To Medicate or Not to Medicate? That is Question…

Day 49 of 365


I heard the below definitions today:

Depression– being upset that you did  not get what you want

Anger– being upset that you are not getting what you want

Anxiety– future- worrying that you won’t get what you want

This is an oversimplification of depression, anger, and anxiety.

It is easy to oversimplify depression and anxiety.

It is also easy to overcomplicate both of these things, diagnoses, diseases, illnesses, symptoms, disorders – whatever you would like to call them.

My own sadness, loneliness, and tiredness has me thinking about depression a lot lately as does this piece published in The Guardian that was published this Sunday called, “Is everything you knew about depression wrong?

I know this article is controversial. It’s also written in a provocative, biased, and sassy tone, but nonetheless, I think it brings up a number of interesting topics and issues for discussion, like:

  • How many people are over-diagnosed and over-medicated
  • Depression is not simple and can have various causes, treatments, and symptoms
  • Different people respond differently to life situations, depression, and treatments for depression

What I enjoyed about the piece was the negativity with which it spoke about using medication to treat depression and how viewing depression as a chemical imbalance may be incorrect, as I think more attention needs to be shed on both of these topics.

I also see how speaking negatively about medication used to treat depression and denying that depression is a chemical imbalance can be problematic as well. From what I understand, as a lay person, research does show that medicine combined with talk therapy are the most effective treatments for depression. This Guardian article is a little misleading in that it states the following:

“Professor Andrew Scull of Princeton, writing in the Lancet, explained that attributing depression to spontaneously low serotonin is ‘deeply misleading and unscientific.'”

“[Drug companies] would fund huge numbers of studies, throw away all the ones that suggested the drugs had very limited effects, and then only release the ones that showed success.To give one example: in one trial, the drug was given to 245 patients, but the drug company published the results for only 27 of them. Those 27 patients happened to be the ones the drug seemed to work for.”

“It turns out that between 65 and 80% of people on antidepressants are depressed again within a year.”

What I enjoyed about these quotes was the acknowledgement of how poorly medications work for a lot of people that have been diagnosed with depression and the acknowledgement that in many cases, the medication will work for a period of time, but then, within a couple of months or a year, the pain comes back.

“However, a few months into my drugging, something odd happened. The pain started to seep through again. Before long, I felt as bad as I had at the start.”

The response to the pain of depression returning or any signs of emotional distress is often to up the dosage of the medication or to try a different medication. It’s like a guessing game; it’s all trial and error, and because of the way insurance companies are set up, often insurance will not pay for the medication recommended by the doctor until the patient has tried all of the other less expensive, less strong, more risky, or generic versions of a drug first and fails on those first before being given the patient the “big guns,” i.e. the medication the doctor first prescribed.

This makes no sense to me, at all. I’m not sure if cancer patients are treated like this, but I imagine they are because of the way insurance companies are set up, which is that insurance does not treat many illnesses as life or death and insurance companies do not value the life or the quality of life of the patient; they value money. With depression and with cancer, taking the wrong medication could result in death. Whether it be a death due to supposed “natural causes,” side effects of a medication, suicide, or a slow painful death, in the end, they all result in death.

There is a lot more to be said, but it is past midnight so it is now day 50.

Perhaps, I will revisit this topic another day… I recommend reading this piece in The Guardian and would love to hear your thoughts. Comment below.

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