a potentially very dangerous and disabling drug:

          http://www.rxmed.com/b.main/b2.pharmaceutical/b2.1.monographs/CPS-%20Monographs/CPS-%20(General%20Monographs-%20M)/MODECATE.html

          I described the source of the ‘account’ :
          At the time The President of the British Association of Psychopharmacologists was a Professor from this Irish University.
          The University/Hospital has over the years carried out published research studies favorable to Depot medications like Modecate and Depixol, and at that time were making a name for themselves in a small enough ‘world’.

          Reports of near fatal ADR attached to these products, coming over to the UK from this University/Hospital in Ireland, would not have looked good. Hence the Dr Shipman Approach.

          • I complained to the Irish Medical Council in November 2012 about the ‘account’ of me sent to the UK, and the absence in it of ADR Warning. I included a copy of the ADR Warning Request letter in the complaint.

            The Medical Council provided me with details of doctors no longer registered, but not the details of the Consultant Psychiatrist – so I presumed him to be retired. He wasn’t, he was still registered, and on one of the Irish Medical Councils Committees. He had been around the Irish Medical Council for a number of years.

            Staff at the Irish Medical Council did admit to knowing the doctor in person, but excused not recognising of his name in writing. I made a complaint against my former Psychiatrist in May of 2013. The complaint didn’t get very far.

            On July 24, 2013 I re submitted documentary evidence substantiating my ADR Warning Request – omitted from the Irish ‘account’ of me sent to the UK. This submission was ignored by the Irish Medical Council.

  2. It’s so confusing why there’s a correlation between “mental illness” and high levels of smoking (sarcasm). Oh, it’s because the “safe smoking cessation meds” are not remotely “safe smoking cessation meds,” at all. In reality, they’re the most dangerous drugs of all!

    I was put on the “safe smoking cessation med,” Wellbutrin (Bupropion). Then abruptly taken off it because it did not aid in smoking cessation. This caused the common SNRI withdrawal effects of odd dreams, brain zaps, and odd sexual side effects. But my doctor swore up and down these common drug side effects could not possibly be caused by the drug.

    I went for a second opinion outside my insurance and, shocker of all shockers, a whole bunch of doctors claimed the common withdrawal symptoms of Wellbutrin couldn’t be caused by the Wellbutrin. Instead, I was defamed with a “life long incurable, genetic mental illness,” bipolar. And the first treatment, Risperdal, resulted in a confessed “Foul up.” So I was switched to Seroquel (Quetiapine) and lithium.

    Absolutely, these doctors (whose motive, according to all my family’s medical records, was to cover up a “bad fix” on a broken bone and the medical evidence of the sexual abuse of my child) are so classy (sarcasm, again)! Do you think we have a lack of ethics and credibility problem with our mainstream medical community? I’m quite certain we do. The “blame the patient” philosophy is going to render the mainstream medical community “irrelevant to reality,” if they don’t wise up.

    • Fiachra,

      That was their apparent goal, at least according to my family’s medical records, and a woman who was forced to research medicine herself whose also is supposed to be a “judge,” according to 40 hours of unbiased psychological career testing, and my kind pastor who explained that I’d dealt with “the dirty little secret of the two original educated professions.” My entire life is a “credible fictional story,” according to my actual medical records, however. Really? Who has “delusions of grandeur”?

      But, yes, I’m certain the holier than thou medical industry is railroading lots of smokers who want to quit into the psychiatric system, for profit.

  3. “feeling suicidal or homicidal” is written in the article.
    This is a LIE .
    Like saying “I feel like making a sandwich” when really the person feels hungry and the solution is to make a sandwich, they don’t have to make a sandwich.
    Or “I feel like punching that guy!” when really the person feels angry and has a choice to fight or flee.

    You can THINK suicidal and homicidal, but you can not FEEL those choices.

    • Another way of putting it is that these drugs make you emotionally unstable and take away your natural controls.
      I just wish that courts will start to recognise this as a legitimate defence (and having taken these drugs I am pretty sure it’s legitimate – they really make one crazy) and when everyone who has committed a violent crime on a prescription med gets off maybe someone will think again about using these drugs. But I don’t expect that will happen anytime soon.

      • In a nutshell, they make a person emotionally unstable and take away their natural controls. When I attempted suicide (twice) I had no control whatsoever. If I was on these drugs again and felt the same way again, I would probably do the same again.

        I have never even considered suicide off medication.

        • I did consider it but to the drugs and abuse at the hospital pushed me over the line where I’ve really tried to kill myself, no fear of death and hesitations, just do it and be over with it. They cause people to commit suicide (or bloody murder – that’s the second thing I had on my mind because of them) and then shrug their shoulders “well, we can’t help everyone”.

  4. Chantix is not the only drug that can induce suicidality or homicidality. I became so homicidal while withdrawing from Effexor, Trazodone & Lithium that it is amazing I did not kill someone. And believe me, I was doing all the planning necessary to carry it out. I am neither of these today, thank God! Why, you may ask? Because after 2 years of healing from my psychiatric drugs withdrawals, I am a normal person. But then, no one knows what normal is. But I’ll gladly the peace I have today over anything my life was like while ‘taking my medicine’.

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