SHOUT/New York Times

I have in my hand my evening pills, and I think to myself, was this all a mistake?

In the second semester of my junior year in college, a realization that I had depression and that I needed to get some sort of help finally clicked. I made an appointment with the student health center’s psychiatrist, and after talking to me for a few minutes, I remember the doctor asking me if I wanted to try an antidepressant. I sure didn’t refuse the offer, so he handed me a prescription. That was eight years ago.

Now, I sit here, halfway through the book “Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America” by Robert Whitaker, and I am mortified. He actually mentions Dr. Frederick Goodwin—the guy that wrote “the bible” on Bipolar Disorder (Manic-Depressive Illness with Kay Jamison) and his and another colleague’s panel at the 2008 American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting. They actually admit that only a small percentage of people “respond to these crummy treatments, like antidepressants,” and that those who are withdrawn from medication relapsed at high rates.  The data Whitaker presents basically concludes that once those diagnosed with a mental disorder ever tries to get off meds, the likelihood of relapse is high–much higher than those who go through non-drug therapies. One may argue that the cases of relapse proves that the meds work, but what research instead shows is that it’s because the meds alter the brain functioning to work abnormally, and not restore some normal order like we thought it did. In short, our brain pathways have been so changed that we can’t go without our meds.(The book is much more detailed in making this case.)

Eight years ago, did I make a choice that, in the long run, would never let me get better? Is this a doctor-approved addiction scheme? Had I decided to seek counseling first, where would I be now?

I shove those pills into my mouth, well aware of what the consequences would be if I stop taking them. But now I wonder, are the life-long consequences of taking medication worth the short-term relief?

Time for me to keep reading….


One Comment to “encapsulated”

  1. Believe me, being treatment resistant, I’m not a fan of medications, but I’d beware of the possible extremeness/fanaticism of the anti-drug movement as well. Yeah, I think some drugs have messed up my brain, but I do still believe I ended up on the drugs because there was something wrong with the brain chemistry to begin with. I, for now, am trying to be a bit more diplomatic and give the establishment the benefit of the doubt that they are trying to help with their treatments. Unfortunately, science has not advanced to the point where we really, truly have reliably effective treatments for the mysteries of the mind. When it comes to the mystery of the mind, I guess, I admit, I feel we are still sort of in the stone ages. Are the meds all that good? Probably not. Are they the best we have at this time…. that may very well be the case. I do not believe that the medical establishment who has helped me in my battle against depression (albeit without great success) is in some sort of twisted cahoots to permanently harm us. The pharmaceutical industry, however, is an entirely different story…. ;)

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