Sunday, November 21, 2004

Prozac, Paxil, Pathetic

In case you haven't been reading or watching the news, the latest
scandal to hit the air waves is all about drugs. Seems as if we've
become a nation so completely devoid of ethics and character that now
we don't solve our way out of problems, we prescribe our way out.

The news item that's making the biggest news concerns kids taking
drugs like Prozac and Paxil, mind-benders that are supposed to cure
depression. Only problem is that in some cases, the cure ends up
being suicide. Of course, it's only a matter of time until the
pharma companies hire some spinmeister to legitimize their position
("we only said it would end depression, we didn't say how"). But
even so, the media is totally missing the boat on the real question:

Why the hell do kids need these drugs in the first place?

Oh, I know what the knee-jerkers are going to volley back. They'll
say that there are legitimate uses for Prozac and Paxil and all of
their ilk. They'd be right. It's not the legitimate uses that
concern me. It's the illegitimate uses. Like prescribing these
drugs for kids.

You don't have to go all that far back in history to identify the
demand for these kinds of problem-solving drugs. Heck, Mick Jagger
sang about it decades ago in the Rolling Stones' infamous "Mother's
Little Helper." Remember?

"Doctor pleeeeeeease....
Some more of theeeeeeeese.
Outside the door,
she took four more...."

While Mick goes wailing on about Mom's self-centered issues, the
essence of the song is based in that haunting refrain, "she goes
running for the shelter of her Mother's Little Helper." One pill
does it all. Were it only that easy.

One of the funniest men in America is Chris Rock, who has the courage
to ask his audiences, "We have special kids and challenged
kids....Hey, whatever happened to just plain stupid kids?" Rock
knows of which I speak: two, maybe three generations of
politically-correct Americans have grown up with the notion that for
every problem, there's either an easy solution or someone else to

My money says that while drugs like Prozac and Paxil may stick
band-aids over deeper, more lasting emotional issues, they're
certainly no cure for the anxieties that plague people of all ages.
Sometimes, the only real cure for the problem is to work your way
through it, and in my experience, this is especially true of
children. Facing and solving problems is a critical part of the
growth process. After all, if you never perceive of yourself as
improving in your problem-solving skills, how else do you gauge your
growth as a thinking human being?

The answer, of course, is that you can't. But since we live in an
age where burgers are served up in 30 seconds or your money back,
people are given to thinking that's how human nature works, too.
Here's a news flash: it took several thousands of years for men to
lose their tails. Human nature isn't going to change overnight,
either. Even though technology pushes the pace of life to its
limits, we still are, after all, warm-blooded animals roaming the
terrain. Strip away the bling, turn off the power and what you've
got left is a human that's basically no different than the guys with
the spears and the furs.

The real issue here isn't what these drugs are doing to kids; it's
that these drugs are prescribed to kids at all. Well-meaning but
ignorant doctors and parents think they're doing their kids a favor
by patching over adolescence, arguably the most tortuous years any
human ever has to face. In fact, what they're doing is handing these
kids a dangerous crutch, robbing them of their chance to face and
overcome challenges on their own, crippling them for life.

In my book, the cruelest thing an adult can do to a kid is deprive
him of a healthy self-image. If the pharma companies really were
concerned about their brand, this is their chance. The media is
completely missing that story, though. They're limiting their
coverage of child abuse to circus performers like Michael Jackson.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, I think it stinks that you have to join Blogger (even if you don't want a profile, etc.) or post anonymously.

Anyway, your observations are spot-on, as our British friends would say. I've had a lot of experience with the relatively recent impulse to medicate kids. I spent about 10 years fighting with people who wanted to prescribe drugs for my son, who was suffering from Aperger's Syndrome -- a condition that is still enough of a mystery to the mental health professionals that it's difficult to know why they thought they knew enough to even know what to prescribe.

At the same time, as he has more recently developed a schizophrenic spectrum disorder, I can certainly attest to the fact that sometimes those anti-depressants are really needed. But the instances in which they are really needed only happen when we're talking about patients with genuine biochemical malfunctions in the brain that need to be treated pharmacologically.

