Poor Leonard's Almanack
by Leonard Roy Frank
Street Spirit, August 2005
Warning: Psychiatric Treatments For Depression May Be Hazardous To Your Health
If ever, by some unlucky chance, anything unpleasant should somehow
happen, why, there's always soma to give you a holiday from the facts.
And there's always soma to calm your anger, to reconcile you to your
enemies, to make you patient and long-suffering. In the past you could
only accomplish these things by making a great effort and after years
of hard moral training. Now, you swallow two or three half-gram
tablets, and there you are. Anybody can be virtuous now.
ALDOUS HUXLEY (English writer), describing the euphoria-producing drug used in his sham-utopia, Brave New World, 1932
Mrs. Y., an involution melancholic, while being placed in a pack said:
"Don't torture me this way -- I don't want those wet sheets -- they
don't help me any -- don't torture me with those hot sheets." Although
she was usually noisy at other times she was quiet while actually in
the pack.... With the prolonged bath, the usual precautions may be
sufficient although it is necessary to be forever alert for suicidal
JOSEPH A. KINDWALL and GEORGE W. HENRY
(psychiatrists), "Wet Packs and Prolonged Baths: A Clinical Study of
Reactions to These Forms of Therapy," American Journal of Psychiatry, July 1934
I have had a number of patients die suddenly from cardiovascular
accidents, within a few weeks after full recovery from depressive
psychoses, and am not fully convinced that the [shock] therapy may not
have hastened their deaths.
A. E. BENNETT (psychiatrist), "An Evaluation of the Shock Therapies," Diseases of the Nervous System, January 1945
The acute phase of [Abraham] Lincoln's depressive attack in January
1841, lasted for more than a week.... His inability to attend the
legislative session, and the fears of his colleagues that he would
attempt suicide, would in modern times prompt most psychiatrists to
arrange for inpatient hospitalization and treatment. I would insist on
hospitalization, observation for suicidal intent, antidepressant drugs,
and later administration of lithium as the treatment of choice for such
RONALD R. FIEVE (psychiatrist), Moodswing: The Third Revolution in Psychiatry, 1973
George Frederick Handel (1685-1759), known for his swings from
depression to mania, composed his majestic Messiah oratorio in only six
weeks. If he were living today, lithium would probably control his
DOME DIVISION (Miles Laboratories Inc.), caption under a drawing of Handel, ad for Lithane, Psychiatric News, 19 January 1979
My entire college education has been completely wiped out and besides
that all the reading and learning that I did on my own in the past
three years.... I guess the doctors would consider [that electroshock]
had beneficial effects because it has "cured my depression," but it's
cured my depression by ruining my life, by taking away everything that
made it worth having in the first place.
(electroshock survivor, writer, director of the Committee for Truth in
Psychiatry,) after undergoing 15 ECTs at New York's Payne Whitney
Psychiatric Clinic in 1984 at the age of 24, radio interview, WBAI (New
The vast majority of people overcome depression without resort to any
mental health services. They do so by virtue of their own inner
strength, through reading and contemplation, friendship and love, work
and play, religion, art, travel, beloved pets, and the passage of time
- all of the infinite ways that people have to refresh their spirits
and to transcend their losses.
PETER R. BREGGIN (psychiatrist), Toxic Psychiatry, 1991
[Being on the antidepressant Prozac] is not at all like being on cruise
control. It's more like driving a car with an unreliable fuel gauge on
a long trip on an unfamiliar highway with no signs to indicate the
distance to the next gas station or rest stop -- and not minding.
SALLY HALPRIN (journalist),"“Life with Prozac," San Francisco Sunday Examiner & Chronicle, 15 August 1993
9. Joy juice for the brain.
PETER R. KRAMER (psychiatrist), referring to the antidepressant Prozac, Listening to Prozac, 1993
10. The antidepressants are basically speed.
RONALD LEIFER (psychiatrist), quoted in Seth Farber, Madness, Heresy, and the Rumor of Angels: The Revolt Against the Mental Health System, 1993
ECT [electroshock] may effectively silence people about their problems,
and even convince some people that they are cured by numbing their
faculties and destroying their memories. It may fulfill a
socially-valued function in reinforcing social norms and returning
people to unhappy or abusive situations, or to isolation and poverty
without any expenditure on better services or community development. It
is easier to numb people and induce forgetfulness than to try to
eradicate poverty, provide worthwhile jobs and deal with people's
demands to be listened to, understood, loved and valued as part of the
JAN WALLCRAFT (British electroshock survivor and writer), "ECT: Effective, But for Whom?" OPENMIND (British journal), April-May 1993
12. Three thousand Prozac prescriptions are written for babies under the age of one.
Eighty million prescriptions for sleeping pills, anti-depressants and
tranquilizers were issued in Britain last year. Tonight, World in
Action reveals startling new evidence which suggests that these drugs
impair judgment to such a degree that they are now responsible for more
road deaths than alcohol. Could the annual toll of 4,000 road deaths
[in Britain] be reduced by new controls on the use of such medication?
