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Have we become a "Pill for every ill" society??

(28 Posts)
Legacy Mon 04-Apr-05 16:36:53

There was a lot of coverage of this in the papers over the weekend.

See here

Basically arguing that as a society we have come to expect to reach for the medicine cabinet to cure all our woes...

This struck a chord we me, 'cos actually I do believe there's an element of truth in it?

And in fact, I've been quite surprised since joining Mumsnet to see how many health/ depressed threads quickly attract posts which basiaclly say, "Go and see your Dr and make sure you 'get something for it.." where the 'something' is likely to be some tablets or medicine.

I was interested to note the last bit too, which says "Britain's GPs have largely ignored the advice of the Chief Medical Office that many depressed patients should be prescribed exercise programmes rather than pills"

I'm not saying people shouldn't have medicines if they REALLY need them, just that perhaps we've come to rely too much on them??

jampots Mon 04-Apr-05 16:39:44

Completely agree! I have said many times on MN about my putting on weight problem and have been to the GP many times with little or no support/testing offered. On my last visit I was prescribed appetite suppressants despite telling my GP that I dont eat much at all! I have had to pay for private allergy/sensitivity testing which the GP has poo-pooed despite losing a stone by cutting out intolerant foods in a few weeks.

jangly Mon 04-Apr-05 16:44:30

Think on the "Depressed" threads Mnetters often do advise getting out of the house, walking, exercise TBH.

SeaShells Mon 04-Apr-05 16:45:23

Think it might be down to the lack of time gp's have for patients, it's alot quicker to write a prescription than to sit down and talk in depth as to what the problem actually is, and alternative ways of dealing with it. That's my experience anyway. I was prescibed ad's within a couple of minutes of stepping foot into the gp's room, no other option was given, that particular day they were running behind on appointments by 50 mins!

Gwenick Mon 04-Apr-05 16:49:28

I'm on AD's for depression - and am also doing exercise - which also helps me a lot. HOWEVER, I only managed to find the motivation for doing the exercise after being on the AD's for a month or so. I'm also on a (very long) waiting list to see the counsellor. The decision to onto the AD's was MINE - my GP gave me the options and that's what "I" chose because I knew it would be best for "me"

"'I have some concerns that sometimes we do, as a society, wish to put labels on things which are just part and parcel of the human condition."

Well i'm guessing he's never suffered from depression, or (obviosyly) being a man had a low sex drive - both of which SOMETIMES need to be treated with medicine as well as other 'therapies'.

As for the arthritis - my mum suffers badly from this - but swimming, exercise and walking are completely out of the question for her - she's lucky to be able to manage to walk up the stairs these days - so the pills for that also help. Just because Paul Flynn has succesfully managed to cope with his arthritis without drugs doesn't mean that those people with more severe arthritis can also cope without the drugs.

happymerryberries Mon 04-Apr-05 16:54:04

I think that we all have to be very careful in making a clear distiction between feeling a little low (which is all part of life) and having depression which is a serious, potentialy life threatening, condition which needs professional help. This help may, or may not, involve medication

WigWamBam Mon 04-Apr-05 16:57:04

When people say "get something for it", they mean "get treatment for it". What else would you suggest? If you have a headache you take an aspirin, if you have an ear infection you take anti-biotics, if you have clinical depression you need it treated. I'd love not to need anti-depressants but I do need them; they have saved my life. If my GP was able to prescribe therapies for me then so much the better, but he can't - his hands are tied by the waiting lists and by the fact that our local psychiatric unit prefers pills to therapy.

What was I meant to do when I was suicidal - just pulled myself together and gone for a nice walk? Depression is a chemical imbalance and it destroys lives, it's not just the "feeling blue" that some people seem to think it is. Yes, exercise can help, positive thinking can help, but they can't address the root of the problem.

JoolsToo Mon 04-Apr-05 16:59:25

my GP doesn't hand out medicines willy-nilly!

Gwenick Mon 04-Apr-05 17:00:26

mine neither JT

happymerryberries Mon 04-Apr-05 17:02:30

wwb, agree with you 100%

I have always felt that it was a great shame that 'depression' is often seen as the same thing as felling a bit sad, which it very obviously isn't.

No-one would tell someone with epilepsy to 'pull themselves together' and that is just another imbalance in the brain insn't it?

jangly Mon 04-Apr-05 17:02:57

I think its probably best to point people in the direction of their GP. Then he can make the decision as to what they need.

mummytosteven Mon 04-Apr-05 17:03:43

i interpret the article differently to Legacy. I interpret it as being more an indictment of cynical marketing ploys used by drug companies rather than as an indictment on patient expectations/reliance on pills.

i would love it if people posting about severe depression/anxiety disorders could get referrals from their GP for CBT/and or to see a skilled clinical psychologist, rather than being put on the newest AD out and left to fend for themselves until the next crisis. but due to underfunding this doesn't happen.

Easy Mon 04-Apr-05 17:05:14

I agree, many people believe that we can cure everything by medication. That's one of the reasons we have problems with Superbugs in this country, people expect to take anti-biotics for every cough and sniffle. In the same way SOME people go to the doctors for anti-depressants, although they really need to change what is depressing them in their lives.

