Could your Stimulant or Antidepressant cause Dementia?

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February 26, 2019 | 23 Comments

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  1. This is genuinely scary stuff. While the 2018 study did not directly connect stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin to Parkinson’s risk, it did separate out people diagnosed with ADHD who got stimulant prescriptions from those who did not. And the risk was about FOUR TIMES higher for the ones with prescriptions!

    Granted, they do say the folks who got prescriptions may have had a “worse disease” to begin with. But that’s speculation. And I have some serious questions about one aspect of their data: They followed 31,769 people diagnosed with ADHD — of whom only 4,960 had been prescribed ADHD drugs!

    This almost has to be an undercount. Maybe medical practice is different in Utah (or was, back in the day). But I can’t imagine any corner of the USA where only about 1 in 6 people diagnosed with ADHD got a drug. And if the “no-drug” sample actually contains a lot of folks who did get drugs eventually, then the drug-disease connection only gets stronger.

    One possibly valuable source of insight would be methamphetamine users, and the doctors who work with them. Because this is an “illegal” drug, there’s much less reluctance to discuss serious adverse effects. And you can’t convince me that meth-amphetamine is radically different from amphetamine or dextro-amphetamine (the two drugs in Adderall).

  2. (NOTE: The first link is broken. I was able to figure it out, but the first part of the link is missing)

    I am glad someone is finally talking about stimulants and Parkinson’s. The review you linked does not seem to include this evidence, probably because it was never published: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110220193013.htm.

    Those are people who took stimulants for weight loss and thus any confounding for ADHD diagnosis is not present. It shows a large increase in Parkinson’s for stimulant users. The data was never published in a journal. I corresponded with the authors maybe a year or so and they said they were finally preparing it for publication.

  3. Thanks Dr Healy.

    I was diagnosed with Medication Induced Major Neurocognitive Disorder (the new DSM for Dementia) one year ago from my use of Lexapro. I also had demyelination in my brain on MRIs. And white matter lesions. The latter is also mentioned as common with SSRI use in Dr Grade Jackson’s book “Drug Induced Dementia.” I also had low sodium (hyponatremia). Neuropsych testing proved my Neurocognitive deficits.

    • Sorry I forgot to add I was also diagnosed with Toxic Encephelopathy from the Lexapro. I might also add that I found this article rather validating as it’s very close to what happened to me. Thank you Dr Healy.

  4. I was on SSRI’s for 3 decades. They added neuroleptics when I went into early menopause, likely from the SSRI’s. I’ve been off of all off them for 5 1/2 years with one exception and that wasn’t my choice. In the last few years I’ve noticed a marked decline in my cognition. I’m more easily confused, forgetful, easily overwhelmed and am having trouble with budgeting, shopping, bills etc… These are things l was always able to manage and it’s distressing to note my decline. My neurologist wants to start cognitive testing but I’m not sure I want to know at age 49. Or ever. I also deal with tardive dykinesia and dystonia and still have flare ups of akathisia, though it’s mostly gone. I equate what these drugs did to me to a traumatic brain injury caused by these drugs. I hope you can bring more awareness to the damage these drugs cause Dr. Healy. I thank you for the work you’re doing.

  5. I was severely impaired from antipsychotic medication. I was MISDIAGNOSED, my rights taken away and watched for medication compliance – bcus doctors thought that I lacked insight into my illness and was guarded.(I knew they were wrong the whole time, but couldn’t convince them – plus when they give you this diagnosis – they basically don’t have to listen to one word that you say). I was diagnosed with Primary Psychotic Disorder, NOS and psychosis, that changed to Schizophrenia after administration of antipsychotic medication. I was suffering the direct result of what these drugs are supposed to do – turn you into a zombie. I was given antidepressants, benzos and beta blockers in small trial doses after the initial chemical assault of the horrific antipsychotics. Turns out I didn’t even have a psychotic disorder – I had a Micro – psychosis (which isn’t a real psychosis) and I’m a highly intelligent, high functioning autistic person with ADD and OCD.

