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Our generation is slowly falling into the void of anti-anxiety medication addiction

Our generation is slowly falling into the void of anti-anxiety medication addiction


Background: According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), mental disorders account for more than four percent of the total disease burden in Pakistan. It found the burden to be higher among women. According to research studies of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, mental illness and disorders have blown out of proportion in Pakistan within just one decade.  

What experts are saying: Professor and ex-Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the Agha Khan University Hospital, Dr. Murad Moosa said a recent study revealed that 30 percent of the population was struggling with mental health issues. Pakistan is one of those vulnerable countries where stress, anxiety, and depression are at the highest level. According to Dr. IqbalAfridi, in the 200 million population, one out of three are suffering from these curable diseases. Dr. IqbalAfridi, President of Pakistan Psychiatric Society and the Head of the Department of Psychiatry at Jinnah Post Medical Complex.

Medication and addiction: In a normal world, It is pretty common that you can’t buy antidepressants without a doctor’s prescription but in Pakistan, you can easily buy it off the counter in a pharmacy. The fact that anxiety-prone people in Pakistan can purchase medicine without a prescription is alarming. 

Self-medication is “an act of procurement and consumption of medical drugs without the advice of a medical physician for diagnosis, prescription, and surveillance of treatment.” The side effects can be hazardous, especially in the case of anti-depressants.

A 2016 study conducted by medical students in Karachi found the frequency of self-medication among university students to be as high as 80.4 percent.

In some cases, medical practitioners may act irresponsibly in recommending a drug but not warning the patient of its potential consequences.

Maria Kari, a senior journalist in Dawn told her own story about a time she was visiting Pakistan from abroad and went to the airport pharmacy in search of a sleep aid.

“The guy behind the counter offered me Xanax because, according to him, that was what everyone takes to help them sleep,” writes Kari. “I’m no stranger to Xanax. It’s something I’ve been prescribed in the past by my own doctor in Washington DC for my generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). I know what Xanax can do to a person, which is why I remember standing there at the airport with my mouth hanging open, shocked to see such a heavy-duty, highly addictive sedative being sold so carelessly at a tiny stall.

In a country where half of a million people die of medication errors, this ignorant behavior of authorities and parents is inefficient and pathetic. These figures and experiences don’t happen within a vacuum, we all know someone who is or was using anti-depressant to get through their daily routine. This addiction and dependency are coming from different places and vary from person to person. This issue needs attention, not from Twitter accounts and celebrities but actual authorities in big offices.

Silver Lining: Fortunately, there is a governmental body that can reduce these crises. The Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) controls the sale of drugs in the country. It is an autonomous body under the administrative control of the federal government. DRAP accords approval for clinical trials and the import of drugs to be used. 

From production to distribution, there are big pharma and lobbyists who make the trail so smooth and almost elusive. There are two major tasks at hand here; one to fix the corrupt pharma cartels and to genuinely address the epidemic of depression in our country.

What we can do: If you’re someone who is suffering from depression, please reach out to professionals. You’re not obliged to talk about your anxiety to everyone or try to remain happy all the time, even consume positive rhetoric from social media. All of this might be a refuge but not a remedy. Unpack your burden with people who care about you. And remember mental healthiness is not a race; it’s a journey. 

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