Pubdate: Fri, 09 Oct 2015
Source: Seattle Times (WA)
Copyright: 2015 The Seattle Times Company
Author: Julie Holland, MD
Note: Psychiatrist Julie Holland is author of "Moody Bitches: The 
Truth About The Drugs You're Taking, the Sleep You're Missing, the 
Sex You're Not Having, and What's Really Making You Crazy." She is 
editor of "The Pot Book: A Complete Guide to Cannabis."


WE insist on all-natural products in our baby food and household 
cleaners; why don't we demand natural moods for ourselves?

Americans suffer from an overabundance of processed foods, synthetic 
hormones, virtual relationships, silicone breasts and, now, fake 
moods, brought about by an ever-increasing percentage of us taking 
psychiatric medications.

The patients I meet in my Manhattan psychiatric practice are 
stressed, sad and scared. Many lead lives with little movement, 
sunshine or human touch, spent staring into a computer screen, under 
fluorescent lights. Chronically sleep-deprived and eating poorly, 
they feel terrible. Women shuttling between work (where they earn 
less than men) and home, straddling child care and aging parents, are 
stretched to their limit. They escape by drinking, texting, shopping 
or eating. My patients want pills to make them feel better but, 
honestly, I'm afraid it's to make them feel less.

Many psychiatric patients are truly sick and need medication. It is 
my job to understand the risks and benefits of these meds, and I've 
seen them do a lot of good for people in real pain. But there is a 
big push to lower the standards, especially for women, for being sick 
and needing prescription drugs.

The pharmaceutical industry spends billions in advertising and 
billions more paying researchers and prescribers directly. Women are 
inundated with messages that it's pathological to feel sad or scared, 
with a barrage of ads that advance the question from, "Should I take 
an antidepressant?" to "Which one?"

Recently my psychiatric journals have been full of glossy ads 
promoting a new diagnosis, "binge eating disorder." A picture of a 
sad, lonely woman surrounded by junk food sits underneath text 
introducing me to the diagnosis, encouraging me to ask my female 
patients if they sometimes regret how much they eat, because they may 
be ashamed to talk about it.

These ads were paid for by Shire Pharmaceuticals, the same company 
that makes the amphetamine Adderall. But Adderall has lost its 
patent, hence Vyvanse, a new, ultra, long-acting amphetamine. Shire's 
newer ADHD ads also target women, recommending Vyvanse for 12-hour 
control of symptoms "throughout her day."

It's getting harder to remain unmedicated in the Altered States of 
America. Street drugs, speed and heroin, have come in, out of the 
cold, and are now Adderall or Vyvanse, Oxy-Contin or Zohydro as Big 
Pharma expands into the recreational market. More women are becoming 
addicted to opiates and dying of overdoses, and more women are taking 
antidepressants and sleeping pills than ever before. We are 
medicating away our sensitivities and we are all the worse for it. 
Women are being convinced that it's pathological to be emotional.

The first thing a woman says after she starts crying is, "I'm sorry." 
We are uncomfortable with expressed emotion, and we have been 
socialized to shut it down. But by suppressing this sensitivity, 
we're stifling a piece that we need, that our partners and families 
need, and that the world needs. When we are overmedicated as a 
nation, we lose our empathy, the natural connection to humanity.

After 20 years of psychiatric practice, it's clear to me that women 
today need more soothing than ever. Beyond our jobs and families, we 
are exposed to traumas worldwide, courtesy of our phones. Our empathy 
goes out across the country to kids shot on campuses; globally, 
weapons bought with our taxes kill doctors and children. We are wired 
for empathy, but it is all too much. For many, psychiatric 
medications are a temporary Band-Aid; adding amphetamines is not 
going to help. For real solutions, we have to look beyond the 
prescription medical model and toward a more holistic approach.

With soaring drug prices and insurance premiums, it is no wonder a 
revolution is slowly brewing, with more Americans taking their health 
care into their own hands. They are rediscovering an herbal model of 
health care, using remedies with names like Phoenix Tears and 
Charlotte's Web. The medicinal cannabis community is growing, 
educating and supporting one another. There is no patenting a flower.

Cannabis is an ancient medicinal plant, a weed that cleans the air 
better than trees and puts nutrients into the soil. The crop yields 
tons of hemp seeds - a complete vegetarian protein, oil for biodiesel 
and fiber for paper, canvas, rope, building materials, compostable 
packaging, and the list goes on. Forget Donald Trump, hemp can make 
America great again.

And, of course, there's the flower of the female plant: a 
painkilling, anti-inflammatory, metabolism-regulating, 
cancer-killing, heart-opening medicine. Side effects include a shift 
in perception, a dehabituation that may help you reconnect to the 
earth, to your own body and to each other. Cannabis can help you to 
feel more, not less.

Am I suggesting you ditch the antidepressants, opiates and 
amphetamines in favor of a natural remedy? Not always. But the 
balance needs to shift. And I do at least want to pose the question: 
If we have a choice, isn't a natural mood better than a synthetic one? 
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom