Americans are taking a “startling” amount of mental-health related medications, according to a big new study by Medco Health Solutions. More than 1 in 5 Americans now takes at least one drug to treat a psychological disorder, ranging from antidepressants like Prozac to anti-anxiety drugs like Xanax. Understanding why Americans are taking more pills to treat mental illness “is the next critical goal,” says Dr. Martha Sanjatovic in a statement released by Medco. Here’s a look this growing trend, by the numbers:
For any mental illness or passing mood swing that may trouble a person, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — better known as the DSM — has a label and a code. Recurring bad dreams? That may be a Nightmare Disorder, or 307.47. Narcolepsy uses the same digits in a different order: 347.00. Fancy feather ticklers? That sounds like Fetishism, or 302.81. Then there’s the ultimate catch-all for vague sadness or uneasiness, General Anxiety Disorder, or 300.02. That’s a label almost everyone can lay claim to.Drug companies are particularly eager to win over faculty psychiatrists at prestigious academic medical centers. Called “key opinion leaders” (KOLs) by the industry, these are the people who through their writing and teaching influence how mental illness will be diagnosed and treated. They also publish much of the clinical research on drugs and, most importantly, largely determine the content of the DSM. In a sense, they are the best sales force the industry could have, and are worth every cent spent on them. Of the 170 contributors to the current version of the DSM (the DSM-IV-TR), almost all of whom would be described as KOLs, ninety-five had financial ties to drug companies, including all of the contributors to the sections on mood disorders and schizophrenia.
Americans revere personal responsibility. It resonates with our respect for accountability and frontier justice. That may explain why we have a hard time believing that medications could alter people’s personalities or lead them to behave badly. Violence as a drug side effect seems preposterous to patients, pharmacists, physicians and even juries. Trying to use the “Prozac defense” to justify killing or hurting someone is often met with scorn..
Antidepressant prescribing information, for example, warns physicians that, “All patients being treated with antidepressants for any indication should be monitored appropriately and observed closely for clinical worsening, suicidality, and unusual changes in behavior.” Drugs such as citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil) and sertraline (Zoloft) carry warnings about aggressiveness, agitation, hostility, impulsivity and irritability.
The stop-smoking medication varenicline (Chantix) also comes with warnings about agitation, hostility, depressed mood and changes in behavior. The trouble with such warnings is that people don’t imagine that these bad things could happen to them.
(NaturalNews) “If mentally incapacitated troops are being drugged with dangerous, mind-altering drugs and deployed to battle against their will, how can we say that we have a volunteer army?” asked Alliance for Human Research Protection, the national network dedicated to advancing responsible and ethical medical research practices.
This is just one of the many criticisms being levied against the U.S. military in light of its liberal use of prescription medication, which is now being linked to rising suicide rates among soldiers.
Movements for justice have historically been driven by a small percentage of any population. One percent of Americans nonviolently occupying Washington, D.C., could make Cairo and Madison and Madrid look like warm-up acts. It is certainly true that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens is the only thing that ever has changed the world for the better.
So, what happens if a society picks out a significant slice of its population, one including many thoughtful and committed citizens, and drugs them?