Growing Up On Antidepressants

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

Julie is 31. She has been on antidepressants since she was 14 years old. She told Dr. Richard Friedman that the medication saved her life. And in an op-ed in The New York Times he explains:

But now she was raising an equally fundamental question: how the drugs might have affected her psychological development and core identity.

It was not an issue I had seriously considered before. Most of my patients, who are adults, developed their psychiatric problems after they had a pretty clear idea of who they were as individuals. During treatment, most of them could tell me whether they were back to their normal baseline.

Dr. Friedman describes a dilemma for doctors and young patients... The medication, he says, saves lives, but at the same time he argues that doctors don't know enough about the long term effects. The title of the article sums it up nicely: "Who Are We? Coming of Age on Antidepressants"

We'll talk with Dr. Friedman on the show today, and with Dr. Norman Rosenthal, who has researched antidepressants for the last 25 years. If you've taken drugs like Prozac or Zoloft since adolescence, how has it affected you?

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I understand Dr Friedman to say that drugs are approved after "only a few trials taking only a couple of weeks with a couple hundred patients." Please ask him to expound on this a bit. It is my understanding as a physician that there are several levels of drug trials including safety, efficacy and tolerance of the medication. No one pretends we have a perfect solution for depression, and most independent studies show that durgs and counseling together are most effective, but it is a disservice to present drug therapy this way.

Sent by Dave Anderson, MD | 2:21 PM | 4-24-2008

I didn't take antidepressants as a teen, but I had my first depression as a senior in high school. I didn't really feel like myself until I took antidepressants after my second post-partum depression. Coming of age while depressed doesn't really give you a good feeling for who you are either.

Sent by Janet Sanders | 2:21 PM | 4-24-2008

i AM 59 YEARS OLD AND HAVE BEEN ON ANTIDEPRESSANTS SINCE MY EARLY TWENTYS AFTER ALL THIS TIME OF APPRECIATING THE BENEFITS, I MUST SAY I MISS WHO I WAS, PAASIONATE ABOUT LIFE AND ABLE TO RESPOND EMOTIONALLY - UP OR DOWN. I'M FLAT AND WISH I COULD COME OFF, BUT I GUESS IT'S DOUBTFUL AT THIS POINT.

Sent by Peggy from Verona, NY | 2:21 PM | 4-24-2008

I started anti-depressants when I was in my early twenties. I am now in my late 3o's. I stopped only during my three pregnanices. They have made a huge difference in my life. I only wish I had started them earlier. I made some major mistakes in my early life that I don't think I would have if I had been on antidepressants. My pregnancies were awful. Without the meds I am totally unstable. I see members of my family who I believe should have been on meds, but are not, and instead as teenagers they have been chronic drug and alcohol abusers, which I believe is self-medication.
I live a completely totally succeful life now with family, job, etc.....I would rather have a high quality of life instead of quanity. If they kill me so be it, at least I am doing well while I am alive. I would put my children on them as teenagers to save them from the mistakes I made and the dark depths of depression I have been in.

Sent by amy | 2:23 PM | 4-24-2008

Unable to get through on the phone. Missed some of the current discussion, but want to know if there was any discussion of Prozac causing REM behavior disorder? I developed it about 6 years ago and SOME literature suggests that prolonged use of Prozac can cause this to develop...there is medication to take at night, but are physicians aware of the side effects?

Sent by Pat Nielson | 2:25 PM | 4-24-2008

I wish I had been able to come of age on anti-depressants. I was not diagnosed until my early 20's as bi-polar, and I had a very tumultous adolescency and it could have been so much easier. I have been on medication for almost 50 years-often with varying degrees of sucess, and I don't know of any long term side-effects. Thank God the medications have progressed over the 50 years and are now much better now. I will no doubt die taking some form of mood altering drug.

Sent by Yvonne | 2:25 PM | 4-24-2008

They say yesterdays solutions are todays problems.

Sent by zach proto | 2:26 PM | 4-24-2008

I have ADD,(no HD). My wife takes Zoloft for depression. She has only been taking the medication for a few years now. She has had great results. I am wondering if Medication for ADD is similar to meds for Depression. I take a patch form of Methylphenedate (Ritalin). One other thing, how does the medication effect pregnancy? My wife and I are trying to get pregnant and I'm hoping to not have complications.

Sent by Josh | 2:28 PM | 4-24-2008

I would just like to say that as a 58 year old man who has been plauged with depression most of my life, I wish that I had been diagnosed much earlier and had started taking antidepressants when I was younger. I have been taking them for about 16 years now. My earlier years would have been much more productive and enjoyable.

Sent by elliott Hermann | 2:28 PM | 4-24-2008

I am 17 and have been on anti-depressents for two years. After being hospitalized and sent to residential treatment, I went off of my medication because I wanted to get in touch with the real me- undrugged. I was amazed to see the changes in myself after going off the medication. I felt as if I were actually living and that the drugs had been holding me back. Though I think anti-depresents were nessesary in the beggining, I do not think they are a permenent solution.

Sent by Molly | 2:28 PM | 4-24-2008

I went on procac about a year ago. I am now 53 yrs old and should have been them my hole life. I have been through 2 marriages and several relationships and didn't know why i could fintion in life

Sent by Jim Tyler | 2:29 PM | 4-24-2008

Any comments on depression and creativity and the affects anti-depression meds may have on artistic expression? I've been on and off meds since age 15 and have always had creative impulses, however, much of the time I was too depressed to garner the energy to act of them. I'm now prescribed two medications, an anti-depressant and a mood stabilizer, and am trying to get back to my art. However, while taking the stabilizer, I often felt "numbed out" and lacked the constant flow of ideas and depth of feeling I had while off the drug. I do still take the anti-depressant in order to have the will to do my work, but have decided to stop taking the other drug. Life is much more of a struggle now, but I feel more authentic and also feel that my work has a depth and distinct point of view that it would not were I fully medicated.

Sent by TJ, Portland, OR | 2:30 PM | 4-24-2008

I was prescribed Zoloft during my senior year in high school, and I absolutely hated it.

Even though the "lows" were much better while on the medicine, the "highs" also disappeared, and that's what bothered me. I felt like I had absoltely no personality. As soon I was through the unbearable low of that specific series of depression, I stopped taking the medicine and learned to deal with things on my own.

