Annals of Med’cin

Before you visit another doctor or take another pill, I suggest a reading of Gary Greenberg’s “Manufacturing depression: a journey into the economy of melancholy” in the May 2007 Harper’s (not yet online, but widely available at newsstands and even supermarkets. Better yet, subscribe and get access to the WHOLE archive, back to !!1850!!). Here’s a bit of what you’ll encounter:

…in more than half the clinical trials used to approve the six leading antidepressants, the drugs failed to outperform the placebos, and when it came time to decide on Celexa, an FDA bureaucrat wondered on paper whether the results were too weak to be clinically significant, only to be reminded that all the other antidepressants had been approved on equally weak evidence. (pg 40)


…irresistable ideas about who we are only come along every so often, and here at Mass General they’ve gotten hold of a big one. They have figured out how to use the gigantic apparatus of modern medicine to restore our hope: by unburdening us of self-contradiction and uncertainty, by replacing pessimism with “optimization,” by inventing us as people who seek Life Enjoyment and Satisfaction, who will buy from the pharmacy what we need to forge ahead toward Well-Being unhindered by Depressive Symptomatology, to pursue antidepression if not happiness. Who can resist this idea that our unhappiness is a deficiency that is in us but not of us, that it is visited upon us by dumb luck, that it can be sent packing with a dab of lubricant applied to a cell membrane? (pg 46)