Sunday, June 26, 2005

Cruise and Lauer spat

I've really liked Tom Cruise as an actor ever since I saw him in Top Gun, though admit to finding, what I can only call, these 'public performances' with his newest woman (and now fiancee) to be rather contrived, certainly contrived enough to arouse my Irish suspicions as to whether there is any point to be proven behind it all. In fact, the way he sucked at her face and kept returning for more while on the red carpet in London was within a hair's breath of putting me off the dark chocolate mousse I was scarfing down at the time, and nothing but the most nauseating spectacles and smells come between dark chocolate mousse and me.

By chance, I caught him in a recent interview with Matt Lauer on The Today Show. and was similarly fascinated. It's fair to say Cruise took control (no pun intended) of the interview--this may be an interview technique he's mastered--which had steered into the arena of abuse of prescription drugs such as 'Ritalin' in American society. And, not only was he annoyed by what he called Lauer's support of the use of Ritalin--which I honestly did not see conveyed--but he also stated Psychiatry was 'pseudo science.' At one point he even said Lauer was being 'glib.'

I cannot speak to whether psychiatry is 'pseudo science' or not because I have not studied the matter sufficiently, though Cruise stated he had the facts and knowledge and it was absolutely so. Additionally, I will say upfront that I have no interest in Scientology, but I do agree with Cruise that there is a destructive tendency to overprescribe medications in society, particularly American society. Many children, perhaps because they are overly energetic or disruptive in some way, are being too quickly diagnosed as having ADD and ADHD, and bottles and bottles of 'Ritalin' and other similar medications are being dished out without any real thought as to long term consequences on the child. Cruise would appear to have firsthand knowledge about which he speaks because he was a child with extremely high energy levels, and his mother was told by doctors to put him on medications and refused. Later, he was in fact diagnosed as dyslexic.

With the safety of some prominent drugs called into question, (necessitating their removal from the market by order of the FDA--that institution being put under the microscope rightly too, currently) it is indeed worrying that we have become too overly dependent on drugs, that we have been on course toward becoming a 'prescription drug' society for far too long now. It is time to step back and demand meaningful accountability from the overseers of the pharmaceutical industry. With profitability must come real responsibility. It is time to stop the outrageous amount of prescription drug advertisements on primetime telly and in magazines, advertisements thinly disguised as educational but primarily intended to spur ill-informed patients to bring enormous pressure on their doctors to prescribe the marketed drug. For too long I've also watched attractive, sexily clad young women in the main--nothing wrong with them being attractive, but it's odd that none of them are even the slightest bit plain or overweight, is it not?--come into the doctors offices while I'm waiting to see my MD, all carrying huge cases filled with free drugs for the doctor to dole out to patients. And these visits to clinics are ubiquitous throughout America.

The latest mutation of this sexy approach to prescription medications is an advertisement on the telly where a young woman talks with annoying coyness to her presumed male audience about 'strong and lasting.' Of course, the word 'erection' is NEVER used, nor is the word 'penis' encountered--not even 'member', or 'dick.' (Okay, last one, I was being facetious, but God forbid they'd use essential or adult words to talk to adults.) No, it's always 'strong' and 'lasting'...followed by the wide, coy smile and perfunctory pause to allow the watcher to visualize his 'strong' and 'lasting' and where it can be dispatched. Our pitch lady is, of course, wearing a prominently displayed wedding band, undoubtedly to keep the Christian Right hounds at bay, as is her formerly sexually dysfunctional hubby.

So, I'm fully with Mr. Cruise on his challenge to stop overprescribing drugs. Let's stop overprescribing anti-depressants and, while we're at it, let's stop them targeting the gullible to create a spurious demand.

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Joan Hunt said...

Damian, while I believe that we should not overprescribe medications, we should also not underprescribe. I'm a nurse. I work with patients of every sort imaginable. I've seen the positive results that an anti-depressant can bring as well as the negative. I've even experienced these effects first hand.

What bothered me most about Tom Cruise's attack on psychiatry and medications is that he is biased against them without regard (and ignorant) to the actual science behind mental health and the pharmaceutical help available. Is Scientology the only reason he feels this way? I don't know. But his assertions are dangerous.

Too many people see celebrities as legitimate sources for everything under the sun. They shouldn't be. Unless Cruise has a degree in psychiatry or pharmacology, he has no business proclaiming himself an expert and advising others to eschew medical intervention. He's no better than someone who touts herbs and vitamins as cure-alls for every ailment under the sun, regardless of another's medical history.

When I was in nursing school, I had a rotation through psych. It proved to be one of the most difficult rotations for me. Why? Because the brain is, even with all our research, a mystery. We know about neurotransmitters and chemical binders. We know that some of us lack elements that allow us balance. What we don't know is WHY. Even if we were to discover the why, we have learned that medication can bring balance to people whose lives would otherwise be in upheaval because of the missing component(s.) I watched gentle souls struggle with demons I can only imagine. Mental health isn't just set in some institution, it plays a part in every bit of care that I provide. The patients I care for now are not, on the whole, psychiatric patients, but they often require intervention of some sort. Sometimes counseling alone helps, other times medication is necessary in order for them to function. This isn't any fault of their own, it's just the way it is. My doctors don't prescribe meds easily (mostly because a good many of the patients have other factors that preclude the use of them), but when they do it's for very sound reason.

Again, I don't believe that overmedicating someone is the answer to any problem. I simply feel that we cannot dismiss the benefits of medication just because Tom Cruise says it's a bad thing.

Damian McNicholl said...

Thank you very much for your illuminating comments. Also, like you, I agree that prescription drugs have a valid role to play in medicine. They just need to be regulated more stringently and all advertising to the public curtailed. Pharmaceutical companies are exploiting the hopes of the sick ruthlessly and without accountability.

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