Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Popping Pills in a Double Depression

Mental health is keeping statistical pace with the economy. As jobless figures and GNP paint a sickly picture, record numbers of Americans are on antidepressants.

Is there a connection? Or perhaps the better question is: How could there not be?

Just as national leaders stumble around in Washington in a vain attempt to appear rational, individuals doubt their own sanity and doctors around the country, often wrongly, prescribe tons of medication to mask every symptom of unease.

Government is more art than science and so is psychiatry. Both require at minimum the ability to grasp reality and deal with it in a humanly imperfect way, to face painful tradeoffs in life, accept responsibility and get on with it.

Yet on both levels, Americans live in denial. Congress and the White House parry and posture to avoid rational decisions that would keep the economy from falling out of bed while equally bumbling doctors prescribe pills for patients, nearly two-thirds of whom do “not meet the criteria for major depressive episode as described by the psychiatrists’ bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” according to a new Johns Hopkins study.

“It’s not only that physicians are prescribing more, the population is demanding more,” the lead researcher explains. “Feelings of sadness, the stresses of daily life and relationship problems can all cause feelings of upset or sadness that may be passing and not last long. But Americans have become more and more willing to use medication to address them.”

As fights over health care and government shutdown go on in Washington, the President and Congress would do well to stop talking about panaceas and help Americans who are being hurt by economic depression stop masking their reactions with pills that numb them into bearing up under the resulting reality—-or at least in the case of the Tea Party, take some of them themselves.

Right now, the only ones feeling no pain in this American Double Depression are the pharmaceutical companies.

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