Death of local teen drives father to share heartbreaking story

Alexis Doss, a Murrieta Mesa student, took her own life May 15 after overdosing on a prescribed medication. Her father decided to share her story in hopes of saving others from a similar fate. Courtesy photo
Alexis Doss, a Murrieta Mesa student, took her own life May 15 after overdosing on a prescribed medication. Her father decided to share her story in hopes of saving others from a similar fate. Courtesy photo

The tragic death of a local teen from Murrieta Mesa High School in May is bringing the risk of anxiety medications to the forefront with many parents throughout southwest Riverside County.

Alexis Madeline Doss took an entire bottle of anxiety medications prescribed to her by her doctor, ultimately ending her own life May 15.

“I don’t believe she had this planned. I believe her mind was completely overwhelmed by that medication much like she was a week or so prior when she cried for so long uncontrollably,” Alexis’ father, Tim Doss said in a social media posting. “I believe she just reacted by downing the bottle in order to stop the storm in her mind, thinking death the only way out.”

Doss decided to share his family’s story as a warning to others taking anxiety medications and other medications like it.

“As you can imagine, she was the light of my life,” he said. “I would always describe her as a ‘pretty, long-haired version of me.’ I’ll share what happened in hopes that it will somehow give others warning signs to look out for and to serve as a cautionary tale and to hopefully stop any wild speculations.”

According to Doss, his daughter was “the bravest human” he knew as a child. Doss said Alexis would sing and dance onstage “like it was her calling.” She won the school spelling bee in fourth grade, competing all the way to 10th in the district against eighth-graders.

“In fifth grade, she did it again just to show it wasn’t a fluke,” he said. “I called her my little ‘stands with fist.’”

Alexis Doss. Courtesy photo
Alexis Doss. Courtesy photo

Doss said Alexis began to change in sixth-grade. She became less outgoing and began to dread school. The daughter he was close with and who told him everything began to keep more to herself, not sharing as much as she had in the past.

Doss said she was not bullied or abused, but over the next few years, Alexis had some “difficulty with school” but found “joy with her friends.”

“It looked a lot like your typical teenage angst,” he said.

When Alexis started high school, “the lows were lower and the highs not as frequent.” Doss talked to his daughter about counseling, and while he thought she would resist, instead she was willing to go. The counselor discussed medication options with the family after running tests that showed no imbalances.

“It was at this point we decided to try meds,” Doss said. “We started very low dosage, and every few weeks tweaked it as necessary. Wellbutrin didn’t seem to work, so we tried Lexapro. After a few sessions of tweaking the dosage, it appeared we found the right amount. She was feeling less down and was enjoying life again.”

Alexis got a boyfriend and was going to school regularly, working toward graduation. She got her driver’s permit and did her senior exit interview, though she had put it off several times due to “the anxiety of it.”

“She got so desperate thinking about that exit interview since her freshman year that she was purposely tanking classes in order to delay graduation or force us to send her to online schooling or G.E.D.,” Doss said.

Doss said he didn’t realize that exit interview was the main obstacle until the week before Alexis finally did the interview.

“She confided in me that she was terrified of it,” he said. “She’d cry hard and start to hyperventilate just talking about it. My brave little girl was reduced to tears over a 15-minute discussion with a few teachers seated at a table asking her about her future plans.”

Eventually, Alexis did the interview with her guidance counselor who “coaxed it out of her informally in his office,” thanks to her father and brother’s help.

“She was doing great, accomplishing big things of late,” Doss said, adding that Alexis’ depression was in check, but “that anxiety was still out of whack.”

The family returned to the doctor to address the anxiety.

“She prescribed anxiety meds, and I confirmed twice that it would not conflict with the depression meds,” Doss said.

The doctor told Doss and Alexis that the new anxiety medication, Buspiron, wouldn’t affect the Lexapro.

“It was low dosage, but if we see any issues, just stop taking it,” Doss recalled. “We checked online and didn’t see conflicts to mention. Within a few days, she came home crying uncontrollably. She’d just gone to hang with her boyfriend and was overcome by sadness with no reason.”

