Silent Death – Serotonin Syndrome

Author: 85 Comments Share:
serotonin syndrome
It started very slowly; at an almost non-existent rate. My mother, then about 84 years old, broke her ankle. She had been extremely active, playing table tennis regularly in a senior club; she was also a bridge champion almost all her life. She even joined online bridge groups and beat everyone on the internet too. When they asked how old she was, her partners and competitors just flipped that she was in her 80s and a bridge champion. She was sharp as a tack!

The ankle that broke needed surgery with plates and screws. She was restricted to bed for 6 months and then to wheelchair for life. While her ankle was healing she was in bed and could not play bridge, she lost her skills and partner. She was also dependent on others and became depressed. I would rather say she was angry with life for what happened to her rather than depressed but she insisted that she was depressed. She paid a visit to a neurologist begging for an antidepressant.

The neurologist prescribed half of the smallest possible dose of Mirtazapine, a simple serotonin that on its own is capable causing major damage but she received a very small dose. As she started taking the medicine, very tiny changes developed in her personality but they were so mild as to almost unnoticeable. In retrospect, we see what happened – hindsight is always 20/20.

First Signs of the Impending Doom

The first sign that she had too much serotonin in her brain was that rather than feeling calmer and happier she became more agitated; she was unhappy with people around her, criticized everything, nothing was good enough. Then bowel incontinence started and she had trouble holding her stool until she reached the bathroom; her bowel incontinence further limited where she dared going so she felt angrier. She became very easy to irritate and was pissed at the whole world.

What I have just described took four years to evolve so we did not see the connection of all these changes to the serotonin medicine. Then one day as I was refilling her medicine, the drugstore ran out of Mirtazapine and they placed her on an SSRI called Zoloft instead—the doctor changed her prescription.

An SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) is a very different medicine from the old small dose serotonin my mother received. While Mirtazapine merely provided a small extra dose of serotonin to the brain, Zoloft forced her brain to make serotonin 24/7.

How SSRIs Work in the Brain

To understand what SSRIs do, envision a sink with an overflow hole on the top, in case you left the water running. This will allow the extra water to flow back into the drain and if you have an automated sink that is connected to this backflow, the sink would know it is full and would turn the faucet off. This little overflow hole in the brain cell is called reuptake. It does exactly what the overflow does. If it senses that enough serotonin was made, it shuts down serotonin manufacturing of the cell until it senses that more is needed. However, SSRIs inhibit the reuptake receptor, i.e. plug it up. Just as your sink will flood your house with water if the overflow is plugged up, so does the brain fill up with serotonin as long as the reuptake is inhibited. This makes the brain cell manufacture serotonin forever, regardless how much is needed and how much it already has made. Reuptake inhibitors serotonin syndrome

Only a small percentage of serotonin is made in the brain, less than 10%, and 90% is in other parts of the body. The intestinal tract uses most of the serotonin to pass the food through the intestines with proper speed—this explains why having too much serotonin in one’s body causes bowel incontinence. Serotonin also functions as part of memory and cognition, and it is also a vasoconstrictor. Serotonin is a dangerous substance that predisposes the patient to diabetes 2. Thus it is no surprise, in retrospect, that we saw changes slowly from Mirtazapine but very fast changes as my mother was moved to take an SSRI. Suddenly changes took place at a drastic pace:

  • Day one of the change to SSRI was a confusion day. She was clearly agitated, confused, and bowel incontinence became a permanent feature
  • Day two she was angry staring up at the ceiling all day in bed, refused to eat or do anything. The commode had to be moved into the bedroom though she barely made it that far without accident.
  • Day 3 she fought the whole world, nothing was right. She set in a corner totally agitated
  • Day 4 she called me on her cell phone at 5 am (we lived in the same house, with me right above her) asking when breakfast was served in this house. I rushed down and found her sitting at the edge of her bed in total confusion. I put her back in bed and told her breakfast will be served at 9 am so she should go back to sleep.
  • Day 5 is when the moment of recognition hit me. She called me again on the cell phone at 5 am. I ran downstairs. She was seated at the edge of her bed, totally naked with her bathrobe barely on. Her entire closet was on the floor; she pulled everything off every single hanger and shelf. I ran up to get the blood pressure meter. Her blood pressure was so high the cuff gave me error twice before I was finally able to read her blood pressure. The systolic was over 180 (120 is ideal), I don’t remember the diastolic but it was over 100. I called the ambulance and off she went to the hospital.

In the hospital, I tried to tell every doctor what her history was with the SSRI. I am a medically trained professional in neuroscience and though not a medical doctor but a researcher, I can identify a serotonin syndrome when I see one as long as I know the history that led up to it.

For my biggest surprise, and why I am writing this article, is that physicians rarely recognize serotonin syndrome. No one believed me when I told them that I suspected that my mother was suffering from serotonin syndrome. No one listened to me when I asked that they test for serotonin syndrome. I received comments like this from a psychiatrist: “Your mother cannot have serotonin syndrome, it is too rare.” Serotonin syndrome is not rare but the doctors who identify it are, and he was one of the many who did not recognize serotonin syndrome when he saw it. Another doctor told me that “she may have serotonin syndrome but we cannot test for that and cannot treat for it.” In fact, testing and treatment are both available for serotonin syndrome. The problem is with the doctors who do not ask any questions and only make assumptions based on the patient’s age (she was 88 at this time) using profiling assume that anyone over the age of 80 must have dementia. They diagnosed my mother with Alzheimer’s type dementia (something we were able to see via autopsy to have been the wrong diagnosis). She was misdiagnosed and mistreated with the wrong medicines until she died. There was nothing I could do. I suspect that for those of you who are not scientists like I am, the task is even more daunting. So prepare for the fight of a lifetime.

Unfortunately, the symptoms of many illnesses or conditions resemble that of the symptoms of serotonin syndrome. The surest way of knowing if you or your loved one has serotonin syndrome, is if serotonin medicines have been taken for a long time and symptoms slowly worsened over time or if new serotonin medicine was just introduced. If three of the following symptoms appear, take the patient to the nearest hospital via ambulance immediately, stand guard and get ready for a fight to save a life!

  • Agitation or restlessness
  • Confusion
  • Rapid heart rate and high blood pressure
  • Dilated pupils
  • Loss of muscle coordination or twitching muscles
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Heavy sweating
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Shivering
  • Goose bumps
  • High fever
  • Seizures
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Unconsciousness

The importance of this long introduction is that today more people take SSRIs than ever before hence the increased odds of ending up with serotonin syndrome, and that serotonin syndrome is misdiagnosed. More people take multiple types of SSRIs or mix SSRIs and other medicines with serotonin, such as triptans that are so often prescribed for migraineurs. Serotonin syndrome is fatal if it is not attended to very quickly. Unfortunately, it was indeed fatal for my mother.  I run a large migraine group and one of the first things each member has to do is answer a few questions via private messaging. One of the questions is about the list of medications they take. I go through every single medicine and provide a full analysis and if I find they are at risk of serotonin syndrome they are given all information to talk to their doctors. A very large percent of the new migraineurs joining take two or more serotonin medicines at once. Checking for possible serotonin syndrome is essential.

Additional information to help you to select a good hospital for your care: Medicare has created a program aiming to reduce mismanagement of patient care. They provide a score to each hospital based on the number of mismanaged cases, which includes hospital induced delirium as well as other cases. Hospital induced delirium is the new name for serotonin syndrome in many hospitals and you may find it listed as the official cause of death. Medicare assigns a score to each type of condition and sums up the incidences of misdiagnosis and mismanagement per hospital. Those hospitals that rank over the 75 percentile receive a reduction of payment from Medicare until they improve the care.

I wish that doctors were just as well trained in recognizing serotonin syndrome as they are trained to write prescriptions for serotonin. Since doctors are so unaware on how to recognize serotonin syndrome and because the consequence of that oversight is fatal, it is best to consider your options carefully before accepting serotonin prescriptions. Serotonin medicines are prescribed for everything, but when we look at what they actually help is very minimal.

To get serotonin without medicines, eat those foods that put you to sleep after lunch: turkey has lots of serotonin. Head out to the sun. Sun releases serotonin. If you live in a cold region where sun is rare in the winter, invest in a home sun-lamp. The light it releases initiates serotonin release in your body. Enjoy a pleasant walk; go shopping; watch children play in a park; go to social gatherings. Anywhere full of happy friends or people in general will supply you with feel-good hormones that will help ease any depression. There are many treatments on their way for depression and one of them is the same treatment as for migraine and anxiety. Join my migraine group to learn more.

This article was published originally on Hormones Matter on November 30, 2015. 

We Need Your Help

Hormones Matter needs funding now. Our research funding was cut recently and because of our commitment to independent health research and journalism unbiased by commercial interests we allow minimal advertising on the site. That means all funding must come from you, our readers. Don’t let Hormones Matter die.

Yes, I’d like to support Hormones Matter.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Previous Article

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Autism, and Maternal Thiamine Deficiency

Next Article

Improving Male and Female Fertility with Vitamin D

You may also like


  1. Six years ago I had severe serotonin syndrome caused by my being on 5mg dose of Paxil for 5+ years prior. Since then to this day I am daily fighting the after-effects. My sensations are a continual flow of catacholomines that rush through my body that cause heat or cold, spikes in blood pressure , tension, and fight or flight symptoms. I was originally put on Paxil for early menopause which was giving me some anxiety, not depression, never depression. I am 60 years old now. I struggled on Paxil from day 1 but I stayed on it because the doctors insisted that 5mg would not have that effect on me.After I finally got my genetics tested, I found that I was an intermediate metabolizer with the cyp2d6 enzyme. I have had all types of medical testing done and still don’t know what could be the cause of the constant releasing of these hormones. I don’t tolerate any medicines. Could I be sensitive to my own serotonin? I am a retired nurse now. I haven’t been able to work for the last 6 years. Does anyone understand where I can go from here?

    1. Dear Carmita,

      You are very correct. Paxil, as an SSRI, has absolutely nothing to do with anxiety. What you should have received is benzodiazepines (preferably a very low dose Diazepam as needed max once daily). Unfortunately SSRIs can do a lot of permanent damage, particularly for those whose drug metabolism is faster or slower than what the drug expects, because you get overdosed. I am a fast metabolizer and metabolize all medicines really fast such that they have no effect on the problem they should help but I get very sick from them. I got to the point of not even takign simple OTC medicines for anything, knowing how bad they are for those of us with the CYP2D6 enzyme variant.

      I don’t think you are sensitive to your own serotonin but I think that Paxil’s reuptake inhibitors damaged some of your neurons (maybe all) that are now in perpetual serotonin production. Ask your doctor to test a very low dose serotonin blocker medicine–this blocks the production, as opposed to SSRIs that block the production-inhibition. So SSRIs force the neurons to produce serotonin all the time nonstop and my suspicion is that by the very nature of these inhibitors modifying the protein of the reuptake inhibitors, they can damage it, often for life.

      You may find a very low dose serotonin blocker may work. It is important to note that only 10% of serotonin is used by the brain and 90% by your intestines, so if you were allergic to your own serotonin, you would have diarrhea all the time. This is an important distinguishing factor.

      I wish you well,

      1. Angela, I am so glad that you brought up the diarhea. I had chronic diarhea during the 6 years I was on Paxil.I had 2 colonoscopies during that time; they found nothing.I am now seeing a gasterenterologist for gut and bowel problems. I am on 15mg Lopressor for help with blood pressure spikes. Could norepinephrine also be involved? Are there any natural serotonin blockers that I could explore? As you know, most everything goes through the cyp2d6.
        I work very hard everyday on this and at this point, any small improvement in my suffering is welcome. I still have a calmness in me and I smile whenever I can.
        I have no depression and no panic attacks, just this continual drip. Could ptsd be a contributing factor? Thank you. I appreciate your kindness and support.

        1. Oh wow Carmita! And no doctor ever even questioned the role of Paxil in all of your troubles and here you are in one chat you have an answer. 🙁 So shameful for our medical system! So very sorry for what you are going through. There are medication that block serotonin production; one is cyproheptadine. Since I am not an MD and don;t prescribe anything, I am not familiar with what is most commonly used–I am only familiar with this one medicine for that. Not sure about natural serotonin blockers–just quickly googled that and it brought up a few things I would not recommend you take.

          Norinephrine is for blood pressure control. Your blood pressure spikes are likely the result of the serotonin syndrome as well–that is one of the most typical symptoms of serotonin syndrome.

          It seems to me that your troubles are connected to the long ago taken Paxil. 🙁

          PTSD is a very serious condition that can easily convert into brain damage. It is definitely something to be looked at and taken care of. I am not sure how it may contribute to your current status. It is good that you feel an inner calm but I am suggesting that inner calm can also mask things, such as damage from PTSD. Please take care of your well-being in mind as well as brain and body.

          I hope things can be sorted out for you soon!


          1. Angela, I want to keep things brief yet still get my points across.I have been with my neuro psych doctor for 6 years now. He diagnosed me with serotonin syndrome at that time.3 years ago he also diagnosed me with ptsd. My case was addressed in a national psychiactric conference.I have always known that my special case has been medical, just like you knew that your mother had serotonin syndrome. All professional medical doctors that I have seen, could not put 2 and 2 together. They want to make you comfortable but not get into finding the actual cause of my symptoms. They say that they truly do not know.I agree with you that my ptsd is not associated with the aftermath of the serotonin syndrome.The calm and smiles that I have expressed,to answer you, is the hope that I have always had within me as part of my personality.It has helped me immensely during this harsh trial. I feel so blessed to have talked with you because truth has always been the most important factor in my life. I will continue on my journey and I have the most love for you and your mother. I hope this helps others in memory of your mom.


  2. Thank you for this informative article. I am sorry for the loss of your mother. I recently had Serotonin Syndrome that fortunately my PCP mentioned. I missed it even though I am a psychiatric nurse. Mine started with a combination of Fentanyl, Zofran, and Prozac. I have severe nerve damage in my spine, so when I became hyper reflexive with clonus, they thought it was my spine. Then I lost my balance and fell frequently so they thought it was MS. Diaphoresis was ticked off as menopause, and increased anxiety, confusion and sleep disturbances was thought to be part of a grief reaction after losing both my parents. My hypertension was out of control and I had episodes of auditory hallucinations. Also scatoma from my ocular migraines. You can hear the zebra hooves running to each specialist I saw.
    I stopped all the meds except my Fentanyl and it took me over a year before I could ambulated without a cane at 57 y/o. Recently I was put on a low dose of Prozac and the symptoms started returning. So off the Prozac I go and have been educating all my doctors from my hematologist to my neurologist regarding this insidious syndrome.

