Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Chemical Imbalance

Once in a while, I hear a bit of news that gives me hope. Today, the Department of Health and Human Services said that the CEO of Forest Laboratories, Howard Solomon could no longer do business with the government as punishment for his company's marketing of its antidepressants Celexa and Lexapro to children prior to FDA approval. Here is the full story

This means Forest Labs has to dump Solomon because, like every drug company, it needs the US govt as a buyer. In the bigger picture it means the government may start going after CEOs from all sorts of different industries when their companies do illegal things. About time...

It is worth noting that the govt also slapped Forest Labs with a $313 million fine, and that this kind of money is chump change to the company. Money is of course power, and the drug companies have way too much power in the way mental health care is carried out in this country. They pull the strings of the lawmakers, they fund and therefore influence the research, they send out teams of attractive salespeople who use perks to influence doctors, and they put commercials on tv telling you to "talk to your doctor" about their latest drug to make your life better. Here is Chris Rock talking about these commercials:

For the record, I am not against psych meds. I have worked with people whose lives have been saved by these drugs. I often suggest that clients see psychiatrists for med evals.

I think my problem with psych meds can be summed up by the words "chemical imbalance".  I don't know where the term came from, but it is genius. My life is not working because I have a chemical imbalance. Solution: a pill to balance my chemicals. It's so elegant. 

This formulation divorces your life problem from your life. Its just the chemicals in your head. When people start thinking this way, they stop thinking about their family, their work, their attitude, their exercise, their relationship with drugs and alcohol, thier hopes, their dreams, their demons. They become dis-empowered. 

Again, I am for the idea of pills being part of the solution in some cases. I am against the idea of pills being the solution.

Ultimately, I believe life is for growing, and I believe that the drug companies and their hordes of cash do a disservice to humanity by selling us on the idea that problems in living can be solved simply by taking a pill.



  1. Oh how true. In this changing world, it seems as if people are moving farther and farther away from being able to sit with their feelings. It gets scary. They talk to me. They think, "maybe the doctor will give me a pill, then I'll be fabulous." They see the ads on TV. They go the family practice doc or ask for a referral to a psychiatrist. They come back smiling, saying, "look, this pill is going to make me fabulous." Some patients really need help with a medication, but most of them are aching from long term wounding or the struggle of existential life. They take the pill hoping it is salavation. Often it is not. The ache continues. There is no pharmaceutical agent that mends the emptiness of the soul and crater in the heart. But of course, the lie continues. It keeps a lot of people in business.

  2. Yes, follow the money! They are now marketing Seroquel (an antipsychotic used for bipolar disorder) as an antidepressant - get as many people as possible to take what they produce. I agree undoubtedly that some people are helped by pills, but the idea that mental illness is only about some random chemicals running amok in your brain, checmicals that are unrelated to the events in your life, that pisses me off.