Doss reported that the following day Alexis was fine, discussing her upcoming prom, graduation and moving into an apartment near Palomar with her boyfriend and a few friends to start college.

“She went to spend the night with one of her best friends but came home early around midnight, crying uncontrollably for almost around hour,” Doss said. “Scream crying.”

He tried to console his daughter, but she “couldn’t control it.” Alexis promised Doss that there wasn’t anything that caused it. No sad thought, no argument, nothing to trigger it.

“It was just an overabundance of emotion that she couldn’t stop,” he said. “I told her she has to stop that anxiety med immediately, it’s obviously causing problems.”

Alexis seemed fine the next week and performed in a dance showcase, choreographing one dance and dancing in two other numbers, Doss said.

“We all went Thursday to the opener, and she did great and she had a wonderful time,” he said. “Friday went well, and Saturday was the finale that she said went just OK at best because she was nervous.”

Doss left for a work trip Sunday, May 14, and received a call from his wife, the one that no parent ever wants to receive.

“Apparently Lexie had taken the whole bottle of anxiety meds sometime during the night,” he said, adding that no one in the house saw any warning signs, and there was nothing to point to as a trigger. “Before she went to bed, she worked with her mom to finish up arrangements for her prom and getting a matching boutonniere for her boyfriend.”

Monday morning May 15, Alexis’ boyfriend came to pick her up for school. He learned of her death just minutes after Doss’ wife discovered her daughter’s lifeless body lying in her bed.

“She didn’t leave a note, email, social media post or anything,” he said. “I believe it was another wave of emotion brought on by the new meds that just overwhelmed her, and she reacted.”

Alexis had plans to become a kindergarten teacher and “help little kids learn to read like she’d done so many years prior as part of a reading buddy program at school,” Doss said.

Doss said that he is “completely broken inside” and hurts for his wife, son and Alexis’ boyfriend.

For years, people taking antidepressants have been warned that the medicine can cause suicidal ideations. Many manufacturers of SSRIs or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, issued a warning regarding the issue.

One in six Americans take a psychiatric drug – mostly antidepressants, according to a February 2017 report in JAMA Internal Medicine. The Food and Drug Administration suggests patients of all ages who start taking antidepressants should be carefully monitored for clinical worsening, suicidality or unusual changes in behavior.

Medication-induced suicide has taken the lives of both younger and older patients. People take antidepressants in hopes of curing their depression, but without proper warnings of the risks from doctors and manufacturers, the outcomes can be devastating.

Doss said that the warnings given with prescriptions are “not done properly,” since most people don’t bother to read all the paperwork given by the pharmacists.

“It’s too much legal jargon and endless paragraphs and pages,” he said.

Doss said he thinks that the problem could be corrected if black box warnings were placed on the bottle, as well as on the paperwork issued by the pharmacy.

“The bottle should have that black box warning and maybe even color code the pill bottle top so I can tell from across the room which bottles are to be handled with extreme care,” he said, adding that doctors need to warn patients when prescribing dangerous medications, something that did not happen in Alexis’ case.

Doss hopes sharing his family’s story will prevent another senseless death from anxiety and antidepressant medications.

“We didn’t think there was a problem with the Lexapro. It was the anti-anxiety Buspiron that caused the sudden crying fits after a few days,” he said. “But really, the message is the same, both should be handled much like a loaded gun. The parent should have complete control of the meds and any odd behavior should be immediately addressed.

“It’s just tragic all-around,” he said.

