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    Wednesday, February 16, 2005

    Zoloft doesn't kill grandparents

    I'm supposed to be writing a proposal for my senior thesis, but some articles I need are taking their time reaching my inbox, hence, I am here.

    I am relieved that Americans did the right thing this time. A jury found Chris Pittman guilty of murder for the shooting of his grandparents with a shotgun while they slept. He then burned down their house to cover his crime and stole their car to get away.

    It is hard for a populace that uses drugs so often, yet knows so little about them, to discern what they truly do. Probably all of us have used drugs within the last week, definitely within the last month. We pop a painkiller like acetamenaphin for a headache, take sudafed for congestion and allergies, or bigger things such as zoloft for depression. We are not a society dependant on pills, but one that has integrated them seamlessly into our way of life.

    Even with all this exposure to medicine (the western kind. I could go into a whole other post about non-western medicine and its efficacy) very little of us actually understand what they do. I would venture to say under 5% of people in America knew what a Cox-2 inhibitor was before Vioxx was recalled. Now, probably 1 in 3 adults will recognize Cox-2, more Vioxx, less will know what the problem is. However, the amount of adults that know why a Cox-2 is different than tylenol, i.e. what it really does, is probably still around that 5% mark.

    Nota Bene: For those of you reading this post, I will make you part of that 5%. Cox-2 inhibitors are painkillers designed to block the Cox-2 enzyme. This inhibits the release of prostaglandins that cause pain and swelling--why these are so prescribed for arthritis. This is a crucial enzyme on the pain pathway that allows pain blockage without the detrimental side effects of aspirin (blood thinning, etc.). Other NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like acetaminaphen (tylenol), Aspirin, indomethacin (Indocin), ibuprofen (Motrin), naproxen (Aleve) work by inhibiting the Cox-1 enzyme. However, inhibition of this enzyme, like I said earlier with aspirin, may cause diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, heartburn, blood thinning, and upset stomach in 10-50% of patients.

    The point is that people make a conscious decision to take a medication, and are all too often guilty of not knowing what they take. These medications can alter physiological pathways in the body, even to the point of causing hallucinations, but the onus lies on the taker, who never (except in rare circumstances) relinquishes his or her ability to choose his or her own actions. Anti-depressants like zoloft work in various ways to alter seratonin levels in the brain. This allows the brain to filter out the "bad" instances in life more often (people selectively remember the good times more often) and people are happier. It does not affect the decision making ability of the brain. Chris Pittman may have been a sad, troubled teenager, but the decisions he made that day were entirely his own. Now he will have 30 years to think them over.

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