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In defense of happy pills.

Maia Szalavitz took heroin to stop depressing herself, and she now takes Zoloft for the same reason. She argues that the rewards of self-examination--and psychotherapy is not the only way to know oneself--are no different from the happiness she feels after ingesting Zoloft, and she seems bothered by statements in my book, Addiction Is a Choice: "I oppose the use of heroin for the same reason I oppose the use of Prozac. I think relying on these is an existential cop-out--a way of avoiding coping with life."

Yet Szalavitz never actually responds to what she considers worth quoting. She has chosen to take issue with me for criticizing the use of heroin and cocaine, and for pointing out the similarity with using Zoloft.

I believe there is a difference between spending 14 years training in the martial arts, receiving a black belt on the merits of effort and skill, and simply buying a black belt without working for it. Either way, the belts are black. Szalavitz seems to think the two are the same.

Certainly, she has a right to abstain from self-examination, just as people should be free to use drugs without penalty and without prescription. She doesn't seem to want to know how or why she is depressing herself; she refers to this as indulging oneself in meaningless pain and suffering. But understanding how a person makes herself depressed is key to changing the way she feels. Taking a drug that makes her feel good about herself is different from reaping the fruits of self examination.

Jeffrey A. Schaler

Department of Justice, Law and Society

School of Public Affairs

American University

Washington, D. C.

Maia Szalavitz argues: "Unlike in any other area of medicine, treatments that reduce pain and suffering, rather than being welcomed as miraculous breakthroughs, often are denigrated as quick fixes. They're viewed as band-aids that cover up, but do not solve, the real problem." But in other areas of medicine, sometimes treatments that could make patients feel better aren't used precisely because they could mask other problems that are potentially life-threatening.

Mike Swaim

Houston, TX
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Title Annotation:Letters
Author:Swam, Mike
Article Type:Letter to the Editor
Date:Jan 1, 2006
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