Comments by Ethan Watters

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  • Interestingly GSK marketed depression in Japan as a “cold of the soul.” It was a great slogan in that it suggested that sort term unhappiness (like short term illness) could be seen as something you might take a pill for. The outcomes of these sorts of cultural incursions are not necessarily all good or all bad. My point more is that we rarely even consider the consequences of exporting our beliefs about mental illness and healing. GSK has had enormous success selling paxil in Japan and convincing a large chunk of the population that their sadness is depression. I worry about the consequences and believe the results are largely on the negative side of the ledger. The science behind the efficacy of SSRIs is problematic at best and a scandal at worst.

    But I’m not willing to go so far as to say their might not be some people who were helped — either by the marginal efficacy of the drug or by the lessening of the stigma attached to the idea of depression. Suicide rates have recently leveled off in Japan although it is far from clear whether this has had anything to do with the acceptance of SSRIs. It’s a very complicated question and the jury is still out.

    Of course the consequences of the long term usage of such drugs by significant portions of a population (hat tip to Whitaker) remains to be tallied.

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