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Paxil, also known by its generic name paroxetine, has been around since about 1992. It was one of the first selective serotonin inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants. It is used to treat major depression, and many other psychiatric conditions, including panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder and posttraumatic stress syndrome.

Paxil has always been known to be a potent medication. The problem with Paxil, like any other potent medication, is that it has many side effects. These include:
  • Sexual dysfunction (loss of libido in women and erectile dysfunction in men). In Europe, this side effect is sometimes treatment with high-dose (3000 mg) slow-release vitamin C.
  • Insomnia.
  • Irritability.
  • Weakness.
  • Headache.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Nausea.
  • Anxiety.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Flatulence.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Seizures.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Loss of consciousness.
  • Suicidal thoughts.

Back in 2004, the US FDA forced the maker of Paxil to include a "black box warning" stating that the drug  “increased the risk compared to placebo of suicidal thinking and behavior (suicidality) in children, adolescents and young adults in short-term studies of major depressive disorder (MDD) and other psychiatric disorders.”  Moreover, pregnant women who take Paxil are subject to even more complications:

  • Eclampsia or pre-eclampsia, which cause sudden, severe high blood pressure that can endanger the lives of both the mother and the unborn child.
  • Miscarriage.
  • Premature labor.

Babies born to women who were on Paxil during pregnancy have in relatively rare cases heart defects, brain defects, cleft lip, cleft palate, spina bifida, hypoplastic left/right heart syndrome, or omphalocele – a birth defect in which the infant’s intestine or other abdominal organs stick out of the navel.

GlaxoSmithKline, the maker of Paxil, has been sued dozens of times over product claims and labeling. The US FDA even assessed a $3 billion fine for making false claims for the drug in the treatment of depression in adolescents.

Nearly everyone who takes Paxil experiences one side effect or another, but the range of side effects is astonishing. The most common side effects of the medication and the percentages of users who have to deal with them are nausea 26 percent , diarrhea 12 percent , constipation 14 percent, dry mouth 18 percent , somnolence 23 percent, insomnia 13 percent , headache 18 percent, hypomania 1 percent,  blurred vision 4 percent, loss of appetite 6 percent , nervousness 5 percent, numbness or tingling 4 percent , dizziness 13 percent , asthenia (weakness) 15 percent , tremor 8 percent , sweating 11 percent, and sexual dysfunction, more than 10 percent.

The possibilities are, of course, depressing. What can you do if Paxil is the only thing that works for you?

  • First of all, don't start taking herbal supplements, especially St. John's wort. Although St. John's wort actually is effective for many people, the combination of the herb and Paxil (and any other SSRI) can cause a condition known as hypomania. It's a rebound from depression into mild or moderate overactivity, something like bipolar disorder. You can take a break from any treatment at all for six weeks and not have this problem, but you have to deal with depression in the meantime.
  • It's also important not to stop the medication, particularly if you have addictions to drugs, gambling, sex, food, alcohol, or nicotine. The effects of these activities help your brain generate pleasure chemicals that offset the depression that occurs when you stop Paxil. If you get into trouble with any of them, then you may find yourself even more depressed that before. If you want to stop the medication, work with your doctor to taper your dosage down to zero.
  • Don't suffer major depression alone. About half the time, Paxil simply doesn't work. Even when it does lift depression, it may be necessary to adjust the dosage several times. Let your doctor know when you are feeling bad, so you can get effective treatment.

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