    1. Dear Lea,

      Thank you so much for your highly informative and educational comment! I think everyone should read what you wrote. I am glad you are with us and recovery is not out of the question. I am very sorry about the death of your parents and your feelings are totally within expected.

      I had a major back injury in 2011 or 2012 with 3 vertebrae blown out by an exploding cysts. My left side was paralyzed for two months (in wheelchair) and slept set in a chair because I could not get flat no matter how hard I tried. Even the physical therapist sent me away when my doctor signed me up saying “it is too soon”… My surgeon was sharpening her knife but I took over and with the same endurance as I got my doctorate, I educated myself about the spine. Today, at age 65, I lift weights for fun (at 110 lbs now) and do kickboxing for a bit of heart movement… My surgeon doesn’t believe how my back recovered. So don;t give up!! Read up on back issues, do exercises, such as tilt table, 90-90 and similar (I used to put a triangle pillow under my butt to give a slight incline and also support for my neck. Lying down on a 36-inch foam roll lengthwise helped straighten my back as well by relaxing all the muscles around it. I used to do these several times per week and the end-result was a completely healed back.

      Try these if your PT or doctor supports them–my PT was the one who recommended them and wow!

      In terms of any SSRI, SNRI, or any serotonin medicine: you will not be able to ever take them again. I would recommend you place serotonin on your allergy list and leave it there for life–I did!

      I wish you the best of luck and hopefully you can help on your nerve damage to make life more tolerable. <3

      Best wishes,

  3. Is it likely that a case of “mild” serotonin syndrome could persist weeks (or indefinitely) untreated? A young PCP was seeking to avoid increasing my mother’s chronic pain meds. Instead, he increased Cymbalta from 30 mg 1 day, to 2x per day and concurrently added Trazodone 50 mg at night. Within 48 hrs she became manic and agitated which she’s never been before. The Cymbalta and trazodone were stopped (she’s D/c’d Cymbalta cold before without any detectable issues) but nearly 3 weeks later she’s still manic. MD refuses to add any antagonist drugs or sedatives. Tough to get another MD in a semi-acute situation for a nursing home resident.

    1. Dear J,

      I suppose it is more likely that some damage occurred from the serotonin in your mom’s brain such that the reuptake inhibition became permanent and your mom’s brain (perhaps) is “stuck” in much more serotonin-release mode than it should be. I would think that it would be good to test an antagonist. What kind of MD is in the nursing home who refuses to even try? I would recommend that you contact your state’s Board of Medicine and seek advice on how to force the MD to evaluate.

      My gut feeling is that he may not want to test the antagonist because testing would be an admission of his earlier mistake. If he did make a mistake earlier (it seems he did), and the antagonist would work, that would be more than admission. That woudl be proof. I think (again, just a gut feel) that you are up against an ego.

      I wish you best of luck in your search on how to get him to test an antagonist!! <3


      1. Thank you, Angela. Yes, he said he won’t write any sedating medication until he knows the etiology, and was waving primarily psych diagnosis around. Obviously, it’s more than a coincidence she becomes manic 48 hours after Cymbalta doubled, and trazodone was added. The infuriating thing is that this is an outside private Cedars Sinai Md that found because I thought we’d get better outcomes. He’s very young only in practice less than 5 years and I agree it’s pure ego at my mother’s expense. I have to get him to bow out of his own volition otherwise I’ll have a tantrum from mom. I can’t do that for 2 weeks because he’s on vacation. What a mess.

        1. What a terrible situation J. I am not even sure that this MD knows what he is doing since a serotonin blocker is anything but a sedating medicine. What is he thinking of? It was a doctor like this doctor who doomed my mother too–2 of them actually in two different locations. I would go ahead and report the incidence to the Board of Medicine and ask for advice and perhaps you can replace him with a different doctor in the meantime.

          Best of luck!

  4. I no longer trust doctors. As far as I’m concerned, MD stands for Massive Dickhead. I’m not here to talk about my experiences, but I am here to talk about the ease with which doctors prescribe medication. When I asked to be put on zoloft, the doctor blithely prescribed alprazolam without asking me a single question about addiction, was I currently taking any meds for anxiety, etc. Not to mention that I’d have to go through withdrawal…
    This relates to trying to tell the doctors about your mom’s serotonin levels and being ignored. Because if the doctors didn’t think about it, it can’t be true. I could go on. But not here. Thank you for posting this. It made a difference to me to hear from somebody who once again knows what they’re talking about and faces a sea of opposition whilst a loved one fades in front of you.

    1. Thank you Johannes for your comment. Indeed, I support your distrust of doctors. There are good doctors too, honest ones who really try to help you, only even they have their hands tied by the medical institution they work for and what they have learned in their medical school! And what they learn in medical schools today is already outdated by about 30 years so I am not surprised at all.

      We the patients must learn enough medicine to understand what’s going on and what to do about it.

      Best wishes to your recovery,

  5. Thank you for highlighting the dangers of serotonin syndrome. I, too, suffered through acute SS several years ago as a result of a protocol that used Frova as a mini-prophylaxis for menstrual migraine. This was the only serotonin-altering drug I was taking at the time, and I dosed it exactly as recommended by my neurologist. I was desperate for migraine relief.
    A couple of days into the protocol, I began experiencing severe stomach pain, blue nail beds, and severe shivering. At first I thought I had a GI virus. I spent hours covered in blankets, and then the elevated body temperature began along with the myoclonic movements in my legs. Somewhere in the fog, I suspected I may have SS and asked my husband to get my laptop (I’m a nurse practitioner). I confirmed it- it was the Frova. Eventually the slamming headache kicked in, and I had to seek help.
    Every doctor tried to tell me I had the flu and that I couldn’t possibly have SS as a result of only taking Frova. Not one doctor would hear it. There are now cases like mine out there in the literature, but I’m not sure they are given much thought. To write so many scripts and then want to hear nothing of the ramifications of those scripts is simply negligent. Thank you for sharing your story.

    1. Dear Erica,

      Very sorry to hear how you had to fight. Indeed, it is negligence–or worse! On one of my private blogs I have just received a comment from a nurse practitioner (they are equivalent to MDs only no residency) on an article I wrote there on SSRIs and their difference from benzodiazepines. She has a similar experience to you in terms of ignorance and is also explaining the influence of big pharma on why these drugs are prescribed.

      Unfortunately the doctors will not do any better until big pharma power is strong and the patients don;t self-educate, like you do now.

      Hope for your quick recovery!

      Best wishes,

  6. I am on my 6th anxiety medication. I was on Lexapro, buspar, paxil, celaxa and trinquilfity and now back on Lexapro. I did not ween off of the meds, I just went from one to another per my psychiatrist. I was on Paxil for only 3 months and then switched to something else as I did not like it. My head now feels heavy and it cracks all the time, I have a tingling sensation through out my body and my bones hurt, I sweat at night but not real heavy. I never had these feelings from the other medicationd until I used Paxil as my therapist recommended it. I’m trying to figure out what is wrong with me and if these feelings will ever go away. All I really want is my life back. I am wondering if I should go see a Neurologist to see if they can figure out what is wrong with me. My GP told me to deal with the tingling if the medication is working.

    1. Dear Carol,

      Thanks for your comment. What you are experiencing are brain zaps I believe. I have heard of others having the same if they come off these medicines very fast–it is also listed as an adverse reaction when the medicines are not tapered off properly. It is particularly common with Lexapro. If I were you, I would also ask to have me checked for serotonin syndrome because some of your symptoms are borderline hinting at that to me.

      I must add that not one of the medicines in your list is for anxiety. These are all serotonergic pathway medication, and don’t touch the dopanergic pathway, which is what you need in order to control your anxiety. Most doctors, for some odd reason, prescribe antidepressants for anxiety–although I am 100% sure they know the difference (at least I would hope they know the difference). Here is an article I wrote on the difference of these two drug classes. The only true anxiety medicines are the family of benzodiazepines. However, because of the many doctors who prescribed (and still do) these meds wrong, they caused extreme addiction and there is a general fear-cloud encircling them. As a result, it is hard to get a therapist/neurologist to agree to prescribing a long-acting benzodiazepine for your anxiety, such as Valium (diazepam) or Klonopin (clonazepam). I also wrote an article on short-acting versus long-acting benzodiazepines that you find here, which explains why the short-acting ones (such as Ativan (lorazepam) should never ever be prescribed to anyone, though that is usually what ends up being prescribed.

      If your doctor is willing to entertain a change, please have her/him consider prescribing Valium in a very low dose–therapeutic dose is 5 mg and smallest dose is 2 mg. The half-life (the time which it takes to clear 50% of the medicine out of your system) is 26-50 hours!! That is HOURS so more than one day!! So please don’t take it more than once a day maximum!! If I were prescribing this, I would prescribe the lowest dose once every 2 days.

      And don’t just quit Lexapro please!!! It takes quite a bit of slow taper. The tapering schedule prescribed by the pharmaceutical company is way too fast and guarantees that your will go back on Lexapro. So talk to your doctor and ask for a slower titration schedule.

      Best wishes,

  7. I am the un-named person that Angela notes in her much earlier comment had an MI with a resultant stent seven years ago but tested with clear arteries recently. Angela has extraordinary understanding of the neurobiology involved. None of my many medical personnel including at the teaching hospital had any real understanding why a very healthy, physically fit adult with NO family cardiac history and low BP and low cholesterol would have an MI or clogged arteries. Second opinions from everyone and the response was: “keep doing what you are doing”. That might have killed me without the homocysteine understanding……Thanks once again Angela for your bravery.

    1. Thanks Bart for your comment! I truly appreciate your speaking up! And I am very happy that fate brought you into my life and we could figure things out to try to “right a wrong” as much as possible. 🙂


  8. My name is Katherine,

    I managed to survive serotonin syndrome while borderline going into cardiac arrest and seizure because I self-diagnosed and stuttered it to the paramedics and newly resident doctor.

    I am a 28 year old female who had the misfortune to have a severe head trauma while working as a Community Support Worker. The head injury led to my loss of being able to work and I developed from post-Concussion syndrome to Fibromyalgia.

    My GP did all she could to try and treat my pain while I was waiting a year to be accepted into a pain clinic. She ended up prescribing 120mg Cymbalta (SSRI) and 400mg Lyrica (Pre-Gabalin) based on academic evidence to try an combat the opioid pain medication (Hydromorphone by this point) and anti-inflammatories (Naproxen) I needed just to function and move.

    Once in the Pain Clinic, I let them know ALL the medications I was on AND the dosages. The Anesthesiologist ended prescribing 2mg Amitriptyline and 2mg Ambilify on top of what I was already taking. I could tell something was off after a couple of days but I was waved off as it was within normal side effects.

    I ended up being out of province, visiting family, when I really started to get the symptoms after 2 weeks of this new medication added on. It happened really fast from when I first thought what it might be to a full on attack. I have a degree in Psychology and Biology, and I just barely remembered a single class that mentioned the signs, symptoms, and resulting aftermath of Serotonin Toxicity (Syndrome).

    I called my doctor to try and get advice but could only leave a message. A couple hours later I got a message from her telling me to go to the hospital immediately if I had any of the symptoms. Two hours later I was in tachycardia with 150 beats per min, really high blood pressure for me at 160/100, was severely stuttering and slurring my words, I had multiple hallucinations, and had little motor control. I barely managed to get my mom to call an ambulance. I barely told the paramedics what it was. I barely stuttered to a newly resident doctor, ” Serotonin Syndrome, benzodiazepine please?” I knew I would die otherwise if she said no.

    I was very lucky that the young doctor believed and weighed my answer to be right enough to give me clonazepam. Within the hour I could talk more normally and my heart rate/blood pressure were more normal.

    I then was taken off all Serotonin and those last two new drugs. I proceeded to go through terrible withdrawals for 3 weeks. Even now I am trying to get off of Lyrica, as I feel it too is not helping me.

    I’m still waiting to talk to my Anesthesiologist about what happened with what she prescribed. I most likely will give her another chance to help me.

    My message is this: Always look up your symptoms when your gut tells you something is wrong. Never trust your doctors to always make the right decisions when prescribing medication. They may fuck up and it is YOU they fuck over with their mistakes.

    Stay Alive.


    Katherine S

    1. Wow Katherine! I shared a few tears with you. What amazing story and courage you ave! Indeed, we all must self educate before we visit our doctor! It is a sad state of affairs to have to do that and not trust our own doctors, our hospital doctors, and not even the emergency room doctors–also nurses. Unfortunately they are also learning the same bad information that our doctors learn and are not trained to recognize symptoms.

      I never forget what one doctor told to one of my clients, and I think this is representative of our healthcare. It was about a test the doctor refused to order, but which can be ordered by the patient in the US via online services, such as Request-A-Test and others. The test results came back completely normal and so my client didn’t need the medicine the doctor wanted to prescribe. This was his response upon seeing the test–this is paraphrased and not a direct quote:

      “I don’t know what that means and I don’t need to know what that means for prescribing medicines!”

      And the doctor went ahead and prescribed the medicine to my clients, who promptly trashes it (I wish that happened in front of the doctor but it didn’t). I personally have trashed medicine in front of the doctor in ER when I was given a drug I didn’t need. Shamefully, some doctors request a signature from the patent that they have refused the recommended medicine to cover their backs. This shows that we live in a pharmaceutical-state where medicines rule over healthcare, even at the price of the health–or life–of the patient.

      Glad you are alive and with us! <3

      I run a fibromyalgia group. It appears that fibro is hyperactivity of the “touch” sensory nerves, which is initiated in the CNS. While not close to what migraine is by its symptoms, it seems to be similar in cause–in terms of hyperactivation of sensory nerves–only in migraine different sensory nerves. Given that your fibro started after injury, it is likely the result of a damaged brain area responsible for touch sensory neurons activity and they are in hyper drive. Migraine-brain is in hypersensory mode and responds very well to a treatment I have been specializing in for the past almost ten years,and on Facebook almost 5 years. It is a very successful and completely free program; also free from medicines. You may find it benefits you. If you woudl like to try it, please join the small fibro group here or the large migraine group here. We may be able to help you heal your brain.

      Many hugs to you!


  9. Can you please email me? No one will listen to me and this is very important. I am scared and a mother of a young child. I know for a fact I suffered seratonin syndrome and have been put back on seratonin drugs. Everyone around me is convinced my symptoms were just that of anxiety and I swear they are not. Would love to email you my story and get some much needed advice.

