October 16, 2005

BECAUSE I'M OBVIOUSLY NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR MYSELF (via Mike Daley):

Another pill that proves we're optimism addicts (Dr Theodore Dalrymple, 16/10/2005, Sunday Telegraph)

In one of his first publications, Freud extolled the virtues of cocaine. It made the weak strong, the cowardly brave, the wretched happy, and all this without any drawbacks whatsoever.

He had no hesitation in recommending it as a cure for addiction to morphine, prescribing it to a medical colleague for that purpose with disastrous results - disastrous, that is, for the colleague, not for Freud. However, another harmless cure for morphine addiction soon came on to the market: it was called heroin. While heroin is a very good drug, of course, no one would now tout it as a cure for addiction to opiates.

Then came the barbiturates. At last there was a tranquilliser that was undoubtedly efficacious and pleasant to take. They too were believed (and marketed) to be completely harmless, but it turned out that not only were they very dangerous in overdose - they soon became the favourites of would-be suicides - but they were addictive and gave rise to a perilous withdrawal state in habituated patients, from which it was possible to die.

Amphetamines had roughly the opposite effect: they stimulated where barbiturates sedated. It was a time before their dangers were appreciated: despite the experience of cocaine, it was thought that a harmless treatment of fatigue had been found, and fatigue was a plague of the modern world. But amphetamines were found eventually to be addictive, to cause psychosis, as well as to pose physical dangers.

Next came the benzodiazepines, of which librium and valium were the first and most widely prescribed. These drugs, too, were initially thought to bring benefits to the human race without costs. They soothed the savage breast of many a bored housewife, millions of them, but it was found that not only were they addictive, and caused a myriad of side-effects, but they were not even effective long-term for the anxiety for which they were prescribed.

Although they were useful drugs when used sparingly, they were not used sparingly, and untold numbers of people lived for decades in a psychological fog of their making.

The present use of antidepressants is of a similar ilk. Millions of prescriptions of the newer antidepressants are issued, more to satisfy the desire of the doctor to be doing something, and that of the patient to be treated with medication, than in the realistic expectation of a "cure" for what is often only dissatisfaction with life.


One of the problems with the breakdown of paternalistic medicine and the rise of the lawsuit culture is that doctors can't just give all these folks sugar-pills and pretend they've been "treated."

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 16, 2005 11:20 AM
Comments

Don't forget about the pharmaceutical-industrial complex that searches for ailments/diseases to use their drugs for, eg. "social anxiety disorder" is but a recent iteration. There is a pill for just about anything that might ail you, just ask a pharmaceutical drug representative.

Posted by: morry at October 16, 2005 12:28 PM

Yes, advertising should be banned.

Posted by: oj at October 16, 2005 12:42 PM

They are just trying to treat all those Liberal diseases that have been "identified" over the last few decades that try to exonerate people from personal responsibility for their thoughtless actions.

Posted by: obc at October 16, 2005 12:56 PM
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