Thursday, November 17, 2011

Antidepressant Use Skyrockets 400% in Past 20 Years

Boy, this report from USA Today certainly is depressing:
Use of antidepressant drugs has soared nearly 400% since 1988, making the medication the most frequently used by people ages 18-44, a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows.

Eleven percent of Americans ages 12 years and older took antidepressants during the 2005-08 study period, the authors write. They add that though the majority of antidepressants were taken to treat depression, the drugs also can be used for anxiety disorders and other conditions.
That’s pretty bad. So what are the reasons cited for this dramatic increase?
- The struggling economy and the record number of layoffs and home foreclosures. "These drugs can be very helpful for people who need them,'' says Elaine Ducharme, a psychologist and public educator in Connecticut for the American Psychological Association. "People should expect to be depressed after a layoff. They should not be put on a drug, though, unless they have an acute problem."

- Ad campaigns waged by pharmaceutical companies citing benefits of the drugs.

- Families who might be reimbursed by health insurance companies for a prescription but may delay getting therapy from a mental-health professional because of the cost of treatment.
Personally, I think they left out the most important reason: modern day America can be a damn depressing place to live. The American Hologram of the mainstream media works tirelessly 24/7 to convince the masses that the key to happiness is to consume as much as possible. But when working and middle class people try to heed that message, they find that it is impossible to live the supposed ideal lifestyle without both parents working long hours and the family going deeply into debt—placing themselves on a high wire in which one slip means utter financial destitution. So many people are overworked and stressed out, all to amass a big pile of useless junk, most of which they don’t need.

This factor combines with the atomization of our society that has been going on since the end of World War Two. Chasing the middle class suburban America Dream means that most people no longer remain near their extended family and support group. Instead they move hundreds or thousands of miles away from their nearest relative or close friend to take an unfulfilling but higher paying cubicle job they have to commute an hour each way to get to. They return home from work to that grassy cul-de-sac where they scarcely know their neighbors and turn on the security system each night for fear of home invasion. Instead of real friends, they open Facebook accounts and engage in constant meaningless small talk with virtual companions who, push comes to shove, really couldn’t care less whether they live or die.

When you take all of this into account, the surprise is not that more than one in ten American adults are popping pills in a desperate effort to keep their shit together, but that the percentage isn’t actually much higher. More to the point, a greatly powered down, simplified lifestyle would do many of these people a world of good from a mental health standpoint—maybe even to the point where they could actually kick the habit. Too bad they have been so brainwashed by the media machine that they will never recognize that simple fact, and will go on running on that awful treadmill of work, work, work; spend, spend, spend until the day finally comes when they can no longer keep up and their empty lives come crashing down around them.

Bonus: My man Marc Maron on Prozac. "The only difference between disappointment and depression is your level of commitment."


  1. Re: Marc Maron

    Thanks, Bill. A new one for me.

    That made my day. I'll be posting on that, from a somewhat different angle.

    -- Dave

  2. @Dave Cohen - Maron has a very unique take on life...which is why I love him!

  3. Well, I do agree partly with this. American media is trying to convince us that we need material things to be happy. The whole "American Dream" that began after the prosperity caused by WWI. The Great Gatsby talks about it a lot. Good read.

    But anyway... what I disagree with is that you did not mention people with chemical problems in their brain that NEED them. I am 17 and was diagnosed with clinical depression 6 years ago. My depression is caused by a clinical imbalance in my brain. We tried taking me off of them and doing therapy. It did not work. I am at very high suicide risk without my medication. I have a great life and no external reason to be depressed. Clinical depression is not affected by anything other than brain chemistry.
    Of course, I did have both clinical depression and depression caused by external causes (a horribly abusive boyfriend) for about 2 years. It has been years since that, though, and it doesn't affect me at all anymore.

    But, in summary, my point: sometimes anti-depressants are absolutely necessary for some of those with depression and mood disorder. Those is no doubt that I would kill myself if I had to be off of my numerous medications for a year. With my medications, however, I'm basically the happiest person I know and I never sweat the small things. I am not the only person I know who has bad brain chemistry.

    Good article, just contributing.