Psychiatry’s Grand Confession

The psychiatric profession has finally come clean and confessed on a national media outlet that there is no evidence to support the Serotonin Theory of Depression. Today, on NPR’s Morning Edition there is a segment about the chemical imbalance theory, and virtually all the psychiatrists who are interviewed acknowledge that the there was never any evidence in support of the idea that low serotonin causes depression. But then, amazingly, they go on to say that it is perfectly fine to tell patients that serotonin imbalance causes depression even though they know this isn’t the case.

Several years ago in PLoS Medicine we wrote a long piece about the serotonin theory and the disconnect between what research psychiatrists say in professional journals and textbooks and what the advertisements say. While the advertisements presented the theory as scientific fact, the scientific sources clearly did not. Given the enormous marketing programs that pushed this theory combined with the media’s lack of skepticism, we were sympathetic to the general public who could hardly be faulted for thinking that theory had some foundation in fact. Following the publication of our piece a reporter contacted us and suggested that we were attacking a well accepted theory. We pointed out to the reporter that we weren’t attacking a sacred cow but that instead we were pointing out the mainstream psychiatry didn’t even accept this theory. We urged the reporter to contact the FDA, NIMH, APA, etc and ask them about the science behind the advertisements. He did, and as expected, an expert from the FDA explained that the theory was really just a metaphor. The problem is that patients who heard their physician explain the serotonin theory thought they were hearing real science. They weren’t told it was a metaphor and hence thought it was a fact. When a doctor talks about high cholesterol, diabetes, or hypothyroidism, they are talking about scientific measurement, not a metaphor. How is a patient with high cholesterol and depression who listens to their doctor’s explanation of their conditions supposed to know when the doctor has moved from science to metaphor?

Several months ago Ronald Pies published an interesting article in Psychiatric Times entitled, “Psychiatry’s New Brain-Mind and the Legend of the Chemical Imbalance.” Pies, just like the experts on NPR, acknowledges that the Chemical Imbalance theory is not true. However, according to Pies, it was the pharmaceutical companies who espoused the theory, and not well-informed, practicing clinicians, because the psychiatry community has known all along that the theory is not true.

But if the Psychiatry Community knew all along that the theory was not true, then why did they not clarify this issue for the general public? Shouldn’t they have pointed out to the general public and patients that what the pharmaceutical companies were saying about psychological stress was not true? Why did the professional societies not publicly set the record straight?

There are many angry comments on the NPR website. These comments are interesting, because apparently many patients who were told that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance never understood that were hearing a metaphor and not science. Since the chemical imbalance theory is often presented as a rationale for taking SSRIs, such patients now understandably feel lied to by their clinicians.

Perhaps the most interesting part about the NPR piece is that the reporter seems to not understand that the idea of telling a falsehood to patients because you think it is good for them is a serious violation of informed consent. Shouldn’t the reporter have asked the obvious questions, such as:

1) Do you feel it is acceptable to present a scientific theory as fact even though you know it is false?
2) Is it okay for psychiatrists to tell patients stories about their conditions that psychiatrists know are false?
3) Is there not an ethical issue when a psychiatrist informs their patient that they have a serotonin imbalance, when the medical textbooks on the shelf clearly say this is a falsified theory?

In general, we are fans of NPR, but hopefully the next news outlet that covers this topic will be more investigative in their approach.

Update: Is it true that neuroscientists discarded the serotonin theory long ago? See Part 2 of this blog post for more information…

 

Jonathan Leo, Ph.D. / Jeffrey Lacasse, Ph.D.

Rethinking the Broken Brain: Two researchers, writing jointly, take a critical look at the evidence for the biological basis of mental disorders.

Psychiatry’s Grand Confession Comments RSS

53 thoughts on “Psychiatry’s Grand Confession

    • Shamful is a under statement and to brag about all the good they have done like this excuses what they did. People who wrote this kind of crap are full of it. You do not ever run experaments on living tissue. It’ called unethical. And by way they do know how these drugs work. It’ a slow acting acid trip. Get real.

  1. Even worse is that then they lie about neuroleptic drugs and the “illnesses” they use them on and force or coerce people to have to take them. Would that be LEGALLY ALLOWED if the courts and attorneys were informed that it’s a LIE? Lying to trick somebody into taking something they don’t need is one thing, but lying to force somebody to have to take something – that is criminal.

  2. Another great piece. Shared. Keep ‘em coming. The general public needs to be informed of this – they just don’t know. The more doctors that speak the truth to end this ridiculous pretense of “chemical imbalance” theory, the more inclined other doctors will be to follow and the less these very dangerous drugs will be prescribed to an unsuspecting public.

