There is no doubt that depression is a serious and debilitating disease. Those trapped in its clutches often feel utterly helpless, and many turn to pharmaceutical drugs for relief. Unfortunately, these drugs carry serious side effects and can cause long-term harm. And in an increasing number of cases, patients who are prescribed these mind-altering drugs find out later that they never needed them in the first place.
This was the case with the Viscount, Luke Montagu, an English peer who was misdiagnosed with depression at a young age, and spent 20 years on a “merry-go-round of antidepressants and sleeping pills.”
His story began at the age of 19, when he underwent routine surgery for a sinus infection, and his anticipated quick recovery turned instead into a battle with debilitating headaches and extreme anxiety.
Scientists have found that such symptoms are often linked to general anesthesia, but at the time, he was diagnosed with a chemical imbalance of his brain’s limbic system and prescribed an antidepressant, amitriptyline. When that drug proved ineffective, he was prescribed Prozac. Over the course of the next two years, he bounced from one pharmaceutical to another, until he finally tried Seroxat, which seemed to help.
After several very successful but stressful years in the financial world, the Viscount decided to resign and simplify his life somewhat. He also made the decision to wean himself off the Seroxat. He immediately went into serious withdrawal. His mind started racing with strange thoughts; he experienced extreme feelings of panic; he overreacted to even minor issues; and he started experiencing problems with his memory.
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Of course, the doctors had the solution: He was prescribed four new drugs, including a very strong benzodiazepine called clonazepam. His symptoms improved and he felt lucky to have found just the right combination of drugs, but looking back, he realizes that like any addict, he only felt better because he was getting a “fix.”
Some years later, he returned to the U.K. after having lived in the U.S. for a time. His new British psychiatrist agreed with his American colleague and confirmed that the Viscount should remain on the same cocktail of drugs. He chose of his own accord to drop two of the medications, but remained on the other two, one of which was the clonazepam.
Several years later, when he decided to wean himself off the clonazepam, his problems really began. He was admitted to a psychiatric facility favored by many famous celebrities for what was supposed to be a “quick stay.” He recalls that 72 hours later his life became hell, when he entered what others who have gone through it refer to as a “die-tox.”
“My body became a violent electrical storm, with buzzing jolts coursing through my nervous system, while my mind was overwhelmed with racing flashbacks and hysterical thoughts,” he said. “My ears screeched with tinnitus, sounds blared and colours were distorted. I couldn’t talk or think or move.”
Though the guidelines for the use of benzodiazepines clearly restrict their use to a maximum of four weeks, many doctors prescribe them for years at a time, with devastating effects for the patients involved.
Viscount Montagu left the thriving internet company he had built up to focus on his recovery. After 14 months, he was finally “clean,” but then a new wave of symptoms hit.
“Worst were the burning pins and needles in my spine, arms, and legs, like someone was scraping a hot cheese grater hard along my flesh,” he said. “I screamed out, cried, threw myself to the floor. My GP even offered me opioids to combat the pain, but I was determined not to take another drug. Even worse than the physical symptoms was the disturbing sense that I was losing my mind.”
Though his subsequent recovery has been slow, the Viscount continues to improve day-by-day, hour-by-hour.
The pharmaceutical industry perpetuates two unsubstantiated myths regarding depression:
That it is caused by some kind of chemical imbalance; and
That this imbalance can be magically corrected with drugs.
This theory has no scientific backing, and will one day be thrown on the trash heap of other unscientific remedies like bloodletting.
In the meantime, there are natural ways to treat depression that don’t have the devastating side effects of prescription medications.
Patients experiencing symptoms like those of the Viscount would do well to be cautious about stepping onto the roller coaster ride of chemical medicine.
(Photo credit: Celebrity Net Worth)