Drugs and Depression

30 Mar


drugs two



Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot believed to have deliberately guided Flight 4U9525 into the French Alps killing all 150 people on board was reportedly suffering from depression, and possibly taking anti-depressants to treat his illness.

What hasn’t been mentioned so far is that many anti-depressants disclose in their list of possible side-effects a warning that they may trigger suicidal ideation, suicide or attempted suicide, and in some instances, violent and aggressive behaviour. While clinical studies continue into the association between these drugs and certain behaviours, the evidence is sufficient for drug companies to be compelled to disclose the possibilities to potential users.

There is, justifiably, a concern that depression and those suffering from it will be increasingly stigmatised as a consequence of this tragedy.  As the Guardian reports: In a sign of continued nervousness in the light of the tragedy, there were reports on Saturday of pilots offering personal assurances to passengers. One woman tweeted: “Pilot on my @Delta flight announces he and co-pilot are ex-military and ‘we both have wives and kids and are very happy’.” 

Apparently being “ex-military,” male, and with a wife and children is some kind of guarantee against depression which will be news to many people given the astronomic rates of post traumatic stress disorder diagnosed in military personnel, to address just one aspect of an idiotic comment that is a small example of the facile discrimination and prejudice anybody with a mental illness can encounter.

Australia has the second highest use of anti-depressant medication in the world after Iceland, from which we can conclude that depression is a common illness in our society and a lot of us are using drug therapy to help us manage it. Death from drug overdose is twice as likely to be caused by drugs prescribed to treat anxiety, insomnia and stress than by illegal substances, a Victorian coroner recently reported.

And it isn’t just drugs prescribed for depression that can cause mental disturbances. I have beside me a box of Metoclopramide, prescribed for nausea caused by other drugs, with a list of potential side-effects as long as my leg, one of which is “mental depression.” There are antibiotics that can cause anxiety. There are anti psychotics that can cause hallucinations. There are sleeping tablets that can cause bizarre sleepwalking behaviours.  If anything we need more awareness and education about the possible side effects of prescription drugs, and how those side effects can be safely managed.

It would be the worst possible outcome if the tragedy of Flight 4U9525 was used to stigmatise people with depression not only in the airline industry but in every other occupation. There have already been demands that airlines dismiss pilots with depressive disorders, and while no one wants a pilot in the throes of a seriously depressive episode flying a plane, depression can be managed and people do recover.

As usual there’s been a scramble, instigated by the country’s most reliable drama queen Prime Minister Tony Abbott, to ensure such a tragedy doesn’t occur on an Australian airline. Australia’s national security committee met on Sunday at Abbott’s insistence to discuss preventative measures.

Good luck with that. Absolute safety can never be guaranteed, and flying is still a whole lot safer than driving the Pacific Highway, and a whole, whole, whole lot safer than being a woman in a domestically violent situation in Australia. So far this year, the average is two dead women each week. Still waiting for the Minister for Women to call an emergency Sunday meeting about that.











27 Responses to “Drugs and Depression”

  1. paul walter March 30, 2015 at 4:10 pm #

    There must be a thousand and one substances that people maybe dabble in, with the confident assertion that these could do no harm and hey fuck, I’m an adult!

    Just listening to someone a little while ago , an old bloke, comfortably off and esconced in glorious isolation at his new holiday house, who found he couldn’t get to sleep because of the dreaded “wondering feet”.

    He found a mersyndol tablet, a well know strong painkiller, got him off to sleep in a “nice” way and next thing he knew, a few months later, he was down to the big city for a detox after getting on up to twenty of them a day.

    Sometimes the problem can be that stuff knocks people around outright, in other cases it’s a “fine edge” thing.

    Thing is, it’s hard to find people who don’t use some thing or other, a legally sanctioned “normal” mother’s little helper of one sort or another, let alone recreational drugs including alcohol, just about all with funny side affects, in this day and age.

    There are many, many people who find that some thing they thought quite inoffensive became the tail that wagged the dog, in quite unpleasant ways.


    • Jennifer Wilson March 30, 2015 at 4:14 pm #

      Lordy, mersyndol. Thats just over the counter.
      Used to take it for headaches. Had no idea it was addictive.


      • Michaela Tschudi March 30, 2015 at 5:04 pm #

        It’s got codeine in it. The more you take, the more receptors you “grow” so your body craves more. Simple as ABCodeine.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. paul walter March 30, 2015 at 9:30 pm #

    Well, there you go!

    There are a milion and one things that make you feel funny and can get you into hot water, sold over counters or offered as definitive treatments by physicians.