    Thank you!!
    From Toronto, Canada

    • Yes – and while they are busy, perhaps we can have a detailed analysis of the mechanism of specifically how the drugs are designed to interact with the metaphor. That should be quite surreal!

  3. There was much more pervasive damage done to the delivery of mental health services in the US than that the general public and consumers were deceived about the false chemical imbalance causation of depression.

    While working as a front line therapist in a large public mental system,I remember a fateful all staff meeting that was convened by the head psychiatrist about a year after Prozac came out. He announced without equivocation, because he fully believed what he was saying- that since Prozac relieves depression by increasing serotonin in the brain, that it proves that a lack of serotonin is the cause of depression.

    He went on for sometime with a power point presentation about synapatic anatomy and function. He concluded that psychotherapy, while still indicated at times was now much less of a needed intervention because of the bio-chemical nature of depression now being proved which could most efficaciously be treated with SSRI’s.

    Having never believed in the medical model of so-called mental illness, I wasn’t going to drink the kool-aid on this latest hoax either.

    So, I openly challenged him about the role of trauma in the causation of depression, which he then could easily and I must say with a sense of triumph, minimize as only a variable that triggered the latent, genetic chemical imbalance to occur, which again was best treated at the synaptic level with an SSRI.

    When Dr. Biederman and the drug companies came forward with their false claims about child bi-polar, the ground was already tilled for that tragic false epidemic to be created by the previous years of the succesful big lie about SSRIs and the chemical imbalance causation of depression.

    Most of my Psychologist and therapist co-workers had believed the head psychiatrist about SSRIs, and so they willingly then bought the deception about small children being bi-polar too.

  4. I’m reading with great interest many of the recollections and memoirs on your site. But, I’m a bit confused as to how your collective would like to change or “transform” the field of psychiatry? I agree that opening a thoughtful, respectful, engaging dialogue about any controversy is necessary and invaluable, but for all the railing against present-day psychiatry (much of which I agree with), I don’t see a lot of a) acknowledgement that in many cases, modern day psychiatry has helped countless people live happier, better lives than they would have several decades ago, or b) much discussion of ways to improve the field itself or better ways of treating people who are suffering with some sort of mental illness. I’m very interested in finding out more information about the alternatives to present-day treatment options…

    • I agree with Robert SMG, there are already several discussions going on (blogs) that point out alternative ways of conceptualizing and working with persons diagnosed with these conditions and more to come. I really appreciate the new look of the website and it’s now my “go to” page for the latest in mental health news.

      I’m looking forward to more discussions about the “in-between spaces” ;-)

    • Dr. Oz recently featured an episode called “Disease Detectives”, with doctors who use integrative medicine.

      Here is a link to the show:

      http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/dr-oz-s-disease-detectives-pt-1

      Integrative Psychiatry is an alternative approach to mainstream psychiatry that has helped many.

      After experiencing symptoms of mania and psychosis I did not have long-term success in controlling symptoms with psychiatric medications or talk therapy. I sought help through alternative modalities including Integrative Psychiatry.

      I found great benefit from this approach and was able to recovery from symptoms without the use of psych meds.

      Here is a link to a narrative I wrote that was published in the Journal of Participatory Medicine last year:

      http://www.jopm.org/perspective/narratives/2011/03/28/psychosis-possibly-linked-to-an-occupational-disease-an-e-patient%e2%80%99s-participatory-approach-to-consideration-of-etiologic-factors/

    • regarding “better lives than they would have several decades ago”
      This is a lie. Decades ago the rate of serious mental illness was one in three hundred (1 in 300), today it is one in seventeen (1 in 17).
      http://www.nimh.nih.gov/statistics/1ANYDIS_ADULT.shtml
      A “better life” would be a long life, and the mentally ill today have up to a 25 year SHORTER life, so how is this better? http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2007-05-03-mental-illness_N.htm

    • I believe you do not see any acknowledgment of “in many cases, modern day psychiatry has helped countless people live happier, better lives than they would have several decades ago,” is because all of the objective demographics suggest the exact opposite of what you are saying is true. I believe demographically, every psychiatric medication that has ever been introduced has created more illness and more disability and not less. I believe you believe in many cases, modern day psychiatry has helped countless people live happier, better lives than they would have several decades ago, because drug companies have spend billions of dollars telling the world this was true and you like millions of others never noticed they had no credible evidence to back up what they said.

