Editorial Note

Over the next week or two, most of the 'DISCUSSION' boxes on this site will be closed down - leaving a single site for all comments. Existing messages will be transferred to it.. The three mailboxes linked to the question, "Is this a true and fair view?" will stay for the time being, empty shrines.

The switchover should be straightforward, except perhaps for visitors who enter the website via one of the many existing discussion sites. This will no longer be a good way in: we recommend you bookmark the WHAT'S NEW? or HOME PAGE or the CONTENTS PAGE, instead.

The reasons for this change will be clear to regular visitors. It is not convenient having messages strewn over the site, especially when they come in sporadically. We hope the new system will prove convenient and encourage more discussion.

It's seems both surprising, and not, that messages are so few and far between. Software limitations would have something to do with it; it's not hard to end up defeated. (Hence the empty messages [eg Article 14] you sometimes see. These arrive when visitors click on the POST [= SEND] button, before writing anything. In future, we will signpost them: "A VOID". Alas, we can't remove them without disabling the system for keeping messages threaded and in date order.)

In spite of these frustrations, readership grows: the site attracted over 5,000 visits in August, not that you would know it from the trickle of messages received. Regular lurkers include manufacturers and regulators, as well as many academics, journalists and health professionals (with no few psychopharmacologists among them). So why do virtually all comments come from users? Would it be raising heads too high above the parapet to discuss even this?


Value of discussion

Many thanks to everyone who has contributed: your messages and comments add colour and perspective. They explain in human terms what all this private-view wrestling is all about. The real downside of the bureaucracy, self-interest and lack of intellectual hygiene is ill-health. Some letters seem to convey this more vividly than reams of correspondence with the authorities. They are devalued by skimming (par for this medium); they should be read.

It would be a mistake to dismiss these letters just as 'anecdotal evidence'. They give illuminating testimony, where the authorities and experts have provided virtually none. They describe both problems, and the lack of them, as honestly as you will find.

Perhaps my head defers too much to the gut on this one, but I don't think so. Some of these messages have a ring of truth that is missing in many more authoritative communications. Here's an extract from one (J. Meyer, 21 August). See what you think:

"I am a former antidepressant user, and can tell you it was very hard to quit, I had to try three different times over three years before my resolve was strong enough to accept the "consequences". And in all honesty … I don't think I would have carried through this last time had it not been for stumbling across this page in the middle of one night in desperate search for information. I realized then that what I was feeling was not my own intrinsic "mental illness", but possibly withdrawal from a medication. And so I rode out the storm, keeping this in mind at all times and looking toward the future. It has been three+ months now and I am feeling GOOD! More in control of myself, more clear, and for the most part, contrary to psych. predictions, happy. I was told at one time that due to my "illness" I would in all probability have to be on antidepressants the rest of my life. Incredible really. Perhaps it is even bordering on the insane. I am also especially alarmed and saddened at the posts around the internet that bespeak "dependence" as you have listed via DSM-IV. It is frightening to see the amount of people who are desperately searching for relief by going from one med to another, one dose to another, etc. It makes me very sad to know that lives are perhaps being wasted in this way. Perhaps some are being saved; but if the usage is in the long term, I believe this is a big 'perhaps'."


The more you read this, the more it says it all.


Charles Medawar
27 August 1998
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