This post is by Bob Fiddaman.
The phrase “forty winks” can be traced back to Dr. William Kitchiner’s 1821 self-help guide, The Art of Invigorating and Prolonging Life.
The title is ironic given many users of antidepressants really don’t find that their medication invigorates or, indeed prolongs their lives, although many will argue that they prolong their lives because without them they would be dead. This is, of course, a strawman argument as nobody could possibly know if they would have lived or died without treatment unless they were privy to a special crystal ball or time-travelling DeLorean made by Doc Brown.
What does the term ‘forty winks‘ actually mean? Well, according to Wikipedia, a blink lasts for 300-400 milliseconds; if we surmise that a one-eyed wink lasts the same amount of time as a two-eyed blink, the duration of a “40 winks” nap would only be about 12-16 seconds.
I read with great interest Miranda Levy’s recent post, The Insomnia Diaries, It prompted me to leave a comment about my own lack of sleep problems whilst taking the SSRI Seroxat, known as Paxil in the US and Canada and Aropax in New Zealand and Australia.
People are often diagnosed with depressive illnesses when they proclaim to their GPs that they’re not sleeping. Their troubles are keeping them up at night and as a result they are missing out on an essential human function. Without, or not getting enough sleep, the brain cannot function properly. This, according to the Sleep Foundation website, can “impair your abilities to concentrate, think clearly, and process memories.”
When I was first prescribed Seroxat for work-related issues it helped me get a good-night’s sleep, bizarrely after waking, I never really felt refreshed. I was sleeping for longer periods than I had before so Seroxat must have been helping, right?
Well, the role of antidepressants is, in a nutshell, to make people forget their problems or, more importantly, not care about their problems. The longer you slumber, the more you are away from whatever is causing you concern. The longer you take an SSRI the more it strips you of your empathy so when you are awake you really don’t feel anything, it numbs your emotions. This is, more than likely, why Seroxat became a blockbuster drug during the 90’s. A drug that can make your worries and concerns disappear is magical but will eventually show you its darker side. It’s a bit like alcohol, another drug that people often turn to to ‘drown their sorrows’. It works but just like a lack of sleep and prolonged use of SSRIs can “impair your abilities to concentrate, think clearly, and process memories.
During my 6 years on Seroxat (the last 21 months seeing me try to taper off) I developed sleep apnoea , a condition where one stops breathing during sleep. Although I only had a mild case of apnoea it was deemed necessary that I use a sleep aid, a CPAP machine. Continuous positive airway pressure therapy machines help people, who have obstructive sleep apnoea, breathe more easily during sleep. A CPAP machine increases air pressure in your throat so that your airway doesn’t collapse when you breathe in.
It’s a bulky piece of machinery with a hose attachment on the end of which is a mask that one places over their mouth and nose. Luckily, for me at least, I lived alone. Inviting anyone back to share my bed was a big no-no. A machine and hose next to my side of the bed would have probably made anyone run a mile upon entering my bedroom.
It’s a frustrating piece of equipment but, I was told, essential in helping me get a refreshing sleep. I’d often wake to the mask pointing at me on my pillow bellowing out air after it had fallen off during my tossing and turning. It actually made for a great air conditioning tool as, at the time, it was a particularly hot summer.
One morning I woke up frustrated and angry, the machine had pulled away from the side table. I picked it up and threw it against the wall. It shattered into many pieces. I then returned to my Seroxat induced, albeit broken, slumber.
More appointment letters arrived from the sleep clinic. They wanted to know how I was progressing. I ignored the letters, I didn’t have the heart to tell them that the CPAP machine was now stashed away in my wardrobe in a black bin-liner bag…in numerous pieces.
I persevered and gradually started exercising, walking with my dog 5 miles every morning. The weight I had gained whilst on Seroxat soon fell off and the exercise made me physically rather than mentally tired and, from that, I was rewarded with a ‘normal’ sleep.
During my withdrawal period my sleep problems returned, although this time I was more concerned about my sanity rather than stopping breathing during sleep. I’d often wake in pools of sweat after having truly horrific nightmares. I was only withdrawing 0.5mg per week, nonetheless this caused me severe sleep problems. Once I decided to go cold turkey (after 19 months of dropping 0.5mg per week) that’s when the problems really started. I’d position myself in a foetal position when going to bed at night, preparing myself for the onslaught of head and body zaps that Seroxat causes when missing or stopping a dose.
