Tuesday, January 1, 2013

SSRIs As An Explanation

It is very tempting to look at the apparent association of these various psychiatric medications and mass murder, and assume that one causes the other. But this is rather like looking at the association of hypodermic needles in the home and diabetes, and assume that hypodermic needles cause diabetes.  One critic of the website ssristories.com points out that many of the stories that they cover include examples of people with long histories of violence before they started on these medications.  My own reading of many of the mass murder stories indicates that there were long-standing mental health problems that the prescribed medications failed to correct.

I do not doubt that some of these medications create very real problems. Many years ago, I had a good friend who was very very depressed; his doctor prescribed Prozac. He started to have very vivid dreams, which is not intrinsically a bad thing; it means that he was getting quality sleep that should be a step out of depression. The nature of those dreams, however, was quite worrisome. He dreamed that he was lying in a box in a church, and then sat up, and started throwing grapes at people, and then threw a grape in his own mouth. Pretty obviously, the box was a coffin, and because my friend was a pretty serious gut nut, the symbolism of the grapes was worrisome. Once I pointed out the symbolism of the dream, he stopped taking the Prozac, and went after the underlying cause of his depression: a pretty miserable marriage.

One problem with SSRI antidepressants is that because they have been perceived as low side effect medications, they have been widely prescribed by family physicians who in many cases did not realize that the patient was suffering from bipolar disorder. The physician saw the patient only when he or she was depressed, because the patient in the mania phase feels really good. SSRI antidepressants without a mood stabilizer often increase the lows and highs of bipolar disorder. In addition, the warning information on SSRI antidepressants now includes the very real hazard that a person who is severely depressed, once taking the antidepressant, may now have enough energy to plan and carry out a suicide.

There are certainly too many people in America who are being prescribed antidepressants, rather than confronting the disappointment, hurt, and anger that they are having to repress, which is for many people, perhaps most people, the origin of their depression. While antidepressants may be a necessary step to help some people out of depression, I fear that they are far too often used as a crutch to avoid confronting the situation that underlies the depression.

There are also a lot of kids being prescribed various psychiatric medications because the alternative is to confront serious family structure problems. There are a lot of kids growing up in homes where Mommy and  Daddy have gone their separate ways, and the hurt those kids are suffering from watching the two people most important to their lives living in separate homes, is devastating. How do you tell, even yourself, that the two people that are most important in your life have hurt you by their selfishness?

There are also enormous pressures on teenagers from a culture gone astray. I can remember some years ago reading a very depressing article in the Wall Street Journal about how what had traditionally been a problem of teenage girls--poor self image because they did not look like fashion models--was becoming a problem for teenage boys, who did not have the abs of steel and bulging biceps that are the images of men in our increasingly sexualized and shallow popular culture. The hypersexualization of young people also means enormous pressures to conform to the popular culture standards of Hollyweird. Obviously, many young people do not conform; but the pressures are still there.

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