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Mar

13

Well Aware Newsletter: 2010-2011 School Year

By Sue Sommers

Well Aware Wyoming (787k pdf)

We are sharing this issue of the Well Aware Suicide Prevention Bulletin, published by the Wyoming Department of Health, because it features a message from Wayne “Bardy” Bardin, Garrett’s father.

This newsletter is especially for Education leaders: School Board Members, Administrators, Curriculum Committees and Policymakers.

Feb

19

National Expert Presents ‘Dangers of Antidepressants’

By Wesley Gooch

By Stephen Crane 

Dr. Ann Blake Tracy gave a presentation at the Pinedale High School auditorium on Wednesday night entitled, “The Dangers of Antidepressants.”    

A crowd of around 60 attended the event to learn more about the hazards and risks associated with anti-depressant medications.    

The event was sponsored by Anticline Disposal and Garrett’s PALMS, an acronym for Prevention, Awareness, Legislation against Medications that may cause Suicide. Garrett’s PALMS was founded by Carole Richie and Suzy Michnevich in response to the death of Richie’s son, Garrett Bardin.    

Since Bardin’s death, Richie has researched the medication she found during his disappearance, which ultimately led her to Dr. Tracy.    

With a Ph.D. in health sciences and an emphasis in psychology, Dr. Tracy is the executive director of the International Coalition for Drug Awareness and has spent the last 17 years studying the negative effects of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), more commonly known as anti-depressants. And her lecture emphasized these dangers, and the biological causes behind their occurrence. “The whole hypothesis behind these drugs is backwards,” Dr. Tracy said.  

According to Dr. Tracy, serotonin can be poisonous at high levels. And because SSRIs impede the body’s ability to break down serotonin, it builds up in the brain, causing an increase in erratic behavior.    

“Impairing serotonin metabolism results in a multitude of symptoms,” said Dr. Tracy, “including suicide, violent crime, mania and psychosis. Suicidal ideation is, without question , associated with these drugs.”    

Nightmares in patients also tend to increase , followed by sleepwalking states, when the body is active but the mind is not. This is also known as REM Sleep Behavior Disorder. And according to Dr. Tracy, 86 percent of patients diagnosed with this disorder are on antidepressants and are “acting out a drug-induced nightmare.”   

 “I was talking to a man from the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency),” said Dr. Tracy. “And he said, ‘Whenever I come across someone on Prozac, I take a few steps back.’”    

Prozac is one of the first SSRIs to find controversy when in the mid-1990 ’s , over 150 lawsuits were filed against the manufacturer , Eli Lilly and Company.    

Since then, a multitude of other SSRIs have risen in popularity, including Zoloft, Paxil, Luvox, Lexapro, and Effexor, just to name a few. For drug companies, anti-depressants are big business, pulling in $200 million a day.    In 2007, CNN reported that anti-depressants are now America’s most prescribed drug.    

It is a trend Dr. Tracy would like to turn around.   

“I want people to know the precious lives we’ve lost (to these drugs),” she said.   

She has testified before the Food and Drug Administration on two occasions concerning the dangers of SSRIs, as well as a congressional subcommittee.    

Dr. Tracy has also been involved in numerous legal trials as an expert witness related to these medications, including the murder of comedian Phil Hartman at the hands of his wife Brynn who then committed suicide. Dr. Tracy was also involved in the case of Andrea Yates, the woman in Texas who drowned her five children.    

According to Dr. Tracy, SSRIs played a tragic role in both cases. And it is a reason why Effexor, one of the most popular antidepressants on the market today, now includes “homicidal ideation” as a possible side effect. Dr. Tracy sees two primary causes for many of the mental troubles that lead people to SSRIs in the first place.    

“I think the biggest causes of these kinds of problems come from the use of sugar,” she said. “and artificial light, we’re screwing up our circadian rhythm when we stay up so late.”    

According to Dr. Tracy, SSRIs often lead to diabetes in patients because they impede the pancreas’ ability to regulate blood sugar. “The blood sugar is very, very affected by these drugs,” she said. “And when you look at how blood sugar affects the brain, I think a lot of it is just the brain crying out for help.    

“Bi-polar has all the signs and symptoms of sever hypoglycemia.”

Because these medications have such negative effects on sleep, Dr. Tracy said that the circadian rhythm is disrupted, which only amplifies the problem.

She sees proper diet and regular exercise as remedies to these problems, as well as a regulated sugar intake. For Dr. Tracy, sodas are out of the question, and products with artificial sweeteners should be avoided.

“I think it definitely goes back to diet and exercise,” she said.

For those currently prescribed any of these SSRIs, Dr. Tracy advised a slow withdrawal , supervised by an expert. For the effects of premature withdrawal can have similarly devastating consequences as the drugs themselves.

Not all in the audience were thoroughly convinced by Dr. Tracy’s presentation, and some detailed their own first-hand accounts of the positive effects of SSRIs in their own lives.

A few others in the audience reminded the crowd of what brought Dr. Tracy in the first place. “( On Paxil), Garrett had double the chance of suicide,” said Dr. Tracy. “Was he warned? No. Did he give his life to save someone else? You have to ask yourself that.”

For more information on Dr. Tracy and SSRIs, visit www.drugawareness.org or www.ssristories.com.  scrane@pinedaleroundup.com

Feb

19

The Medication Had to Play a Part In It

By Wesley Gooch

By Stephen Crane

Many in this community are still in disbelief, struggling to understand what happened to one of their own, one of their sons. For weeks, people rode the rollercoaster. They awaited word of his whereabouts. They assisted in the search. And they were plagued with questions in the aftermath.

