Have you ever noticed all the medication commercials? The big pharmaceutical companies encourage you to talk with your “doctor” about getting help for your most intimate concerns using their product. There is a pill for almost every human malady. There’s help for erectile dysfunction, incontinence, and also at the other end of our bodies; dry eyes and depression. Does anyone blush anymore? Do the actors really portray the suffering of depression? Do you wonder why pharma is advertising so much? I do.
Why Big Pharma Advertises
In short, big pharma advertises because it works. I don’t necessarily mean the drug works but that advertising increases the sales of their product by influencing consumers who then influence how and what the physician prescribes. What may be best for the patient and the risks to the patient are left to the fine print. Moreover, what the research indicates about benefits vs. risks is often withheld from the consumer and our governmental regulatory agency, the FDA. Case in point, this April the pharmaceutical company, Johnson & Johnson, was fined $1.1 billion for downplaying and hiding information on the harmful effects of the antipsychotic drug Risperdal.
Antipsychotic with Antidepressants Advertising
Advertising for the many antidepressant medications is ubiquitous. Recently there has been a surge of advertising suggesting you talk with your physician about trying antipsychotic medication “when your antidepressant is not working.” Near the end of these compelling and pleasing ads the announcer hurriedly states potential negative side effects. These side effects can cause permanent movement disorders, weight gain, increase the risk of metabolic syndrome, and even death. These risks beg many questions. Why isn’t the antidepressant working? Are there safer alternatives to addressing depression?
Safely Treating Depression
Big pharma does not tell you about safe alternative treatments for depression simply because they make money selling their drugs. Psychology and other counseling professions don’t advertise much about safer treatments for depression because they don’t have the money to run big advertising campaigns. What a conundrum.
What big pharma doesn’t tell you is that antidepressants do not work well for mild to moderate depression. The research indicates that they do work for severe depression but may be most effective with short term use. Research has shown that daily exercise is at least as effective, if not more, in treating depression as medication. Furthermore, psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is very effective in treating depression. The effects of exercise and psychotherapy are feeling more energy, improved health, increased strength, improved appearance, and improved relationships. In short, you may end up with an improved life. In all fairness, there are some potential negative side effects with exercise and therapy. You may develop sore muscles or minor injuries if you exercise too often or too intensely. You will be out of some money and time if the therapy does not work. And yes, therapy is not a guarantee that you will be free from depression. However, these “side effects” seem much safer than the side effects of medication.
How to Decide To Use Medication
If you are on or thinking about talking with your physician about antidepressant medication consider the following; Try psychotherapy and adding at least a good walk to each day. If you are having trouble with motivation or making time to exercise, your therapist can help you find a way to resolve your personal blocks to physical activity. If you must be on medication, and it does help some people, talk with your physician about the research on effectiveness, using the lowest dose possible, how long you can expect to be on the medication, and the risks with long term use. And I stress, if you are on medication, it is in your best interest to be in therapy working toward an improved life free from medication and depression.
To a Good Life,
Mark Hansen, Ph.D.