    A fair while ago, I was having trouble with migraines, probably because of the toxic factory environment Iworked in . The GP prescribed me anti histamines and I found myself stupefied at work, looking into the revolving machine and almost losing my balance and falling into it, the side effects were so pronounced.

    Another time I bought an over the counter sleeping remedy and almost went round the twist the following day, the depresssion it induced was so severe.

    Which reminds me, just watching an oddly parallel thing on 4 Corners about virtual loan sharking for the underclasses.

    The state sanctions theses things and the public just hasn’t realised yet that much of consumer protection has been shredded by the new economics. We now live in a very John Grisham world, but the dime hasn’t dropped for most ordinary people yet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Michaela Tschudi March 30, 2015 at 10:56 pm #

      Yes PW often the side effects of drugs mimic the condition for which they are prescribed. For example, many antipsychotic meds come with a warning that they may cause suicidal ideation. Imagine that – a drug that compounds the problem rather than alleviating it. Drug companies exploit this by encouraging off label use, so a drug marketed for one purpose and registered for same suddenly becomes the drug of choice for another seemingly unrelated condition. Big pharma has a lot to answer for, but so do govts. And the TPP will make this situation even muddier. The govt hasn’t released the details, but there’s much speculation. Consumers, as always, will end up paying dearly both in monetary terms, but also in terms of their health.

      Liked by 1 person

      • paul walter March 31, 2015 at 2:13 am #

        All in a nutshell. You are a bright woman.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Michaela Tschudi March 31, 2015 at 2:17 am #

          You’re kind PW. I should explain that I’ve done work in that area, so I have a tiny bit of knowledge. I am very interested in how drugs work and why. Pity I was hopeless at chemistry. Or maybe that’s a good thing. 😊


    • Nick March 31, 2015 at 5:02 pm #

      That 4 Corners episode last night was excellent, Paul. I really admired the young whistle blower for speaking so honestly, and without a care at all for any potential legal consequences. Her disgust was palpable.


      • paul walter April 1, 2015 at 12:59 am #

        It remains excellent current affairs quite often, despite all the little ways employed over time to gradually geld it.

        You can thank shows like 4 Corners and other broadsheet current affairs shows, as well as broadsheet press journalism, for the whistleblower legislation just past-, little to do with “terrorism” and a lot to do with vested interests caught with their fingers in the till and not liking the consequences.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. helvityni March 30, 2015 at 11:33 pm #

    “I feel anger and frustration when I think that one in ten Americans beyond the age of high school is on some kind of antidepressant, such as Prozac. Indeed, when you go through mood swings, you now have to justify why you are not on some medication. There may be a few good reasons to be on medication, in severely pathological cases, but my mood, my sadness, my bouts of anxiety, are a second source of intelligence–perhaps even the first source. I get mellow and lose physical energy when it rains, become more meditative, and tend to write more and more slowly then, with the raindrops hitting the window, what Verlaine called autumnal “sobs” (sanglots). Some days I enter poetic melancholic states, what the Portuguese call saudade or the Turks huzun (from the Arabic word for sadness). Other days I am more aggressive, have more energy–and will write less, walk more, do other things, argue with researchers, answer emails, draw graphs on blackboards. Should I be turned into a vegetable or a happy imbecile?”
    ― Nassim Nicholas Taleb

    I love the way he speaks of his mood changes, I tend to see mine in the same fashion: I too feel mellow before the rains, and melancholic or happy depending what kind of music I’m listening.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Michaela Tschudi March 31, 2015 at 12:50 am #

      That is exquisite helvityni. I agree that we are quick to pathologise particular states of mind, and resort to medicine. For some of us, myself included, medication is essential to help correct a chemical imbalance that would otherwise render us incapable of doing the most ordinary things like reading, enjoying music, talking with people, or working. Being bipolar is akin to being diabetic: drugs help your to stabilise and manage your life. Without medication, the risk of injury or self-harm increase. Having said that, the thrill of euphoria can’t be denied. But the melancholic dives are not poetic: they are unspeakable. I’m waiting for the magic nasal spray that will replace Lithium and all its side effects. That would be music to my ears. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson March 31, 2015 at 7:08 am #

      Helvi, that quote is superb. Taleb describes being a fully alive and aware human being.


  4. doug quixote March 31, 2015 at 12:37 am #

    Apparently the co-pilot was having difficulties with his sight. This would have been career-threatening. I am not aware whether perhaps a brain tumour or the like could cause those symptoms, but if there was a likelihood of him losing his vocation, he had cause for depression . . . we’ll never know, with his body obliterated on the mountainside.

    They thought that making the cockpit invulnerable was a good idea.