    1. Dear BB,

      Thanks for your comment. I am a scientist blogger on this website and don’t take private emails–I have several thousand people I work with in several FB groups. It would be impossible for me to get emails from thousands of people who read my posts and would like to share their stories with me. There is only one me and so that is impossible. However, HormonesMatter is always looking for stories told my those who are suffering. I would recommend you write it up as a story and send it to the site owner under and the site owner will publish that. Or, alternatively, you could just post it as a comment–like the comment you just made–and it will publish that way and I can respond to that. The best way to recover from serotonin syndrome is by stopping the serotonin medicine(s). If you feel it is causing you serotonin syndrome–which is entirely possible–you need to reduce and then quit that medicine. I don’t know why you are taking serotonin medicine, so the reason would also be helpful. Many people who receive serotonin medicines gain no benefit from them. Also, there is no such law or regulation that you must follow your doctor’s orders of a prescription. So you have choices.

      Looking forward to reading your story either as a comment or as a story on this blog.

      Best wishes,

  10. hi, i hope you can help, im 46 years old and iv recently been discharged from hospital after a heart attack, i was given an angiogram which was clear, i then had a echocardiogram which showed lv systolic impairment, post/lateral hypokinesis, they have said they arnt sure why i have these results so i need to have an mri scan. during my initial examination i was asked about my medication, i told them that for approximately 6 years iv been taking tramadol, fluoxetine and lansoprazole. i was then immediately taken off the tramadol and told it can cause serotonin syndrome which id never heard of, i then began to read online articles regarding serotonin syndrome and side affects to which iv had a number of over the years (Irregular heartbeat,Heavy cold sweating, Diarrhea, dizzy spells and blurred vison. i have visited my local doctor several times over the years regarding these symptoms and given ECG tests but nothing showed up so no diagnosis was ever made so i have just lived with it since. i am now curious to know if prolonged serotonin syndrome could be a cause of my heart disease, any information would be very helpfull,
    many thanks
    david hirst

    1. Hi David,

      Thanks for your note. Very sorry to hear about your heart attack but glad that you are doing fine now. I looked up the medicines you are/were taking and none is connected to any heart problems alone, however, the combination of Tramadol and Fluoxetine can cause serotonin syndrome–well each alone can cause serotonin syndrome actually. Fluoxetine is an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) and Tramadol is an opioid that acts like an SNRI (serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor), so you definitely were serotonin overdosed. I would suspect that the heart attack was unrelated though the effect of serotonin cannot be ruled out. Serotonin does affect the heart by causing vasoconstriction (constricting the blood vessels thereby increasing blood pressure) and in some people vasodilation (dilating the blood vessels and reducing blood pressure). This combination can compromise a heart that is otherwise weak, unhealthy, or has some congenital issues.

      The systolic impairment that your echocardiogram showed may indeed be the outcome of such mixed messages, particularly since your heart is otherwise normal.

      I have a patient I am working with who had a heart attack and now sports a stent. Yet, when I asked this person to get a CAC scan, a Coronary Artery Calcium scan, which shows calcium deposits in the arteries in the heart, I found something interesting. People with heart attack usually have very high scores on the CAC scan but this person had almost nothing! This is important, because one can get a heart attack from having too much homocysteine buildup in the blood. Homocysteine is an amino acid, which needs to be removed, else it sort of “gums up” the blood, and can cause major atherosclerosis-like residues on the artery wall, but which have nothing to do with atherosclerosis. The cause of this homocysteine buildup is the person’s inability to methylate folic acid into folate… yep, vitamin B9. It is that simple in many cases, only doctors never ever look past their noses. Just about every processed food you eat is fortified with folic acid, and a large percent of the population cannot methylate that and get sick as a result.

      I recommend you do two things to get to the bottom of this and find out if your heart attack was really caused by your heart–meaning high atherosclerosis level, so need to see the CAC score, or high homocysteine levels in the blood, which then leads us to homocysteine causing your heart attack. If neither is the case, we can entertain the serotonin medications and the possibility that they somehow caused a heart attack. It is not possible to directly check serotonin because your brain serotonin can only be measured by a spinal tap (and good luck getting that), and in the blood they can only measure the serotonin that is circulating to help you eliminate your food by bowel movement by creating the wave-like motion of your intestines. So direct measurement is impossible but we can look at indirect measures of the cause of your heart attack by other means.

      The homocysteine test is simple, ask your doctor for a blood test for it. The healthy range is 2-14 though there is a narrower range that I consider healthy and which doesn;t need special B vitamins, which is 2-8. If you are over 14, your heart attack was likely caused by your inability to metylate B9, in which case this will repeat in the future unless you start B9 methylation precursors supplementation: B2, B6, and B12–all of these need to be in active sublingual form. B12 needs to be sublingual methylcobalamin. I also would take a small dose of B9 in methylfolate form, which is pre-methylated. These will remove homocysteine from your blood.

      In terms of getting the CAC score scan: it is not covered by insurance (though not expensive) and most doctors have no idea what it is, yet a prescription is required to get it. Only university medical centers or research hospitals provide CAC scan, which is simply a CT scan but with heart electrodes on you. It is a 5-minute procedure. The radiologist then provides a number (please pay extra to get your own report–they will send you a DVD of the actual scan plus the score), which is the score, Anything under 100 is healthy and shows no atherosclerosis of concern. So if your score is less than 100, your heart attack was likely initiated by something other than your personal health–meaning maybe the medicines or serotonin syndrome. If your score is greater than 100, your metabolic health is questionable and potentially your heart attack would have happened with or without the medicines. If your score is over 100, you need to look into improving your nutrition.

      Please follow up and let us know how your tests are coming along! I wish you well and good health after your recovery.


  11. I suffered from serotonin syndrome multiple times but just recently put it together. I got it from l-tryptophan, Lexapro, herbal supplements and 5-htp. Terrifying symptoms. Well, I found out that I am probably susceptible to serotonin and I have taken a large daily dose of dessicated thyroid since I was 19. The t3 in the thyroid raises serotonin levels. Any addition serotonin is unsafe for someone like me taking dessicated thyroid. I never knew that. We need to get the word out!

    1. Dear Wendy,

      Thanks for your comment! Indeed, there are gene markers for that susceptibility–I am also sensitive and would react “manic” actually according to my genetics. Unfortunately no doctor ever checks–it is not part of “routine care” to check any genetics. In fact, even when specifically asked for, it is still usually refused. So we are all guinea pigs for medicines without knowing how we react to them in advance–often finding out too late the cause of our response to a drug.

      Thank you for the information about desiccated thyroid replacement medicine and serotonin. It will help everyone.

      An additional quick note: hypothyroidism is often the result of not consuming enough iodine. Have you tried to increase your dietary iodine? Hypothyroidism can also be autoimmune problem caused by consuming foods you are sensitive to. The most usual suspects are grain (not gluten but all grains), eggs, dairy, and nuts. To test, quit all these and then slowly add them back one by one. The biggest difficulty is that improvements from quitting grains may not show up for 3+ months because they block off your entire metabolic system and the cells need to be replaced across the board. That takes time.

      I did the above autoimmune food elimination and in my case I had such incredible response to removing grains that not only did my thyroid go back to normal (I also consume extra iodine) but a host of other autoimmune conditions disappeared, including my asthma, which is driven by grains! I had no clue about that. My arthritis and all allergies also went away. So try it.

      Best of luck,

  12. Dr Stanton. Amazing story. And I’m sorry to hear about your mom. I also wrote my SS story in this amazing blog. We are thinking of starting a SSRI awareness foundation. We are trying to locate doctors and experts to be part of it. If you might be interested please let me know. I’m on Facebook or my Neurotoxicity Support Group. It’s filled with the SSRI injured.

    1. Dear Christian,

      Thanks for starting an SSRI awareness foundation. I would be honored to be a part of it. I will join your FB group as well. Thanks for the information and the invitation.

      Best wishes,

  13. Dear Matthew,

    I don’t think I have ever read a sadder and more serious story ever anywhere! You are a true warrior and a survivor whose life should be made into a film. I read it now 3 times and still cannot envision the pain and struggle you went through.

    I agree with everything you say even in terms of others who may often commit crimes as a result of serotonin syndrome. Unfortunately the world is blind to this for a reason: there are no conclusive tests for serotonin because it is found in 2 places in the body as you know: brain and intestines. 90% of the serotonin in our body is in the intestines and so measuring serotonin levels in the blood will inevitably give results for what is in the intestines since the brain is a “closed room” with no access. Spinal tap (lumbar puncture) is an option that is never used–I suppose because it too comes with risks, it is expensive, and because one of the criteria is fever and most in serotonin toxicity don’t get fever. There are tests that can be performed that can approximate trouble, see here for all available tests as of today. If you page back to the very beginning of the article, you can read the kind of damage serotonin syndrome can cause in addition to death.

    Unfortunately the medical system we have is not tolerant toward doctors who ask questions or listen to the family. We have a “silent” system of just prescribing medicines and nothing else. This is also referred to as the McDonaldization of Medicine, a term used even in scientific literature, so it is well-known by all involved but they don’t change the system because of the financial incentives and the ensuing conflict of interest.

    I can tell from the “voice” you are writing with that you are no longer at risk–you write amazingly well. I wish we could change the system but we cannot. The only impact we can make is to change the people whom we can reach. Your comment here reaches many readers but I think it would reach even more if you wrote this story for HormonesMatter as a publishable article about your experience and also your suggestions with respect to criminal activity and its connection to serotonin syndrome–or mania, in general, caused by any other medicine that acts on the brain–and there are many of those.

    I would be looking forward to reading your article starting a debate–many medical professionals read this blog. It would be helpful!

    As for recovery, I find that damage caused by drugs, nutrition, and even genetics to some degree, can be helped by a diet that contains minimal carbohydrates and high fat. That is because glucose (and the associated insulin) causes damage to the brain. The brain is mostly fat and cholesterol so feeding it the right way helps a ton. There are several nutritional plans like this. I favor the ketogenic approach since I feel very comfortable with it. If that is feasible for you, look into it and see if it is something you could try. 🙂

    All the best wishes for you and do consider to write this up–please send a note to the owner of this site–found under “contact us.”


    1. Putting my thoughts in order to make a publishable article would be quite hard for me. In the SSRI toxicity workup linked, many tests are mentioned, but not what results would constitute SSRI toxicity. My earliest results of those tests are from a few months after discontinuing SSRI’s, and not out of range, though I could check with the hospital I was taken to after suicide attempt to see if they maintained those records. An awful reflection of the state of mental health: as I was released from the first hospital and sent to a mental hospital for the remainder of a 72 hour hold, the doctor at the mental hospital screamed at me that I ruined my liver and was a druggy because of the high level of opiates in my system… all of which the first hospital administered. My liver may have been inflamed temporarily, but it was fine quite soon after. Absolutely nothing was done to counteract the actual brain or systemic bodily injury of the gassing, and certainly nothing was done to test for prescription drugs as a cause. They simply switched me to another brand of each, and when let out another doctor gave me a different brand of both. Hard to believe, but it seems I lost 20-30lbs of muscle in just a couple weeks and could hardly walk; even though I was a powerful partner in Pas-de-deux, among many other powerful activities. (Men in ballet such as myself mostly throw and catch advanced level ballerinas) I didn’t like to go out in pubic because people would look at me and be horrified by my skeletal appearance, then gay men were constantly hitting on me after I gained a few pounds with the assumption that my apparent anorexia was intentional. No care was given for my physical problems from that incident, nor the physical problems that led up to their assumption that my problem was depression.
      Good point about the diet, though my case goes much further than that. I cannot tolerate any carbohydrates, few proteins, and only the highest quality fats. I’ve been on a liquid diet for 18 months as I can digest nothing else. Would SSRI toxicity still be causing such issues after so many years?
      You mentioned the pain and suffering I “went” through. It never ended, and apparently won’t.

      1. Mathew, we can help pull the story together. You wouldn’t need every detail, just broad strokes to give others a sense of what happens. We can take what you have written as comments, format and prepare something for you to review and edit, if you are willing.

      2. Dear Matthew,

        I think you put your thoughts “on paper” extremely well on the two comments you made. I suppose it just woudl be best to show it as a paper you wrote rather than a comment since (I guess, I don’t know) if as a comment it gets enough attention. Sounds like you went through the same path my mother did–she started with a 3-day hold and then a 7 or 10-day hold by now I don; recall. They used experimental drugs on here there since they removed my power of attorney rights while there. I got her back in near coma and had her taken off all meds for over 2 weeks to allow her to recover to whatever level she could. She passed a week after that. Unfortunately our medical system is totally ruined by doctors who get paid for writing prescriptions. At least we can now see each doctor if they accept any payments from big pharma for anything here. (Use only last name and state since they often enter in their first name differently or a different address so just last name and state.)

        Unfortunately they can only test with lumbar puncture but most places will not do it–no idea why. I believe it is a blatant refusal to accept that the most frequently prescribed medicines cause serious danger to people–also, few report in the adverse reporting system and without that the FDA has no records to remove a product from the market or to change the directions of the medicines. In fact, the situation is so bad that I received a threat for my article you commented on. Here is the threat I received:

        “You are a toxic, ignorant, keyboard warrior. You are facilitating a culture of doctor-hating. You are damaging society. It is my most empassioned mission to have you discredited. Please delete your website.
        You’ll be hearing lots from me
        John” (Typos left as in the original note!)”

        In terms of long-term effects of SSRIs–yes, it is possible becuase of the way they function. An article I wrote on another blog (my blog) some time ago on how SSRIs work explains how SSRIs work. The reason why their effects can be so damaging is because the inhibitor for the reuptake is a plug (think of it as a cork in a wine bottle) that doesn’t belong there-wrong shape, size and polarity–and the damage it can cause to the delicate proteins that make up the reuptake (sensor) to the neuron can be permanent. Just like wine bottle corks can get stuck, break, end up in the bottle, so can these inhibitor plugs end up in the wrong place. They also press heavy on the channels they block and that alone can change the shape of the protein, making it non-functional. So yes, permanent damage is possible.

        However, neurons regenerate and with the proper food you can force regeneration really well. Very sorry that you can eat only liquid foods now but it seems you are eating the best foods you can. Make sure the highest quality fast include heavy duty animal fast since vegetable oils are not very healthy. It sounds like you are on the ketogenic diet if you eat little carbs like fruits and vegetables and no grains at all. Protein is important so if you cannot eat meat, have at least lots of eggs that you can liquefy and also perhaps whey.

        I would be glad to help you co-write an article with you!! Let me know if you are interested. 🙂


        1. I’m completely shutting down due to a three-fold attack by my property management company, and cannot divert my mental/emotional resources to writing a document at this time. I may have to move, with nowhere left to go. [as I composed this, the local temporary manager just wrote to tell me that the tripling of my rent was completely wrong and will handle it for me tomorrow – it seems orchestrated, but I’m glad I have local management on my side]
          Can you see my email address, and can you write to me directly so I don’t have to keep this page open and refresh it?

