June 2, 2000 -- For five years, antidepressant drugs have redefined daily
life for Carla, a graphic designer in Des Moines, Iowa. They've helped her pry
loose from depression so powerful she could barely get out of bed in the
morning. They've helped her raise three teenage sons and put an end to her
occasional thoughts of suicide.
But such help has come at a price -- a price some doctors are starting to
question. Twelve years after Prozac first hit the market, a growing chorus of
psychiatrists claims that America is becoming an overmedicated society,
reaching for prescriptions at the first sign of mild depression -- and risking
potentially dangerous side effects in the process.
Have your job, your mortgage -- your life -- pushed you into depression? The Dalai Lama can help.
The ancient practices of Tibetan Buddhism -- meditation, mindfulness, empathy, and compassion -- are offering world-weary Americans a better perspective on life and its hardships.
By feeling compassion for others -- seeing even our enemies in a new light -- we can ease our own stress and anxiety, the Dalai Lama told a crowd of thousands, gathered for his visit to Atlanta in October 2007. Through "inner...
Like Carla, one in eight Americans have taken one of the popular new class
of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, according to
an ABC News survey done in April. Better known by the brand names Prozac,
Paxil, Zoloft, or Luvox, these drugs are thought to boost brain levels of the
chemical serotonin and to quell an array of emotional disorders, from
depression to panic to anxiety. Indeed, the drugs are so popular that an
estimated 28 million Americans -- one in 10 -- currently use them. To date,
over 60 million prescriptions for this class of drug have been written. That's
a stunningly high figure considering that the National Mental Health
Association estimates that only 19 million Americans suffer from severe
Stephen Crystal, PhD, a Rutgers researcher who studies prescription trends,
calls it a "massive uncontrolled experiment," in which doctors are
handing their patients prescriptions when they haven't even been diagnosed with
a mental disorder in the first place. Equally troubling, the ABC News survey
found that nearly half of people on the new antidepressants have taken the
drugs for a year or more, even though these drugs haven't been tested for
Leading the dissent is Harvard psychiatrist Joseph Glenmullen, MD, author of
Prozac Backlash. Glenmullen argues that as many as 75% of patients are
on antidepressants for mild -- even trivial -- conditions. For many of these
people, he says, the risk-benefit ratio of taking antidepressants is simply
For example, some studies have shown that Prozac and its cousins cause
sexual dysfunction in up to 60% of users, though the drug's manufacturer, Eli
Lilly and Co., says the rate is less than half that. Glenmullen points to a
Spanish study published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy in
1997 as one of the best examples: It examined the effects of Prozac, Paxil,
Zoloft, and Luvox in 344 patients and found that 58% experienced sexual
dysfunction. Weight gain and tremors are other leading side effects.
Carla is one patient who has struggled to find an antidepressant with few
side effects. After her family doctor first prescribed Paxil five years ago,
Carla found herself numb to everything around her. "I sure wasn't depressed
anymore," she says. "I wasn't sad, I wasn't happy, I wasn't
anything." Sex with her husband lost all its appeal. "It's kind of hard
to have sex when you have no physical feelings and no emotional