Recent studies such as in the Journal of Public Library of Science Medicine suggest that Prozac, the bestselling antidepressant taken by 40 million people worldwide, does not work and nor do similar drugs in the same class. Patients that take it do improve – but those on placebo improved just as much as those on the drugs. Perhaps, the only exception is in the most severely depressed patients, but the authors claim that it is probably because the placebo stopped working so well, rather than the drugs having worked better.
Brain Chemistry Alone can not Explain Human Existence
Even if more effective and side-effect free medications in the future could suppress or even eliminate some stress symptoms such as depression, this does not present proof that the cause of the problem is chemical. Brain chemistry alone will never adequately explain the full human experience. Chemicals cannot replicate past individual experiences, nor can they help a person experience his or her full creativity, a successful close relationship or a meaningful existence.
Rather than becoming a Prozac nation, or indulging in drugs to dullen our sensations of pain, we need to build inner health. Of course, when necessary, pain relief is humane and can be part of the process. Regardless of whether we use medication or not, the ultimate goal is not mere symptom relief, but happiness and health in all spheres of our life.
Medication is Symptom Relief
Rather than viewing stress as something that must be reduced or as an abnormality that can best be addressed by medication (some illnesses do require them such as psychosis, manic-depression, or perhaps severe depression). Yet most often medication is often purely symptom relief. In the process of treating these symptoms we need to view stress as a natural signal of an overwhelmed mind.
Stress as Opportunity for Growth
Dr. Ishizuka believes distressful setbacks are an integral part of a human being’s coping mechanisms. To indiscriminately use chemicals such as Prozac (or more effective medication given most antidepressants work as placebos) is to deprive the mind of its capacity to get distressed when it should. This may be detrimental to our optimal functioning and growth. Where there is nothing wrong with wanting to reduce pain in our lives (sometimes it is necessary and humane), to deal effectively with stress we have to recognize its nature and source. When we do so, we can learn to use stress as an opportunity to build health in the present: a stronger self, closer intimate relationships and meaningful achievement.
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Depression, Prozac, Antidepressant
Dr. Yukio Ishizuka, a Japanese psychiatrist, discusses depression, prozac, antidepressants and the difference between symptom relief and health.