The use of antidepressants has surged across the rich world over the past decade, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, raising concerns among doctors that pills are being overprescribed.
Figures show that doctors in some countries are writing prescriptions for more than one in 10 adults, with Iceland, Australia, Canada and the other European Nordic countries leading the way.
Separate data from the US shows that more than 10% of American adults use the medication. In China, the antidepressant market has grown by about 20% for each of the past three years, albeit from a lower base.
I feel considerable conflict in relation to this issue.
Happy pills, hand in hand with consumer capitalism. For every crisis created, there will be a market opportunity.
I spent years talking to people about their medication, whether it was working or not, whether the dose was right, whether they were taking it, when they were taking it. I then spent more time talking to doctors and nurses about this medication.
Along the way I also sat through quite a few drug reps talks, sweetened as they were with a ‘free’ lunch and lots of goodies emblazoned with the name of the next so-called wonder drug, each one more effective, with less side effects, and targeted at some sub grouping pulled from DSM 5.
I know many people who swear that these tablets have saved their lives. I know many other people who just swear as the only real help they feel they have been offered came in a small plastic bottle. I know creative people who say their creativity was robbed, others who suddenly found themselves able to focus again.
Some say that the medication drove them right towards suicide. Others say the ‘rebound effect’ that led them to feel so terrible when they tried to wean themselves off the drug has meant that they think they will need to take them for the rest of their lives.
This film sums up this experience brilliantly;
Do the drugs work? As someone said in the clip above, it depends on how you try to measure success. They can indeed reframe the emotional glasses through which we see the world, to a lesser or greater degree, for good and for ill. They do this in subtle ways, but use a blunderbus to achieve it.
I have no doubt whatsoever that they are vastly overused, medically over rated and sold to us in a way that would shame the shadiest used car salesman. I also have considerable conviction that they are not the answer to most of the psychological/emotional turmoils that life will surely bring us- and that history will not look on our use of them kindly.
But tell that to your friend whom life has broken, and all she has is the motivation to get out of bed in the morning gifted by a pill that makes the duvet ten per cent lighter. There are still the kids to feed and the washing to be done and without her wage there will be no Christmas this year.
We do what we can, with what we are given and often life is hard. If not a pill, then what else will help us survive?
But I hope for me and you far more than survival. May your depths be overshadowed by hills kissed by sunlight.
I hope to see you somewhere on the road between the two…