Prozac -- the Toxic Miracle Drug
Prozac -- the Toxic Miracle Drug
America's society has turned to an aggressive means to treat the overwhelming numbers of people who suffer from depression -- antidepressant medication. "The National Institute of Mental Health... has estimated that almost 10 million Americans are seriously depressed and that a total of 14 million will suffer from it during their lifetimes" (7). Taking psychiatric drugs such as Prozac has become trendy. People no longer covertly take antidepressants, but discuss their medications openly as if there were nothing wrong with chemically altering one's brain. This is partly due to how psychiatrists propose the necessity of Prozac and other such drugs. Psychiatrists explain that Prozac will counteract the low levels of serotonin by inhibiting the loss of this neurotransmitter. The low levels of serotonin are said to be the cause of the depression, thus Prozac remedies this disease for certain people. Supposedly, with only a few side effects exhibited in a mere fraction of the patients taking Prozac, happiness can be in one's grasp. Prozac is idealized in this fashion as a euphoric drug. In reality, Prozac harmfully changes one's brain chemistry with no guarantees of reducing one's depression. Society has ignorantly euphemized this toxic drug as the cure of depression because of faulty trial studies, the understatement of the potential adverse reactions, and the neglect of patients prescribed Prozac.
Although Prozac has been on the market since 1988, the initial trial studies that were done on Prozac in order to prove its efficacy were manipulated in order to make the drug pass FDA approval. The drug studies themselves were considerably shady. First of all,
"all FDA drug studies are constructed, supervised, and paid for by the drug companies themselves, using doctors and research teams of their own choosing... Pharmaceutical companies do everything they can to make the studies turn out right" (7). Some people may think that the federal government actually supervises the safety of all the drugs that are screened, but this is not the case. The drug manufacturers themselves do the testing and can therefore pick the doctors who would endorse the drug. These are often people with longstanding relationships with the company. In the Manufacturer's Report of June 1998, Eli Lilly claims: "the efficacy of Prozac for the treatment of patients with depression (>18 years of age) has been studied in 5 and 6 week placebo-controlled studies"(6). There are several major points that are essentially left unsaid by this statement. One might ask is this drug safe for adolescence or the elderly; what are the effects of long-term dosages on the nervous system; was this drug able to prevent suicide in at risk patients? The answer to these questions is that they don't know. The community at large is basically one big guinea pig at the moment with thousands of people on antidepressants. "86 percent of all the patients in all the studies were treated for 'three months or less'"(7). This is inadequate time to monitor the effects on one's body. It will not be surprising if, twenty years from now, someone discovers major damage is done to the liver or the brain. There has already been evidence that Prozac is addictive. In addition to the lack of long-term observations, the trials did not include a large number of people due to their age or severity of illness. "The Prozac studies as designed by Lilly excluded all patients with serious tendency toward suicide... Hospitalized psychiatric patients were also excluded... There were no children or elderly adults in the Lilly sponsored FDA studies of Prozac" (7). The trial studies were biased. What is even worse is the fact that the data from the trials was manipulated. Some data was left out while the rest was pooled together in order to have the studies show that Prozac was effective. In actuality, "the number of Prozac patients who actually completed the four-, five-, or six-week trials used as the basis for FDA approval... turned out to be 286 patients" (7). This is unlike the reported 6,000 people that Eli Lilly claimed they had tested. The FDA approval of Prozac was an atrocity. If there was sufficient investigation into the data of the studies, Prozac may not be on the market today.
Even though Prozac passed FDA approval, the drug continues to be a threat because the dangers of Prozac are extremely understated by health care professionals. Most of the populace does not comprehend the extent of adverse reactions that are linked to Prozac. "By December '95 there had already been reported 35,230 adverse reactions to Prozac - including hallucinations, aggression, hostility, assault, manslaughter, and suicide - resulting in a total of 2,394 deaths" (2). In a time span of seven years there had been over two thousand deaths caused by this antidepressant, yet patients are, most likely, only told of the minor side effects such as nausea, sleeplessness, and loss of libido. Neither is the association with fits of aggression or death indicated as warnings on prescription bottles; nor is it likely told of by the patient's doctor. Yet, indeed Prozac can elevate one's mood to a highly agitated state in which one cannot rationally evaluate the surrounding environment. This may cause the patient to behave irrationally and violently. "In some rare, but much publicized cases, patients on the drug have murdered relatives or others"(1). The fact that these extreme states can occur at all on Prozac is call for concern from at least the patients taking Prozac, if not the public at large. The lack of warnings is also significant when it comes to telling the patient that Prozac and other drugs "cause permanent brain damage at the doses customarily given" (5). These are factors that should be of substantial controversy, yet are most likely not discussed when prompting the patient to take antidepressants.
