I think it is becoming obvious that none of my blogs so far are about Plastic Surgery. I promise to start blogging about Plastic Surgery starting with my thoughts on Liposuction with my next blog. Now however I must share my musings about one tiny part of an otherwise major issue I have with the pharmaceutical industry. That for another day and probably a number of blogs (see my thoughts on statins vs. Vit C in my first blog).
This starts with a long walk I took this morning with my daughter. On the way out the door she told me I was a color thief. I was wearing the same color top and shorts she was. After having a laugh I began to think about the classic 1998 movie Pleasantville. If you have not seen it, make a point of renting it soon. This iconic movie is about 1990s teenagers that find themselves in a 1950s black and white TV sitcom. The movie unfolds with them introducing emotions in an otherwise bland community where no one has any passion. There is no love, no sadness, no highs or lows. As emotion and passion start catching on people start to have color. Their clothes, their hair and skin and makeup all come “alive.” It is very confusing for some of the characters and naturally it is met in some cases with open hostility. Most want to continue to live in this don’t rock the boat world. Of course one may not have the horrible depression and anxiety, but one also misses out on the wondrous highs that come with living a full life. This then led me to ponder about all the people I have seen in my 26 years as a doctor that have been on antidepressants and anti anxiety drugs. In fact, as many articles in recent years have pointed out, it is has reached epidemic levels. In an article published in 2007 CNN stated that the CDC said that antidepressants were the most prescribed drug in the U.S. Of 2.4 billion prescriptions written, 118 million were for antidepressants. This does not include anti anxiety drugs like xanax. The problem as I see it is two fold. First, this is a multi billion dollar industry. Make no mistake, the pharmaceutical industry has a vested interest in selling their product. They fund, for the most part, all of the studies that lead to the conclusions that the drugs work as they were designed to work. Sound a little self serving. If you are a major medical school doctor/scientist and want to continue your career you best do some research and publish some papers. Your research gets funded if the results coincide with what the people giving you money want. There are checks and balances and some drugs simply don’t pass the muster. And we have a fairly legitimate FDA process with drug trials and etc. But in the end, as long as the drugs do no harm, at least obvious harm, then all is well with the world. After all millions, billions will be made, portfolios in 401ks will rise, jobs are created, yada yada. But at what cost? We have a society with a large subset of people that simply will not tolerate any discomfort. They won’t tolerate sadness, brief depression that may have a legitimate cause – “my mother just died” for example, or a bit of anxiety. “Doctor, make it go away” they say. And we prescribe a pill that does just that. It makes them Stepford wives and husbands. To what end, though? I say we need these discomforts in life to develop healthy coping skills and emotional tools to deal with adversity. Further, there are recent articles saying these people that take these meds for more than a little while will change their brain chemistry, possibly permanently with not pleasant consequences. The truth is we don’t know the long term affects of many of these meds. And I think it robs them of the color in their lives. I think it steals the passion, the sorrow yes, but also the supreme joy. I also think it is a statement on our human condition. Don’t want to be overweight anymore? Here is a pill. Or here is liposuction. Or worse, here is an operation guaranteed to shed pounds. No effort required. And I think it speaks to the wider problem facing society today, and that is many people seeking outside themselves for the source of happiness and joy. We have computers, and
Obviously there are those that seriously need antidepressants. There are those that are suffering terribly. I don’t recommend going backward. Many people’s lives have been saved. But the indiscriminate prescribing has to slow down. Or, too many black and white, nay gray people will be walking around. And what fun is that?