Notes on a Scandal

March, 9, 2012 | 1 Comment


  1. William Styron, in his vivid description of his own fight with depression and suicidality, wrote that, in the 1980s he was prescribed Halcion, valium and Ativan. He wrote:
    “For some time now, experts in psychopharmacology have warned that the benzodiazepine family of tranquilisers … capable of depressing mood and even precipitating a major depression. Over two years before my siege, an insouciant doctor had prescribed Ativan as a bedtime aid, telling me that I could take it as casually as aspirin. The PDR…..reveals that the medicine I had been ingesting was a) three times the normal strength, b) not advisable as a medication for more than a month or so and c) to be used with special caution by people of my age.” (He was mid-sixties.) “It seems reasonable to think that this was still another contributory factor to the trouble that had come upon me. Certainly, it should be a caution to others…..Many psychiatrists, who simply do not seem to comprehend the anguish their patients are undergoing, stubbornly maintain their allegiance to pharmaceuticals in the belief that eventually the pills will kick in, the patient will respond and the somber surroundings of the hospital will be avoided. I’m convinced that Halcion (triazolam) is responsible for exaggerating to an intolerable point the suicidal ideas that had possessed me…. One cringes when thinking about the damage such promiscuous prescribing of these potentially dangerous tranquillizers may be creating in patients everywhere.”
    With respect to the infamous sexual function impairment warned of, he wrote:
    “Dr …… with a straight face, said that the pill at maximum dosage could have the side effect of impotence. Until that moment, although I’d had some trouble with his personality, I had not thought him totally lacking in perspicacity, now I was not at all sure. Putting myself into Dr ….’s shoes, I wondered if he seriously thought that this juiceless and ravaged semi-invalid with the shuffle and the ancient wheeze woke up each morning from his Halcion sleep eager for carnal fun.”
    And this was written over 25 years ago, before the SSRIs took over.

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