“What would happen if you stopped taking antidepressants? A successful suburban dad puts his life on the line as he attempts to break free from the physical and psychological addiction to antidepressants.” www.numbdocumentary.com
The documentary begins as filmmaker and suburban dad Phil Lawrence cracks open his pill box and cuts his antidepressant Paxil in half. Under a doctor’s guidance, Phil is weaning himself off the drug and is looking forward to getting back to the day when he can feel emotion instead of feeling numb. He tells his kids what he’s doing and his wife is supportive but skeptical.
Over the next few weeks, Lawrence continues to cut back, but withdrawal symptoms emerge. The first is a slight headache and constant ringing in his head. Later the symptoms get more severe. He can’t sleep and he sleeps too much. He struggles with wild emotional swings filled with rage and thoughts of violence.
Phil’s relationship with his wife and family becomes strained as he continues to spiral out of control. He attempts to find alternatives to his discomfort through diet and exercise, but the withdrawal symptoms are too severe. His wife thinks she may have lost the man she loved.
Phil is moody and exhausted. He can’t even muster the energy to play with his kids on Christmas day. While going through withdrawal, Phil decides to find out how and why he got addicted to antidepressants. He interviews experts all over the country who confirm that the drug companies knew years ago that antidepressants were addictive. He goes to hearings on Capitol Hill where dozens of people testify that their loved ones lost control under the spell of antidepressants. He also uncovers documents that confirm what Phil suspected: the drug companies hid the facts from the public. When we see Phil on day 120, he’s suicidal and terrified.
Phil always wanted to feel emotion and now he feels it too much. You cheer for him to keep going and at the same time you secretly hope he gives up. It’s painful and riveting to watch a man’s life unravel on video. But it is also incredibly compelling because so many of us know someone whose life has been touched by antidepressants and we understand the dilemma. In the end, Phil makes a haunting decision as he realizes that he’s trapped in a physical and psychological dependence on the most prescribed drug in the United States.