Prozac Harmful Or Helpful Essay Research

Prozac Harmful Or Helpful Essay, Research Paper Prozac: Harmful or Helpful? Many people suffer from depression at some point in their lives. Among women

Prozac Harmful Or Helpful Essay, Research Paper

Prozac: Harmful or Helpful?

Many people suffer from depression at some point in their lives. Among women

in western countries, major depression is by far the most common illness (Shorter 43).

Treatment for depression varies among health care providers, but the prescription of

antidepressants seems to be the most common remedy. Prozac and other selective

serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are being used to treat depression, panic disorder,

bulimia, obsessive-compulsive behavior, and many other illnesses. Prozac has become

the most common and best-selling antidepressant in the United States. It has been

prescribed for over twenty-one million people (Packard 18). Nonetheless, many of these

people are unnecessarily taking Prozac and it is doing them more harm than good.

There are many possible causes for depression, ranging from stress, physical and

emotional changes, crises, and chemical imbalance in the brain. There are also several

ways to treat depression such as therapy, a change in diet, and a regular exercise

program. The current trend is for doctors to immediately prescribe Prozac before

exploring the other treatment options. However, Prozac was associated with more

hospitalizations, deaths, or other serious adverse reactions reported to the FDA than any

other drug in America (qtd. in Freundlich 2).

Eli Lilly Pharmaceutical Company created Prozac in 1974, but it wasn t approved

by the FDA until 1987. The first of the SSRIs, Prozac inhibits or blocks the recapture of

the neurotransmitter serotonin by nerve cells ( Prozac 2). This allows the serotonin to

remain in the brain for a longer period of time creating a lasting euphoric state.

Serotonin plays a complex part in the functioning of the body and brain. Researchers and

doctors are just starting to understand its role. So far, the tools used to manipulate

serotonin in the human brain are more like pharmacological machetes than they are like

scalpels–crudely effective but capable of doing plenty of collateral damage (Lemonick


Prozac is supposed to help improve a person s mood by increasing the level of

serotonin present in the brain. However, problems can occur if receptors in the brain

stem and spinal cord are over-stimulated. Sufferers endure fever, chills, muscle spasms,

agitation and confusion, dubbed serotonin syndrome ( Warning 1).

Frank Van Meerendonk was prescribed Prozac in 1990. He was taking this

medication not because of depression but for dizziness, fatigue, tinnitus and hearing loss,

after severe flu. After five days on Prozac, he was a wreck. I felt as if a magnet were

pulling the back of my head. There were electrical surges rising in my body…I was

terrified (qtd. in Warning 1). He was suffering from serotonin syndrome.

Serotonin syndrome…is a very dangerous and a potentially fatal side effect of

serotonergic enhancing drugs which can have multiple psychiatric and non-psychiatric

symptoms ( What is Serotonin Syndrome? 1). This toxic condition requires increased

clinical awareness in order to prevent, identify, and treat the condition immediately. The

rate of incidence of this syndrome is on the rise. The suspected cause of that increase is

the introduction of the SSRIs.

Serotonin syndrome is generally caused by a combination of two or more drugs,

one of which is often a selective serotonergic medication. The drugs which are known to

most frequently contribute to this condition are the combining of monoamine oxidase

inhibitor with Prozac. The best treatment for serotonin syndrome is to cease taking the

offending medication or medications and wait for the symptoms to resolve. If the

offending medication is discontinued, the condition will frequently resolve on its own

within twenty-four hours ( What is Serotonin Syndrome? 1-2).

Many victims of the over-prescription of Prozac are children. In 1997, at least

580,000 children (Huffington, Peppermint 28) were being prescribed Prozac, even

though safety and effectiveness in pediatric patients had not, and still has not, been

established (Huffington, U.S. Attention 1). As with most antidepressant prescriptions,

doctors are prescribing Prozac for children without any psychiatric evaluation. Yet, in a

Prozac ad, symptoms of depression included feeling unusually sad or irritable to

finding it hard to concentrate, both of which are things that all normal children

experience at some time (Huffington, Peppermint 28).

Prozac and other SSRIs are some of the biggest money makers ever for the

pharmaceutical companies. The use of Prozac among children from ages 6-12 went from

41,000 in 1995 to 203,000 in 1996 ( ICFDA 3). The number of new Prozac

prescriptions written for children increased almost four hundred percent in just one year.

Prozac is a very potent mind-altering drug that has not been approved for use in children

and yet children are popping it like candy (3). One 30mg dose has clearly been shown

to double the level of cortisol. An elevated amount of cortisol impairs the development

and regeneration of the liver, kidneys and muscles. It also slows linear growth (3).

It is perfectly legal for doctors to prescribe Prozac to children, but off-label

prescribing can be complicated.

When a drug is tested and a dosage is set for an adult body, the same

medication given to a person half the size can have unexpected effects.

Antidepressants can lead to agitation and nervousness in anyone, in

children, they may trigger full-blown manic episodes (Kluger 94).