I am extremely fearful of going through that same level of depression again, and even though I hated the medication, I know I would most likely need it again to make it through.

Sent by Katherine from Minneapolis | 2:31 PM | 4-24-2008

I was diagnosed with clinical depression as a very young child, and started medications when I was about 18. Now in my mid-20s, I can say that growing up with depression itself led to many patterns of thought and behavior...thus, my "true" self, or whoever this medicated person is, can often feel like a lie.

I can also say that this new me is weirder and quirkier than I could've imagined! Regardless, I credit these medications for keeping me from ending up dead or in jail.

Sent by Jessica Garcia | 2:31 PM | 4-24-2008

I have been taking Paxil for the past seven years and it has improved my quality of life incredibly. At first I was very self conscious about taking a drug for anxiety. However, as I have matured, and become more comfortable with myself and have realized how much more enjoyable life can be with a little help from SSRI's. Simply the reduction of the "background noises" has enabled me to concentrate and live more in the moment. Anxiety can be exhausting and relief has proven wonderful. I still get anxious now and then but not to the point where I can't pull out of the dive.

Sent by Brian Carter | 2:32 PM | 4-24-2008

My mother has been diagnosed with many mental illnesses throughout her life, finally being diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia. I have also been working in the mental health field for the past 10 years and have seen the side effects directly. My mother sees double, can't stop shaking, and any change in her medication takes her down paths out of her control. Many of the clients I have served have the same type of issues.

Sent by Lindsay in Portland, Oregon | 2:32 PM | 4-24-2008

I have been on a light dose of Trazadone for almost 16 years now. I have tried Prozac, Zoloft and others with adverse effects. The light dose allows me to sleep and deal with everyday stresses better than I would on my own. However, I do not agree that antidepressants bring out our authentic self; people who suffer with chronic depression do not have happy "core personalities". We have depressed personalities, hence the medication! Perhaps one over looked component of therapy is accepting the reality about our core personality. It has really helped me. I want to be a happy well adjusted person, but when I do not feel this way, I do not put added pressure on myself by beating myself up for being depressed. I know I am prone to deep depression but now it last less time because I understand this is part of my core personality and instead of fighting it, I acknowledge it and work to overcome it.

Sent by sari nichols | 2:34 PM | 4-24-2008

While I have never taken an antidepressant, I became an activist trying to increase awareness of the severe side effects of these drugs after watching my son become manic and suicidal immediately upon starting to take an antidepressant. He committed suicide after only 7 weeks on the medication. The symptoms described by many callers are signs of "withdrawal syndrome" caused by going off these allegedly non-addictive drugs too fast. What about "activation syndrome" which is what we were told our son was experiencing?

Sent by Terry Bearden | 2:34 PM | 4-24-2008

Sorry about the long post -
I was prescribed medication when I was a teenager for anxiety and depression. I hated the way it felt and eventually refused to continue taking it. The stigma of "needing a pill" was a huge factor in that decision. As an adult (I am in my late 30's) I have slowly come around to the notion of being on medication for life. I take thydoid medication and Wellbutrin daily. When I don't take the wellbutrin I don't feel depressed but I can't think as clearly and find everything to be more serious and stressful. When I'm on it I don't feel like I'm taking anything. I only feel like daily life is not that hard and problems can be solved.
I'm sure that some people are taking medication they could do without but I am clear that I function far better with the medication than I do without it.
The only risk I have is feeling that I can stop taking it because I feel like everything is normal. I have done that three times and each time I begin to have trouble processing information and being rational.

I appreciate the doctors concern but for some people, like myself, life is far better with chemical help than without.

Sent by Kirsten | 2:34 PM | 4-24-2008

I took anti-depressants on and of through high school and college -- mostly off. My diagnosis of depression, and later manic-depression. After running through more than 17 different drugs and even more combinations with no positive results, I rejected medication until half way through grad school. Finally a doctor prescribed an effective combination of adderal and Luvox (a drug developed to control seizures) as an impulse control. I think of killing myself far less now, but the drugs have left me numb, unable to feel inspired, scared, worried or connected to my future -- no conception of where I want to be in one year, much less five or ten years from now.

My father is bi-polar and refuses medication. He is functional now, although he's been erratic and suicidal at various times in my life. His resolve to do without the drugs leaves me feeling weak and ill resolved to bear my burden of a restless mind. I am now, at 27, afraid to stop my medication.

Recently I ran out of medication for a week and was incapable of functioning. I cried uncontrollably, couldn't think or deal with work or life. Having not taken drugs in college, I know who I was. I would rather be that person, yet the acting out and danger seeking behavior may not have let me live long without it. My drugged, rational-side forces me to swallow the pills I hate and be a self I find boring and weak.

Sent by Amy | 2:34 PM | 4-24-2008

I'm a 50 year old woman who has been on antipdepressants for 15 years. I've also had 13 years if talk therapy. Some of the side effects of the various medications include kidney scarring, extreme tooth decay, sexual dysfunction. Had I known this at the beginning, I might have chosen to treat my bi-polar disease differently. As it is, I will be on meds for the rest of my life. While I now live on a pretty even keel, I never know when the black hole will open up again, or when the mania will break through. I also know that an important part of my personality has been suppressed. I can feel it, and I miss it. But the tradeoff is to be able to be in the world.

Sent by Avery Leinova | 2:34 PM | 4-24-2008

As an almost 40-year old female, I feel the drugs are an easy out for lazy physicians. I have been seeking treatment for 11 years for a variety of complaints they never could easily diagnose. Even with a family history of thyroid problems, they performed minimal tests and doctor after doctor wrote it off to depression and prescribed multiple kinds. Some I tried, most I didn't. 11 years later, my FATHER found Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. It is more often a crutch to get the difficult (often female) cases out of their offices.

Sent by Lynn | 2:36 PM | 4-24-2008

As usual NPR is a funnelfor the pharmaceutical/psychiatric industries. Everyone knows by now that antidepressants/psychiatric drugs do not work and they cause horrible, irreversible side effects--many of them debilitating--most commonly known is tardive dyskinesia--horribly disfiguring, and enlarged heart, liver, kidneys--damage to vital organs--antidepressants/psychotrophic drugs cause these. The idea that anyone should go on these drugs is ridiculous--it's a ploy by the psychiatric industry to controll these innocent, uniformed people for life. Dr.Peter Breggin who is a bonified psychiatrist, studied at the most prestigious colleges, has said it correctly--these drugs are toxic, have caused more deaths, illnesses than 2 world wars.

