(April 2010) by Dr Clinton Anderson

No, this is not about vertigo, but it is fairly heady stuff. I have a concern about the increased number of psychotropic prescriptions (sedatives, sleeping tabs, anti-depressants, anxiety medication). On researching this issue, it appears to be an international phenomenon. In America, 1995, about 13 million anti-depressant scripts were issued. By 2005 about 26 million were issued. This has become one of the most commonly prescribed classes of drug in the world. Why? What is going on?

Given that happiness, sadness, anxiety etc, etc., - the full spectrum of human emotion is normal, have we become that emotionally unsettled that so many more of us need to resort to medication? How did people cope in the past? (Presuming that, stresses, though different, have always been present.) Some may say, that if we are made up of mind, body and soul, then the latter, dealing with issues of our spirit, has fallen prey to science. Is it that, whereas spiritual confidants used to deal with many of these issues – they are now dealt with by health-care professionals? Some may offer that it is the triumph of marketing over common sense (about US$10 billion worth of revenue generated in the USA in 2008 from anti-depressants). Is it the "quick-fix" in a world that is spinning to fast?

Whatever the reason, there is little doubt that these medicines have helped a significant number of people. However, I cannot help wondering if many of those for whom these drugs were prescribed could have dealt with their level of “problem” by trying to address the issue of “balance”. As GP’s we are constantly going on about “lifestyle” adjustment being better than pills. Should we (all) not be trying the same remedy before resorting to psychotropic pills? If our pursuit for excellence, wealth, assets, status – comes at the expense of our (3-dimensional) health, will a pill change that? If we miss opportunities for fear of failure, rejection or hurt, is medication the solution to dealing with either the cause or consequence? If, for no identifiable reason, we find ourselves to be sad, fearful, or whatever, would we not be better served, at least initially, by embarking on a spectrum of lifestyle adjustments?

Perhaps, if we all took enough time to analyze what lends meaning to our brief and transient lives, we may discover the things that are truly important. This may help to restore balance and spare us resorting to inappropriate use of medication.