On August 6, 2003, Woody was found hanging by the rafters of his garage, dead at age 37.  He died of Zoloft-induced suicide. Woody wasn’t depressed nor did he have a history of depression or suicidality or any other mental illness.

Woody loved life and all that this world had to offer. He was a compassionate, loyal husband, son, brother, uncle, godfather and friend.   He was outgoing, gregarious, smart, had a huge personality. Everyone loved him.

Woody had just started his dream job as Vice President of Sales with a start up company two months prior and started having trouble sleeping which is not uncommon for entrepreneurs.  So Woody went to see his regular internist was given the antidepressant Zoloft off-label for insomnia. The doctor said Zoloft would take the edge off and help him sleep. Five weeks later, Woody took his own life.


The 3-week Pfizer-supplied sample pack that Woody came home from the doctor with automatically doubled the dose unbeknownst to him from 25 to 50mgs after week one.  No cautionary warning was given to him or his family about the need to be closely monitored when first going on the drug or dosage changes. In fact, Woody’s wife was out of the country on business for the first 3 weeks he was on the drug.  

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“Help me, help me.  I don’t know what is happening to me. I am losing my mind.” —Woody Witczak


Within days Woody experienced many known side effects like profuse night sweats, diarrhea, trembling hands, and worsened anxiety.  He also experienced other side effects like akathisia known only to drug companies/FDA but not to Woody, his doctor or his family. Woody was extremely sensitive to foreign substances in his body, deadly allergic to penicillin.  He didn’t like to take over-the-counter medications (like Sudafed, Excedrin, or Nyquil), or to drink caffeine, or have more than one glass of wine or beer.

Shortly before Woody died, Kim found him curled up in fetal position on the kitchen floor, holding his head like a vice, crying, "Help me, help me.  I don’t know what is happening to me. I am losing my mind. It's like my head is outside my body looking in.” We calmed him down and called his doctor who said you need to give it 4-6 weeks for the drug to kick in.  Over the next week, Woody, optimistically, was looking for ways “to beat this feeling in his head.”

Woody’s family and friends only wish we knew then what we know now. It wasn’t Woody’s head. It was the drug.