Science helps a depressed teenager

“This Teen Was Prescribed 10 Psychiatric Drugs. She’s Not Alone.” (New York Times, yesterday):

One morning in the fall of 2017, Renae Smith, a high school freshman on Long Island, N.Y., could not get out of bed, overwhelmed at the prospect of going to school. In the following days, her anxiety mounted into despair.

Given the constant doomsaying of the NYT, wouldn’t the above be a sign of mental health, rather than of mental illness? Ms. Smith was informed that the Earth was melting and that her home in Long Island would be reclaimed by the ocean. Ms. Smith was informed that U.S. democracy was at an end and that Donald Trump would be ruling as a dictator indefinitely. Only a fool wouldn’t be anxious and desperate after reading these truths.

Intervention for her depression and anxiety came not from the divine but from the pharmaceutical industry. The following spring, a psychiatrist prescribed Prozac. The medication offered a reprieve from her suffering, but the effect dissipated, so she was prescribed an additional antidepressant, Effexor.

A medication cascade had begun. During 2021, the year she graduated, she was prescribed seven drugs. These included one for seizures and migraines — she experienced neither, but the drug can be also used to stabilize mood — and another to dull the side effects of the other medications, although it is used mainly for schizophrenia. She felt better some days but deeply sad on others.

Her senior yearbook photo shows her smiling broadly, “but I felt terrible that day,” said Ms. Smith, who is now 19 and attends a local community college. “I’ve gotten good at wearing a mask.”

Here’s her list of meds:

Let’s keep in mind that these are the same folks who say that they can tell when it is time for a teenager to transition, via drugs and irreversible surgery, to a different gender ID (from among the 74 recognized by medicine). And their brothers, sisters, and binary-resisters in other branches of medicine claim to know when it is time to shut down schools, forbid those who aren’t employed in marijuana stores from going to work, order the general public to wear masks, force people to take experimental drugs, etc.

This story, at least, seems likely to have a happy ending:

Her definition of success has changed. too. Whereas she had once thought about “being a doctor or a lawyer or things like that,” she said, now she works in a plant nursery and is applying to a four-year college with a focus on environmental and wildlife sciences.

“I like working with my hands,” Ms. Smith said. “I don’t want to work at a desk, and that’s what I thought I should be doing.” She added, “I’m not the same person that I was a year ago.”

9 thoughts on “Science helps a depressed teenager

  1. If you’re dating in a liberal billionaire state & don’t have any money, all the single women have depression & take all those drugs. The drugs are all placebos, but they make money for the doctors. The depression is real, definitely not Trump induced.

  2. As I’ve said before, I once worked for the Outpatient Psychiatry Department of a large Midwestern hospital. The slate of medications Renae Smith was taking throughout high school reminds me of the list of drugs that some of our worst, most desparate and fragile patients were prescribed, in most cases to keep them from falling off the Edge of the proverbial Earth and wind up being inpatients, suicide cases or suffering even worse fates.

    I get the impression that hers is a comparatively short list by this point, however. “ADDitude” Magazine (“Inside the ADHD Mind”) lists no fewer than 50 medications just to treat ADHD. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are kids walking around on there on 20 meds or more. And listen, any halfway smart kid on Long Island with Internet access can take charge of their treatment by visiting places like ADDitude magazine and suggesting medications to their doctor! Why not? They know approximately the same amount about what they’re doing.

    • True Story: While I was working there over the course of more than a year, I passed through a relatively short period of depression and anxiety which I considered 95% “situational” – meaning that I was worried about things like my next job, various domestic problems associated with supporting my -ex girlfriend, and long distance worries about my family back at home.

      I was good friends with one of the psychiatrists and he gave me an off-the-record treatment with just 25mg/day of Zoloft (sertraline) – a very low dose. He basically said: “Try it for six weeks and we’ll see if it helps.” He had a bunch of samples and gave them to me; they were 50mg tablets and I broke them in half.

      I have to say for a little while I did feel a difference. I could detect the short-term boost in my serotonin levels and I felt a little better. Things that used to be irritating weren’t, so much. After six weeks, the life situations improved and I decided that was enough. Then I had to experience the withdrawal, which I did by X-Acto knifing some 25mg tabs in half again, and then finally back to nothing. I never tried any others, and he agreed with me. I was acutely aware of the possibility of “med cascade” just from watching what I saw going on around me, and I wanted no part of that. At the time, I also did not drink alcohol, use any other recreational drugs, and I didn’t smoke.

      So do I think they can help? Yes. For some people, in some circumstances. But these “shotgun med” doctors out there who are just poking around inside people’s wetware with blunt instruments are, in my opinion, crazier than the people they’re trying to help.

    • BTW: If you look at how Smith’s medications changed during her high school years, you can see that medication are shift as some become less effective over time. People are switched to new meds that they haven’t tried yet, sometimes because the older meds become less effective at masking the symptoms they’re complaining about and sometimes because the patients invent new symptoms of their own, or legitimately develop something a doctor can say: “this nail will hit that symptom better, it’s a newer drug.” It works through a different subset of receptors, some take longer to alter themselves than others, etc.

      Once you are on the Cascade, it usually continues this way and in my experience only the best psychiatrists are good at that kind of multi-med management. The goal, ostensibly, should be to “cure” people and get them off the meds, but I don’t know how often that actually happens in reality.

      I can honestly say I don’t think they’re “curing” anything – they’re trying to keep the patients stable and improve their quality of life with the primitive tools they have – at the best. The worst ones just skim the literature, listen through the grapevine as it were, and prescribe the drugs. They can’t really be sued if others are doing something of the kind. I think that’s basically the modus operandi.

  3. Democrats want strict gun control, hold gun manufacturers and gun shops liable, but yet they are OK with drugging down Americans, praising drug manufacturers and Dr. for rampant prescriptions of so called “legal” drugs.

    Do they know that far more people die or get disabled from “prescription” drugs then guns?

    And don’t get me started about ads that tell a story in 30 seconds of how a “magical” drug will turn your life around overnight — you just have to ask your Dr. to write you a prescription. Those ads must be banned just like smoking ads were banned.

  4. My youngest kid was really shy, and while he talked fine to family, friends and private tutors we hired, he kept mostly quite as school with most teachers.

    So we had to fight off “we need your consent to screen him for autism” for years. Now he is doing just fine.

    I can only imagine what happens to families who are not smart enough and don’t have enough stamina to stand up to bureaucrats and administrators that try to take an easy way out to improve metrics instead of working with kids. (We this said, we also me some great and supportive teachers).

    I’m sure that for the kid in the article problem is environmental. If she was removed to the well-balanced, smaller community instead of being put on the addiction train, she would have done just fine. Now it’s too late.

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