It seems like it was just yesterday that Prozac was a miracle pill, a medication that could not only make sick people well, but "better than well."
By the end of the 1990s, Prozac and similar drugs--Paxil, Zoloft, and others--were being prescribed for everything from depression to anxiety to drug addiction to ADD. About 70 percent of prescriptions for these antidepressants were being written by family physicians, rather than psychiatrists.
Dr. Joseph Glenmullen, a psychiatrist who has a private practice and also works for Harvard University Health Services, sees this antidepressant mania as dangerous, even reckless. He notes that these drugs can have severe side effects, including uncontrollable facial and body tics, which could be signs of severe and permanent brain damage. About 50 percent of patients suffer often-debilitating withdrawal symptoms from them, and about 60 percent end up with sexual dysfunction. And Prozac may make a small number of people homicidal or suicidal, or both.
But there are alternatives: in Germany, for example, St. John's wort outsells Prozac 25 to 1, showing that doctors and patients there understand that the herbal remedy works as well as the synthetic ones for mild to moderate depression. [Editor's note: St. John's wort has been shown to interfere with the actions of the transplant rejection drug cyclosporin and the AIDS drug indinivir.] And diet, exercise, 12-step programs, and good old-fashioned psychotherapy can work well, too. Even for severe depression requiring medication, Dr. Glenmullen shows how the drugs can be used with other treatments and then discontinued after a year or less.
Moreover, Prozac Backlash discusses exactly what depression is and isn't; Dr. Glenmullen reviews hundreds of scientific studies, and discusses numerous case studies from his practice and others. Because of that detail, medical professionals may be this book's most likely readers, but anyone who has been on an antidepressant, or is close to someone who is, will also want to give Prozac Backlash a careful read. The brain you save could be your own. --Lou Schuler
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From Publishers Weekly
In recent years, a growing number of books, such as Peter Breggin's Your Drug May Be Your Problem, have sounded an alarm about the long-term dangers of popular new psychiatric medications. Glenmullen (The Pornographer's Grief), a clinical instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, joins their ranks with a lucid, wide-ranging survey of recent studies on the negative effects of antidepressants and their less-publicized alternatives. His title refers not to the growing skepticism toward psychiatric medications but to the brain's compensatory reactions to the artificial elevation of serotonin, including potentially permanent tics, dependence, sexual dysfunction, memory problems, sudden suicidal feelings and violence. In the first half of the book, Glenmullen focuses on four serotonin boosters known as the Prozac group, while in the second half, he explores the efficacy of individual, couples and family psychotherapy, herbal remedies, diet and exercise and 12-step programs. According to Glenmullen, clinical trials of drugs last as little as six to eight weeks, while side effects can take decades to emerge. In addition, he charges that a profit-minded pharmaceutical industry has under-reported side effects, misrepresented theories of "chemical imbalance" as fact and expanded diagnostic definitions to increase a drug's potential customer base. While his accounts of his own experience with patients is helpful, Glenmullen's most valuable contribution is his reporting on what little monitoring has been done. (Apr.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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