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Q. Is it possible Prozac may trigger violent and irrational reactions? Last year my son, who had been put on Prozac by his psychiatrist, had what I would call a gigantic temper tantrum. He destroyed his computer, his car and set himself on fire, burning himself over 90 percent of his body. Most of those were third-degree burns. He rushed into the bathroom and put out the fire with a shower, which probably saved his life.

He had never expressed suicidal tendencies before this episode, and has fought to live throughout his treatment for burns.

How often do people on Prozac attempt suicide? I think families should be warned about this complication. I am concerned about the Prozac ads I have been seeing in popular magazines because they barely touch on this potential problem.

A. The issue of violent, self-destructive behavior associated with Prozac is controversial. People who are depressed sometimes consider suicide. The company maintains this is no more common with Prozac than other antidepressants.

There have, however, been occasional reports of violent acts linked to Prozac. The ads you have seen include a page of fine print listing, among other potential adverse effects, agitation, confusion and emotional lability (extreme mood swings). "Suicidal ideation" and "violent behaviors" are also noted. Those taking Prozac should contact their doctor immediately if they begin to feel suicidal or have violent urges.

Mints may cause heartburn

Q. Why do restaurants have peppermints near the cash register? I find that whenever I eat mints I get heartburn.

A. Peppermint has traditionally been used to aid digestion. But it may actually aggravate heartburn in susceptible people by relaxing the ring of muscle at the top of the stomach. Normally this sphincter keeps stomach acid in place; relaxed, it allows acid to splash up into the esophagus.

Commercial preparations containing peppermint oil have been shown to be effective for the cramps and pain of irritable bowel. Enteric-coated capsules dissolve in the large intestine and act directly to relax smooth muscle there.

You may want to avoid peppermint and other foods and beverages that can make heartburn worse, such as alcohol, coffee, cheese, tomatoes and citrus fruits.

An apple a day

Q. My wife is bedridden with emphysema, osteoporosis and arthritis. Her fractured vertebrae are due to the steroids she takes for emphysema.

The doctor suggested calcium to strengthen her brittle bones. Then she had a problem with bowel movements because of not moving or getting any exercise.

Sometimes it would cause her great distress until she tried eating a quarter of an apple every evening, which has made her regular again. I thought I would pass this information on, as I didn't know about this little tip.

A. Thanks for reminding us all of the importance of fiber in the diet. This may help explain Grandmother's recommendation of an apple a day.

Write to Joe and Teresa Graedon in care of The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240. The People's Pharmacy radio show is heard Saturdays at 1 p.m. on WNED-AM.

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