An Open Letter to Glamour about “The Pill That Made Me Happy, Horny & Skinny.”

Via on Jul 27, 2012
Photo: iris[ux]

Antidepressants are not glamorous.

Glamour recently published a blog post called “True Health Confession: ‘The Pill That Made Me Happy, Horny and Skinny…,’” detailing one woman’s (non-normative) experience with the antidepressant Wellbutrin.

The article started with making mention of the fact that the makers of Wellbutrin, GlaxoSmithKline, were fined three billion dollars for inaccurate marketing and branding of the drug. Glaxo reps were pushing it as a “happy, horny, skinny” pill, and Dr. Drew Pinsky was paid to promote the drug’s libido-boosting effects to the media.

The article then goes on to quote one woman who had a positive experience with Wellbutrin, noting that Glaxo reps pushed it as a “happy, horny, skinny pill,” and claiming that she had experienced all of these “desirable” side effects. She was prescribed the pill to help her quit smoking.

(Incidentally, Glamour ran an article in the September 2009 issue, where Dr. Michael F. Roizen recommended that readers try Wellbutrin in conjunction with nicotine patches in order to kick their cigarette habit. And yes, this is an FDA approved use of the drug.)

The author of the latest post, Sarah Jio, mentioned that she thought it was a bit much to call the pill a “happy, horny, skinny” pill, and also mentioned that antidepressants often have undesirable side effects. However, she didn’t list any—or how potentially severe they can be.

The main focus of this post is on the positive experience that one woman had, and it makes the pill sound downright glamorous, when in fact, the majority of readers commenting on the post mentioned adverse side effects in their experiences with Wellbutrin and/or other antidepressants.

I applaud Sarah Jio’s intention to start a dialogue on antidepressant use, but the conversation that has been started needs to be changed—antidepressants are not to make you happy, horny, and skinny—ask Glaxo, they just got fined three million dollars because of the inaccuracy and irresponsibility of this marketing tactic.

So why is Glamour picking up where Dr. Drew left off?

The article’s headline and content is just as inaccurate, misleading and irresponsible as Dr. Drew’s paid promotion of the drug as a libido-booster.

“Take Wellbutrin, and you too can be skinny, happy and sexy like the dangerously thin, unrealistic airbrushed models in the pages of our glossy magazine,” it seems to suggest.

There’s nothing glamorous about America’s overreliance on pharmaceutical interventions, nor is there anything glamorous about how the drug companies are making billions keeping the nation on drugs.

That’s what happens when you get on an antidepressant for anxiety or addiction or depression—you’re generally looking at long-term usage. The pills don’t work for everyone, and almost 50 percent of patients require a dose modification or other prescription change before any improvement is seen. Most pills take up to 12 weeks for any therapeutic effects to be felt, and you can generally expect to stay on them for at least six months after you start feeling better. Some people will stay on antidepressants their entire lives.

Without the pills to manage the symptoms, they are apt to return—what do you do then?

Physicians should advise their patients who are struggling with depression, anxiety, and addiction to try alternative treatments before prescribing antidepressants.

Patients should advocate for themselves and ask the doctor for alternative and/or complementary therapies if they are not offered.  If the doctor seems intent on pushing pills, don’t hesitate on getting a second opinion.

Medication should be a last resort and it should ideally be paired with complementary treatment—psychotherapy in addition to practices that are sustainable for the patient, such as dietary changes, a yoga/exercise program, EFT, meditation and other mindfulness practices offer the same benefits—without the risk of dangerous side effects like seizures.

These programs work if you are committed to working them!

But, alas, an astounding number of Americans are on antidepressants.

Women are two and a half times more likely to be taking antidepressants than men. Data suggests that antidepressant use has skyrocketed by 400 percent since the late 1980s. It’s estimated that one out of ten Americans is on antidepressants.

