Clinical Trials?

Every other day some drug company announces that it has a new product and is conducting a clinical trial. These companies attempt to solicit potential lab rats for their experiments by advertising on TV, radio or the internet. It seems that any “eligible and willing participant” (whatever THAT means) will be compensated, usually in the form of cash, for their involvement in said trial.

I usually don’t pay much attention to these commercials as I have never been willing to apply, insert, inject or ingest some unknown substance manufactured by a company who feels the need to advertise to the GENERAL public that they are in want of “test subjects.” However… one commercial DID capture my attention recently.

I heard on the radio that someone (I really don’t know who or what organization) is looking for individuals who are currently or have at one time been on prescription anti-depressants. They want to test “several new types of antidepressants” on any depressed person who is “eligible and willing” between the ages of 18 and 65. I don’t know about you, but this scares the hell out of me that there could be diagnosed, already-depressed people LEGALLY walking around out there on EXPERIMENTAL, mood-altering substances, and getting paid for it!

From previous posts, anyone reading this ought to know by now that I am certainly NOT anti-anti-depressant. I have freely admitted to using and benefiting from them… under the careful observation and supervision of a REAL medical doctor or psychologist!! It is typically a risk starting any mood-altering medication, even under the best of circumstances and surveillance. There’s a reason those drugs carry black-box warnings you know. There is no way to anticipate how any given psychotropic drug is going to affect you physically, cognitively, emotionally and mentally. However, with a prescribing doctor nearby, an informed person can usually get through any trouble that may occur during the initial start-up period.

It seems alright to me for people to try a new energy drink or diet supplement or appetite suppressant here and there… or a ground-breaking skin cream for acne, psoriasis, stretch marks or eczema… Some unique teeth-whitening paste… A potion that promises a potential cure for baldness… that’s OK. But I’m sorry… no good could possibly come from something “experimental” being marketed to an already vulnerable, clinically depressed population.

See, the thing is… with the earlier mentioned items… what’s the worst that could happen? An upset stomach, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, excess gas and bloating, flatulence, headache, skin rash, hives, itching, dry-skin, oily-skin, scaly skin, weight gain, weight loss, hair loss, tooth loss, dry mouth, sleeplessness, restlessness, ringing in the ears, difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, swelling of the mouth, face, lips or tongue, chest pain, dark urine, fast, slow or irregular heartbeat, fever, chills, sore throat, swelling of the hands, ankles or feet, unusual bruising or bleeding, excessive tiredness, vision changes, muscle soreness, strange watery discharge, night sweats, numbness, nose bleeds, bleeding out the eyes… that stuff is child’s play compared to what might happen when you carelessly tinker with the chemistry of the brain.

Just imagine someone participating in this highly-solicited clinical trial who is a crane operator, taxi-driver or middle-school teacher… ALL of which are extremely perilous jobs. HELLO!? Does the idea of this stuff being offered up to any psychologically-medicated person within earshot of a radio scare anyone else? Or is it just me?

Perhaps I am paranoid.

Maybe I should give that 1-800 number a call. I could use the extra cash.


Silence is Golden

“Joanna is an excellent student. She completes all of her schoolwork on time, is polite, plays well with others and keeps her desk neat and tidy. However… SHE WILL NOT STOP TALKING!!!”

This is often how the “progress reports” from my elementary school teachers read. Of course they didn’t quite word them that way, but amidst all of the “Joanna-is-doing-everything-well” reporting was—without fail—some mention of my amazing gift of gab and how it would be desirable if I were to get it under control.

Hello, my name is Joanna and I am a talkaholic. However, I have recently discovered the true value of Silence. Not the I’m-taking-a-VOW-of-silence kind of silence… (sorry everyone) but the “Silence Is Golden” kind of silence. We’ve all heard the famously-quoted proverb a thousand times and although the origin of the phrase remains a mystery—for one who is addicted to words and sounds—those 5 syllables carry a tremendous amount of weight.

Let me share with you how I stumbled across this treasure. In an effort to achieve some semblance of sanity, I have made it a personal goal to get more sleep. I’ve been going to bed earlier and relaxing by writing in my journal or reading rather than watching TV. But the TV is usually STILL on in the background. I don’t know why… for some reason I find it comforting to hear the familiar voices of 4 friends (let’s call them Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer) sitting around a coffee shop or a tiny New York apartment bemoaning the minutia of their existence. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

The other night I decided to turn the TV off and read in total silence. And although it was a bit foreign to me at first, it was completely wonderful! So wonderful, in fact, that it felt absolutely luxurious! Who knew silence could be this enjoyable? Besides my family, boyfriend and friends. For a moment, I put the book down and just listened to the nothingness that surrounded me. I took a deep breath, soaking in as much as possible as though this sheer state of nirvana could be stored. I knew that all too soon—with the nagging of the alarm clock—this beautiful quiet would be shattered by the noise of life in the digital age.

Now, I’m not a twitterer, which is surprising given how much I like to talk, write, converse, chit-chat, chew the fat, stay in the loop, laugh, giggle, whisper, yell, shout, sing and just be heard in general. But with the help of twitter, not to mention all other forms of social media, smart phones, iPods, radio, cable and the internet… not only are we in touch with one another 24/7… we are surrounded by constant sound as well. So it’s perfectly understandable that the absence of noise was such music to my ears!

Every evening across America, it is not uncommon for the typical household to have the TV (or TVs) blaring and computer glowing while talking or texting is taking place. We can literally be catching up on the news, watching football on ESPN and the dramatic story of a woman scorned on Lifetime… while simultaneously communicating with multiple people in multiple ways. We can be texting, chatting, instant messaging, emailing, writing on walls, poking, tagging and twittering all at once. And this is what we are doing with our DOWN time… never mind what we encounter during the workday.

It’s no wonder we’re all stressed out and hopped up on antidepressants. And don’t be salty with me for saying that. (Which kind are YOU taking?) If you aren’t taking anything yet—give it time. At the rate we’re going… you will be. Unless, that is, you take the time to stop and listen… to the sound of silence.