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Young author discusses growing up on psychiatric drugs


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But fails to mention side effects and withdrawal difficulties.

 

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303649504577493112618709108.html

 

The Medication Generation

By KATHERINE SHARPE June 29, 2012 The Wall Street Journal

 

Many young people today have now spent most of their lives on antidepressants. Have the drugs made them 'emotionally illiterate'?

 

Katherine Sharpe, author of "Coming of Age on Zoloft," talks with Weekend Review Editor Gary Rosen on the use of antidepressants by young people.

 

When I was a college freshman in the late 1990s, antidepressants were everywhere. Prozac was appearing on magazine covers, and I'd just seen my first commercial for Paxil on TV. Halfway through the semester, I was laid out by a prolonged anxiety attack and found myself in the school's campus health center, tearfully telling a newly minted psychiatry resident about my feelings of panic and despair. Given the spirit of the times, it wasn't a complete surprise when she sent me away a few minutes later with a prescription and a generous supply of small cardboard boxes full of beautiful blue pills, free samples dropped off on campus by a company rep.

 

The school psychiatrist didn't suggest talk therapy. She simply asked that I return for a "med check" every few weeks to make sure that the pills were working.

 

....

When I started using antidepressants, I didn't know anyone else my age who was taking them. Within a few years, I felt hard-pressed at times to find someone who wasn't. Antidepressants and other psychiatric medications went mainstream in the 1990s and 2000s, and my generation became the first to use these drugs in significant numbers as adolescents and young adults.

 

Young people are medicated even more aggressively now, and intervention often starts younger. In children, as in adults, antidepressants and medications for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder are often used continuously for years. These trends have produced a novel but fast-growing group — young people who have known themselves longer on medication than off it.

 

The National Center for Health Statistics says that 5% of American 12- to 19-year-olds use antidepressants, and another 6% of the same age group use medication for ADHD—in total, about four million teenagers. Around 6% of adults aged 18 to 39 use an antidepressant. Usage often becomes long term. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 62% of Americans aged 12 and over who take antidepressants have done so for two years or longer; 14% have taken them for 10 years or longer. Not all are well supervised. The National Center for Health Statistics reports that fewer than a third of patients of all ages who take an antidepressant have seen a mental-health professional within the past year.

 

Like me, most young adults who take antidepressants have felt relief from symptoms. But there are several aspects of the experience of growing up on antidepressants that should give us pause.

 

First, using antidepressants when you're young raises tough questions of personal identity. Adults who take these drugs often report that the pills turn them back into the people they were before depression obscured their true selves. But for adolescents whose identity is still under construction, the picture is more complex. Lacking a reliable conception of what it is to feel "like themselves," young people have no way to gauge the effects of the drugs on their developing personalities.

 

Emily, 28, grew up in the Midwest and began taking Prozac for the depression and anxiety that began to overwhelm her at age 14. ....

 

"I think Prozac has helped me a lot," she said. "But I wonder, if I'd never gotten antidepressants, who would I be? What would I be like?" Emily hasn't satisfied her curiosity by taking a break from the drug, largely because she doubts that she would be able to withstand the pressures of her job without it.

 

It's easy to make fun of the question "Who am I?", or to dismiss not being able to know one's "true self" as a relatively minor side effect, especially when compared with the ravages of major depression. But most of us do want to have a strong sense of our own personality and temperament; it is something that we rely on to balance our lives from day to day.

 

For adolescents, who are already struggling with these questions, medication can distort the development of self-awareness. "Because teens are presented with the question of 'Who am I?', being a person who takes medication gets included in that quest," says Lara Honos-Webb, a clinical psychologist in Walnut Creek, Calif. Sometimes they do it in a negative way, she says, either by dwelling on the idea of being a person with a sickness or focusing on their inability to know whether their feelings are "real."

 

A related issue is sexuality. It is well known that antidepressants can blunt sexual desire and performance; studies estimate that these effects may occur in more than half the people who take the drugs. Timothy Dugan, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Harvard's Cambridge Hospital, notes that the impact of antidepressants on young-adult sexuality hasn't been studied much and is poorly understood. "If Freud's right, then sexuality should drive development, and drive connections with other people," he says. "If you're a kid, and your sexual desires are somehow fooled with or messed with, what does that do?"

