Worshipping Prozac

“Over the past quarter of a century, Americans have been gobbling up antidepressants like M&Ms. Now there are scientists claiming that these same antidepressants are about as effective as M&Ms. Oddly enough, the argument has all the zeal of a religious debate”.

Spread pills by Glow Images
Spread pills by Glow Images

So begins an article in yesterday’s St. Petersburg Times, titled “Not so sure when there’s a pill, there’s a way”.

It turns out that in 1993 Dr. Peter Kramer published a blockbuster bestseller called Listening to Prozac. Kramer claimed in the book that Prozac and other SSRIs (selective serotonin uptake inhibitors) provided a near miraculous cure for depression. For those whose faith in the power of drugs may have reached an almost religious zeal, the reality has turned out to be more nightmare than miracle. Listening to Prozac, or to Dr. Kramer for that matter, was maybe not such a great idea.

Gordon Marino, author of the Times article quoted above, is a professor of philosophy, director of the Hong Kierkegaard Library at St. Olaf College and ethics fellow at the Center for Clinical and Cognitive Neuropharmacology at the University of Minnesota. Marino refers to Dr. Kramer as the “John the Baptist of the new anti-depressants” (new in 1993).

By 2008, Marino tells us, 8.9 percent of Americans were on anti-depressants, and now Dr. Kramer is on the defensive. A few weeks ago, he published an article in the New York Times called, “In Defense of Antidepressants”. He claimed that “…it is dangerous for the press to hammer away at the theme that antidepressants are placebos. They’re not. To give the impression that they are is to cause needless suffering.”

A new book by Irving Kirsch called, The Emperor’s New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth reveals that a number of recent studies show that the supposed powers of these Prozac type drugs are apparently nothing more than a placebo effect since the placebos given were 82 percent as effective as the drugs.

Later in his St. Pete Times article, Marino makes this interesting comment: “For many, belief in the possibility of divine assistance has been replaced by a blind faith in the idea that where there is a pill there’s a way. That this kind of trust in pharmaceuticals has become an important article of secular faith is echoed in the fact that seriously questioning their usefulness and value can, a la Kramer, trigger a response that is not far from the charge of heresy.”

Marino’s religious phrasing is interesting. Perhaps he sees what many others have seen; that we worship at the altar of pharmacology at our own peril.

As our nation recovers from its drug worshipping phase, which it must and will do, religion will continue to offer permanent and transformational answers to depression. No pharmaceutical giants, doctor’s prescriptions, or government assistance is needed, just an open mind and the willingness to explore spiritual solutions.

Below are several examples of open minds finding freedom from depression through religious faith.

Clinical depression healed
“Drug free answers to treating depression”

There are many thousands more where these come from.