Have drug makers created a generation of hypochondriacs?

A month before the COVID-19 shutdowns, the Wall Street Journal reported that many young people are seeking “accommodations” such as greater time allotments at work for their anxiety, PTSD, depression and other mental conditions. Of course there is much less anxiety zooming from your couch but the issues will no doubt return when workers do.

The article provoked a lively discussion split largely on age lines. Older people–Baby Boomers and Generation X–accuse Generation Z and Millennials of being “emotional hemophiliacs” who all think they are victims. The younger people reply that they suffer from real, diagnosed “mental illnesses” which the workplace must accommodate. And they are victims.

It is certainly true that Gen Z and millennials have grown up with the threat of climate change, mass shootings, pesticides, endocrine disrupters, GMOs and processed food which did not affect older people as much. Mass shootings alone engender PTSD.

But it is also true that the younger generations have grown up under nonstop drug industry spin which has elevated normal facets of the human psyche–blue moods, mood swings, growing up, “nerves,” attention problems”–to mental illness.”

How did drug makers convince so many patients (and doctors) that depression, anxiety, “spectrum disorders” and the like were chronic and common–even though no confirming biological or blood test even exists for them? A full 70 percent of writers of the bible of mental illness, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the doctors who describe and define mental conditions, have reported financial relationships with drug companies. Think about that.

Then there are drug maker front groups, sometimes visiting public schools, that not only convince young people they are at risk of “mental illness” but that it is “cool” and desirable. For example, a recent article in Glamour magazine depicted attractive young women who suffer from the “mental illnesses” of anxiety and depression. Don’t you want to be like them? Campus-based groups post images of ebullient young people with the meme “This Is What Mental Illness Looks Like”–offering an instant, appealing identity.

When college kids commit suicide, drug maker front groups swoop down upon campuses charging that the deceased should have been given antidepressants and that there exist “barriers” to mental health care. In at least two instances I have covered, as a reporter, the drug status of the deceased was not determined–a crucial fact since the drugs the groups promote are also highly correlated with suicide when used in young people.

Prescriptions for SSRI antidepressants largely replaced benzodiazepines such as Valium over the past decades for several reasons. They were considered safer, anxiety was re-cast as “really” depression and the meds assured lifelong, rather than intermittent customers. Ka-ching. Whereas benzodiazepines were prescribed “as needed,” antidepressants are taken every day and require weeks for results to appear. Moreover they are almost impossible to discontinue and patients remain on them for decades (though drug makers and the doctors it pays reject the term “addictive”). Before the SSRIs and DSM writers, depression was regarded as self-limiting and not “chronic” requiring decades of medication.*

*Long term effects of SSRIs such as bone fractures from calcium depletion are now surfacing which should surprise no one. Clinical trials are short term; long term effects of a drug are determined by current users/guinea pigs.

The invention of “Adult ADHD” has also been lucrative; everyone’s concentration is improved on stimulants–doesn’t that mean everyone has ADHD?

Accommodations

As long as drug makers target children, who don’t make their own medication decisions, we will have young generations termed “mentally ill.” A child who starts out on drugs for ADHD, “conduct disorders” and related conditions will seldom get “clean” but instead be a lifelong pharmaceutical customer. Teachers and parents may not know this-but drug makers certainly do. Drug makers even hold seminars about how to keep their ADHD “customers” once they go to college.

Drug makers and the doctors and front groups they fund may proclaim they are trying to “remove the stigma of mental illness” but they are really “selling disease” in order to sell drugs.

Martha Rosenberg is a freelance journalist and the author of the highly acclaimed “Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health,” published by Prometheus Books. Check her Facebook page.

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