Over 1 million toddlers have been officially diagnosed with depression making preschoolers the fastest growing market for antidepressant drugs. This statistic was published in the journal Psychiatric Services in April 2004. The National Institute of Mental Health Has declared that 30% of women in the United States are depressed. The World Health Organization estimates that 15% of the populations of developed countries are depressed. The statistics are depressing!
Depression is real. It is horrible and potentially debilitating, but is it a disease or a symptom? Are 2-year-olds really coming down with a bad case of the blues or are pharmaceutical companies just looking for the green?
First we need to separate normal sadness and grief from the persistent, all-consuming and overwhelming feelings of despair associated with "clinical depression".
There was a time when it was okay to feel sad. Not just okay but perfectly normal, under certain circumstances. It was normal to cry because your mom died and you missed her, to lose weight while going through a messy divorce, to lose sleep over unpaid bills when you had just lost your job. You did not have an illness. You were human. You weren't informed by a TV commercial of the urgent need to race to your doctor's office and ask if Zoloft is right for you.
There was also a time, much further in the past, when a depressed person was thought to be inhabited by demons. Treatment options included exorcism and being burned at the stake. Later on, with the advent of psychiatry as we've come to know it, you could blame mom and dad. Mostly mom. We now take a much more scientific approach. We've discovered that it's really those adorable cartoon-bubble-neurotransmitters to blame. You know, Serotonin and his friends Norepinephrine and Dopamine. Today you have a "chemical imbalance".
Thanks to the current onslaught of media campaigns for happy pills we've all become intimately familiar with the "Chemical Imbalance Theory" of depression. Please note the use of the word "theory". Unfortunately, even those of us personally affected by depression seldom take the time to ask some common-sense questions with regard to this theory. Examples of legitimate questions for members of the medical community could include:
"Why aren't diagnostic tests like blood tests, urinanalysis or radiological tests performed to confirm the presence of a biochemical imbalance?"
" If diagnostic testing was available then what values would be considered within normal
range? How many serotonin bubbles should we have bouncing between our neurons?"
"Why is the sales rep with the suitcase and chafing dishes getting to see you before I do?"
Then there are the questions that we should be asking ourselves:
"Would we accept a diagnosis of cancer, diabetes or toenail fungus based solely on our answers to a questionnaire?"
"Why don't doctors who subscribe to the Chemical Imbalance Theory look for factors that may be affecting our biochemistry before reaching for the prescription pad?"
This last question is important when you consider that depression and other "psychiatric disorders" can be, and frequently are, a symptom of disease. In a doctor's haste to diagnose you with depression and send you on your way with a prescription for the pill du jour, a very real underlying medical problem like thyroid disease, porphyria or heavy metal poisoning may go undiagnosed.
Antidepressant sales reached 37 billion dollars in 2003. This startling figure could not have been achieved with out cooperation from our doctors. Yes, there is a free lunch, and a free trip to Hawaii and on top of that they get to pretend that they are really, really smart. Nice work if you can get it.
We need to stop right now and consider whether modern science and its adherents are any more informed than the exorcists of the past in an age where infants are being diagnosed with depression. Yes, that's right, depressed babies! Babies are, very literally, a new market.
The Alliance for Human Research Protection obtained the New Jersey Medicaid records of psychiatric drugs prescribed to children. Those records revealed that anti-depressants were being prescribed to babies less than 1 year old. All of these drugs carry an inherent risk of catastrophic side effects. And we thought the "Demon Possession Theory" was absurd!
We should all demand to be treated as intelligent human beings worthy of a serious attempt at diagnosis and proper treatment.