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mental health mondays :: when drugs go retro

the new hotness?
one of the most common complaints about antidepressants is that they take so long to work. adjusting the taps in the bubble bath of your brain is something that takes several weeks- usually around four, but up to eight is not uncommon- during which time you might well be left feeling just as horrible as you were before, but with the added bonus of side effects: lethargy, somnolence and insomnia, nervousness, sweating, farting, nausea... what a time to be alive. in cases where the danger is acute to the patient or to others [those around the patient], doctors generally deal with this by sedating the sufferer within an inch of their life, so that they're much too calm to think about hurting anyone and so that reaching for the razor blade to slice your wrists is just way more effort than you're willing to put into anything.

our friends at science, however, appear to have found something that might address this. that's right, science has discovered a drug- something so new that they're not even willing to give it a name- that appears to fight depression in rats within twenty-four hours. my first reaction upon hearing that was that it was great news, even more so since it apparently achieves this miracle without creating a lot of side effects that are going to make you want to stop taking the drug, which is the problem with a lot of psychiatric medications to begin with. [that's not quite true. my first reaction was to feel sorry for all the depressed rats and to think about what a shitty, shitty job it must be to have to make them depressed in the first place. i'm picturing some forlorn phd student reading shopenhauer and holding the little wheel so that it will not budge, no matter how hard the rats try to run on it.]

but before we start to get all excited, i have a few questions. actually, i have a lot of questions, and none of them are getting answered because the drug is in such an early phase that the manufacturer isn't even telling us anything meaningful about it, since that would allow their competitors to develop something similar. for the moment, all they're willing to share is that, unlike "traditional" medications for depression that work by adjusting levels of serotonin in the brain, this drug works on a completely different neurotransmitter: gaba.

that sounds awesome, but what the manufacturer [and everyone who published what looks like the company's press release with minimal adjustments] doesn't mention is that there are literally dozens of drugs that manipulate gaba already on the market and that many of them are older than the serotonin reuptake inhibitors that this new drug would supposedly be replacing. barbiturates work on gaba. so do benzodiazepines. for that matter, substances that affect gaba are found in certain species of mushrooms [ibotenic acid], common plants [skullcap] and seawater [bromide]. so saying that the drug works by targeting gaba rather than serotonin says absolutely nothing about what makes it new, different, or more effective.

because gaba-modulators are so widespread in pharmacology and the world, it's difficult to generalise about them. if we look at the one category that's generally used for mental health applications- the benzos- then it's worth noting that they're both fast and effective already and while they do have some side effects, the real problem is that they're addictive and can be harsh on your liver. those are really the important things that need to be tested before this gets anywhere near your mouth and stomach.

so yes, this looks like it could be promising. but it also looks like it could be the start of an insidious marketing campaign to get people excited about the properties of a new drug that might just be a new twist on something we've had access to for a long time...

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long suffering

i've been meaning to write this post for a while, but, every time i get started, something happens that makes me rethink portions of it, to add or subtract or consider a different way of looking at things. the post was originally going to be my take on a #metoo statement, but i ended up making that post on my personal facebook page. [it's not that i don't love you all, but there are a few things i'm not comfortable putting in the entirely public sphere.] but beyond joining the #metoo juggernaut, i wanted to write something about the wave of sexual assault revelations that continues to swell over the north american media landscape that wasn't about me. then i realised that that was a little more complicated than just writing "so, lotta sex rapes happenin' these days, ain't there?" or whatever it was that i was going to say.

so i tried writing something about just a part of it: the media coverage or the entertainment industry or the politicians or …

jihadvertising?

i keep seeing this ad for tictac candies:



am i the only one who finds the suicide bomber clown at the end a little unnerving? all the nice natural things like the bunny and the [extinct] woolly mammoth and the fruit get devoured by a trying-to-appear-nonthreatening-but-obviously-psychotic clown who then blows himself up. congratulations, tictac, i think this ad has landed you on about a dozen watch lists.

oh and by the way, showing me that your product will somehow cause my stomach to explode in a rainbow of wtf makes me believe that doing consuming tictacs would be a worse dietary decision than the time i ate two raw eggs and a half a bottle of hot sauce on a dare.

making faces :: a lip for all seasons [summer edition]

this may seem like an odd time to think about summer, but not to think about coolness. it can be hard to wrap your head around the idea that summer is considered "cool" in colour analysis terms and, in my opinion, reads as the coolest of the cool, because everything in it is touched with the same chilly grey. winter may have the coldest colours, but its palette is so vivid that it distracts the eye. everything in summer is fresh and misty, like the morning sky before the sun breaks through. in my original post on the season, i compared it to monet's paintings of waterlilies at his garden in giverny and, if i do say so, i think that's an apt characterisation.

finding lip colours touched with summer grey and blue is, as you might expect, kind of tricky. the cosmetic world seems obsessed with bringing warmth, which doesn't recognise that some complexions don't support it well. [also, different complexions support different kinds of warmth, but that's another…