    The myriad of symptoms that I acquired after having ingested about 6 different antipsychotics in a 9 month period are literally unbelievable to most medical doctors. I felt totally brain dead and went for a QEEG-that proved I was basically chemically lobotomized! I’m being totally serious! Despite many of newly acquired symptoms I had, the most troubling were; non-existent circadian rhythm(my body does not wake/sleep with the sun rise/set-there is no differentiation of day or night – it just feels like time), prolonged perception of time (1 day feels like a week long), depersonalization, derealization, severe short and long term memory deficits, no hunger, insatiety, adipsia, lack of ability to feel bodily functions(when I need to go to the bathroom), anhedonia, avolition, aboulia, weight gain, lack of inner monologue(no mind chatter-completely blank), complete personality loss, extreme suicidal ideation, severe depression and complete impairment of executive functioning. There are so many more issues I have as well.

    Honestly – I went from a highly active, life of the party, flamboyant, bubbly, creative, positive, independent Medical Laboratory Technologist, to a completely dependent, brain dead drooling Alzheimer’s/dementia patient and I just followed my mom around everyday, everywhere in the house, bcus I didn’t know what else to do.

    Sooooo-this is a result of doctors MISDIAGNOSING patients and following a checklist of symptoms that fit with the HOLY DSM BIBLE.

    I wouldn’t wish what happened to me on my worst enemy! Please spread the word about how toxic Psychiatric medications are!!!

    These drugs need to be BANNED! (Or forced upon the doctors that prescribe them!)

    • Brandi

      Thanks for this. My view and probably most peoples view is that highly damaging though they can be these drugs should not be banned. Until recently medical wisdom was that all drugs are poisons and the art of medicine is bringing good out of the use of a poison (or a mutilation). The poisons are never going to safe. A great part of the risks though lie in the person who administers them and the companies who create a culture to the effect of these are vitamins and its your duty and your doctors duty and the governments duty to make sure you are never vitamin deficient

      D

    • Dear Dr Healy,

      Please, forgive me my English mistakes, I’m not native (I’m french/dutch speaking).

      First of all, I’d like to tell you that I’m really impressed by your work, books and several talks I could watch on YouTube. You are the embodiment of what sounds to me like a very smart, wise, respectable, enthusiast and empathic researcher and Doctor. I met recently one of your belgian colleague who translated some of your books (Dr Debauche) who heaps praise on you and your work.

      I have myself been damaged by antidepressants (Venlafaxine, paroxetine and mirtazapine). I’ve been put in the psy ward after a very hard divorce (I ‘ve been homeless for several months) and put on paroxetin and amilsupride (not sure of how to write it) at this time. It was 10 years ago. I was not really depressed but rather desperate to be homeless and had very very bad anxiety. My first reaction to drug was that I became “angry” for no reason… To be short, the medical staff refused to tell me what were the drugs I was put on (because I was no doctor… actually I have a PhD in Biochemistry but this does not seem to be enough to get an answer) and I’ve been obliged to go on with the treatment even if I don’t felt great on it because they threathened me to put me outside the hospital if I was not compliant.

      9 months later, the psychiatrist decided to stop the treatment. So I was told to cut just stop the amilsupride (low dose : 100 mg), then cut the paroxetine in half (I was on 20 mg) and 2 weeks later, stop it completely. It turned out to be a nightmare… I developped panic attacks for no reason… while I only head situational anxiety before being put on drug. I also developped unexplained very intense muscle pain that made me housebound for 1 year. I was put on Venlafaxine 75 mg at this time.

      On Venlafaxine, I became aggressive and agitated the first 2 weeks on the drug, then lost some hairs during 1 or 2 months, developped eczema, broke severa tooth when eating… I did not made any link to the drug at this time… But I developped insomnia that became a big problem… So my doctor told me to stop it…. no tapering… After 1 week I had brain zaps (at this time I did not know what it was), severe vertigo, panic attacks again, anger burst (I destroyed a door as well as my violin)….I was put back on 150 mg venlafaxine and stabilized…

      …but I developped worse insomnia… The psychiatrist told me it was from my “depression” while I did not feel depressed at all. Then he told me it was from my anxiety that I felt agitated and that I had too much thoughts that interfered with my sleep. I was put on mirtazapine to help me sleep. I developped severe muscle pain (could not walk more thant 30 min, my legs and hips were hurting so much…but 1 month earlier I could step for 2 hours at the gym without any problem). I also became diabetic. So he decided to stop mirtazapine…. without any tapering of course because I was on a very low dose (15 mg)… I developped strange intrusive thoughs I never had in my life… I became obcessed by death… This scared me a lot and I was finally put in the psy ward again…

