Monday, January 18, 2016

Book Review: Barking at Prozac

(Reclaimed from Blogjob, where its tags were depression in dogsdepression in humansdog cartoonsdog jokesDr. Kathleen Desmaisonsendorphin deficiencyheartworms in dogshow do antidepressants helpsafer alternative to SSRI antidepressantssugar sensitivity.)

A Fair Trade Book
Title: Barking at Prozac 
Author: Tom McNichol
Date: 1996
Publisher: Crown
ISBN: 0-517-88665-0
Length: no page numbers
Illustrations: drawings by Merle Nacht
Quote: "I thought...Prozac drove me away from my depression. Now I find I've been in the driver's seat all along."
The narrator is Buck, a dog, identified with a photo of a three-colored hound-type dog on the back. His story is full of dog-perspective jokes:
"As a special treat, my master stuck a tiny candle in a piece of steak. the meat was excellent, but the candle was a little hot going down."
"I've heard that humans have a similar creation story, but in their account, the humans eat from the Tree of Knowledge instead of dig it up."
"[N]aming a dog Rover just because he roves around a lot?...You might as well name a human baby Cry or Sleep."
Anyway, Buck is beginning to feel prematurely "old" at age five. "Even with all this sleep, I'm not feeling very rested." "The Chief mentioned the dog show again, and I immediately dropped to the ground and stayed there."
So his human, who also feels a need for an antidepressant, walks with him through a "Black Dog Depression Rating" test, a parody of the kind of manufacturer-generated "symptoms inventories" we sometimes find on the Internet. "1-10: These ups and downs are considered normal. May want to take Prozac as a mild mood elevator. 11-16: Mild mood disturbance. Probably helped by Prozac. 17-20: Borderline depression. Prozac recommended."
The Chief decides Buck needs Prozac and starts giving him "a little pill wrapped in bologna" along with the antidepressant the man takes, himself, each morning. Fortunately for this book, The Chief does not develop "Prozac Dementia." Neither does Buck. In fact, Buck begins to feel distinctly better as he completes his course of pills...but how much of the credit for this goes to the antidepressant?
I suspect Buck's story is similar to the stories of most humans who think they've been helped by antidepressants. Humans usually get a mild "high" from taking the SSRI pills (Prozac and dozens of slight variations on the same formula). Some humans don't even get that, but get the nasty side effects; Kathleen Desmaisons has explained some of the common reasons why. Apart from those effects of the pills...most cases of "depression" either go away on their own, or are identified with a physical disorder, regardless of what is or is not done to treat the "depression." When they're cured, it's probably because the physical disorder of which depression is a symptom has been cured.
If the physical disorder is a simple one, and the "high" from Prozac gives the patient the energy to overcome a condition like endorphin deficiency caused by lack of exercise, then it's possible that drugs like Prozac can help. In those cases, it's also possible that willpower might have helped these patients even more efficiently than the drugs did.
Other patients are helped by a drug that's not considered an antidepressant but that does cure a depressing condition--like heartworms.
Buck's funny yet heartwarming story is recommended to all depressed dogs, depressed humans, and people who care about them. As a Fair Trade Book it can be bought here for $5 per copy + $5 per package + $1 per online payment, out of which McNichol or a charity of his choice gets $1. You could probably squeeze twelve copies of this little book into a package, for which you'd send $65 (or $66 online) to either address at the bottom of the screen and McNichol or his charity would receive $12.