The psychiatrist of a 14-year-old girl who live-streamed her suicide on Facebook doubled the dosage of the teen’s antidepressant just a month before she died, an investigation has revealed. [1]

Naika Venant, a foster child, was diagnosed with “significant depression” and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when she was just 12. The diagnosing physician, Terilee Wunderman, recommended that Venant see a specially trained therapist, and warned against filling the girl with antidepressants because the drug she was taking, Adderall, “sometimes can cause the side-effect of depression.”

But over the next 18 months, other doctors kept increasing the doses of that medication and added new ones, records show. Vendant had been prescribed Zoloft and the ADHD medication Adderall when she hanged herself in the bathroom of her foster home. Records indicate her dose of Zoloft was doubled on December 8.

Read: Antidepressants may be Worsening Depression, not Treating it

Sadly, Venant had a deeply troubled upbringing that involved years of sexual abuse by various men, and physical and emotional abuse by her biological mother. She didn’t have the benefit of caring parents to oversee her psychiatric care.

Court records released shortly after her death show that since last April, when Venant returned to state care for the third time, the teen was shuffled to foster home after foster home 14 times. During a 1-week period in October, Venant’s living arrangements changed 4 times.

All of this is more than enough to trigger mental and emotional issues in someone.

Venant was diagnosed with ADHD in 2010 by another physician, but when Wunderman met with the girl, Wunderman didn’t believe Venant had ADHD at all. Wunderman wrote:

“Although Naika has been diagnosed with [ADHD], there is much concern that her attention problems are due to anxiety and trauma, rather than true ADHD… Her distractability appears primarily due to trauma-based intrusive thoughts, fears and worries.

Naika’s medication should be reevaluated due to her pronounced depression. Since Adderall sometimes can cause the side-effect of depression, and Naika is coping with considerable depression related to her traumas, her medication should be reevaluated to determine if another regimen might better address her emotional difficulties.”

But 4 months after Wunderman wrote that memo, Venant’s Adderall dose was increased from 15 mg to 20 mg by a different prescriber. That’s also when 25 mg of Zoloft was added to the mix.

In adults, Zoloft is approved for depression, obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD), panic attacks, and PTSD. In teens, it is only approved by the FDA for OCD. The drug Vyvanse, a different ADHD drug, was also prescribed to Venant in a 50 mg dose in April 2016.

Zoloft is a selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI, antidepressant. In 2004, after numerous studies linked Zoloft and the SSRI antidepressants Prozac and Paxil to increased suicidal thoughts and behaviors in children, the FDA required the makers of the drugs to add a black-box warning to the medications’ packaging that they may increase suicidality in children and teens. [2]

Two years later, the FDA expanded its public health advisory to include anyone 24 or younger. Then, in 2007, the agency required manufacturers of SSRI antidepressants to update the black-box warnings to about the higher risks of suicidal thoughts and behaviors during during the first 1-2 months of treatment.

Reanalysis: Antidepressant Drug Paxil Makes Teens Suicidal

Black-box warnings are the most stringent warnings issued by the FDA.

Source: Reason

James Sewell, a child welfare consultant and retired assistant commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, says:

“They do black-box warnings for a reason. It’s too much of a danger.

How can we allow drugs that are black-boxed and are not supposed to be used for children under a certain age because of a risk for suicide? We can’t allow that to happen. It has to be a hard-and-fast rule.” [1]

Sewell chaired a 2009 commission that investigated the death of Gabriel Myers, another Florida foster child who also hanged himself while prescribed drugs linked to a heightened risk for suicide.

Source: Mad in America

Vendant’s mother, Gina Alexis, may have played a role in her daughter’s suicide. Venant was live on Facebook for about 2 hours threatening to kill herself before she took her life. During that time. Alexis criticized Vendant and commented:

“#ADHD games played u sad little DCF custody jit that’s why u where u at for this dumb s–t n more u keep crying wolf u dead u will get buried life goes on after a jit that doesn’t listen to there parents trying to be grown seeking boys and girls attention instead of her books.” [3]

Alexis denies viewing her daughter’s live-stream.

Sources:

[1] Miami Herald

[2] Drug Watch

[3] Daily Mail

NBC

Reason

Mad in America


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Post written byJulie Fidler:
Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.