Is It Me or My Meds?: Living with Antidepressants

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Overview

By the millennium Americans were spending more than 12 billion dollars yearly on antidepressant medications. Currently, millions of people in the U.S. routinely use these pills. Are these miracle drugs, quickly curing depression? Or is their popularity a sign that we now inappropriately redefine normal life problems as diseases? Are they prescribed too often or too seldom? How do they affect self-images?

David Karp approaches these questions from the inside, having suffered from clinical depression for most of his adult life. In this book he explores the relationship between pills and personhood by listening to a group of experts who rarely get the chance to speak on the matter--those who are taking the medications. Their voices, extracted from interviews Karp conducted, color the pages with their experiences and reactions--humor, gratitude, frustration, hope, and puzzlement. Here, the patients themselves articulate their impressions of what drugs do to them and for them. They reflect on difficult issues, such as the process of becoming committed to medication, quandaries about personal authenticity, and relations with family and friends.

The stories are honest and vivid, from a distraught teenager who shuns antidepressants while regularly using street drugs to a woman who still yearns for a spiritual solution to depression even after telling intimates "I'm on Prozac and it's saving me." The book provides unflinching portraits of people attempting to make sense of a process far more complex and mysterious than doctors or pharmaceutical companies generally admit.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Beginning with questions emerging from his own experience with psychiatric medication for depression, Karp (sociology, Boston Coll.; Speaking of Sadness: Depression, Disconnection, and the Meanings of Illness) addresses issues crucial to anyone using antidepressants. In particular, he explores the existential matter of selfhood. Since the purpose of psychiatric medication is to alter one's brain chemistry, in turn altering one's personality, what, then, constitutes one's real identity? In using antidepressants, does one achieve full selfhood-or become someone else altogether? This fundamental two-part question, touched on previously in Peter D. Kramer's Listening to Prozac, Lauren Slater's Prozac Diary, and Peter R. Breggin's Toxic Psychiatry, is hardly original, but Karp's approach stands out. Unlike many researchers, he relies on interviews, insisting-accurately, in this instance-that qualitative methods can yield better results than quantitative approaches in subjective areas. This allows for poignant commentary as interviewees voice their thoughts and fears concerning medication and authenticity. Highly recommended for all public and university library collections.-Lynne F. Maxwell, Villanova Univ. Sch. of Law Lib., PA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Arthur Kleinman
David Karp records voices of ordinary people with depression; in so doing he tells us what it's like to take one of the commonest types of drugs for one of the commonest disorders. And what it's like is as complex as people and depression are in America in our time. A revealing book!
Booklist - Donna Chavez
Laying bare his own lifelong struggle with depression and often having to juggle a veritable cocktail of drugs, Karp says he has often wondered whether his personality is his own or just some kicked-up by-product of the meds. Even though the answer remains elusive, at least for him, he seems to be in good company, and his story combines with the alternately plaintive and upbeat psychiatric drug experiences of 50 interviewees, all diagnosed with various mental illnesses, to put a poignant face behind the title question.
Cleveland Plain Dealer - Pam Lilley
In his sociological examination of the growing pill-popping population, Karp does not reveal himself to be for or against antidepressants. His bias is in favor of self authenticity, something frequently lost in medication.
Utne - Hannah Lobel
In a 21st-century spin on Cartesian dualism, many of the millions of Americans taking psychotropic drugs wonder where their "authentic" self ends and the "drugged" one begins. Or, as Boston College sociology professor David A. Karp puts it, "Is it me or my meds?" Karp doesn't answer with statistics from drug trials or clinical and academic studies. Instead, he uses 50 in-depth interviews with the "experts"--adults and teens who take drugs for mental illness. The common and divergent strands of their stories are pieced together in a study informed by current sociological literature and Karp's longtime struggle with his own drug regimen (his "partial victory" easing off his antianxiety and antidepression meds opens the book). The question posed in the title remains unanswered, though, perhaps because it's not an either/or proposition. Rather, Karp argues persuasively that "it" might just be us, our meds, and the society we live in.
The Lancet - Lindsay Banham
Karp sets out to weave the opinions he has collected from people who use psycho-tropic medication into a fascinating, incisive, and comprehensive essay. Indeed, the debate on psychiatric medications extends far beyond side-effects and drug effectiveness; incorporating questions of identity, social acceptance, the dominance of the biomedical model of disease, and the role of the drug industry in medicalising normal feelings for profit.
Booklist