21 Responses to "Death of local teen drives father to share heartbreaking story"

  1. Judy Gayton   June 10, 2017 at 3:15 pm

    It is an assumption to state that the problem may not have been with the Lexapro and attributing the problem was caused by Buspiron. All psychotropic drugs can cause adverse drug events which can end in suicide or death, and the risks are increased when increasing, decreasing, stopping, adding or switching drugs as well as with polypharmacy (more than one drug- which is not recommended and starts a cycle of chasing cascading symptoms.) These drugs cure nothing and mask the symptoms which are the bodies warning system that something else could be wrong (hormonal imbalance, vitamin deficiency, etc. As such pointing the finger at one over the other or suggesting that another or different black box warning is a solution is misguided and fails to understand the inherent risk on takes with their live when consuming any Allopathic drug which – taken as prescribed are the 4th leading cause of death, dr’s themselves being the 3rd. The reason drs fail to provide legal informed consent is that most people given all the facts would refuse to risk their lives. Part of informed consent is providing safe, effective alternatives. The AMA withdrew all funding for the DSM5 (book of psych diagnosis including “depression, anxiety” ect owing to its total lack of scientific credibility. Although people struggle with many things in life, as per leading psychiatrists, there is no such thing as a “chemical imbalance/brain disease that is a “mental illnesses.” As such, drugging someone with a neurotoxin known to cause death, disability, suicide, homicide, violence and addiction for a “disease” they do not have, is unethical insurance fraud and medical malpractice. Condolences to the family for this wrongful unnecessary death.

    Reply
  2. Justice   June 12, 2017 at 6:32 am

    Dear Mr. Doss, I am so very sorry for the loss of your daughter. No death can compare to that of losing a child. It was very caring on your part to share what you have been through so that parents can try to make a informed decisions when it comes to medical treatment. You were only following your Doctors advise. The FDA has not had a good history when it comes to drugs. Some DO have deadly side effects and patients today have to do so much research before putting that pill in there mouth, dispite what the Doctor recommends. Sadly teen depression is on the rise today, they face so much more peer pressure than I did when I was in school, things have changed so much in schools when it comes to the environment they are surrounded by.
    I just wanted to pass on to you an article I recently read dealing with teen depression, I found it very informative and I know it has helped many families.

    https://www.jw.org/en/publications/magazines/awake-no1-2017-february/

    If you cannot open the link please let me know, you will also find articles at this web site that discuss dealing with the death of a loved one, I lost both my parents within months of each other and recently my uncle died. I hope this information will help you and your family.
    Again I am so very sorry for your loss.

    Reply
  3. Bob Fiddaman   June 15, 2017 at 4:03 am

    Using buspirone together with escitalopram can increase the risk of a rare but serious condition called the serotonin syndrome.

    Drug Interaction Report
    https://www.drugs.com/interactions-check.php?drug_list=441-0,1013-565

    Sounds like Lexi was suffering from medication-induced akathisia, which can be a precursor to suicidal thinking and completion.

    Reply
    • Mike   June 25, 2017 at 2:26 pm

      Bob you are associated with the Scientology cult correct?

      Reply
      • Mike   June 27, 2017 at 7:46 am

        Bob this is a photo you getting an award from the Scientology cult’s front group CCHR. Are you a doctor? Do you have any medical credentials? Or do you rely on L. Ron Hubbard for that sort of thing?

        *LINK REMOVED DUE TO THREAT OF VIRUS* EDITOR

        Reply
  4. Kristina Kaiser Gehrki   June 15, 2017 at 7:54 am

    I offer sincere condolences to Alexis and her parents. Their avoidable tragedy is one I, and thousands of other families, know all too well. Her parents did all they knew to do to help their child with mild anxiety, yet their daughter suffered and died due to adverse drug reactions from the products prescribed. My child’s prescribed death is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oK6ZDbl_0Fc and https://rxisk.org/kidnapped-natalies-story/

    Doctors, families and caregivers must be accurately informed of the serious risks vs. minimal, if any, benefit posed by SSRIs and other products marketed as “antidepressants.” To learn more about akathisia and medication-induced suicide, visit Missd.co  For adverse drug reaction info, visit https://rxisk.org/experiencing-a-drug-side-effect/  I appreciate the reporter’s coverage of this public health issue: It’s a subject the mainstream press largely refuses to address.

    Reply
  5. Janet Kraft   June 20, 2017 at 5:21 am

    I am so sorry for the loss this family has had to suffer and all because a doctor got out his prescription pad! While a lawsuit cannot bring their daughter back, it could serve to save the lives of many others by being a deterrent for doctors to prescribe these dangerous drugs. I would suggest looking into the Benzodizepine Information Coalition and the FB group Benzodiazepine Awareness and Legal Action group.

