Later On

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1 Son, 4 Overdoses, 6 Hours

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Katherine Q. Seelye reports in the NY Times:

The first time Patrick Griffin overdosed one afternoon in May, he was still breathing when his father and sister found him on the floor around 1:30. When he came to, he was in a foul mood and began arguing with his father, who was fed up with his son’s heroin and fentanyl habit.

Patrick, 34, feeling morose and nauseous, lashed out. He sliced a love seat with a knife, smashed a glass bowl, kicked and broke a side table and threatened to kill himself. Shortly after 3, he darted into the bathroom, where he shot up and overdosed again. He fell limp, turned blue and lost consciousness. His family called 911. Emergency medical workers revived him with Narcan, the antidote that reverses opioid overdoses.

Throughout the afternoon his parents, who are divorced, tried to persuade Patrick to go into treatment. His father told him he could not live with him anymore, setting off another shouting match. Around 4, Patrick slipped away and shot up a third time. He overdosed again, and emergency workers came back and revived him again. They took him to a hospital, but Patrick checked himself out.

Back at his mother’s house and anxious to stave off withdrawal, he shot up again around 7:30, overdosing a fourth time in just six hours. His mother, frantic, tried pumping his chest, to no avail, and feared he was dead. Rescue workers returned and administered three doses of Narcan to bring him back. At that point, an ambulance took him to the hospital under a police escort and his parents — terrified, angry and wrung out — had him involuntarily admitted.

The torrent of people who have died in the opioid crisis has transfixed and horrified the nation, with overdose now the leading cause of death for Americans under 50.

But most drug users do not die. Far more, like Patrick, are snared for years in a consuming, grinding, unending cycle of addiction.

In the 20 years that Patrick has been using drugs, he has lost track of how many times he has overdosed. He guesses 30, a number experts say would not be surprising for someone taking drugs off and on for that long.

Patrick and his family allowed The New York Times to follow them for much of the past year because they said they wanted people to understand the realities of living with drug addiction. Over the months, their lives played out in an almost constant state of emergency or dread, their days dictated by whether Patrick would shoot up or not. For an entire family, many of the arguments, the decisions, the plans came back to him and that single question. Even in the cheeriest moments, when Patrick was clean, everyone — including him — seemed to be bracing for the inevitable moment when he would turn back to drugs.

“We are your neighbors,” his mother, Sandy Griffin, said of the many families living with addiction, “and this is the B.S. going on in the house.”

In Patrick’s home state of New Hampshire, which leads the country in deaths per capita from fentanyl, almost 500 people died of overdoses in 2016. The government estimates that 10 percent of New Hampshire residents — about 130,000 people — are addicted to drugs or alcohol. The overall burden to the state, including health care and criminal justice costs and lost worker productivity, has ballooned into the billions of dollars. Some people do recover, usually after multiple relapses. But the opioid scourge, here and elsewhere, has overwhelmed police and fire departments, hospitals, prosecutors, public defenders, courts, jails and the foster care system.

Most of all, though, it has upended families.

All of the Griffins speak of nonstop stress. They have lived through chaotic days: When the parents called the police on their children (both Patrick and his sister, Betsy, have been addicted to drugs); when Dennis, the father, a recovering alcoholic, worried that every thud on the floor was Patrick passing out; and when Sandy was, by turns, paralyzed with a common parental fear — that she had somehow caused her children’s problems — or was out driving around looking for them on the streets. . .

Continue reading.

Trump refuses to make the opioid crisis a national emergency, though he promised that he would. His promises turn out to be worthless.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 January 2018 at 7:27 am

Our culture and economic values share the blame for epic opioid crisis

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Dr. Frank Huyler, an emergency physician in New Mexico, writes in the Daily News:

In 2017, U.S. life expectancy fell for the second consecutive year. Among all of the disturbing headlines that we’ve seen in the past 12 months, this is arguably the worst, and it should make all of us stop and pay attention.

In countries like the United States, any decline in life expectancy is unheard of. It speaks to very large forces at work, like World War II, or HIV.

In this case, opioid overdoses are to blame. They have quadrupled since 1999, and are continuing to rise. Right now that epidemic is killing more people in the U.S. than AIDS at its peak. About five people are dying per hour — all day, every day.

The story of the opioid epidemic has been told before by the media. But it hasn’t been examined nearly enough. It’s a story that should prompt far larger questions about our country, its values, and its institutions than we have asked.

