Opinion – I saw this story the other day but wanted to think about it and comment before posting. Back in the 1980s people were becoming aware of the notion of Big Pharma and how the link between corporate profit and health products was not always in patients’ best interest. Some drugs were released without adequate trials. Doctors and drug companies downplayed the short and long-term negative effects of prescribed drugs (let’s face it, the term “side effects” is a euphemism for harmful effects, and “medication” is a less harmful sounding word than drugs).
Some social theorists believed that the masses were caught up in a kind of cult of science; the public believed science could solve anything, and drug companies stepped in and actually encouraged this worldview. Meanwhile, the APA no longer saw homosexuality as a disorder but starting cooking up all sorts of new labels to further legitimize their perspective and related “treatments.”
Others, more sympathetic to the medical establishment, had a pretty easy time of demonstrating how drugs can help with both physical and mental suffering. So the debate continues, with the medical establishment pretty much coming out on top these days. When I say “on top” I mean that they have won over the general public at this moment in history. The future only knows how perceptions and treatments might change.
Myself, I’m not anti-psychiatry nor am I anti-drugs. But I think we should carefully consider alternatives before diving into a drug regimen for psychological suffering. For those currently taking psychiatric medication, I encourage you to google the not so great short and long-term effects – keywords: side effects / harmful effects / negative effects – of whatever you’re taking. Your doctor might have mentioned short-term but probably not long-term adverse effects.
Are we to believe that pharmaceutical companies are not driven by the profit motive? Are shareholders simply saints who want help others? Are psychiatric categories carved in stone or historically relative ideas? These are important questions to ask. We should fact-check and carefully assess the pro and cons of whatever product we consume because ultimately it is our bodies, minds, and perhaps lives that are at stake.