    My personal story is that when my blood pressure was dangerously high from a tragic and stressful situation, I was prescribed Xanax. In a short amount of time I became prone to panic attacks (something I never had prior to taking the medicine) and eventually suicidal on a daily basis. I can tell you I did many things without “thinking” and suicidal thinking was not connected to a desperation over life situation -it became a “normal” part of my daily thought process. Prior to taking this drug, I was NEVER suicidal and after I detoxed off the poison (I used to think that type of thing was reserved for street drug addicts!), never once thought of it – despite my life being a total train wreck because of it.

    Had someone warned me of the dangers of this drug – I would never have taken it. Shame on doctors and everyone else in the medical community that ignore what millions are saying about these drugs just because it seems to be an easy fix – there simply IS no magic pill and drugs are NOT the answer for long term stress relief or psychological help.

    Reply
  6. J   June 20, 2017 at 5:59 am

    What BS! Psychiatric narcotics were the first and only “help” this girl got from her deadbeat dad! “Tests showed no imbalances” (A bit of “fake news” reporting, here. In fact, there are NO tests for “mental illness”.), yet he narcoticized her anyway. Monstrous! The narcotics AND this dad should get a “black box” warning!

    Reply
    • Kim Harris   June 21, 2017 at 10:37 am

      While appreciate your opinion, I would like to say that chemical imbalances can indeed be tested for, dopamine is tested through the blood, for one. Thanks for reading. KH

      Reply
      • Kristina Kaiser Gehrki   June 21, 2017 at 1:21 pm

        Kim, there is actually no such test that measures for any purported “chemical imbalance” to support a “mental illness” diagnosis. This is a myth.

        But you are correct, dopamine (and SSRI levels and Serotonin) can be measured in the blood. Parents of children who die SSRI-induced deaths sometimes have their child’s blood tested after death.They then learn, albeit too late, that their child had a chemical imbalance caused by the prescribed drugs. Many consumers do not have the enzymes necessary to destroy (break down) these drugs. Hence, toxic levels build up in the body and brain. Toxic levels can cause akathisia, serotonin toxicity, psychosis and death.

        Reply
  7. Mary Idema   June 20, 2017 at 10:35 am

    I’m so sorry for your loss! I know about this all to well! I was on pshyc meds for 20 years, they backfired on me. I had anxiety that felt like I was coming out of my skin. I also had racing thoughts that wouldn’t stop, no matter how hard I tried! I did finally cut my wrist, but, was to afraid to go deep. Then I ended up in the psyc hospital, only for them to prescribe more meds!
    It turns out, after spending thousands of alternative doctors, that I have hashimoto thyroid disease. I was misdiagnosed!!!
    There’s always a root cause for depression and anxiety, unfortunately western doctors don’t look for it, they only prescribe!
    I nearly lost my life… coming off these drugs is a horrendous hell too! That’s a whole other story.
    Thanks for sharing, the victims of these drugs need to be heard,it IS real, these drugs are dangerous!
    Praying for you and your family.

    Reply
  8. Renée Schuls-Jacobson   June 21, 2017 at 3:58 am

    I am healing myself after 8 years on a powerful anti-anxiety drug, Klonopin. The withdrawal I experienced coming off of it caused a chemically induced brain injury. Like your daughter, I also had suicidal ideation for many years. I’m not sure why I didn’t kill myself.

    I’m almost 4 years off now. It will be four years on August 1, 2017 and I am so much better. I’m so sorry for your loss. Please know you are not alone. So many of us have been harmed by prescription drugs which we have been told are safe. My heart is breaking for your entire family.

    Please please when you are ready, consider taking legal action. The statute of limitations prevents me from taking on my doctor’s here in New York State. Inform yourselves! To read more about my story, check out my website.