 

Finally, there are the consequences of teaching young people to think about their problems in biomedical terms. In the past 25 years, antidepressants have helped to move us from a culture that viewed emotional problems as products of personal psychology, to one that views at least many negative feelings in terms of faulty biology—a chemical imbalance. The acceptance of depression as a biological illness has been hailed for removing shame and stigma from the condition. But when we overextend the biomedical model, applying it to troubled young people who may not be suffering predominantly, or at all, from a biological mental disorder, we discourage them from examining the roots of their feelings, and from exploring other ways of managing them.

 

When I first began to take antidepressants, I understood that doing so meant I had a chemical imbalance in my brain. I knew that, arguably, I should find that comforting—it meant that what I was going through wasn't my fault—but instead it made me feel out of control. I wanted my feelings to mean something. The idea that my deepest emotions were actually random emanations from my malfunctioning brain didn't uplift me; it just further demoralized me.

 

In my 20s, I sought out talk therapy, partly to deal with the questions that using antidepressants raised for me and partly because the effects of the drugs, spectacular in the short term, had waned over time, leaving plenty of real-world problems in their wake. Only then did I begin to notice just how nonrandom my feelings were and how predictably they followed some simple rules of cause and effect.

 

Looking back, it seems remarkable that I had to work so hard to absorb an elementary lesson: Some things make me feel happy, other things make me feel sad. But for a long time antidepressants were giving me the opposite lesson. If I was suffering because of a glitch in my brain, it didn't make much difference what I did. For me, antidepressants had promoted a kind of emotional illiteracy. They had prevented me from noticing the reasons that I felt bad when I did and from appreciating the effects of my own choices.

 

As medications saturate our culture, we may be growing less able to connect our most basic feelings with the stressful factors in our lives. "There's been a kind of pathologization of life itself," said David Ramirez, a clinical psychologist and the head of counseling and psychological services at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. "Life is full of stress, and anxiety, and sadness—those are just base-line phenomena that have come to be considered illnesses that need to be treated. Young people aren't sure how to think about their distress."

 

The point is emphatically not that these medications are useless, simply that they are overprescribed. Drugs undoubtedly help many young people who are genuinely struggling. But the expanding use of psychiatric medication in youth over the last 20 years has meant that the drugs are now prescribed in less and less severe cases. In fact, it's tempting to see the rapid spread of these medications less as evidence of an epidemic of youthful mental illness than as part of a broader social trend toward aggressively managing risk in the lives of children and teens.

 

The desire to protect kids and help them to succeed is hard to fault in itself. But pushed too far, it can lead to unnecessary prescriptions that cause pain or harm in their own right. Though psychiatric medications have become part of the fabric of modern childhood and adolescence, they are powerful drugs, and we owe it to the next generation to use them with caution.

 

When medication is the right decision, there are ways that we can help to mitigate its negative impact. Adolescents who take medication should be encouraged to build an identity that is based on more than just an idea of being sick, and to talk about any issues that medication raises for them. Most important perhaps, the need for their prescription should be periodically reassessed.

 

I don't have the solution to depression. I do know that for me, taking medication was a very mixed experience. It melted my sadness and lifted my despair. But it also made me feel damaged, lacking in agency, and cut off from the ability simply to be myself.

 

Whether growing up on antidepressants or other psychiatric drugs causes lasting harm or benefit is an open question. Benedetto Vitiello, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the National Institute of Mental Health, told me that, though research has proved the short-term benefit of certain psychiatric drugs in kids and adolescents, studies assessing the drugs' long-term effects have proved difficult to design. Does growing up on medication influence the way we hold jobs, maintain relationships, function in adult life? These are the key questions for future researchers.

 

As people who grow up on antidepressants settle into their adult lives, they face a question: Should they stay on their medications or try to stop taking them? Are they still the same people who first needed treatment years ago? Some of the people who told me their stories remain committed to medication. They found that the existential questions posed by the drugs grew less intense and painful as they left adolescence behind. Others experimented with going off their prescriptions, as I did. Some returned to medication with a greater sense of certainty. Others found life manageable and rewarding without it.

