Let me begin by stating that this piece in no way endorses persons living with any kind of disorder, be it mental or physical, to quit their prescription medications that have been prescribed by a Doctor. It is being written and presented simply to open a dialogue on how we perceive and use medications.
American and the World Have A Problem
I have become more and more aware of a big problem facing America, and yes, the world today. The quick fix mentality and rampant use of pills. No where is this thought process more obvious than in our obsession with our use and abuse of prescription medications. The cost to people, in both monetary and humanitarian terms, is enormous.
The Monetary Cost of Prescription Drugs
First, let’s look at the monetary cost in the United States of just the psychiatric drugs that treat depression. According to well-documented findings available to anyone on the Internet, the cost of these medications in the United States per year exceeds $150 billion per year.
To add to that surprising statistic is the fact that one in six adults in the United States take at least one prescription psychiatric drug, with 80% of them taking these drugs long-term.
Since many people who live with severe mental health challenges are on a very limited income, these costs aren’t only paid by them, but are paid by all of society.
The Humanitarian Cost of Prescription Drugs
When one takes a psychiatric medication, the results can be miraculous and sometimes tragic.
There can be no doubt that the psychiatric medications that have been developed in the past fifty years, have significantly positively impacted illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Where once people had to locked up for their own protection in mental wards and hospitals, now these same folks can live out their lives in the community and hold jobs. They can now lead meaningful and fulfilling lives outside an institutional setting.
However, the downside to these drugs cannot be ignored. The ‘quick fix’ mentality of our society tells us that if a drug can make us feel better, than the thing to do if one feels depressed or overwhelmed is to go to the doctor and pop some prescribed pills.
We Often Numb Our Emotions
The problem with taking drugs to solve all our problems, is that too often we numb out the emotions we need to face and put into perspective. Methods such as psychotherapy, that are slower and more painful, are often thought in ‘not for me’ terms.
The tragedy is that no pill, or combination thereof, can ‘cure’ all our ills. We have lost the will to do the hard work of looking inward and finding the solutions to our problems.
Psychotherapy is Difficult But Worth It
I have spent many years in psychotherapy. I know how hard and traumatic it can be. However, had I simply taken medications, and not done the introspective work of facing myself with all my faults, I would still be haunted by the trauma of my childhood. I would still be lost in the maze of memories and flashbacks that kept me imprisoned for so many years.
I understand the importance of psychiatric drugs. I take some low doses of them myself for seasonal affective disorder and insomnia. My point is that drugs are not the miracle fix that people in our society believe they are, and they can be harmful.
The Propaganda Machine
Like has been stated, the prescription psychiatric drug industry is a several billion-dollar industry. How do you think they have managed to get drugs to treat mental disorders to become so accepted in a society that once frowned upon them? Advertisement. I’m not against any business trying to earn a profit, but my goodness.
We Are Bombarded Daily By Advertisements
If you have watched, (or attempted to watch), television in the daytime or during the evening news, you know there are tons of advertisements for different medications.
During these 30 second ads, we are bombarded with images of smiling people who have gotten better from tragic disorders, by using a pill or injection. Just like magic, an instant fix.
Why I Call Advertisements Propaganda
The cardinal rule of propaganda was first attributed to the notorious Nazi Joseph Goebbels.
“Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth.”
Now, I’m not calling the makers of psychiatric medications liars. Far from it. Their products help millions of people feel better every year. What I take exception with is the number of times these drugs are touted to the public as quick fixes. Their ads very quickly list the adverse reactions to their products at the end of the advertisement, but by then anyone who is looking for a quick fix to their problem has already been sold on the idea of popping their pills.
An Example of How Quick Fix Mentality Works
I’ll give an example of the type of mentality I am speaking about.
I have relative who was having trouble with motivation. She was not able, she thought, to face up to the obligations she found in being a new mother. She felt tired, overwhelmed, and inept. After seeing an ad over her computer, (another venue drug companies exploit) she told her doctor about her problem. This physician then immediately prescribed her an antidepressant. When she told me about the medication, I asked why she had begun to take it and her answer opened my eyes.
“I saw on my computer that if I take this pill every day, I’ll feel like I can do all I need to do. I’ll be normal again.”
I began to examine what she had said, and found a whole in her logic. The reason she was having the problems she had been experiencing, wasn’t that she was inept or unable to perform her duties as a new mother at all. The problem was she was a very young woman, who was faced with a huge life change, that of taking care of a baby 24/7. Her experience wasn’t any different than any other young mother, but she had sought out and believed in a quick fix to solve her ills.
It is tragic, so many millions of people are being persuaded to pop pills to solve their problems.
Why Aren’t We Pursuing Other Avenues?
Psychiatric medications do definitely have benefits, and can change lives. However, we need to reexamine our use of these powerful mind- altering drugs, and ask ourselves as a society, are there alternatives we are afraid to pursue?
The Stigma Against Therapy
One of the tragic opinions of our society, is that going to see a therapist is a weak person’s way to handle their problems. Many believe that it is fruitless to sit and tell a stranger all about the problems one faces in life.
People Who Attend Psychotherapy Are NOT Weak
I put it to you that the exact opposite is true. People who go to see a therapist are the bravest people on the planet. The purpose of therapy isn’t to blame others for your problems, on the contrary, it is to take a long, hard look inside yourself and find your own answers. An hour at a time, one looks at their faults and what they can do to correct them. This allows them to build an accurate view of who they are as human beings, and to learn to love themselves regardless of their failings. It is arduous and tear-filled work, but in the end, if one endures, a peaceful self-understanding can be achieved.
Therapists Aren’t Gurus
On the subject of speaking to a stranger being fruitless, there is much that could be said on it, but I will state in a few sentences the essence of why a trained professional is needed.
There are some problems that are intensely personal, and many times these things need to be spoken out loud to an empathetic other. A therapist is not only trained in the skills needed to respond to another person’s problems, but also to do so in strictest confidentiality. Also, a therapist isn’t, and never claims to be a guru. They don’t have all the answers. Simply, they are human beings who have been trained to help others find their own answers.
The stigma associated with seeing a therapist is ridiculous, and prevents
Some Medications ARE Needed for Life
Some psychiatric conditions require a person to remain on a medication regimen for life, and this is no different than needing to take insulin for diabetes or other medications for heart disease.
However, there is no quick fix to any mental health disorder, and we should stop swallowing the propaganda spread through television advertisements and other media that they are just that.
We As A Society Need to Look Hard at Ourselves
It is time for our society to reexamine our use of, not only psychiatric drugs, but all medications. We need to ask ourselves if we can talk and examine ourselves to feel better, or do we truly need medications?
Facing the drama and fear of today’s world is tough. That cannot be denied. However, how much better and more noble is it to look solidly into the events and happenings of today’s troubled society than to numb out to them and hide. For that is ultimately what depending on a pill to make us happy does, it forces us to disappear into a drug induced fog, where our feelings and ability to enjoy life are numbed.
Let us make up our minds to live and to choose life over a quick fix.
“Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain. To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.” Kevyn Aucoin