Army reservist Micah Johnson, 25, had a problem. He kept waking up in the night, dreaming about his buddies being blown up in combat. During the day he was fatigued, unable to focus, demotivated. The army doctor prescribed him the standard PTSD medication as a depression treatment.
By the time Micah got back from Afghanistan, he was a mess. Even minor disturbances, like witnessing a small altercation at a shopping mall, gave him panic attacks.
On July 7, 2016, Micah went to a peaceful march in Dallas, protesting against police shootings; he took out an assault rifle and opened fire on the police. He took his time, shifting positions and continuing to fire, killing five officers. Hours later, the police sent a bomb-carrying robot after Micah. His nightmare finally caught up with an explosion that shook downtown Dallas.
In the media, Micah went down as yet another veteran who had gone postal, traumatized by the hells of war.
A month before Micah had his final episode, Dionisio Garza, 25, drove into Houston to visit some friends. Upon arriving, he decided to break into a tire shop to spend the night there. In the morning, he came out of the shop with an AR-15 assault rifle and released 212 rounds at passing people and cars, igniting a gas station, killing one and injuring three, before the SWAT team moved in.
A Depression Treatment Or A Synaptic Shaker
Garza and Micah shared more than a violent end. Both were being treated against PTSD with a standard depression treatment that included an SSRI (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor), sedatives and antipsychotics.
The idea behind an SSRI is that it artificially increases the availability of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter commonly linked to feelings of wellbeing. The first SSRI was released in 1987 as Fluoxetine, which became later known as Prozac or Sarafem. Today’s second-generation SSRIs are used to treat depression, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, bulimia, panic, anxiety, premature ejaculation, and a host of other disorders like PTSD.
If a doctor prescribes you an antidepressant, you can say “no, thank you,” if you don’t like the idea of artificially messing with your brain chemistry. In the military it’s different, because you have no say.
According to a report from Veterans for America, “U.S. troops are being forced to take drugs like Prozac and Seroquel for anxiety and depression. Troops cannot refuse to take the drugs without consequences from their superiors.”
Although the military has classified the data on pharmaceutical usage, some reports estimate that at least 20 percent of soldiers are popping psychotropic cocktails like candy, often combining two or three drugs at the same time, including benzodiazepines (aka benzos) like Ativan, Valium, Xanax, Klonopin; painkillers like Lortab, Vicodin, Oxycontin; sedatives like Ambien or Lunesta; and SSRI antidepressants like Paxil, Zoloft, Prozac, Celexa, Effecox, Luvox, Pristiq, Trazodone, Viibryd, Wellbutrin, Remeron, Lexapro, and Brintellix.
SSRI is an odd thing to prescribe for a trauma patient, incidentally, because it doesn’t just cause the synaptic gap to flood with serotonin but also with norepinephrine, which enhances emotional memory.
“A soldier taking a stimulant medication that releases norepinephrine in the brain, could be at higher risk of becoming fear-conditioned and getting PTSD in the setting of trauma,” writes Richard A Friedman, a professor of psychiatry and director of the psychopharmacology clinic at Weill Cornell Medical College.
SSRI meds may have dramatically boosted Micah’s emotional attachment to flying limbs, which is probably why the doctor may also have prescribed a benzo to reduce his neuronal excitability, by boosting another neurotransmitter, GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid).
Let’s recap this logic. Benzos artificially reduce the communication between neurons while antidepressants artificially stimulate them. Any type of confusion that this might cause in the regular K-Mart shopper or the 19-year old grunt is typically handled by throwing in a sedative like Ambien, and maybe even an antipsychotic like Seroquel. This kind of cocktail is quite common, judging by coronary reports.
Which came first, PTSD or SSRI?
On February 12, 2008, Marine Corporal Andrew White, 23, died in his sleep after being treated for PTSD, along with another three young West Virginia veterans who inexplicably all died during the same week. Andrew’s mother and father went on a mission to find out what happened, believing that their son’s and his friends’ deaths “must be a reaction to biological warfare’ in the battlefield. Twenty-three year old boys don’t just die in their sleep like that, right?