Opioids affect us in complex and mysterious ways . They don’t stop sensation, like local anesthetics. Instead, these drugs work by activating natural opioid receptors in our brains. They change our experience of pain. They replace pain, in part, with pleasure.

Pain thresholds are built into us for powerful evolutionary reasons. Opioids make us feel good in the short term, but they also distort essential mechanisms necessary for survival in a Darwinian world.

Tolerance is the body’s natural attempt to restore those mechanisms. We become less sensitive to opioids, and need higher doses for the same effect. Tolerance is the first step toward physical addiction; the two are linked. As tolerance rises, the risk of overdose and death follows closely behind.

The time it takes for this process to occur is the key to understanding the opioid epidemic. A week or two of opioids may cause euphoria and pleasure, but it will rarely create physical addiction. Given a few months, however, anyone can be made into an opioid addict.

This has been understood in the medical world for a hundred years.

In 1996 a single company, Purdue Pharmaceuticals, introduced a patented new opioid compound into the market with FDA approval. They called it OxyContin, and marketed it as a new drug.

OxyContin wasn’t a new drug. It was simply a new pill designed to release an old drug — oxycodone — more slowly. Oxycodone was first synthesized in 1916, and is closely related to heroin.

Since it releases oxycodone more slowly, OxyContin doesn’t have to be taken as often to relieve pain. That slower release also allowed Purdue to put higher doses of oxycodone into each pill.

Purdue Pharma used this distinction as a pretext for claims that OxyContin was safer and less addictive than other opioids and therefore should be widely prescribed for pain of all kinds. The FDA enabled this assertion, and the FDA examiner who approved OxyContin’s initial application took a job with Purdue shortly thereafter.

Once the FDA approved the drug, Purdue unleashed a fraudulent marketing campaign designed to generate as many new OxyContin consumers as possible.

A critical element of their strategy was to expand the traditional indications for opioid prescriptions beyond acute pain into the far more controversial category of chronic pain. Chronic pain is so broadly defined that tens of millions of patients became potential customers.

This was hugely consequential. When drugs are approved by the FDA, health insurance pays for them. The big money was not in acute pain, which goes away, or cancer pain, where patients die quickly, but in chronic pain, which is endless.

Other opioid manufacturers soon joined the effort, marketing their own products for chronic pain. A combination of physician complicity, patient demand and fundamentally flawed retail-based models of medical care then created a dismal synergy that flooded society with oral narcotics.

As steadily increasing numbers of people were encouraged to take prescribed opioids, and became physically addicted to them, more people also turned to heroin and other illicit drugs. Purdue Pharma and others generated enormous sales. Drug cartels and dealers were handed an abundance of new customers. Heroin and even more dangerous illegal narcotics such as fentanyl became more plentiful and cheaper across the country.

A new wave of opioid addiction eventually spread far beyond the control of Purdue Pharma or anyone else. That increased demand had the additional effect of destabilizing Mexico and supporting Islamic extremists with opium revenue from Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Opioid addiction is not a new problem. Ten years before OxyContin appeared on the market, as part of the so-called war on drugs, Congress passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which imposed harsh federal mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes.

More than 300,000 people are currently serving time in either state or federal prisons for often minor drug offenses. Most of these prisoners are poor, and a disproportionate number are minorities. Hardly any of them are drug kingpins.

Purdue’s efforts, however, were unprecedented. In 2007, three senior executives of Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges for criminally misbranding OxyContin by falsely and deliberately claiming it was less addictive and safer than other opioids.

They were sentenced to a few hours of community service, and fined. Purdue Pharma was also fined some $634 million for these misrepresentations.

Purdue’s fine, large for the pharmaceutical industry, represents less than 2% of the roughly $36 billion of revenue so far generated from sales of OxyContin.

Purdue Pharma is not a publicly traded company. It is owned by a single family, the Sacklers, who control the board and hire the executives. In 2015, the Sacklers abruptly appeared on Forbes Magazine’s richest families list, at number 16, with a net worth conservatively estimated at $14 billion. Much of their wealth came from OxyContin sales.

Most of the discussion around the opioid epidemic stops there. The epidemic has been treated primarily as a tragic yet isolated phenomenon, a cautionary tale of a few bad actors mixed in with regulatory mistakes and the confluence of good intentions gone awry.

This view misses a much more fundamental point. . .

Continue reading.