Sent by nancy carolyn | 2:37 PM | 4-24-2008

I've been taking an anti seizure medication (Keppra) since I was 15. I'v been taking an anti-depressant (Cymbalta) since about 16 or 17 to treat depression that I have suffered as a side affect of my seizure medication. Is there any reason to think that being on an anti-depressant when I am not normally a depressed person is going to lead me to being dependent on a medication for an illness that I would otherwise be able to get over if I wasn't taking anti-depressants to treat a side effect?

Sent by Jay | 2:38 PM | 4-24-2008

A year ago I was diagnosed with PTSD. I was put on Lexapro and participated in intensive EMDR therapy. It was recommended that I stay on the EMDR for at least 6 months after my PTSD had subsided.

As an adult, I had major weight gain as a side effect of Lexapro and the withdrawal process was agonizing. My concern is what these drugs will do to children's development. Could they forever alter the seritonin development in a child as well as the physical side effects?

Sent by Cynthia | 2:39 PM | 4-24-2008

I have been on an antidepressant for 10 years and relapse when I try to stop. I decided that if I were diabetic and needed insulin, I would not question my need to stay on the drug. My antidepressant has saved my life and I will never go off of it again.

Sent by dianne | 2:40 PM | 4-24-2008

I'm 23 and I just started on an anti-depressant/anti-anxiety 6 months ago. I must say it has made a difference, but at the same time it is a double-edged sword. I wonder, can I stop taking it and still feel good? But I cannot deny that I sleep better on it, and that for me is the bottom line. Without my sleep, everything else spirals away.

Sent by Peter | 2:40 PM | 4-24-2008

I went on an antidepressant when I was 14. At the time I struggled then with identity and taking medicie. After a year I asked my mom if I could go off the medicine. I wanted to be me not someone contolled by a pill.

However, my struggle with depression persisted through my young adult years. It wasn't until I was 22 and on my own that I decided to try antidepressents again. I now live a much more fulfliing life then before.

I often wonder who I would be or would have been if I had been on the medication through my teen years. Would I have done better in school or in relationships? Unfortunatley, there is no way to know.

Sent by Susie P | 2:40 PM | 4-24-2008

For excellent read, try Dr. Peter Kramer's books "Against Depression" and "Listening to Prozac." He has been featured on other NPR programs. The books address similar questions about whether one is truly him/herself while using antidepressants, how depression contributes to other illnesses and whether patients should take the drugs on a long-term basis. I found them exceptionally helpful and easy for the average patient to understand.

Sent by cecilia | 2:41 PM | 4-24-2008

I am a thirty eight year old man who went on antidepressants last year. I wish that my worry about being authentic was mearly related to perscription drugs I was takeing. I wondered about myself constantly. Life is hard but it can become unbearable when you can't trust yourself to do the things you know are healthy. With the drugs I can choose to take care of myself.

Sent by Makana | 2:41 PM | 4-24-2008

What a Brave New World!

What is it that the psyche (i.e. soul) is crying out for? To characterize depression as a "disease" rather than a symptom of a deeper malaise, is to condemn the individual to a life long dependence on medication, and banish the "cause" of the dis-ease to the collective shadow.

Why are we the most medicated culture on earth?

She goes running for the shelter of her Mother's little helper. Doctor please, some more of these... - The Rolling Stones

Sent by Floyd C. Wilkes | 2:41 PM | 4-24-2008

You did a similar story on a show several months ago. Its amazing how you dont have guests on that have a problem with very young children being sent to "therapy" and or placed on drugs because they are supposedly depressed. Yes these kids you are talking about on this show may have been teenagers but prior to these kids is the ones who started when they were 4; 5; 6; 7 ; etc by uncaring families who didnt know what to do with them. These are the same families who didnt have a problem with a parent or a sibling beating the kid up for years on end since this was before the change in attitudes. Yet they they the kid to therapy or place them on drugs as "they were having probelms". These are the same kids who now have problems with relationships and other situations now too.

Drugs for years to deal with depression dont work. A strong support network with people who truly care about you does. That also wasnt discussed. Today's society only cares about themselves and its easier to medicate people so they act like zombies than it is to deal with the real problems they have!!!; the questions they are asking!!! and many other issues. The lady that was on who had been on drugs fro years and wanted to take responsibility for any long term effects just reinforces this as well.

We would appeciate it if you dont post our name.

Sent by jm fay | 2:43 PM | 4-24-2008

I've been on various anti-depressants since I was 12 years old. I remember when I first went on Prozac; my class was going to Washington DC for 3 days and my father repeatedly told me to make sure no one saw my medicine because of "what they would think".

I'm now 21 years old, back on Prozac after having jumped around to a dozen other types of antidepressants. I am a Psychology major and find that my background helps me tremendously when it comes to understanding my course work. I have felt many of the side effects listed on different medications, but it comes down to something as simple as, I KNOW that I would not be able to be a functioning human being were it not for the assistance of these medications.

I have a friend who says that she refuses to take her medication because it makes her a "zombie". I see her when she's having a hard time and I just want to help, but I know that, because of her illnesses, there is nothing I can do to dig her out. I want so much to make her understand that medications is worth a try when someone is in her position.

Sent by Amelia Benton | 2:43 PM | 4-24-2008

I endured the last couple years of my teenage life with the aid of antidepressants and psychotherapy. Then, and now, neither of these options, alone or combined, have been of great benefit. Although I have availed myself of the spectrum of antidepressants, the depression remains - dark, heavy, and unrelenting. Are there any new medicines on the horizon and, in particular, any that target new neurochemical receptors?

Sent by K D | 2:45 PM | 4-24-2008

The concern some individuals have about the possibility of becoming permanently dependent on antidepressants is somewhat amusing to me. My response to that issue - so what?

I occasionally get hives. Rather, I tend to get them every day, no matter what, for a couple of hours. There's no particular trigger, they just happen. They're quite uncomfortable.

Unless I take antihistamines. Benadryl, Alavert, etc. So long as I take one of these pills every three days or so I'm completely fine. In a way, I will have a lifelong dependency on antihistamines.

