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Side Effects and the Damaging Overprescription of Psychiatric Drugs

I'm not saying the drugs have no appropriate uses; I'm saying they're way, way, way overused.

by
Andrew Klavan

Bio

July 10, 2013 - 1:00 pm

I’m off to New York for the International Thriller Writers ThrillerFest. My Young Adult novel If We Survive is nominated for best YA Thriller of the year. I won’t have time to post while I’m gone, so I’ll leave behind some mini-reviews:

Side Effects — watch this. It’s good. Steven Soderbergh returns to his semi-mockumentary Contagion mode to deliver what we only slowly realize is a thriller in the classic vein. The picture is wonderfully acted, most especially by Jude Law, who delivers a subtly flawless performance as a subtly flawed man. Law has been getting better and better and he’s just terrific in this. Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum and Catherine Zeta-Jones fill out a fine cast.

The story tells of a shrink (Law), who prescribes an anti-depressant for a troubled patient only to find it has some very dangerous side effects — to tell more would be to give the game away. But Law’s character is so well drawn that we’re not sure whether he’s the hero or the villain or something in between until a wonderfully low key moment in which his integrity is tested. In keeping with Soderbergh’s style, the moment passes virtually without comment. You have to be paying attention to realize what Law did and what it means about him. So pay attention.

But the whole picture’s like that. Quiet, intense, smart. And it happens to deal with a subject that’s a real pet peeve of mine: the over-prescription of anti-depressants. The way these things work: doctors discover that depression involves a certain action in the brain and that, in a small number of people, this action happens more or less without cause. That is, it’s an illness. They cure that illness with a drug then, slowly, begin expanding the drug’s use until it’s prescribed to just about anyone who’s every felt sad for twenty minutes in a row. It’s a disgusting and abusive practice and has reduced a large segment of the psychiatric profession to the level of street drug dealers. Again, I’m not saying the drugs have no appropriate uses; I’m saying they’re way, way, way overused.

The movie captures some of the machinations behind that, but most importantly, it tells a good story about interesting people. A very solid thriller. Really worth a look.

*****

Cross-posted from Klavan on the Culture

Andrew Klavan’s newest novel is Nightmare City.

Comments are closed.

All Comments   (16)
All Comments   (16)
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You a re dealing with very vulnerable people who take the medication. The question is how will they live without it? Withdrawal from the medication can be worse then heroin addiction withdrawal. Repair your relationships before you consider withdrawal.
I have not met one person who did it the way I have through God and my heavenly family. If there is another I welcome dialogue .
Your heavenly family you come to see is much like your real family except they can be with you 24 hours a day to heal from the trauma of withdrawal symptoms
Your heavenly family also helps you to see the importance of repairind your human relationships who will also be with you for eternity.
What an impossible road to enter without Divine direction. So take your medication and wait to see what road opens up to you and do not try to leap into a place for worse then where you are now with your present safety net
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Can't wait for the DSM V to start. Then you'll see antidepressants and antipsychotics misprescribed for the everyday trials of life.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
There's no question that for some purposes, there is a lot of overprescription going on. My son-in-law is a social worker and sees a lot of kids whose parents wanted them medicated to make them more manageable -- when all they have wrong with them is being kids. There is also no question that the rebound from some psychotropic drugs can be quite severe. And in a third category, antidepressants sometimes give severely depressed people the energy to plan their own suicides -- and are now labeled accordingly.

But lumping all these different medications and their uses and abuses together is a serious mistake. For those suffering from schizophrenia and severe bipolar disorder, those medications are sometimes all that is keeping them from suicide, murder, or complete incapacitation. ADHD is way too often "diagnosed" for what is really "being a little boy." Antidepressants become a substitute for many people for resolving the conflicts that are causing them to hold in rage. Don't confuse these different categories.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
For all the uneducated people posting comments, learn some facts before posting, this is a complex topic that, I would guess, most of you don't understand. I will keep it simple... These meds aren't over prescribed they are mis-prescribed. There are millions who are effected by psychiatric conditions and these medicines help. The problem is there are particular meds that are highly abused and misused and that is the problem. There are plenty of pill mills (Dr.'s) out there that give their patients what they want... It is a revenue stream for them... Get the co-pay and insurance reimbursement and shuffle the patient out the door with an Rx. Don't get me wrong there are many great Dr's out there that go thru the correct procedures in diagnosing these psychiatric conditions. Bottom line is that when someone wants a med for a particular purpose it is not hard to find a doc that will write the Rx.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
These drugs can also have effects on the body not just the mind. The liver, kidneys, even the eyes can be harmed. Its all in the fine print nobody bothers to read.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Those risks are in the PI because 1) the FDA requires Pharmacy Companies to list them and 2) it is to cover their butts... Just like reported side effects from the clinicals, any side effect reported during a study must be reported regardless if it has anything to do with the drug...
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Some antidepressants have proven utility for moderating the effects of menopause. Low dosages are used by great numbers of women above a certain age. If you know such a lady, you might also know that these drugs are indispensable aids to living with menopause issues. I would like to see the statistics on how many people are taking antidepressants, with that particular population removed from the counts. Does anybody know that answer?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
There are natural means for dealing with menopause. There is no reason for 1 in 5 older women to be on these drugs. A ceiling fan works wonders for hot flashes. Black cohosh and other herbal remedies are available. Getting older is no fun, what's new?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"...I’m not saying the drugs have no appropriate uses; I’m saying they’re way, way, way overused."

You're way, way, way right. Some ungodly number of Americans on psychotropic meds of one form or another.

And not just antidepressants, but the explosion of ADD/ADHD diagnoses (no brain anomalies observed) and subsequent drugging of children is a travesty in the United States where, reportedly, 90% of the prescriptions IN THE WORLD are written for Ritalin.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You are an ignorant fool, where is your data? How do you know they are over prescribed? Are you in the industry? Do you have first hand knowledge? Are you an expert? Why don't you educate yourself first before you make such an ignorant comment. Stop reading the crap on the Internet.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Geez, chill a bit. Don't you think you're overreacting to this comment? Maybe you should prescribe some Ritalin for yourself.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Looking forward to seeing how this issue is addressed. Virtually every mass shooter in the last ten years was coming off anti-depressants. These are dangerous drugs.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Certainly documented in the case of at least one of the Columbine guys (taking himself on/off prescribed meds), the Aurora Colo. movie shooter, Adam Lanza.

The "mental health" system has been aware of these guys (and others) prior to their horrendous acts, and its knee jerk panacea has been psychotropic meds.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I've seen that flick. Great thriller. SPOILER ALERT: Things are not as they seem!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I couldn't wait to see this because I think the over-prescription of these sorts of drugs is a terrible problem that doesn't get enough attention. The film made some good points on this topic which I won't go into so as not to spoil it for those who haven't seen it yet. But I have to disagree with Mr. Klavan on the performances. I found them so low-key that it seemed to me everyone in the film was on anti-depressants. None of these actors are my own personal favorites and perhaps that's why I had trouble connecting with them emotionally. It is an enjoyable thriller, though, with a dandy plot.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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