The parents were right, the cause of death was biological warfare. Except that the biological agent wasn’t Saddam Hussein’s WMD, but a prescription cocktail containing 20mg of Paxil (SSRI), 4mg of Klonopin (benzo) and 50mg of Seroquel (antipsychotic), prescribed to Andrew by his friendly VA doctor, who claimed that the dosage adhered to normal guidelines.
The case caused a rare outcry, to the point of prompting Senator Jim Webb to call on the Department Of Defense to release prescription drug data from the military in 2010. Needless to say, the data is still pending.
We can only estimate the true reach of this psychotropic pandemic. We know from mental health studies that 1 in 8 returning soldiers suffer from PTSD. We also know that Gulf War syndrome alone affects more than 275,000 US and British veterans who were injected with an Anthrax vaccine, containing an illegal booster known as squalene. The symptoms include “severe headaches, nausea, muscular pain, joint swelling, short-term memory loss and depression.”
Depression… again. As if Gulf War syndrome isn’t enough, most of the victims also get the standard PTSD cocktail.
Exposing soldiers to harm off the battlefield is not a novel tradition. Between 1945 and 1963 nearly 400 000 U.S. soldiers were subjected to debilitating amounts of radiation from nuclear bomb testing, without much ado.
Psychopharmaceuticals are the WMD of the mind. And this particular WMD is not limited to the military.
How Far Down Does The Rabbit Hole Go?
SSRI’s are the most widely distributed antidepressants in the world today. One in six Americans takes a psychiatric drug, of which SSRI’s are the most common, followed by anxiety relievers and antipsychotics. According to the World Health Organization, depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability, affecting an estimated 322 million people worldwide.
One reason we almost never read about prescription drugs in connection to tragedies like the weekly mass shootings, is that most of the perpetrators’ medical data remains classified, just like the medical data of the soldiers who commit suicide (22 of them per day) or other acts of violence. The pharmaceutical companies, in addition to the DOD, desperately need the data to remain in the dark. Still, some of the facts leak out through coroners’ reports, court cases, and frustrated relatives.
Stephen Paddock who killed at least 58 people and injured hundreds in Las Vegas in 2017, was on Diazepam, a benzo which linked to 2.52 times higher risk of homicide in a study of 950 offenders. This type of multiplier is cumulative, so if you combine e.g. opioid analgesics (multiplier 2.16) with a benzo regimen, slip in an antidepressant and maybe cap it off with an emotional trigger like a gambling loss or a faltering relationship, you may quickly creep up towards the critical limit of blowing the grand Mandalay Bay fuse.
You don’t have to be born fickle or weird to become depressed and go bazooka. All you need is the right chemical cocktail, prescribed by the wrong doctor, and trigger it with stress factors.
Some independent researchers believe that the single most common factor in all the mass shooting incidents over the last two decades are psychotropic drugs. PsychDrugshooters.com lists more than 100 shooters who went on a rampage with prescription drugs. SSRIstories.com has compiled more than 6,000 media stories in which SSRI drugs were linked to violent and adverse outcomes (you can search by categories such as “road rage,” “murder-suicide,” “postpartum reaction,” “workplace violence,” “celebrity,” et cetera, or by any of the 18 different SSRI drug names).
The public discourse about guns as the nation’s chief problem takes a new vector when we integrate the question of psychotropics. Guns do kill, but mostly in conjunction with the wrong chemical cocktail. Just like kitchen knives. Or ropes. Or duct tape.
The violence we witness today is the tip of the iceberg. The fundamental damage accrues silently, through the erosion of personal identity, loss of will, and a perversion of reality that may be tied to a collective neuronal imbalance.
How do you estimate the real damage from loss of performance, joy and motivation in life? Observe the family unit, the military, the education system, the media and even the highest echelons of the government. Something is off.
Having once gone through a mild version of withdrawal from a benzo, I can’t even fathom the effect of the cocktails that today’s doctors prescribe routinely.