          I have no diet name that I know of, but turns out I only eat a small subset of the Low FODMAP diet. I cannot tolerate egg yolks, and to eat beef (when I tolerate it) I have to cook it to mush and only eat the pure protein after pouring off fat, and same goes for chicken. I guess I’m starving my brain. I could eat butter, though have not been. Fish oil doesn’t do well for me lately. Even olive oil tolerance has gone down, and that was my major fat. I’m not tolerating anything that feeds my brain! (and this is new, I was eating a more varied diet until a collapse in November 2015.) I’m mostly eating pure protein. I’m going to Costco right now to buy several gallons of milk and pounds of potatoes for this week (already having egg whites and protein drinks in large quantities) and whatever else I think I can consume. Wish I knew what fats you mean. I’ll try to see what they have.

    2. I battled a host of symptoms for years and was then told by a mature-aged doctor last year that I had serotonin syndrome. The MyDNA tests showed amitriptyline in the red traffic light section of the report and reported that I would get myopathy from Amitriptyline but I was on other serotonergic medications, e.g. curcumin. My problem is to prove it to the insurance company in Australia as they will not take the MyDNA report as clinical proof. What specialist do I have to see? How do I know that I do not have mitochondrial damage? I was sent to a geriatrician because of my cognitive decline (confusion, memory loss, etc) and the GP wanted to rule out dementia. Can anyone answer my question

      1. Hi Lyn,

        Thanks for your note. A few things are important to discuss. Curcumin is held in great tradition in Indian medicine but it seems that most research is coming from there and several had to be retracted for falsifying data. It is really hard to get a good understanding on what curcumin does–we know that food is medicine and I am sure that curcumin also has some properties that help certain health conditions–it seems to be used for depression in many articles, mostly experimented on mice. I cannot make heads or tails out of curcumin and its serotonin connection by reliable research.

        In terms of Amitriptyline, yes, there is a definite possibility of trouble. It is an SNRI with serotonin reuptake inhibition being the strongest. The trick with genetics is to understand why a particular condition may exists in connection with genetic predisposition. In your case, the thing to look at are two genes: CYP2D6 and CYP2C19 (not sure your genetics company looked at that). These genes are responsible for how you metabolize drugs–meaning the speed with which they break down. There are several categories, of which 2 can get one into trouble: the extremely slow metabolizers–the drug takes very long to exit the body and it can then cause more effects, including inhibiting the neurons’ reuptake longer, forcing serotonin release longer. If this is very long, and you are due to take another pill before the first one cleared from your body, in time this can pile up to serotonin toxicity, e.g serotonin syndrome.

        The other case is if you are an ultra fast metabolizer. In this case your body gets an overdose immediately and then quickly all effects stop. For example, ultra metabolizers of medicines don’t get any benefit from most pain killers because they metabolize them very fast but they get overdosed first. Many migraineurs are ultra fast metabolizers–I am one of them–and so time release medicines don’t work as time release as they get to be metabolized very fast. Of course, you can see from this that an overdose is eminent immediately after the drug is taken but it clears from the body very fast.

        So if you were to use any genetic evidence, it would have to be these two genes.

        I am not sure if there is a way to connect Amitriptyline to mitochondrial damage–basically no drug can be connected to mitochondrial damage since there is no mitochondrial “memory” to look at what caused what. There are hundreds of thousands of mitochondria in every cell and in neurons they number in the millions. If they were all damaged, we would not have this conversation, since without some properly functioning mitochondria, you would not be alive. So that also makes it more difficult to find which mitochondria is damaged, where they are, and from what they are damaged. See the difficulty?

        However, you seem quite well now in terms of your brain functioning so likely your serotonin syndrome passed–meaning serotonin syndrome doesn’t last for a very long time. It is fast–within days–and if the serotonin medicine continues, the person is dead. So the fact that you are here and writing, means that you no longer have serotonin syndrome. So there is not much you can do about past events that were not caught in time.

        In terms of your cognitive decline: all reuptake inhibitors cause a cognitive decline independent of serotonin. As you read the article I need not repeat how reuptake inhibitors work, but some reuptake inhibitors change the shape of the reuptake and even after you quit the drug, the reuptake is not able to work. So these drugs are neuro-degenerative. They all are; every single one of them. The best thing you can do is to slowly reduce that drug and after you are not takign any medicine, increase your serotonin the right way. By far the biggest serotonin booster is the sun, so spend some time on the sun every single day. Heavy resistance training exercise or intense running/hiking also boost serotonin. Turkey, the food after which everyone tends to fall asleep, is serotonin rich. Since you had/have depression, one of the most important things you can do is to remove those foods from your diet that enhance depression: refined carbohydrates–all processed foods, juices, smoothies, shakes, anything with any flour, anything sweetened in any way–even with substitutes, naturals, or honey–all canned prepared foods, etc., should be stopped by you. Focus on eating whole fresh foods that you make from scratch. It needs not be fancy or expensive but it needs to be fresh and prepared by you. Like, in the US, in all grocery stores, those who eat healthy whole fresh foods never visit the middle isles of the store but shop “on the periphery”.

        Research shows that for many people, the LCHF (low carbs high fat) diet is the best–particularly if you have a very sensitive brain, like you do with depression. To boost the health, recovery, or replacement of damaged mitochondria by healthy ones, intermittent fasting appears to initiate the best job–minimum 16 hours of only water and salt, and with some regularity; I practice this almost every day. It helps your cognition to recover, it rebuilds the brain and all mitochondria that are damaged get replaced. So there are options for you but you need to stop that medicine first. It interacts with the ketogenic metabolic process (it blocks H1 and H2 receptors that cause major problems for the drug to find its way in the fat burning metabolic process and it ends up as an agonist instead) and 16+ hours of intermittent fasting will bring you into the ketogenic metabolic process. So please reduce this drug and stop it before you start anything I mentioned.

        Good luck to you!

  14. Hey guys.

    I am 5 months postpardum and shortly after I gave birth I started low dose Zoloft which has been raised each month to a HIGH dose to no avail. It helped a lot actually but now things are starting to feel worse since starting other meds. I end up having three discs to rupture from a fall/DDD/OA and was in severe pain. I was given Gabapentin, Cymbalta and Flexeril on Top.. Then they just added Meloxicam and a,10,day course of steroids. I also took pain meds but only for 2,weeks. My pain is worse, I have migraines, sweating, anxiety and hot flashes, chills and mild disorientation which is probably contributed to all the crap they have me on. I also have bowel incontinence and bowel changes on and off.

    I suppose if it was severe I would be so confused and in the hospital. But I may have some serotonin syndrome. I am also nauseated. I think the Cymbalta I started a few days ago is the contributing factor. I’m worried. Why would doctors do this?!?

    1. Hi Brandy,

      Zoloft (sertraline–see the comment I just posted on that for Mina) is an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) that alone can cause serotonin syndrome but Cymbalta and Zoloft are both doing exactly the same thing!! You have been overdosed and are indeed having a serotonin syndrome. I just ran a drug interaction check at’s website for you because I suspected that you have many interactions. I found that you have MAJOR and MODERATE interaction between several of your medicines and you also have what is called “therapeutic duplication” which means you are taking more than one medicine for the exact same purpose and thus you are overdosed.

      Here are your interactions:

      sertraline cyclobenzaprine
      Applies to: Zoloft (sertraline), Flexeril (cyclobenzaprine)

      Using sertraline together with cyclobenzaprine can increase the risk of a rare but serious condition called the serotonin syndrome, which may include symptoms such as confusion, hallucination, seizure, extreme changes in blood pressure, increased heart rate, fever, excessive sweating, shivering or shaking, blurred vision, muscle spasm or stiffness, tremor, incoordination, stomach cramp, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Severe cases may result in coma and even death. You should seek immediate medical attention if you experience these symptoms while taking the medications. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns. Your doctor may already be aware of the risks, but has determined that this is the best course of treatment for you and has taken appropriate precautions and is monitoring you closely for any potential complications. It is important to tell your doctor about all other medications you use, including vitamins and herbs. Do not stop using any medications without first talking to your doctor.

      sertraline duloxetine
      Applies to: Zoloft (sertraline), Cymbalta (duloxetine)

      Using sertraline together with Duloxetine can increase the risk of a rare but serious condition called the serotonin syndrome, which may include symptoms such as confusion, hallucination, seizure, extreme changes in blood pressure, increased heart rate, fever, excessive sweating, shivering or shaking, blurred vision, muscle spasm or stiffness, tremor, incoordination, stomach cramp, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Severe cases may result in coma and even death. You should seek immediate medical attention if you experience these symptoms while taking the medications. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns. Your doctor may already be aware of the risks, but has determined that this is the best course of treatment for you and has taken appropriate precautions and is monitoring you closely for any potential complications. It is important to tell your doctor about all other medications you use, including vitamins and herbs. Do not stop using any medications without first talking to your doctor.

      cyclobenzaprine duloxetine
      Applies to: Flexeril (cyclobenzaprine), Cymbalta (duloxetine)

      Using cyclobenzaprine together with Duloxetine can increase the risk of a rare but serious condition called the serotonin syndrome, which may include symptoms such as confusion, hallucination, seizure, extreme changes in blood pressure, increased heart rate, fever, excessive sweating, shivering or shaking, blurred vision, muscle spasm or stiffness, tremor, incoordination, stomach cramp, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Severe cases may result in coma and even death. You should seek immediate medical attention if you experience these symptoms while taking the medications. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns. Your doctor may already be aware of the risks, but has determined that this is the best course of treatment for you and has taken appropriate precautions and is monitoring you closely for any potential complications. It is important to tell your doctor about all other medications you use, including vitamins and herbs. Do not stop using any medications without first talking to your doctor.

      sertraline gabapentin
      Applies to: Zoloft (sertraline), gabapentin

      Using sertraline together with gabapentin may increase side effects such as dizziness, drowsiness, confusion, and difficulty concentrating. Some people, especially the elderly, may also experience impairment in thinking, judgment, and motor coordination. You should avoid or limit the use of alcohol while being treated with these medications. Also avoid activities requiring mental alertness such as driving or operating hazardous machinery until you know how the medications affect you. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns. It is important to tell your doctor about all other medications you use, including vitamins and herbs. Do not stop using any medications without first talking to your doctor.

      sertraline meloxicam
      Applies to: Zoloft (sertraline), meloxicam

      Using sertraline together with meloxicam may increase the risk of bleeding. The interaction may be more likely if you are elderly or have kidney or liver disease. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns. Your doctor may already be aware of the risks, but has determined that this is the best course of treatment for you and has taken appropriate precautions and is monitoring you closely for any potential complications. You should seek immediate medical attention if you experience any unusual bleeding or bruising, or have other signs and symptoms of bleeding such as dizziness; lightheadedness; red or black, tarry stools; coughing up or vomiting fresh or dried blood that looks like coffee grounds; severe headache; and weakness. It is important to tell your doctor about all other medications you use, including vitamins and herbs. Do not stop using any medications without first talking to your doctor.

      cyclobenzaprine gabapentin
      Applies to: Flexeril (cyclobenzaprine), gabapentin

      Using cyclobenzaprine together with gabapentin may increase side effects such as dizziness, drowsiness, confusion, and difficulty concentrating. Some people, especially the elderly, may also experience impairment in thinking, judgment, and motor coordination. You should avoid or limit the use of alcohol while being treated with these medications. Also avoid activities requiring mental alertness such as driving or operating hazardous machinery until you know how the medications affect you. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns. It is important to tell your doctor about all other medications you use, including vitamins and herbs. Do not stop using any medications without first talking to your doctor.

      gabapentin duloxetine
      Applies to: gabapentin, Cymbalta (duloxetine)

      Using gabapentin together with Duloxetine may increase side effects such as dizziness, drowsiness, confusion, and difficulty concentrating. Some people, especially the elderly, may also experience impairment in thinking, judgment, and motor coordination. You should avoid or limit the use of alcohol while being treated with these medications. Also avoid activities requiring mental alertness such as driving or operating hazardous machinery until you know how the medications affect you. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns. It is important to tell your doctor about all other medications you use, including vitamins and herbs. Do not stop using any medications without first talking to your doctor.

      meloxicam duloxetine
      Applies to: meloxicam, Cymbalta (duloxetine)

      Using Duloxetine together with meloxicam may increase the risk of bleeding. The interaction may be more likely if you are elderly or have kidney or liver disease. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns. Your doctor may already be aware of the risks, but has determined that this is the best course of treatment for you and has taken appropriate precautions and is monitoring you closely for any potential complications. You should seek immediate medical attention if you experience any unusual bleeding or bruising, or have other signs and symptoms of bleeding such as dizziness; lightheadedness; red or black, tarry stools; coughing up or vomiting fresh or dried blood that looks like coffee grounds; severe headache; and weakness. It is important to tell your doctor about all other medications you use, including vitamins and herbs. Do not stop using any medications without first talking to your doctor.


      Therapeutic duplication is the use of more than one medicine from the same drug category or therapeutic class to treat the same condition. This can be intentional in cases where drugs with similar actions are used together for demonstrated therapeutic benefit. It can also be unintentional in cases where a patient has been treated by more than one doctor, or had prescriptions filled at more than one pharmacy, and can have potentially adverse consequences.

      The recommended maximum number of medicines in the ‘antidepressants’ category to be taken concurrently is usually one. Your list includes two medicines belonging to the ‘antidepressants’ category:

      duloxetine (active ingredient in Cymbalta (duloxetine))
      sertraline (active ingredient in Zoloft (sertraline))

      In terms of your symptoms that you are listing you are definitely starting serotonin syndrome. Please visit your nearest ER (don’t make a doctor’s appointment but head to ER), take your list of medicines, take this note I wrote here–specifically because I want them to see the interactions and the therapeutic duplications) and you tell them what you have!! Don’t let them stop you from what you have to say. If you feel you need a more powerful voice, take a friend who has no fear of what we call “white coat effect” to be sure you are not discounted.

      Unfortunately many doctors have no idea what they are doing (I call them clueless doctors) because they were never told about the interactions and also never were taught to recognize a serotonin syndrome.

      Please head to the ER a.s.a.p.

      Best wishes,

      1. Please help me. I am bedridden with multiple symptoms. Went to my local ED after husband called poison control (who said I had SS and to head to the ED) Despite having a complete history of meds and symptoms gradually onsetting in the past year, including psychotic and mania, i was denied SS by simple blood and urine tests which I know doesn’t diagnose SS. I was given 1mg ativan shot and sent home which stopped the tremors for now and a histamine for sedation. I work in the medical field and cannot get my PCP or Hospital to write me even an excuse to take 1 week off of work. I’m still being directed to take all the meds I’ve been on and increase the Benzos. I know you are a busy lady, but I would love to send you my history and know what you think about it. We;ve looked up everything possible on the web and everything points to SS but no one will listen. I’m probably going to lose my job because i can’t function. If you can, please email me. -Amanda

        1. Dear Amanda,

          I am very sorry for what you are going through. Since I am a PhD and not an MD, I cannot guide you in any way in place of an MD. However, since I just had anotehr person contact me with a similar problem who was on over 20 medications, 5 of which were therapeutic duplication, I asked her to go back to her family doctor to have that cleared up. Her doctor refused saying she was not the one who prescribed all those and didn’t help her. Then I asked the patient to head to the doctor(s) who prescribed those to her–she was no longer in touch with them. I next recommended she visit the ER to have the doctors there help her. They refused.

