A Doctor’s Opinion: Pills vs. Holistic

Email between Shannen Roberts and Dr. Chad Cox M.D. (Yes, my doctor’s last name is Cox…)


Hi Dr. Cox ! 

 Educate us 2014 teenagers/young adults please and thank you :) In general – tell me about the truths and dispel the myths behind the “happy pill.”


1.      What types of pills are typically prescribed to patients with anxiety/depression?

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 There are a variety of different medications that target different chemicals in the brain.  For a “normally” functioning brain, serotonin, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine(and quite a few others) are used to communicate between various nerve cells in the brain allowing communication between areas of the brain that have different functions.  When these levels drop for unknown reasons people begin to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety.  The various drug classes elevate one or more of the chemicals in the brain, bringing them back to their baseline.

These drugs do not make people happy, they correct chemical imbalances.

If you take antidepressants or antianxiety meds when you are not depressed or anxious, nothing will happen. Remember , most people are treated for a fixed amount of time and are cured of their problem.

2.      Who is prescribed anti-depressants?

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People who meet certain criteria for depression, which define a medical disorder.  I  have no intention of medically treating grief, appropriate anxiety or sadness.  I also do not want to treat transient depression.  If symptoms are persistent, and criteria are met, then I believe patients very much benefit from medical treatment. I think I have received more gratitude from patients for curing their mood disorders than any other diagnosis.

3.      CLEAR THE MYTH – Does it kill your liver by taking a pill once a day?!?!

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Not a chance.  Appropriate use of most medications never causes a liver issue despite the press.  The only substance-induced liver problems I have seen are drug and alcohol abuse.

Alcohol is much more liver toxic than most medications, yet people freely imbibe but balk at talking a prescription medication.

4.      Tell me about the side effects of antidepressants

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The side effects are much less common than you might think.  They are also not terrible and are transient.  I ask most patients to tolerate them because they typically resolve.  If they cannot, we stop the drug and all side effects go away.  Then we try another medication.

5.      What else does it take besides a pill to stay happy?

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As for staying happy without meds, this is out of my specialty.

 I am personally happy and have a life model that I think works.  But what works for me, may not work for others. This is an individual choice.  I will say that being happy does require some “pursuit of happiness”. IE you need to work at being happy.

6. Are a lot of people prescribed soma for anxiety?

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Me: I feel like I’ve heard more kids recently say they take soma to calm down. What’s really the difference between alcohol and soma? They both relax your muscles…

**Look up the book Brave New World by Aldous Huxley about a world that is always happy
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Soma is not really used for anxiety, though it may be abused.  I have read Brave New World and will never believe that treating life dissatisfaction, stress, or sadness with drugs is the way.  Though, this is exactly what our society does.  We get high or drunk to deal with our unhappiness.
Understand, and I cannot stress this enough, being sad and depression are not the same thing.  Depression, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, OCD, etc are medical disorders that may require treatment.

Being sad, disenfranchised, stressed etc are normal feelings that need an alternate approach, for which I am no expert.

Me: This might rupture the foundation of many teenagers who believe in solely ayurvedic medicine now HAHA
 Yayyyy so excited! I’ll keep you updated with our project. 
I also am I excited about that you are doing.  Good luck! I hope the above information is of some help.



Dr. Cox

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“Dr Cox’s hobbies include travel (before the kids), running, hiking, science fiction/fantasy novels and movies, KROQ music, his iPad, and Legos with his son.” – Read his full bio here.
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