These are questions not easily answered – daunting questions without a simple reply. But Carole Richie has been asking them. Her son’s death demanded it.

“Anybody who knows Garrett knew that this was not Garrett,” Richie said. “And the medication had to play a part in it, because he was so outgoing and had his life planned out, everything planned out. And this is something that just went wrong real quickly, in a matter of hours.” She found Garrett Bardin’s prescription bottle of Paxil while the search was still ongoing, and the discovery gave her pause even then. As the events unfolded and the facts became known, Richie mourned as any mother would, and that mourning will continue. But she was also compelled to dig deeper into the bottle of Paxil.

“I suspected earlier, when I actually found the medication bottle,” Richie said. “And it was overwhelming when I started looking into it.”

What Richie discovered was that Paxil has a dark side rarely mentioned by those who peddle the pill.

In June 2004, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer filed suit against GlaxoSmithKline, the makers of Paxil, charging the company of withholding information concerning the potential dangers of Paxil, particularly during withdrawal from the medication.

Paxil is classified as a selective sero- tonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), and has been shown to cause akathisia, or severe inner restlessness, in some patients. This can often lead to insomnia and anxiety, as well as aggressive, violent, or suicidal thoughts or actions.

This discovery has led Richie to start a non-profit group in the area named Garrett’s PALMS, which stands for Prevention, Awareness, Legislation against Medications that may cause Suicide.

“The community’s having a hard time understanding too,” said Richie. “I want to help the community heal. I want the community to learn more about it, and I’m hoping that this’ll help them understand.”

For Richie, Garrett’s PALMS has helped her in numerous ways. It has given her a positive mission, despite the tragic cause. It has helped her focus on others, and the impact she can still make in their lives.

“Garrett’s PALMS has given me a drive,” said Richie. “I’ve got to make something good of something so bad. There’s so many people on these medications. I just want them to know this doesn’t have to happen to them.”

Despite the fact that PALMS is helping Richie, she is still reminded of her motivating factor. And she still struggles with the grief that accompanies such a shocking event.

“There’s highs and lows,” Richie said. “The last couple of days have been pretty good days. A few days before that, it was really a couple of low days. It is a rollercoaster, definitely a rollercoaster.”

The death of a child is one of the most difficult crises to confront a parent. And Richie is still wrestling with the heartache.

“Sometimes, I still can’t believe it. I really can’t believe that it’s happened. And I don’t know if I’ll ever really believe that it happened . There’s definitely a big hole and a lot of emptiness there now.”

But she also remembers the 23 years of Garrett’s life that she was given to enjoy. She remembers his gregarious smile and his warm hugs. She remembers his welcoming spirit and his outgoing nature.

Every morning, she takes her four-mile walk out toward Temple Peak, just south of Boulder, where she finds solace in quiet conversations . “I walk straight towards Temple Peak,” Richie said. “And Big Sandy River is right under Temple Peak. And I talk to Garrett and God every morning out there, and I shed tears every morning. And I think Garrett was such a smile and such a greeter to everybody that he’s doing his job there too.”

She has also found comfort in the support of the community, from which friends, family , and strangers alike have given her words of encouragement and shoulders to cry upon and ears to listen.

“I get calls all day long, you know, ‘How’re you doing? How’re you doing?’ And it really helps to talk about it. And it helps me to heal by doing that.”

She also calls some of Garrett’s friends and asks them the same. Some of the kids he grew up with and people he worked with are still struggling with the death as well. And they lean on Richie, and she on them.

She even gets letters from a few people who were at the Rainbow Gathering. While some were less than helpful in the search, others showed genuine concern and wanted to assist.

“I’ve had a lot of mail from those people, you know, praying for me,” Richie said. “And they said, ‘Just you guys being there, we could tell how close and loving a family you were.'”

Richie was also overwhelmed by search efforts from the community as a whole, and her gratitude was apparent.”

A lot of locals were out there,” said Richie, “and his company that he worked for, a lot of them, and all the friends, and this little Boulder community, all of the ranchers got on their horses one day and spent time out there too.

“There’s lots of people, lots and lots of people, and probably ones I’m not even aware of were out there, just because people felt driven to go out there.”

The considerable amount of people who showed up at the memorial service underscored the community’s love and support of Richie and the rest of the family.

“We saw that at the memorial service, that he had touched an awful lot of people. And he can continue on touching them too. He wouldn’t want to see another family go through this.”

This sentiment has inspired Garrett’s PALMS, and Richie hopes the community will listen to the message it brings.

She decided to kick off Garrett’s PALMS close to his birthday, which is on Aug. 24. Their inaugural event will be on Aug. 27, when Dr. Ann Blake Tracy gives a lecture entitled, “The Dangers of Antidepressants.”

The family is also going to have a small gathering of relatives and friends this weekend to celebrate Garrett’s birthday and to spread his ashes on the family’s land.

“They say, closure, but I don’t think there’s ever closure,” Richie said. “So I don’t want to say it’s closure, but we’re celebrating his life some more.”

That same celebration of life is the driving force behind Garrett’s PALMS, the positive potentials of a devastating tragedy. Richie wants to raise awareness of the risks that certain medications can sometimes bring. She wants to keep Garrett’s outgoing spirit alive by using it to impact the lives of others.

“It’s what I feel like I need to do,” Richie said. “It helps me a lot to do this. I just want everybody knowing this was not Garrett. It’s something that should never ever happen.” scrane@pinedaleroundup.com