          After that she managed to get a hold of one of her doctors–I think her neurologist–who said that while she can help her clean up her medicines, a patient doesn’t need any permission from any doctor to stop or reduce a medicine!

          Therefore, if you believe you have serotonin syndrome, please ask your pharmacist which medicine (assuming you take more than one) is causing the problem. Then you can slowly reduce little by little or if your symptoms are very bad, take a bigger cut but don’t quit any medicines cold turkey because that can really hurt you!

          I wish you the best of luck and please keep me updated!


          1. Dr. Angela,
            I am in same situation as Amanda, except for the fact that I have been stuck inside my home now for almost 3 years! After going to EVERY TYPE of specialist (and all of them receiving a full list of my VERY DANGEROUS “Therapeutic Duplications” – 14 Interactions), I have all but given up hope. I have begged my doctor to help…and she is one of the MANY CLUELESS DOCTORS.
            You could get a Grant, and start a Clinic just for the Tens of Thousands of us that, right now, are Silently Dying because of Medications our doctors have failed to research. But, hey! At least THEY got some good gifts from the Drug Reps, right?
            I know that I am in the Severe to Critical stage of my Serotonin Syndrome. I have taken 300mg. of TOPAMAX since 2002, along with 400mg of Celebrex. Within a year of those drugs, I was MOVED BETWEEN 3-4 Anti-depressants​ AND varying dosages of each, before settling on CELEXA which I’ve now been on for 14 years. AT THE SAME TIME, my “Psy-quack-atrist” and my doctor were trying to work through 3 DIFFERENT ADHD Medications / Doses to find the right fit. From 2003-2012, I think, I was on varying doses of ADDERALL (2008-2012, with the last two years at 30mg).
            **BETWEEN 2008-2011, I began showing MAJOR behavioral changes, and LOST EVERYTHING – including my ability to Reason, Remember, Focus, and Control my Emotions… I lost 4 Jobs; 1 home; a 10 year relationship; the REALLY CLOSE RELATIONSHIP I had with my now grown children; the use of my left hand, possibly (some of the accident) due to my inability to focus on the job I was doing; the respect of my peers, in the Counseling Profession…so much more….After this period, I ended up spending a little bit of time in one of our “special hospitals”, because of Suicidal and Homicidal Threats!
            In the last year, my ADHD MEDICATION was changed to VYVANSE, and was worked up to Max dose of 70mg.
            After all that, ONLY MORE DRUGS WERE ADDED. Lamictal, Gabapentin, Ativan…
            EVERY SYMPTOM LISTED UNDER THE SEVERE CATEGORY ON THE MAYO CLINIC SITE DESCRIBES ME – but I cannot find an Inpatient Center that will HEAR ME SAY “It’s SS. I need to be MEDICALLY DETOXED FOR SS, and Monitored Carefully. I need to have My Serotonin Levels Monitored – whatever that entails (checking other body systems)? I need Mental Health intervention, to assess what Medications I ACTUALLY NEED, and what diagnoses may have been artificially created by Therapeutic Duplication. And, I need to be set up with Regular Visits with a local “SMART, ON-POINT PSYCHIATRIST / Physician” who will stay on the treatment plan that I truly need to follow.

            1. Oh my, dear Tracey. I am so sorry to hear what you are doing through. Unfortunately I must agree: there are many clueless doctors out there though I am shocked to hear that you cannot find a single good doctor who can help you. I was contacted by another person in a similar situation like yours and an MD responded to her plea suggesting that a patient never needs an approval for not taking a medicine. Since I am not an MD, I cannot advise you in any which way. But I can tell you what I would do (and what I did).

              I use this drug interaction site to check for interactions “drug interaction checker” and used to print out all MAJOR interactions. I then would scroll to the bottom to find THERAPEUTIC DUPLICATION and print all that out as well. I would head to a pharmacy and ask for consultation with a pharmacist to see what he/she says. Not all pharmacies are willing to discuss interactions and therapeutic duplication but worthy a try.

              If that doesn’t work, and no one is helping me, I would help myself. That is basically what I did with migraines… No one could help so I just took matters into my own hand. I studied up on each medication–they are pretty well described on wikipedia (usually under generic name) and find those with the worst reputation and most side effects. I would start tapering very slowly one medication at the time, starting with the therapeutic duplication types. That is because since they are duplicates, they do the same thing, and it is least likely that removing a duplicate will cause any trouble–it will likely improve things.

              However, some of these medicines take a very long time to reduce and quit. When I was in the process of reduction I removed a tiny bit from one day but kept the rest until my body got used to the change then would remove a little bit from another day 3 days away as well and stay that way for some time and so forth until every day of the week was at the reduced dose and then repeat chopping off a little more. This also allowed me to see if I had any bad reactions for the reduction so I could stop the reduction if I had to–I never had to.

              This worked very well for me. It does take a very long time to come off on SSRIs–some can take over a year to taper off from it but at the end there is nothing more important than safety. Having SS looming in the background is not safe, so you should look into what I did. Some SSRIs and voltage gated calcium channel blockers may leave permanent damage or just a longer lasting damage that heals over a long time.

              Do the best you can. Your writing is very clear and coherent, you sound really good and quite capable to do as you wish. I am sure you can achieve miracles. <3

              Best wishes,

    2. Hi Angela,
      I had my first experience dealing with ssris a little less than three months ago. I was prescribed 25mg a day. I was not consistent with it like I should have been and took them on a off for about two weeks. During the time I was on them I felt like I had the flew and would get sharp pain at my temples that would come and go. I wasn’t on anything else and have never had issues with headaches before so I immediately contributed my symptoms to the Zoloft (sertraline). I stopped te medication completely and the headaches got worse. Now I get them almost daily. I’ve been back to my doctor and no one can tell me what’s happened. They brush off any mention of it being the ssri. I am getting scared now to a point where I don’t even think it is the medication anymore. I’ve had a normal Ct, and requesting an MRI (but deep down I still feel like the Zoloft messed me up).

      1. Hi Leah,

        How scary! May I ask what kind of a headache do you have? Where exactly is the pain located? Does it respond to any OTC? I am not trying to diagnose only trying to exclude some possibilities that would not show up in the scanners. Headache is one of the top most common side effects of Zoloft–while takign it. There is no mention of it (or of anything else) after you stop taking it.

        I copy-pasted here all the adverse reactions from wikipedia:

        Very common (>10%)

        Dry mouth
        Ejaculation disorder
        Common (1-10%)[edit]
        Dyspepsia (indigestion)
        Decreased libido
        Impaired concentration
        Paroniria (i.e., depraved or morbid dreaming/nightmares)
        Increased sweating
        Hot flushes
        Weight decrease
        Weight increase
        Bruxism (teeth grinding)
        Menstrual irregularities
        Sexual dysfunction
        Vision abnormal
        Chest pain
        Tinnitus (hearing ringing in the ears)

        Uncommon (0.1-1%)

        Hypertension (high blood pressure)
        Oesophagitis (swollen oesophagus)
        Periorbital Oedema
        Cold Sweat
        Dry skin
        Urinary Retention
        Polyuria (excessive urination)
        Vaginal Haemorrhage
        Pyrexia (fever)
        Micturition disorder
        Salivary Hypersecretion
        Tongue Disorder
        Muscular Weakness
        Back Pain
        Muscle Twitching
        Eructation (belching)
        Dyspnoea (air hunger)
        Epistaxis (nose bleed)
        Oedema peripheral
        Periorbital edema
        Postural dizziness
        Tachycardia (high heart rate)
        Urticaria (hives)
        Abnormal bleeding (esp. in the GI tract)
        Muscle cramps
        Depressive symptoms
        Alopecia (hair loss)
        Urinary Retention (being unable to pass urine)
        Amnesia memory loss.
        Urinary incontinence
        Eye pain
        Asymptomatic elevations in serum transaminases
        Abnormal semen
        Melaena (black faeces due to a bleed in the stomach)
        Coffee ground vomiting
        Stomatitis (swollen mouth)
        Tongue ulceration
        Tooth Disorder
        Glossitis (soreness/swelling of the tongue)
        Mouth Ulceration
        Hyperventilation (breathing more often than required to keep one’s blood sufficiently oxygenated)
        Hypoventilation (breathing less often than required to keep one’s blood sufficiently oxygenated)
        Dysphonia (voice disorder)
        Upper Respiratory Tract Infection
        Rhinitis (irritation/inflammation inside the nose)
        Thinking Abnormal

        Rare (<0.1%)

        Allergic reaction
        Anaphylactoid reaction
        Face oedema
        Atrial arrhythmia
        AV block
        Peripheral Ischaemia
        Vasodilation Procedure
        Involuntary muscle contractions
        Galactorrhoea (lactation that is unrelated to pregnancy or breastfeeding)
        Gynaecomastia (swelling of breast tissue in men)
        Hyperprolactinaemia (high blood prolactin levels)
        Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland)
        Syndrome of inappropriate secretion of antidiuretic hormone (SIADH)
        Pancreatitis (swollen pancreas)
        Altered platelet function
        Haematuria (blood in the urine)
        Leukopenia (low white blood cell count)
        Thrombocytopenia (low blood platelet count)
        Increased coagulation times
        Abnormal clinical laboratory results
        Hyponatraemia (low blood sodium)
        Conversion Disorder
        Drug Dependence
        Myocardial Infarction (heart attack)
        Cardiac Disorder
        Suicidal Ideation/behaviour
        Sleep Walking
        Premature Ejaculation
        Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar)
        Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
        Hypercholesterolaemia (high blood cholesterol)
        Aggressive reaction
        Psychosis (hallucinations and delusions)
        Mania (a dangerously elated mood)
        Menorrhagia (an abnormally excessive amount of menstrual bleeding)
        Atrophic Vulvovaginitis
        Genital Discharge
        Photosensitivity skin reaction
        Visual field defect
        Abnormal liver function
        Dermatitis Bullous
        Rash Follicular
        Lacrimal Disorder
        Hair Texture Abnormal
        Sensory Disturbance
        Otitis Media
        Skin Odour Abnormal

        Unknown frequency

        QTc prolongation
        Anaphylactoid Reaction
        Allergic Reaction
        Neuroleptic malignant syndrome. A potentially fatal reaction that most often occurs as a result of the use of antipsychotic drugs. It is characterised by fever, muscle rigidity, rhabdomyolysis (muscle breakdown), profuse sweating, tachycardia, tachypnoea (rapid breathing), agitation.
        Stevens-Johnson syndrome a potentially fatal skin reaction.
        Toxic epidermal necrolysis another potentially fatal skin reaction.
        Torsades de pointes a potentially fatal change in the heart’s rhythm.
        Cerebrovascular spasm
        Serotonin syndrome similar to neuroleptic malignant syndrome but develops more rapidly (over a period of hours instead of days/weeks for neuroleptic malignant syndrome)
        Bone fracture
        Movement disorders
        Diabetes mellitus
        Jaundice yellowing of the skin, mucous membranes and eyes due to an impaired ability of the liver to clear the haem breakdown by product, bilirubin.
        Liver failure
        Persistent Sexual Dysfunction

        So yes, it is likely caused by the medicine. The reason why you still have the headache maybe from the inhibitor not letting go of the neuron’s reuptake (sensor that the neuron made enough) and so you may also not be making and releasing enough neurotransmitters. Hopefully this is temporary only taking longer than you expected to release. Let me know how it goes! There may be a few things to try if it is not improving soon.


        1. Hi Angela,
          Thank you so much for the brief reply! It’s hard to describe them. I want to say headaches but I’ve had headaches before from normal stressors that go away when I sleep them off or take a few Advil. These are sharp pains almost spasm like. They last for a few seconds, occur on different parts of my temples, forehead, top scalp area if that makes any sense. I don’t want to say zaps, because I don’t know what that feels like but it could be. I notice that occur when I get excited, become agitated or simply have sudden eye movement. This is also so strange,new, and scary to me to say the least. What you are saying makes a lot of sense. Through research on these drugs I’ve learned that even with a small dose of any type of antidepressant it can’t take a while for the brain to return to homeostasis granted no permanent damage has been done.

          1. Hi Leah,

            It seems you may be getting cluster headaches… just an estimation. If it is cluster headaches, what you may want to ask your doctor to prescribe is oxygen (in those tanks or oxygen concentrator machine you can plug into the wall or on battery but they are pricey). I think trying an oxygen tank and using oxygen at the first sensation of a stab may help. Cluster headaches respond to oxygen if started early.

            Unfortunately, ibuprofen can also cause rebound headaches; one needs to be careful of all medicines! 🙁

            Indeed, the brain takes some time to return to homeostasis. To help it to do so, if you stop all added sugars, it will provide a huge help! The brain doesn’t do very well with sugar. Plus, it will benefit you entire mood and how you feel. So there is hope! 🙂

            Best of luck!


        2. Hi Angela,
          To answer your other questions it will occasionally respond to ibuprofen, anything else will cause rebound type headaches. I was prescribed butalbutal which helped a bit but then got headaches from that and it ended up irritating my stomach, causing upset stomach. I’m now trying sumatriptan. I was offered a slew of other ssris to help with the original zoloft withdrawel but turned those all down. I don’t ever want to touch another antidepressant again! The everyday anxiety I was originally prescribed the zoloft for was nothing compared to what I’m going through now.

          1. I get Cluster headaches. I found out they were Cluster, and not Migraine, when I was put on Prozac. But only because I questioned my doctor about a possible drug interaction between Prozac and Imitrex! When I asked her about taking them together she had to look it up online. She came back and said that Serotonin Syndrome was a possibility, but it was very rare and I shouldn’t worry about it! Well, I don’t trust doctors so I did my own research. That’s when I figured out that my “migraines” were really Cluster headaches! I should NEVER have been taking oral Imitrex. I got a prescription for Oxygen and it worked really well until I went off Prozac. That year, 2016, my Cluster headaches were horrific! Oxygen did nothing! Even when I went up to a very high flo rate. The only thing that made the oxygen work again was Benedryl. (I discovered that year, that Cluster headaches are also known as Serotonin headaches and Histamine headaches!) I was on Prozac for over a decade.

