In present day America, 25% of the entire population has been diagnosed with and is undergoing treatment for some type of depression [“One out of Four Diagnosed” www.minefully.org]. Because it is such a common
occurrence, the American people have seemingly accepted depression, whether minor or major, as a social norm. What the general public has failed to recognize is that most U.S. Pharmaceutical companies promote their products for the sole financial benefit of their company versus the diagnosed individual. The relatively recent occurrence and contemporary rise in the amount of people diagnosed with depression is far too coincidental with that of Pharmaceutical stocks and their net worth, currently booming the billions. Reviewed and analyzed in this essay are the glitches in the system and tips on how not to fall into the traps of the modern day medical industry.
Depression is generally single-handedly diagnosed by either a physician, who medically treats depression, or a psychiatrist, a specialist in human emotion. The saying “Never go to a Doctor whose office plants have died” [Greenberg 36] relays a strong message of the importance of professional looking practices. Anytime you walk into a doctor’s office, you are bound to be surrounded by advertisements, pamphlets, and even free samples for various prescription drugs; it is almost like shopping in a “Sam’s Club”! All of those things have a purpose for being there, and that purpose is to influence people to use medication to solve their health problems. Behind the array of display cards and informational packets lies one thing: pharmaceutical companies and their interest in the American people’s money. Members of our society are exceedingly consumed with appearance and embody a materialized sense of perfection that blinds them from seeing the motivations behind corporate actions. All medical examiners, from psychotherapists to pediatricians, benefit from advertising for Pharmaceutical companies, and vice versa. In California’s Official Health Care Report, the quality of statewide health care appeared to vary greatly by general popularity [“CA Quality Health Care Report” www.opa.ca.gov]. Much like adolescents select brand named clothing over generics, the most sponsored and commercialized health care facilities happened to lead the charts when it came to the number of patients, but not necessarily in their recovery rates [“CA Quality Health Care Report 2003-2005” www.opa.ca.gov]. Pharmaceutical companies unfairly benefit the “name brand” consumer over the “generic” consumer by offering larger discounts with higher premiums and by callously denying sometimes vital medications to those who simply cannot afford them. Two of our nation’s principal misers, doctors and pharmaceutical companies monopolize the market, essentially scheming our people without a hint of remorse.
Not only are the individuals behind the diagnosis often corrupt, but so are the tests in which they gather their information. In the diagnosis there are no blood or urine samples taken, only personal information gathered and questioners answered. Originally used to diagnose depression, the HAM-D (Hamilton Department Rating Scale) was a biased test that produced flawed results and in turn many incorrect diagnoses’. For those reasons it was revised by medical experts; the result of those revisions was the popular and extensively accredited SCID (Structured Clinical Interview). Although it is presently the most commonly used form of diagnosis, it only increased diagnosis accuracy (patient success rates) by about 20% overall [“CA Quality Health Care Report” www.opa.gov]. Perhaps the reason the success rates haven’t notably inclined is because the tests genuinely have no guarantee of any accurate result. Asking indirect questions and taking natural emotional occurrences to extremes, the tests seem more of a persuasion tactic than a supposed step toward recovery. Basing the test on the assumption of the individual, it asks similar questions in a repetitive fashion, focusing on casual neurovegative signs like sleep and appetite. Declared a hoax by psychotherapist and freelance writer Dr. Gary Greenburg, he commented that “Whatever my score on the SCID, it was hard to believe that (Dr.) Papakostas really thought I had Major Depression” [Greenburg 37]; involved in a study, Greenburg himself was mistakenly diagnosed with depression. On a test where the symptoms are all to casual, uncertainly is not an option; all questions require either a direct yes or no answer bubbled onto the answer sheet. Due to the lack of dedication to and interest in creating fair and legitimate tests, it could be said that government funded research has fizzled down to the sloppy and unsure collection of raw data that our doctors need to keep their sponsors happy. Shooting at a specific target with no set aim, one must question the legitimacy of a test issuing 2 of 17 points to a patient for merely denying they are ill at all.
Last but not least is the issue of personal reaction to both prescription anti-depressants and their treatment plans. Anti-depressant medications are essentially chemicals that enter the body directly, altering its chemical makeup and supposedly achieving a desired balance. Ironically enough, a major argument by both Pharmaceuticals and doctors alike in the defense of prescription drugs is one that questions patient hope for and dedication to their recovery. If prescriptions were chemical solutions to chemical problems, then such factors would be irrelevant when it came to patient recovery. This concretely defends the psychological factor in depression treatment, also known as the Placebo Effect. In the same study involving Mr. Greenburg, it was found that in over half the trails used to approve the leading anti-depressant meds, the drugs failed to outperform their placebos. Even more shocking, the minimal advantage of the successful prescriptions over the placebos was an average of two points on the HAM-D scale [Greenburg 40]; this two point difference could be altered to the placebo’s benefit by a heartier meal or deeper sleep. In conclusion, the groundbreaking claim that 80% of prescription drug effects are actually placebo effects [Kirsch 40] isn’t so hard to believe after all.
Furthermore, the American people have been brainwashed by the United States’ medical industry as a whole, and one must question what it will take to reverse that. In the last 40 years alone, there have been 100 new afflictions added to the lists diagnosing depression, and the number will only continue to grow; we cannot let the belief that any amount of happiness is enough work its way into our consumer economy. One day, people will come to embrace this phrase voiced by Norman Cousins:
“The human body experiences a gravitational pull in the direction of hope. That is why patients` hopes are the physician’s secret weapon. They are the hidden ingredients in any prescriptions”.
When we come to recognize the economics behind depression and embrace the power of the human mind, our people will discover the innate solution to man’s most agonizing illness.