Rather unusually, Z rants

I’m feeling a bit stroppy at the moment, not because of anything going on in my life but as a result of reading the papers, and not even matters that are really news – because I steer clear of political and current affairs on the whole, this being not that sort of a blog.

Two items in particular have caught my eye – one, that nearly 200 women a day are admitted to hospital in this country, suffering from prescription or over-the-counter drug poisoning caused by painkillers, tranquilisers and anti-depressants.  Many  women have been addicted to prescription drugs for years – I remember a while ago, a friend who’d been through marital breakdown and come out the other side, saying that she was now happily single, relieved to be free, enjoying life – “Still can’t kick the happy pills, though,” she added.  Another who, when desperate with a sick husband, elderly mother in failing health, son whose wife had left him because she was bored, taking their daughter with her, went to the doctor and, instead of being told ‘Of course you’re depressed and anxious, with what you’re going through, that’s normal,” was prescribed anti-depressants that she’s been addicted to ever since, though they’ve long since stopped any beneficial effect unless she ups the dose.

I am not talking about people who suffer from clinical depression or mental illness, but ordinary people who are, for a while, in desperate straits and, instead of being helped to cope, are drugged instead. I’m highly sceptical about any drug that is prescribed just to get you through a difficult and stressful time – and I’ll include HRT while I’m about it.  Some people go through early menopause and some people have extreme symptoms.  The rest of us don’t need medication.  If you want it to stave off ageing, fine, that’s quite understandable if you’re in your forties or early fifties (earlier is certainly unusually early) but if you just find the hot flushes inconvenient, bear in mind that you’ll get ’em anyway, just as soon as you come off the meds, and you’ll be in your sixties by then and it’ll be just one more symptom of ageing that you can do without.  On the other hand HRT is not addictive and too many of those other drugs are, and have dreadful side effects.

And if you’re agin prescription pills, what about supplements?  Companies that sell vitamin and mineral pills are being taken to task for unproven and unrealistic claims, and about time too.  It’s even being discovered that those who take supplements regularly are likely to die earlier than those who don’t.  And I’m not a bit surprised.  Not that I think everyone gets all they need from their diet, but because those who buy into the spiel are the ones who already take care of themselves – or the more intelligent intellectually but pretty stupid ones, who don’t.  That is, a young person who smokes, drinks too much, lives on junk food but knows that’s daft and believes a multi-vitamin pill undoes the damage.  It doesn’t.  Just eat better.  It’s not hard.  The other group comprises those who already eat sensibly, sometimes excessively *sensibly* (cutting out major food groups and chomping on loads of indigestible raw vegetables?)  but take all the supplements going into the bargain.  They’re the gullible ‘worried well’ that the supplement-producing companies rely on.

I’m pretty fit and well on the whole, and I’ve taken supplements in the past and would again, but only for a specific purpose for a limited time.  For example, when I was a little anaemic and not allowed to give blood, I took a liquid iron supplement.  It was fine for a couple of weeks and then I wasn’t able to bear the thought of taking it any more.  The same happened next time I took it, after an operation when I’d lost some blood.  I wasn’t able to finish the bottle.  I took it that I didn’t need it any longer and the supplement had done its purpose. But taking them all the time for years on end is not natural, it’s overdosing and I’m not at all surprised that it’s now being found to be harmful.

Be sceptical, know that if you’re being charged money (or the NHS is) then someone is making a profit out of it and if you believe their claims without completely disinterested and objective evidence, you may be led up the garden path.  Without a paddle (if English isn’t your first language, please ignore that completely bewildering mixed metaphor).

18 comments on “Rather unusually, Z rants

  1. Sharifa

    this is a GOOD rant, sugar! too often we do exactly that, depend on the doctor to give us what they think we need without question. i’ve learned to do my homework before and also, asking WHY my doc is prescribing the med. i wish more people did what you’re suggesting! xoxoxo

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  2. nick

    I do agree with you about the dangers of prescription drugs and “health” supplements. Yes, if you eat plenty of nutritious foods, you shouldn’t need anything else. And yes, if you’re going through a major crisis, then therapy or good friends or common sense are the things to rely on and not potentially addictive drugs. Shocking that so many women are admitted to hospital every year with doctor or pharmacist drug poisoning. In fact I was just reading that the annual figure is around 75,000, including 24,000 women suffering the effects of paracetamol, and 10,000 poisoned by anti-depressants.

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  3. LZM

    Fifteen or so years ago Prozac was suppose to fix all your problems. A friend asked my advice and I suggested we call each other once a week instead. Just call me genius!
    Addiction is insidious, looking outside for answers that can only come from within. In some degree we’re punishing or avoiding ourselves with drugs, alcohol, overeating, under eating, shopping, over exercising, over sexing and on and on with the over and under stuff. We need to snap out of it and find healthy ways through life because “LIFE IS GOOD”!
    Stepping down from my soap box now.

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  4. kipper

    Medication are scary. I was given a prescription for pain pills after a recent injury. Took one pill, then toughed it out. So worried about dependency. LZM-you are right. A certain person and I have email conversations that have really helped me so very much-much healthier than taking a pill.
    Z-your blogroll isn’t visible today. I really enjoy reading the blogs (can’t access BlueWitch blog due to no password).