Why should we be concerned with this? It is no different than being dependent on arthritis medication, glasses, or even food. We do what we have to do to function.

Sent by Samuel Mustain | 2:46 PM | 4-24-2008

I am a 33 year old female and was not on antidepressants as a teen when I was seriously depressed, but am now, after a severe case of postpartum depression. Two of my fiends, both on antidepressants killed themselves as teens, so I was hesitant.

However, since I have embraced my chronic depression status, last year I joined a Stanford University study on Early Onset Depression and its genetic ties. I would like listeners to know about the study and look forward to Stanford's findings on the genetic factor of depression and how this may help people, esp. teens, in the future to assess the opportunities verses risks of their taking antidepressants.

Sent by Tiffany Record | 2:46 PM | 4-24-2008

Please remark on this before show is over ! Quickly, Jungian psychologists opine that the 1st half of life is about building the ego -- and with it the resultant external trappings to include career, family, and a financial base. After mid-life, the 2nd half of life is about developing introspective thinking, etc. With respect to antidepressants and their potential for retarding emotional development if introduced and sustained too early in life, on a parallel note, if introspective teachings are introduced too early -- say the late teens to early 20's -- that this will result in pathology (and the consequent stunting of that person's ego growth prior to mid-life). Therefore, shouldn't therapists approach intervention with the longer-term goal of effectiveness and results over life's time line, rather than to satisfy a given patient's need to contiuously "feel okay" (which actually means sustaining a state of 'equipoise' -- which is a pattern of avoidance in engaging the awakening process / non-linear development phase that begins toward age 30 and not really make the emotional and introspective break-throughs that can and should occur beginning in the late 20's). Anyway -- cognitive psychologists say drugs AND therapy, not either or. Therapy should be directed toward tangible and intangible outcomes in a person's life. Drugs for the long-term are an avoidance measure. People should be taught brain gymnastics / algorithms to avoid pathology. Else higher states of consciousness by some individuals should be avoided altogether to prevent psychopathy. It's a question of discipline. Frank in Atlanta, affiliate WABE

Sent by frank christopher | 2:47 PM | 4-24-2008

Last year, I ran a support group in San Francisco for people with antidepressant withdrawal syndrome. One of the attendees was a college student who had been put on Paxil when she was 14. She said she was a normal kid with good grades but a little quiet. Both of her parents were MDs. The dosage of Paxil made her aggressive -- a known side effect in adolescents -- so her psychiatrist added Risperdal, an antipsychotic. The combination of Paxil and Risperdal apparently resulted in acceptable behavior.

After she went away to college, she decided to discontinue both medications. She quit cold turkey and was very fortunate to suffer only a headache for a week or so and insomnia, a very common symptom of withdrawal from psychiatric drugs.

She said she was learning, for the first time, about sexual feelings because she had never had any sexual desire. She also was surprised when she felt anger and didn't know how to deal with it. Otherwise, she seemed like a normal, calm, rational, intelligent student.

This person was very fortunate in that she quit her medications with mild withdrawal symptoms. She was less fortunate in that she lost her growing-up years to probable misdiagnosis and incompetently prescribed medication.

During the program, several callers described "relapses" after trying to go off their medication. They, and Dr. Friedman et al, assumed this was evidence they needed an antidepressant. However, irritability, insomnia, and anxiety are textbook symptoms of antidepressant withdrawal syndrome, which is widely misdiagnosed -- even by these experts -- as relapse.

Many people may not need life-long medication. Medicine needs to look closely at its assumption that any depression needs to be medicated. What may be more important is an honest examination of the problems of withdrawal and and the highly erroneous diagnosis of "relapse" after discontinuing antidepressants.

Sent by Adele Framer | 2:49 PM | 4-24-2008

I find it amazing that despite decades of a very well oiled PR campaign about the "biological brain" theory of depression, there is still not one shred of scientific proof backing up that claim. And still to this day the emperor still wears no clothes, while tens of thousands have died by suicide or otherwise from these drugs (every school shooter and rampagae killer is either on or withdrawing from them), and billions are being made. Shame on us for allowing this FRAUD to continue

Sent by Ron Meyerson | 2:52 PM | 4-24-2008

Dr. Friedman does highlight some of the more obvious problems of drug testing; small sample groups, limited time-frames, significant implications of pharmaceutical industry bias. What was missing in your entire presentation was the concept of 'disease' and what defines 'mental illness.' The medical/pharmaceutical model of defining psychological problems as 'diseases' or 'disorders' (DSM-IV) lies at the heart of the discussion, yet is rarely addressed by the medical and psychiatric industries. Interests of the state and dominant cultural views influence how abnormality is viewed and categorized. In truth, there is virtually no unbiased empirical evidence that pharmaceutical treatments of so-called 'disorders' are more effective than various forms talk therapy. Psychiatrists have a hard time citing any specific studies that do. In sum, accepting the highly suspect and largely unsubstantiated idea that psychological problems are caused by faulty 'brain chemistry' is a subject I hope you will tackle in a future program. Some names of folks you might want to consider as guests; Dr. Grace Jackson, Dr. William Glasser, Dr. Thomas Szasz, Dr. Peter Breggin, Barry Duncan Psy.D, Scott Miller Ph.D, Clo?? Madanes.

Sent by Dennis Hollingsworth | 2:59 PM | 4-24-2008

I am a 29 year old woman who has suffered from depression for as long as I can remember. IT is a part of me I both fear and cherish, for it has gifted me with profound personal insight and also suffocating sadness. I went through a particularly difficult time in my early 20's. In the past I had been able to 'think my way through' my dark days, but at this point I had become devastatingly hopeless. Talk therapy I had been doing for years, but at this point my family nad I thought it best that I try a pharmsuetical approach. In stead of getting better, I got worse, severely worse. Instead of having the occasional thought of suicide, it became my daily obsessive goal. The doctors kept change my drugs, then just added more and more. I attempted suicide, with all intent, five times. Then i came to a point and realized that without my own in grained understanding of who I was, which these drugs mask, I would never get better. So I quit them all. How can one grow if their entire emotion arc is muted or dismantled? Today I still get down, even very depressed, but I know who I am and I love all of my faults. And most importantly, I have not had a suicidal thought since ceasing the medication. I know I am a severe depressive, but I believe more in the human mind and will to ever believe in drug companies how fail to even properly research their products.