            1. Hi Susan,

              I am glad you did your research and found out you had cluster headaches and not migraines. Most doctors cannot tell the difference between any headaches let alone define what a migraine is or what a cluster headache is. Even academic literature is confused, and depending upon what academic journal you read, you will find different definitions. This can make everyone’s life miserable, as it made yours. Very sorry about that. Interestingly, after you mentioned Benadryl, and antihistamine, I looked up research on that. I am a migraine specialist and not cluster headaches–though I do have plenty of cluster headache sufferers in my group, so it was worthy of my time. Indeed, you do release high histamines during an attack, so an antihistamine is a great choice. In terms of Prozac (or any SSRI or SNRI or triptans), indeed, the problem is that depending on where they take the serotonin level measurement during the attack, it is low serotonin in some places (such as blood) and high in some other places (such as the spinal fluid–which is what is in your brain as well). And so the message is mixed and confuses doctors. If serotonin is low in the blood but high in the brain, I am sure they don’t know how to relate to that. It does take some figuring out but here it goes.

              Over 90% of all serotonin is made and used by our intestines and thus it is not in our brain. Only 10% max is made and used by our brain. I am quite positive that many doctors don’t know this and that your doctor, who had to get on the internet to check interaction probably would not have known that. I don;t actually blame your doctor–at least she admitted she needed to look up the interaction and at least SHE LOOKED!!! Most doctors would not even take the time to find out. So actually she seems to have been a pretty good doctor in some ways! Better than most, though I understand you ended up getting hurt. And that needs an explanation, given that we know that for cluster headache, serotonin levels differ depending on where it is measured.

              It is assumed that giving triptant (serotonin) or SSRIs or SNRIs are good for everything froma tooth ache to the death of your child. It is a crazy world out there when it comes to these dangerous drugs. Prozac is an SSRI, and so it is supposed to increase brain serotonin such that it blocks the natural “how much do I already have” sensor (reuptake), so the brain cell thinks it has not yet made enough. This an SSRI forces the brain into a serotonin machine at all cost. While takign any serotonin medicine only transfers little serotonin or SSRI into the brain because of the blood brain barrier, enough gets through to mess with this reuptake mechanism. And in the brain, when something is blocked from being used, communication is broken and degeneration starts.

              In your case, you had more than enough serotonin in your brain during a cluster headache attack but not enough in your peripheral blood supply and so it probably increased serotonin in your blood to higher levels, which was good, but it also forced the brain to make more, which was bad. When you stopped Prozac–and I don’t know how you stopped, since these drugs have warning on them to not just quit because of discontinuation syndrome–your brain had to re-establish its lost reuptake functions and connections. This takes time–hence the warning about discontinuation syndrome. This could have been the cause of your current struggle, not sure. The standard of care, believe it or not, is triptans or a preventive, such as an SSRI, for cluster headaches. Most doctors have no idea about oxygen either. So you are ahead of the game.

              So hold tight and allow serotonin to be rebuilt naturally: go on the sun as much as you can; it has a normalizing function.

              Best wishes for you!


  15. Can someone tell me how long serotonin syndrome lasts once you stop taking the medication that caused it?
    My niece is 24 years old, has been on sertraline for a short while 6 months maybe. She was also taking the highest amount of tramodol.

    She was admitted to hospital following stomach pains, had raised white cells but they didn’t no what was wrong with her.
    Few days later she was released, and she continued her medication at home. Sertraline and tramodol.
    Then suddenly like a switch had gone off, she became confused, manic episodes, rambling, talking nonsense and over evaluating everything. She didn’t make sense. Had high fever, chills, shakes loads of symptoms.
    she was put In a mental health facility query seretonin syndrome.
    They gave IV fluids and 1 paracetamol a day.
    A week later she was released to be monitored at home each week.
    It’s been 2 weeks now and she has slightly improved but is still confused and rambling. She’s unable to care for her young kids and needs constantly watching.
    They have prescribed her a sleeping tablet to take once at night. But she hasn’t slept in two days.
    She sits down and constantly thinks, but stares into space or she follows an adult around the flat rambling on about things That don’t make sense.
    I’m so worried for her.
    Will the symptoms go away? Her symptoms are that of a mentally ill patient.

    1. Dear Mina,

      I am very sorry to hear that your niece got serotonin syndrome. It seems like she has a very severe reaction. Severe serotonin syndrome damage may take a very long time to recover since in addition to the extra serototonin that must clear, your niece is also going through severe withdrawal at the same time. Tramadol is a narcotic and stopping that causes major withdrawals. Sertraline is the one that caused her serotonin syndrome (like in the article my mother’s death).

      The hospital did not do its treatment properly. For serotonin syndrome she should have received: muscle relaxants, benzodiazepines like diazepam (Valium), serotonin-production blocking agents such as cyproheptadine, oxygen, drugs that control heart rate and blood pressure (it can be too high or too low). These all in addition to intravenous (IV) fluids.

      It is also possible that her brain is still not free from all the extra serotonin since she didn’t receive serotonin blocking agents plus after stopping SSRI, like Sertraline, the brain often doesn’t know how to make or stop making serotonin–there is recovery time needed for the “inhibitor” to be removed from the receptor and this time is very much individual. Unfortunately, sometimes the damage is permanent.

      Please take your niece back to the ER and explain to them what she is going through so they can run some tests and see if she is suffering withdrawal, still has too much serotonin, or suffered permanent damage.

      I wish her well and a big hug to you for reaching out to try to help her! <3


  16. My wife was recently diagnosed with stage IV cancer; she had breast cancer 10 years ago, and it came back with a vengeance. She has been on citalopram (SSRI) for years for depression. Her cancer is now in her bones, liver, and lungs, so she was in a lot of pain. She can’t tolerate opiods, so she was given Tramadol (a synthetic opiod). After her chemo, she was given Zofran. All three of those have “major” interactions for Seratonin Syndrome – Citalopram/Tramadol, Citalopram/Zofran, and Tramadol/Zofran. She kept getting more and more sick following the chemo, and she finally got so bad we went in and they gave her Zofran through her port. As she was getting it I could actually see her getting more and more distressed as she was getting the infusion. I looked up the interactions on my phone and all three combinations increase the risk of Seratonin Syndrome. She immediately stopped the Zofran and started feeling better within a couple of days. It might just be that she was moving farther from last chemo, but I wonder whether it was the interaction.

    There are two things I don’t understand.
    1. Why in the world don’t these highly trained “professionals” check for interactions before prescribing these things? If I can look it up so easily on-line, it should be child’s play to write a computer program that checks for interactions as physicians prescribe these things. The medical center is part of a massive operation owned by the University of Pennsylvania, so this SHOULDN’T BE THAT HARD. You prescribe something, and if it’s a potential problem with another med the patient is already taking you get a big red flag. All of the prescription data is entered into their information system, but I really think these electronic systems are an end in themselves rather than being used as the tool they could be. They spend all their time entering data but no time actually LOOKING at it.
    2. Can SS cause hand blisters due to toxicity? My wife developed severe hand blisters, and as a result of this and her other discomforts the MD is switching chemo drugs. The current chemo drug was doing great at lowering her marker numbers, and if all of the problems are caused by drug interactions rather than the chemo it would be foolish to switch.

    1. Dear Tom,

      I removed your other post so it only appears now once in the right place. I am very sorry to hear about the cancer returning for your wife, metastasized. I am certain that you completely got it right and she was suffering more from the serotonin syndrome building up than the chemo therapy itself, which is brutal on its own.

      You have a perfect question about why doctors are so good at prescribing all these medications without looking at interactions. At one level I agree that they are not reading only writing and so they are not aware of what is what but another part of me tells me something else: ignorance. It is, indeed, very easy to find out about drug interactions; here is a website I always use for convenience since it does a perfect job, fast, efficient, and is always correct–it is also free.

      I am confident that every single doctor has a drug interaction checker either on their phone or on the computer when they prescribe a medicine only they don’t think it is appropriate to look. I feel (my experience with some of my doctors) is that they are time pressured and feel that they may look less knowledgeable if they need to look things up in front of a patient. Yet those doctors who actually do take the time to look, develop more trust. After all, everyone is human and doctors can forget or make mistakes; looking it up is actually reinforcing trust. I don’t think they realize this.

      I also found, on my own experience, that the majority of doctors have very narrow field of specialty and don’t ever test the waters of integrative medicine or study other fields of medicine to broaden their understanding. As a result, they pretend they know enough even if they don’t. This is very sad because lives depend upon their decisions.

      And finally, medicine applies a cookie-cutter approach and only symptom treats today. This can be very dangerous, as it was the case for your wife who received such interacting medicines. It remains your job and the job of the rest of us to keep an eye out for our loved ones and learn enough to stop the doctors from making mistakes. It is hard work because most people are not trained medically or scientifically. It is lucky you had the knowledge to look up the interactions and the guts to pass the information on to the doctor. Most people feel intimidated until it is too late.

      I congratulate you for your strength and wisdom and wish your wife all the best in a successful chemotherapy treatment and remission.


  17. Angela, My 82 year old father went to the hospital for stomach pain. He led a very active life, lived on his own and was very happy. He had COPD from working with asbestos and followed all his doctors instructions and was managing it well. While in the emergency room he was his normal self, talking and joking around with the doctors. They ran various test and determined his white cell was high and his lactic acid was elevated, as well as enlarged liver. They decided to admit him for further testing. Shortly after he was given IV fentanyl and Zofran, he then became confused and he broke out in a cold clammy sweat and was unable to respond. He remained this way for quite awhile, they then gave him another dose of fentanyl and Zofran then went into respiratory distress and was put on a breathing tube. He continued to receive IV fentanyl. He was also taking sertraline, which continued while hospitalized. His lactic acid and CO2 levels were off the charts and his protein levels increased everyday. His organs began to fail one by one and he became so septic that blisters formed on his skin. I did not know about serotonin syndrome until I looked into drug interactions, my father was taking sertraline on a regular basis, then given fentanyl and Zofran in the hospital, he went downhill in a matter of hours. The hospital came to me and asked if they could do a autopsy because they did not understand what happened to him. The results of the autopsy were high grade endocrine cancer of the liver, with bone marrow involvement. He was never diagnosed with cancer nor showed any symptoms. Liver cancer increases serotonin levels, then he was given fentanyl and Zofran while taking sertraline. If I know this, how come a team of doctors and nurses did not know what could happen when these drugs are given together. I believed his death was from serotonin syndrome.

    1. Oh my Paula, I am so sorry about your father! Indeed! How come they did not know!? It is further confusing to me that they did not see his liver cancer at such advanced stage since that comes with symptoms that are actually visible–such as the yellowing on the skin. Also, bone cancer is extremely painful from the very beginning so I find that too highly unlikely to have contributed to his passing in the hospital. I am not sure I believe in the autopsy findings of the hospital at all.

      When my mother died–in hospital like your father–I asked if they would do an autopsy (they did not want to since “she died from a stroke” but I wanted to find out if she had serotonin syndrome as I diagnosed or Alzheimer’s as they diagnosed, which I knew she did not have). The hospital told me that they will only do autopsy such that it confirms the final cause of death–meaning not the original cause but the “end” cause, which in the case of my mom was a stroke and in the case of your father was multiple organ failure.

      In checking on the three medications your father received, I find that fentanyl has a protein binding capacity at a high level of over 80% with metabolic pathway that is hepatic; sertraline is also hepatic with an even higher protein binding ability than fentanyl (95%); and Zofran is also hepatic with the least protein binding but still over 70%. All 3 are liver damaging–this explains the liver damage they have found and I very seriously doubt that it was cancer. All three drugs are excreted renal–this explains the high CO2 level since his electrolyte was completely out of homeostasis and he was experiencing dehydration.

      All three drugs modify serotonin in some way and Fentanyl and Sertraline alone each can cause serotonin syndrome. Combine the three and for sure he had serotonin syndrome.

      Since they said that he had endocrine liver cancer, that is a metastatic state of the liver from cancer elsewhere, so the primary cancer would have had to have been the bone cancer or perhaps a third cancer they have not diagnosed. Bone cancer is extremely painful from the very early stages on so it is very hard for me to accept that he was not in pain with a bone cancer! Liver cancer, in addition to the yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes, also comes with extreme fatigue. Based on your description of your father joking and feeling well in the ER, I am having a very hard time seeing him with 2 types of cancers, one that changes appearance and stamina and the other that causes extreme pain. It does not add up.

      It would have been very painful for you to get an independent autopsy I am sure. However, the findings the hospital presented you with do not line up well with me at all. Furthermore, knowing that it is not in the interest of the hospital to tell you that “oops we goofed up,” your chances of finding a true cause from the very hospital that caused his death is highly unlikely.

      I am very sorry about the death of your father and I hope I did not ignite further pain–that was not my intention only I feel that knowing the truth may help closure. It helped me when I received the autopsy I ordered independently from the hospital and found out that my mom had no Alzheimer’s at all. It does not change the outcome but it changed me.

      I wish you all the love and comfort I can over the internet! <3

  18. In 2013, my Psychiatrist changed to a new antidepressant Fetzima. I was taking Trazadone in combination with clonozapam for RLS. My pain management doctor wanted to take me off of 5-300 hydrocodone and put me on Tramadol, and I would have taken it if I didn’t have an appointment with my Psychiatrist the next day. He said it would give me serotonin syndrome and provided me with a printout that showed this to be true. But right below Tramadol was Trazadone and I told him those symptons listed there were what I had been having for several months. Excessive sweating, extreme agitation, inability to handle the slightest stress (felt like crying), loss of balance and coordination, and high blood pressure. I told my pain doctor I could not take the Tramadol. When the medicine was stopped (Trazadone) stayed on Fetzima the symptoms subsided. However, I never felt quite the same, very easily upset and wanting to cry at the slightest thing. Then in 2016 of this year my pain management doctor prescribed me Pentazocine/Naloxone and I had switched to Viibryd for depression. The unfortunate think about Serotonin Syndrome is that when you are the person suffering from it you don’t know its happening until a few months because the symptoms creep up on you and I thought I was just not getting better from the first time I had it. Several months went by and I started having increased pain, severe tremors in my fingers and hands, insomnia, but the severe sweating didn’t start until the last week. When I recognized that I looked up the new pain medication and sure enough it was marked as a major side affect for serotonin syndrome. I stopped taking it and within 3 days it was like a dark cloud had been lifted off of my head. Initially I felt a sort of euphoria, but now I am still easily angered and upset. My pain doctor said he didn’t believe it was serotonin syndrome at all, but opioid withdrawal. I just put my head down on the doctors table because I knew opioid withdrawals happen within 24 to 72 hours, not over a seven month period. He said I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown and he was certainly correct about that but not the reasoning behind it. He now wants me to take Naltrexone 1MG low dose treatment for pain. In addition, he had previously prescribed me Nucynta 50mg, Buprenoophine 2MG, for pain, both of which are marked as major serotonin syndrome when taken with Viibryd. I have just returned from a three months leave of absence from a job I used to handle quite easily, only to struggle with every little issue that pops up. I am afraid I am going to just quit going to work and lose my job. I am going to stop taking everything, but I am afraid I have been permanently damaged and that I will never feel good again. Is this possible?