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  5. Z Post author

    I’d reacted too quickly when I’d read the paper, Nick – I got the figures wrong, they’re far worse than I’d originally stated. Thank you.
    And I knew I wouldn’t be the only one to feel that way.

    Sorry the blogroll is down, I’d put too many links on it and it ran out of memory. In discussion with Ronan at the moment – I’ve got an email from him I haven’t read yet. I suspect the answer will be having the blogroll but not updating every time someone posts, because that’s what uses the memory I pay for, which isn’t costing big bucks!

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  6. Roses

    Hear! Hear!

    I had a hard time of it when I left and divorced my husband.

    A well-meaning health-visitor rang up and said “Your GP and I think you should come in for some anti-depressants.”

    To which I ranted down the phone at her “This is a normal reaction to a shitty situation and no happy pill is going to make this any better!”

    Funnily enough, I’ve never been offered anti-depressants again….

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  7. Z Post author

    I knew someone who had accepted pills to help through a bereavement. They only delayed her grief, when she came off them she had to go through it all anyway. People, and sometimes the love of pets, are the greatest support through awful times.

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  8. Pearl

    I have, at times in my life, required a little help. Having grown up with alcoholism and having known a number of people who became addicted to certain substances, however, I have always been wary of dependency and therefore am quick to come off anti-depressants, using them only for the couple weeks or so that will keep me, as we say, passing the open windows…

    Pearl

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  9. Z Post author

    Hello Pearl, you’re very welcome here – and that’s just what anti-depressants are for, people in acute need because of clinical depression or desperation (sometimes with a long-term need of them, of course), not as a quick fix for unhappiness or stress when that’s the normal result of awful circumstances.

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  10. Linda

    but what about the 100 000s that have been help by prescription meds? Unless you’re the gp how can you speak for their reasons for prescibing a certain drug? How about those people, and there are many, who find it extremely dificult to eat a balanced diet? Not each and everyone of us has the same dificulties and what seems easier for one may be harder for another. Just because you have managed Zoe doesn’t mean that everyone else can. Addiction is a medical condition but sometimes addiction to a drug is the lesser of the two evils, unless you’ve been there you are not qualified to comment.
    This post has rather upset me, I find it judgemental and condescending. And I’m so sorry to find it so.

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    1. Z Post author

      If I’ve given the impression I’m judging anyone who takes them, I haven’t expressed myself well. My friend who can’t come off them is desperate too, they’re now adding to her problems. And I know people have been helped, but an awful lot of people haven’t. I do sympathise hugely with anyone who asks for help and whatever I am, I’m not condescending, I promise you. Bear in mind that the post was prompted by reading about 10,000 women poisoned by anti-depressants in this country in a single year, a shocking figure.

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    2. Mike and Ann

      Hello Linda. Knowing Z, we must both stress that she hasn’t a judgemental or condescending bone in her. Those adjectives are just NOT Z. We both agree (and Ann has a background of long nursing experience) that a great many drugs are given unnecessarily, and the only people who benefit from them are the drug companies. Ann wants me to add that a great many people who are on antidepressants probably do need them. An awful lot don’t. Ann also thinks that many doctors hand these things out because they are overworked and it is easier than sitting down and LISTENING to these patients.

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  11. 63mago

    Can’t find your post judgemental or condescending.
    It’s a sad fact that some gps here hand out happy pills like candy; they are known and those in need for happy pills go to these offices, other doctors are more cautious.

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  12. Z Post author

    Thank you, dear Mago.

    Linda is quite right to speak out, of course – although I didn’t mean to offend her, I have and I’d rather she said so. If one can’t take criticism, one shouldn’t give an opinion in a public place.

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  13. IndigoRoth

    Hi Z! I’ve arrived a little late to this one, and was a little uncertain about it. I generally agree about “candy” prescriptions and poor diets (I have one), but felt that your view was a little absolute. You’re correct when you say that the right approach to any mental health issue is to help diagnose the problem, and not just push the problem away with habit-forming pills. But short-term problems are just as real as longer-term ones. A GP might, for example, recognise the symptoms of depression after bereavement, they probably have neither the time nor skills to assist. This means handing it over to scarcer resources with waiting lists. A person who is struggling on a day-to-day basis (as I was) may be offered an initial appointment that is a month away, perhaps longer. This is a terrifying prospect for the patient and for those that love them. A generic anti-depressant, while definitely not an answer, provides a buffer for the more difficult feelings during this period. To an outsider it may look like a candy prescription, but to the person affected it is a positive step, an acknowledgement of a problem, and the first step to recovery. The responsible local authority will hopefully get them the support they need quickly, and get them off those meds soon after. And you’re right, some don’t. But medication can be an important and necessary in short-term situations. Thanks for making me think about this and articulate my thoughts =) Indigo x

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  14. Z Post author

    I don’t mind what people eat and another thing I disregard is the fashionable diet thing. I really did only mean the sort of doctor who is far too quick to prescribe strong medication that may not be the best treatment and takes no steps to ensure that it is doing no harm by monitoring how long it’s taken for. I’ve been in situations where, if I’d gone to a doctor, I’d certainly have been offered anti-depressants – once some years ago, again much more recently. Looking at it from a distance, it might not even have been inappropriate on the first occasion because it would have been a temporary measure. I did mean specifically people who were not in themselves depressed, but were in a desperate situation. By being given medication for too long, they were unable to stop taking it, even when one didn’t need it and the other wasn’t helped by it.

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