To Sarah Jio and Glamour, once again, I commend you for wanting to start a dialogue about antidepressant use. As the author mentioned in her post, “The more we know and can talk about benefits, side effects, complaints and shared stories, the better off we are, gals.”

Please accept my response as an invitation to help you help your readers have an honest conversation—an honest conversation is going to include the good, the bad and the ugly.

Photo: Latin Temptation

Naturally, women who want to be happier, hornier, and/or skinnier are going to be drawn to Ms. Jio’s blog because of the captivating headline.

Instead of featuring what seems to be largely pro-pill commentary, why not mention that there are other ways to be happier, hornier, and/or skinnier without popping pills—especially since this pill was never intended to be marketed in the manner that Glamour presented it in.

Offer your readers sustainable solutions—it doesn’t take but a moment to include a blurb at the end with a few links letting readers know that there are evidence based alternatives to antidepressants that work, because many people who end up on antidepressants do experience side effects, and very few of them are “desirable,” like the ones mentioned in this article.

Here’s to changing the conversation and empowering women.

Please don’t think you need to be “skinny” or that you need a pill to be happy, horny or healthy. You are enough and beautiful as you are…that’s glamour. If you want to make changes in your life to be happier, hornier and healthier, rely on your beautiful, amazing self—not a pill. 

Note:  If you are suffering from depression, anxiety, addiction, do not hesitate to see your doctor and seek professional assistance. Have no shame in your game, girl. Seeking a professional opinion is relying on your beautiful, amazing self—you are the expert on you, and it’s an act of self-love to take care of yourself. If a doctor recommends antidepressants, so be it—but be open to trying alternative and/or complementary therapies.

Editor: Lynn Hasselberger

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About April Dawn Ricchuito

April Dawn Ricchuito, MSW was once the type of girl whose idea of “soul searching” was shoe shopping. Today, she's more about the pursuit of happiness, radiance, and a natural glow from within that can't be achieved with bronzer. She has been recognized as a part of "Generation Inspiration" and is also named as one of 20 Young Champions for Women by the White Ribbon Alliance and WIE Symposium, presented by Donna Karan and Arianna Huffington. You can follow April on Twitter or visit her on Tumblr or at Verbal Vandalism to check out her latest written works.

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22 Responses to “An Open Letter to Glamour about “The Pill That Made Me Happy, Horny & Skinny.””

  1. Thanks for writing this, April. My Ob-gyn offered me Wellbutrin after the birth of my daughter. I was feeling exhausted and agitated with constant headaches (turned out to be anemia & migraines). After reading some of the warnings, I decided I didn't want to take it—so glad! We are a very quick fix oriented society when it comes to our health. Scary!

    • April Dawn says:

      Good research Kate! Some people just take whatever their doctor says and go for it, without trying other alternatives first. My gyn offered me antidepressants for my endometriosis pain because of their effect on the central nervous system. I just kind of gave him this look and he dropped it, lol.

  2. giannakali says:

    Another thing that's omitted in the article is the horribly atrocious time some people have in discontinuing antidepressants…some significant minority (of the multi-millions of people on drugs) can develop disabling withdrawal syndromes upon coming off SSRIs and SNRIs…while Welbutrin isn't known for as severe withdrawal syndromes, it too can cause problems in some when discontinued.

    Thanks for sharing this with people at Elephant…it's not talked about enough. Not that it surprises me at all that such drivel would be in Glamour.

    • April Dawn says:

      Agreed! I didn't include everything because I didn't want to turn it into a complete pharmaceutical discussion; I just wanted to bring up enough information that people can see how/why this IS an important discussion. But yes, that's such an excellent point you have! :)

  3. We live in a 'rescue me' culture. Most people would prefer to take a pill than invest in themselves with exercise, meditation and any kind of personal responsibility. As a health and wellness coach I ask people one question, "if you had all the energy and happiness possible what would you be doing? Most people have no idea how to create an intention where they would be involved. Too many are waiting for a pill, doctor or spiritual advisor to make them happy. People only change when they are forced to and some not even then.

