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This past February, Whitney Houston was found dead with Xanax and alcohol in her system.  In her hotel room she had prescription drugs including Xanax, Valium, and Ativan, all anti-depressants.  Anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, and insomnia drugs are becoming a depressing, anxiety creating nightmare!

These drugs bring in about $16 billion a year, with 10 % of Americans taking some anti-depressant.  How could that many people need that much medication for mood disorders?  Where there are enormous profits to be made, there is a way.  First, a huge array of normal life experiences and normal life reactions have been declared “diseases”.   Do you miss a loved one when they are away?  That is Separation Anxiety Disorder (code 309.21).  Bad dreams?  That is Nightmare Disorder (code 307.47).  Just feeling a little blue?  That’s General Anxiety Disorder (300.02).  Once something has a name and a billing code, your doctor can prescribe drugs to treat it.

So what is the problem with taking a little something to ease life’s ups and downs?  An estimated 27,000 people a year die from accidental drug overdoses in the U.S., or one death every 19 minutes!  A 2010 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that anti-depressants were basically useless for all but the most severe symptoms.  Placebos performed just as well for most of the issues these drugs are prescribed for – but with a lot less side effects.   And all too often, the side effects are much worse than the initial complaint, including paranoia, hallucinations, violence, and suicide.

OK, life is stressful these days.  Stress is a real issue.  So let me offer some safer, healthier, and more effective alternatives to drugs that might drive you to suicide.   There are a number of herbs that have both a long history and clinical research showing their effectiveness.  Rhodiola is an herb that reduces stress and improves concentration.  Hops is calming and soothing.  Gota Kola, Passiflora, and valerian root have long been used to treat anxiety, depression, and insomnia.  You may find herbal supplements containing blends of these herbs in health food stores.

Exercise is a great anti-depressant, with many side-benefits.  Yoga offers both physical exercise and mental relaxation.  Improving your diet – less refined sugar and flour, more whole fruits and vegetables – can make a huge difference.   There are people with severe pychiatric conditions for whom pharmaceuticals can be the best treatment.  But for many millions of Americans, the only ones benefiting from their prescriptions are the drug companies.