There’s a lot more and it’s well worth reading—and acting upon.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 January 2018 at 7:03 am

Apparently US bacon is not so good

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Lisa O’Carroll reports in the Guardian:

Chlorinated chicken, hormone-fed beef and bacon produced with additives strong enough to cripple pigs have been listed by British campaigners as three of the top 10 food safety risks posed by a free-trade deal with the US.

American use of the pork additive ractopamine alongside the more publicised practices of washing chicken in chlorine and feeding cattle growth hormones are highlighted in a report by the Soil Association as chief among its concerns about a post-Brexit era.

“Some of the key differences between UK and US production – hormone-treated beef, GM crops and chlorinated chicken – are becoming increasingly understood by British consumers,” the report says.

But there are “other areas where products imported from the US could be produced under significantly different standards to our own”, it adds.

The report was published to coincide with the second reading of the trade bill, which will provide a framework for post-Brexit trade deals.

Ractopamine, which can add three kilos of extra meat to a pig, is banned by almost every country except the US. The EU has outlawed its use since 1996.

It is fed to an estimated 60-90% of pigs in the US in the weeks before slaughter and has been found to cause disability in animals including trembling, broken bones and an inability to walk, according to the Soil Association.

The group says it is concerned there will be pressure to source food from the US after Brexit, particularly if tariffs are imposed on food from elsewhere in the EU.

“The concern is that while Michael Gove [the environment secretary] wants the country to be a leader in animal welfare and food safety … there will be a race to the bottom if British farmers have to compete on price with American food,” said Honor Eldridge, a policy officer at the Soil Association.

Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, has long argued that the biggest prize from Brexit would be a trade deal with the US. Farmers and food producers have expressed deep concern that food standards would be compromised in pursuit of a deal.

They have been spooked by a London visit by Donald Trump’s most senior business representative, who warned that any post-Brexit deal with Washington would hinge on the UK scrapping rules set by Brussels, including regulations governing imports of chlorinated chicken.

Wilbur Ross, the US commerce secretary, suggested European regulations governing the safety of chlorine-washed chicken ignored the findings of US scientific research. His comments underline the potential difficulties in striking a free-trade deal with the US once Britain leaves the EU.

“Michael Gove needs to continue to advocate for high British food standards to Liam Fox and the government and for the risks and differences of food standards in the US to be recognised,” said Eldridge.

The full list of controversial practices highlighted by the Soil Association is:

  1. Chlorine-washed chicken (banned in the EU).
  2. Hormone-treated beef (banned in the EU).
  3. Ractopamine in pork (banned in the EU).
  4. Chicken litter as animal feed (banned in the EU).
  5. Atrazine-treated crops (banned in the EU). Atrazine is a herbicide used on 90% of sugar cane, which can enter the water supply and interfere with wildlife.
  6. . . .

Continue reading. There’s more. US food can be hard on your health. The Dept. of Agriculture and the FDA seem totally unable to do their jobs now, because of overfunding and regulatory capture.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 January 2018 at 11:46 am

What is the physiological basis of the healing touch?

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Pavel Goldstein, a visiting scholar at the Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder, writes in Aeon:

Around 100 million adults in the United States are affected by chronic pain – pain that lasts for months or years on end. It is one of the country’s most underestimated health problems. The annual cost of managing pain is greater than that of heart disease, cancer and diabetes, and the cost to the economy through decreased productivity reaches hundreds of billions of dollars. Chronic pain’s unremitting presence can lead to a variety of mental-health issues, depression above all, which often intensifies pain. And our most common weapon against pain – prescription painkillers – generates its own pain, as the ongoing opioid crisis attests. But must we rely on pharmacology to stave off pain? Perhaps there is a more natural nostrum – partial and insufficient, but helpful nonetheless – closer to hand.

Most pain research concentrates on a single, isolated person in pain. This allows researchers to simplify their analyses of pain, which is useful to a point, though it does yield a somewhat distorted view. The problem is that, outside of the laboratory, people are often not isolated: they take part in a social world. Without involving social interactions into the study of pain, we risk ignoring the part that social communication might play.

New techniques have recently made it possible to monitor the physiological activity of several people simultaneously. This allows us to measure the level of synchrony between people as they take part in extreme or prosaic social situations, with some surprising findings. Participants and spectators of a fire-walking ritual were found to have synchronous heartbeats. So do people watching emotional movies together, choir singers singing together, and romantic couples gazing at each other and engaged in imitation tasks in the lab. How can interpersonal synchrony be facilitated? And might there be a way for such physiological coupling to contribute to pain relief? The answer lies in the simplest of human interactions: touch.