In addition to the potential harm that the patient is at risk for by simply ingesting the antidepressant, suicidal tendencies may occur due to the improper monitoring or distribution of Prozac and other such drugs. Theoretically, Prozac is administered to individuals who are undergoing therapy so as to help that person deal with certain disturbing issues. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. Many people, especially students, take Prozac as either a "quick fix" or an upper. They use the drug in a way as to continually avoid their problems or to escape from the depressing feelings. Due to the large number of people who experience depressing feelings at some point in their life, professionals may prescribe them with medication instead of therapy. Often times, an appointment with a psychiatrist only lasts twenty minutes. Is that really long enough to thoroughly assess a patient? In addition, doctors who prescribe antidepressants are not limited to psychiatrists. "Because Prozac can be prescribed by all medical doctors, many fear that understaffed and overburdened counselors may be prescribing the drug to lessen their load... The net result: a nationwide culture of collegiate pod people" (4). A detachment from emotion and an estrangement from the everyday world are experienced by some people who take Prozac. With enough people on antidepressants, the world could change drastically. Prozac "inspires a dreamily contented disengagement from the problems of the world. [It also] diminishes any drive to constructive activity" (3). This can be detrimental to society as well as to patients who may be using Prozac as a means to avoid one's issues. The further estrangement felt by a patient can make him or her feel alone and detached from the community. This causes a greater risk of one committing suicide. In fact, Prozac "was implicated in inducing suicidal ideas and behaviors" (1) - the exact conduct it is supposed to counteract. The misuse of Prozac is a direct result of individuals not being informed of the dangers associated with psychiatric drugs. Less people with minor depression would take Prozac and risk themselves to these potential threats if doctors told them of the adverse reactions, such as suicidal ideation and aggression. These drugs have become so commonplace that people consider them to be as safe as aspirin; however, this is certainly not the case.
Prozac, the wonder drug of the nineties, has proven to be both harmful and ineffective, yet it is still readily prescribed to fight depression. During the past fourteen years, one would think that the populace would have discovered this, but there are several reasons why Prozac has been so popular. First of all, the mindset of a person who seeks a psychiatrist's advice is most often desperately yearning for a change in his or her lifestyle. This alone could be the reason for one's improved mood. Attitude is a very powerful tool to becoming well. This may seem euphemistic, but "it's been repeatedly demonstrated that up to fifty percent or more of depressed patients improve on the sugar pill. In some studies, nearly 90 percent have improved on placebo" (7). The person merely thinking that the pill will have some effect on his or her mood drastically can change one's outlook. One other reason that Prozac could be considered effective is that some of the side effects could make a person happier. For example, Prozac is a stimulant, which can boost a person out of the tiredness that most depressed people feel. The positive side effects alone are not good reasons to be having a large percentage of the American society on drugs such as Prozac. There are many natural means to change one's mood such as eating well, taking one's vitamins, getting sufficient sleep, and exercising. It seems today people are more willing to putting themselves at risk by taking antidepressants than they are willing to take care of themselves naturally.
1) Peter Breggin Homepage, "Dangers of Fluoxetine"
4) College Magazine, "Numb and Number, How One Little Pill is Changing the Face of College"
5) Antipsychiatry, "Psychiatric Drugs: Cure or Quakery?"
Comments made prior to 2007
I have suffered from depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember, and actually I am beginning to think I am bipolar, but anyway....I was recently in the hospital for an attempted suicide and I began treatment. I was put on low doses of Prozac and Buspar and this is the first time I have ever been treated, by the way. It helped, until I realized that I was totally void of all emotion. I couldn't cry and I just plain did not give a darn about anything or anyone. And that is not me! I started to hate this person and was scared that I was just going to get worse so I stopped taking my meds completely. It has been a week now and I am starting to feel more depressed than ever. I have been real up and down. I obviously need medication, but there must be some sort of median. My doctor is no help because I have been assigned someone from the County because I do not have health insurance so I really do not think he cares about me. I was hoping there would be someone out there who has been through a similar situation and can give me some advice. Also, what medicine has worked for you? Thank you so much ... Allisha Zegray, 14 November 2007