 

People from both groups said there are things that can help along the way, independent of drugs. The simple passage of time makes us more stable and self-aware. Learning how exercise, diet and sleep bear on mood gives us tools to use in caring for ourselves. Friends lend support, and adults help by sharing perspective and setting examples.

 

In my own case, talk therapy was vital. Though it didn't make the pain go away, it did enable me to do something medication hadn't, which was to talk and think about myself. It gave me a chance to have someone else confront my pain not as disorder but as part of the human experience. And that made it bearable.

—Ms. Sharpe is the author of "Coming of Age on Zoloft," recently published by Harper Perennial.

 

A version of this article appeared June 30, 2012, on page C1 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: The Medication Generation.

This is not medical advice. Discuss any decisions about your medical care with a knowledgeable medical practitioner.

"It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has surpassed our humanity." -- Albert Einstein

All postings © copyrighted.

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I found parts of it unclear. It says Sharpe talking with Gary Rosen. It doesn't read like an interview nor like a coherent single author piece. Sorta muddled.

 

Takeaways:

 

It's really important to explore yourself and develop sexually unperturbed. Antidepressants make all of that really confusing. Let's discuss.

 

I hope there's more substance to her book... Considering all the, arguably, greater risks and issues at play on the subject.

"Well my ship's been split to splinters and it's sinking fast
I'm drowning in the poison, got no future, got no past
But my heart is not weary, it's light and it's free
I've got nothing but affection for all those who sailed with me.

Everybody's moving, if they ain't already there
Everybody's got to move somewhere
Stick with me baby, stick with me anyhow
Things should start to get interesting right about now."

- Zimmerman

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I agree, the issues seem muted in her approach.

This is not medical advice. Discuss any decisions about your medical care with a knowledgeable medical practitioner.

"It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has surpassed our humanity." -- Albert Einstein

All postings © copyrighted.

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The statistics seem very low. The more people I talk to, the higher the percentage of people - kids and adults - I know ON something: SS/NRI, "just Xanax" or other benzo, Seroquel for depression/anxiety/sleep, and dopamine "boosters" for ADHD or alertness/wakefulness.

 

The term "antidepressant" is becoming very muddled as Abilify, etc, are used for depression.

 

I suspect we'll see a decline in births and marriage with the decreased desire to bond and have sex. Population control.

Pristiq tapered over 8 months ending Spring 2011 after 18 years of polydrugging that began w/Zoloft for fatigue/general malaise (not mood). CURRENT: 1mg Klonopin qhs (SSRI bruxism), 75mg trazodone qhs, various hormonesLitigation for 11 years for Work-related injury, settled 2004. Involuntary medical retirement in 2001 (age 39). 2012 - brain MRI showing diffuse, chronic cerebrovascular damage/demyelination possibly vasculitis/cerebritis. Dx w/autoimmune polyendocrine failure.<p>2013 - Dx w/CNS Sjogren's Lupus (FANA antibodies first appeared in 1997 but missed by doc).

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I suspect we'll see a decline in births and marriage with the decreased desire to bond and have sex. Population control.

 

yeah...I've talked about this being an issue that's deeply troubling in society in this article on the blog:

 

What happens to sexual development in adolescents who’ve grown up on psych meds? (and how these drugs impede normal bonding in ALL people)

http://beyondmeds.com/2012/06/05/psychmedbonding/

 

I say about the sexual and bonding issues:

This fact alone about psychiatric drugs is enough to undermine society. Don’t think this doesn’t effect parent’s ability to love and bond with their children. And then when you think about all the kids on these drugs who simply don’t develop normally. Teenage hormones are part of growing up. What happens when you skip that developmental stage? What happens if you never enter it at all due to a lifetime of being on drugs? We are stopping the human experience from happening.

the article goes into much more detail about the issues of bonding while drugged...it's really a serious problem and one that young woman doesn't really seem to grasp the extent of the seriousness...

Everything Matters: Beyond Meds 

https://beyondmeds.com/

withdrawn from a cocktail of 6 psychiatric drugs that included every class of psych drug.
 

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Disturbing, especially after 3 unrelated friends divulged this week that their exceptionally gifted teenagers are on cocktails of drugs for aggressive behavior. What is going on??

 

The 4th, my husband's niece, is mid 20s now and has been on cocktails including neuroleptics for 10 years. Her parents are beside themselves because she has lost motivation, has no ambition, isn't interested in getting married. They are ready to kick her out, not aware of the drug influence.

