Letter: Cure or curse?

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The Independent Culture
Sir: I was astounded to find Jeremy Laurance greeting the increase in the prescription of anti-depressants as a cause for celebration (Health Check, 15 September).

Clinical depression is indeed a severe and horrific illness, but unfortunately doctors have little time to get to the root of a person's suffering or to point out other coping strategies. It is far more convenient to write a prescription.

The new selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors like Prozac and Seroxat are indeed preferable to the older tricylics like Anafranil and Prothiaden, in that there is much less risk of drowsiness affecting normal life. But these have only been in use for just over a decade; not very long when one considers that it took the medical profession more than 30 years to admit that the benzodiazepines (the famous "mother's little helpers") were addictive.

I took an ever-increasing cocktail of prescribed psychotropic drugs for over 23 years. During my drug-induced stupor, I would sleep for 10 hours at night and for three hours in the afternoon. I knew no better, having been assured by my doctors that I would need to take anti-depressants for the rest of my life, in the way that a diabetic needs to take insulin.

Since becoming drug-free, life has changed beyond belief. I have now acquired a job; raised thousands of pounds for the Children's Society; gained typewriting and word-processing qualifications; won a national essay competition and passed a violin examination. I would never have contemplated any attempt at achievement whilst taking anti-depressants and these achievements have finally given me the happiness that the pills failed to do.

JENNIFER RICHARDS

Tenby, Pembrokeshire

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