  4. Analia says:

    I am a graduate student working on my PhD in pharmacology and neuroscience. I'm leaving this comment because this article is exactly what feeds the uninformed lay person ideas that are ultimately going to cause them harm. Depression is an impairment of neurological function on a molecular level that can be measured and reproduced in laboratory research. A person who is diagnosed as clinically depressed has measurable impairment in the function of neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine.The only way to effectively help this person is to provide them with a medicine that helps to reverse this molecular deficit. The reason it takes weeks to months to take effect is because it takes time for your body to respond to the medicine and through gene transcription, create new receptors and new neurotransmitters.
    A change in diet and increased exercise will obviously benefit anyone, including someone who may be suffering from depression. However, as someone who is involved in drug research, I'll let you in on a little secret. There is no grand scheme by these major pharma companies or the government or anybody to steal your money and stuff you full of drugs. The goal is to help other human beings in the best way possible, which is through evidence-based, peer reviewed clinically researched science.

    • Mala Mai says:

      Analia,

      Just to be sure that you understand; there are many paths to the same place. If I were you, I would probably let it go and go on my merry way making tons of money. For the rest of us, I think that it is important to follow the trail of money. That is an evidence based approach.
      Look at Monsanto. They will so the best job they can to convince you that getting rid of pests can only be achieved by utilizing RoundUp and that the best way to do use RoundUp is to buy RoundUp Ready seed. However, with an integrated crop management program, no chemical pesticides are necessary and the crop can produce just as much as a chemically infused one.
      It's the same with pharmaceutical companies. Our bodies, minds, and spirits are interconnected and with a proper self management program that is holistic and focuses on true wellness rather than symptoms, I believe that our nation's pharmaceutical dependency would decrease drastically.
      You are looking at the data provided to you by other scientists who have also bought in. On this forum, you are preaching to a group of people, many of whom have recovered from their depression through diet, exercise, herbs, yoga, meditation and other holistic modalities. We don't buy what you say because we KNOW from experience that it's not true.
      I'm not saying that some people may not need the extra boost that Wellbutrin and other antidepressants can provide. Or that they may not really help some people. I'm just saying that the majority of people who are prescribed them probably have quite a few lifestyle changes to make before it can be properly determined as to whether they really need pills or not.
      Do you get what I'm saying?
      I hope so.

      • April Dawn says:

        Mala, great points. Monsanto is also an excellent example to use. We really do live in a country where healthcare is not focused on wellness, but on managing illness instead.

        The good news is that according to the National Institute of Health (NIH), the use of complementary alternative medicines (CAMs) is increasing; both in patients' self referrals and referrals from healthcare professionals.

        More and more healthcare professionals are turning towards holistic modalities as they begin to learn about them; so it's important to keep having these discussions!

    • Jennifive says:

      @Analia: what blood tests are conducted to link behavior and feelings with the neurotransmitters’ mentioned levels? How do neurologists and drug companies detect when the chemical imbalance has corrected itself and when new neural pathways have been developed which lead to behaviors other than a person’s previous depressive pattern?

    • April Dawn says:

      Hi Analia, Thank you for voicing your opinion. I also come from an academic background that includes psychology, neuropsychology, and psychopharmacology.

      While I agree with you that depression can be diagnosed via a measurable impairment in NT function, a large majority of people who are on antidepressants are not diagnosed via such quantified measures. In fact, some are not even diagnosed by a mental health professional, but by their family physicians. This means that there probably are people who are being misdiagnosed and medically mismanaged. Antidepressant use has skyrocketed since the late 1980's- either society is becoming largely mentally ill, or there is some serious pill pushing going on; I'm in favor of the latter.

      There's also the push on practitioners to make a diagnosis; with managed care, some practitioners wouldn't get paid if they didn't input a diagnosis; this is something else that is partially responsible for the trend in diagnostics.