Sent by Kathryn Marks | 3:00 PM | 4-24-2008

I just wanted to share my own story since I tried to call in and wasn't successful!

I'm 24 and have been on antidepressants for the majority of the last six years (since I started college). They were vital to being able to function in a college environment, and to cope with the stress of transitioning to the working world.

Of course, no antidepressant is a cure-all. My depression stemmed from severe anxiety issues; in particular a lot of obsessive thinking that I felt I couldn't control. Zoloft ended up being the wonder drug for dealing with this, as it severely dampened my emotional response to much anything, and helped me avoid a lot of anxiety as a result. This was perfect for getting through academia, where I didn't feel like my emotions had a place. In the working world, however, I am faced with a new set of expectations, and I've found that Zoloft has been interfering with my ambition. In particular, simple adult responsibilities have felt completely out of my grasp - waking up in the morning and getting to work on time, or trying to start a routine and keep it. This sort of behavior has been really embarrassing, and I knew I had to do something about it. Luckily I have the sort of personal support I need to try out new options - a new drug or a lower dosage.

This story was especially relevant because I've been off Zoloft for about a month now, and every day is an exploration in reacquainting myself with what that "base feeling" feels like. I'm thrilled that I can be responsible with ease, now, and there are a few additional bonuses to being SSRI-free that I wasn't expecting. But with those benefits come the reminders of why I was on antidepressants in the first place - I can get agitated by the smallest things, which can derail me for the whole day, and I'm a lot more susceptible to emotional flare-ups that I can't justify rationally or get rid of easily.

In regards to the question of whether or not someone is themselves on or off a medication, I've found it's an extreme balance. I am not myself when I am trapped in the misery of an obsessive thought or an emotion that just won't quit. But in order to quell those feelings, I gave up another part of myself - my ambition, the "knife to my back" that got me up in the morning and kept me responsible. It's likely that I'll spend the rest of my life trying to balance out the benefits of anti-depressants with their negative side-effects. I think I've come to understand that the elements of my personality that I cherish so deeply are the same elements that sometimes run amuck and cause my anxiety and depression.

Sent by Addie Beseda | 3:13 PM | 4-24-2008

I haven't read what others have already posted, so my apologies if someone else has already made this observation:

GETTING PROPERLY MEDICATED IS NOT MUCH DIFFERENT THAN CORRECTING ONE'S VISION WITH GLASSES. I've known my wife since she was 17. (We married when 26 and are both 52 now.) When we were about 35 and in marriage counseling, she was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder and was prescribed prozac. She did not like to hear the news nor to take the medicine (in part because she is thoroughly exhilarated by the "highs" she experiences during the manic mode that I can attest is a true, and yes sometimes exhilarating but many times scary and wasteful, part of her). In my view, while the "true person" is the one not medicated, the TRUE POTENTIAL of that person can best be realized by being properly medicated. The proper medications can put that person on a level playing field with the rest of us... MUCH LIKE MY GLASSES ENABLE ME TO OVERCOME MY NEAR-SIGHTEDNESS AND SEE THE WORLD OBJECTIVELY PRETTY MUCH LIKE EVERYONE ELSE DOES. (We may still react differently to what we see, but we're able to more quickly get to that discussion than to waste way too much time arguing over, or convincing me, the near-sighted one, what we're actually looking at off in the distance. Unlike the one who needs glasses though, without medication, the "sick" person never does actually get to "see" the situation before them much like I could once I walked close enough to that distant object to confirm that what the one who does not need glasses was describing is indeed the truth.) Yes, meds can be misprescribed, overused, have side effects, etc., but the right ones are a real help if everyone is open and honest about the illness; not getting treated properly hinders the normal development of the sick person and his/her relations with others... none can reach their true potential because they are all too busy struggling through (or being tossed around by) the illness. Yes, other truths may be realized by experiencing the full severity of the illness, but I for one prefer to experience life, and deal with the others I meet in it, with my glasses on.

Sent by MHE | 3:23 PM | 4-24-2008

Peggy, it isn't too late to come off meds. At 50, I started tapering off of 4 meds that I had been on for years. I am now down to 2 meds.

Please visit http://www.paxilprogress.org as you will find a lot of support there. They recommend tapering 10% of the current dose every 3 to 6 weeks.

Anyway, I am so tired of withdrawal symptoms being confused as a relapse. Apparently, Dr. Friedman refuses to understand this concept so let me say it again.

Withdrawal symptoms, which last a lot longer than a few weeks are not a return of the illness. They are due to a way too fast tapering schedule advocated by my most doctors. To not understand that concept and to sentence people to a lifetime on meds only because of withdrawal is criminal and disgraceful.

Seahawk

Sent by Seahawk | 3:25 PM | 4-24-2008

I am shocked at all the posts who are against depression drugs. If they didn't work for you, perhaps you didn't have the right one. They do work. They save lives. They make lives better. I have seen it over and over again. Yes, there are withdrawls when you quit the meds, I was always told that. My doctor would slowly take me off the med so that I could miminize the withdrawl effects when I quit the med to see how I would survive. They don't change my personality, they make me stable, so that I can function. Without the med I live in a scary, dark world where life is not worth living. People that say these drugs are bad, that they don't work, or whatever are only fooling themselves. These meds are a God sent. Good doctors offer their paitents alternatives all the time, and talk to them about stopping meds to see how they do. People who say these drugs are frauds must think depression is not a real condition. As for those who say they would rather be depressed than endure the meds, then they have never really been depressed

Sent by kel | 3:34 PM | 4-24-2008

To be as brief as possible:
I was a foster/adopted child harrassed by one of the family's older children for 14 years, and was very repressed, and spent 7 of 12 years in "adjustment reaction to adoption" (age15-28) without any prescribed drugs(although it was the 60's) and 2 years after "graduating" from therapy, started cutting out all processed man modified carbohydrates, and found anxiety, tension, frustration, depression, and anger went away and were caused and directly related to the amount of "dextro-rotatary sugars, and carbohydrates. I am able to controll my emotions and it is mostly a matter of how I eat and not how I feel, although I do not deny that there are situations where anybody would be wise to just walk away when other people are beyond reason.

