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Antidepressant Linked to Suicide

Q. My husband went into the hospital for chest pains on a Sunday. He was kept overnight and lots of tests were run. After all that, he was told he was physically healthy and probably just had an anxiety attack.

He was given Wellbutrin and sent on his way. On Tuesday he still wasn’t feeling any better, so his doctor told him to stop taking Wellbutrin and prescribed Paxil. My husband took this drug for three days and then hung himself on Friday.

My husband was full of life and had so much to live for. He wasn’t depressed. I don’t know why this medication would be prescribed for someone with chest pains.

I hold the FDA and drug maker accountable. Why is the drug still on the market?

A. We are so sorry to learn of this tragedy. Although the FDA now requires drug companies to warn people that some antidepressants may trigger suicidal thoughts, doctors don’t always pass this warning along.

Many people benefit from drugs such as Paxil, Prozac, Wellbutrin or Zoloft, but others experience agitation, anxiety or irritability. We have heard from other bereaved family members whose loved ones committed suicide while taking an antidepressant.

Readers who would like to know more about this issue may request a transcript of an in-depth radio interview we did on the topic. We spoke with two outspoken psychiatrists and an FDA official about benefits and risks of antidepressants. Please send $9 in check or money order to: Antidepressant Transcript; Graedons’ The People’s Pharmacy®; PO Box 52027; Durham, NC 27717-2027.

Q. I am a 16-year-old girl who has a problem with excessive sweating in the armpit area. This has been going on since I was 12. I’ve used a variety of deodorants and antiperspirants.

Certain Dri worked for a while, but my mom prefers natural approaches. I’ve heard that zinc tablets might help.

I’m tired of always getting my shirts or uniform blouses sweaty and I’m always so embarrassed that someone will see the stains. Please help me find a natural, safe cure to stop my sweating.

A. The most effective antiperspirant is aluminum chloride, the ingredient in Certain Dri. This compound is also available by prescription, under the name Drysol.

Such antiperspirants works best if applied to dry skin at bedtime. After several weeks it may be needed only occasionally.

Zinc is reputed to reduce objectionable odor associated with smelly feet. We have never heard that zinc would stop underarm perspiration.

Q. Please help! Driving puts me to sleep. I can drive only an hour or two before becoming so drowsy I am no longer safe. I must pull over, take a nap or run around the car to wake myself up.

We live in a remote area and I need to drive my husband once a month to a hospital that is four hours away. I drink coffee but this is still a problem. Is there something I can take to stay alert? Pulling off the road is not always an option.

A. You must discuss your situation with a physician. It’s possible that a drug like Provigil might be helpful. This medication is prescribed for excessive daytime sleepiness associated with sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, sleep apnea or shift work. People with these conditions may fall asleep unpredictably during the day.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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