 

It's tormenting to see this from so many angles and feel unable to do anything. Im too emotional right now to talk rationally about it. I also don't have an alternative to dear friends whose kids are physically attacking them. Or one who BRILLIANT daughter suffered from Scrupulosity so severely that she prayed in her bedroom for hours, entranced to the pount she wet herself. This is NOT a religious family but a highly intelligent, creative, and motivated group. They've been through hell.

Pristiq tapered over 8 months ending Spring 2011 after 18 years of polydrugging that began w/Zoloft for fatigue/general malaise (not mood). CURRENT: 1mg Klonopin qhs (SSRI bruxism), 75mg trazodone qhs, various hormonesLitigation for 11 years for Work-related injury, settled 2004. Involuntary medical retirement in 2001 (age 39). 2012 - brain MRI showing diffuse, chronic cerebrovascular damage/demyelination possibly vasculitis/cerebritis. Dx w/autoimmune polyendocrine failure.<p>2013 - Dx w/CNS Sjogren's Lupus (FANA antibodies first appeared in 1997 but missed by doc).

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(On a spooky note -- Just when the world needs fewer people, advanced medicine has figured out a way to get them to reproduce less. Is this karma at work?)

This is not medical advice. Discuss any decisions about your medical care with a knowledgeable medical practitioner.

"It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has surpassed our humanity." -- Albert Einstein

All postings © copyrighted.

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Disturbing, especially after 3 unrelated friends divulged this week that their exceptionally gifted teenagers are on cocktails of drugs for aggressive behavior. What is going on??

 

They've been through hell.

 

Hi Barb.. I was/am beside myself after learning my brother and his wife are giving their daughter Zoloft because they are having trouble with her acting out behaviors. My mouth literally dropped open and I almost cried. Although I got my brother to say he would reconsider.. I don't believe he will. He lives in KY, and I'm in MA. Were they geographically closer I might have influence. As it is, I'm stuck with an image of this intellectually gifted 14 year old who is being assaulted with these drugs as surely as if she were being physically abused, perhaps even more so. ~S

As always, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! A proud supporter of the 10% (or slower) rule.

 

Requip - 3/16 ZERO  Total time on 25 years.

 

Lyrica: 8/15 ZERO Total time on 7 or 8 yrs.

BENZO FREE 10/13 (started tapering 7/10)  Total time on 25 years.

 

Read my intro thread here, and check the about me section.  "No matter how cynical you get, it's almost impossible to keep up." Lily Tomlin

 

 

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(On a spooky note -- Just when the world needs fewer people, advanced medicine has figured out a way to get them to reproduce less. Is this karma at work?)

 

And by "natural selection" of sorts, it is the higher end of the intelligence spectrum that is being reduced.

 

The common drug among my friends teens appears to be Seroquel.

Pristiq tapered over 8 months ending Spring 2011 after 18 years of polydrugging that began w/Zoloft for fatigue/general malaise (not mood). CURRENT: 1mg Klonopin qhs (SSRI bruxism), 75mg trazodone qhs, various hormonesLitigation for 11 years for Work-related injury, settled 2004. Involuntary medical retirement in 2001 (age 39). 2012 - brain MRI showing diffuse, chronic cerebrovascular damage/demyelination possibly vasculitis/cerebritis. Dx w/autoimmune polyendocrine failure.<p>2013 - Dx w/CNS Sjogren's Lupus (FANA antibodies first appeared in 1997 but missed by doc).

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My dental technician's twenty-something daughter was just given a Paxil prescription to help her lose weight. Say what? Fortunately, Mom is very skeptical of doctors and drugs and will likely talk her out of it.

 

Within the past few days a member of another forum (entirely unrelated to this one) who used to be bright and bubbly complained of not being creative any more. Sure enough, she's on a truckload of meds including antidepressants, and has developed tardive dyskinesia. She's not an adolescent, but it's certainly saddening to think that this has happened not only to her but to thousands of others. Some of the best and brightest may very well be too zonked to contribute much to society.

