Anxious, stressed. It’s hard to have a conversation with anyone anymore without those two words cropping up. What seeps into the conversation next are the medications people take to deal with their anxiety and stress, but do those medications work? Over the last decade, according to CBS News article, there’s been a 65% increase in antidepressant use between the years of 1999 to 2014.
So what’s going on? Human nature hasn’t changed all that much; People are people, but what has changed is the world. Attitudes have changed. Expectations have changed, and yes, the amount spent on pharmaceutical advertising has changed—to the tune of 5 billion dollars per year.
Big Pharma Wants Your Money
Big pharma has led people to believe that we’re entitled to feel good all the time, and if we don’t, by God there’s a pill to fix that too. How dare anyone leave us to our own devices to learn to feel and deal? We’re led to believe that those pesky, yet temporary feelings of anxiety and depression are abnormal. We’ve been conditioned to believe that life and our jobs should be fun and if they’re not, we’re disappointed. Off we go to the doctor to get a pill—something, anything to take away the unwanted feeling, the sadness. The truth is that most of those pills don’t work. Unless someone has honest to goodness clinical depression, and from decades of working in hospitals I can tell you with some certainty that few actually do. Why do I say this? Well, the repeat admissions for depression when a person is already taking all sorts of antidepressants is a pretty good clue that all those pills don’t have a positive impact. Patients that are clinically depressed and who do find the right antidepressant, actually appear to get their lives back because we don’t see them over and over again. When they do show up a year or two later, it’s usually to report that they had been doing well.
People don’t want to believe that pills aren’t the magic elixir or solution that many hoped that they would be. The damage these medications can do to a person’s other organs, such as their liver, often far outweigh any gains. It’s impossible to listen to a television commercial touting a pill that doesn’t have a disclaimer line that’s as long if not longer than the commercial itself. Why would anyone want to buy into this? And the children that get started on antidepressants when they say their problems are because of their parents’ boyfriend or girlfriend that they hate, and yet the parent went ahead and moved their SO into the house with them anyway, and least we forget, children are all kinds of miserable over their parent’s substance abuse or drinking problems—how can any rational adult think a pill will fix their child’s dangling emotions with all of this other stuff happening?
A more practical and long-term solution to feeling poorly would be to make the necessary lifestyle changes in order to feel better: give up the sugar and white flour; exercise more; drink a whole lot less alcohol; if you’re lonely, go volunteer; if your kids hate your new boyfriend or girlfriend—don’t move them into your house and then turn around and put your kid on medication to deal with the intruder. Common sense has to prevail. These are all practical solutions that can have lasting benefits to a person’s overall well-being, and your children’s well-being—but how many people want to make the effort or do the work to change their lives? Or say no to their wants? How many people will step back and evaluate the situation with the mind of a clinician if it means they might not get what they want? At some point, doesn’t the greater good of the family have to take precedence over you romantic life? Sadly, not many people care to make those hard decisions, and the pharmaceutical companies capitalize on this fact.
So what happens when the realization creeps in that there is no magic pill to replace healthy coping skills and common sense? The thinking appears to be along the lines of, okay, maybe this drug can’t fix me, but I bet there’s one out there that will. I’ll find it! Some people will take just about anything to see if it will alleviate their unhappiness or malaise.
Cope or Dope?
Why do we allow big pharma to control our lives? If those pills did all that they’re supposed to do why are people still struggling with depression, apathy, weight problems, and health problems? Why do the people who take handfuls of prescribed medication still have complaints? Just ask Dr. Vinay Prasad, an oncologist at Oregon Health & Science University. He’s on to big pharma, and because he’s a doctor with a lot of credibility he can call them out. I’m no doctor, but anyone working in healthcare can see what’s going on. Most of us do, it’s just that few are willing to speak out about deception.
So much of what ails us as a society goes back to personal responsibility and accountability. Most people get offended and don’t want to hear that, but do you really think the drug companies are looking out for you, or do you think they’re like most businesses and look out for their bottom line? Who are they accountable to if it’s not to their shareholders?
Just like we have to be accountable to our bosses and the people in our lives, why are we not more accountable and honest with ourselves? There’s always a more holistic solution to our problems—but then again, much of those solutions take effort. Perhaps the real issue comes down to what are we willing to do to change our lives, improve the way we feel, and move away from chemical solutions?
I can tell you I had my own moment of enlightenment about twenty-five years ago. I was spending a fortune every month at the health food store buying one miracle vitamin or fad after another. One afternoon, as I exited the health food store with eighty dollars’ worth of goods in my hand, I found myself rustling around inside my purse for a lighter to light my cigarette. Did I just say that? Yes, at that moment something clicked and I saw my own madness for what it was–madness. My God, there I was smoking …the dichotomy of my actions shocked me. Of course I knew that the best thing I could do for my health was to quit smoking. I knew in my soul that none of those vitamins would do for me what quitting a disgusting habit would do. Not long after that day, I did quit smoking. It wasn’t easy. It took more effort than I wanted to expend, but the long-term benefits far outweighed any advantages I might have gleaned from the vitamins. I had to bring sanity back into my thinking, and because we are all rational adults, I hope you will too.
After short stints where Lisa trained polo horses, worked as a flight attendant, hairdresser, and bartender, she revamped her life and settled in as a registered nurse. For past twenty-eight years has worked with hundreds of women to overcome alcoholism, live better lives and become better parents. Raising the Bottom is her fifth book. She was prompted to write Raising the Bottom when she realized after twenty plus years of working in hospitals, that doctors and traditional health care offer few solutions to women with addiction issues. She is the mother of twin sons, and lives in Ohio with her husband. Visit Lisa and find out more about her by visiting her website: Raisingthebottom.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @LBoucherAuthor and Instagram!