      As for “discussion of ways to improve the field itself or better ways of treating people who are suffering with some sort of mental illness.” Look a what they do in countries that are many times more successful at returning their mental health care recipients back to productive lives than the United States is. Use much less medication, in much lower doses with the intent of weaning individuals off the medication before you return them to society.

      If you compare America’s results treating mental health care recipients with other nations, as the World Health Organization has in several different studies, the concept of finding a “maintenance dose” has been a horrific failure and never had any sound science to support it. We know what works, because other countries are doing it. Our problem is that modern day psychiatry in America is what it is, to profit drug companies. The numbers of those becoming disabled for mental health issues are sky rocketing at an epidemic rate because of “modern psychiatry”, because their prescribing practices have been driven by profits for drug companies, not compassion; and misinformation, not science.

      Money wasted on psychiatrist and medications that are keeping people sick, making them sicker, and leading to them to premature death at progressively younger ages, would be better spent providing peer support and peer support run services. A growing evidence base suggest this works and is far less expensive.

      Certified Peer Specialist, peer run Recovery Centers, Peer Run Crisis Respite, the Lodge concept, and Fountain House style Clubhouses all deserve the lion share of the funding currently going to psychiatrists and medications. Why continue to spend huge amounts of money making things worse, when for much less money we could make them better? I know why. The most profitable industry in the United States has billions of dollars to spend on misinformation campaigns. Our medias biggest source of revenue it the pharmaceutics industry. As long as advertising owns our broadcast and print news, changing anything is an uphill battle. No wonder corporate America wants to censor the internet.

  5. After five years of taking SSRIs, I got a book from the library which showed how antidepressants worked. Essentially, they worked through the HCL arm of the med, and addressed the chemical component histamine! After five years not being able to stop the antidepressants, I started taking an OTC antihistamine and within a few days was off the antidepressant with no side effects AND the antihistamine was releiving the depression. Now either there are different causes for depression, or I question who really knows what they are doing regarding antidepressants!!!

    • Mia,

      Thank you for sharing your experience and insights.

      Yours in one of great value and has the potential to help many others.

      I have been a mental health advocate for over a decade and to my knowledge there are no organized mental health advocacy groups or research organizations promoting an agenda that considers the underlying causes of conditions that could be labeled as psychiatric, or that support Integrative Psychiatry.

      I respect the work of Dr. Peter Breggin and in this video he states psychiatric medications are toxic and can cause a “chemical imbalance” leading to depression, psychosis, mania, violent behavior or suicide.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJNMBr2zRX8&feature=related

      To a layperson this statement seems to validate that a chemical imbalance can be the root cause of a mental health problem such as depression.

      I question how effective talk therapy is on a chemical imbalance caused by psychiatric medications.

      I also question why it is not recognized by more mental health professionals that toxins, other than psychiatric medications, can also cause a chemical imbalance leading to symptoms of depression, mania, psychosis, etc.

      It is my understanding that many medications and substances, not just psych meds, can become toxic and cause a chemical imbalance. As well, many medical conditions can also be misdiagnosed as a psychiatric condtion such as depression.

      Labeling someone depressed covers a broad spectrum of problems that could be caused by a wide array of underlying medical conditions and personally I have experienced being misdiagnosed by mental health professionals.

      At one point I was told by 3 different psychiatrists that I was depressed and all 3 psychiatrists suggested Prozac.

      My only complaint was that I was so tired I could not get out of bed. Emotionally I had no symptoms of depression and would not describe myself as a depressed person. Besides being tired all of the time I was very happy and well adjusted in life. Talk therapy would not have done me any good.

      Finally, a relative recommended that I have my thyroid checked. My TSH was 145, a level that could have led to permanent heart damage if left untreated.

      A phlebotomist who had worked in a psychiatric hospital once told me that it was a known fact among the employees at the hospital that there was a direct correlation between ragweed season and an increase admission of patients labeled with bipolar disorder. Their inside joke was that allergy season was called bipolar season.

      Perhaps a contributing factor to the decreased life expectancy of individuals on psych medications is due to the fact medical and mental health professionals are ignoring the many underlying medical conditions that manifest as a problem that could be labeled as psychological.

      It is unfortunate that there is so much controversy between professionals who seem to disregard a common sense treatment approach of testing and treating the underlying problem. Instead there seems to be a battle between psychiatrists who wan to medicate everything and psychologists who promote talk therapy.

      The DSM lists many causes of Mood-Disorders and psychosis, so it really is not a medical mystery that there are many different causes to problems that could be labeled or misdiagnosed as depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

      Mia, I am impressed with your outcome. Good luck!

