There’s nothing wrong with being a pill popper

Picture: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos

Picture: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos - Credit: PA

Our perception of people and issues is often shaped by the words we hear used to describe them.

For example: 'Benefit claimant' and 'dole scrounger'; in football 'no-nonsense' and 'dirty'; a child, 'mischievous' and 'naughty'; 'slim' or 'skinny'; 'traffic delays' and 'road chaos'.

I'm sure you get my drift.

A topical example that is making me think is the difference between someone who takes tablets and one who pops pills.

Same person, totally different perception.

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Sadly, the latter description is all too common.

Apparently 40pc of UK adults take regular medication, including anti-depressants, statins and blood-pressure pills. One adult in 10 is on anti-depressants.

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The headline interpretation of these figures in recent days has too often been: A nation of pill-poppers.

It's lazy, insulting and shallow.

If I were the sort of person who takes offence (rather than causes it), it would offend me.

Instead, it saddens me. For tablets make a tremendous difference to the lives of millions of people.

If your mum's life was extended by 10 years because of her daily heart medication, would you call her a pill-popper or just be grateful for the blessing?

I take six tablets per day: a combination of anti-depressants, anti-anxiety and a wild card that I swear by.

I'm slap-bang in the sights of those who sneer at pill-poppers.

But those tablets, combined with care and support from the NHS, family and friends, have kept me alive.

More than that, they've helped me to thrive. I've not had a major depressive episode for two years, I'm a much more engaged father, employee and friend, I'm independent and I'm enjoying life.

Why does it matter that medication has played such a large part in that?

It doesn't. In fact, I'm more than happy to take these pills until the day I die. They are doing me good, so why would I take the risk of weaning myself off them?

I have an imbalance of chemicals in my brain, which the tablets help to correct. If you think I'm insufferable now, you should see me when I'm having one of my episodes where a sandwich goes missing from my picnic.

Those who worry about the prevalence of pill-popping praise previous generations, who had the 'resilience' to handle life's ups and downs without a cocktail of prescribed drugs.

It's a weak argument. For they also died younger, had to conceal their mental ill-health for fear of being ostracised and misunderstood, and had a very different combination of stresses to handle than people in 2017.

I don't doubt that there are occasions where tablets are prescribed unnecessarily by under-pressure GPs. It's hardly surprising - mental ill-health is tremendously tricky to accurately diagnose and treat.

But there are so many more occasions where tablets have made a positive difference.

You might be a pill-popper yourself. If not, I can guarantee that lots of people you know are.

Your boss might seem to be totally in control, but without the tablets they would have to deal with sickening bouts of anxiety. Your friend copes amazingly well with being a mum to three toddlers. But before she started to take Citalopram, she was barely able to get out of bed each morning and was ready to give up.

These are simplistic scenarios, but they illustrate the general point about pills.

When they are perceived as negative, people are ashamed to seek help and embarrassed to take them. There's no need for that to happen.

I bang the drum for the positive power of pills, in the right circumstances. It would help if others got the message, and stop swallowing the 'pill-poppers' nonsense.

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