In a study completed at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center six percent

of the children treated became manic (Crowley 74). Mania is not the only major risk for

children taking Prozac. Emotional development might also suffer. It s one thing to fool

around with the serotonin levels in a brain that s already hardened and set, but quite

another thing to manipulate a young, still elastic brain (Kluger 94).

Kids are receiving antidepressants not in addition to care and counseling, but as a

cheap substitute. A 1995 study discovered that counseling and medication, when

combine, are the most effective ways to treat depression and also less costly in the long

run, since they may help prevent recurrences (Scheller 18). After all, A pill alone is not

usually a cure (Crowley 74).

Drug companies sponsor research and offer grants, trips, and other financial

enticements which contaminate the findings of the research. In an article in the British

Medical Journal, three physicians editorialize that Prozac is not addictive. The doctors

had just returned from an all-expense paid trip, courtesy of Prozac manufacturer Eli Lily,

to a symposium in Phoenix (Huffington, U.S. Attention 1).

Peter Breggin, author of Talking Back to Prozac, researched clinical trials of the

drug before it was marketed and concluded that they were inadequate because:

-they were too short (four to six weeks)

-they did not include children, the elderly, or the suicidal

-many patients dropped out following adverse reactions

-patients were given sedatives to reduce Prozac s stimulating effect

-fewer than one in three trials showed Prozac to be effective

( Warning 3).

The bulk of studies done for the FDA approval of psychiatric drugs such as Prozac show

them to be of no value. The companies are allowed to choose two often marginally or

questionably successful studies as proof that the drugs work. If Prozac is not a miracle

medicine then why are so many people still taking it?

Prozac is no more effective than any other antidepressant. It …is not a wonder

drug. People on Prozac do not have unusual or sensational results ( Prozac s Can 1).

But it, along with other SSRIs, is more often prescribed than other antidepressants

because they have less severe side effects. Still, all SSRIs have side effects such as

sexual dysfunction, nausea and other gastrointestinal discomfort, diarrhea, headache, dry

mouth, nervousness or agitation, sweating, dizziness, tremors, and sleepiness or

insomnia. These side effects can cause serious problems for some patients. Alternative

treatments such as change in diet or exercise would not lead to these side effects.

Numerous doctors acknowledge that Prozac is not as effective as they had

believed at first. A Flemish psychiatrist, Dr. Guido Peeters proposed that:

It is well known in medical circles that you are more likely to prescribe a

drug when it is new. There s a placebo effect that produces hope in the

scientific community and among patients. Prozac seemed to work well in

the beginning and it can be useful, although it s probably over-prescribed.

It s easy for doctors to hand out pills and many patients prefer to go for

the quick-fix pill rather than discuss their problems (qtd. in Warning


Prozac is a result of our lackadaisical culture s tendency to medicate major social

problems rather than act on them. The over-prescribing of drugs has made possible the

supression of signals a society needs to detect and address growing problems

(Huffington, U.S. Attention 1).

Psychiatric drugs should be prescribed by psychiatric doctors. The percentage of

people wrongly taking antidepressants would drop along with the number of serious

adverse reactions. Prescription drugs are the third leading cause of death in America.

Every year approximately 200,000 people die from prescription drug reactions and anther

80,000 die from medical malpractice. You have a seven times greater chance of dying

walking into your doctor s office than you do getting behind the wheel of your car

( ICFDA 1). When seeking medical help for depression, great caution is advised. Look

at all the options. Read the current research. Make sure you know all the side effects of

the drug you are about to take, your life may depend on it. Most depressed people would

benefit from other non-medicated alternate treatments which they would be more likely

to receive if the family doctor no longer had access to the easy way out, Prozac.

Works Cited

Crowley, Mary. Do Kids Need Prozac? Newsweek 20 Oct. 1997: 73-74.

Freundlich, Naomi. When the Cure May Make You Sicker. Online.

BusinessWeek. Internet. 15 Apr. 1999. Available: http://www.

Huffington, Arianna. Peppermint Prozac. U.S. News & World Report 25 Aug. 1997:


—. U.S. Attention Deficit on Legal Drug Risks. Online. The Center for the Study of

Psychiatry and Psychology. Internet. 19 Apr. 1999. Available:

ICFDA. Online. International Coalition for Drug Awareness. Internet. 3 May 1999.


Kluger, Jeffrey. Next Up: Prozac. Time 30 Nov. 1998: 94.

Lemonick, Michael D. The Mood Molecule. Online. Time. Internet. 15 Apr. 1999.


Packard, Helen C. Prozac: The Controversial Cure. New York: The Rosen Publishing

Group, Inc., 1998.

Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil. Online. Internet. 28 Apr. 1999. Available:

Prozac s Can and Can t-do Powers. Online. Internet. 3 May 1999. Available:

Scheller, Melanie. The Brave New World of Antidepressants. Current Health

Jan. 1997: 16-18.

Shorter, Edward. How Prozac Slew Freud. American Heritage Sept. 1998: 42-44+

Warning: This Wonder Drug Could Seriously Damage Your Health. Online. The

Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology. Internet. 18 Apr. 1999. Available:

What is Serotonin Syndrome? Online. International Coalition for Drug Awareness.

Internet. 3 May 1999. Available: