Why are 25% of Working-age Canadian Women Taking Antidepressants?

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In Common Ground, pharmaceutical drug policy researcher Alan Cassels explores how and why it came to be that 25% of working-age women in Canada are taking an antidepressant medication.

“Part of it, certainly, has to do with the way the pharmaceutical industry has marketized and characterized both the disease and the drugs,” explains Cassels. “For example, in Japan, after the introduction of SSRI medications in 1999, the word for clinical depression, “utsubyou,” was dumped in favour of the term “kokoro no kaze,” which literally means “a cold of the soul.” This simple renaming of the disease – equating depression with the common cold – dropped it to the lowest common denominator, absolutely exploding the antidepressant market in Japan. Similarly, “depression” was recharacterized in the Western world in the early 1990s by the drug companies – and their helpful ‘partners’ in psychiatry – who saw it as a “deficiency state” and proposed the solution: a drug to raise a patient’s serotonin levels. This idea that depression is a “chemical imbalance” is a theory that has never been proven though it has gained traction by implying that depressed people are chemically deficient, akin to diabetics who lack insulin.”

Caution: addiction ahead (Common Ground, February 2015)

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