The recent tragic death of a teenage girl has been linked to anti-anxiety medications known as “beta blockers.” Now, from pained parents to pressured politicians, people are calling to put an end to these potentially life-taking drugs.
Unfortunately, individuals living with mental health issues will often take risk-filled, synthetic drugs that usually only mask the root cause of their anxiety or depression. Arguably, though, it’s not entirely their fault. Doctors will often prescribe medications with a very short-sighted perspective – this pill should work and if it doesn’t work, we’ll up the dosage.
Perhaps some doctors truly believe they’re being caring while for others; it’s convenient. In any case, these so-called healthcare professionals resort to such drastic chemical treatments for youth – kids whose brains and bodies are still developing.
Whether or not someone takes anti-anxiety medication is their choice, but it should be a choice they make only after a doctor has recommended and explained every treatment method as well as the risks involved – natural or otherwise.
The reality is… these anti-anxiety “beta blockers” took the life of 16-year-old Lucy Curran, by suspected propranolol intoxication, and something needs to change.
Beta Blockers: What Is Propranolol?
Typically, propranolol is a type of drug that affects certain parts of the body’s nerve impulses. Doctors usually prescribe these beta blockers to people with high blood pressure and to help slow the heart down.
If you’re not familiar with its medical name, some brand names propranolol goes by include: Inderal, Inderal LA, InnoPran XL, and Hemangeol.
At Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, on the night that Lucy Curran suddenly died, doctors could not explain the cause. Lucy’s mum, Sheila Curran, refused to speak about the tragedy, but did say: “We’ve raised it with the local medical center. It’s something that’s being dealt with.” (It being the risks surrounding propranolol and how easily accessible it is for adolescents without parental consent.)
Lucy’s death was not the first death either; two years earlier, Annette and Raymond Mazzoncini’s daughter, Britney, died a mere 16 days after her doctor prescribed the beta blocker.
“Things need to change urgently. We’ve had two young people die after using propranolol – we don’t want a third,” pleaded Annette. “The fact that this is still being prescribed almost two years after Britney died – and despite my campaign against it – is extremely worrying.”
Common and Severe Propranolol Side Effects
In the past, beta blockers have been linked to both accidental and non-accidental deaths. But, if you’re fortunate enough not to die, side effects may include:
- Dry eyes
- Wheezing (or bronchitis symptoms)
- Fatigue or weakness
- Hair loss
- Slower heart rate
- Changes in sex drive, sexual performance
- Breathing problems (e.g., wheezing, bronchitis symptoms)
- Allergic reactions (e.g., hives, rashes, itching, swelling of face or tongue)
- Sudden weight gain
- Swollen feet, ankles, or legs
- Circulation problems (e.g., cold extremities)
- Abrupt changes in blood sugar
- Trouble sleeping, nightmares
After bringing their petition to the Scottish Parliament in early 2017, the Mazzoncini’s are questioning if doctors have truly learned anything at all from their daughter’s unnecessary and avoidable death.
“[A] law is required which says no child is given a prescription for antidepressants or beta blockers on their first visit to a GP,” Annette says. “It’s my belief that propranolol presents a significant risk to young people and the system regarding prescribing it needs to be changed. Our children as young as 14 can be given this powerful medication without our knowledge or consent.”
Scottish Conservative early years spokeswoman Michelle Ballantyne thinks, if taken correctly, propranolol and other beta blockers will not kill you. But, Ballantyne does acknowledge that doctors are, in effect, enabling the possibility of young people overdosing.
“The medical guidelines are that alternatives should be explored before young people are given these drugs,” she continues. “If a young person is so ill with a mental health issue that they need a prescription, then they need more than just a prescription.”
What Does Mental Health Foundation Scotland Have to Say?
MHFS representative Toni Giugliano stated:
“It’s clear that medication for addressing common mental health problems like depression and anxiety is on the rise. We need to understand whether this is due to more people coming forward for help or a lack of alternative services on offer. If it’s the latter, then we have a problem.
We would like to see a wholesale investigation of what is actually happening. How are these drugs being prescribed and is it sometimes because of a lack of alternatives?”
This Is Where You Come In…
If you’re a parent or grandparent, you can understand what it must feel like to lose a child – especially when it could have been avoided. Since these dangerous drugs are so easily accessible now and don’t require adult consent, one of the greatest things you can do is talk to your loved ones. Letting them know you’re always there and keeping lines of communication transparent and open can (and likely will) make a world of difference.
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