The Spectacle Blog

Re: Defending Happy-Pills

By on 12.13.05 | 6:28PM

Tabin: Now appears to be the time to stand athwart outrage and yell Stop. First in doing so I must present my credentials as someone who takes pain seriously. I have touched despair and brushed tragedy, though thankfully not endured terrorism. Though neither earth-shattering trauma nor the subsequent resort to Paxil (or anything else) is silly, what does have a whiff of silliness about it is a serious attack on a comic attack, the sort of which the reasonable reader might sense from a piece that goes out on a note of zombie prom nights.

But, as is true of all good caricatures, the point of departure is truth: in this case, the observation that Paxil is one (but not the only one) overprescribed or over-the-counter drug meant to counteract the overreaching "symptoms" of overdiagnosed disorders. The symptom of paralyzing fear is as indicative of a need for medication as the symptom of uneasiness in strange or intimidating situations is not.

Behaving otherwise is as absurd as the determination that an attack on Paxil and its uses is an attack on pain and its sufferers. John Steinbeck remembered, too, that you can smother with kisses. Someone who sweats their way through a speech does not need a coterie of physicians and psychologists to push their way through the crowd shouting about his life being in danger: "Give him some air!" Indeed -- what the truly non-traumatized need most is not a place at the till but a breath of fresh air, free from our cultural pathology of coping without cure.

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