Poor Leonard’s Almanack

by Leonard Roy Frank

If ever, by some unlucky chance, anything unpleasant should somehow happen, why, there’s always soma to give you a holiday from the facts. And there’s always soma to calm your anger, to reconcile you to your enemies, to make you patient and long-suffering. In the past you could only accomplish these things by making a great effort and after years of hard moral training. Now, you swallow two or three half-gram tablets, and there you are. Anybody can be virtuous now.
ALDOUS HUXLEY (English writer), describing the euphoria-producing drug used in his sham-utopia, Brave New World, 1932

2. Mrs. Y., an involution melancholic, while being placed in a pack said: “Don’t torture me this way — I don’t want those wet sheets — they don’t help me any — don’t torture me with those hot sheets.” Although she was usually noisy at other times she was quiet while actually in the pack….
With the prolonged bath, the usual precautions may be sufficient although it is necessary to be forever alert for suicidal tendencies.
JOSEPH A. KINDWALL and GEORGE W. HENRY (psychiatrists), “Wet Packs and Prolonged Baths: A Clinical Study of Reactions to These Forms of Therapy,” American Journal of Psychiatry, July 1934

3. I have had a number of patients die suddenly from cardiovascular accidents, within a few weeks after full recovery from depressive psychoses, and am not fully convinced that the [shock] therapy may not have hastened their deaths.
A. E. BENNETT (psychiatrist), “An Evaluation of the Shock Therapies,” Diseases of the Nervous System, January 1945

4. The acute phase of [Abraham] Lincoln’s depressive attack in January 1841, lasted for more than a week…. His inability to attend the legislative session, and the fears of his colleagues that he would attempt suicide, would in modern times prompt most psychiatrists to arrange for inpatient hospitalization and treatment. I would insist on hospitalization, observation for suicidal intent, antidepressant drugs, and later administration of lithium as the treatment of choice for such a condition.
RONALD R. FIEVE (psychiatrist), Moodswing: The Third Revolution in Psychiatry, 1973

5. George Frederick Handel (1685-1759), known for his swings from depression to mania, composed his majestic Messiah oratorio in only six weeks. If he were living today, lithium would probably control his symptoms.
DOME DIVISION (Miles Laboratories Inc.), caption under a drawing of Handel, ad for Lithane, Psychiatric News, 19 January 1979

6. My entire college education has been completely wiped out and besides that all the reading and learning that I did on my own in the past three years…. I guess the doctors would consider [that electroshock] had beneficial effects because it has “cured my depression,” but it’s cured my depression by ruining my life, by taking away everything that made it worth having in the first place.
LINDA ANDRE (electroshock survivor, writer, director of the Committee for Truth in Psychiatry,) after undergoing 15 ECTs at New York’s Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic in 1984 at the age of 24, radio interview, WBAI (New York), 1985

7. The vast majority of people overcome depression without resort to any mental health services. They do so by virtue of their own inner strength, through reading and contemplation, friendship and love, work and play, religion, art, travel, beloved pets, and the passage of time — all of the infinite ways that people have to refresh their spirits and to transcend their losses.
PETER R. BREGGIN (psychiatrist), Toxic Psychiatry, 1991

8. [Being on the antidepressant Prozac] is not at all like being on cruise control. It’s more like driving a car with an unreliable fuel gauge on a long trip on an unfamiliar highway with no signs to indicate the distance to the next gas station or rest stop — and not minding.
SALLY HALPRIN (journalist),”ìLife with Prozac,” San Francisco Sunday Examiner & Chronicle, 15 August 1993

9. Joy juice for the brain.
PETER R. KRAMER (psychiatrist), referring to the antidepressant Prozac, Listening to Prozac, 1993

