My Ramblings About Psychiatric Drugs
Lloyd Ross, Ph.D.
According to the research I have read and my experience as a therapist, when people take SSRI anti-depressants their emotions are blunted, especially the emotions of guilt, shame, and conscience. They don’t care about things that they would have cared about had they not been on SSRIs. Some people would define that as feeling better.
If you take normal puppies and remove them from their mothers, like pups of most species, they will frantically scream. If for a while you feed them SSRIs, they will not react when they are removed from their mothers. Many call these drugs “well whatever” drugs. A “well whatever” drug enables normal pups to not be upset when they are removed from their mother.
A colleague who took an SSRI medication so he could relax during a vacation became alarmed after he returned because, when he was listening to patients talk about their problems, he kept thinking, “who cares.”
Many children with whom I work whose mothers are on SSRIs have said to me that they wish that their mothers were not taking those pills. When I ask them why, they invariably say, “they just don’t seem to care as much about me.”
If “get better” means to feel better or not feel so bad because the patient has taken a medicine that dulls his feelings, he or she is getting in the way of a finely tuned mechanism that has been evolving over 200 million years to help human organisms protect themselves, avoid threats, and get what they want. That’s a big price to pay for “feeling better.” And, of course, that is what all psychotropic drugs do – including alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, sedatives and stimulants – they help people avoid their feelings. That’s why the majority of men who beat up their wives are drunk when they do it.
And the idea that the SSRIs are correcting some kind of chemical imbalance in a very precise, carefully honed way is an illusion. A patient being given a drug that will dull his reaction to what has been upsetting to him will approach it very differently than a patient given a different spin, that the drug is treating a chemical imbalance that is causing his ailment. They will give drug treatment a second thought if warned that SSRI anti-depressants might affect their judgement. These drugs are totally misnamed. They are neither selective in their approach, nor do they cure depression. They merely create a feeling of “apathy” or “well whatever” along with some unpleasant side effects.
And what about the 1 out of 4 people who develop suicidal or homicidal ideation and agitation (akathisia) after taking SSRIs. This also happens at the same rate in subjects who have never been depressed. And keep in mind that SSRI anti-depressants are associated with a much higher relapse rate than is therapy. We have to approach problems in living, not use a reductionistic disease model. Restraint is not treatment, especially since these drugs suppress our humanity. And how about reinforcing the notion that the way to deal with uncomfortable feelings is to take a drug that makes them go away? What do you say to your kid who is smoking dope?