My son had an extreme reaction to Zoloft (an SSRI)

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by cassiemoun, Apr 17, 2011.

  1. cassiemoun

    cassiemoun New Member

    My 9 year old son started on the Zoloft 14 days ago. This past Thursday, he went into another students locker (actually a good friend of his) and stole his Pokemon cards. Then came home Friday and absolutely erupted at me (with- major aggression) over having had his cards and Nintendo DS taken as a punishment, my hubby came home and we dealt with the violent eruptions for 75% of the evening. He was even threatening to jump out of the window. This morning (Saturday) we went right into hypomania/agitated/aggressive state and once again was saying "I'm going to kill myself!"

    We then decided to take him to the ER. Long story short, we only saw a Psychiatric Social worker (in contact with a Psychiatrist) and she agreed with us that the medications were probably to blame, but never mentioned serotonergic disinhibitation specifically. (I hadn't discovered it on the internet at this point).

    We decided against hospitalizing him at a place 1-1/2 hrs away and took him home, first stopping at the drug store to pick up the Benedral the hospital had suggested. He wanted rice crispy treats at the store and I said no. I discovered in the car halfway home that he had stolen then. (you have to know that my son NEVER stole before this week!)

    At home, he erupted, very, very agitated and was just full out attacking us. We called 911 and the police and children's crisis response team (CERT) came. They talked with us, CERT did a safety contract with him and with us, they were really nice.

    10 minutes after they left, he erupted once again. He raged and attacked us for nearly an hour until he slammed his finger in the door by accident and that pain snapped him out of the rage.

    Then, finally and thankfully, the Benedral kicked in.

    What he has, I found on the internet......he has seratonin disinhibition, also called Frontal Lobe Syndrome. He's off the Zoloft as of yesterday morning and I am hoping each day gets a little better and that he's back to normal ASAP!

    Listed as SSRI side effects are pretty much every single thing my son had - violence, mouthyness, aggession, rage, irrational thought, apathy, even KLEPTOMANIA!! I also learned that the MAJOR and sudden apathy he has had about school, is also likely related to the SSRI's. (That apathy started on the Prozac, but I never made the medication connection....)

    SCARY what it did to his brain! I can't believe a medication can make a person have kleptomania! (among all the other dramatic effects!)

    So, no more SSRI's! It's just the Intuniv, and the Intuniv alone from now on. We'll take him negative! It's a walk in the park compared to that. My poor baby boy. I am broken hearted for him. Especially when I read that this one doctor on this website I found commented that children are "embarrassed and very ashamed about what they did while "under the influence" of the SSRI's." I feel very responsible and hope beyond hope that he is feeling 100% asap.

    Today, he didn't have anymore rage, but he still wasn't really completely himself. I am keeping him home from school tomorrow and we're doing our best to keep him calm and under no stress or pressure.

    I am not sure what to tell his school. I am thinking that he should have a lightened workload this week and I'd like them to try their best to handle him delicitely. I don;t know if that's an overcautious request, but I just feel like the poor kid has been through SO much the past 2-3 days! What do you think?
  2. HaoZi

    HaoZi Guest

    Hope he gets that washed out of his system soon! I don't think it would be asking too much of the school to be a little easy on him right now. Does he have an IEP?
  3. pepperidge

    pepperidge New Member

    We had the same thing. With two different kids. Sigh. With my youngest it was pretty extreme. We told the school. You might even think about keeping him home if you don't think he can manage. He doesn't need to get in trouble.
    You might talk to the your doctor about trying Risperdal for a week or two--it calms the aggression. Sorry.

    Our psychiatrist refused to think the medication was the problem. My son was up on the roof, tying ropes to pine trees and trying to swing off. Among other things. good luck.
  4. cassiemoun

    cassiemoun New Member

    Funny you should say that about the tree son was also outside playing everyday for the 3 days before the violence erupted....he was climbing everything, leaping everywhere, taking risks, getting hurt and not even batting an eye. I should have seen it then. I can see the extreme change now, looking back, but I just thought it was a phase of liking to make "obstacle courses" for himself everywhere.

    Then I also thought it was a phase when he became so apathetic about school, but also attributed that to something else.