Sent by M. Dane Clegg | 3:37 PM | 4-24-2008

Very few prescribing physicians/pediatricians know or say much about the extreme withdrawal symptoms associated with todays SSRI anti-depressants. It is now well documented that this can be extremely painful and difficult. Prozac tends to be easier than Zoloft, often the most severe. There needs to be more discussion of this aspect of the anti-depressant landscape.

Sent by Leon Cantor | 3:38 PM | 4-24-2008

Anti-depressants are no better than the placebo. This is a fact. There was a meta-analysis of every drug study recently study that confirmed this. Here is the link and the summary:

http://medicine.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1371/journal.pmed.0050045&ct=1

"The researchers obtained data on all the clinical trials submitted to
the FDA for the licensing of fluoxetine, venlafaxine, nefazodone, and
paroxetine. They then used meta-analytic techniques to investigate
whether the initial severity of depression affected the HRSD
improvement scores for the drug and placebo groups in these trials.
They confirmed first that the overall effect of these new generation
of antidepressants was below the recommended criteria for clinical
significance. Then they showed that there was virtually no difference
in the improvement scores for drug and placebo in patients with
moderate depression and only a small and clinically insignificant
difference among patients with very severe depression. The difference
in improvement between the antidepressant and placebo reached clinical
significance, however, in patients with initial HRSD scores of more
than 28--that is, in the most severely depressed patients. Additional
analyses indicated that the apparent clinical effectiveness of the
antidepressants among these most severely depressed patients reflected
a decreased responsiveness to placebo rather than an increased
responsiveness to antidepressants."

Sent by Joe M. | 4:06 PM | 4-24-2008

Anyone wanting to know more about this subject should definitely read:
Antidepressants, Antipsychotics, and Stimulants -- Dangerous Drugs on Trial by David W. Tanton

This book exposes a major marketing scheme that is currently under way, and unfortunately our children are the primary targets. It all began with the 374 "different newly created mental conditions" to justify placing our children, (including preschoolers), on one or more of their "very profitable" drugs that, although legal, can still be lethal! The mental screening process falls under the recently mandated federal TeenScreen program, and was deliberately designed to assure that many "perfectly normal children" would now qualify for one or more of their very profitable drugs.

Due to their Jekyll-and-Hyde personality-altering potential, your child could quite easily become an entirely different person that neither they, nor even their closest friend, would likely recognize, after being placed on one or more of the drugs that many children are now being placed on. Their emotions could soon begin disappearing, along with their social skills, and outgoing personality, (if they previously had one). They would no longer be the same person that you once knew, but instead a perfect stranger. They might even pose a threat to not only themselves, but even a close friend or loved one as well. There is no way of knowing exactly how a person might possibly react to an antidepressant, or antipsychotic medication, (a rather scary thought)! It's not just accidental that the majority of children involved in the rash of school shootings had been taking antidepressants. That kind of statistics can't be ignored.

With approximately 575 potential side effects associated with Prozac(tm) that were listed with the FDA, and over 20,000 law suits settled by the maker Eli Lilly, to date, the question is: Why is Eli Lilly still being allowed to promote Prozac(tm) for even pregnant mothers, and very young children? Their tremendous influence with the FDA has to be obvious, and unfortunately places millions of children at extreme risk as a result. That will soon become obvious, once you learn the damning evidence I uncovered, regarding the many "serious risks" associated with Prozac(tm).

Not only is the mind-altering potential of these drugs a serious concern, but you will learn why (in only four years' time) twice as many children were placed on diabetes medication, and why so many children are now acquiring cancer. Not only that, but these drugs damage children's brains, lowering their IQs, and increasing their risk for acquiring dementia and Alzheimer's disease at an early age as well.

This book is an absolute must-read book that definitely won't bore you! In fact, this book could very well be life-saving for many children (and adults) in the nation.

Sent by Martha Rose | 4:27 PM | 4-24-2008

Loved the program today and was so happy that the people who called in were so on the mark. Antidepressants let you live the life you were intended to live and be the person you should be.

Sent by Pamela Shepherd | 6:12 PM | 4-24-2008

I was amazed by the caller who went off her antidepressant cold turkey, felt bad, and took that as proof that she needed it for life. Many people who try unsuccessfully to get off their ADs don't realize that it's withdrawal that they are suffering and not their original problems. ADs must be tapered very very slowly - I learned this from experience. You can't know for a fact that you NEED the AD until you try a slow taper - that is, cutting roughly 10% of your current dose per month.

Sent by Rachel | 7:41 PM | 4-24-2008

RE Growing up on antidepressants:

I had a couple of thoughts about this subject.

The years that I spent forming opinions and deep seated feelings about my identity and worth and effectiveness, about my place in my world and ability to navigate it as an adult were marred and distorted by depressive illness and anxiety. I came to a very sad and crippled sense of myself in those years. Becoming convinced of my worthlessness and exhausted from the depression and anxiety, I thought of ending my life but wanted more than that, I wanted the promise of annihilation.
I wonder what those formative years would have been like for me had I been treated successfully with antidepressants.

I also thought about the myriads and permutations of circumstances and the possible effects on the growing psyche. I can wonder about so many "what ifs" and how I might and might not have responded to changes and differences in my life's circumstances ultimately not knowing. This is the life I've had; this is the life I am having. This is what I know. With effective antidepressants and sufficient therapy, I am experiencing my reformative years. I have much yet to find out about myself.

Sent by Leslie williams | 8:06 PM | 4-24-2008

Growing up without antidepressants may complicate one's development, or sense, of identity as much as taking the medication. I grew up without medication and experienced serious depression at least once a decade. My sense of identity was not really established until I was in my forties when I began taking antidepressants and participating in long-term therapy. A younger close female relative suffers from bipolar type II disorder and at age 35 still experiences difficulties on and off of medications. However, although she did receive counseling off and on while growing up, she did not begin any medication until age 20 and suffered debilitating mood swings during her childhood and adolescence, significantly contributing to her inability to understand herself and develop supportive and appropriate relationships with others. The key for her, and for me, is consistency, appropriate pharmacology, and supportive therapy.

