Prozac: Pro and Con
If your doctor suggests an antidepressant, ask for a referral to a psychologist or a psychiatrist for a second opinion. And should you start taking the drug, don't just blindly renew your prescription over the telephone. Sit down with your physician every six months or so to reassess your situation. Ask questions: Do you still need it? Can you lower your dosage?
As Maura learned the hard way, these antidepressants are not right for everyone. Don't accept the risks they may pose lightly.
Joseph Glenmullen, MD, a clinical instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, is on the staff of Harvard University Health Services and has a private practice in Harvard Square. He is the author of Prozac Backlash: Overcoming the Dangers of Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, and Other Antidepressants With Safe, Effective Alternatives.
By Frederic Quitkin, MD
June 2, 2000 -- In the wrong hands, the scariest volume of horror stories in the world can be the Physician's Desk Reference -- the guide to drugs and drug interactions found in every doctor's office. I could take any commonly prescribed drug listed there, run through the list of possible side effects, and frighten any patient away from taking it.
No matter how benevolent and time-tested a medication, it will have side effects. If you consider those side effects out of context, without proper background, you might well be convinced that the drug is going to harm you, not help you. You might therefore give up the allergy medication that lets you go outside in the summer, the beta-blocker that helps control your heart failure, or the drugs that help stabilize your diabetes -- all based on "side effect panic."
Sound farfetched? Not really. In the wake of overhyped publicity about the side effects of antidepressants, spawned by Joseph Glenmullen's new book Prozac Backlash, I fear such panic will strike thousands of people whose daily lives are immeasurably better thanks to the prescription of antidepressants that are thought to regulate brain levels of the chemical serotonin in our bodies. These drugs, commonly known by brand names such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil, have been carefully studied and are closely regulated. But you wouldn't know it to read the book by Harvard psychiatrist Glenmullen, MD, who paints a distorted picture of a psychiatric Wild West in which anything goes when prescribing these antidepressants.