10. The antidepressants are basically speed.
RONALD LEIFER (psychiatrist), quoted in Seth Farber, Madness, Heresy, and the Rumor of Angels: The Revolt Against the Mental Health System, 1993
11. ECT [electroshock] may effectively silence people about their problems, and even convince some people that they are cured by numbing their faculties and destroying their memories. It may fulfill a socially-valued function in reinforcing social norms and returning people to unhappy or abusive situations, or to isolation and poverty without any expenditure on better services or community development. It is easier to numb people and induce forgetfulness than to try to eradicate poverty, provide worthwhile jobs and deal with people’s demands to be listened to, understood, loved and valued as part of the community.
JAN WALLCRAFT (British electroshock survivor and writer), “ECT: Effective, But for Whom?” OPENMIND (British journal), April-May 1993

12. Three thousand Prozac prescriptions are written for babies under the age of one.

13. Eighty million prescriptions for sleeping pills, anti-depressants and tranquilizers were issued in Britain last year. Tonight, World in Action reveals startling new evidence which suggests that these drugs impair judgment to such a degree that they are now responsible for more road deaths than alcohol. Could the annual toll of 4,000 road deaths [in Britain] be reduced by new controls on the use of such medication?
ANGLIA TV (British television guide), 17 October 1994

14. Were Moses to go up Mt. Sinai today, the two tablets he’d bring down with him would be aspirin and Prozac.
JOSEPH A. CALIFANO JR. (former US secretary of health, education and welfare), Charlie Rose television interview, PBS, 16 January 1995

15. Gallons of peppermint-flavored liquid Prozac prescribed this year: 27,012
HARPER’S, “Harper’s Index,” December 1997

 advertisement for Zoloft : “Side effects may include dry mouth, insomnia, sexual side effects, diarrhea, nausea and sleepiness.”
This advertisement for Zoloft states: “Denise took comfort in the fact that Zoloft has helped so many people for so many years. Zoloft is safe and effective.” Yet the fine print paints a very disturbing picture of dangerous side-effects. Zoloft’s manufacturer warns: “Those starting medication should be watched closely for suicidal thoughts, worsening of depression, or unusual change in behavior. In children and teens, Zoloft is only approved for use in those with obsessive-compulsive behavior.” The ad also warns: “Side effects may include dry mouth, insomnia, sexual side effects, diarrhea, nausea and sleepiness.”

16. [The antidepressants] might better be described as a chemical bull in a china shop, unpredictably interfering with a wide array of body systems including the heart, the digestive tract, the brain and the sexual organs.
THOMAS J. MOORE (writer), “The Hidden Dangers of Anti-Depressants,” Washingtonian, 1997

17. Over a ten-year period Prozac was associated with more hospitalizations, deaths, or other serious adverse reactions reported to the FDA than any other drug in America. Two similar drugs for depression, Paxil and Zoloft, are of similar toxicity.
THOMAS J. MOORE, Prescription for Disaster: The Hidden Dangers in Your Medicine Cabinet, 1998

18. Disturbed animals in the zoo are given Prozac too, not for the misfortune of being [a tiger] but for the misfortune of being in a zoo; female depression could as likely be a consequence not of being female but of an inhuman environment.
GERMAINE GREER (Australian writer), Untamed Shrew, 1999

19. Some 92 million prescriptions were written for the top six antidepressants in 2002, a ubiquity that has, far more than any research, helped to bolster the theory that depression is the result of a biochemical imbalance that the drugs cure — a theory that has not been proved, despite more than 40 years of trying.
GARY GREENBERG (journalist), “Is It Prozac? Or Placebo?” Mother Jones, November-December 2003

20. [Christophe Girod, Washington representative of the Red Cross] said the uncertainty the [Guantanamo] detainees faced was a major factor in the high rate of attempted suicides and the incidence of clinical depression.
Cmdr. Louis Louk, the officer in charge of the detention camp’s hospital, said recently that about one in five detainees was being medicated for clinical depression.
NEIL A. LEWIS (journalist), “U.S. Erecting a Solid Prison at Guantanamo for Long Term,” New York Times, 22 October 2003.