A Beverly Hills doctor prescribed Xanax to me without a question, to help me “sleep and relax” during an intense travel phase. It took less than a week to get me hooked. I flushed down the pills after my friend warned me about their side effects. The sudden cut-off was as brutal as a sledgehammer. I locked myself in an off-hour sauna compartment in Hong Kong, believing that I was surrounded by Chinese agents. I tried to calm myself with intermittent cold and warm showers, but ultimately what saved me was another benzo, followed by several months of careful withdrawal protocol.
Right after the Hong Kong episode I began to do my own research about stuff that I intended to pop into my mouth.
The Reality About Depression Treatment
Depression and most other common mental disorders don’t originate in the mind, but the gut. Ninety percent of serotonin is manufactured by bacteria in the digestive tract. Our gut influences how we perceive the world, through our emotions and thoughts, thanks to a direct chemical link between the gut and the brain.
The gut is the center of our emotional universe.
Our singular focus on the mind, or the concept of a “mental disorder,” is what enables Big Pharma to sell 320 million antidepressant descriptions alone per year.
The reality is that even the concept of an SSRI is sort of insane. There are no ultimate levels of serotonin to make us happy or depressed, angry or contemplative that we can just fix by messing around with neurons.. Neurotransmitter levels are highly individual, just like metabolism. The way the gut allocates the exact right amount of serotonin to the brain depends on factors that modern science hasn’t been able to figure out yet. Yet we take drugs to “re-uptake” serotonin, flood our receptors synthetically, expecting more to be better, and then counter the blowback by artificially adjusting other neurotransmitters like GABA. When that goes wrong, we drug the rest of our senses out. Cocktail complete. Tailspin in the making.
There is no evidence linking depression to a serotonergic imbalance, according to the National Institute Of Mental Health (NIMH). Mood disorders overall are more linked to epigenetic factors, the individual biological phenotype and especially stress factors that originate in childhood, according to a serotonergic study published by the NCBI.
Neuroscientist Steven Hyman’s research also proves that when we treat depression as a mental condition with psychotropic cocktails, we’re not treating a chemical imbalance, we’re causing it.
When a patient first responds to an SSRI, there maybe a period of temporary relief if the SSRI happens to be a match with the individual chemical imbalance. When the patient adjusts to a psychotropic drug over time, however, the brain undergoes a series of compensatory adaptations that often become permanent, and never normal.
Research into long-term effects of antidepressants show that only about 15 percent of patients go into remission, which is less than the placebo rate. The remaining 85 percent will experience longer relapses and gradually become chronically depressed.
The result is the present world at large, a jungle of psychological disorders.
So how do we fix this faulty equation? The answer to a functional depression treatment begins with what we shovel into the gut, morning, day and evening.
We have to treat the gut first.
Psychotherapist Dr. Robert Hedaya gave up on antidepressants after doling out pills to patients for three decades with a miserable track record. He eventually got an idea to look at nutrition and other lifestyle factors. When he introduced wholesome, probiotic foods to enable a healthy bacterial balance, his patients established a healthy serotonin balance naturally.
The idea of a natural protocol is not a favorite amongst healthcare professionals who get a considerable part of their income by enabling drug sales. But a narrow spearhead of nutritionists and psychotherapists today are finally addressing mental disorders successfully with a protocol that has been around pretty much as long as the human race. The protocol boils down to 10 steps, none of which include prescription drugs.
1) Plenty of organic wholefoods sans grains and sugar
2) Plenty of healthy fats like coconut and olive oil
3) Plenty of fermented foods and probiotics
4) Plenty of water
5) Plenty of sunshine
6) Plenty of exercise
7) Plenty of love
8) Plenty of play
9) Some Natural remedies
(10) plenty of smile.
Considering the track record of SSRIs, even a smirk may have a higher success rate.
Without healthy nutrition, synthetic drugs will continue to accelerate the tailspin. What psychiatrists call trauma or PTSD, is not the cause of depression or anxiety. Once the gut re-establishes a healthy neurotransmitter balance in the brain, it’s easier to tackle the deeper programs, whether they originate in childhood or adult trauma. Most of us deal with one or another, but they are not the beasts that psychotropics make them out to be.