      292.84 Other (or Unknown) Substance-Induced Mood Disorder

      292.84 Cocaine-Induced Mood Disorder

      292.84 Inhalant-Induced Mood Disorder

      292.12 Inhalant-Induced Psychotic Disorder, With Hallucinations

      292.84 Hallucinogen-Induced Mood Disorder

      292.11 Hallucinogen-Induced Psychotic Disorder, With Delusions

      292.12 Cannabis-Induced Psychotic Disorder, With Hallucinations

      292.84 Amphetamine-Induced Mood Disorder

      “Hypothyroidism and depression. Evidence from complete thyroid function evaluation.” (1981)

      These results suggest that a significant proportion of patients with depression and anergia may have early hypothyroidism, the cases of about half of which are detected only by thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) testing. Because hypothyroidism can produce signs and symptoms of depression and can coexist as a second illness in depressed patients, patients with early hypothyroidism may be candidates for thyroid replacement therapy.

      Gold MS, Pottash AL, Extein I. Hypothyroidism and depression. Evidence from complete thyroid function evaluation. JAMA 1981 May 15;245(19):1919-22

  6. This is in response to SMG’s comment above. As we move forward, we expect to have bloggers writing about innovative programs they are involved in that do offer alternatives to present-day treatment options. So that is certainly on the drawing board, and I hope, that as people write about such options and programs, they will detail documented outcomes, etc. The Recovery Stories section is also designed to be a place where people can tell what has helped them, and those that have found medications to be helpful, can write there too. But ultimately that is the goal, to discuss and bring forth information that can tell of a better way.

  7. I tried to say this as a graduate student in psychology at UC Berkeley and was told that I was not only wrong, but envious about the big strides taken in biological psychiatry, and warned that I might have to leave the program unless I stop to bring up these bizarre ideas! So much for free speech and objective Science! I guess I got the last laugh. Sadly, the professors who uncritically had bought into the “chemical balance myth” are still working there. I made my conclusions from simply studying the method sections in detail from hundreds of studies and noticed that the research was all based on post-hoc hypotheses. My professors had an obligation to the public to keep a critical mindset even when reading remarkable studies, or maybe should had been even more careful then! That two events MAYBE look like they occur simultaneously (such as serotonin level and depressive feelings) does not mean that that one causes the other or they are they are even related. Already Hume warned us for that kind of fallacies! Shame on academics who are paid with public money and still refrained from following their duty to warn the public.

  8. I listened to a talk on “depression” recently, given by one of Denmark’s leading psychiatrists, Poul Videbech, that aired on TV in a series ironically called “Danskernes akademi” (approximately “Danish people’s academy”). Poul Videbech indirectly admitted to the serotonin hypothesis being untrue by not mentioning it at all. What he did mention though, was that “untreated” (make that undrugged, respectively unzapped, Videbech is a proponent of ECT) “depression” involved a high risk of causing dementia, and that “treatment” (make that drugs and ECT) had shown, in scans, to stimulate brain cell growth, especially in the hippocampus. At least, he interpreted a slightly enlarged hippocampus after the use of drugs or ECT to be a sign of brain cell growth. So, according to Videbech, even if the drugs don’t correct a chemical imbalance, they still prevent dementia, which is caused by a loss of brain cells, especially in the hippocampus.

    I questioned his statements in the comment section at the website, pointing to the science that doesn’t support any of what he said. Videbech himself replied to my comments, tough, surprise surprise, not!, without commenting on any of my references, and the debate was eventually closed by the TV station’s editorial staff.

    Bottom line: even though they now admit to the chemical imbalance hypothesis being nonsense, they won’t stop trying to blame the brain, directly or indirectly. They’ll just come up with ever newer, and indeed, IMO, worse, as telling people they risk dementia unless they get drug “treatment” or ECT will have a lot of people panic, lies.

  9. Thanks for this post. As a chronic sufferer of depression I found it liberating last year to read Irving Kirsch’s “The Emperor’s New Drugs” last year, which explodes the serotonin myth. It accorded very well with my own experience of various anti-depressants and with my intuitions about them. Unfortunately, Kirsch ends by recommending Cognitive Behavioral “Therapy” as an alternative, which I have also undergone. As far I’m concerned, CBT is no better than the serotonin quackery, and I confidently anticipate scientific research which will expose it as such. I know of no treatment I can turn to (physical exercise is no help, and I already take anti-histamine for allergies with no effect on my depression), and I face the future with great bleakness.