Research I recently conducted with my colleagues Haifa Irit Weissman-Fogel and Simone Shamay-Tsoory at the University of Haifa suggested that interpersonal touch is an effective way of reducing pain. We recruited 23 romantic, heterosexual couples to participate in the experiment. The women received pain stimuli under varying conditions. First, alone, without their partners, and then with their partners, but without physical contact. In the third condition, the women held hands with their partners while receiving pain and, in the fourth, they held hands with a stranger. This study showed that the third condition – partner’s touch – resulted in enhanced pain-reduction in comparison with others. Moreover, women with highly empathetic partners reported increased pain-reduction associated with that partner’s touch. It seems, then, that this study empirically supports the idea that touch can transfer a partner’s empathy, thereby decreasing pain. And it happens that this finding dovetails with previous research showing that a range of emotions from disgust to love to fear can be effectively communicated solely by means of touch.

In order to understand the physiological bases of our findings, we conducted an additional study that also measured synchrony. This time, 22 (different) romantic couples were invited to participate. Throughout the experiment, we calculated physiological synchrony by recording heartrate and respiration in each partner. There were four study conditions: holding hands, with pain; holding hands, without pain; not holding hands, with pain; and without either pain or holding hands. (Pain was again administered only to the females.) We explored interpersonal synchrony in both conditions without pain, and touch moderately enhanced the synchrony for the respiration. Surprisingly, synchrony disappeared altogether when pain was administered without touch, perhaps women participants focused almost exclusively on their own pain as a strategy to cope, leading to a physiological ‘disconnection’ from their partners. However, interpersonal touch enlivened synchrony between partners in both heartrate and respiration. Moreover, couples that demonstrated high touch-related pain relief showed enhanced levels of physiological synchrony, as did the couples with a highly empathic male partner.

The investigation didn’t stop there. Under the same conditions, we studied inter-brain synchrony. This study highlighted the analgesic effect of synergistic touch and empathy, which might have important implications for acute pain conditions, such as easing the pain of going through labour. Indeed, the presence of partners during delivery is helpful in 60 per cent of cases, suggesting that the partner’s empathy and the quality of the birth interaction might explain the differences between the cases. Similarly, otherstudies showed that the father’s presence increased positive experiences in all aspects of childbirth. Therefore, future studies might concentrate on the clinical implication of these findings, investigating the efficacy of different touch aspects and using empathy training.

Interpersonal touch has  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 January 2018 at 10:13 am

Using marijuana to fight the opioid crisis

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Margery Eagan writes in the Boston Globe:

IN WASHINGTON, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has reversed Obama administration policies and freed US attorneys to prosecute the marijuana business, even where it’s legal.

In Boston, US Attorney Andrew Lelling has given no assurances that he won’t.

Meanwhile, in a nondescript Natick strip mall, in a physician’s office above a pizza joint and dance school, and down the hall from the Ebenezer Assembly of God ministry, Dr. Uma Dhanabalan helps patients use marijuana to wean themselves from an actual drug menace. That would be opioids, legally prescribed, government approved, a drug that’s made billions for the politically wired pharmaceutical industry and now kills nearly 100 Americans every day.

“I hated them,” said Beth, one of Dhanabalan’s patients, a 52-year-old wife and mother, about the Hydromorphone and Oxycodone she was prescribed for pain from a herniated disc and osteoarthritis.

On opioids, she couldn’t work. Her job involves money. She couldn’t misplace a decimal point. The drugs made her “cotton-ball headed, like a hangover mixed with a cold. I couldn’t think.”

On opioids, she couldn’t work. Her job involves money. She couldn’t misplace a decimal point. The drugs made her “cotton-ball headed, like a hangover mixed with a cold. I couldn’t think.”

She also endured the indignities of another notorious opioid side effect: constipation. For that, physicians routinely prescribe yet another drug with side effects almost as horrifying as those of opioids. Opiod side effects include not just dizziness, drowsiness, mood swings, and confusion, but also addiction, accidental overdose, and death.

“The nerve pain used to be unrelenting, like pushing out at the front of your consciousness,” she said. But the marijuana “put a barrier between conscious awareness and the pain. It’s still there, but like a shadow. It’s not banging. And I am clear-headed.

