The title of this book tells you where Dr. Joseph Glenmullen, a staff psychiatrist at Harvard University Health Services, is coming from. Glenmullen contends that the easy-fix mentality of patients and cost-conscious health plans has driven many Americans into long-term use of antidepressants such as Prozac, which he rightly warns may not be as benign as they're led to believe.
The problem is, some of the associations the author makes between the drugs and major side effects are not widely supported by medical literature. It's true there hasn't been systematic monitoring of long-term effects of the top-selling "serotonin boosters" like Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft, responsible for more than $4 billion in annual sales. Indeed, there have been cases in which the drugs have been blamed for suicides and violence, some leading to legal actions. (And many patients complain of sexual side effects.) It's also true there is no long-term track record to examine because the drugs remain relatively new: Prozac hit the market in the late 1980s; most of the others have been around for less time.
But Glenmullen's alarm about facial tics, agitation, muscle spasm and Parkinsonism is more inflammatory than the available science suggests.
He says such effects "appear to represent Prozac backlash, the brain's reaction to intruding chemicals," yet he makes that association far more by anecdote than hard science. He bases his warnings on his patients, who have taken the medications and on others who were the subjects of case studies. Furthermore, his association of brain cell death with these drugs uses such inflammatory terms as "chemical lobotomy."