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Hearts, Minds, and Maladies: Toward a Critical Theory of the Commodification of Pharmaceuticals
Unformatted Document Text:  11 coupled with a 13-page report titled, “Safeguarding Your Students Against Suicide,” underwritten in part by Wyeth. The study implores administrators to have medical personnel on campus “who can prescribe ‘newer’ antidepressants’” (Glader 2002). Independent researchers have found, however, that in what are truly double-blind tests anti-depressants are no more effective than placebos in treating depression. The side effects of these drugs, however, are decidedly worse. In 1999, for example, Psychology Today noted that 70 percent of SSRI users have sexual difficulty. And as of 1999 over 40,000 complaints concerning adverse effects of patients taking Prozac have been filed with the FDA. “From 1987 to 1997 Prozac was associated with more hospitalizations, deaths, or other serious adverse reactions reported to the FDA than any other drug” (Levine 2001, pp. 54-55). The subtle marketing of psychoactive pharmaceutical drugs to an unwitting demographic illustrates the extent to which the pharmaceutical industry will go to not merely persuade, but engineer and manipulate the very discursive, cultural, and ideational meaning of disease. Will the pharmaceutical industry not rest until every consumer is diagnosed with a pharmacologically treatable disease and taking the designated (and preferably patented) medication? The causes of depression and most of the psychiatric industry’s other 400 diagnostic categories have not been established as even having biochemical or genetic causes – and yet are being treated vis-à-vis the adamant insistence of the psychiatric and pharmaceutical industries as if they do. What is known, however, is that psychotropic drugs have an almost identical effect on the brain as amphetamines, cocaine, or ecstasy, with sometimes even more harmful side effects, some of which persist long after discontinued use (Bravin, Naik, and

Authors: Tracy, James.
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11
coupled with a 13-page report titled, “Safeguarding Your Students Against
Suicide,” underwritten in part by Wyeth. The study implores administrators to
have medical personnel on campus “who can prescribe ‘newer’ antidepressants’”
(Glader 2002).
Independent researchers have found, however, that in what are truly
double-blind tests anti-depressants are no more effective than placebos in
treating depression. The side effects of these drugs, however, are decidedly
worse. In 1999, for example, Psychology Today noted that 70 percent of SSRI users
have sexual difficulty. And as of 1999 over 40,000 complaints concerning
adverse effects of patients taking Prozac have been filed with the FDA. “From
1987 to 1997 Prozac was associated with more hospitalizations, deaths, or other
serious adverse reactions reported to the FDA than any other drug” (Levine
2001, pp. 54-55).
The subtle marketing of psychoactive pharmaceutical drugs to an
unwitting demographic illustrates the extent to which the pharmaceutical
industry will go to not merely persuade, but engineer and manipulate the very
discursive, cultural, and ideational meaning of disease. Will the pharmaceutical
industry not rest until every consumer is diagnosed with a pharmacologically
treatable disease and taking the designated (and preferably patented)
medication?
The causes of depression and most of the psychiatric industry’s other 400
diagnostic categories have not been established as even having biochemical or
genetic causes – and yet are being treated vis-à-vis the adamant insistence of the
psychiatric and pharmaceutical industries as if they do. What is known,
however, is that psychotropic drugs have an almost identical effect on the brain
as amphetamines, cocaine, or ecstasy, with sometimes even more harmful side
effects, some of which persist long after discontinued use (Bravin, Naik, and


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