When I first came to the UK, a couple of myths in my mind about this country were busted within the first week.
- Education is free, so everyone must be literate and educated.
- The government looks after people who are unable to work, so everyone must be happy.
I was puzzled by the fact that at least 1 in 3 patients I saw before an operation were on regular antidepressants. Some patients took St John’s Wort. I had never heard of that before. Some didn’t admit to having any problems with their health but on a closer look at their notes, were taking antidepressants.
Over the last 10 years, the use of antidepressants has doubled in the UK. Some science tells us that these drugs have a history of proven efficacy and some other science tells us that the benefits are marginal and short term. Occasionally the effects are very harmful. One such effect is ‘Akathisia’, defined as a movement disorder characterised by a feeling of inner restlessness and a compelling need to be in constant motion, as well as by actions such as rocking while standing or sitting, lifting the feet as if marching on the spot, and crossing and uncrossing the legs while sitting. People with akathisia are unable to sit or keep still, complain of restlessness, fidget, rock from foot to foot, and pace.
‘The Pill That Steals Lives’ is a book written by documentary maker Katinka Blackford Newman. It is one woman’s terrifying journey to discover the truth about antidepressants.
In it she talks about one year of hell that she lived through after being started on Escitalopram(Lexapro). She describes the thoughts of violent acts that crept into her mind while on that drug. She got full blown delusions about having killed her two young children. She had to be hospitalised and was put on multiple medications that made her loose the ability to look after herself or her children.
More than 10 years ago America’s National Institute of Mental Health set out to measure the effectiveness of antidepressants. They found that only 26%of patients responded positively to these meds and at the end of one year only 6% were well. Conclusion: ‘the findings revealed remarkably low response and remission rates’.
Saagar was started on Citalopram (a drug used for unipolar depression and unsuitable for young people) 4 weeks before his death. The dose was doubled from 10 to 20 milligrams per day, 2 days before his death. The riskiest time is when they are started, when they are stopped and when the dose is changed. How much did these medicines contribute to his death? We will never know.