    I did not.

    For just what happened here and what may have happened on MH370 last year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • paul walter March 31, 2015 at 2:25 am #

      That is plausible.
      He is freaked out by his diagnosis, then the medication he takes amplifies rather than alleviates his anxieties (anxiety’is/ isnt the same thing as depression, what is the relationship? ) and he ends in in such a strung out state of mind that even crashing an aircraft begins to assume a logical context.

      It came out a couple of days go that a girlfriend had said he wanted to make a mark on things. To me, it seems a frame of mind therefore similar to say, the Aurora killer and many other auto weapons mass

      Liked by 1 person

  5. paul walter March 31, 2015 at 2:30 am #

    By the way, I agree with Michaela that Helvi’s comment is devastating and her comment re euphoria and then the crash, following Helvis “easy way” insight, is unfortunately correct.


    • Jennifer Wilson March 31, 2015 at 7:13 am #

      There are two ways to use the word “melancholy,” clinically and poetically. I’m guessing Helvi’s Taleb is using the poetic, whilst Michaela refers to the clinical.


  6. Stewart Hase March 31, 2015 at 6:23 am #

    All true but in this case drugs don’t cause the narcissistic rage that enabled him to kill all those people along with himself . His was a unique combination that fortunately only experienced by a few.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sam Jandwich March 31, 2015 at 10:19 am #

      Yes I was just about to say the same thing – probably the most important thing we can do now is to emphasise that depression doesn’t cause people to want to murder, or even to cause this kind of disregard for what might otherwise be called “colatteral damage”. Far more often people are motivated to suicide by the desire to unburden others of their presence, maybe as a form of hyper-consideration.

      The unfortunate thing about having someone like Tony Abbott pick this issue up is that it is extremely easy for people with his disposition for dumbing down and demonising to take the coward’s way out and identify a cohort of people as presenting a danger, rather than to seek to understand what’s actually going on and to counteract the tendency to jump to conclusions.

      I do agree Jennifer that it would be useful to know more about what drug companies know about the side effects of anti-depressants. Certainly from my experience I can report that duloxetine makes me talk dirty in my sleep/-;


      • paul walter April 1, 2015 at 1:04 am #

        Can’t think of an individual less likely to deal with an issue like this.. we still have his latest manifestation of insensitivity, WA Aborigines, fresh in our minds.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Nick March 31, 2015 at 4:35 pm #

    “Apparently being “ex-military,” male, and with a wife and children is some kind of guarantee against depression”

    Nope, I don’t believe that’s what was said at all. The pilot said he considers his own marriage to be happy, that he loves his wife and children very much, and that he has no intention of killing himself. Nothing more, nothing less.

    The “ex-military” bit was tangential, and goes to his and his co-pilot’s flight experience under pressure, not some “guarantee against depression”. It says “and if something does go wrong, we’re not just a couple of sim-babies who have no idea how to react in a real crisis.”

    See: http://www.vanityfair.com/news/business/2014/10/air-france-flight-447-crash

    I’m intrigued. What less “idiotic” thing would you say to reassure your passengers you have no intention of killing yourself? What personal reasons would you give to assure them you’re in a stable state of mind?

    Minus the marriage bit, I think I’d say much the same thing as the pilot: “I love my partner and child very much, and I couldn’t be happier in my life right now. What happened last week was a terrible tragedy, but please be assured you have nothing to worry about today.”

    Stereotypical perhaps, but “idiotic”?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nick March 31, 2015 at 4:36 pm #

      No issue with the rest of your piece, btw.

      Especially the last para, which needs to be repeated as often and as loudly as possible.


    • Jennifer Wilson March 31, 2015 at 7:02 pm #

      I didn’t read it the same way as you, Nick. I read it as a more general comment that having a wife & children & being ex military was an indicator that depression wasn’t a possibility.

      That link to the Vanity Fair piece was fascinating. And scary. Thanks.


      • paul walter April 1, 2015 at 1:16 am #

        Your last comment about two women a week dead from domestic violence had me in mind of 4 Corners often revolving their stories around women trapped in unbreakable cycles..

        Monday’s featured a mother of three, probably divorced, a good enough person was my impression but, like the unemployed woman who was a victim of the job centre rorts a month or two ago, gradually being worn down by her circumstances.

        Some of the politicians would no doubt suggest she “go find a man”, but that’s a vicious, prejudiced response to the problems of another, quite worthwhile, human being, from people who often brag of their so called Christianity.

        Liked by 1 person


  1. All Is Not Lost | Find Me A Cure - April 6, 2015

    […] Drugs and Depression […]


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