My son needs his meds. Most of these kids don't.

I think what we see is the same impulse that has the teachers telling me that they want my fourth-grader to start using a calculator. My response is always the same: why not just teach her to add and subtract and multiply and divide? Then you don't have check-out clerks who can't figure out how to make change without the aid of the cash register.

Ultimately, somebody somewhere along the line came to the conclusion that life was supposed to be easy. It's not, though. If life were easy, nobody would ever learn anything. And nothing would be of any value if it were all easy to acquire.

I feel sorry for these kids, because the adults in their lives are taking all the richness of life away from them, numbing their minds and their feelings as if they were inconveniences rather than the stuff that makes living as a human worthwhile.


11:07 AM  
Blogger Rob Frankel said...

Thanks for your comment, Dawn. It's good to hear from someone who knows the difference between "necessary" and "convenient." Gives me faith that maybe there are more clearer-thinking people in the world! Sorry about blogger being a hassle, but your post got through anonymously anyway!

1:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I totally agree with Rob and Dawn.

I live in a small community and so it is a lot easier to see the kids that are put on "drugs" for "their own good". I think it is just a scape goat to make it easier for the teachers.

A teacher at a recent parent-teacher conference told my friend that her son needed to be put on something - he is just too hyper. He is a normal 8 year old boy (in my opinion). But the teacher would rather not find something more interesting for him to do - or to challenge him. Instead they want to subdue him with drugs.

While we are not home-schooling our children, I have been adding to their learning. I do not subscribe to the school of thought that they NEED to use calculators to learn. Our school has this NEW math. They do not learn the addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division tables anymore. They learn multiple ways to get the answer. While that may be an additional way to learn - it only adds to the clerks who cannot make change without the cash register. Our kids will continue to learn their tables at home. At 5 years old they could tell the clerk at the store that the change was not right, and counted out the correct change for the clerk.

Everyone needs to make a stand - push the schools to help the kids use their brains. If the power goes out - you can still function. Be more vocal to the schools about how you want your kids to learn. The only way to accomplish change is to make the first move!


9:23 AM  
Blogger Rob Frankel said...

You want to talk about scary? How's this: one of my kids was falling behind in math, so I brought in a tutor to help him get up to speed. I spend a lot of time with my kids, but this really called for a pro.

The tutor explains why my kid wasn't getting the math instruction he needed three years ago: the teacher didn't know fourth grade math! He went on to explain that current teaching materials simply provide answer sheets so that teachers can match up correct answers. The teachers themselves don't "need" to know how to do the math, only how to match correct answers.

When my kid heard that, he remembered his teacher at the time saying, "I'm learning this along with you."

And this is from a GOOD school.

Bottom line is that we live in an "I want it now" world, where people have forgotten that you don't invest money into kids until you invest time. I'm totally with you on this, Becca. Thanks for posting.

10:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right on Rob!

To add to that train of thought - why are the teachers not held more accountable? They should have to prove they can do what they are teaching. We have physical education teachers that are telling our kids that in order to get an A in their class room, they have to do 30 push-ups. Well - the teacher cannot even do one to demonstrate the correct way to do them. This teacher has a student demonstrate.

Or how about the high school math teacher that has the students put their name up on the board when they have trouble coming up with the answer to a problem. After 15 minutes - he may or may not go to help them. His total class is a self-study course. We have really begun to wonder if he is just there to collect a pay check.

I really think that teachers need to have testing on their subject matter as well. If they do not know what they are doing - how are our kids going to learn?

If you or I are not doing our job - we are fired. Or at least reprimanded. I see none of this in the teaching field. While I do understand that it is a hard job - with all the truly special needs and in our area ESL students, there still needs to be someone to be held accountable. There is a lot of abuse of power and standing. We have one teacher that does not have cable TV at home. He told his students last year that he doesn't need it. He just goes to the school when there is something on TV that he wants to watch and watches it in his classroom. ACK!

Well - I better climb off my soapbox for awhile. But thanks for letting me vent!


10:32 AM  
Blogger Rob Frankel said...

