the Disillusioned kid: Red Pill / Blue Pill?
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Monday, December 13, 2004

Red Pill / Blue Pill?

There have been several stories in the past week looking at the use of antidepressants in the UK. There have been concerns about the safety of these drugs and further concerns about the level of usage of such substances. The Guardian quoted, public affairs director at mental health charity Rethink, Mr Brook who expressed concern about the fact that prescriptions for such drugs had risen to 13 million over the last decade and asked, "What is the influence of the pharmaceutical companies in creating this situation through marketing, and how effectively have they been regulated and overseen?"

I don't doubt for a minute that drugs companies would pursue strategies which were contrary to the needs of those they claim they are seeking to help. You only need to look at the machinations they have gone through to prevent third-world countries using generic versions of anti-retrovirals for treatment of HIV positive patients to see how little they care for the wellbeing of those with illnesses. Nonetheless, I wonder if there is not a more fundamental question raised by the story: Can we avoid the conclusion that there is something wrong about a society in which 13 million people feel they need medication for medical illness? That's quite apart from any others in therapy or who haven't received any treatment.

Marxists might attribute the problem to "alienation" stemming from our relationship to the means of production. I wouldn't be so pretentious, but I do think that the realities of modern, post-industrial capitalism are probably psychologically harmful. We work long hours for crap pay and typically have little to show for it at the end of the day. Those of us not yet assimilated into the workforce must pass through an increasingly exam-orientated education system which places more value on our ability to jump throught the right hoops then in genuine personal development. Outside our respective institutions we face a constant compulsion on the part of the dominant media to conform to a manufactured image of beauty or manliness. None of this is natural and I doubt it's very good for us.

In the face of all of this we have two choices. We either carry on taking our medication and continue in blissful ignorance or we take the bull by the horns, smash capitalism and get on with reclaiming our humanity.

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