Under The Sun

Friday, February 13, 2004

Read this.

I've been on anti-depressants for over two years now, so I feel qualified to offer some additional comments.

1. I am absolutely certain of this: Traci Johnson was told, several times, that if she experienced any wild mood swings at any time during the trial--and especially if she ever began to think about killing herself--she should report to the physicians immediately. She didn't, and that's on her.

[No, that doesn't mean that her suicide was "her fault". It means that she was one of the many, many people who contributed to it.]

2. "apparently non-suicidal". Yes, many people who commit suicide talk beforehand about doing so. Many don't. I've known both kinds. (Hell, I've been both kinds.)

3. "apparently non-suicidal 19-year-old". All 19-year-olds are at risk of depression and suicide. Period.

Furthermore, this particular 19-year-old had to drop out of school for financial reasons. Nope, no stress there.

4. It's quite possible that coming off the drug caused a mood swing. That means it works.

It is not news that anti-depressants are dangerous. Even most admitted depressives don't want to take them, for good reason. So why was Lilly giving its drug--at a higher-than-normal dose, even--to someone who wasn't depressed? Because "the FDA had requested that Lilly conduct the safety tests, which typically examine side effects." (--The Indianapolis Star.) Struck match, got burned.

I'll tell you why Traci Johnson died. She died because a group of good doctors trying to do a good thing according to a good policy gave her a drug that did what it was supposed to do, and as a side effect it made her feel really depressed, and her parents didn't notice because they weren't in the same state, and her friends didn't notice because she wasn't in school that term, and her neighbors didn't notice because they were strangers who just happened to be sharing a dorm for a few months, and when Traci decided to kill herself there was no one close enough to stop her. And that's a goddamn tragedy and it happens hundreds or thousands of times every year, with no help at all from experimental drugs. And we're not going to help the problem by abandoning an anti-depressant any time anyone taking it kills herself. If you need something to make Traci Johnson's death more meaningful than it already is, then call her a martyr for a good cause. And don't kill the cause because it killed her.

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