      They changed my drugs from one day to the next : 150 mg venlafaxine replaced be wellbutrin (don’t remember how much)… It’s been hell on earth…brain zaps, vertigo, agitation, insomnia, crying, anger burst… they did not want to listen to me when I told them it was withdrawal… I finally stabilized within a few hours after they give me my venlafaxine back… This was a really traumatizing and horrific experience…. I never felt the same after that : developped eye floatters, migraine, stomach issues…

      The psychiatrist decided to taper me off venlafaxin over the 9 following months… This went rather good… I removed beads from the pill…. I began to sleep better, be more calm, feel great again, happy… until I dropped the remaining 5 mg….

      The withdrawal (was it withdrawal ?) hit 6 months later… went several time to the ER…. : depersonalisation, derealization, instable blood pressure, gastroparesis, intense fatigue, weakness, unexplained fever, diarrhea, unexplained high CRP, severe weigh loss (10 kg within 1 month), blurred vision, vertigo, sleep apnea, bradycardia and tachycardia, heart rythm abnormalities (extra beats but sinusal rythm), severe stomach bloating, urinary retention, muscle twitching, facial partial paralysis (left side only), tinnitus, headache, multiple food intolerances… and debilitating panic attacks like I never had before…. SO… back to the psy ward…. again…. I was diagnosed hypocondriac… (my a*** !).

      Put back on paroxetin : developped immediately increased anxiety, arms were sometimes jolting on their own, paresthesia in the face, around the mouth, in the arms and lower legs (I was told it was anxiety), insomnia again…. I finallly stabilized after 2 months… But…

      but 4 months later I developped bradycardia (HR at rest : 41), hypotension, one shaking finger at the left hand (I was told it was parkinsonism and that is was not a problem), severe fatigue, eczema again, allergies to pollen I never had before, weight gain (was told it was good for me), hyperlipidemia, severe hair loss, tinnitus came back, muscle mass loss, short term memory loss, cognitive impairment, unability to focus, not more able to plan my weekly work, tooth who broke for no reason, 2 broken toes within a week by simply knocking (not so hard) on the bathtub, easy bruising, swollen ankles when standing up too long… Every morning I got up with shaking legs for no obvious and understanble reasons…

      We are now 3 years later… I have no more anxiety but I’m still suffering debilitating symptoms…. the list just grow longer…. Of course I’m still labelled hypocondriac as no doctors listened to me untill now…

      I recently consult a neurologist who found I have many diffused probably vascular lesions that are rather disseminated. Visible on MRI, hypersignal T2. The radiologist said it may be from vascular origin but it’s unusual for my age (I’m only 46 years old and those lesions usually don’t show up before mean age 70). However the neurologist said she cannot correlates the visible lesions AND my “so-called” loss in cognitive abilities (because, again, they don’t believe me !)…

      Dr Healy, as a patient, all I know is that :

      1) since I touched SSRI/SNRI I have never had so much health troubles
      2) Psychiatrists I unfortunately met did not seem to recognize severe withdrawal syndrom nor seem to be able to safely taper patients from their drugs… It’s getting me crazy ! I don’t get how this is f***g possible !
      3) When damages are done, no one seems to know this might correlates with those drugs use and no one seems to be interested in digging it further and make it’s own idea about it… They prefer to label you “crazy”, “anxious”, “depressive” or whatever…

      As the researcher I have been in the past :

      1) I can really not be satified with the stupid answeres I ‘ve been served.
      2) if all the publications I found on Pubmed were not enough to show those drugs may cause some problems in some cases, then what can we do so that any doctor accept to listen to us ?
      3) I JUST WANT ANSWERS… of course I’m very aware of the fact that it’s very difficult to know exactly what’s happening during adverse reactions, during bad withdrawals, .. etc….. But if no one never makes any hypothesis and don’t want to listen or search, how will the knowledge move forward ???

      It’s now 3 years I’m just piling medlines publications and patients testimonies up and no doctors just want to listen to me… I just can’t get why…. I just would like to adress scientific based evidences and questions to any doctors who feels concerned but obviously to date it seems I couldn’t meet any.

