Prozac 'linked' to brain tumors:
March 26, 2002 2:15 AM   Subscribe

Prozac 'linked' to brain tumors: Nothing incontrovertible yet. But where does it put us already hyper-sensitive brain candy users who've been given a new lease on life? Now we have to worry about this too?
posted by crasspastor (28 comments total)
I can understand the worry about the drug's 'long-term safety', but without Prozac I probably would have bumped myself off long ago. I think it's important to differentiate between a long life, and a life worth living.
posted by different at 2:52 AM on March 26, 2002

"The researchers found that Prozac blocked the entry of serotonin into the test-tube tumour cells and therefore stopped them from committing suicide."

It even cheers up suicidal cancer cells? That's one effective antidepressant. Accidentally drop some on your belly and you change from innie to outie.
posted by pracowity at 3:01 AM on March 26, 2002

It even cheers up suicidal cancer cells? That's one effective antidepressant.

Nice sermon on the Human Condition eh? No more than the sum of our parts.

Good point pracowity.
posted by crasspastor at 3:13 AM on March 26, 2002

I think it's important to differentiate between a long life, and a life worth living.

Well said!
posted by twistedonion at 4:45 AM on March 26, 2002

I think the article is satire. Not very funny satire at that.
posted by Budge at 5:51 AM on March 26, 2002

It looks real to me.
posted by pracowity at 6:07 AM on March 26, 2002

An "article" with so many "quotation marks" should be "satire."
posted by dagnyscott at 6:23 AM on March 26, 2002

Supposedly, there are natural alternatives to Prozac including St John's Wort, Ginkgo Biloba, exercise and guided imagery and meditation. Diet also seems to help.

I loved me some Prozac. Now I love me some Wellbutrin with less side effects.
posted by gloege at 6:38 AM on March 26, 2002

Hold on, accelerating the growth of cells is a far cry from causing the genetic damage that results in the cancer in the first place. Lots of things make cells grow faster, even cancer cells. Let's keep in mind that Prozac also enhances the NORMAL functioning of cells when the brain is operating at a serotonin deficit.
posted by shagoth at 7:17 AM on March 26, 2002

Another natural alternative is Omega-3 .. kind of diet related but you cant go wrong as it has so many positive affects on mood, heart, longevity, intelligence. Its based on the idea early man ate a lot of seafood and modern diets are missing the key ingredient (mostly) found in seafood Omega-3 which is an essential fatty acid used by the brain.. fat for the brain.
posted by stbalbach at 7:22 AM on March 26, 2002

Supposedly, there are natural alternatives to Prozac including...

There as absolutely nothing that makes "natural" mean "better for you"... Hemlock is plenty natural, you want some of that?

Besides, preliminary research indicates St Johns Wort IS an SSRI just a weaker one than Prozac.
posted by malphigian at 7:32 AM on March 26, 2002

As malphigian said, "natural" doesn't mean much. Gingko has been linked to stroke, and many natural remedies can interfere with other medications (especially heart and blood pressure meds). Also, remember that not only is there not much scientific research into natural remedies, they're also not regulated, so quality control (amount of active ingredient, f'rex) is questionable. Faced with a choice between a scientifically tested, regulated drug and a testimonial-endorsed, unregulated collection of herbs and spices, I think I'd stick with the proven, regulated drug. I do however think there's a place for meditation and other therapies, especially in mental illnesses.
posted by biscotti at 7:40 AM on March 26, 2002

This article is a gag, for heaven's sake. If it were real, the headline would be (as it relates further in) that scientists "found evidence to suggest cancer cells can be killed by 'positive thinking'", which it more or less buries as a secondary point. Anything approching incontrovertable or scientifically repeatable evidence that "positive thinking" could kill cancer cells would be front page news around the world. The prozac angle would be a minor sidelight. So take it easy. And don't forget your meds.
posted by Faze at 8:13 AM on March 26, 2002

Okay fine. Yes, everything in the world in improper amounts can be fatal. Happy now?

posted by gloege at 8:46 AM on March 26, 2002

An interesting factoid that has been getting some play in the media is that these anti-depressants, and other drugs, are ending up in streams and rivers. . .apparently, when we excrete them, the municipal wanter treatment plants do not remove them from the water as it it cleaned and returned to rivers.