    1. Dear William,

      Thank you for your note and write up. It is truly a miracle that you are with us so time to celebrate for that a little and come out of depression since you could have died an agonizing death and here you are, looking for solutions! I applaud you for that! <3

      I have a question or two: you mention pain doctor but not what kind of pain you have. Some forms of pains (like migraine) can be treated without medicines very successfully so if that is what you have, you may want to give that a try and join my group. If by pain you refer to anxiety, nervous breakdown and depression, I recommend you try to change your diet to be “depression and anxiety friendly.” It is now well understood how sugar works the brain into anxiety: it first activated the dopamine system to make you feel good, releasing dopamine and then once you run out of sugar “on the brain” your brain releases adrenaline and THAT causes anxiety.

      So by stopping sugar, you can intervene in the depression/anxiety creation process and prevent it–or at least get on the right road to be able to manage it or deal with it. Whatever permanent damage you may have had from the medicines may or may not be permanent–it is dependent on your age and damage type and damage strength. There are ways to “change” the brain and repair it. First you need to stop all sugar and refined carbohydrates, which irritate and cause damage (as noted above) and then get on brain repair:

      From the much literature and my personal experience (as a migraineur, I also fight anxiety though not depression all my life, since age 19 actually), I found that the simple task of reducing carbs and increasing animal fats in my diet completely changed my brain. I no longer experience any of the typical anxiety, etc., and also am migraine free (I don;t take medicines either). It seems that so far everyone making this diet change benefited greatly and studies are now under way to use a rather strict therapeutic version of this nutritional approach (ketogenic) to literally cure many CNS disorders, such as depression, Parkinson’s, MS, migraine, seizures (for that it is already used as treatment!), cancer (also used as treatment), and type 2 diabetes (also used as treatment), and some more like autism where research just started and great strides have already been made.

      It is best to work this nutritional approach under the supervision of a specialist because in my opinion many people are doing it wrong–but experts are hard to find. You are welcome to join my keto mild for migraine group, which has an expert team connected to it whom you can hire (I am not affiliated and don’t even know them, only a member found them and used their services), which is a learning group and sharing of experience group on how to “fall into” the ketogenic nutritional approach without getting hurt.

      I hope you find these helpful.

      Best wishes,

  19. My 20 year-old son DIED from serotonin syndrome in a rural hospital. They didn’t know what he had; didn’t know how to treat it.

    20 years old — he should have had his whole life ahead of him.

  20. I am trying to find a clinical pharmacologist or neuroscientist to review my late partner’s autopsy report, medication history, and adverse reaction
    history to see if the there is a cause and effect situation.

    I need an expert for the Coroner to be able to get reports from.

    My partner was diagnosed with dementia after being prescribed some very
    strong anti depressants in 2010. The symptoms of the dementia diagnosis
    were the same signs of adverse reactions to the drugs. The doctors at
    the time knew that he was super sensitive to medications and testified
    to his sensitivity in family court in 2012. He was diagnosed with
    Prostate cancer in 2009. He chose to treat this homeopathically, very
    sucessfully while he was allowed his homeopathic treatment.

    MRI, SPECT and CT scans in 2008, 2009 and 2011 all showed no
    deterioration in his brain, no vascular disorders anywhere. A CT scan in
    2011 showed prostate cancer and bladder diverticula, among other things.

    Bryan was prescribed the following medications between 2010 and his
    death in June 2014:

    Mirtzapine, Venlafaxine, Temazepam, Ibuprofen, Clomipramine, Lorazepam,
    Clonazepam, Midazolam, Fludrocortisone, Madopar, Risperidone,
    Olanzapine, Donepezil, Scopolamine, Epilim and Paracetamol and Oxybutynin.

    Combinations of medications: Mirtazapine and Venlafaxine (2010 – 2011);
    Lorazepam, Clonazepam and Ibuprofen (August 2011); Madopar, Risperidone,
    Clonazepam, Fludrocortisone, Oxybutynin (Oct 2011 – May 2012) ;
    Donepezil and Epilim (Dec 2011 – Jan 2013);

    Bryan experienced several episodes of delirium, and at one point I was told he had drug induced parkinsons. Having done a spreadsheet of his medications and adverse reactions, I have often wondered if he had developed Serotonin Syndrome. I am absolutely sure that the dementias found at autopsy are drug induced.

    Bryan experienced significant side effects to all these drugs. Some of
    the side effects include hyper sedation, peripheral oedema, aggression,
    on off effect, falls, urinary tract and bladder infections.

    I need an expert to review my material and be prepared, if they agree
    that there is cause and effect between the drugs and conditions found in
    Bryan’s autopsy report.

    I have contacted a number of specialists in New Zealand and Australia
    and no -one will help me. This investigation fits beautifully into the
    study that Dr Hamish Jamieson is doing and I contacted him, but never
    got a reply.

    1. Dear Sally,

      I am very sorry about what happened to your partner. I hope that the report contains all information about the necessary findings to tell what happened. To tell if your partner had no Alzheimer’s type dementia is not extremely hard since that disease changes the brain’s structure to the point that is visible in the scanner–not sure if they had taken and MRI of his brain while alive, close to his death. If yes, the autopsy report and the MRI combined can help determine if he had Parkinson’s type dementia but not necessarily if it is drug induced if they find it. They can merely see if he indeed had that.

      Regular dementia (not Alzheimer’s) does not necessarily show changes in the brain. Some studies show that plaque buildup (the very thing considered to be the hallmark of dementia) is either present or not; there is no association (causal or otherwise) with dementia and plaques.

      I don’t know how old your partner was; age also matters because dementia shrinks the brain. Brain shrinkage is an expected feature of the aging brain but not in the young. The information I am providing to you here is not an evaluation but so you can see that even the best of experts in the field may not be able to help you if you don’t have the CNS (brain and spine) examined by an autopsy including all that is necessary and if you don’t have MRI records.

      To find a good expert for the analysis, your best bet is likely in a medical teaching university, or, if you feel that a district attorney would take the case on as a criminal act, he/she will have experts on the stand looking at the records to decide if your partner had dementia of any kind or not and if the cause can be determined.

      When my mother died, I donated her CNS to one of the best known teaching universities where I live to do the autopsy and I specifically asked them to check for dementia. I was told that the equipment needed for such is very specific and needs to be handled by a specialized coroner who has such–likely a criminal investigator’s chosen coroner. But even then, showing that the dementia is caused by the drugs may only be possible if an MRI shows that prior to drug treatment his brain was such and after drug treatment his brain became such and the time passed was too short to have ended up with such high level dementia. It is a battle that we have to fight against huge waves also because too many people are labeled with Alzheimer’s disease for convenience sake simply because the symptoms of many other diseases, such as serotonin syndrome, present identically.

      In my mother’s case, she was labeled with Alzheimer’s disease and that could immediately be excluded since neither the MRI nor the autopsy showed any deterioration of the kind in the brain that would indicate Parkinson’s.

      It is a sad state of matter that I cannot help you any better. I am not familiar with experts in the field who can or are willing to give such analysis myself.

      Best wishes; my heart goes out to you.


      1. Hi

        I am very sorry to hear this but also glad i found it. I am sorry for your loss and all through the stupidity of some medical professionals. My sister is going through the same situation as your mother. I don’t recognise her anymore – she is like a whole different person. Her mental health doctor has prescribed: zoloft 200mg, serequel 100mg morning and lunch 50mg dinner and a slow release bedtime, valdoxane 1 tablet at night. Pluse valium 5mg 3 times a day and morphine for pain and NAC 3 tablets in the morning and 3 at night.. Also heart medications. In the last 2 weeks she has stopped zoloft and valdoxane and is now on something new. She has collapsed and sick since yesterday (02/04/2016) and now when she rang her mental health doctor she said she has “Serotonion Syndrome” and to stop everything except valium and go to hospital if she gets worse. How can a doctor prescribe 4 different types of mood stablizers like that? I am so angry. She is a whole different person. I don’t know what to do.

        1. Hi Roxanne,

          Sorry for the late response, I just found your comment now by accident. I am very sorry about your sister! I have an answer for your question but it is not appropriate to write it here. I think you know what my answer is based on my story about my mother and my experience with her doctors as well as the many members I help in my migraine group, many of whom come to the group with over 20 medicines all prescribed by the same doctor. The “nice” answer is that they get paid by pharmaceuticals to prescribe medicines so they prescribe, need it or not. Not all doctors are like that! Unfortunately many are!

          Best luck for your sister and I hope that she is going to recover fully! She had a competent doctor who recognized it!


  21. My daughter was diagnosed with serotonin syndrome her frst day of 3rd grade and taken of zoloft. She has Asperegers and an anxiety disorder. She would get excruciating abdominal pain, her face would flush and she would start sweating. As things got worse,she would develop Nero symptoms -eyes not tracking, could talk but not understand what you said,got really loud, lost muscle and urine control at times,and had an irregular heart beat. These episodes lasted about 3 minuts after which the flushing gradually receded and the abdominal pain lessened. Her pediatrician said there was no test for serotonin syndrome but if she tested negative for a bunch of stuff and the episodes stopped when SSRI’s were stopoed,then by process of elimination, she absolutely had serotonin syndrome and it was essential that she never took another SSRI.

    Question 1- Are there tests for serotonin syndrome. He is very open minded and would research any information we gave him.

    Her pediatrician sent her to a pediatric neurologist who diagnosed her with abdominal migraines with attendant seizures. She said stop the migraines, and the seizures would stop too and focused on migraine preventative medications to no avail. Some of these meds we stopped and refused to give her due to the side affects. Her episodes started getting predictable, about every 26 days. She started her periods at age 11 and as predicted, her abdominal migraines gradually stopped. She is 13 now and out of nowhere, she started getting abdominal migraines about day 6 of her periods every month. This week, about halfway through her cycle, she had tworked abdominal migraines with flushing on Tuesday, 3 on Wednesday, 6 yesterday, and so far, only 2 today but had a seizure with the 2nd one.

    The only things we have changed are 1, Reducing her Vyvanse from 60 mg to 10, and 2, drinking alkaline water. Her only other medication is .1mg clonadine 2x perday and an antihistamine at bedtime.

    Question 2 – Could the medication change or alkaline water have affected her serotonin syndrome?
    Question 3 – Any ideas?

    1. Hi Sheri,

      Sorry for the delayed response but I am out of the country with limited internet access so responding from my phone; please excuse typos.

      Sorry to hear about your daughter. Unfortunately there is not one test that can conclude that your daughter has serotonin syndrome. Here is a link to what can be done to at least exclude the chance that she may:

      In general, some of the symptoms you describe fall into many categories so it is really only possible to tell if she slowly comes off the medication (cannot just stop else she may end up with seizures) and see if things improve.

      On the other hand, there is an ancient diet used to treat seizures and now experimentally also autism: ketogenic diet. It seems to resolve seizures over 90% of the cases. My personal opinion is that the ketogenic diet helps because the brain is over 70% fat and our modern diet is low fat. So the brain cannot make the necessary repair. The ketogenic diet for children with seizures is about 80 – 90% fat and the remaining small percent is protein and carbs.

      This diet also works for migraines and many other brain conditions. It is my finding that carbohydrates are very destructive to the brain and especially so for those who are glucose sensitive. People with seizures and migraines are glucose sensitive. There us a strong correlation between these conditions and metabolic disorders.

      So I recommend you consult with a ketogenic expert and try that method. I personally find that members with migraine do extremely well on a less strict version of this diet that I call keto mild. It will be detailed in my next edition of my book.

      In terms of alkaline water: I am personally very much against that. Each of our organs requires a specific pH level for health. Saliva, for example, needs to be slightly acidic to protect against incoming bacteria and also to help predigest our food. Making a body too alkaline makes the body vulnerable to infections. Please check with a medical professional (not a naturopath) about the acidity level needed for your child to remain healthy.

      Hope I managed to answer with few typos by phone.


  22. I am surprised that nobody has mentioned thiamine in this series of comments about serotonin syndrome. Serotonin turnover has been investigated in regional brain areas of rats made thiamine deficient. It induced an increase in endogenous five-HIAA and impaired five-HIAA efflux from the brain. Thiamine deficiency produces the same symptoms as mild deficiency of oxygen (pseudo-hypoxia) that include anxiety. It is therefore more likely that taking an SSRI would precipitate serotonin syndrome in somebody that was deficient in thiamine. Thiamine deficiency is easily induced from the high sugar intake that is so common in America.

    Van Woert M H, et al Effect of thiamine deficiency on brain serotonin turnover Brain Res 1979; 179 (is 1): 103-110.

    1. Thanks for your comment Derrick. You provided a very much appreciated comment. It was not added because it is complex and I tried to keep the article as simple as possible. This medicine does cause hypoxia in lab animals. It is likely to cause the same in humans. I see blood test results from many of my group members and some show enlarged red blood cells, which is an indirect measure of this hypoxia effect that was overridden (or tried to be) by the body by increasing red blood cell size to allow the cell to carry more oxygen. After these migraineurs stop they medicines (like voltage-gated calcium channel blockers, voltage gated sodium channel-blockers and serotonin medicines) they end up with enlarged red blood cells. It is yet to be seen if the red blood cells revert to regular size after some time of recovery. It is too soon to tell since most of the members in my group who stopped these medicines had done so less than 6 months ago–it takes a long time to quit these medicines by titrating down very slowly. Plus the body’s recovery is also slow and age dependent. It will be interesting to see if the body is resilient enough to change the bone marrow’s instructions in producing regular sized red blood cells.

      Thank you for you constructive comment!


  23. One other thing I would like to share with you Dr. Stanton… is that neurotransmitter and hormonal imbalances are the direct result of mineral imbalances within our bodies. These imbalances are due to the hugely increased stress of modern life combined with food sources with depleted mineral content from insecticides, pesticides and agribusiness practices. The result of this combination is mineral deficiencies and imbalances that put a great deal of stress on our bodies, affecting the endocrine systems especially. Minerals are the building blocks our bodies use. For instance, magnesium alone is responsible for over 3000 enzymatic reactions in our bodies. Ceruloplasmin, a protein produced in the liver is responsible for excreting excess metals like iron and copper, but most of us are very deficient in it, and as a result metals like copper and iron become dysregulated and stored due to low cerulosplasmin status. I mention all this because it is truly the underlying cause of neurotransmitter dysregulation as well. A lot of research is available on mineral and metal dysregulation… and Morley Robbins of the facebook group called the Magnesium Advocacy Group (he has branched beyond magnesium exclusively now … his research has uncovered the profound health effects of iron overload and copper overload) where he shares his findings and has developed a protocol to raise ceruloplasmin and balance minerals … he is not the first to work with mineral balancing obviously, many others have come before him, such as Rick Malther, etc. Anyway, I just wanted to bring this information to your attention. Some books you might find interesting are the Magnesium Miracle by Dr. Carolyn Dean and The Calcium Lie II (which covers much more than just calcium) by Dr. Robert Thompson.

