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SSRIs - Nightmares by the Dozen

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Gail and Rhonda Schmidkunz describes their 20-year-old son Zach as an "All American Boy," with no criminal record and no history of angry outbursts or losing his temper. However, this non-violent, law-abiding "All American Boy" is now serving a 35-year prison sentence for killing a friend after he abruptly stopped taking the SSRI, Zoloft.

In an all too familiar story by now, a family doctor sent Zach home with samples packs of Zoloft because he was depressed, without advising Zach about any of the adverse events he might experience. He took the pills for 21 days and then stopped because he felt the drug was not helping.

"Zach stopped taking the Zoloft on a Friday," Gail notes. "By Saturday, there were symptoms of discontinuation syndrome," he recalls. "They continued to intensify through Monday when the murder happened," he said.

Without knowing about the problems with the drug, Gail explains, Zach missed the signs that might have warned him that he was having a withdrawal reaction from Zoloft.

During a chat session on the internet with a friend, Zach said that he was depressed and saw no reason to live and was considering suicide. The friend was a girl and offered to come over and talk. During the visit, she said that depressed people usually kill themselves which apparently set Zach off.

He drove off in a rage, and three hours later when his head began to clear, he thought he remembered shooting someone.


Zach went and turned himself in to police, Gail said, but he did not know that he had murdered the girl until he was charged.

The rage that he felt was like nothing he ever felt before, Zach told his father and mother. "The intensity was indescribable," he told Gail.

Like so many other people who have committed violent acts while on SSRIs, Zach said, "it was like watching himself in a movie going to get the shotgun."

"He had this over-powering urge to shoot something and tried to stop himself but was powerless to do so," he told his parents.

At the criminal trial, Dr Maureen Hackett, a forensic psychiatrist from Minneapolis, who had evaluated Zach, testified that abruptly stopping the drug had lead to "a discontinuation syndrome rage and insanity that caused the homicide."

However, with the help of a Zoloft manual provided by Pfizer, Gail says, the "prosecutor convinced the jury my son was a monster and that Dr. Hackett was a hired gun bought for a price and would tell the court whatever we wanted her to say."

"What is important in this case," he points out, "is that we had an expert that proved that discontinuation syndrome is real and established in the medical community."

Gail urges everyone who has had an adverse reaction to an SSRI to contact their lawmakers and tell their story.

"Somehow," he says, "we need to pressure the FDA and the drug companies to come clean about the dangers of these drugs and make them responsible for the lives their drugs have destroyed."

Joyce Storey's son, Brian, was also called an "All American Boy" in the media, and according to Joyce, he was.

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Evelyn Pringle is a columnist for OpEd News and investigative journalist focused on exposing corruption in government and corporate America.

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