Are we using antidepressants to paper over the cracks of a fractured society?
The chances are that you know someone who takes antidepressants. Or maybe you take them yourself. If so, you are in good company. More than 50m prescriptions for antidepressants are written in the UK every year and, although not all of the pills will be swallowed – taking into account repeat prescriptions and failure to collect from pharmacies – the figure is still staggeringly high.
There’s a positive side to the 50m statistic, though. It suggests that as the stigma has decreased, people have become more willing to ask for help. And, for many, antidepressants work. However, while professionals are quick to acknowledge the benefits – which can be life-saving – many express concern about our growing dependence.
“Prescription levels have gone through the roof,” says Dr Matthijs Muijen, head of mental health at WHO Europe. “On the demand side, people know antidepressants work. I would even argue there’s a degree of fashion about antidepressants. On the supply side, antidepressants have become cheaper and more easily available. Doctors now know it’s easy and ‘good’ to prescribe.”
Key to arguments around antidepressant use are questions about what constitutes “normal” sadness and where the boundary lies between this and clinical depression. There is no cut-and-dried answer, and this ambivalence around the use of antidepressants seems to be characteristic of those taking them. “It’s not ideal, but I just make use of the resources available,” is a characteristic response.
Lisa Cunningham, 45, was signed off on sick leave and prescribed Prozac after suffering problems at work. Soon afterwards, she was attacked, leaving her with facial injuries and even deeper depression. For nearly 11 years, Lisa remained on medication, becoming steadily more withdrawn, until she barely left the house.
Cunningham’s story has a positive outcome: after being referred to a volunteering scheme by her GP she got involved in a gardening project which led to a full-time job. She then felt able to stop taking her medication. “Antidepressants did a vital job and I definitely think I had clinical depression,” Cunningham says. “But I was a nervous, anxious child.” She explains that while growing up, she was subjected to physical aggression from people close to her, “so it was almost inevitable I’d get depression. Looking back, it would probably have been better if I’d had some sort of psychotherapy in school.”
For Darren Ellis, 40, life events and mental health have been similarly linked. Ellis lost his father at 16 and at the time was not offered any support. Ellis’s depression and anxiety developed and he was prescribed medication after medication. None of the drugs worked and he twice attempted to take his own life. It was only this year that he was able to get the one-to-one cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) that, he says, is finally helping him to recover.
Ellis believes things could have been different; that the depression could have been prevented. “I’m sure I could have avoided taking medication if I’d had therapy immediately,” he says. “I was confident – the life and soul of a party – until my dad died.”
The link between life events and depression is of course not disputed, but it is of particular relevance now. A report by The Health and Social Care Information Centre revealed that in many places in the UK – including Barnsley, Durham, Middlesbrough, Redcar, Salford and Sunderland – approximately one in six adults are prescribed antidepressants. By comparison, in affluent Kensington & Chelsea, it is one in 21.
Since the recession began, Mind has reported a dramatic rise in the number of people calling its phone line. “There are clear links between unemployment and depression,” says Sophie Corlett, Mind’s director of external relations. “After six months, one in seven unemployed men will develop mental-health problems. People are falling into debt and there’s a reciprocal relationship between debt and mental health.”
While almost everyone with experience of antidepressants reports finding them useful, many could have made use of alternative forms of help. “We know that people go to the doctor because they’re feeling low, and the reasons may be domestic violence, debt, bereavement, marriage breakup, difficulties from past trauma,” says Corlett. “Some of these are practical and could have practical solutions, while some are deep-rooted psychological issues that need dealing with. Antidepressants are not always the answer.”
For mild to moderate depression, unless it is persistent, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) does not recommend medication as a first resort. However, despite the government’s investment in the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme, in some parts of the country people wait months for access to CBT or similar treatments. Likewise, it does not appear that people’s prescriptions are always reviewed every six months, as Nice suggests.