    • GAL, I’m so sorry you had such a poor experience with CBT. However, a vast and rigorous body of literature actually supports the general efficacy of the treatment. That doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone, and it certainly doesn’t mean that every therapist who does CBT is doing it well. However, far from scientific research exposing CBT as quackery, it has supported its efficacy quite strongly. If your experience with it was poor, you might consider some different forms of therapy which also have some research to support them. There is a list of such therapies here: http://www.div12.org/PsychologicalTreatments/disorders/depression_main.php. Finding a competent therapist who is a good fit for you is also important – I know it’s tough, but it can be worth it. I’d encourage you not to give up on therapy, as it really is a viable alternative – and it has the science to back that claim.

      • @Em Thanks for the sympathy. Yes, the literature supporting CBT is almost as “vast and rigorous” as the literature supporting the fairy tale of chemical imbalance. In the case of drugs, the insatiable greed of big pharma is largely to blame. But for both drugs and CBT, there’s also the desperate need of medics and bureaucrats to be seen to be dealing with a problem — a problem which they are spectacularly failing to deal with, as depression and suicide spiral out of control in the developed world. It’s taken a long time for the serotonin snake-oil to be exposed, and it will take time for CBT to follow it into the dustbin of history, but there are glimmers of insight, e.g. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-practice/200808/debunking-cbt-part-2-whats-it-good. I’ve undergone various kinds of talk therapy, all a waste of time and often money. You say “it’s tough” to find a competent therapist. Yes, it’s a bit like doctors trying out one happy pill after another on their victim/patient, in the vague hope that one of these pills/therapies will eventually coincide with, and miraculously take the credit for, a cyclical upswing the victim/patient’s mood. There are no professionals who know what to do about depression (if there were, it wouldn’t be escalating out of control worldwide), but there are plenty of people making money out of it.

    • I am a psychotherapist, and my experience has been that some people don’t want to get better. Not conciously but on an unconcious lever they are getting what we call secondary gains by being ill. Time to look at your limiting beliefs I think. Find a therapist that will give you some tough love. I don’t mean tell you to snap out of it but really challenge your mindset, and find out what is holding you back.

      • Have you heard about Phoebe Prince, the young high school student who was mobbed and bullied so much by her psycho peers at school, she killed herself. It made national media. Such psychological terrorism is so horric and traumatizing whether it happens at home, school, work or other social spheres is not easily addressed with your real compassionate approach of suck it up and keep a stiff upper lip while your body has entered the stress breakdown phase. There are now tons of web sites and books on mobbing and bullying at school and work and the horrific effects on the victim including suicide. The mental death profession pretends to know nothing about this and other social nightmares to exploit and abuse the victims more while colluding with their oppressors. Similarly, there are lots of web sites on narcissists and psychopaths in the workplace who destroy countless victims. No surprise to me that those in the mental death profession knowingly deceiving desperate people with fraud suffering the same charcter disorders as the original abusers cannot be any help whatever. The best solution is read as many books and articles by the real experts like Dr. Robert Hare as possible and avoid the mental death system like the plague as the noble Dr. Peter Breggin advise. Just what you need is to be labelled crazy when fighting for your very life and maybe your child’s!!

    • Gal,
      All my bleakness all my diagnosis’s went away when I had all amalgam so called silver fillings which are really over 50% mercury removed and replaced with composite fillings according to Hal Huggins protocols. Also root canals removed and examined for cavitations . Contact DAMS (Dental Amalgam Mercury Solutions )
      http://www.amalgam.org/ You will find another research link there.

  10. You state in this piece that cholesterol is proven scientific fact.

    Are you so sure?

    The fact is that anti-cholesterol meds are the biggest money maker for the pharmaceutical industry by far. And the proof that elevated cholesterol causes heart disease is far less persuasive than the public is led to believe.

    In fact, cholesterol’s role in heart disease was largely dismissed in the 1950s and 60s. But no point telling the whole story when you are attempting to get generations of people to consume your toxic product.

