Let’s consider a really damaging scenario. A situation that really could not be ignored.
Imagine that a multinational drug company launched a new medication which promised rapid, short-term relief from stress, anxiety and boredom. It generally has to be administered many times through the day but those using it report that they find it to be effective.
Unfortunately this new drug causes some particularly troublesome side effects. In fact it becomes clear that every dose shortens the user’s life by an average 11 minutes (with indications this rises to 30 minutes for users over the age of 35). The side effects are so severe that at least half of those who use it long term will die from a related health effect.
Because of the health risks it is not available on prescription but soon it can be purchased over the counter in nearly 10,000 outlets across Scotland. Large numbers of people with mental health issues use it to self-prescribe. They spend an average of £1500 a year doing so, adding huge financial pressure for an already vulnerable group. The commercial interests themselves make huge profits.
The drug is found to interfere with the efficacy of other, prescribed mental health treatments. Slowly evidence emerges that, whatever its short-term effects, it has an overall negative impact on mental health, so that stopping using it is associated with improvements in depression, anxiety, stress and psychological quality of life.
If such a nightmare scenario came about, you would expect something to be done about it wouldn’t you?