There’s a drug epidemic in America that no one is talking about. It isn’t cocaine, heroin or methamphetamines. It’s reaching all of us, but it’s hurting our young and old people the most.
Instead of coming from dealers on street corners, it’s coming from the prescription pads of doctors. Americans are being overprescribed psychoactive drugs at astonishing rates and no one seems to have noticed. What does it say about a society when 11% of adult women and 5% of adult men are on anti-depressants? The happy story that the slick drug ads on TV have sold America is that this is progress, that these are sick patients and the pills are making them better. But in double-blind clinical trial after double-blind clinical trial anti-depressants prove to be no more effective than placebos. If no one is being cured, why are so many millions of us still being prescribed these drugs? Maybe it’s because Washington is in the pocket of the pharmaceutical lobby, known as Big Pharma. Big Pharma has nearly 1,300 lobbyists working for it in Washington and, in a single year, spends more than any other industry, nearly $200M, to lobby our representatives. And Big Pharma doesn’t just lobby, it finances campaigns.
Financial contributions from the pharmaceutical industry are some of the largest corporate donations to campaigns in the country. Maybe you say to yourself, “That’s just how it is. No one is being forced to take an anti-depressant.” But here’s where it gets really scary: the pharmaceutical industry is looking to create younger and younger patients and turn them into lifetime users. Prescriptions for psychoactive medicines for children rose almost 50% from 2002 to 2007 despite the fact that many of these drugs are not even approved for use in children.
The system is broken at every step of the way: the patients who come in looking for a quick fix for a complex problem; the doctors who take the easy way out and give it to them; our representatives in government who look the other way so as not to bite the hand that feeds them; the pharmaceutical industry laughing all the way to the bank as Americans pay the price with their health.
In this all too real dystopia, we meet our hero, LINDA STEELE, a UCLA-trained Clinical Psychologist. Linda is a righteous advocate for getting patients off their meds so that they can make real lifestyle changes to improve their health. Again and again, she’s seen firsthand the damage psychotropic drugs can do to people who don’t need them and, by this point, she’s just plain pissed off. She’s pissed off at the psychiatrists who reflexively prescribe drugs to patients as a first option, she’s pissed off at an irrational, beaurocratic system that makes prescription medicine the cheapest way to avoid really dealing with our problems and, more than anything, she’s really pissed off at the pharmaceutical industry for causing all of this destruction out of sheer greed. Linda Steele is mad as hell and she’s not going to take it!
Linda’s caseload is filled with patients who struggle as much with their medications as they do their illnesses. We’ll focus on three patients in particular, each of whom is facing problems typical of a group in American society today.