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Old drugs, new diseases

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One of the drug industry’s tactics for selling more remedies is to invent a disease. ‘Social phobia’ springs to mind as a classic from around 10 years ago.

Now they have a new one, this time courtesy of the psychiatric profession. It’s ‘internet addiction’, and an addict is anyone who spends more than 38 hours on the web, on social platforms such as Facebook, or texting messages. While five-plus hours a day sounds a lot, most teenagers are addicts according to these parameters.

Most of us probably agree that hours of Facebook posting and texting are irritating, and even anti-social, but few think our teenagers should be taking a powerful psychotropic drug, such as Prozac.

But, from next year, internet addiction becomes a compulsive-impulsive spectrum disorder, treatable with drugs, as our Special Report ( this month explains.

This all seems heavy-handed, but there’s a twist in the tail: the American Psychiatric Association believes that internet addiction causes depression. There’s a considerable body of research that shows an association between depression and excessive internet use – but that does not demonstrate a cause.

Instead, the depressed and socially phobic use the internet excessively, so they are depressed before they start. We’re sure playing on-line games and watching porn don’t help the condition, but that’s not the point.

It is astonishing that the pharmaceutical industry is prepared to drug a new generation; actually, that’s wrong. It’s not astonishing at all, that’s its natural impulse.

But it is worrying that the psychiatrists are happy to go along with this ‘new marketing opportunity’ and nobody in government is prepared to stop the drugging of our teenagers.

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