LETTER:Ecstasy and Prozac: the facts

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The Independent Online
From Professor Hugh Freeman

Sir: In his letter yesterday (21 November), Robin Prior claims that "Prozac is the recreational drug of choice for many people". There is not a shred of evidence for this statement and if anyone did take it for that reason, they would be greatly disappointed. Prozac is an anti-depressant which is effective in people suffering from major depression and certain other psychiatric disorders, but only after an interval of about two weeks. Anyone who took it for recreational purposes would only experience some mildly unpleasant side-effects.

Peter Breggin is quoted by Mr Prior as alleging that the scientific testing of Prozac lasted only five or six weeks. In fact, the development of this drug for clinical use was among the most lengthy and scrupulous of any.

There have been many attempts in the US to blame Prozac for people's aggressive behaviour, but not one of these allegations has been accepted by a court. Similarly, overall analysis of thousands of cases has revealed no evidence that Prozac has been responsible for "a number of suicides".

Any drug will produce unusual effects in a very small minority of people; Prozac is no different in this respect, but is generally efficacious and well tolerated. The comparison of Prozac with Ecstasy is misleading and irresponsible, since the community contains large numbers of depressed people who have not received appropriate treatment, but could very well benefit from it.

Yours faithfully,

Hugh Freeman

Emeritus Editor

British Journal of Psychiatry

London, W1

21 November