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Antidepressants ease suffering

May 10, 2008

Re "Long, strange trip to Ecstasy," Opinion, May 3

Meghan Daum suggests that modern antidepressants are successful because they prevent the mind from "expanding into uncomfortable places."

Uncomfortable? This completely belittles the terribly real (and terribly common) phenomenon of clinical depression. That antidepressants are somehow happy pills that prevent one from feeling negatively, and that they are primarily taken by people who don't need them, is an old trope.

Modern antidepressants are remarkably good at treating depression -- the kind of depression that causes real suffering in real people. That antidepressants help alleviate suffering may be difficult to appreciate, and their use may be ripe with philosophical questions (questions depressives think about very much), but they do minimize a huge amount of human suffering. That this can be considered a huge moral gain might -- for Daum -- be considered a mind-expanding idea.

James Harless

Manhattan Beach

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