Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Personality Augmentations May Yield Undesirable Side Effects

Do you ever wish you could be more outgoing at parties? Or, more assertive at work? Do you often feel shy? A new type of elective treatment might be able to give you the personality of your dreams (and does not require a single incision)! It may sound like the newest pharmaceutical commercial, but some people are taking certain well-known prescription drugs in an attempt to make-over their personality-- but at what cost?

The term "cosmetic psychopharmacology" was first used by Peter Kramer MD, a psychiatrist at Brown University, in his book Listening to Prozac, published in 1993. In his book, Dr. Kramer describes a then-developing trend of prescribing anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication to patients without severe mental illness. Those people who were not considered depressed, as outlines by the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, who took Prozac, became more mentally alert and assertive, and according to Dr. Kramer "had an improved sense of well-being".

Prozac is not the only "personality make-over" medication. According to, Paxil, another anti-depressant, had the ability to decrease shyness; Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) medication like Straterra can make an unaffected person more alert. This may be the new age alcohol, nicotine or caffeine, but we already know many of the potential harms of those substances-- so what of these prescription drugs?

"I understand the great temptation in that people imagine this is the 'quick fix'-- as in less pain, more gain," says New York psychoanalyst Gail Saltz, MD (read the full story at She goes on to say, 'The downside that people aren't made aware of is that some of these anxiety drugs are truly addictive-- meaning that people have to keep taking increased amounts to get the same feeling and they can't stop without going through withdrawal...Antidepressants aren't addictive...but they do flatten a lot of people...You don't
feel depressed, but you don't feel joyful either.'

According to Prozac's official site, some of the drugs side effects include nausea, problem with sleep, nervousness, weakness, loss of appetite, tremors, dry mouth, sweating and decreased sexual desire and/or satisfaction. While this drug, as with many others, have proven help those diagnosed with mental illness, only a physician and his or her patient can decide what is best to treat any particular condition. While this is an interesting topic, we believe that one should always be aware of the risks of these prescription drugs, and that anyone who takes them should undergo a licensed medical doctor's evaluation and proper diagnosis with a full explanation of risks, benefits, side effects and alternatives in treatment.

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