      I’m not AGAINST science and medecine and psychiatry… BUT as far as I can see, I’m not found of bad/biased science….and it some fields it seems that bad/biased science has gotten the upper hand. So it seems to me quite a logical consequence that some people are promoting anti-psychiatry…. this is a least a very understandable reaction from those who have been severly harmed if not destroyed without any recognition and compassion in return… They, most of the time, have to face denial… or restricted to be a silent casualty.

      I’d be happy to give you more details if it can help your further investigations.

      Sincerly yours,

      N. M. Yans

      • I think we’re saying something similar. A drug has two bits – the risky chemical and the information which should help you and me handle that risk and the information has been shockingly degraded in recent decades. The question is how do we solve that because most patients and doctors get sold a message of salvation and have no reason to doubt it until something goes wrong. We believe in priests until… but getting rid of all religion and all clergy is not the answer. What is clear is the Church of Science has just as great a responsibility as the Pope and is at present failing more comprehensively than the Catholic Church is

        DH

  6. Dear Dr Healy
    In 2016 I had a severe adverse reaction to one single 10mg pill of escitalopram, with immediate – but thankfully temporary – impairment of my cognitive functions and many other symptoms, the worst of which lasted for 3 months. It was the first and last antidepressant I will ever have. My doctor did not believe me.
    If you wish I can tell you more.
    Thank you for your important work.
    Kind regards,

    • Elizabeth

      I have been hearing reports like this for over twenty years – really bad almost allergic or toxic responses often in the first week or treatment. They typically get dismissed. But its so clearcut and people affected so otherwise normal that I have always been sure it is a real phenomenon. Some of the details here may help explain what is happening

      It would be great to get more details of your experience – perhaps as a post in its own right rather than a comment

      David

  7. Dr. Healy,

    I’m one of the poster children of drug induced cerebrovascular disease and brain lesions ~28 at age 51. But pharma trained and currupted physicians tell me they’re just age related- I’m getting older- etc🤥 Finally adding, “What do you want from me?!” Me, “I’d like my life back.”

    The following MedLink article clearly explains the mode and mechanism of action from exposure to western pharmacology- psych meds being most of the worst offenders. Pharma has pushed their fraudulent products to market by corrupting everyone and biased data. Most drugs aka poisons are being used irresponsibly oftentimes off label injuring maiming and killing at increasingly alarming rates and likely number one killer which has lowered the average life expectancy in US. Pharma and allopathic healthcare needs dismantled and new healthcare model built based on hollistic functional and integrative medicine with drugs used as “last resort.” Enough is enough.

    My life has been destroyed and children’s lives forever altered, and fabric of our societies worldwide are being harmed. Once healthy and strong, I’ve been reduced to brain damaged and debilitated, after an illness pertussis in 2004 and subsequent polypharmacy: antibiotics corticosteroids tylenol w codeine musinex lexapro and buspar and neurotoxicity, with no cultures or consideration of my suspicion and warnings of workplace outbreak of pertussis, and shotgun prescribing by lazy uneducated pharma trained pill pushers. Then, switched to Effexor XR Klonopin Valacyclovir and later Trazodone for drug induced insomnia.
    PCP specialists and pharmacists showed no caution or concern and knew I was addicted and deteriorating years before I figured out what was happening to me falsifying my records all along until I had adverse reactions and strokes.

    “Drug-induced cerebrovascular disease
    K K Jain MD (Dr. Jain is a consultant in neurology and has no relevant financial relationships to disclose.)
    Originally released August 11, 1998; last updated August 5, 2018; expires August 5, 2021

    Introduction
    This article includes discussion of drug-induced cerebrovascular disease, chemically induced stroke, drug-induced stroke, anticoagulants, cerebral blood flow, cerebral hemorrhage, cerebral vasculitis, thromboembolic disease, thrombolytics, and vasospasm. The foregoing terms may include synonyms, similar disorders, variations in usage, and abbreviations.

