`Acceptability' of medications is saving lives The...


May 29, 2002

`Acceptability' of medications is saving lives

The Sun's irresponsible and potentially harmful editorial "Placebo nation" (May 18) seemed to attack the use of antidepressant medications for patients suffering mood disorders and, at one point, decried the "remarkable degree of social acceptability" these medications have achieved in America.

In contrast, I find such this increasing acceptability a major step forward for a culture in which mental illness and its treatment have long been stigmatized.

Although the study in question did find some similarities in the response of patients to placebos and to the antidepressant studied, its authors went to great lengths to point out that the antidepressant was associated with clearly unique changes in regional brain chemistry.

The editorial also failed to mention that numerous studies have shown that although patients treated with placebos may have a transient improvement in their mood symptoms, such patients have an extraordinarily high rate of relapse during the maintenance phase of treatment, while patients treated with antidepressants tend to show continued improvement.

The last paragraph of the editorial concluded that the information presented "points us back virtually full circle."

If the views of the editorial are truly prevalent, I share that concern -- that we have come back full circle to a day in which mental illness and its appropriate treatment are again viewed in a stigmatized and negative way.

It is my sincerest hope that these attitudes will not prevent patients suffering with depression from seeking help that in many cases literally saves their lives.

Thomas W. Koenig


The writer is a professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Health of mother was police priority

The writer of the letter "Manhunt for mother sends wrong signal" (May 16) expressed concern about the "manhunt" by the Baltimore County police for the mother of an abandoned child.

It is important for readers to understand that the police department never characterized the search for the mother as a "manhunt." In fact, every statement released by this agency stressed that the department's top priority was the mother's health.

For example, on May 3, The Sun quoted Cpl. Ron Brooks, a county police spokesman, as saying, "At this point the mother does not face criminal charges. Our primary concern is the child and the health of the mother" ("Newborn girl is abandoned in hospital restroom").

The search for the mother in this case was never a "manhunt." It was, in fact, a compassionate effort to see that the woman received the medical care and, if necessary, the emotional support she needed.

Bill Toohey


The writer is director of media relations for the Baltimore County Police Department.

Do more to target aggressive drivers

The article on a police crackdown on aggressive driving was almost laughable ("State targets unsafe driving," May 22).

I travel Interstate 95 near Aberdeen five days a week and continually see drivers speeding, tailgating and cutting off other drivers while the police waste time ticketing motorists for not wearing their seatbelts.

And several times over the last year I have seen four or more troopers running seatbelt checkpoints on the on-ramps to I-95 while speeders fly down the road at more than 80 miles per hour.

Instead of harassing motorists who are exercising a bit of individual freedom, the state police should be protecting us from the drivers who ignore the traffic laws and endanger others.

Michael Walstrum


Parking, not Perkins, better use for money

The money spent on former Towson University President Mark Perkins' golden parachute would have been better spent on building parking for students ("Insult to injury," editorial, May 21).

I know of one student who drove around campus for two hours looking in vain for a space last semester. She missed her last class, and may have missed crucial information for her final exam.

Bettina Jenkins


Investigate mistakes Clinton made, too

I am gratified that Thomas L. Friedman has become the voice of reason among the otherwise shrill cries regarding intelligence reports prior to Sept. 11 ("Forget vague warnings and relax -- we're winning," Opinion Commentary, May 23).

As Mr. Friedman wrote, it's time for an investigation of all recent intelligence failures, including those during President Clinton's watch.

Zev Griner


Death sentences may be unwarranted

Recent letters opposing the moratorium on executions often make an unstated assumption: that the jury rendered the correct verdict.

But Illinois' death row experience and more recently the case of Henry Roberts, who died in prison for a crime that he didn't commit, belies this assumption ("Inmate who died in '95 was innocent," April 9).

It is tragic that an innocent man dies in prison; it is intolerable for the state to execute an innocent person.

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