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It happens to a lot of people: the pleasant, affectionate person you were friends with gradually becomes distant, changed, someone else. A while back I was friends with someone who, I later learnt, was being kept aloft with antidepressants when we met. There is evidence that such drugs can cause personality change.

Was I friends with someone who only existed in the first place because of medical intervention?

If so, I’m probably not alone. In 2014 more than one woman in ten and one man in twenty was on antidepressants of some sort. And since people can and do change for many reasons, maybe this is just one more. I don’t feel deceived. Yet there’s something about the very idea of friendship that sits ill with the idea of a friend’s lovely and beloved character as a medical side-effect. Partly it’s the thought that that then wasn’t the real person, any more than the depressive episodes the medication is supposed to treat are construed as part of someone’s character. Partly it’s the thought that even if that was the real person, it was an ephemeral reality (since medicine is something you stop taking if you recover), and friendship connotes a degree of caring which cannot itself be just ephemeral, switched off when a course of treatment ends.

I wonder how I seemed, to someone coming off medication. Perhaps some great novel of the 21st Century will explore the phenomenology of recovered medical normality and the social consequences of a changing personality: a modern version of returning to the old hometown.

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