I remember one night in particular. I woke up, at least I think I did, pinned to my bed. It was like an invisible force was holding me down. Was I dreaming? I remember having the thought to scream out to break my ‘dream’ but I could not do this. My mouth would open but no noise could be made. There was also a terrible sense of dread, like there was some demon in my room that had come to visit me, maybe kill me. I was pinned, voiceless and at the mercy of whatever it was that was in my presence.
Turns out it was a condition known as sleep paralysis, it is thought to be precipitated by sleep deprivation, stress, and sleep schedule disruption.
It was a merry-go-round that wasn’t very merry at all.
Great! Seroxat gave me apnea. I come off it and am left with sleep paralysis. Remember, previous to my Seroxat prescription I couldn’t sleep because I had work-related issues on my mind. This was now 6 years ago and the work issues had been resolved. However, from not being able to sleep because ‘something was on my mind’ to not being able to sleep because of breathing obstructions and withdrawing from a drug that was prescribed to help me, I was now in a far more precarious position than I was pre-Seroxat.
I wouldn’t recommend anyone take Seroxat, in fact it’s rarely prescribed these days because of the problems people have faced when taking it. I was one of those people, a guinea pig, if you will, for the post-marketing teams at the drug company and medicine regulator, you know, those teams who file reports then dismiss them as not being drug-related.
So, having been free from Seroxat for over 15 years, what is my sleep like now? It’s decent. Sure, I have things that swim around in my mind as I lay down at night but they last just a few minutes.
The one thing, however, this whole experience has left me with is my inability to get back to sleep once I wake. Once I wake, I’m up. Nothing keeps me from dropping back to sleep, nothing that is on my mind anyhow. It’s just that my body-clock has changed, hardly surprising given the 6 years of swallowing a chemical that has probably re-designed the way my brain works.
There are reports to regulatory bodies regarding SSRIs causing sleep-related problems. The details for Seroxat are below. A table next week will give details for all common antidepressants.
Although the figures may seem low, this is just what has been reported. There are many hundreds of thousands of people out there who are struggling with sleep. They may not know, or have made the connection, that the SSRI they are on may be keeping them from having an invigorating and Prolonging Life.
The number 9 here means the 9th most commonly reported problem. The figure 3351 means the number of reports and 4.55% means the proportion this is of all reports.
Author, blogger, researcher
To be continued..
All I can say about Seroxat is the horror that ensued from stopping this drug and the ‘forty’ winks coming from Government. We are treated to Patrick Vallance, ex GSK Research and Development Head and how he stands alongside the PM, Chris Witty and JVT with not a shred of conscience when all high level executives at this Company knew how Seroxat has harmed people all over the world.
2013-06-14 — The RIAT team sends an email to GSK, Sir Andrew Witty (CEO) and Patrick Vallance (President of Pharmaceutical R&D), notifying them of the RIAT article publication and requesting that if they plan to restore any old GSK trials, they respond as soon as possible.
The ‘wink’ to the Government and the Public – next slide please…
Are antidepressants really proclaiming to assist people to live improved quality of lives or are we being ‘hoodwinked’ by doctors and Big Pharma that these ‘golden elixirs’ can alter our life for good? In terms of being apathetic, emotionally blunt, sleep deprived and being zombified, I would rather experience all the human emotions , instead of going on a non ‘nonchalant tripper!’
Having experienced the pitfalls of hell, I would rather experience everyday human emotions – any day, over the latter. My choice and my personal acceptance with conviction and fortitude, are part of my persona since the day I embraced my misfortune of a ‘roller coaster’ of cascade medications. Did I have to go through HELL to embrace the beauty of my human existence?
So I’m human. Fully functioning, with all my inner and outer qualities.