ANGLIA TV (British television guide), 17 October 1994
14. Were Moses to go up Mt. Sinai today, the two tablets he'd bring down with him would be aspirin and Prozac.
JOSEPH A. CALIFANO JR. (former US secretary of health, education and
welfare), Charlie Rose television interview, PBS, 16 January 1995
15. Gallons of peppermint-flavored liquid Prozac prescribed this year: 27,012.
HARPER'S, "Harper's Index," December 1997
[The antidepressants] might better be described as a chemical bull in a
china shop, unpredictably interfering with a wide array of body systems
including the heart, the digestive tract, the brain and the sexual
THOMAS J. MOORE (writer), "The Hidden Dangers of Anti-Depressants," Washingtonian, 1997
Over a ten-year period Prozac was associated with more
hospitalizations, deaths, or other serious adverse reactions reported
to the FDA than any other drug in America. Two similar drugs for
depression, Paxil and Zoloft, are of similar toxicity.
THOMAS J. MOORE, Prescription for Disaster: The Hidden Dangers in Your Medicine Cabinet, 1998
Disturbed animals in the zoo are given Prozac too, not for the
misfortune of being [a tiger] but for the misfortune of being in a zoo;
female depression could as likely be a consequence not of being female
but of an inhuman environment.
GERMAINE GREER (Australian writer), Untamed Shrew, 1999
Some 92 million prescriptions were written for the top six
antidepressants in 2002, a ubiquity that has, far more than any
research, helped to bolster the theory that depression is the result of
a biochemical imbalance that the drugs cure -- a theory that has not
been proved, despite more than 40 years of trying.
GARY GREENBERG (journalist), "Is It Prozac? Or Placebo?" Mother Jones, November-December 2003
[Christophe Girod, Washington representative of the Red Cross] said the
uncertainty the [Guantanamo] detainees faced was a major factor in the
high rate of attempted suicides and the incidence of clinical
depression. Cmdr. Louis Louk, the officer in charge of the detention
camp's hospital, said recently that about one in five detainees was
being medicated for clinical depression.
NEIL A. LEWIS (journalist), "U.S. Erecting a Solid Prison at Guantanamo for Long Term," New York Times, 22 October 2003.
The use of antidepressants in this country has nearly doubled since
1998, with more than $13 billion in sales in 2003, according to IMS
Health, a pharmaceutical consulting company. Eli Lilly reports that its
breakthrough drug Prozac, the first in a new class of antidepressants,
has been consumed by more than 35 million people since it was
introduced to the U.S. market in 1988.
ADRIENNE SANDER and VICTORIA COLLIVER (journalists), "Antidepressants Hazardous to Health Care Coverage," San Francisco Chronicle, 23 February 2004
The pooled results [of the studies in a recent FDA review] showed that
an older class of antidepressants, known as tricyclics, was actually
more effective, belying all the hype about the "revolutionary" new
antidepressants [selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, SSRIs]....
The most disturbing finding was that more than twice as many depressed
adults on new antidepressants kill themselves than those taking
placeboes. The difference was 8.4 versus 3.6 suicides per 1,000
patients, a year respectively.
JOHN ABRAMSON (family doctor, Harvard Medical School, and author of Overdosed America: The Broken Promise of American Medicine, 2004), "Information Is the Best Medicine," New York Times, 18 September 2004
Reports of memory loss, tics and jerking side effects found in SSRI
patients suggest the possibility of long-term brain damage. Is there a
risk that, a decade hence, we will see an epidemic of Alzheimer's or
(psychiatrist, Harvard Medical School), as paraphrased by Richard C.
Morais, "Prozac Nation: Is the Party Over?" Forbes, 6 September 2004
Child psychiatrists have an almost universal faith in SSRIs: the
problem is that there isn't much clinical data to support their
JONATHAN MAHLER (journalist), "Thirteen-Year-Old Matt Miller Killed Himself Shortly After He Started Taking Zoloft," New York Times, 21 November 2004
General practitioners, internists and family doctors are, at times,
penalized by health insurers for making referrals to psychiatrists.
These first-line doctors write 73% of all antidepressant scrips
[prescriptions] in America. Fact: We now spend more on mood-altering
drugs for our children, including antidepressants, than we spend on
antibiotics. Harried GPs [general practitioners] do not always discuss
with their patients such possible problems as withdrawal symptoms on
discontinuance or the need for ever-increasing doses as the drug's
efficacy wears off.
RICHARD C. MORAIS (journalist), "Prozac Nation: Is the Party Over?" Forbes, 6 September 2004
Up to 70 percent of patients on antidepressants report sexual side
effects, yet the number of Americans who take the drugs [213 million
prescriptions written by U.S. doctors in 2003] has ballooned since
Prozac was introduced in the late 1980s.
ANAHAD O'CONNOR (journalist), "Has the Romance Gone? Was It the Drug?" New York Times, 4 May 2004
Lorne Warneke, an Edmonton psychiatrist and psychosurgery proponent,
says that psychosurgery is "a very simple procedure that effectively
cuts nerve fibers. It's a bit like cutting some wires in a telephone
trunk line to reduce the amount of messages getting through."
1999 poll of American Psychiatric Association members shows that
psychiatrists are becoming more open to this physically invasive
treatment model: 74 percent said they would consider neurosurgery for
DANIELLE EGAN (journalist), "Magical Mystery Cure," This Magazine (Toronto), Jan-February 2005
Roy Frank is the editor of Random House Webster's Quotationary
(20,000-plus quotes on 1,000-plus subjects). His "Frankly Quoted"
column, distributed freely over the Internet every month, consists of
30-35 quotes and original thoughts, mostly about current events. To get
on the "Frankly Quoted" listserve, send email@example.com your e-mail
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