There are many problems with prescribing antidepressants when there could be an alternative solution. Antidepressants have side-effects that we are only just discovering and, although prices have dropped as patents expire, the cost to the NHS is still huge.
It is impossible to gauge whether we live in a more stressful age than that of our grandparents. What is certain is that attitudes and access to drugs have changed. On balance, this is a good thing. But as the economy continues to flounder, the number of people struggling with mental-health issues is likely to increase, almost certainly leading to the writing of yet more prescriptions.
“My worry is that we are medicalising all forms of sadness in the belief that antidepressants are a safe drug that you just prescribe,” says Muijen.
Mind has called for accurate research to be carried out into how many people are taking antidepressants, how long they take them for and whether they are receiving any other treatment. It is a serious problem, Corlett says, that this data does not exist. Antidepressants are a vital tool. But if, in many cases, we are simply papering over cracks, we should, as a society, face up to the depth of the problem.
Blogosphere Hit by Socially Transmitted Disease
FOMO is a real disease that’s spreading across the social web.
It seems like kind of a stretch, but the more you think about it and see how technology is affecting people all around us, I think you’d have to agree that there may be a potential problem developing here.
You can’t build anything with a mindset like this…
It’s based on fear, and not a well thought out plan that keeps your life and business productive and moving forward.
Whenever you get sucked into any activity that takes you away from making daily progress on your goals, you’re going backwards.
Typically these distractions in life revolve around sex, drugs & rock n’ roll… now you can add social media to the life suck.
You can’t give your life over to habits and activities that hurt you. You’re smarter than that!
The thing is, like drugs, social media can be psychologically addicting and when you get hooked, you’re no longer in control.
It’s not serving your purposes any longer, but rather it’s becoming a interference that can make you completely unproductive and stuck.
I’m sorry, but anytime you have a mindset based on fear, it will lack the foundation required to build anything of substance… make sense?
It’s like a dog chasing his tail, a hamster running on wheel, a bad dream that won’t seem to end… it’s a long road to nowhere land.
Source: GroTraffic for further reading check the link there
So called “Social Media” has become the greatest social evil, a destroyer of peoples’ abilities to interact and communicate. It is creating an world of inept people afraid of the real world.
“I love my computer, all my friends are in there!”
Nothing has become more true.
Global rise in new ‘legal highs’ – UN World Drug Report
Governments everywhere are struggling to cope with an increase in the number of new drugs known as “legal highs”, according to a UN report.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) says the use of traditional drugs such as heroin and cocaine is globally stable.
But new synthetic substances are being constantly spread via the internet, the office’s latest World Drug Report says.
It stresses that these seemingly legal drugs can have deadly effects.
These “new psychoactive substances” (NPS) have not been tested for safety and pose “unforeseen public health challenges”, the report notes.
“Sold openly, including via the internet, NPS… can be far more dangerous than traditional drugs.
“Street names, such as spice, meow meow and bath salts mislead young people into believing that they are indulging in low-risk fun,” the report adds.
New substances are being identified all the time and the authorities are struggling to keep up, according to the UNODC.
“While law enforcement lags behind, criminals have been quick to tap into this lucrative market,” the report says.
It focuses on drugs that appear to originate in Asia but are marketed globally online.
The biggest market is the US, where use of these substances among youth “appears to be more than twice as widespread as in the European Union”, it says.
Within the EU, Britain is a particularly receptive market, the UNODC says, with almost 700,000 Britons aged between 15 and 24 having experimented with legal highs.
The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction reported earlier this year that it had detected 73 new substances last year, compared with 49 in 2011.
The new synthetic drugs are a result of criminalising the originals.
If the original drugs had never been criminalised in the first place, there would be no synthetic drugs needed.