    Reply
  9. Mike   June 21, 2017 at 6:15 am

    It’s very sad to see commenters attempting to use this young woman’s tragic death to push their anti-doctor / anti-psychiatry pro-Scientology agenda. Antidepressants have helped literally millions of people live normal lives.

    Reply
  10. Kristina Kaiser Gehrki   June 21, 2017 at 12:33 pm

    Mike, it’s very sad to see you try to label people who report serious adverse drug reactions as “anti-doctor.” This tired smear tactic is ineffective. You see, medical research documents these ADRs as do parents of dead children, parents like me. I have doctors and health professionals in my family who share the facts so that they won’t have to burry their patients. We aren’t affiliated with any specific religious group; rather, we are simply members of the human race.

    My daughter died an iatrogenic death because these drugs pose serious risks and no benefit for many unsuspecting consumers. I share Natalie’s prescribed poisoning and death so others might be safer consumers. Medical freedom of choice requires that consumers know the true risks vs. benefits of drug products prior to prescribing. If I had access to accurate data, my daughter would be alive today. Good luck to you, Mike; be a safe, informed consumer.

    Reply
    • Mike   June 22, 2017 at 8:44 am

      Kristina Scientology isn’t a “religious group” but a cult, an illegal one that is banned in some nations, and CCHR is one of its front groups. There is no way to separate the so-called anti-psychiatry movement with that dangerous cult.

      Iatrogenic = blaming the doctor.

      I don’t know who the “we” is you think you speak for but I am parent too and you certainly don’t speak for me.

      Reply
      • Jean H   June 23, 2017 at 1:40 pm

        Please educate yourself. Your ignorance is alarming.

        Reply
        • Mike   June 25, 2017 at 2:23 pm

          Jean you meant to say “please get brainwashed, as I am, your mind is too free” hmm?

          Reply
      • Kristina Kaiser Gehrki   June 25, 2017 at 9:48 am

        Mike, this article is about an adverse drug reaction (ADRs) precipitating a child’s death. It’s sad as a parent you don’t value sharing ADRs so other children might be safer. Your silly definition of “iatrogenic” contradicts medical definitions: http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/iatrogenic

        If you want to beat your drum about religion, organizations, etc. unrelated to this article’s content, surely you can find more relevant, appropriate forums. ‘Nuf said.

        Reply
        • Mike   June 26, 2017 at 10:49 am

          Kristina there is no proof prescription drugs caused this child’s death – none.

          Are you associated with the Scientology cult, or its front group CCHR. Perhaps via Bob Fiddaman?

          Reply
  11. Melanie Larimer   June 21, 2017 at 12:46 pm

    So heart breaking. I send my deepest condolences and prayers out to Alexis and family. Please know you’re not alone by far as it’s happening worldwide. And please don’t blame yourself, it wasn’t your fault at all, if by chance you’re second guessing yourself. You had the best honorable intentions for your dear daughter and desperately wanted her to get better. I say this with love and deep compassion. We all do what anyone would do when it comes to a dear loved one or for ourselves. We place all our trust in our Doctors that are there to help us and make us better. Many Doctors, therapists, etc, are unaware of the detrimental effects of these drugs or how to even help. And too, there’s no informed consent. So many worldwide have been harmed and in suffering. I myself was badly harmed and suffering with an iatrogenic illness caused by Alprazolam. I almost lost my life. June will be 20 months and no better fighting every day.

    In closing, I’m truly sorry for the loss of your precious daughter. I will keep you all in my prayers. When you are able and ready I hope you will take legal action for the loss of your precious daughter that was caused by these deadly drugs.

    Reply
  12. Kim Harris   June 27, 2017 at 8:32 am

    All of this name calling and shaming is completely ridiculous. This family is suffering due to the loss of a child and yet certain people continue to belittle and attack the family for their beliefs. Where is the compassion??? You ought to be ashamed of yourselves. Regardless of your religious, medical or other beliefs, this father shared his very painful story to warn others of the dangers of prescription drugs during a time of immense grief and the fact that he lost a child seems lost on several commenters. Shame on you! Kim Harris, Managing Editor

    Reply

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