I laugh, cry, grieve, have flashes of brilliance, kick a$$, eat, sleep, drink, dream, write, sing up the top of my lungs, feel elated, feel down, moan, groan, sleep like sleeping beauty, am unable to sleep because of worries, feel fatigued, get bursts of energy, get anxious, fidgety, swear, I kiss, get emotional, get excited, love, hate, enjoy, detest, debate, get antsy-pantry, I cry, I scream, have the occasional emotional wobbly but hey…………..!!! 🥰 I’m fully alive living in the present moment and breathing every quintessential essence of life. Why would I want miss any of these human experiences that make me fully awake/alive, rather than being catatonic? However, for the ‘psych alchemist’, they would certainly find a many flaws/dysfunctions, in being human. It seems like there is a disorder for everything that is too extreme or the opposite. Sorry, can’t win! ☹️
Perhaps, feeling down, sad or low in spirits are human emotions/experiences, that we prefer not to live with or completely blunt out because they are seen as dark sides of our persona or are just to frightening to deal with.
When I get the urge to feel down, I sing all my worries away, Scribble my sadness away and ometimes, if I get somewhat extreme with feeling very down, I get a pen and bite on it and hum my day away. Why would I want a ‘chill pill’ to numb theses human moments that we all experience on a human level?
After, going through the pitfalls of hell with Valium, I can come back from the other side and can say with so much gusto: I would prefer ‘ME’ any day over a person who had lost all their will to live.
The occasional ‘forty wink’ is part of being human. If it goes on for way too long, I know that something in my life is totally out of balance.
Any emotion or anything I feel that is less than human, is fully accepted and acknowledged. I don’t have to be worried about being human because when I went through medication iatrogenesis, I had lost all my capacity to be fully alive and living in the moment.
I know which part of my life, I would prefer to live with rather than to bury.
I’m so glad you got out of the worst of the horror Bob. Something not acknowledged by the ‘system’ is that it’s a full time job to try to get well again after the penny drops about the effect of medications and the realisation that there has been coercion into taking them. If people agree to take named meds, ( even if some go down the toilet ) there is less obstruction about claiming ‘benefits’ I read that different ADs have different timings (not sure how to put that) which is why some are to be taken at night, some in the morning some spaced during the day – and that they effect sleep in different ways. Yet it doesn’t seem people are being told that yet – just still being given higher doses of the same med. If biorhythms are not exactly a new science shown to be different for individuals surely will that should be a factor in decision making about which meds people are prescribed? They wouldn’t need to become experts on biorhythms just willing to look at the published info and be willing to try different meds for people who can’t do without them
Suzanne, the following suggestion seems rxisky for anyone:
‘Willing to try different meds for people who can’t do without them!’ ~ this is when you totally screw with peoples minds/ lives!
This is not helping someone. This is a recipe for disaster.
I certainly would not want to be the prescriber messing with anyone’s hard wire, for that matter. This is putting someone in harms way!
Some people choose to take medication deciding that’s their best option often after trial and error of doing without. And different meds as I said have different effects one of which sleep disturbance It should obviously it should be a joint decision as to which to try if somebody decides that is the best option for themselves. I am certainly not advocating messing with anyone’s brain! Bit insulting. There is no one right way for every one .If someone decides life is more bearable with meds – that should be respected. All meds are risky, some worse for some individuals than others. To attempt to find the least harmful is keeping someone out of harms way as much as possible. People are being harmed by prescribers who are not careful enough or caring enough to take the trouble to find the most helpful way for individuals.
Antidepressed: A Breakthrough Examination of Epidemic Antidepressant Harm and Dependence
by Beverley Thomson
A breakthrough examination of epidemic antidepressant harm and dependence.
The first comprehensive guide for patients and professionals, Antidepressed describes the realities of antidepressants with evidence-based facts, up-to-date research, extensive resources and anecdotal accounts, including patient testimonies. It also investigates how to avoid antidepressant harm, dependence and suicide.
Overtreatment with antidepressants and underestimation of risks have left millions worldwide with complex problems and no obvious solutions or easily accessible information to help them. They are often unaware of the harm antidepressants have caused, how the medication has impacted their lives and are oblivious to the dangers of their dependence on the medication they ‘take as prescribed’. Antidepressed is an essential look at these overprescribed and often harmful medications.
