Bodybuilding legend Flex Wheeler is opening up about a new drug he began taking three months ago for depression and ‘phantom pain.’ In a recent Instagram post, Wheeler said he’s suffering from extreme tremors and forgetfulness as a result of the medication, Amitriptyline.
Wheeler made his mark in the IFBB Pro League with exceptional conditioning, flow, and aesthetics. He never captured a Sandow trophy during his tenure which lasted over 20 years, but Wheeler pushed some of the greatest names in the sport, like eight-time Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman, six-time winner Dorian Yates, and Shawn Ray. He’s also a four-time winner of the Arnold Classic (1993, 1997, 1998, 2000).
While Flex is widely regarded for having one of the freakiest physiques of all time, his contributions to bodybuilding were met with a heavy cost. The 57-year-old was forced to have most of his right leg amputated in 2019. His health only deteriorated from there as the fan-favorite bodybuilder’s kidneys recently started showing signs of failure.
After using an antidepressant called Amitriptyline for three months, Wheeler said his shaking was so bad he thought he had Alzheimer’s disease. In an emotional plea, Wheeler encouraged those watching his video to pay closer attention to the side effects of pharmaceuticals.
Flex Wheeler Recaps Horrific Side Effects from Antidepressants: “Every Single Side Effect That This Drug Has to Offer, I Have It”
According to Wheeler, he started taking Amitriptyline to combat ‘phantom pain neuropathies.’ He underlined that the drug treatment has caused extreme tremors and forgetfulness.
“Obviously, you guys are aware, I deal with phantom pain neuropathies a state between nine and 10. My doctors have been diligently trying to find a medication that works for me. About three months ago, they found this drug and started me on it — it’s called Amitriptyline, something like that. Maybe the last two months, I’ve been experiencing extreme tremors. I’ve been shaking so much, and forgetting my thoughts, I was going to have doctors test me for Alzheimer’s that’s how bad it was.”
“I went home and researched this drug that they put me on, that I could think might have been causing these problems. I’ll list all the side effects at the bottom of the video. One of the things is extreme tremors. This is my hands; I’m not shaking on purpose. This is how bad they shake. I try to hide it when I’m in front of people and also losing my thoughts. Every single side effect that this drug has to offer, I have it.”
Wheeler advised others to be diligent with health care providers and to inquire about possible side effects.
“I’m so angry, I’m so angry that today’s society, there’s an old saying, ‘take two Aspirin and call me in the morning,’ doctors are basically saying try this drug and tell me how it works for you. And you guys need to be diligent. Ask your doctors what are all the side effects that are possible. The majority of drugs that I’m on, mine are like 10-fold. I get the extraordinary, extreme versions of it,” said Flex Wheeler.
In a separate incident, Wheeler recounted being sent to a mental institution after a different antidepressant caused severe side effects.
“As good hearted as this doctor was… I’m trying to remain calm here the side effects of the antidepressants when I was in the hospital, they ended up taking me from my hospital and putting me into a mental institution because of the side effects of this drug.”
Some of the side effects are dry mouth, which I’ve had tremendously. My skin is getting rough. Like I said, the shaking, not being able to be quick-witted, my thoughts and things like that.”
Eventually, Wheeler returned to the hospital and said doctors told him to stop taking the drug that put him into the psychiatric institution.
“I had this restless leg syndrome. He told me to stop doing that, ‘stop doing what?’ They came back 24 hours later and told me they never should have crossed those drugs,” says Wheeler. “About 20 hours later they moved me back into my regular hospital bed. My doctors, I feel are good hearted and want me to have a better life without pain. I just wish I would have asked the doctor about my side effects.”
Following a career full of obstacles, Flex Wheeler will be honored with the Arnold Classic Lifetime Achievement Award this weekend. Wheeler found out about the honor while in attendance at the 2022 Arnold Classic UK competition last September. He will join his longtime rival and colleague, Ronnie Coleman, who received the same award in 2021.
Despite the adversity, ‘The Sultan of Symmetry’ hasn’t slowed down at the gym, and recently pushed himself through a leg press workout with a prosthetic leg. Moving forward, Wheeler encourages his audience to ask questions about medications, especially when it pertains to side effects.