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Citizens Commission on Human Rights Award Recipient (Twice)
Humanist, humorist

Sunday, June 25, 2017

What if We're Wrong About Antidepressants?

Sometimes it's good to step outside the bubble of one's opinion and venture into the bubble of another's. If more people and cultures would do this, the world would possibly be a much safer place.

So, what if we, as public health advocates, have been wrong about the lack of efficacy and safety of psychiatric drugs? Let's say for the sake of healthy argument, that we are wrong and antidepressants:

1. Are not addictive
2. Are easy to withdraw from
3. Are safe for children to take
4. Are used to rectify a chemical imbalance

What we are left with is the opposite of the 4 points above. By conceding them we are ignoring a hell of a lot of scientific evidence. (but hey, some people still think the earth is flat despite overwhelming evidence showing it's not.)

1. We've been told by pharmaceutical companies and drug regulators that antidepressants are not addictive, they acknowledge that "some people" may find discontinuing from them "problematic" but, they claim, "Addiction is characterized by a number of different criteria which includes craving, which includes increasing the dose of drug to get the same effect, and a number of other features." However, the English dictionary describes it somewhat different. it states: a compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal.

2. If drug companies and drug regulators play semantics over point one then point two can be backed up by their claims in point one. It has to because point two raises the issue of withdrawal within the meaning of the true definition of addiction. The medical definition of withdrawal is: A psychological and/or physical syndrome caused by the abrupt cessation of the use of a drug in an habituated person. The therapeutic process of discontinuing a drug to avoid the symptoms of withdrawal. There are many forums on the Internet where users of antidepressant drugs have sought help because they have had, or are having, extreme difficulty withdrawing. With pharmaceutical companies and drug regulators making claims that these are easy to withdraw (ahem, 'discontinue') from, these people, seemingly, have nobody else to turn to except fellow-users of these medications. Furthermore, drug companies and regulators  don't use the term, “withdrawal symptoms,” preferring instead to use, “discontinuation symptoms.”

3. Health care professionals still prescribe SSRI's to children, they do so 'off-label'. By doing this they are telling us that SSRIs are safe for children. I mean, who would give a child a dangerous drug if they thought it was dangerous for them, right? However, what's perverse about this is those same health care professionals have access to the product labelling which states, amongst other things, that there are warnings "about increased risks of suicidal thinking and behavior, known as suicidality, in young adults ages 18 to 24."

4. When SSRIs first hit the market the manufacturers needed a selling point. They didn't just want those who were extremely depressed taking their drugs, they wanted to cast the net wider. This practice has continued throughout the years with new 'brain disorders' springing up, almost on a yearly basis. ADHD, OCD, and Bipolar spring to mind here. So, where did they spring from? Well, in a nutshell, they came from man, or rather a group of men. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is the handbook used by health care professionals in the United States and much of the world as the authoritative guide to the diagnosis of mental disorders. Created in 1952, it listed 106 disorders. It's third edition listed 265 disorders and it's fourth edition listed 297 disorders. The current DSM, after coming under heavy fire regarding the labelling of normality, hasn't increased the number of disorders per se, instead they have added subtypes to the previous disorders. For instance, caffeine intoxication and “caffeine withdrawal” are now listed as a disorder in the latest edition of the DSM. So, too much coffee or Red Bull, in essence, means you have a mental disorder.

The 'chemical imbalance' was a marketing campaign by pharmaceutical companies, the first being Eli Lilly who sold and marketed Prozac. Over time, this theory has gained momentum and has become an almost accepted fact. Even today, despite the chemical imbalance theory being debunked as a marketing strategy, we see the product label making claims that "It is thought that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance, or depression may be caused by a chemical imbalance. Remarkably, there is not one shred of scientific evidence that supports this claim. It's called indoctrination. It happens all the time, yet we, take it on faith because we can't be bothered to do our own research or we put our faith in those who make these lavish claims. Here's a few instances of indoctrination.

1. Three Wise Men
We see them depicted on Christmas cards, we see our children play them in Nativity plays, we see endless books telling us about these three guys. Truth of the matter is, nowhere in the Bible does it specify there were three.

2. The Great Wall of China
Because of it's enormous structure you can see the Great Wall of China from space. I actually thought this one was true. Surprisingly, it's not visible from space, no single structure is visible from orbit. The visible wall theory was debunked after China's own astronaut, Yang Liwei, said he couldn’t see the historic structure. There was even talk about rewriting textbooks that support this theory. To date, that's not happened.

3. Bananas Grow On Trees
Another one that had me stumped, until I researched it. Bananas actually grow on herbs, a perennial herb; in fact, it is the largest of all herbaceous flowering plants.

4. Bats Are Blind
Another myth. Bats can actually see almost as well as humans. However, at night, their ears are more important than their eyes.

These are just four examples of how we, without researching, believe in facts that aren't facts at all.

Now, I'm betting that these four examples of untruths will be used in the pub or in quizzes. I'd bet all the money in my bank account that no such pub quiz would ever include the chemical imbalance myth though. Because many still believe it to be true despite having no evidence to prove it.

With the first four points covered, is it worth researching points 5 to 8?

5. Antidepressants do not cause psychosis
6. Antidepressants do not induce akathisia
7. Antidepressants do not cause people to self-harm
8. Antidepressants do not induce suicidal thinking and, almost definitely, do not induce completed suicide.

You can find Google here.

Bob Fiddaman

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