Sent by Mary Alexander | 8:30 PM | 4-24-2008

I heard your show while at work, but couldn't call in. I've been on Zoloft for six years (since I was 19). Panic attacks, severe anxiety, PTSD, and a extremely sensitive nature were not helped by a year and a half of therapy. Although I continued the therapy after taking anti-depressants, the Zoloft took "the edge off" my frayed and splitting nerves. Now, after six years, I am considering going off the daily pill. Like the listener who posted earlier today, I am finding that Zoloft has numbed me so I can no longer tap my creative well. I know it is not dry, but since I started the medication, my once acute senses numbed. So I can understand why those who began anti-depressants as teenagers may feel out of touch with their "true self." I'd be interested to hear about this subject in 5 to 10 years if people like myself, who began taking meds after adolesence but before true adulthood, begin to wonder about their authentic selves--even though they went through adolesence unmedicated. I'm wondering if questioning your true self (after taking anti-depressants from adolesence and on into adulthood) has nothing at all to do with adolesence and everything to do with the numbness the medicine provides.

Sent by Sarah Smith | 12:37 AM | 4-25-2008

I'm 20 years old and have been on medications since the age of 14. Anxiety, depression and now bipolar. Here's a snapshot of my illness:

Age 7--waiting for my parents in my daycare's front yard, half-believing that they'd died in a car accident. Telling my dad that I'd give my life up to save him.

Age 13--Suffering from a terrible fear that I was racist. Feeling horrible, like I was racist every time I saw a "minority," up to the point that I got nervous when I saw a red head (the Irish were a minority) and fearing I was racist against the 1/64 that was Native American.
Last semester: Having a mood swing over a five minute period where I felt alright one moment and in the next crashed into a horrible depression that translated into physical pain which had me screaming silently into my pillow.

Now, nobody can tell me that this is normal. And if anyone can show me how to "snap out of it," please do. I have no side effects from my medication, but obviously it's very difficult to accept how much my survival depends on it. I love life. I love my family. I have great friends. I attend one of the most rigorous schools in the US and I have an IQ of approximately 145. But lowering my antidepressants by 10 milligrams leaves me interested in self-harm and suicidal. It's truly nothing situational. I have nothing to die for but everything to live for.

People who live with genuine mental illnesses carry an awful double-burden. As if the pain of anxiety, depression, bipolar etc. wasn't enough, we also must endure the disbelief of those who refuse to acknowledge the existence of our pain. We must suffer the scorn of those who believe that our treatments are a failure of character rather than an attempt to restore brain chemistry to some semblance of "normal." We must suffer the fear of those who believe we are dangerous menaces to society. And in addition to fighting our illnesses, we must fight this disbelief, scorn and fear in our own persons.

Sent by Meredith | 1:52 AM | 4-25-2008

I have been on antidepressents since I was 22 and I am now 45. 6 months ago I went off my one heavy antidepressent that kept me numbed out so I wouldn't feel hurt and want to hurt myself. I had been on it for almost 7 years. I was surprised to find that I was scared and started telling my self it would be okay that I could talk myself through an episode. Now I have everyone around me telling me how great it is to have the old Marshelle back. It is a good feeling to have my emotions back. I still take my klonipin to offset the panic when I feel I can't do it but little by little with alot of self talk I am coming back. I know I will have to be on my main antidepressant for life but that's okay. I have chronic depression but I have learned I also have strength through self talk and it's nice to hear people say how much better I look sound. It makes me happy.

Sent by Marshelle L Baxter | 12:55 PM | 4-25-2008

I really blanche when I hear someone say that people can manage themselves out of depression, or that they are afraid that people become "hooked" on anti-depressents, as if it were a choice to not take it. I wish we could ban the use of the word "depresssion" from the popular lingo. Depression is not feeling bad one day or another. It is a malfunction of a part of the body that is very important to survival. Depression kills. I've had 3 bouts and finally was told what it was and was put on medication. This saved my life and the well-being of my children. I had rage, sleeplessness, loss of appetite and finally couldn't speak to anyone or get out of bed. I obsessed about how to end the pain by killing myself. Only my concern for my daughters staved that obsession, but I stayed in bed and asleep. All this because it went undiagnosed as my symptoms grew. I agree with the doctor who said that a depressed person has bad days like others, but that a bad day/event takes on a whole other dimension. I want so badly to be off of this drug. After 20+ years I have no libido and don't sleep all that well, both side effects of the drugs. And I still deal with anxiety but at a more tolerable level. But I don't think constantly about how to destroy myself. Hooked on antidepressents? I'm hooked on living and being here for my family.

Sent by Carla | 1:48 PM | 4-25-2008

I'm 38 years old. I've been on Zoloft for 3 months for Social Anxiety Disorder. My quality of life has tremendously improved for the better. I also have a better relationship with my spouse, my parents, sisters. And performing very well at work.

I wish I started taking it when I was younger. I missed a lot of opportunities growing up in life, as well as I made a lot of stupid decisions as a young adult.

Sent by anonymous | 2:35 PM | 4-25-2008

I feel Cognitive Behavior Therapy needs to be mentioned here. I've been on different SSRI antidepressants for 19 years, since age 22, for mild to moderate depression/anxiety. My doctor assured me the SSRIs are non-addictive and I only need to take them for 6 months before I am cured. I bought into the lie that people need these drugs like a diabetic needs insulin. I have tried getting off them 8 times and always mistook the withdrawal symptoms for a relapse. Prozac let me know what "normal" felt like so that was good. But I refuse to spend my finite amount of time here drugged. I believe this is the only life we get. I tapered off Celexa and have been completely off for over 2 months, and I feel more alive than ever. I still struggle with my moods at times, but I have found that when I practice Cognitive Behavior Therapy, I can dig myself out of it. I find it's getting easier as I train my brain to think rationally, rather than follow the old depressive ways of thinking which my brain found to be the easier path to take. Sometimes just simply writing down what my thoughts are is enough. Doing that along with exercising daily and eating a wide variety of food has helped me a lot. I tried St. John's Wort, but it interfered with my thyroid medication and caused a whole other set of problems. My journey has been a lot of work and I believe it will continue for the rest of my life, but I feel it's worth it, especially since no one knows what the long term effects of these drugs are. I've also found the information and support from www.paxilprogress.org to be invaluable. There are alternatives to taking drugs for depression/anxiety, and it's a lot of work, but for me it's worth it. I believe it's a personal choice. I've chosen to take the path to becoming a full human being. I can't speak for manic depressives or people with schizophrenia, but for mild to moderate depression, I believe it can be overcome without drugs. The Feeling Good Handbook is great for learning about CBT.