    • Actually, these meds help a very few people, but you are right about this fraud in general. But at least a diagnosis of high cholesterol doesn’t become a life detroying stigma as with the mental death system. Further, high cholesterol can be a warning one must change diet, lose weight and exercise more to lower it. Yet, like psychiatry, real doctors in bed with BIG PHARMA keep lowering the cholesterol and other numbers to snag more drug customers. Also, statins have horrible side effects including muscle damage patients are rarely told if ever. BUYER BEWARE; Research any drug prescribed thoroughly!! Sadly, main stream medicine has become increasingly corrupt with psychiatry leading the pack. A good book on this topic is THE TRUTH ABOUT THE DRUG COMPANIES by Dr. Marcia Angell and many relatedones at Amazon

  11. I was on prozac for over two years. Quit cold turkey 21 months ago. Now have a chemical imbalance or should I say neurotransmitter deficiency, according to a psychiatrist. Still no emotions, taste, touch, smell and hearing problems, insomnia, numb head neck and many more symptoms. The 15 months after quitting were unbearable, flu like symptoms twinned with being in a stupor and or hungover for approx 5 months solid, crying uncontrollably, unbelievable insomnia, memory zero, concentration zero, numbness all over, intense pressure in head and ears, suicidal, confusion and the list could go on.

    No more meds for me, I’d rather take my chances without! The worst place I’ve ever been is trapped inside my own mind!

    • Chrissy, I am very sorry you have had that reaction to quitting Prozac.

      Unfortunately, although doctors deny it is possible, prolonged antidepressant withdrawal syndrome occurs fairly frequently. There are dozens of peer support Web sites (one is SurvivingAntidepressants.org) and thousands of posts all over the Web describing this.

  12. Psychiatry is very adept in the techniques of denial and rationalization, here in the service of maximal face-saving.

    First of all, many doctors do very much believe that serotonin deficiency caused depression. There are thousands still telling this to patients.

    The serotonin deficiency theory is woven through 20 years of medical textbooks, CME, papers in many fields, practice guidelines, etc. Even the Mayo Clinic has not fully cleaned this guff off its Web site yet.

    Psychiatrists still in all seriousness write about it as though it were a fact. For example, here’s Thomas L. Schwartz, MD educating the masses: http://blogs.webmd.com/mental-health/2011/07/brain-building-blocks-mystery-molecule.html

    According to his WebMD bio, Dr. Schwartz is “associate professor of psychiatry, director of adult outpatient services, and assistant director for psychiatric residency training at SUNY Upstate Medical University, where he also directs the Depression & Anxiety Disorders Research Program.”

    Psychiatry is caught between two embarrassing choices: either it was totally taken in by pharma and its own venal leadership, or claiming it never believed the lies it told to patients.

    Dr. Pies has been at the forefront of constructing the strategic apologia: “Of course we were never so stupid to believe that! We only told it to patients to soothe them. It’s all about the patients with us!”

    Unfortunately, thousands of psychiatrists, GPs, and other doctors have told millions of patients they have serotonin deficiencies and the only remedy is to take antidepressants the rest of their lives, the way diabetics must take insulin.

    That millions have been taking antidepressants unnecessarily for many years is not a metaphor.

  13. I, too, heard this piece with great interest the other morning on my way to work. I was also very shocked by the psychiatrist in the piece openly admitting that lying to his patients about the chemical imbalance myth was a way of empowering them and decreasing stigma!

    But the MOST shocking thing to me occurred a bit earlier in the piece. The reporter stated (and some of the above comments seem to confirm) that the release of Prozac and its “blockbuster” status was huge in propelling the chemical imbalance myth to the forefront of psychiatry. The reporter went on to state that the reason Prozac was so successful was because it had MILD SIDE EFFECTS.

    That’s right — compared to tricyclic antidepressants (its precursors) it had very few side effects, and these were quite mild. And that’s why it was so influential in sales and in science at the time.

    UM… did anyone hear about how it causes SUICIDE? Akathisia? Homicidal Ideation??

    NPR never mentioned these, even though they are well documented in the literature, and in the records of various courts where massive class action suits have been brought against Lilly for these “mild side effects.”

    I imagine that laypeople might gather, from the story, the following information:

    “Prozac works to treat depression, safely, with little side effects. We don’t know why. The chemical imbalance theory is not why.

    But take your prozac if you want to get better because the fact remains… depression is a brain disease!”