Psychotropic drug history: Pristiq 50 mg. (mid-September 2010 through February 2011), Remeron (mid-September 2010 through January 2011), Lexapro 10 mg. (mid-February 2011 through mid-December 2011), Lorazepam (Ativan) 1 mg. as needed mid-September 2010 through early March 2012

"Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity." -Hanlon's Razor


Introduction: http://survivingantidepressants.org/index.php?/topic/1588-introducing-jemima/

 

Success Story: http://survivingantidepressants.org/index.php?/topic/6263-success-jemima-survives-lexapro-and-dr-dickhead-too/

Please note that I am not a medical professional and my advice is based on personal experience, reading, and anecdotal information posted by other sufferers.

 

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Paxil to LOSE weight???

 

Need doggie tilting head in confusion emoticon - "aaargh???"

 

HOW to open dialogue with these people without them shutting down?? The mental health industry (ie. pHARMa) has worked for so long to erase the stigma that it seems we are fighting that work. These people are SO RELIEVED to finally have a diagnosis and relief from the battles. I think I could talk to parents of a "depressed", existential-type but the combative teens are tough. And I'm not a mom, so my input is dismissed.

 

? Stats of childlessness/free among drugged? Is there already evidence of population control?

Pristiq tapered over 8 months ending Spring 2011 after 18 years of polydrugging that began w/Zoloft for fatigue/general malaise (not mood). CURRENT: 1mg Klonopin qhs (SSRI bruxism), 75mg trazodone qhs, various hormonesLitigation for 11 years for Work-related injury, settled 2004. Involuntary medical retirement in 2001 (age 39). 2012 - brain MRI showing diffuse, chronic cerebrovascular damage/demyelination possibly vasculitis/cerebritis. Dx w/autoimmune polyendocrine failure.<p>2013 - Dx w/CNS Sjogren's Lupus (FANA antibodies first appeared in 1997 but missed by doc).

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I suspect we'll see a decline in births and marriage with the decreased desire to bond and have sex. Population control.

 

yeah...I've talked about this being an issue that's deeply troubling in society in this article on the blog:

 

What happens to sexual development in adolescents who’ve grown up on psych meds? (and how these drugs impede normal bonding in ALL people)

http://beyondmeds.com/2012/06/05/psychmedbonding/

 

I say about the sexual and bonding issues:

This fact alone about psychiatric drugs is enough to undermine society. Don’t think this doesn’t effect parent’s ability to love and bond with their children. And then when you think about all the kids on these drugs who simply don’t develop normally. Teenage hormones are part of growing up. What happens when you skip that developmental stage? What happens if you never enter it at all due to a lifetime of being on drugs? We are stopping the human experience from happening.

the article goes into much more detail about the issues of bonding while drugged...it's really a serious problem and one that young woman doesn't really seem to grasp the extent of the seriousness...

 

Gia,

 

Your points about becoming "societies of 1" (i believe that's how you described it) at young age REALLY hit home with me. I just posted about how isolated I am (married, but badly, no kids, no nieces/nephews, no employment/disabled for years) and the lack of support for this segment of the population. Our society is not prepared with social supports for people younger than 60, but there are many alone at that age and more to come due to the problems you've outlined so well above. I

My post:

 

http://survivingantidepressants.org/index.php?/topic/2568-1-year-out-and-struggling/page__pid__25912#entry25912

 

The recent death of a 52yo man in my hometown struck a nerve. He was in his home and only found after several days. My immediate thought was that he had no regularly scheduled activities/job/family life despite living in his small hometown and knowing many people - a society of 1. His was just one in a string of early deaths (45-60 yo).

 

I see this happening. Knowing the cause (at least in part) and seeing it continue in the next generation is tormenting.

Pristiq tapered over 8 months ending Spring 2011 after 18 years of polydrugging that began w/Zoloft for fatigue/general malaise (not mood). CURRENT: 1mg Klonopin qhs (SSRI bruxism), 75mg trazodone qhs, various hormonesLitigation for 11 years for Work-related injury, settled 2004. Involuntary medical retirement in 2001 (age 39). 2012 - brain MRI showing diffuse, chronic cerebrovascular damage/demyelination possibly vasculitis/cerebritis. Dx w/autoimmune polyendocrine failure.<p>2013 - Dx w/CNS Sjogren's Lupus (FANA antibodies first appeared in 1997 but missed by doc).

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