Psychopharmaceuticals, the boom among influencers that scares doctors
TURIN. «Until recently mental disorders were the taboo of taboos, no one said they had them and those who had them hid them. Today it has become almost a fashion to self-diagnose and exhibit them. But there’s nothing to show.” Vincenzo Villari is head of psychiatry at the Molinette hospital in Turin. He confesses that he is not particularly active on social media but “I know the Fedez case”. After so much silence, speculation and assumptions, the singer returned yesterday to talk on Instagram about the “two months of shit I’ve experienced” and in particular he told his followers about the “very powerful antidepressant drug that changed me, made me it agitated a lot and also gave me very strong side effects». Fedez is not the first nor the last who normalizes the use of psychotropic drugs on social media and invites his audience, using the most powerful means of communication, to take care of their mental health. “Fighting the stigma – underlines Villari – and helping people who are ill to be treated is a big step forward”. The problem is when influencers, more or less famous, recommend drugs or psychotropic drugs to use. A community has been created on TikTok that even gives a vote to drugs like Abilify, Depakin or Quetiapine. At that point, Villari alarmed, “we must remember that psychotropic drugs are not drugs of abuse but must be used on medical prescription”.
Fedez’s alarm, psychotropic drugs and that boom among kids: one in 10 uses them without a prescription
Influencers talk about themselves
“What drugs are you on now?” “Zoloft, Lyrica, Laroxyl, Lioresal and birth control pills. One a month Naprosyn plus various supplements». Giorgia Soleri, an activist with great social influence, has long been raising awareness of the disease she suffers from, vulvodynia, and the importance of also taking care of one’s mental health. On Instagram she replies to followers who ask her which drugs she uses and lists them without hiding. Someone also asks her: “Can you say that psychiatric drugs are not for crazy people?”. And she replies: “But what’s the problem with being crazy?”.
She’s not the only one to expose herself about her health. Even Giulia De Lellis, former tronista of “Men and Women” and one of the most successful Italian influencers in the media – with a following of 5.3 million followers – showed fans what she takes on every morning: a capsule for endometriosis, one Inofolic Combo Hp capsule (for the skin), one Omegor vitality capsule (Omega-3) and one Neodidro capsule (Vitamin D). A shopping list that “doesn’t mean it’s ok for you”, the influencer was keen to underline, who then advised his followers to rely on the experts: “Only a doctor can tell you what you need to take after analyzing your analyses”.
TikTok and the “report cards” to psychopharmaceuticals
Not just Instagram and not just influencers. Health is also being talked about on TikTok and the debate among users is heated on the issue of normalizing the use of psychotropic drugs in particular. “Dunno in the end they are saving my life so why not normalize?” Writes a user. There are those who tell his personal experience of him, explaining what kind of medicines he takes and what side effects they have caused him. «Oh God how you tremble», someone comments under a video by Miriam Maddalena, a make-up artist with a following of over 200,000 followers. She doesn’t hide: «I don’t know if yours is meant to be an insult or something else, but for information purposes I take psychotropic drugs and this is why I tremble, let’s say it’s an unpleasant side effect. There are others and if you want I’m here».
On the social media of the very young par excellence, opinions are exchanged by commenting under the videos – “I’m taking Tolep and you?” -, but not only. Many share their assessments by participating in a sort of viral “challenge”. “Risperidone? Bah didn’t do much to me, 5/10», begins Lilsadia’s report card. And then she continues: «Xanax: 4/10, that stuff sucks guys, yes at first but then it doesn’t work anymore. Olanzapine 6/10: I had to stop because I didn’t feel like myself and I didn’t understand anything, but it works, it completely dampens the emotions». Like her, Elio also advises against Abilify, describing it as «the drug of the demon, I had all the possible side effects». While the Quietipina is “my salvation”, vote 10 out of 10.
The debate continues on Twitter as well, between those who talk about their experience and those who report the side effects of some psychiatric drugs. For Vincenzo Villari, head of psychiatry at the Molinette hospital in Turin, on social networks “there is certainly a consumerist attitude even of these drugs, which are used not to treat ailments, but to alleviate symptoms or to produce effects that can be superimposed on that of alcohol or other drugs”.
In recent years “the consumption of psychoactive drugs has increased, first because those that existed 50 years ago were unpleasant, while the new ones are more tolerable – explains the expert -; then depressive disorders and anxiety disorders have increased significantly in recent decades, even among young people ». To let the numbers speak for themselves, today «one in five people has ailments of varying severity, we are talking about 20% of the population – continues Villari -. The pandemic has certainly marked a before and an after and this must make us reflect on the need to reach the individual citizen in a capillary manner to address his mental health needs, which are enormous, while resources are in free fall”.
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In this context, Villari recognizes the positive implications that social networks can have: “They can help us get out of the stigma for which mental illnesses could not even be named”. But he also underlines that the debate on medicines can be dangerous: «I can only stigmatize the use of medicines that require a doctor’s prescription, without a medical examination and specialist advice. Medicines in general and then psychotropic drugs in particular are dangerous, if taken in the wrong way, both in terms of indications and methods and doses. Social media help us make it clear to some that they need help and to others that psychiatric drugs are not drugs of abuse, but must be used on medical prescription”.