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New book "Génération zombie : enquête sur le scandale des antidépresseurs"

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Ariane Denoyel is a freelance journalist based in Grenoble, Isère, and the author of an investigation which will be published in mid-April by Fayard, "Génération zombie : enquête sur le scandale des antidépresseurs". Interview.

France Bleu Isère - The title of the book "Génération Zombie" is very evocative and very strong. You didn't choose the word "zombie" at random?

Ariane Denoyel - No, I assume it. I know it can be almost shocking, but that's how the victims of the most serious effects describe themselves. So I have really taken their words.

In fact, I think it was the book dedicated to a witness of your investigation who described this phenomenon to you: that of being almost absent from one's own body...

Exactly, David, who ended his life at the age of 23, in January 2020.

Not everyone who takes antidepressants is a zombie. I say this because it is perhaps important to remember that this is not a charge against all those who take antidepressants. In your book, your aim is not to make them feel guilty?

Oh no, certainly not. I think that the people who end up with these serious side effects - it's difficult to say what proportion of patients this represents - are rather victims. They are victims of widespread medical misinformation. In fact, the industry has created a bubble of false information. So really, we and the doctors are living in a world of medical fake news. Even doctors are not necessarily very well informed.

What made you want to take an interest in this subject? It is a sensitive subject and it is also taboo. Is it because you were at one point in your life on Prozac?

Yes, I was on Prozac and other antidepressants too. I remember very clearly a really unpleasant feeling of being disconnected. Well, it's very hard to describe. After several years, when I came across the work of a professor from Elis, it made me realize that it wasn't just me who reacted badly and for whom it wasn't effective at all. So it's rather that these are molecules which are not very effective and which have many undesirable effects.

The difficulty is that some people who take them regularly, if they stopped taking them from one day to the next, they would be even worse.

Yes, it's very dangerous to stop suddenly. You mustn't do it. All the great professors I have consulted insist on the fact that it is absolutely necessary to be well accompanied because it is very difficult to withdraw. Some people who have taken hard drugs say that it can be more difficult to withdraw from these antidepressants than from heroin or cocaine.

The current climate is obviously of concern to the government, which is also looking into the mental health of the French. There will be a conference on this subject next summer. Three confinements in one year, restrictions on freedom, loss of jobs, no prospects and, inevitably, more people asking their doctors for medication.

Yes, but drugs are not the only solution I think. And in any case, even if they decide to take them, I think it is very important that they are aware of the true benefit-risk ratio of these molecules. There has to be transparency. We all need transparency.

So you're saying that doctors should be trained, that they are perhaps being taken in by the laboratories, that doctors in good faith are prescribing these pills?

Absolutely. I don't blame doctors for prescribing them because the laboratories have considerable marketing power. They are perfectly able to direct the information from the beginning, from the clinical trials to the scientific press. So no, we can't blame doctors for being victims of this information bubble.

Ariane Denoyelle, you teach at the Grenoble and Échirolles School of Journalism (EJDG). Do you notice that students, young people in the prime of their lives, are not doing well because they have been deprived of their social life for several months. Have you seen this?

Yes, of course. I've seen that, it's extremely strong, the students are not doing well. Already, before the confinement, I think that the precariousness was very important among the students. Depression is also a consequence of social violence, when you are a precarious student, life is really very difficult, you have to combine a small job with studies, etc. So it was already hard. So it was already hard. But with the pandemic, it has become really hard.

The risk is that some students will become zombies if they use these drugs, is that what you're telling them?

I say that you really have to think about taking them. If you want to take these molecules, if you are considering it, you have to discuss it with your doctor. You have to get some information from several sources to get a more accurate picture of the benefits and risks.

In your book, there is also a point that you put forward. You talk about suicidal tendencies and the deep depression of some people, but there are also murderous impulses when you take drugs like that. You tell us that most of the killers in the United States were on psychotropic drugs.

This is what studies say when we look at trials. For example, that of James Eagan Holmes, the Aurora killer, it is very clear, there would not have been these murders if he had not been on medication. These studies give all sorts of examples and they go so far as to say that nine out of ten mass murderers in the United States are on psychotropic drugs.

This is an automatic translation from French; here is the original interview with video: https://www.francebleu.fr/infos/sante-sciences/generation-zombie-enquete-sur-le-scandale-des-antidepresseurs-publie-aux-editions-fayard-1618476046

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