Day: April 12, 2007

Sex, Love, and SSRIs

“Doctors have been grappling with sexual dysfunction since SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) were introduced in the 1980s. Approximately 70 percent of people taking SSRIs suffer from sexual side effects. But these drugs may also compromise the ability to feel love.

Rutgers University anthropologist Helen Fisher, for one, believes SSRIs are wreaking havoc on human courtship. SSRIs alleviate depression by upping the levels of serotonin in the brain and curbing the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Unfortunately, dopamine is also responsible for the feelings of elation and ecstasy that accompany falling in love. By suppressing dopamine, Fisher argues, drugs like Prozac block your ability to have these feelings, thus making it harder to fall in love and stay in love.

…Even if you’re one of the lucky ones who manage to find love while taking SSRIs, you still have some obstacles to overcome, says Fisher. …[You] may lose the ability to orgasm, and this could cause long-term relationship issues. Orgasms trigger the release of the hormone oxytocin—one that has been linked with pair bonding. Indeed, those who fail to orgasm, thanks to SSRIs, may be at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to mating and bonding.” (Psychology Today)

Of course, this becomes much more of a problem in an era of “cosmetic psychopharmacology” in which the distinction between tweaking a blue mood and treating a clinical depression has been lost. Those who are clinically depressed and truly require antidepressant treatment are usually in no position for love and bonding at this time in their lives in the first place. This issue highlights just one of my misgivings about the potential indiscriminate overuse of these medications.

Shell Shocked

A Shock Wave of Brain Injuries: “IEDs have added a new dimension to battlefield injuries: wounds and even deaths among troops who have no external signs of trauma but whose brains have been severely damaged. Iraq has brought back one of the worst afflictions of World War I trench warfare: shell shock. The brain of a soldier exposed to a roadside bomb is shocked, truly.

About 1,800 U.S. troops, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, are now suffering from traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) caused by penetrating wounds. But neurologists worry that hundreds of thousands more — at least 30 percent of the troops who’ve engaged in active combat for four months or longer in Iraq and Afghanistan — are at risk of potentially disabling neurological disorders from the blast waves of IEDs and mortars, all without suffering a scratch.

For the first time, the U.S. military is treating more head injuries than chest or abdominal wounds, and it is ill-equipped to do so. According to a July 2005 estimate from Walter Reed Army Medical Center, two-thirds of all soldiers wounded in Iraq who don’t immediately return to duty have traumatic brain injuries.” (Washington Post 4/6/07)