    Overview

    This article describes cerebrovascular disease associated with the therapeutic use of drugs. The clinical manifestations of drug-induced cerebrovascular disease are no different from those of cerebrovascular disease due to other causes, except for the link to the suspected drug and possible added adverse effects caused by that drug. The best known and most controversial of these links are hemorrhagic and thromboembolic complications that have been reported in patients on anticoagulant therapy. The only truly preventive measure is the avoidance of drugs suspected or known to be associated with cerebrovascular disease, particularly in patients with other risk factors. The prognosis varies according to the pathology of the drug-induced process. Most cases of vasculitis and vasospasm induced by drugs resolve when the offending medication is discontinued. The approach to management differs from that of cerebrovascular disease resulting from non-iatrogenic causes. For example, a patient with sudden onset of hemiplegia due to a drug is unlikely to have a thrombus occluding one of the main cerebral arteries and is, thus, unlikely to be a candidate for thrombolytic therapy.

    Key points
    • Cerebrovascular disease can occur as an adverse reaction to drugs.
    • Clinical manifestations of drug-induced cerebrovascular disease are like those of the naturally occurring forms of the disease.
    • Recognition of a drug as the cause of disease is important for the management of cerebrovascular disease.

    Historical note and terminology

    This article describes cerebrovascular disease associated with the therapeutic use of drugs. This term is broad and covers cerebrovascular disease due to a variety of chemical and other therapeutic substances, as well exposure to various poisons. Classification of drug-induced cerebrovascular disease according to type and pathomechanism is shown in Table 1. Most of the cerebrovascular complications of drugs are not due to the direct effect of drugs on cerebral vasculature; they are more likely to be due to cardiovascular effects in general. Although cerebrovascular diseases have been recognized for a long time, their link to drugs has not been well recognized, except for hemorrhage as a complication of anticoagulant and thrombolytic therapies and stroke due to drug abuse.

    Table 1. Classification of Drug-Induced Cerebrovascular Disease According to Type and Pathomechanism

    • Secondary to drug-induced disorders
    — Cardiac arrhythmias
    — Hypertension
    — Hypotension

    • Drug-induced reduction of cerebral blood flow
    • Drug-induced hemorheological disturbances
    • Drug-induced cerebral vasculitis
    • Drug-induced vasospasm
    • Drug-induced thromboembolic disease
    • Drug-induced cerebral hemorrhage
    • Drug-induced intrauterine and perinatal cerebral hemorrhage

    Atrial fibrillation, which may produce stroke by arterial embolization, has been associated with several drugs, including the following: adenosine, dobutamine, milrinone, ondansetron, and anticancer agents (Kaakeh et al 2012).”

    The drugs have caused me dementia and atrophy of the brain, macular degeneration, autoimmune/neuroimmune, mitochondrial disease, metabolic disease, adrenal failure, low cortisol, hormone and vitamin deficiencies, systemic peripheral small fiber neuropathy, musculoskeletal degeneration, etc, on and on.

    Millions are being injured maimed and killed for a dollar.

  8. Via Twitter, we got a VERY useful link from a group of podcasting toxicologists:

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/21803215/

    A paper on “Neurologic manifestations of chronic methamphetamine abuse” by Dan Rusyniak of Indiana University. It seems a lot of these risks are well-known and openly discussed when it comes to illegal stimulants.

    Toxicologists deal with drug overdoses and toxicities right alongside snake bites, chemical exposures and similar disasters, so their point of view is always interesting. You can check out their podcasting etc. at @ToxandHound, @dantastictox and @poisonreview among others …

  9. I have read and re-read this post and the excellent comments made.
    This business of ‘white spots on the brain’ baffles me.
    A few years ago, following an MRI scan, Shane was told that he had a few white spots on his brain. His psychiatrist at that time made arrangements for a consultation with a neurologist from Liverpool. The reason given for this was “It could have answers as regards your depression”.
    The neurologist, having studied the situation, asked Shane a few questions about his balance and then declared “Once we turn 30 we’re allowed to have a few white spots on the brain”. What a relief! Shane was asked to contact the neurologist should he ever have fainting spells. Thankfully, there hasn’t been a need to repeat that contact.
    Now I read this – and I am perplexed. At that point mentioned above, Shane must have been on a mixture of psychotropic drugs for about ten years. He had a dreadful reaction to Seroxat due to which he’s been kept away from SSRIs ever since but hasn’t had one day without some form of AD or mood stabiliser being taken daily.
    I now tend to feel that maybe the neurologist took a rather simplistic view of the matter…… or was it a case of ‘nothing will cure so why cause anxiety’?