“I used to drink two glasses of wine a day. Now I’ve stopped drinking almost entirely. Now I do errands and walk the dog.” She stood up and showed me her loose pants. “And I’ve lost 30 pounds.”

Beth did not want her last name used. She has a teenage son. Stigma and unease remain. And both became worse when prosecutor Lelling called marijuana a “dangerous” drug he may, or may not, crack down on.

The irony, said Dr. Dhanabalan, is that “nobody in the world has ever died from a cannabis overdose.” She calls cannabis “the exit drug” from opioid addiction, a controversial claim but one that is fast gaining traction.

Sitting in blue scrubs, pictures of a marijuana plant on one wall and her medical degrees and a plaque from the Veterans of Foreign Wars on another, the former family physician said it’s hard to fathom the continued hostility toward, and ignorance about, cannabis. She said it’s helped not only patients kicking opioids but also those with cancer, PTSD, or common maladies like insomnia. “It changes lives,” she said.

Surely it changed Daniel Snyder’s. A 64-year-old Stoneham mechanic badly injured in a tractor rollover, he said opioids helped his pain tremendously — at first.

“The reason people get addicted is this stuff makes them feel so good, it’s like you could have a good time watching paint dry,” he says. “Then you want more, and you end up in a deep dark hole.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 January 2018 at 11:40 am

A family of doctors helps reinvent medical marijuana

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Justin Moyer reports in the Washington Post:

The Knoxes are a clan of four doctors living in Oregon and California who specialize in medical marijuana. They seem to be doing quite well selling something that is illegal in many states, working with those they know best.

“We’re all fighting the same fight,” said Janice Knox, the founding doctor behind American Cannabinoid Clinics in Portland, Ore. — and the mother of two fellow physicians and the wife of the other. “I think when they do see us they’re surprised at who we are,” she said of her patients. The family aims for something not always associated with medical marijuana: professionalism.

Knox led the family’s move into medical marijuana in 2012, when she retired from a decades-long career in anesthesiology. One of 15 children, she grew up in the San Francisco Bay area and went north for medical school in the 1970s.

“There were not very many black women or men, at least not at the University of Washington,” she said. “It felt like a cultural shock when I went there.”

Knox stuck it out, choosing a career as an anesthesiologist because she thought — wrongly — it would give her more time to raise children. (A lot more on them in a minute.) After 35 years, however, she got tired of working up to seven days a week. And she got tired of being mistaken for a nurse. “Patients would say, ‘I want a white male doctor,’ ” Knox said.

After she stepped away from the job, she got a call from a “card mill” — a practice known more for writing prescriptions for medical marijuana quickly than for close attention to patients’ needs. One of the doctors couldn’t be found. Could she fill in?

Knox wasn’t sure. One of her colleagues, a marijuana enthusiast, had been sent to rehab. And despite attending the University of California at Berkeley, she was a square — Knox had never seen or smelled marijuana “at a time when drugs were everywhere,” she said.

But she had always been interested in natural treatments, and she agreed to fill in — and was pleasantly surprised to see that the patients were not a bunch of a reprobates. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 January 2018 at 3:25 pm

Is everything you think you know about depression wrong?

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Johann Hari writes in the Guardian:

In the 1970s, a truth was accidentally discovered about depression – one that was quickly swept aside, because its implications were too inconvenient, and too explosive. American psychiatrists had produced a book that would lay out, in detail, all the symptoms of different mental illnesses, so they could be identified and treated in the same way across the United States. It was called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. In the latest edition, they laid out nine symptoms that a patient has to show to be diagnosed with depression – like, for example, decreased interest in pleasure or persistent low mood. For a doctor to conclude you were depressed, you had to show five of these symptoms over several weeks.

The manual was sent out to doctors across the US and they began to use it to diagnose people. However, after a while they came back to the authors and pointed out something that was bothering them. If they followed this guide, they had to diagnose every grieving person who came to them as depressed and start giving them medical treatment. If you lose someone, it turns out that these symptoms will come to you automatically. So, the doctors wanted to know, are we supposed to start drugging all the bereaved people in America?

The authors conferred, and they decided that there would be a special clause added to the list of symptoms of depression. None of this applies, they said, if you have lost somebody you love in the past year. In that situation, all these symptoms are natural, and not a disorder. It was called “the grief exception”, and it seemed to resolve the problem.

