Friday, March 16, 2012

Prescription Drug Suicide [Guest Post]

As the fourth year anniversary of the death of Toran Henry approaches his mother, Maria Bradshaw [pictured above], continues to create an awareness regarding the dangers of prescription drugs and suicide.

Toran was prescribed the antidepressant Prozac, it was the beginning of the end for him. In a matter of weeks Toran's whole demeanor changed, he became aggressive, confused, distanced.

On the 20th March 2008 Toran fashioned a noose from a garden hose and hanged himself from the family garage. He was just 17.

In the inquest that followed, the coroner did not feel that Prozac was implicated in Toran's death. Maria knew different. Her suspicions were confirmed last year when The Centre for Adverse Reaction Monitoring conducted an assessment of the role Prozac played in Toran’s suicide, using the process established by the World Health Organisation. They found that Prozac was the probable cause of his death.

Here,  human rights award winner Maria Bradshaw writes exclusively for Seroxat Sufferers on the subject of prescription drug suicide.

Prescription Drug Suicide
Maria Bradshaw - Casper

Imagine that a couple weeks ago your marriage ended or your partner/boyfriend/girlfriend left you for someone else.

Not surprisingly you’re tearful, can’t sleep, feel hopeless about the future and can’t concentrate on anything. Maybe you even feel like ending it all. Alone at night you hit the bottle pretty hard and when the emotional pain gets too bad, you use recreational drugs to take the edge off and escape from reality.

You struggle to get to work or school on time or at all and when you do, you’re certainly not functioning the way you used to.

You may not know it, but this means you meet the diagnostic criteria for substance abuse disorder.

After a warning from your boss or teacher, you decide to visit your GP to ask for a medical certificate for a couple of weeks off. You need some time out to adjust to what’s happened and take care of some practical issues arising from the end of your relationship.

Inevitably, your GP will tell you you’re depressed, write the certificate you asked for and give you a prescription for antidepressants. He or she will tell you to lay off the booze and drugs telling you they will worsen your depression and may induce suicidal thoughts.

Most doctors who give patients suffering emotional distress a prescription for antidepressants would argue that in doing so they are helping prevent their patient killing themselves.

The evidence suggests however that what they are really doing, is prescribing a drug that may not only cause the user to become intensely suicidal but provide them with an easy suicide method.

The evidence is growing that a large range of prescription drugs cause suicidal thinking, suicide attempts and death by suicide. These drugs include the obvious suspects – antidepressants, stimulants, antipsychotics – and other drugs including smoking cessation, acne, asthma and other drugs prescribed for non-psychiatric conditions.

Recent studies have looked at the use of prescription drugs as a method of suicide, particularly in substance abusers. US data from 2005-2007 shows that prescription drugs are responsible for 79% of suicide deaths involving overdose while street drugs account for only 2% of suicides. [1]

In the UK, a study published in 2011 showed that prescription drugs, especially antidepressants (44%), were prescribed to 87% of suicide victims who were known substance abusers. [2]

Doctors prescribe antidepressants because they’re the easy option. Easier than listening to people’s distress, easier than making sure they have good social support, easier than developing relationships with counsellors to whom they can refer. They prescribe because they get kick-backs from the pharmaceutical companies for doing so. 

They prescribe because when you use the loaded gun they handed you, they can argue it was your tearfulness, sleeplessness and hopelessness – your depression – that killed you even though the blood taken at your autopsy shows you took a fatal dose of the drug they gave you.   

The US study reviewed 2165 suicides. Of those, 1710 died from an overdose of drugs given to them by a doctor while only 43 died from drugs given to them by a dealer who wasn’t wearing a white coat and wielding a prescription pad. 

And what’s the bet that when those people’s heartbroken mothers, fathers, spouses and children visited their GPs for help in dealing with their grief, they were sent home with a prescription for an antidepressant, sleeping pill or anti-anxiety drug? 

The tragic reality is that a significant proportion of those who die from suicide were provided with both the motive and the means to end their own lives by their trusted family doctor and his or her friends at Big Pharma. And that the doctors and drug companies did this with the assistance of governments who focus on regulating street drugs but fail to regulate the drugs that are overwhelmingly responsible for suicide. 

Maria Bradshaw

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