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Friday, November 13, 2009

Seroxat: Risk v Benefit - Kevin's Story


Image: i.dailymail.co.uk



I stumbled across this fascinating story of one man and his time on GlaxoSmithKline's Seroxat. It fascinates me in as much as the author, 'Kevin', seems to be a very articulate who writes skilfully and, I'm sure you will agree, without bias.

It's difficult, for me anyhow, to deem whether or not this is a Seroxat success story, indeed if any one person's time on Seroxat can be deemed a success, particularly when one experiences the 'risks' as opposed to the benefits.

Kevin eloquently puts his points across.



Reproduced in its entirety with permission from Social Anxiety UK


Kevin's Story


If it’s something you have never tried, then it’s something you will surely be aware of by now. Seroxat, the drug used to help treat both depression and anxiety has been causing a stir in the mainstream media, derided for it’s alleged link with suicide cases.

Of course, what many scribes tend, or choose, to ignore that people will turn to the drug as a last resort to help them climb out of depression and possibly allay suicidal thoughts.

Whatever, anyone still reading this probably wants the answer to one question: does it work?

Well, before attempting to answer that I must supply the obligatory disclaimer. I am NOT a doctor; I don’t claim to be, and I don’t claim to be an expert on anything drug-related. There is one thing we’re all an expert on, and that is knowing our own experiences, and that is what I intend to share.

To the question above, you will, unsurprisingly as it’s a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question, usually receive one of two answers. Sadly for you, I’m going to take the mantle of that annoying itch on your buttocks and answer “yes… and no”.

I started taking Seroxat in early 2001. I’d been suffering from what I eventually came to know as Social Anxiety (SA) for approximately seven years, fluctuating in school between the popular guy who mixed with all crowds and banged in goals for the football team, and the misfit who avoided speaking to anyone and didn’t really do anything at all. In college my attendance eventually dropped to 40% for all my classes, and when I went to Essex University for three months I didn’t attend anything at all. I’d been to a private psychiatrist, albeit briefly, prior to going, and I’d made my parents well aware that without something else, without some sort of a treatment, there was no way I would make it beyond a few weeks.

So I saw my local GP when I arrived back home, and with the NHS not being particularly useful in fixing me up with a psychiatrist, he reluctantly prescribed me this ‘wonder drug’. I’m not entirely sure how the reluctance arose; I mean the potentially negative aspects of the drug will surely have been well-circulated amongst the medical community; but then again he was keen to stress it was important not to rely on it as a crutch. Either way, put me on it he did, and to be quite honest, fuelled by it I had the greatest summer since I was a primary school kid. I didn’t go on holiday anywhere; just a stack of nights out with mates, and of the side effects extensively listed in the pamphlet I had my fair share. But it gave me such freedom; after time I didn’t have to worry about waking up the next day too afraid to leave my house, or too afraid to answer the phone.

Never did I think penis-related difficulties and insomnia would be paradise, but, compared to what I was experiencing before, that’s exactly what it was. But these side effects didn’t last that long, maybe three months or so. There are plenty of others, which I escaped; nausea, headaches and loss of appetite to name a few. It seems they’re inevitable, but a lottery as to the ones you get. Test one is valuing the potential benefits of Seroxat against these side effects. Personally, the exhaustion of the sleepless nights and the, uh, discomfort of impotence was nothing compared agony of facing an everyday social situation.

At the onset of autumn 2001, I was back at university, this time Staffordshire, with a renewed confidence. For the first time I was entering an academic year free of the constraints of my SA. Seroxat, to this point, had been saving my life. But it didn’t last. After six months, this was the first time I had been back, consistently, amongst society. For the last six months I had chilled out at home, living at my own pace. As soon as I was back under social pressure, amongst people I didn’t know, the effects of Seroxat slipped, hence the “…no” aspect of my earlier answer. Of course I can only relay my own experiences, and in my case Seroxat only seemed to work when I knew I could enter social situations at my own free will, when I wasn’t being forced to do so via circumstances on a daily basis.

It may have continued to help to a degree. My SA has always fluctuated. Some people who have only met me once or twice would describe me as hilarious, confident while showing great humility, as well as open yet polite, and tremendously sociable. Others would say I’m passive to the point of rudeness, and verbally clumsy in conversation, losing my train of thought and not paying great attention in conversation. I know which ‘me’ I prefer, but even with Seroxat I can’t achieve that consistently. Continuing to take it for a few months I was able to sustain a 66%-good record for a while, but this dipped and by Christmas I was back down to, at best, 50-50. I even took the unadvised route of taking five pills a day instead of the maximum dosage of three, desperate to regain the normality I was living throughout the summer.

After my SA took unmanageable control I dropped out once again.

Last year and this, my SA has been just as bad. But somehow, I don’t know how, I’ve fought it with inner strength that I hadn’t found before. In the past, pre-Seroxat, I had forced good spells by just being out there, be it at school, college or forcing myself out socially with my mates. I’m forcing myself into social situations now more than any other time in the last three years, and more consistently than ever since I finished college four years ago. I still get desperate, and dabble with periods of Seroxat when I feel desperate. But I’ve done so enough times now to know that it will never have the same effect as it did back when I first started taking it. Unless I experiment with an alternative at some stage, I’m battling SA with my own homemade weapons for the foreseeable future.

To someone seeking medication and wary of but willing to face the early side effects, Seroxat may be worth a try. Whether it works for you or not, one must be very careful when coming off it. I hadn’t entirely trusted the journalist hyperbole about its failings until late last year, and I still don’t really, but then I experienced its potential dangers for the first time. I had been struggling immensely, forcing myself to class as much as possible but slipping too often. I was back on it for a few weeks, taking, again, an unrecommended dosage. No luck. The day I came off it I was hit by incredible panic. Suddenly, I was asking myself what the point was. Suddenly, the reality of my situation was I was fighting a pointless battle. I hadn’t felt this way for two years; and back then no-one understood my situation. It made sense to panic; but this time it didn’t. But, whether or not it was the Seroxat making me delusional, rationality wasn’t something I particularly cared about.

That was the only time I have ever truly come close to suicide. I had emptied several weeks’ dosage of Seroxat into a glass, along with 50-odd paracetemol. I’m quite sure I would have gone through with it, too, but a random phone call from a friend, catching me in floods of tears, probably saved my life. I came out with dismissive rhetoric (“if I tell you I’m not going to do it will you go away?”) but the call itself disrupted my loneliness for long enough for the adrenaline to subside.

The timing was too coincidental too be anything but withdrawal. If anything it’s taught me a lesson to pass on: be careful, be responsible. You’re taking Seroxat to help you control your life, don’t let it control you.

Original story can be found on the Social Anxiety UK website

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