    1. Thanks Carol. I am quite familiar with the names and the books. I am also very much in agreement with you on mineral deficiencies and must add that in the migraine group (that is my main focus for now) I start by removing everyone from all vitamins and metals and herbs and send each for blood tests to check what (if anything) they are deficient in BUT everyone gets instructions to take magnesium. We also found a website that explains which magnesium does and what and everyone takes magnesium according to their condition. On one of my website where I keep some of the testimonials from migraine members (you find it here: ) you can see that since every person takes different magnesium based on need, significant improvements are achieved in heart condition as well as brain and whole body.

      In terms of general mineral imbalances: yes, my book “Fighting The Migraine Epidemic: How To Treat and Prevent Migraines Without Medicines – An Insider’s View” is specifically discussing one key types of group of minerals: those that make up our electrolytes.

      I just published an academic journal article on what actually happens when migraineurs start to balance their electrolytes that is publishing in Volume 11, issue 2 of the Journal of mental Health in Family Medicine and can currently be found here (it may move):

      In this article I explain how migraines respond to proper electrolytes: they vanish. It is that simple. Thus to provide support to your suggestion: indeed, I would think that a very large percent of our diseases (both of the body and that of the mind) are the result of our poor diet, too much sugar, not enough proper minerals and water. I am in full support of your argument!


      1. Wow… So impressive Angela! I am so happy to hear of all the knowledge you have amassed regarding magnesium, other minerals and electrolytes and that you incorporate it into your protocols for migraines. Minerals and electrolytes are so foundational to our health but it is amazing how they are so ignored in the mainstream med community for the most part. I look forward to reading your links and learning more!! I still get a little confused about which magnesium type is best for what, so I look forward to seeing that info… and will share in the files of the MAG fb group. Best to you. I will be following your work!

        1. Thanks Carol. I actually published an academic journal article on the subject of migraines and the need for minerals just recently–it is still in press but can already be accessed. This particular article focuses only on a limited number of minerals and magnesium is not one of them becuase of limitations of space and the required explanations but it helps you see the connection of migraines and the importance of minerals. It also shows you why the medical community has been blind to this for so long. I hope you enjoy it:

          For some reason the supplementary material is not included in the article but is available upon request.

          1. Angela,
            I have been seeing a doctor trained in “functional medicine” and when I asked about the minerals, his reply was that they did NOT learn anything about them!! I was flabbergasted!! He seemed to only know about fatty acids and aminos, etc. He and another doc with an online newsletter did not seem to realize that SOME people cannot convert betacarotene to Vitamin A since they are missing some components for that process!! It seems like we are quite a bit on our own with dealing with our health (of course, I was sick when I was 12 — now 69 — so I am USED to finding my own answers from literature)!!
            I recently made a comment to a doctor (turned out she was a naturopath in an admin position) that if the medical community would only take proper care of the older generation there who not be any need for them to seek “euthanasia”!! Older people can be functioning participants in our society. Two of my aunts are over 90 and still contributing and very lively — the older one still plays bridge and treated herself to a 90th birthday present by going to the track in Los Angeles and riding 6 laps at 175 mph with a racing driver!! Now she talks about going again!

      2. Angela,
        Thanks for the article — as I was telling Carol, I take high doses of tryptophan in the winter. I have had some of my minerals tested and generally those that are high in others are low in my body. My zinc and copper were low despite taking high doses (then I found out that I had celiac disease — NO formal diagnosis since I had stopped eating wheat before the doc did the gliadan test — SIGH!!) I cannot seem to tolerate any “grains” — even quinoa gives me diarrhea and then I absorb even fewer nutrients and minerals from my diet. I do a lot of reading and searching (really enjoy Hormones Matter) and feel it is possible that I have a pyrrole disorder since it need to take a LOT of minerals and B vitamins to feel “normal”. I am taking some magnesium (and had some gel to apply to the skin but can’t raise any response from the supplier at this time)and will pick up a more absorbable form today. I mentioned to Carol that I have Sheehan’s syndrome so many hormones need to be checked and balanced and finding the right practitioner is really difficult where we live!
        Thanks again for the article!!

        1. Hi Gloria,

          You sent chills through my veins reading about the high doses of tryptophan. While it is an essential amino acid that we must consume, serotonin, and all triptans (hence the similarity in the name) are derived from it. High doses of it CAN cause serotonin syndrome! I usually ask everyone to stop taking this supplement in my migraine group because they take many other medications and so this can cause SS plus other undesired interactions.

          One of the reasons why you are likely having trouble absorbing minerals and vitamins from your food is because Celiacs have a damaged intestinal and gut lining. It is very difficult to find food that you do not make on your own that is without some gliadin protein (or some other proteins that are part of the gluten family). I am not a Celiac and also tested negative to all grains (for the same reason you did… stupidly stopped grains many weeks before the allergy test… duh) but, to give you an example for a non-allergic reaction of someone who ate bread and grains all her life with no problems, after stopping all grains I ate hash browns inn a restaurant last Sunday and boy did I pay for that! And I had no clue I was sensitive (not allergic apparently and clearly not a Celiac) but the price us sensitives pay is

          1) inability to absorb nutrients even from pills;
          2) lack of proper gut flora for absorption of nutrients in general.

          Thus it is not enough for a Celiac to go grain free. A Celiac must also take a good 2-3 months of probiotics until the proper gut flora is established–normally probiotics is enough for a week or 2 weeks max but for Celiacs the damage is so great that the bacteria cannot even establish fast enough well enough. It is totally pointless for most people to take vitamins – I had that tested in my migraine group with B-12 as someone just had a blood test after taking B-12 pill and had been taking it forever and was still low. Monthly injections of B-12 are recommended. I am not sure about the rest of the vitamins and minerals. Magnesium comes in many shapes and forms and given your status as a Celiac, your absorption will greatly depend on what magnesium is best for you.

          Some time ago I found this page that gives a very good explanation of the top 10 magnesium types (both good and bad) so you can see which may be the best for you.

          However, a word of caution: magnesium citrate has the highest bio-availability but it is also a laxative! Given your Celiac status I would avoid that particular kind of magnesium.

          I hope this is helpful!


    2. Carol,

      I often seem to have the OPPOSITE “reaction” to meds and some supplements — I have been taking Tryptan (tryptophan) for about 20 years. The first sample that I tried, I told my son that I felt “ambitious” enough to feel like cleaning the fridge and the stove at the same time. He told me to rest till that feeling passed which did not take long at all.

      I have Sheehan’s syndrome so my hypothyroidism is problematic and I also have severe seasonal Affective disorder (we are in Canada in the central prairies so not much sun for about 8 months of the year).

      I have read several times about Serotonin syndrome (because it do take high doses of tryptan — the bottle says 8 to 12 grams per day and I have used that high a dose in the winter — but down to 2 grams during the summer now that I am sunbathing). So I am somewhat concerned about serotonin syndrome, but do not seem to have ANY of the symptoms (my digestion is poor — celiac– and I do not absorb well at all) that are described in the literature (except maybe for higher bp and heartrate — I will be 70 next year — which docs attribute to my thyroid meds). I am able to “regulate” my dose of Tryptan by watching how I interact with others. If I get too talkative (like someone who has had too many alcoholic drinks), I cut back on my tryptophan. I am also taking Magnesium and have looked at Carolyn Dean’s info.

  24. May I please make a suggestion? Defining serotonin syndrome in the opening paragraph would be very helpful to those of us not familiar with the term. Also, if I understand the article correctly, everyone who is taking an SSRI, which inhibits the reuptake functioning, will by definition develop SS? Is that what you are saying? If so, very vast implications. I am really glad to have read this article because a good friend of mine is caretaker for a 100 yo woman who displays many of the behaviors your mother had when she switched to the SSRI. I will share this with her. Thank you!

    1. Thanks Carol. I considered doing that (up front explaining what SS was) but then I changed my mind because I wanted it to be emotional and it is a very emotional story for me. I cried my way through the article because of the loss of my mother and how I lost her. So it is also filled with typos but I decided to let it go since it reflects what it is like to witness someone with SS and feel helpless more than coldly tells you facts.

      Not everyone gets SS from one SSRI and I see many people in my migraine group who take more than 3 types and are still OK. One never knows when the threshold will be crossed. Because serotonin builds up in the brain with the assumption that it is needed, if it is not needed and builds up to toxic levels is when the problems show up. This threshold is different for each person of course. It is also dependent on what one does during the day.

      Only a small amount of serotonin is needed in the brain and how much is used versus how much is made is individual. However, if the 100 years old person exhibits three of the above list of symptoms (the three of these symptoms is as per NIH that you find here: )

      I recommend that you print the instructions out on the link above and hand it to the medical staff/care taker of that old lady and that they stop serotonin immediately and follow the protocol for treatment. I see you have some other comment as well. I respond to that separately.


      1. I am so sorry that your poor mom suffered in this way. To go from such a thriving life and bright mind to depression, anger and confusion that could have been alleviated must have been devastating for you and especially when you knew what was going wrong. My mom fell and broke her ankle at 81… and it was the beginning of the end for her. Her medical mismanagment was so frustrating as well… she developed IBS and her gastroenterologist did nothing to alleviate the horrible symptoms. It is what eventually killed her 6 mos later, and I now know it could have been treated. After her death I learned that her long term endocrinologist had so mismanaged her thyroid treatment following its removal that the last 25 yrs of her life were needlessly horrible for her; it actually destroyed her life. I of course had no idea at the time about the thyroid treatment being so wrong…. it must have been even more heartbreaking for you to KNOW what was happening and yet no one would listen. My personal feeling is that doctors tend to view the elderly as about to die in general and so they just want to make as much money on them as they can. Harsh view of things, but I saw so many things that convinced me of that. Thanks so much for explaining a bit more about how SS works. I will definitely forward this link to my dear friend Dee who is her caregiver…. right now. So take some comfort that your heart-breaking story will help others. Blessings. Carol

        1. Carol,
          I am so sorry to hear that your mother’s thyroid problem was not handled appropriately. My mom was in the same boat — We are in Saskatchewan in Canada and sometimes I wonder about the medical care. It seems like for the doctors — ANYWHERE in the lab range is just fine but IF one reads the literature for many lab results the best levels are in the middle or the “upper” range. That is not true of the TSH lab range — one doctor commented to his patient that if one was hooked up to an IV that gave the optimal thyroid hormone levels — the TSH SHOULD theoretically be 0.00! AND the endocrinologists here wanted mine to get to the middle of the range!!?? And I have Sheehan’s syndrome so my pituitary is just limping along and not working that well. SIGH!! We do so much need to learn and be our own advocate. Yesterday my doctor wanted me to add an antidepressant to my Tryptophan prescription because of my “anxiety” — I told her that my “anxiety” is because the doctors are not being helpful for my situation!! AND then she screwed up my prescription — ordering the “summer” dose instead of the “winter” dose!!

  25. I have had Serotonin Syndrome 2x. The first time my primary care physician was titrating me off of one SSRI and titrating me up with another SSRI. I was rushed to the hospital from her office. I spent 3 days in the hospital. I was given epinephrine in the ambulance and benadyril. I was then sent to the ICU. I was on Paxil and serzone..not one doctor that came to check me out had a clue. I am also a chronic daily migraine suffer. The next time I had serotonin syndrome my new PCP sent me to a poor excuse of a psychotherapist. I was taking Celexa and he decided to prescribe trazadone to help me sleep. I will never forget my husband drove me to see the doctor as I had many of the symptoms mentioned in your article. I had a window to be treated and stopped. Instead the doctor asked me to leave the room for a moment he wanted to speak to my husband. The long and short of this story the doctor told me I would not be thrashing on the floor. I would be fine. Three days later, my husband drove me to the ER where my 11th neurologist met us. I don’t recall the ride to the hospital. My dear neurologist knew exactly that I had serotonin syndrome. I once again spent 3 days in the hospital. Bags of Benadryl, an MRI an extensive neuro. exam every day. Needless to say, I am still battling Chronic Daily Migraines Depression, Fibromyalgia and on my 15th neurologist. I am educated now. I hope I may send your fine article regarding Serotonin Syndrome to my 15th neurologist. Thank-you and God Bless. Jean

    1. Oh my goodness Jean-Marie! I felt my blood pressure rise as I read your comment here! Not one of them treated your serotonin syndrome correctly! It is a miracle that you are alive! My gosh. Glad you are with us!

      I hope you are not on any serotonin medicines anymore. If you are not already in my migraine group, please join! There is much we can do to help you. Please ask to be let in and remind me of your comment here so I know who I am talking to. I am just cleaning the group out of people who are there for decoration but we are still close to 2000 so I do not know if you are in or not:

      Looking forward to trying to help you as best we can!


    2. Thanks for commenting on this article. I take large doses of tryptophan and my doc wanted to add an antdepressant and I refused because I have been on this medication for almost 20 years and am able to tell when I am getting too much — I get TOO talkative like someone who has had too many alcoholic drinks. BUT I often have the opposite effect from medications — tryptophan is supposed to make a person sleepy/relaxed and I get “energized” which is what I need since I also have Fibromyalgia with the main symptom being FATIQUE — AND maybe that is mostly hypothyroidism like Dr. John Lowe talks about in his book The Metabolic Treatment of Fibromyalgia. His info seems to apply to me — he talks about thyroid hormone “resistance” and I am not sure what exactly he means by that but I likely have it.

      Jean-Marie, I hope that you are NOT still taking that Serzone — it was supposedly pulled from the market because of causing liver damage. I was on it for a bit over a year and my stools got paler and paler. The pharmacist called to tell me to dump that med but I never heard anything from the doc who prescribed it and at the time didn’t know that I was getting liver damage from the Serzone!!

      1. Gloria,

        I am also working on fibromyalgia and have a group specifically for that but it is still very small.

        Many of the members in the FM group are also members of my migraine group and use the migraine protocol. It apparently benefits them though does not “cure” the disease. However, I have a few ideas (I am always full of ideas for better or worse) and so I want to ask you a question: Have you had Mononucleosis or any other types of encounter with the herpes virus, like a cold sore or similar, when you were a child?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.