About the Author
Beverley Thomson is a writer, researcher and speaker with a focus on psychiatric medication including antidepressants, benzodiazepines and ADHD drugs; their history, how the drugs work, adverse-effects, dependence, withdrawal and development of patient support services. For the past 10 years, she has worked with organizations such as the British Medical Association, the Scottish Government, the Council for Evidence Based Psychiatry and recently the UK All Party Parliamentary Group (APPPG) for prescribed drug dependence. Beverley has written and contributed to articles published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) as well as written factual, ‘evidence-based summaries’ of past research for CEPUK (The Council for Evidence-Based Psychiatry) to be used by professionals and the general public. She is currently currently part of a Scottish Government Short Life Working Group addressing the issue of prescribed drug harm and dependence in Scotland. –This text refers to the paperback edition.
So looking forward to reading and sharing this new book by @T_A_Psupport
Suzanne, I am sorry you have misinterpreted my intentions. Indeed, it is a individuals choice when it comes to choosing what suits them best. I would always exhaust other alternatives. I was suggesting that if a prescriber swaps and changes and tweaks here and there, it could do more harm than good. This is why we come here. To warn people about the perils of swapping and changing meds.
Anon my name is Susanne years ago there was a Suzanne who commented – she was not me I think we are all pretty clear about the ethos of Rxisk and the rxisks of careless ‘tweaking’
Indeed, a prescriber has to be very careful when swapping and changing and tweaking here and tweaking there, with any type of medication.
Once the ‘hard wire’ is messed up, you are doing more harm than good.
Why do many commit suicides/homicides or have a complete change in personality? Rxisk is a place where we can highlight the perils of these medications and not be chastised for stating the facts.
With many individuals, even if the prescriber is careful, one does not know what deleterious consequences comes to the surface, out of prescribing these meds.
With so many variables, if I was a prescriber, I would still err on the side of caution.
If some people swear by them, once again, it is their body and their choice. Just like it is our choice to highlight the dangers. If we come here to highlight the perils of these meds, we are still going to be criticized for highlighting the implications of ingesting them. It’s not a ‘one size fits all’ formula!
Anon my name is Susanne years ago there was a Suzanne who commented – she was not me I think we are all pretty clear about the ethos of Rxisk and the rxisks of careless ‘tweaking’
If all people are informed about the RXISKS, before they ingest a prescribed medication(s), I certainly do not have any issues with this. Some unnecessary RXISKS can certainly be avoided especially if it involves harming or ending someone’s life. Medicine to me SHOULD NOT be like giving a LOADED GUN to someone! People’s lives are not a game of Russian Roulette. MEDS should BENEFIT people, not DESTROY lives. I have known of many cases, where some people took meds to ‘so call’ benefit them however, they ended up committing suicide or it made their health condition(s) worse! If these people were informed of the RXISKS, they would certainly still be alive today.
Nine years don’t take any other meds slept like a baby before seroxat when I came off I slept barely one or two hours for 18 months a night think this isn’t possible belive me it is. Nine years later I still have weeks off insomnia and get jolted out off my bed brain zaps wake up hanging on to the headboard had it the last two nights have periods where I sleep without this and then have months where I have it every night wake up sometimes gasping. It’s literally like something out the exorcist at times my partner has witnessed it in disbelief. Seen neurologists had mris told migraines absoloute rubbish. I can relate with Bob’s post totally because after my cold turkey at 10mg after 13 years use (was told safe to just stop because I was only on 10mg last year off taking had been on 20/30mg years before) it basically showed me hell on earth that has never totally ended also now have fibro which I’m sure was caused by the hell off getting off. Have lost all faith In doctors ever since how none off us got compensated begs belief sorry to anyone else who’s suffered this its no picnic.
It is bloody hell when you get NO SUPPORT from the professionals who ruined your life! They just keep adding fuel to fire. As for explaining to people or professionals who are ignorant ~ to HELL with them!
There is NO COMPENSATION for the HELL they put you though!
You might get lucky if you have a reasonable/intelligent Doc who understands what medication iatrogenesis does to your life. The rest of the imbeciles who do not want to take responsibility for their bad a$$ behavior and ruin peoples lives, are not worth my time!