Bits and Pieces

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Anti-Depressants: More Trouble Than They're Worth

As I posted yesterday, a young woman, Traci Johnson, committed suicide while taking part in a clinical trial of the experimental anti-depressant Cymbalta.

The guys over at The New Republic wrote an interesting article in which they blame the drug for Ms. Johnson's suicide. To support the claim, they say the suicide rate of those who have taken Cymbalta is several times higher than in the general population.

Personally, I wouldn't be so quick to attribute the suicide to the medication itself. Those who volunteer for clinical trials tend to belong to demographics that may be more likely to consider suicide than the average joe. For instance, I took part in clinical trials for anti-depressants when I was a struggling student. At the time of my trials I was under enormous pressure to graduate (having already failed, and having to repeat a year) from university. I had accrued about £20,000 of debt, and I was working a full time job in a high pressure environment while working through the night on coursework and research.

In this I wasn't alone. The motivation of my fellows subjects was that we were being paid £750 for a month-long part time study. We were all students with huge debt. People in such situations are surely more likely than average to consider suicide. As such, we should consider other factors in Traci's environment before we pin the blame on the drug.

Regardless of what triggered the suicidal feelings, I have serious reservations about the use of anti-depressants in any circumstances. I question the wisdom of using chemical means to alleviate a mental disorder. Raising awareness that such medication carries cons as well as pros can only be a good thing. If it causes anyone to reconsider the use of anti-depressants, then at least some good will come of this.
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