      Back to the NT thing, due to the brain's plasticity, NT impairment can be rectified without medication, using dietary changes and behaviors that promote an increase in serotonin, dopamine, etc.

      Ex, from one of my upcoming articles in Social Work Today- "In 2010, American Family Physician published an article recognizing that yoga is a legitimate treatment for depression and anxiety. More recent studies have shown that yoga increases the levels of the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain by more than 27 percent. This is significant because people who are suffering from stress, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse are all found to have low levels of GABA."

      If there is no grand scheme by major pharma companies to sell their products, then there wouldn't be a $3 billion dollar case against Glaxo for misrepresenting and mismarketing their drugs. Big pharma's goal is the same as any other business: Make the most money they can make.

      Please beware of stakeholders when doing research; there are medical schools, programs, and clinical trials who actually receive their funding from pharmaceutical companies; even some "peer reviewed" studies have later been dismissed because of manipulation by drug companies.

      As far as evidence-based research, antidepressants prove to be fully effective in 30% to 40% of patients.

      Like one of the other commentators mentioned, there are many paths to the same destination. This article was not meant to deter one from choosing antidepressants, but rather elaborate on a harmful article about Wellbutrin being a "happy, horny, skinny pill" and provide readers with other alternatives that they may not know about. Many people are aware of antidepressants; not as many are aware of the efficacy of alternative treatments in treating depression, anxiety, etc. "Many people" being not only patients, but medical professionals as well.

      Good luck in your studies!

  5. Sherry says:

    I think this is a good article, but I would also beware of the assumption that antidepressants are per se BAD. They can be – literally – life-saving. Certainly explore alternatives, but when a person is going through a major depression, it doesn’t help be down on his/her self for making the call to try an anti-depressant. Such a person is likely to be too hard on ones-self as it is. Personal experience.

    • April Dawn says:

      I agree Sherry! That's why I included the little blurb at the end. For the majority of the article, I was speaking mainly to those who are wanting the pill because of the "desirable" side effects that are being advertised by Dr. Drew, Glamour, and other media outlets. Thank you for sharing your experience here on the comments, by the way! :o)

  6. cathy says:

    Thank you author. yes, Grace. To Analia.. while it may nto seem to be a grand scheme to you, it is a pill which hides a problem.. of low feeling, depression, fear.. all of which can be sorted out or dealt with before becoming reliant on pills. It is no secret that big pharma make their money by selling pills. There are pills to counter side effects of the first pill and then those to ease the second one.. once on these pills how does one get off? They only cover situations.. or cause one to be dependent on them.

    Just because you say that the only way to increase serotonin, norepinephrine etc.. is to take pills does not make it true.. it may seem true to you, however. Ther eis a lot of research-based clinically researched positive results for accupuncture, talking modalities, good exercise, changing environment, nutrition, meditation.. many things can make a difference.

    • April Dawn says:

      Amen! :) Now if only we can get more studies and make the ones that have been done more widely circulated amongst medical schools and practitioners; although according to the NIH, the use of complementary alternative medicines (CAMs) are on the rise…this is a very good sign!

  7. Mike Myers says:

    The judgement referenced in the article was for 3 BILLION dollars. The largest judgment in the entire history of medicine. and these clowns missed that point? that tells me they missed the real point here… My ex was on anti depressants.. totally made her a whack job…. very sad…

    Mike Myers

  8. marcy says:

    for many people, anti-depressants are lifesavers and just "talking" the depression away or "exercising" it away or "lifestyling" it away will not be enough. They will help, but it will not be enough. And to lay that guilt trip on someone that is really trying to pull themselves out of the hole is a judgmental and holier than thou attitude.
    I totally get what April was saying in her article … antidepressants are not glamorous, they not happy pills or diet pills,and it was irresponsible of the drug company to market as such, but for some people these drugs are necessary and make life better.

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  11. Kris Vollmer says:

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