Friday, September 16, 2005

Notes from the Prozac Nation, Vol. 1, No. 4

  • Judges and Prescription Drug Dependency: Ralph sent me an interesting link to a discussion on Chief Justice Reinquist's drug habit at TalkLeft. Reinquist consumed great quantities of the sedative-hypnotic Placidyl, indicated for insomnia. Prescription drug abuse really illustrates the class lines of the war on drugs. There is a lot to think through here about what consitutes illicit use of "enhancement" drugs. Here is more from Slate on Reinquist's habit.

  • Pharma and Higher Learning: Merck & Co is forming an "educational partnership" (not quite sure what that is a euphemism for) with Drexel University. Merck employees will be able to take online courses and receive discounted rates. What does this merger mean for the content of those courses?

  • College Students and Enhancement Drug Use: A colleague of mine, who is a Psychiatrist, sent me "Getting an Edge--Use of Stimulants and Antidepressants in College" with an attached note that "this is what you've been talking about with us." The "us" is a group of Philosophers and Psychiatrists that I belong to called the Association for the Advancement of Philosophy and Psychiatry (AAPP), which is a fantastic intellectual group. A preview of this article:
    Increasing numbers of students, and sometimes their families, request medication to provide an 'edge,' even if the students have no clinically significant impairment of functioning. They think of such drugs as safe 'brain steroids' that help maximize performance with minimal risk, and they know the symptoms to describe in order to persuade a doctor to write a prescription.
    The line between treatment and functioning is now so hopelessly blurred. Considering the powerful forces of Pharma convincing all of us we have at least one treatable mental disorder, and psychiatrists will regularly find themselves having moral dilemmas about whether or not to give their friends' children a prescription for ritalin to help them get an "edge" in college.

  • Teen Suicide Risk: A very distrubing study revealed that 900,000 teens and tweens (12-17) have made plans to commit suicide during a severe bout with major depression.

  • Compassion Fatigue: This story covered by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution warns that those worried over the fate of Katrina's victims threaten to collapse into a depression.

  • Irish Workplaces Less Tolerant of Mental Disorders: A study of workplaces in Ireland find that bosses are less tolerant of employee claims of depression. While I find this troubling, if indeed there is a high rate of depression among the workforce, I have to say that I am not surprised by this trend. The aim to destigmatize depression, particularly the Pharma ads bombarding us on TV, have the unintended consequence of empowering malingerers to feign a depressive disorder because of the higher social tolerance for mental disorders. I see this among students.

  • Male Depression and Work Woes: A study done at University of Newcastle upon Tyne discovered that men who lost their jobs or were downgraded were at a greater risk for becoming depressed than women were.
    Their findings could be explained by the fact that men born in this era gained much of their self-esteem from their careers, whereas women found fulfilment from other social pursuits outside work, such as children and friendships. It’s also possible that women are more emotionally resilient in this type of situation, say the researchers.