Friday, January 29, 2010

My Chantix Story

First Post 1/29/2010
Every once in a while, something happens in your life that is simply unimaginable and difficult to talk about, even with your closest family and friends. It could be a lot of things from a serious illness, to depression, to an addiction. The unimaginable happened to me recently and I’d like to share it with you.

In the past several weeks I have experienced a few things I never imagined could happen to me. Being confined to a psychiatric ward without direct access to my family or my belongings, looking down at my arms and not remembering where the bruises came from, and sitting in my living room with a CBS news reporter. I'm sharing my story because what happened to me could have been prevented. I also believe that one person can make a difference in this world and I’m hoping that by simply telling my story, I can be that one person, just for today. So if you read my story, and you think that someone you know could benefit from it, feel free to forward it on to others.

So here it is: I am an ex-(closet)-smoker. There I said it! That may surprise some of you that are close to me, because I hid it well. In fact, I was so far in the closet with my smoking addiction that even my own teenage daughters didn’t know I had started up again. I had successfully quit smoking at least 4 times in the last three years, but always went right back to lighting up. In September of 2009, I finally had it and out of complete and total desperation, I began taking a drug called Chantix, the prescription smoking cessation medicine made by Pfizer...which has brought me here today with ONE GOAL: TO GET CHANTIX OFF THE MARKET. In my opinion, Chantix is a mind altering drug that should be banned. But don’t take only my word for it...just Google "Chantix" and you will find many results with multiple attorneys waiting to hear from people who have lost loved ones due to suicide to join in class action lawsuits. Look a little deeper and you will find out how the FAA banned Chantix for airline pilots and controllers, yet bus drivers that drive your kids to school can take Chantix. Search further and you will find stories of people whose lives have been turned upside down due to paranoia, aggression, anger, and severely altered behavior changes. As the FDA continues to analyze tragic stories, and people continue to hire attorneys, this drug is still on the market.

After I started taking Chantix, I successfully stopped smoking about a week later. And with Chantix, it was actually very easy. I felt confident and seemed to manage everything on my plate (work, school, home) and didn’t feel depressed at all, in fact, quite the opposite. I did have a few small “quirky” things going on, but in general, everything was going well.

In the middle of December, I stopped taking Chantix and immediately displayed extremely erratic behavior. This included paranoia, anger, aggression, panic, anxiety, confusion, and hallucinations. I was ultimately taken by ambulance to the emergency room. My medical records state it took the assistance of approximately 4-5 EMS and firefighters. I was uncooperative, agitated and combative, causing them to apply a 4-point restraint system on me. From there, I spent 5 days in an Acute Behavioral Health Unit (aka psychiatric ward). It was a locked facility and a place of extreme darkness, where I was administered various drugs and interacted with other patients through group therapy sessions. It was there that I met some of the strongest and bravest people in my life, who struggled with a lifetime of serious behavioral health issues (God Bless you Mary, Sonia, and Andy).

My only exit from the locked facility was when they wheeled me out to do other tests such as MRI’s, Cat Scan’s, EEG’s, etc. to confirm I did not have any more serious brain disorders. After five days, I was released and have now been officially diagnosed with a “Substance Induced Psychotic Disorder” and "Anxiety Disorder". Prior to this event, I had never had any type of mental health issues or been on any type of anti-depression medication. I have no history of depression or other mental health problems. The doctors believe my psychotic episode is the direct result of stopping the Chantix medication and the Anxiety is due to the events which followed.

What I experienced is a typical “black box warning” of Chantix. But here’s the deal...I was desperate to quit smoking and I thought it couldn’t happen to me. For those of you who know me best, you know that I’m a Type“A” personality and a highly functional individual, managing a family, full-time job, and MBA program. Those that don’t know me will have to take my word that if this can happen to me, it can happen to you or someone you love.

The bottom line is this, it is my opinion that Chantix is a mind altering drug with serious consequences. If you feel compelled, please share my story and help me with my ONE GOAL: TO GET CHANTIX OFF THE MARKET. Feel free to contact me and share your own Chantix story here.