  14. It is wonderful to read that people are waking up and becoming aware of the glitches in the system. I have had many years of despair, darkness, and a merry-go- round of medications. I often felt that it was my hope that the medication would do something that actually allowed relief for brief periods of time. None of the medications ever “worked” for long. One actually did change my experiences for 6 months, and I now believe that that experience was due to it actually creating a chemical change in my brain, but like any drug eventually tolerance levels necessitate larger doses to get the job done and eventually I topped out at maximum dosage. I have been free of medications for 7 months, after a 10 plus year adventure in pharmacology.
    I have been seeking ways that work for me, long term, and that are congruous with the things I desire in my life. I have found that my experiences and the meaning I make from them need to change to produce different feelings in my mind and body. I have had a lifetime of finding what doesn’t work for me and being stuck in patterns that perpetuate the feelings of misery and worthlessness, and a mere year of finding ways to become unstuck, be aware of the processes of my emotions and feelings, and to find possibilities and hope for long term changes in myself. Everything I have found and tried has been of my choosing. I still experience periods of extreme despair and they are becoming shorter as I practice applying myself to the things I have chosen to change the patterns of my thoughts, to care for myself physically, and to examine the beliefs and judgments I have routinely subjected myself to for decades.
    Addressing a few of the previous comments…I have previously been deeply stuck in thoughts and desires and actions of suicide. For me, these were ways to avoid and/or stop the pain I was experiencing. I am now finding ways to experience the pain and transform them into opportunities for learning and growth. I feel very fortunate to have a therapist who has been available to me for several years. It is not so much in her ideas and suggestions that I have found hope, but in her willingness to with me as I am. Though I have tried many of her suggestions, it was really when I found things that made sense and had meaning for me personally that roots of change began to emerge. She has connected with me in some deeply dark times and it is the trust and ability to feel understood that have allowed me to find my own way to healing, change, and growth in this particular relationship.
    Once I stopped the story I was telling myself of being broken and needing fixing and believing others knew more about what was wrong and how to fix than I possibly could, things began to change. I see that I do experience things in ways that many people in society do not. I am reaching a place of recognizing what I want my life to look, feel, and be like and to move toward those things. I did my due diligence in trying the societal norms and seeking changes based on professional medical norms. Ultimately what is right for me is to be me. I know when the long standing patterns of despair come round, I have people who will challenge me to do the things I believe allow long term changes in myself.
    I have been deeply fortunate to be part of a transformative effort (funded by a transformation grant from SAMHSA-Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Agency) in Santa Cruz County California. Second Story House is a short stay residential program practicing Intentional Peer Support. Intentional Peer Support utilizes mutually responsible relationships to create the lives each person desires. Inherent to this is the deep belief that each person ultimately knows what is best for themselves, that we are people who have experienced periods of extreme intensity (in an array of forms unique to each person) and are seeking ways to change the patterns of our lives,… to live deeply, fully, richly defined by ourselves, not a diagnoses. We are not anti-psychiatry, we believe in self-directed self- determined care. It takes time to develop relationships, willingness to explore long standing personal constructs, and courage to risk different choices.

  15. I have had lengthy conversations and arguements with my kids’ therapists and prospective therapists and have come to the conclusion that most practitioners are NOT being intentionally deceiving by talking the chemical imbalance thing to their patients as the article alleges. I think most therapists are negligently uninformed and actually believe in the theory themselves. I don’t know which is worse!

    My sons’ psychiatrist couldn’t even discuss any studies, data are quality science with me, because he simply doesn’t know any of it. In the balance it seems like a bad cycle: The patient has faith that the therapists who have faith in the psychiatrists and rarely has any of the three of them kept up.

      • That is an absolutely horrendous accusation to make. As someone who has dealt with depression from a very young age, if a parent is aware of all the pain and turmoil that a child is going through with depression they want to do anything they can to help them. And rape is an extremely strong word to use- not accurate and completely ridiculous. Think before you type.

        • Hi Bret I am a advocate for people like us and care deeply for others that’s why I speak up when crimes of humanity and explotaion at the hands of wicked and depraived people is taking place. You are deceived.

        • regarding :not accurate and completely ridiculous
          The patient is delusional if he does not want “help” from the doctor. The patient is forcibly medicated until he is no longer complaining about receiving “help”. The patient must worship the doctor. If the patient does not worship, they are kept in the prison-hospital until they do so.

          “Forced administration of a psychiatric drug is a kind of tyranny that can be compared, physically and morally, with rape.
          Compare sexual rape and involuntarily administration of a psychiatric drug injected intramuscularly into the buttocks, which is the part of the anatomy where the injection usually is given: In both sexual rape and involuntary administration of a psychiatric drug, force is used. In both cases, the victim’s pants are pulled down. In both cases, a tube is inserted into the victim’s body against her (or his) will. In the case of sexual rape, the tube is a penis. In the case of what could be called psychiatric rape, the tube is a hypodermic needle. In both cases, a fluid is injected into the victim’s body against her or his will. In both cases it is in (or near) the derriere. In the case of sexual rape the fluid is semen. In the case of psychiatric rape, the fluid is Thorazine, Prolixin or some other brain-disabling drug. The fact of bodily invasion is similar in both cases if not (for reasons I’ll explain) actually worse in the case of psychiatric rape. So is the sense of outrage in the mind of the victim of each type of assault.” antipsychiatry.org by Lawrence Stevens, J.D

          • Thank you Sir you are a gentleman. I’m” glad you are not a person that say’s it’s okay to pee on dead people. Biochemical rape is simalar but I would rather take the pee than Paxil. Some people on this page have tried to whitewash what’s really going on here that’s because they are conspearators in this atrossitey and to admit so they would also have to admit they torture people and cause permanant damage. Dream takers they are. Brutish fossils from a decaid era that will be greatfully forgotted.