Then, as the years and decades passed, doctors on the frontline started to come back with another question. All over the world, they were being encouraged to tell patients that depression is, in fact, just the result of a spontaneous chemical imbalance in your brain – it is produced by low serotonin, or a natural lack of some other chemical. It’s not caused by your life – it’s caused by your broken brain. Some of the doctors began to ask how this fitted with the grief exception. If you agree that the symptoms of depression are a logical and understandable response to one set of life circumstances – losing a loved one – might they not be an understandable response to other situations? What about if you lose your job? What if you are stuck in a job that you hate for the next 40 years? What about if you are alone and friendless?

The grief exception seemed to have blasted a hole in the claim that the causes of depression are sealed away in your skull. It suggested that there are causes out here, in the world, and they needed to be investigated and solved there. This was a debate that mainstream psychiatry (with some exceptions) did not want to have. So, they responded in a simple way – by whittling away the grief exception. With each new edition of the manual they reduced the period of grief that you were allowed before being labelled mentally ill – down to a few months and then, finally, to nothing at all. Now, if your baby dies at 10am, your doctor can diagnose you with a mental illness at 10.01am and start drugging you straight away.

Dr Joanne Cacciatore, of Arizona State University, became a leading expert on the grief exception after her own baby, Cheyenne, died during childbirth. She had seen many grieving people being told that they were mentally ill for showing distress. She told me this debate reveals a key problem with how we talk about depression, anxiety and other forms of suffering: we don’t, she said, “consider context”. We act like human distress can be assessed solely on a checklist that can be separated out from our lives, and labelled as brain diseases. If we started to take people’s actual lives into account when we treat depression and anxiety, Joanne explained, it would require “an entire system overhaul”. She told me that when “you have a person with extreme human distress, [we need to] stop treating the symptoms. The symptoms are a messenger of a deeper problem. Let’s get to the deeper problem.”

*****

I was a teenager when I swallowed my first antidepressant. I was standing in the weak English sunshine, outside a pharmacy in a shopping centre in London. The tablet was white and small, and as I swallowed, it felt like a chemical kiss. That morning I had gone to see my doctor and I had told him – crouched, embarrassed – that pain was leaking out of me uncontrollably, like a bad smell, and I had felt this way for several years. In reply, he told me a story. There is a chemical called serotonin that makes people feel good, he said, and some people are naturally lacking it in their brains. You are clearly one of those people. There are now, thankfully, new drugs that will restore your serotonin level to that of a normal person. Take them, and you will be well. At last, I understood what had been happening to me, and why.

However, a few months into my drugging, something odd happened. The pain started to seep through again. Before long, I felt as bad as I had at the start. I went back to my doctor, and he told me that I was clearly on too low a dose. And so, 20 milligrams became 30 milligrams; the white pill became blue. I felt better for several months. And then the pain came back through once more. My dose kept being jacked up, until I was on 80mg, where it stayed for many years, with only a few short breaks. And still the pain broke back through.

I started to research my book, Lost Connections: Uncovering The Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions, because I was puzzled by two mysteries. Why was I still depressed when I was doing everything I had been told to do? I had identified the low serotonin in my brain, and I was boosting my serotonin levels – yet I still felt awful. But there was a deeper mystery still. Why were so many other people across the western world feeling like me? Around one in five US adults are taking at least one drug for a psychiatric problem. In Britain, antidepressant prescriptions have doubled in a decade, to the point where now one in 11 of us drug ourselves to deal with these feelings. What has been causing depression and its twin, anxiety, to spiral in this way? I began to ask myself: could it really be that in our separate heads, all of us had brain chemistries that were spontaneously malfunctioning at the same time?

To find the answers, I ended up going on a 40,000-mile journey across the world and back. I talked to the leading social scientists investigating these questions, and to people who have been overcoming depression in unexpected ways – from an Amish village in Indiana, to a Brazilian city that banned advertising and a laboratory in Baltimore conducting a startling wave of experiments. From these people, I learned the best scientific evidence about what really causes depression and anxiety. They taught me that it is not what we have been told it is up to now. I found there is evidence that seven specific factors in the way we are living today are causing depression and anxiety to rise – alongside two real biological factors (such as your genes) that can combine with these forces to make it worse.

Once I learned this, I was able to see that a very different set of solutions to my depression – and to our depression – had been waiting for me all along.

To understand this different way of thinking, though, I had to first investigate the old story, the one that had given me so much relief at first. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 January 2018 at 4:10 pm

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