I am sorry to report that America has become a land of drug pushing doctors.
This phenomenon has occurred gradually over the last few decades. A lot has to do with the fact that the pharmaceutical companies are producing an unprecedented amount of new drugs every year which are now being directly advertised to the national audience via television, radio and print.
Patients have, likewise, developed an attitude of “if there’s something wrong, I just need a new wonder drug.” If you want confirmation of this, just look at the tremendous number of children and teenagers in this country who have been prescribed Ritalin, basically an amphetamine that is also called “speed,” and similar type drugs for Attention Deficit Disorder and Hyperactivity (ADHD) Syndrome. Neither the parents nor the teachers typically want to deal with the child in a more natural fashion and elect to put the youngster on a drug which a lot of doctors will freely offer.
A few decades ago, it was uncommon for patients to be on anti-depressants. Nowadays, it is commonplace for a patient to be started on anti-depressants that are known as SSRIs (serotonin reuptake inhibitors) including Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Effexor, Celexa and many others. Whereas three or four decades ago the patient with serious depression was under the care of a psychiatrist, nowadays the general practitioner prescribes these SSRI drugs to their patients if they are a little down, having some stress on the job, or feeling a little anxious at home.
Although I am a physician who prescribes drugs on a regular basis, I must admit that the entire matter is totally out of hand. Approximately 140 billion dollars is spent yearly in this country for pharmaceutical drugs alone. The amount spent on drugs each year continues to grow much more rapidly than inflation.
Doctors would have you believe that these more recent anti-depressant medications (SSRIs) are superior, quite safe and have little toxicity. That, unfortunately, is not the case. As a neurologist I do prescribe these types of anti-depressants which appear to be effective in treating certain forms of headache and pain syndromes. Although the pharmaceutical companies indicate that these drugs have only about a 2% incidence of sexual dysfunction, my patient population would indicate it is probably closer to 10 or 20%. Likewise, these medications can cause some impairment of thinking, general malaise, dizziness, insomnia, weight gain and a whole host of other symptoms.
In the last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned that patients under the age of 18 should not take the anti-depressant Paxil because of a possible increased risk of suicidal impulses associated with taking the drug. New data from some clinical trials indicate that episodes of self-harm and potential suicidal behavior were between 1.5 to 3.2 times higher in patients under the age of 18 taking Paxil compared to those receiving a placebo.
This situation is out of control. It is critically important for patients to change their attitudes on the need for medication when their mood is in some way temporarily impaired. There are a host of natural alternatives to improve mood and well being. There are studies in medical literature indicating that an insufficiency of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet has been linked to poor mood and depression. If we do not take in the proper essential fatty acids (EFAs) to build healthy cell membranes, our cells will not function in a normal fashion. Among the omega-3 fatty acids, the most important is DHA which constitutes up to 60% of fatty acids found in the brain. The B vitamins, especially thiamine, B6, B12 and folic acid are important for helping to maintain proper mood. Magnesium is a mineral required for healthy neurological function that is severely lacking in the common diet. Furthermore, high intakes of calcium impair magnesium absorption and utilization.
What nutrients work for increased mood and happiness?
There is an interesting nutrient called SAMe (S-adenosyl-methionine) which clinical trials have shown to be as effective as certain anti-depressant medications. In fact, studies also indicate SAMe promotes healthy joints and liver function. Three major benefits from one nutrient! The typical dose is 400 to 800 mg daily for promoting a healthy mood, liver and joints. St. John’s Wort has been shown in multiple clinical trials to be effective in the treatment of mild to moderate depression. In several of these trials, it has shown effects comparable to anti-depressant medication. But unlike anti-depressant medications, this herbal nutrient has relatively few side effects.
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