Millions of Americans have taken antidepressants for many years. What happens when it’s time to stop?
Laura Delano recognized that she was “excellent at everything, but it didn’t mean anything,” her doctor wrote. She grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut, one of the wealthiest communities in the country. Her father is related to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and her mother was introduced to society at a débutante ball at the Waldorf-Astoria. In eighth grade, in 1996, Laura was the class president—she ran on a platform of planting daffodils on the school’s grounds—and among the best squash players in the country. She was one of those rare proportional adolescents with a thriving social life. But she doubted whether she had a “real self underneath.”
The oldest of three sisters, Laura felt as if she were living two separate lives, one onstage and the other in the audience, reacting to an exhausting performance. She snapped at her mother, locked herself in her room, and talked about wanting to die. She had friends at school who cut themselves with razors, and she was intrigued by what seemed to be an act of defiance. She tried it, too. “The pain felt so real and raw and mine,” she said.
According to recent studies, more than seventy percent of adolescents who abuse psychoactive substances also have one or more psychiatric disorders. Many of them continue to use illicit substances while on a regimen of prescribed medication, and there is clear potential for dangerous interactions.
Although there is a prevailing theory that teen substance abuse is actually an attempt to self-medicate underlying psychiatric issues, a recent meta-analysis contradicts this, concluding, however, that use of street drugs can in fact exacerbate the issues being treated. Therefore, even in the absence of problematic interaction, adding street drugs to a prescribed regimen is a bad strategy. more