So instead of having to cope with addictions to a half dozen drugs, they have hundreds, if not thousands, of types of addiction to treat. The most addictive drug is said to be ‘crack’, you are addicted from the first try. If drugs were decriminalised then ‘crack’ would never have been invented, it wouldn’t be around plaguing the world. I assume Brazil is not the only country plagued by large areas of major cities where hundreds of people gather/live solely to consume ‘crack’ all day.
The only way to stem the creation of new illegal highs is to decriminalise all drugs and treat drug addiction as a sickness instead of a crime.
Drug addiction is not a crime. Is alcoholism a crime? Of course not, it is a symptom to be treated.
The politicians are fools!
The politicians are blind fools!
The mere fact that we (the public) put these politicians in power is strong evidence that we are also fools, perhaps even bigger fools.
Some countries are having a rethink about the criminality of drugs, but they are moving too slowly and each day they prevaricate, more synthetic drugs with more horrific effects hit the market.
The spin-off of decriminalising drugs would save the world billions in law enforcement and put more police on the street to fight real crime. It would also remove much of the criminal elements from supplying drugs.
Decriminalise drug use, say experts after six-year study
Advisors say no serious rise in consumption is likely if possession of small amounts of controlled drugs is allowed
A six-year study of Britain’s drug laws by leading scientists, police officers, academics and experts has concluded it is time to introduce decriminalisation.
The report by the UK Drug Policy Commission (UKDPC), an independent advisory body, says possession of small amounts of controlled drugs should no longer be a criminal offence and concludes the move will not lead to a significant increase in use.
The experts say the criminal sanctions imposed on the 42,000 people sentenced each year for possession of all drugs – and the 160,000 given cannabis warnings – should be replaced with simple civil penalties such as a fine, attendance at a drug awareness session or a referral to a drug treatment programme.
They also say that imposing minimal or no sanctions on those growing cannabis for personal use could go some way to undermining the burgeoning illicit cannabis factories controlled by organised crime.
But their report rejects any more radical move to legalisation, saying that allowing the legal sale of drugs such as heroin or cocaine could cause more damage than the existing drugs trade.
The commission is chaired by Dame Ruth Runciman with a membership that includes the former head of the British Medical Research Council, Prof Colin Blakemore, and the former chief inspector of constabulary, David Blakey.
The report says their analysis of the evidence shows that existing drugs policies struggle to make an impact and, in some cases, may make the problem worse.
Six years to make and 20 years too late. they came to the same conclusion that I did in 10 minutes 20 years ago.
I’m not a peer of the realm, I don’t have a fancy title and I certainly wasn’t paid as handsomely as the members of this ‘esteemed’ committee would have been.
Actually, my conclusions were far more reaching.
Drug addiction is a sickness, in the same way as alcoholism, not a crime; and therein lies the problem.
You can’t use a screwdriver to tighten a nut; and that’s what the fools have been trying to do since the 1960s. Treating a sickness as a crime, it’s as daft as saying homosexuals are criminals not the result of genetics.
Absolute proof that politicians haven’t any idea what they’re doing.
“The home secretary, Theresa May, last month ruled out any moves towards decriminalisation, saying it would lead to further problems.
She told MPs she considered cannabis a gateway drug: “People can die as a result of taking drugs, and significant mental health problems can arise as a result of taking drugs.”” – The Guardian
See what I mean, even the Home Secretary is an idiot, no idea that her mouth is opening and closing.
Drugs need to be decriminalised, ALL drugs; it’s the only way to bring the addicted to heel for treatment, to divide them from the recreational user, and to remove the criminal element from the chain of supply.
As a direct result of criminalisation there have been some horrific new drugs developed, drugs that really do KILL. Just last week I read of a case in New Zealand where yet another form of synthetic marijuana has surfaced, as yet it’s not illegal, it’s available beyond the reach of the law, and it is KILLING. These things are surfacing faster than the law can be changed. If marijuana was decriminalised these drugs would not be needed.
The war on drugs is not winnable. The authorities have as much chance of winning as flying to the moon on a unicorn. In fact the latter, is probably more possible.