Sent by INFP | 2:37 PM | 4-25-2008

"What if I hadn't grown up on drugs" is like any other "what if" question and no more deep. What if I had gone to private schools? What if I'd been born in Mexico? The answer is always that our lives would have been different and who we are would have been different too--especially but not only if the difference is during childhood, when we're most plastic. Given the guidance nature takes from nurture and "normal" takes from context, there is no authentic self of the kind Friedman seems to wring his hands about.

Sent by oliver | 3:08 PM | 4-25-2008

Do doctors even consider that food allergies and intolerances may be the cause of symptoms like depression and anxiety? It's far too easy to just go on meds and ignore the source of our mental and physical problems. My doctor pushed anti-depressants on me for over a year (that I refused) before I discovered, on my own, that I have multiple food intolerances and allergies. My primary symptoms? Crushing depression and extreme anxiety.

Sent by N Whittemore | 6:36 PM | 4-25-2008

I am a psychiatrist, and am dismayed that the two speakers on this program did not even mention withdrawal syndrome from antidepressants. I am glad many of the comments do mention it. Clearly antidepressants work for some, but it is also clear from much research that they are not very effective in the majority of cases. And there are almost no studies of long term effect.

Sent by Charles Goldman | 7:05 PM | 4-26-2008

Most of the callers described unsuccessful attempts to quit antidepressants that they interpreted as evidence they needed the medication. But some of them clearly experienced not relapse but antidepressant withdrawal symptoms.

Why didn't Drs. Friedman and Dr. Rosenthal say something about this? All they did was continue cheerleading about antidepressant effectiveness.

Psychiatry's collusion with the drug companies in minimizing the problem of antidepressant withdrawal reactions is a disgrace to the medical profession. And I can only feel sorry for those patients who now believe they must stay on these medications for the rest of their lives.

Sent by Altostrata | 6:58 PM | 4-27-2008

As a young teen, I had a whole host of psychological problems. Self-mutilation, drug abuse, suicide attempts, insomnia, binge eating, nightmares, delusions, hallucinations, the list goes on. I had the unfortunate experience of the anti-depressant/anti-psychotic medication worsening my conditions. Fortunately, I did not harm myself or anyone else, but the ordeal was incredibly difficult on my parents who had no clue how to help me. They thought they were helping me by sending me to a psychiatrist who put me on medication and sending me to talk therapy. The drugs (and I say drugs generically because I've been on combinations of most all of them) actually worsened my preexisting conditions to such a degree that I was abusing more drugs (prescribed sleeping pills) to counteract the insomnia that the medication didn't treat/made worse. Which in turn worsened some of my delusions. Which in turn made me want to kill myself. All of these other problems distracted my therapist and my psychiatrist from the root problem: I needed to confront a past trauma but the physical and mental afflictions the medication caused gave me more reasons to run away.

I got a lot of flak for going off my meds. From my therapist, from my psychiatrist, from some of my friends. And it wasn't easy. The withdrawal was such agony. I had already gone off a couple different kinds of anti-psychotic medication because they were causing too many "Parkinson-like" symptoms (hand shaking, neurological disturbances, along with heart palpitations and joint pain), but going off of all medication made me want to give up physically. I don't think I've ever felt more terrible, mentally or physically.

But I'm almost 24 now. I've realized what was at the root of my mental disorders, what I was running away from, and what I needed to do for myself. For me, going off anti-depression medication has been an experience in discovering my own self-worth. Although I have the urge to advocate for more people to go off their medication as well, I feel like everyone has their own way (and mine just happens to be AMA). It's not up to me to judge what works for some people. I personally feel like medication was another distraction from the issues I needed to deal with (and continue to deal with), and I can honestly say I'm a better person for being on anti-depressants. I'm also a better person for going off the medication and accepting my flaws and working with them in a way that makes me feel healthy and clearheaded. I finished college with a BA in English, Creative Writing, and minor in History. I'm going for my Master of Fine Art in Creative Writing. I feel like I'm pretty high functioning in comparison to what I was previously. I want to stress that I'm not trying to make the case that because going off meds worked for me that everyone should do it. I'm really happy that medication works for people, but I feel that there is a life after mental crisis without popping pills. I don't like the insinuation that depression binds you to medication forever (and there's nothing you can do about it).

Sent by Janel | 9:06 PM | 4-28-2008

You should have checked if your guest was on a pharmaceutical company payroll. Many, many, many of the clinical experts who go on shows are. There's a good article on slate.

Sent by Jim | 3:43 PM | 5-6-2008

Seldom considered since few psychologists are creative artists or understand the processes needed for some artists to create.
If you are a creative performing artist or actor who is in touch with their creative process, yes the drugs will effect you as an artist. Your creativity is effected. It will be different.
Regular people, the average Joe, may not notice, but I am still trying to bring back what I lost, in that I no longer have those deep intense feelings, excitement, passion, drive that fuels the creative process. You are instead, flat. You can't go deep into your emotions in performance.
It would probably effect intense painters or other artists. It's just different, and less impassioned. The drugs don't let you go there.
If you are an accountant or housewife, probably is not going to change much, or be noticeable.

Sent by BC Creations | 1:41 AM | 5-9-2008

I actually blame antidepressants for ruining my life. I was put on them against my will at 16 (I am now 26)...I was a smart young kid now I have difficulty with memory etc...They don't know enough about antidepressants to justify putting people on them in my opinion. I truly believe it ruined my life.

Sent by D | 11:54 PM | 5-10-2008

As a psychotherapist I found this to be a valuable read. As a mother I of a highly gifted girl with ADHD (and a family history of ADHD myself) I am grateful for ritalin. She is better able to manage her social, scholastic, and home environments much better than me or my siblings, cousins, etc. At the same time she is intense, creative, very physically active, and deeply involved in her life. As both a psych. professional and a mom: if the medication is making a zombie out of you or your kid, its the wrong dose or the wrong medication. It should be an asset, not a numbing/dumbing wet blanket.

Sent by Jo | 12:36 AM | 6-8-2008

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