In “The elephant in the medicine cabinet” (Aug. 11), Paul John Scott suggests that “antidepressants are addictive drugs that do not work very well” and compares the benefits of taking a prescribed medication to the benefits of pet ownership.

It is a shame that Scott made this inaccurate statement, which could lead to greater incidence of people not being treated for a brain disease and increased risk of suicide for some who want to agree with him.

While there is some truth in the idea that some patients with mild depression or other forms of mental illness may not need medication, those diagnosed with severe forms of mental illness rely on medications not only to survive, but to help them return to normal lives — going to work, taking care of their family, and doing the things most people don’t think twice about.

Scott’s claims are at odds with the prevailing views and standards of practice within the mental-health community, including the National Institute of Mental Health, which has stated: “Many people with mental disorders live fulfilling lives with the help of [these] medications. Without them, people with mental disorders might suffer serious and disabling symptoms.”

Scott’s article also misses a major point by focusing only on what Americans spend on prescriptions rather than looking at the value medicines bring in helping control other health care spending.

Recent studies have shown that the appropriate use of medications can actually reduce overall health care costs by helping people avoid hospitalizations and expensive procedures. Specifically, when children with untreated mental disorders become adults, they use more health care services and incur higher health care costs than other adults.

And while I agree that too many of us want a quick fix to our problems, do you really believe even for a moment that pharmaceutical companies are creating pills that are going to hurt you? If they did, it wouldn’t take long before they were shut down, because those drugs wouldn’t be prescribed.

Discounting recent advances in medical treatments and those that are on the horizon does a disservice to the millions of people who benefit from medicines and the millions more whose conditions remain untreatable. It is for this reason that we should support ongoing medical research and efforts to advance the field of treatment, not dismiss them.

So take your dog for a walk to the lake, jump in and swim — and take the medication that was prescribed for you. Both will help you live a longer, happier and healthier life.


Daniel J. Reidenberg is executive director of Suicide Awareness Voices of Education.