By Tara Weng, GalTime.com
Are we the 'post-prozac' nation?
I've been reading a lot about antidepressants lately and very often in casual conversations I hear people mention that they're on this or that drug.
It's an interesting phenomenon to me. In one sense I feel grateful that people are able to openly discuss their bouts with depression and anxiety. It's no longer a secret club, but one that has become a documented, fragmented, fraternity of sorts.
In another sense, however, I wonder if the mass advertising campaigns from drug companies have contributed to the growing number of people on medications and their continued dependence on them.
For myself, I wonder: "Where does this stem from, do the medications lose their effectiveness over time, and do they even really work?"
I've struggled with my own reliance on medication for years. The last time I was really not on any type of antidepressant was eight years ago.
I've dabbled with weaning myself off (definitely not recommended without the supervision of a clinician), but it seems like so long ago that I've not woken up, had a cup of coffee, and thought,"Oh, I have to take my meds."
I have learned not to hide from this, though. Depression is a clinically diagnosed medical condition......and I would feel incredibly disingenous to not acknowledge my own struggles with the people I trust to read my articles/rantings.
As an immediate answer to what I'm sure is the question that's plaguing a lot of your minds: I don't feel debilitated. I'm a strong woman, a mother, a wife and a career person...so the short answer is: I'm healthy and well.
I juggle the same things many people do on a daily basis, with no residual side effects.
But I beg the question to an expert for many people out there:
Do patients need to be on antidepressants the rest of their lives?
According to Dr. Susan K. Blank, yes and no.
"Yes, some patients need to be on antidepressants for the rest of their lives. I tell my patients, about 50% of patients who require an antidepressant will need to take it for 9-12 months and will not need another antidepressant ever; about 25% will be able to discontinue the antidepressant, but at some future time may need another course, and about 25% will have a return of symptoms if they discontinue the medication or, sometimes, if they even lower it a bit. The problems is, we don't usually know which group a person will fall into."
Herein lies the problem.
Speaking for myself, I wonder what I hope to have gained from my experience on these medications and what should I have expected.
Again, Dr. Blank explains that the answer to these questions aren't easy and shouldn't be taken lightly.
"The medications are not "happy pills", their job is not to put the person in la-la land or change their personality."
Dr. Blank iterates that the goal of the medication is to "stabilize" things like sleep, appetite, energy level, sex drive and mood. She acknowledges that those on medication will still have good and bad days and that they should still respond with the appropriate emotions indicative of the situation they're in.
In terms of advertising Dr. Blank says the benefits definitely outweigh the negative. From this perspective I believe she is absolutely right.
It took me at least two years to admit to my own parents that I was taking medication for depression--and I still don't know if they want to know what that means--but I do believe they understand better.
"Advertising has helped people recognize the signs and symptoms of the disease as well as helping people understand that it is a medical illness. Also, I think that opinion leaders, people in the media and popular press have highlighted their own struggles with depression, or have helped celebrities find a voice to carry the message that depression is a serious problem with a number of very successful treatments, including, but not limited to antidepressants and other medications. However, there are still far too many people who see depression as a weakness of will or a character flaw, and there are still far too many people suffering."
What do you think? Are too many people on the medications? Have you tried them and have they helped/not helped?
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