    I just realized right now that he's been tipping in his chair incessently for the past 10 days and that was also a side effect! My mind is blown away at how that medicine (and many other medications....) can change a mind like that.
  5. cassiemoun

    cassiemoun New Member

    No, he goes to a regular ed. private school, but the principal is very loving and understanding. I'm sure she'll be more than willing to help how she can.....
  6. pepperidge

    pepperidge New Member

    we even had the stealing too. It stopped as soon as we d/c the medicine. In my son's case I think it took about a week or two for things to calm down. Your son's rages are extreme. Really if you don't see an improvement ask about a short term course of Risperdal. It does not help a child to rage. I would definitely explain to the principal. But if you think there is any danger that he will rage you might keep him home for a day or two. Mine was turning over desks in the school after 3 days on Lexapro.
  7. cassiemoun

    cassiemoun New Member

    He doing SO, SO much better today. We kept him on benedryl, which seemed to help make him sort of slow and tired. I don't think he's a danger now, but we're just being careful and having him sleep in our room and keeping watch over him. I am really hopeful that he's all the way better soon. I read that the half-life is a day, so he's at 50% today and tomorrow will be 12.5%.....
  8. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    difficult child 3 reacted to Zoloft by becoming manic. It did seem to help on Day 1, but from there he just didn't sleep and then lack of sleep resulted in massive behaviour deterioration. He was 5. Then three years later he was tried on Luvox. Allergic reaction - rash. The antihistamines he was put on )or something) seemed to 'switch off' his stimulant medications (the ones that keep him on the level, stop us wanting to kill him) and for the first time ever, he was sent home from school. Not suspended - just "Please take him home until he's over this."

    Interestingly, he now takes citaloprim and seems to be doing better with it (plus ongoing stimulants, of course).

    Every kid is different.

  9. rlsnights

    rlsnights New Member

    That's not how half-life works. Each period of the half-life means that he has half of the previous level in his system than before. Since Zoloft has a 26 hour half-life it will take at least 5 or 6 days to clear his system depending on how fast his body is metabolizing it.

    In my experience, extreme changes in brain chemistry like that can take months to correct themselves and for the brain to "heal". So I would definitely keep him home for the next couple of days if it's an option and ask the school for no homework for a week at least. If the teacher can direct him to a quiet haven where there's an understanding adult if she notices agitation or aggression or "silliness" that's out of bounds that may be very helpful to him for right now.

    I would keep things at home quiet and calm too - no loud or raised voices, no violent TV shows or video games, nothing that will overstimulate him - for good or bad. Keep things predictable and low key.

    Hope he's better soon and his psychiatrist is responsive and can find an alternative medication.

  10. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I had an extreme reaction to Zoloft, which I don't think they ought to give to children at all. But they do. Well, I am a full grown adult and after two weeks on it, I ended up in the emergency room with akathesia and a heart racing so fast that they couldn't get a heart rate on it. I loathe medication. Since I found a combo that helps me so much, I won't take anything else unless it is lifesaving.
    It only took me a few days to feel back to normal though.
    If an adult can have such an extreme reaction to medication, so can a c hild. I hope your son feels better soon. Do your research on SSRI antidepressants OR on any medication your doctor wants to give to your child. They are no p icnic, even for an adult, unless you are lucky and find the right medication right away. In my case, I was so suicidal (and ready to act on it) that I kept trying and finally found medications that have made my life normal. But it took TEN YEARS. I was ready to beg for ECT...that's how bad it was. And the only reason I wanted to live at all was because of my children.
    Beware of doctors that get our the prescription pad too fast. (((Hugs))) and hope your precious little one feels better soon.
  11. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    I have a neighbor boy who became suicidal on Zoloft a few years before my son entered his anxiety behaviors. The boy would want to run out into traffic, jump from window, ect. So, I knew that Zoloft had to be watched in children.

    Unfortunately, we have a local doctor who seems to be prescribing it way too readily. When we were trying to figure out what was wrong with difficult child, this doctor said to me, "hmmm, I don't know what is going on, I think it may be anxiety, here, take Zoloft for a few months and see if that helps." NO WAY am I giving my child Zoloft based on a "I don't know, I think".

    So, my neighbor tells me, "Interesting, I had to take my son off medication to prevent self harm thoughts and you have to put your son on medications to prevent self harm thoughts." Yep! But soooo glad I didn't go the Zoloft route. (though if I had faith in the diagnosis at the time I would have)

    Keep in minds that medications do work differently in each kid. Thus the difficulty of finding what does work. And it is interesting that the medications that prevent certain things (like suicidal thoughts) are also the ones to cause them in some people.

    Did the doctor start your son on a lower dose knowing it wouldn't be the correct dose to give it time to show the reactions? I think every single medication my son has been on has been started at a very low non-medical dose to see how he tolerated it. We then worked up to what was best for him (sometimes going over because we didn't know but then coming back down).

