Monsanto Roundup Lawsuit

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Antidepressants - An Indian Perspective

Source: The Economic Times

We've come full circle
Mythili Bhusnurmath, TNN

Early this month, Western papers were full of reports of a new study that seemed to rubbish the use of anti-depressants. Research at the University of Hull showed new-generation drugs such as Prozac and Seroxat do not relieve depression any more than dummy pills or placebos.

If anti-depressants are not the cure they are meant to be and the only ones gaining from them are drug companies, what’s the alternative therapy now being favoured by many doctors? The answer: Talking therapy! In plain language, a shoulder to cry on, ideally a qualified one, but if not, time, empathy and a willing ear.

Let’s accept it, modern-day life with its tensions means we all have our moments of self-doubt, of feeling life’s not worth living any more. Usually these are fleeting moments and more often than not, except in cases of severe depression, a caring family, a good friend, a sympathetic ear is enough to shake off the blues.

Unfortunately, the atomised lifestyle of the West, and increasingly our metros too, means no one has the time to lend you a shoulder when you are down in the dumps. Everyone is in the rat race. From kindergarten admission (as parents in metros will tell you) to high school and beyond, the pressure to perform, do one better than your neighbour, is relentless. To say time is at a premium is an under-statement; people are working more, sleeping less, spending less time with family and friends. And even when they do pause to listen, they listen with their ears, not with their hearts and that’s no use to someone who’s distressed.

In such a scenario what do you do when you are feeling low? Why, pop a pill, of course! Fortunately drug companies in India are not allowed to advertise on television but that is not the case abroad.

The drug may not actually do you any good but as anyone who has seen the seductive power of the advertisement blitzkrieg unleashed by drug companies on television overseas will vouchsafe, it’s easy to persuade yourself. After all there’s no reason why something that turned that haggard, beaten-looking man/ woman into a smiling, raring-to-go person on TV will not do the same for you. So what do you do? Reach for that bottle of pills much like many in India reach for that tube of Fair and Lovely, or should that be Fair and Handsome?

Counsellors and doctors don’t have much time either. In a world where time is money it’s so much easier to prescribe a drug than listen patiently to a person’s ills, real or imagined, and medicate as a last, not a first, resort.

The 21st century is all about the search for quick fixes. Depressed? No problem! Have a Prozac! Is your child distracted and inattentive in class? No problem! He’s probably suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder. Give him some pills. Don’t trouble yourself asking whether he/she is inattentive because the class is so boring that it does not hold the child’s attention. Whether the emphasis on rote learning means it simply does not interest a child who is inquisitive by nature (as most children are before our system of education kills their enquiring spirit). Or ask why the same child who just cannot sit still in class can sit for hours in front of a computer or a video game, lost to the world.

The answers are all there, staring us in the face but they are too disturbing. They call for patience and for time and effort, none of which most modern-day parents/teachers/doctors or counsellors have. So pop a pill; it’s so much easier. Never mind if it often implies drug-dependency for life.

Hopefully, with the publication of the study, there will now be some effort to turn the clock back. The UK government has already announced a $350 million programme to train psychotherapists who will treat an estimated one million people for depression and anxiety over the next three years. Predictably the drug industry is unhappy. If more and more people turn to old-world remedies whatever will happen to the lifestyle medicines on which the industry makes a fortune?

For us in India, there’s a message in this. Before we go whole hog the western way, pause, reconsider. Call that long-forgotten friend/family member, rethink your work-life balance and never allow drug companies to advertise on television.

Read the new book, The Evidence, However, Is Clear...The Seroxat Scandal

By Bob Fiddaman

ISBN: 978-1-84991-120-7