21. The use of antidepressants in this country has nearly doubled since 1998, with more than $13 billion in sales in 2003, according to IMS Health, a pharmaceutical consulting company. Eli Lilly reports that its breakthrough drug Prozac, the first in a new class of antidepressants, has been consumed by more than 35 million people since it was introduced to the U.S. market in 1988.
ADRIENNE SANDER and VICTORIA COLLIVER (journalists), “Antidepressants Hazardous to Health Care Coverage,” San Francisco Chronicle, 23 February 2004

22. The pooled results [of the studies in a recent FDA review] showed that an older class of antidepressants, known as tricyclics, was actually more effective, belying all the hype about the “revolutionary” new antidepressants [selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, SSRIs]…. The most disturbing finding was that more than twice as many depressed adults on new antidepressants kill themselves than those taking placeboes. The difference was 8.4 versus 3.6 suicides per 1,000 patients, a year respectively.
JOHN ABRAMSON (family doctor, Harvard Medical School, and author of Overdosed America: The Broken Promise of American Medicine, 2004), “Information Is the Best Medicine,” New York Times, 18 September 2004

23. Reports of memory loss, tics and jerking side effects found in SSRI patients suggest the possibility of long-term brain damage. Is there a risk that, a decade hence, we will see an epidemic of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s-like diseases?
JOSEPH GLENMULLEN (psychiatrist, Harvard Medical School), as paraphrased by Richard C. Morais, “Prozac Nation: Is the Party Over?” Forbes, 6 September 2004

24. Child psychiatrists have an almost universal faith in SSRIs: the problem is that there isn’t much clinical data to support their conviction.
JONATHAN MAHLER (journalist), “Thirteen-Year-Old Matt Miller Killed Himself Shortly After He Started Taking Zoloft,” New York Times, 21 November 2004

25. General practitioners, internists and family doctors are, at times, penalized by health insurers for making referrals to psychiatrists. These first-line doctors write 73% of all antidepressant scrips [prescriptions] in America. Fact: We now spend more on mood-altering drugs for our children, including antidepressants, than we spend on antibiotics. Harried GPs [general practitioners] do not always discuss with their patients such possible problems as withdrawal symptoms on discontinuance or the need for ever-increasing doses as the drug’s efficacy wears off.
RICHARD C. MORAIS (journalist), “Prozac Nation: Is the Party Over?” Forbes, 6 September 2004

26. Up to 70 percent of patients on antidepressants report sexual side effects, yet the number of Americans who take the drugs [213 million prescriptions written by U.S. doctors in 2003] has ballooned since Prozac was introduced in the late 1980s.
ANAHAD O’CONNOR (journalist), “Has the Romance Gone? Was It the Drug?” New York Times, 4 May 2004

27. Lorne Warneke, an Edmonton psychiatrist and psychosurgery proponent, says that psychosurgery is “a very simple procedure that effectively cuts nerve fibers. It’s a bit like cutting some wires in a telephone trunk line to reduce the amount of messages getting through.”
A 1999 poll of American Psychiatric Association members shows that psychiatrists are becoming more open to this physically invasive treatment model: 74 percent said they would consider neurosurgery for their patients.
DANIELLE EGAN (journalist), “Magical Mystery Cure,” This Magazine (Toronto), Jan-February 2005

Leonard Roy Frank is the editor of Random House Webster’s Quotationary (20,000-plus quotes on 1,000-plus subjects). His “Frankly Quoted” column, distributed freely over the Internet every month, consists of 30-35 quotes and original thoughts, mostly about current events. To get on the “Frankly Quoted” listserve, send lfrank@igc.org your e-mail address.

Leonard Roy Frank is the editor of Random House Webster’s Quotationary (20,000-plus quotes on 1,000-plus subjects). His “Frankly Quoted” column, distributed freely over the Internet every month, consists of 30-35 quotes and original thoughts, mostly about current events. To get on the “Frankly Quoted” listserve, send lfrank@igc.org your e-mail address.