I know someone whose wife has just thrown him out of their home, and stopped him having access to their kids, because she is having an affair and doesn't want him around anymore. He sits and cries, because he loves his wife and kids. His mother wants him to go to the Doctor to get antidepressants, but that won't take away his problem, nor will it guarantee he'll cope with the problem any better. In his situation he needs support from his family to start sorting it out.

Some people have clinical depression needing chemical help. Some have depressing lives that need support, care and help to change. The difficulty on a strapped NHS system is sorting them out, and providing the support needed in non-clinical cases.

happymerryberries Mon 04-Apr-05 17:06:21

CBT can be a life saver, but there will always be people who also need ADs, if for no other reason than they can allow a patient to begin to see what is possible with therapies like CBT. At the 'bottom' of depression the patient can sometimes feel that any imporovement is possible. When that happens ADs can be a real life saver.

Legacy Mon 04-Apr-05 17:06:58

Gwenick - I honestly didn't mean to suggest that people who can genuinely benefit from medicines shouldn't have them - and you sound exactly like the sort of person who SHOULD be properly prescribed them - and you're obviously doing all the other 'right stuff' too (like exercise).

But I think there are too manye examples which, as seashells says, are due to too little time from the GP, or simply the wrong expectation from a patient, that somehow they have to leave a surgery with some tablets to cure whatever is 'wrong' with them.

A couple of examples in point:
- My Dad recently has had his cholesterol tested. It was very marginally above the 'recommended level'. His (regular) GP ummed and ahhed and then decided that since it was only marginally above the 'recommended' level, and since Dad was in such good health otherwise that he shouldn't be prescribed a tablet (which, after all,has risks in its own right) but should try to change his diet to cut down on certain fats.
Dad went back 3 months later, had exactly the same cholesterol level, but was then (in a rushed consultation) told by a different GP (a locum he'd never seen before) that he now needed to take a tablet for the rest of his life.

Another example recently - my next door neighbour was talking about her daughter who is is very overweight. The mother said "well, she went to the Doctor, you know, but he didn't give her anything for it....". Clearly she was exasperated since her expectation was that she would be given some 'magic pill' ?

mummytosteven Mon 04-Apr-05 17:08:15

yes HMB, should have made the point more clearly about having CBT etc in conjunction with ADs. fully agree with you that some times people need ADs to benefit from CBT. That certainly applied to me.

Legacy Mon 04-Apr-05 17:16:16

MTS - I do see the other angle to the story too - I guess the bigger question then is which came first? Are drug companies really creating the demand, or are they simply capitalising on a societal trend which has over-medicalised everything?

I DO agree that care needs to be taken in categorising true clinical depression (for which pills may be appropriate) from feeling low (where they may not), but where's the 'grey area' between the two, and what's appropriate there?

Like Easy, I also believe that too many people are now forced to place hope in, and rely on, medication, when in different circumstances a high level of family/ community support might have prevented this?

It's probably no co-incidence that the rise in pill-taking has risen in line with the rise in family fragmentation and geographical break up of family groups?

happymerryberries Mon 04-Apr-05 17:21:35

Legacy, you could also argue that the higher levels of depression are caused by the greater degree of family fragmentation and isolation that people face today.

Prufrock Mon 04-Apr-05 17:22:10

I don't think that this is just about pills for mental illnesses though, but for all illnesses. The Western world, noty just UK, tends to see drugs as the cure for every illness, and throws pills at symptoms to try to stop them, without taking the time to treat the person. It's just indicatie of the non holistic, time strapped nature of so much conventional medicine andis a very short sighted view.

Legacy Mon 04-Apr-05 17:23:40

HMB - agree - yes!

Gwenick Mon 04-Apr-05 17:33:07

pru - but then many '3rd' world cultures still use the witchdoctors (or whatever their one it called) to 'treat' things that are wrong with them. They're given 'magic' potions which they think will heal them - so it's not just us (and some of the things they go for I don't even think there are 'pills' for in the western world!).

jangly Mon 04-Apr-05 17:34:42

Don't think we should knock the drug companies too much - their pills are often life-savers! But I do think they should be made to limit their profits once they have recouped their research outlay. The drugs should be more freely available in cheap form in the third world.

I think some docs have taken on board the advice of the Chief medical officer. When a friend of mine went to her GP for depression|anxiety recently, she was asked if she could come back in a fortnight, just to see if she felt better by then!

happymerryberries Mon 04-Apr-05 17:38:33

Just out of interest, when I last worked for the Pharmaceutical industry almost 10 years ago (yikes!), it cost £100,000,000 to get a drug onto the market. And I think at the time only one in three drugs made back their costs. This isn't to say that drug companies don't make a lot of money, they obviuosly do, but it is also a very risky buisness...I remember how many times I changed jobs because of sell offs!

Legacy Mon 04-Apr-05 20:33:42

Who did you work for HMB? (Or would you rather not say?)

happymerryberries Mon 04-Apr-05 20:38:17

A few! Mostly due to buy-outs. Boots Pharma, Janssen-Cilag, BASF Pharma....all a very long time ago

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