The Islamic Post Blog

Dr. Jemille: Psychoactive Medication: Why is it so hard to quit? by Khalida

Dr. Jemille Wasi, Islamic Post Staff Writer

On a daily basis I have patients who come to the office asking for every type of psychoactive medication known to man.  The most popular ones on the list include antidepressants, antixylotics (for anxiety), and pain medications.  A great majority of these individuals are not even suffering from the conditions that these medications are, so-said, designed to treat.
Worldwide this problem has become so great, and now it is even spilling over into our microcosmic Islamic community.  People go to the doctors with all of their various complaints and issues, and most of the time we are sent home with some type of medication.  What a lot of people don’t know —and are sadly quite often not told by many doctors— is the addiction potential of these medications. Chemical dependency is an issue that affects many countries in the world today.  In the past most drugs of addiction were of the recreational variety.  Now the trend is that prescription drugs are becoming the major agents of abuse.  These medications are given on a daily basis to treat a multitude of medical conditions. Most of these drugs have the potential to create chemical dependency, and this is a fact that I see on a daily basis.
The threshold between therapeutic levels of drug, and amounts that produce side effects, is a balance that doctors tightrope everyday. Most doctors know the side effects, and the dependency potential, but continue to prescribe these drugs because of the apparent “benefits outweigh the risk.”
This is particularly problematic for psychological conditions because the true etiology of these conditions is under-recognized in the medical community. This leads to the prescribing of drugs for conditions that are not truly understood by the medical community at large so the benefits cannot assuredly be determined.
The evidence that is used to continue to prescribe these drugs is rooted in tests that are performed on animals or trials in which human beings are given the drug and asked about the desired effects.  Most of the people involved in these studies are not asked what they feel. Nevertheless, many people who test pharmaceutical drugs—or most patients who have tried these drugs —often report not feeling anything at all, a feeling of numbness to everything around them.
Added to this, many of these drugs cause euphoria.
The end result is that patients receive likely addicting drugs that may or may not work for their particular condition, but leave the patient numb and euphoric in many cases. Here lie two common problematic symptoms of drug addiction.
So why are these drugs addictive?  It is believed that most of these drugs act in the brain by replacing deficient amounts of natural occurring chemicals.  In route to doing this they are said to act on the so called Emotion and Reward centers in the brain that are thought to be responsible for emotional elevation and making one feel good about themselves.  Also these drugs are said to block unwanted emotional responses such as anxiety and sadness. Additionally there is the social aspect.  There is a negative stigma associated with recreational drugs of abuse. This is not the case for prescription drugs.  Not only is it socially acceptable, it is often championed for people to be on these medications.  Moreover those who promote the drugs create desperation in the patient to keep taking it.  Added to this is the constant bombardment of drug companies advertisements persuading us about the benefits of their drug. Have you seen those commercials where someone is happily skipping along the beach after taking the medication?  Do you also notice the comforting, sly way in which they tell you about the side effects?
Conversely this issue affects the medical profession itself. Many doctors and nurses are finding themselves addicted to the same medicines that they are prescribing to their patients.  The number of medical personnel afflicted by prescription drug dependency increases everyday.  This has led to more exposure given to the matter.
It may not surprise some to know that addiction to prescription drugs is now outweighing dependency to recreational drugs worldwide.
This growing trend has spilled over into the Muslim community.  Some of us have strayed away from our traditional values and means of dealing with health issues, only to fall victim to this ever-growing plague.  It is sad to know that there are members of the Islamic community dependent on pain medications and antidepressants.
This downward spiral of addiction needs to be stopped.  People need to take a more active approach at trying to understand exactly what they are taking and why.  We have to continue to try bringing to the forefront the true nature of some of these diseases in order to benefit mankind in finding adequate cures. In our own households and communities we need to care for and support one another so that the desire and need to seek these interventions become unnecessary.  As Muslims we cannot be concerned for only our community but we must take the position of El Sheikh Gilani and show concern for all of mankind. Let the addiction end and the recovery begin.  As always only from Allah, Glorified is He, the Most High, can we be healed!


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