Holy cow, it's even stranger than I thought. Those comments from Quiltmaker, your observations are enough to scare anyone into eating right and excercising regularly. I find it intriguing that in a world grown up on skepticism of governments, so little is publicly being aired regarding the medical industry, including the pharmaceutical companies.

I regularly comment to media on the bad shape of pharma brands, and this can only accelerate their decline. The latest fiascoes with Vioxx, Viagra and Prozac are just the tip of the iceberg.

On the other hand, what can we expect from a system so disconnected that instead of selling stuff to make Americans stronger, we sell them the cheapest, sugar/fat-filled stuff to weaken them into chronic sickness?

Astonishing as it seems, my own doctor relates how in the early 1900's there was no heart disease. There were no trans-fats to keep foods looking fresh for years (while filling your arteries with glue).

What's happened to us? Why don't we thrive and profit by making each other stronger?

11:33 AM  
Blogger Rob Frankel said...

See, I think Cannell is right on the money here. What worries me is that the essence of American conservatism is the freedom to be unfettered by government - or anyone else - in your expression of free will, with the caveat that your free will can't impose upon mine.

Unfortunately, this concept has gotten perverted into an extreme intolerance of differences. America used to be proud of its Melting Pot heritage. Now we're becoming as xenophobic as the Cold War enemies we once accused. The only difference is that we're suffering from an internal form of xenophobia: if junior doesn't fit it, we don't attribute it to "rugged individualism." Now he's just a trouble maker who doesn't fit it.

As someone who has NEVER fit in (this is why I became a branding consultant - I excel at making people and businesses stand out), I can relate. And Cannell is certainly correct when he/she states, in so many words, that the doping of America is a direct, lethal threat to all things creative.

All of us have to be vigilant - now more than ever - to protect our individuality and foster it in ourselves AND our kids. if we don't teach it to them, if we don't reward them for questioning everything they're told, we are not just mortgaging their future, we're condemning it to death.

Maybe I'm just an optimist, but I believe in human nature's ability to find light in the darkness. I know that when I was a kid, every authority figure told me what I couldn't do, so I took it upon myself to not only prove I could do it, but that I could do it better.

I have three kids. My youngest son is a genetic duplicate of my attitude. the other two are close copies. It gives me faith.

1:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I kinda am not of fan of the give them drugs to make em better crap either. I am a search engine marketer and create a site that collects feedback from people who use various drugs like these...some talk about wanting to rip peoples faces off, some talk about how their father took it and committed suicide, others talk about their families being torn apart. Most of the comments on my blog say nothing about solving problems. At the end of the day after you eat your magic pill you still have your problems. I knew a girl who took Paxil and tried to slit her wrists twice.

Many of the people who are prescribed these SSRIs do not need them. When they don't feel better some of their doctors increase their dosages (further throwing their serotonin levels high out of whack).

Not that this is good, but for a while I did some illegal drugs (namely ecstacy - which also elevates serotonin levels). The side effects people feel from doing ecstacy: dry mouth, sweating, diziness, jaw clenching, crazy vivid dreams, lack of ability to concentrate, emotional numbness (which is what ends up causing lots of the suicides), etc...are reported by many people who have used Paxil, Zoloft, Lexapro, etc. on my blog:

I think most people are too apathetic and drug companies are too rich to be able to fight them in any normal marketing battle. The only way to fight them is through distributing information. Currently Google sends my site a few hundred visitors a day, but hopefully next year I will be doing well enough to be able to dump some good cash into some sites and get thousands of visitors every day.

Anyhow, I am a big fan of yours Rob, and an even bigger one after this post.

9:04 AM  
Blogger Rob Frankel said...

Aaron, I very much appreciate your comments here. The more I see what our national health program has become, the more distressed I am about the growing culture of dependency. I have enough faith in human nature, though, to believe that those who are dependent will eventually succumb, leaving the stronger, less-easily influenced to put things right.

Thanks for your post.

7:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

“We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads, and along these sympathetic fibers, our actions run as causes and return to us as results.”
- Herman Melville

RSS is the way of the Future...
google news rss

9:19 AM  

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