Laying bare his own lifelong struggle with depression and often having to juggle a veritable cocktail of drugs, Karp says he has often wondered whether his personality is his own or just some kicked-up by-product of the meds. Even though the answer remains elusive, at least for him, he seems to be in good company, and his story combines with the alternately plaintive and upbeat psychiatric drug experiences of 50 interviewees, all diagnosed with various mental illnesses, to put a poignant face behind the title question.
— Donna Chavez

Cleveland Plain Dealer

In his sociological examination of the growing pill-popping population, Karp does not reveal himself to be for or against antidepressants. His bias is in favor of self authenticity, something frequently lost in medication.
— Pam Lilley

Utne

In a 21st-century spin on Cartesian dualism, many of the millions of Americans taking psychotropic drugs wonder where their "authentic" self ends and the "drugged" one begins. Or, as Boston College sociology professor David A. Karp puts it, "Is it me or my meds?" Karp doesn't answer with statistics from drug trials or clinical and academic studies. Instead, he uses 50 in-depth interviews with the "experts"—adults and teens who take drugs for mental illness. The common and divergent strands of their stories are pieced together in a study informed by current sociological literature and Karp's longtime struggle with his own drug regimen (his "partial victory" easing off his antianxiety and antidepression meds opens the book). The question posed in the title remains unanswered, though, perhaps because it's not an either/or proposition. Rather, Karp argues persuasively that "it" might just be us, our meds, and the society we live in.
— Hannah Lobel

The Lancet

Karp sets out to weave the opinions he has collected from people who use psychotropic medication into a fascinating, incisive, and comprehensive essay. Indeed, the debate on psychiatric medications extends far beyond side-effects and drug effectiveness; incorporating questions of identity, social acceptance, the dominance of the biomedical model of disease, and the role of the drug industry in medicalising normal feelings for profit. The more I read, the more I agreed with Karp; taking a pill, is not simply taking a pill. Karp explores the conflicting concerns facing those who are prescribed such treatment. Is It Me or My Meds? offers doctors an insight into the difficult choices their patients face, but its greatest value may lie in showing those who take antidepressants that they are not alone. Understanding patients' views on this issue is an important part of deciding whether the U.S. public should be prescribed another $12 billion dollars of antidepressants next year.
— Lindsay Banham

Lancet

Karp sets out to weave the opinions he has collected from people who use psycho-tropic medication into a fascinating, incisive, and comprehensive essay. Indeed, the debate on psychiatric medications extends far beyond side-effects and drug effectiveness; incorporating questions of identity, social acceptance, the dominance of the biomedical model of disease, and the role of the drug industry in medicalising normal feelings for profit.

— Lindsay Banham

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674021822
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/2006
  • Edition description: ANN
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

David A. Karp is Professor of Sociology at Boston College, and the author of Speaking of Sadness: Depression, Disconnection, and the Meanings of Illness and The Burden of Sympathy: How Families Cope with Mental Illness.
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Table of Contents

Prologue: Doxepin Diary

1. Giving Voice

2. Unwelcome Careers

3. Married to Medication

4. Searching for Authenticity

5. Significant Others

6. Teens Talk

7. High on Drugs

Epilogue: Lessons from the Inside

Appendix A: Getting Stories Straight

Appendix B: Commonly Prescribed Drugs for Anxiety and Depression

Notes

Acknowledgments

Index

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