“Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with that core belief.” — Franz Fanon: The Psychopathology of Colonization
When it comes to prescription drugs, whether prescribed by a primary physician, specialist or a psychiatrist, we as a society have come to accept that the licensed practitioner knows best. Even with a second or third opinion, many, if not most, people ailing from mental or physical disease seem to prefer medication rather than try an alternative path with limited or no side effects, but that may include some pain as part of the healing process.
On Monday, June 24, JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association published the findings of an investigation into “Anticholinergic Drug Exposure and the Risk of Dementia”; the report concluded that “there was nearly a 50 percent increased odds of dementia associated with total anticholinergic exposure.” Anticholinergic medications in this instance refer to anti-depressants. The report states:
“In this nested case-control study of 58,769 patients with a diagnosis of dementia and 225,574 matched controls, there were statistically significant associations of dementia risk with exposure to anticholinergic antidepressants, antiparkinson drugs, antipsychotic drugs, bladder antimuscarinics, and antiepileptic drugs after adjusting for confounding variables.”
Despite the facts about the serious consequences of dementia after prolonged use of the aforementioned drugs, there are people so married to the immediate results of alleviating depression, anxiety and other relevant health issues that they would rather suffer possible consequences later for a quick cure today. Proponents of antidepressants, in particular, would also have their family members and friends medicated for the time being rather than work through the problems, whether chemically imbalanced or otherwise.
In conversations with advocates of prescription drugs, the reaction is strong, polluted with emotion and confusion; their rationale relying solely on licensed professionals and whatever studies that provide validation that enables a prescribed drugged society to carry on. But it’s not helping — not in the long run, at least. The New York Times published a story in April 2018, titled “Many People Taking Antidepressants Discover They Cannot Quit.” The stories of addiction are telling.
“Basically that’s all I have been doing — dealing with the dizziness, the confusion, the fatigue, all the symptoms of withdrawal,” said Ms. Toline, 27, of Tacoma, Wash. It took nine months to wean herself from the drug, Zoloft, by taking increasingly smaller doses.
“I couldn’t finish my college degree,” she said. “Only now am I feeling well enough to try to re-enter society and go back to work.”
What numbs our pain the fastest also has serious consequences. The real question is, why can’t we come together to find a solution better than the one that entails seriously harmful side effects and stories like that of Toline? Until we realize that we have become a society based on convenient, but too often harmful, solutions instead of long-lasting improvement, we can just expect more of the same.