On Topic: Drug dependent


Published: November 2006

The New York Times recently reported that the number of Americans taking antidepressants, such as Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft, is estimated to have tripled in the past 10 years to more than 10 million, making psychotropic drugs—which were first prescribed in January 1988—the most widely used category of prescription medication aside from those used to treat high cholesterol and heartburn. Increasingly, antidepressants are being prescribed not by psychiatrists but by primary care physicians. And not only adults take antidepressants. The Center for Disease Control in 2002 found that six percent of children were taking them, despite concerns about the suicidal thoughts such drugs may engender in some young people.

Boston College Sociology Professor David Karp’s Is It Me or My Meds? (Harvard University Press, 2006) examines these trends, reporting the stories, concerns, and advice of people—himself included—for whom taking antidepressants is a way of life. Recognizing the life–saving capabilities of these drugs, he also raises a number of issues: Why are so many Americans being prescribed psychotropic medication? Can people on antidepressants lose touch with their authentic personalities? Will the fact that growing numbers of people take these drugs eventually affect social norms?

On November 6 a panel of three experts gathered to discuss these issues and others for On Topic. Moderated by Ben Birnbaum, executive producer of @BC, the conversation featured Christopher Doran ’68, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and author of Prescribing Mental Health Medication: The Practitioner’s Guide ((Routledge, 2003); Kenneth Duckworth, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, medical director of Vinfen Corporation, which provides clinical psychiatric care to 3,000 adults and children, and medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which represents mental health consumers and their families in the U.S.; and Professor Karp, who has taught at Boston College since 1971, and is the author of a trilogy on the sociology of mental health, including Speaking of Sadness: Depression, Disconnection, and the Meanings of Illness (Oxford University Press, 1996) and The Burden of Sympathy: How Families Cope with Mental Illness (Oxford University Press, 2000).

This feature was posted on Tuesday, November 21, 2006 and is filed under Audio.
Executive Producer: Paul Dagnello