Different. .I hear you when you say that this medication saved your life. . .have you experienced the notorius sexual side effects? and if so, what are they?
posted by Danf at 8:55 AM on March 26, 2002

As far as I can tell, this is a real article about a real study, and Blood is a real medical journal. However, it cannot be stated vehemently enough that this is an in vitro test. A lot of things can happen in vitro (in a test tube) that do not hold out in vivo (in the system of the body). So don't freak out or anything.
posted by jennyjenny at 9:25 AM on March 26, 2002

Danf: I actually don't need to take Prozac any more - I get occasional low periods but it seemed to cure my lifelong depression, presumably by kick-starting my brain into producing serotonin on its own. I took the drug for a couple of years, and since then (eight or so years later) I haven't needed it.
I don't remember noticing any particular side effects. If I had, though, I'd scarcely have cared - I felt so miserable day in, day out before Prozac that I had little or no interest in sex anyway.
jennyjenny: I agree, no need to freak out.
posted by different at 9:57 AM on March 26, 2002

So don't freak out or anything.

You must be new here.
posted by Skot at 10:02 AM on March 26, 2002

AFAIK, the only sexual side effect of Prozac in women is a bit of anorgasmia. In my own case, it's never been severe, and it more than makes up for that little fault by improving my mood to the point that I have any drive in the first place. Does it have other effects on male sexuality?
posted by Fenriss at 10:19 AM on March 26, 2002

speaking of "natural" not meaning "good for you": FDA warning about kava and liver damage
posted by Dean King at 10:29 AM on March 26, 2002

I'm an on-again-off-again Prozac alumna, along with various other SSRI's (Effexor, Zoloft).

Some side effects I've experienced:

- complete and utter destruction of libido

- tendency to want to tidy up the house whenever I re-start Prozac in particular

- tendency of songs to run in my head more than usual and a willingness to spontaneously tap out rhythms

- bizarre dreams - I'm talking *really* weird stuff, sometimes rather gruesome

- tendency to let people in front of me in traffic

Oh yeah, and coming *off* the damn things really sucks. I get these 1-second dizzy spells that recur dozens of times throughout the day. I call 'em the "frooping woozies".

I'm not all that worried about the tumor angle, if there ever really turns out to be one. I've done plenty worse damage to my noggin from overdoing alcohol and dxm...
posted by beth at 12:15 PM on March 26, 2002

Forgot to add that I've noticed that it's harder to achieve an orgasm while on SSRI's, with an effect that varies with the dose (bigger dose, bigger problem). Damned frustrating, I tell ya. Not that you care...
posted by beth at 12:17 PM on March 26, 2002

frooping woozies

that's pretty good, beth. yeah, the withdrawal can be quite violent. i never came up with a name, but i'd say they're more like one-second acid trips than they are simple dizzy spells. all of your senses go crazy for an instant and then return to normal. 'frooping woozies' nicely captures the wide-wavelength type of whump-y sort of feeling they leave you with, though.

but, fwiw, you only get this type of withdrawal with the pills that have a short half-life (effexor, paxil, etc.). prozac has a very long half-life and therefore doesn't precipitously drop out of your bloodstream, causing the frooping woozies.
posted by mlang at 12:31 PM on March 26, 2002

while we're on this topic, does anyone know anything about/have personal experience with the amino acid (available in pill form at vitamin shops) 5-htp? particularly w/r/t taking it concurrently with ssri's.
posted by mlang at 12:35 PM on March 26, 2002

btw, this is very much not a joke. It was on the front page of a major UK broadsheet. I managed to cheer myself up for 20 minutes this morning boring my companions silly with a comprehensive (and overly long) demolition of this badly written and alarmist piece. But my favourite short contrast is this:

headline: "Scientists find Prozac 'link' to brain tumours"

"We must stress the effects shown for the SSRI on cancer cells is indirect and should cause no concern whatsoever to the many millions of people throughout the world who are prescribed this class of antidepressants,"
nice. SSRI's are a good thing damnit! Suicide is a bad thing, stories like this can only have bad effects.

[although I do think that all these sorts of things and concerns about any drug have to be checked out and I hope they'll be able to use this knowledge to make really good cancer drugs]
posted by nedrichards at 4:30 PM on March 26, 2002

"The study, to be published in the journal Blood next week..."

Sceptics and skeptics will note that the issue date is April 1, but this still looks very real to me.
posted by pracowity at 11:17 PM on March 26, 2002

Indeed. not arguing that's it's not real, just that it's blown totally out of all proportion by the media.
posted by nedrichards at 5:51 AM on March 27, 2002

It probably will not be noticed now, but the scientist who's research prompted this article has said his research has been misrepresented. I know this is not the best link, but it was the only one I could find right now.
posted by internal at 11:53 AM on March 27, 2002

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