    You have a very good support in the school! From these boards, I have learned not everyone does. My son also had a terrific set of teachers. It really is awesome to have the school's support while going through this, much better for the child. I really believe that the reason my son was so successful in overcoming his anxiety was because of the level of support I received from the staff at his school. They all knew that what he was turning into was not the real him and were able to lovingly and gently give him guidance to turn it around which he did.
  12. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    YikeS!!!! I am so sorry!
    I thought it was bad when my son got dizzy, got a horrid headache, and his heart was beating so hard, I could see his shirt moving from across the hall.
    I am so glad you figured it out and know not to use that again.
    Drugs are NOT a one size fits all remedy.
  13. cassiemoun

    cassiemoun New Member

    OK, so if what I'm reading on the internet is correct.....the fact that my son is still acting manic and "out of sorts" indicates bi-polar. Is that always the case?

    We're trying to move the appointment. with- UCLA to May 3rd, but I'm nervous that may not be soon enough.

    I'm so scared and sad for him.
  14. rlsnights

    rlsnights New Member

    I'm short of time right now and didn't go back and read all your previous posts. But doesn't your son have a psychiatrist now? Oh yes, you're with Kaiser right?

    If he is truly manic it is probably dangerous to have him at home and school. But he may still be reacting to the Zoloft so I wouldn't jump to any conclusions yet.

    Tell us about what's going on and maybe we can give you some reassurance or guidance about what's going on. Not docs but we have a lot of collective experience.

    It's very hard to diagnose bipolar in children. If you're going for assessment at the clinic that specializes in that then you should get an answer you can rely on.

    I'd call them every day - twice a day if you have time - to check for cancellations and tell them what's going on. If you call often enough they will remember you really well and may even call you.

  15. cassiemoun

    cassiemoun New Member

    Thanks Patricia. Yes, I'm with- Kaiser...they've gotta be the worst HMO when it comes to mental heath care. I am so frustrated with- them. I feel like they are so incompetent, that I'd rather pay cash for UCLA if we can hold out for it.

    He is very short fused, smacking his brother (and me) at the slightest frustration or provocation. He hasn't been going to sleep easily, staying up until 11 or 12 (He's on Intuniv and he was always asleep by 10 AT THE LATEST before the Zoloft reaction.

    He is rapidly moving from one thing to another (playing video games, playing pokemon cards, playing handball, riding his big wheel around). He's really mad at his best friend (and next door neighbor) and is proclaiming he's never going to be his friend again. He has this sort of smirk or "look" to him when I am talking to him. Several times today, I've tried to talk to him about what's going on and he is completely tuning me out. Yesterday, he had a huge meltdown and threatened to spill a huge Coke in my car, unbuckled while I was driving and refused to re-buckle. When we got home, he slid his arm across the countertops and cleared everything down to the floor and then took his Easter basket stuffing and threw it around the kitchen. And then screamed at me that this was all my fault for making him mad because I was taking away a sleepover that he was going to have that night.

    He's raged before. He's been super negative before. he's been very hyper before.

    This just looks different than before. If the Zoloft isn't in his system, he can he still be reacting to it?

    Can kids have BiPolar (BP) if they aren't ever depressed?
  16. Jena

    Jena New Member


    my daughter had the same exact reaction on an ssri. it was hell for 3 days granted she was alot younger and i did it over weekend, i never do medication change during week if she's in school i usually do it on breaks, or on a friday so the effect will hit by late friday that sort of thing. we didnt' give her benadryl just alot of water and were real patient tilli t work off. she is bipolar. yet alot of kids react differently to ssri's so it doesnt' necessarily mean that he has bipolar because he reacted that way.

    i had doctor's following my daughter for years therapist etc. before i was willing to accept the bipolar diagnosis. he'd have to be followed for years. also i began keeping a log of her behaviors years ago, than i began to see patterns and cycles forming. you should try that also.

    glad he's getting it out of him and you reacted so quickly.
  17. HaoZi

    HaoZi Guest

    Not sure on the Zoloft, but when mine had a nasty reaction to risperdal it didn't seem to get out of her system until weeks (and a stay at psychiatric hospital with medication wash and new medications) later. It was technically an "allergic reaction" to risperdal, but the psychiatric hospital listed it as "self-harming behavior" (also true) in order to get her admitted as an emergency intake. If you feel he's a danger and the docs aren't stepping up fast enough, get to the ER or psychiatric hospital.
  18. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    At age 12, my son had a horrible manic reaction to Zoloft that lasted for WEEKS. even though he had only been taking 25 mg for three weeks. Although we discontinued Zoloft the very night he trashed our house and bruised my husband's ribs when he tried to restrain my son, we couldn't get my son to settle down on his own. It did take pharmaceutical intervention after the psychiatrist watched him for 6 weeks.

    And no, just because a child has this sort of manic reaction to an SSRI doesn't mean he has bipolar disorder. What it does mean for my son is that he can't handle SSRIs (we, in fact, went on to trial a few more SSRIs with equally disasterous results). In my son's case, his diagnosis is mood disorder (now in remission) and mild Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), but he does not meet full criteria for bipolar disorder.