I love it when in therapy clients ask questions and then, as a part of the discussion, have an epiphany, answer them on their own. I was talking to a woman in her early 40s, plagued by anxiety and obsessive behavior. She was tired, discouraged, and eager to find any relief. “Should I just up my medication?” she was thinking out loud. Just to make sure that this was indeed the best choice for her, I asked her if she is pursuing other means of getting better, before considering such an increase. I asked her about greater commitment to therapy, her diet and exercise, hobbies, activities, and social engagements.
My client admitted to attending therapy irregularly, mostly coming to see me to vent in severe crisis and not following up on many discussed recommendations. She was spending most of her time indoors and had no exercise routine. She said she was isolating from her friends, had no hobbies, and was eating a high fat and high carb content diet. I am not sure if she increased her medicine after hearing herself describe her lack of self care. I hope she understood that her life was out of balance, that she had other options and medication is a temporary way to dull her pain.
As a holistically oriented psychologist who regards a natural approach to wellness, I am watching with concern the wide spread use of mind altering substances. It becomes a quick fix to restore and maintain a sense of personal wellness, to improve mood, reduce anxiety, and help with sleep. We have a variety of drug choices and thousands of people working for the psychiatric industry who are eager to deliver a chemical remedy to their target market in a fast, furious, and plentiful manner.
People in pharmaceutical marketing are creative in designing drug names to attract more customers. Say “Zoloft” or “Prozac” and notice the poetry and hip flavor. Or feel the strengthening quality of “Abilify”. Word “Lunesta” conveys some feel of calm and cool. These clever drug names reach us on semantic and sensory levels, to get to the bottom line: buy, try, and never let go. Not surprising that people are paid huge sums just to come up with names of psychotropics drugs.
Pharmaceutical companies are creative promoting these drugs. They visit counseling groups and hospitals regularly, bringing employees generous meals and a handful of samples, with the implicit plea to “recommend as appropriate” to patients that clinicians see daily. Many of my clients take three or more types of drugs that may cost hundreds of dollars per month, plus unspecified long term costs of daily digestion of such a chemical mix. Nobody knows the damages that these drugs can inflict on body and mind over time. Such studies don’t exist at the moment. We are becoming the trial and error generation for these drugs to be tested for their life span impact on people.
Psychotropic drugs are increasingly becoming a daily routine for many of us. Our collective bloodstream now carries a heavy volume of antidepressants, tranquilizers, and stimulants. Are we careful enough to consider alternatives to cure depression, anxiety and other psychological problems or way too open to taking a "chill pill"?
Contemplating the long term harm of these drugs, I see some of the immediate effects in patients. Among the most common are slowed reactions and reduced cognitive alertness, digestive problems, sweating, increased sensitivity to heat and sun, sexual apathy and anorgasmia, dry mouth, fatigue, sleepiness, headaches. Stakes are higher and consequences are graver when medicating children and teens, when it’s becoming a part of growing up. Our collective bloodstream is contaminated by pharmaceutical propaganda. We seem to have some chemical panacea for any personal disfunction. The troubling result is that people begin thinking of drugs as a first and necessary treatment choice.
There are cases when medication is necessary. However, a great number of people suffering from depression, anxiety and other conditions can be successfully helped by therapy and holistic approaches. It takes more personal effort to pursue and benefit from such treatments. But the results are safe, long lasting and truly yours. You permanently increase your resilience and coping ability. Meanwhile, the magic dust of “chill pills” envelops you in a quick feeling of a relative zen, but the gain is elusive. You are likely to eventually crash, need more drugs, and experience more pain. To conclude, please be safe. Don’t view drugs as your primary and only choice. See professionals who can help you consider alternatives. Give therapy a decent try. Work out, eat better, pray, enjoy outdoors more. This recipe is old fashioned but still solid.