  10. Dear Dr Healy
    What happens when a sedating drug is combined with a Stimulant long term ?
    I jumped off Valium October 2017 after a two year taper.( I had been on benzos for 32 years )
    It was only then that real Hell began. Depersonalisation, Akathisia, Severe Insomnia , Depression. Suicidal idealisation. In Jan 2018 I was on 100mg Sertraline and 100mg of Tramadol. GP referred me to a Psychiatrist ( I did not have a Psychiatric History ) I was taken off Sertraline which I had been on since 2005, and given Mirtazapine. I was not overly diligent about taking my Meds so just dropped the Tramadol, which did not affect me.

    Then a couple of Months later as I was deemed TR I was given Venlafaxine. The dose was upped to 225mg. Quetiapine was added to the Mix…but I did not stay on it for long. I was also referred to another Consultant Psychiatrist as Still deemed TR. From November 2017 until Sept 2018 I barely functioned. Sept 2018 was my lightbulb moment when it was suggested, and put in writing that My symptoms were probably down to Benzo withdrawal. TG I was not going crazy.
    My perceived cognition is a lot worse than it ever was, also I am unable to drive. Something I have been doing since 1984.

    I thought long term benzo use was associated with an increased risk of developing dementia/althezimers It,is proving very difficult to withdrawal from the Stimulant, as their are similar symptoms nay almost identical symptoms to Benzo withdrawal. Am I imagining this or not? I am in my late 50’s and this is the first time ever in my life I have been unable to hold down a job…….How many of us were betrayed by Drs with Benzos and Now anti-depressants.

    My GP would NOT refer me for any kind of Brain Scan…….

  11. Stimulants and antidepressants do cause permanent damage to the brain.
    We don’t know everything about these meds that alter the brain.
    Long term use and withdrawing from these meds ‘cold turkey’ wreck many areas of the delicate brain.
    Hardened plaques and shrinkage of the brain, is inevitable.
    Leading experts, in this field know, all too well, that these medicines alter the brain.
    Clinically, many health professionals have noticed the dramatic changes with their patients behaviour and personality.

    https://www.bmj.com/content/349/bmj.g5312/rr/775731

    With all the invaluable information we have, at our fingertips, everyone, globally can make better informed decisions.
    If these meds harm the delicate brain, we should leave no stone unturned.
    Before we ingest these meds we should try to explore less harmful alternatives.
    If I knew what I know now, I would of spared myself from so much pain and suffering and my quality of life would not have been ruined.

  12. Hello Dr. Healey,

    Wonderful write up.

    I have been on 10 mg of paroxetine for 12 years now, previously reduced and reinstated 5 years ago, I had an immediate adverse reaction to my reinstatement, my testing showed encephalomyelitis.

    Is there anything at all we can do to reduce the inflammation? I feel if I can calm that down a little it will help a lot of us.

    Thank you for all of your work 🙏❤️

  13. Chris,
    The article you provided, is enough proof and evidence, for all to understand/appreciate, the harms these meds induce.
    So, all these mysterious diseases that people develop, whilst ingesting them, is just all coincidental?
    It sends shivers down my spine!
    Although, much of the negative clinical data is unpublished, there is no excuse for health professionals to seek the TRUTH, by other means.
    Whether, it’s from their medical journals, clinical experience, reputable sites or other concerned health professionals, the information and experiences are enough to challenge the credibility of these meds.
    Surely, health professionals and many other professions, have witnessed the detrimental effects that these meds have on peoples mental/ physical and spiritual well being!
    An essential article that should be in the pamphlet stands of every medical practice.
    Thanks, Chris

  14. I have subtle dementia from taking SSRI’s (escitalopram, 5 mg) for only two months. It was six years ago. The symptoms include cognitive issues like difficulty to think clearly, short-term and some long-term memory problems, harder to be creative and so on. I am emotionally blunted, I don’t care about myself or others as I did before the poisoning, and I also have twitching muscles which I think is what your article was partially about. I thought I’ll also mention the balance problems, PSSD, and general numbness of skin from head to toes.

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