  16. To anyone out there that is being abused. You do not have to take primative unproven drugs to receive SSI or SSDI. Be an advocate for your self. Tell your doctor you want tapper prescriptions to discontenue your meds. Your are somebody you have a choce in your treatment and a right to informed consent from professionals and the protections of the ADA and fair housing act. Find the protection and advocey agency in your state or a disablity rights coalition. Get up stand up don’t give up the fight. Nothing abbout us without us ever. There are people that can help you enforce your rights. If you live in Co. There is a lot of help just be warned there are dream takers everywhere.

  17. I’m tapering off Effexor after taking it for 10 years and I can say definitively that it’s worse than heroin withdrawal. I don’t know what Effexor did to my brain but I’m really worried I have permanent damage.

    • Yes I took Paxil for 6 years and went totally high as a kite on it. Eventually I overdosed and went cold turkey; thereafter my mental health took a serious nosedive into aggressive manic depression (high lows)- today 6 years later I feel I have problems with depersonalisation, derealisation, amnesia all resulting from my use of Paxil. Whether the turkey and resulting brain sweats are responsible for how I feel today I cannot be sure; however, I am sure that if I could turn back time I would never have gone near Paxil.

      • Forgot to mention the severe akathisia I suffered for around the first three years after overdose – asbolutely horrendous – I also displayed neurological symptoms such as being unable to put a second spoonful of sugar into a cup of tea without involuntarily jerking of my hand spilling it everywhere. Also on one occasion overwhelmed by flashing lights in my eyes with accompanying nausea and dizziness – can only presume this was some kind of seizure

    • Jeremy,Effexor is harder to get off than the other SSRI because it has the shortest half life. One approach is to switch to another SSRI like Prozac (the easiest to get off of the SSRIs), and then gradually get off that. There was an article in NY Times Magazine about 10-15 years ago (sorry I can’t be more specific) by a writer who got off Effexor after well over 10 years. He described withdrawal as hellish(brain zaps etc) but the effects were not permanent. Despite the extreme effects of withdrawal the effects are rarely permanent with SSRIs–unless you commit suicide or homicide. I’m being ironic but it is a real risk of impetuous withdrawal, or of taking the drug in the first place–in the beginning.Read Tracy’s Prozac: Pacacea or Pandora. Joseph Glennmullen book, Prozac Backlash, is very good and comprehensive. The neuroleptics are much worse since their effects are often irreversible.
      Seth Farber, Ph.D.
      author of http://www.amazon.com/The-Spiritual-Gift-Madness-Psychiatry/dp/159477448X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1367953344&sr=8-1&keywords=farber+gift

    • What Shannon says is nonsense. He has it all wrong. Had psychiatrists been able to establish a correlation but not causation
      they would never have conceded the chemical imbalance theory was a myth. There is no correlation. People with high serontonin have been depressed and many with low serontonin have no signs of depression. I have the impression he did not read the article: the psychiatric establishment itself, its major organizations, acknowledge there is no correlation, and that the theory is wrong. Instead of arguing with critics of psychiatrists he ought to go to the APA itself and tell them he doesn’t think they should give up. There are no longer 2 sides of this issue. There is Shannon and everyone else.

      Furthermore it should be emphasized that not only are SSRI ineffective, they are dangerous.Shannon comparison with cigarettes is dangerously misleading. His implication seems to be that taking SSRI is erring on the side of caution, just like giving up smoking. In addition to the bizarre homicidal and suicidal reactions in a small percentage of SSRI users–99% of all the school shooters were on SSRIs, and there is evidence for causation (see Peter Breggin Medication Madness)–SSRIs are largely responsible for the rapid rise in what gets labeled “bipolar disorder” in youth as Bob Whitaker shows in Anatomy of an Epidemic. These drugs are so ineffective (compared to placebo) and so dangerous the FDA should have banned them long ago. But the FDA has been captivated by the industry.
      One problem with holistic medicine is, although it offers different solutions, it often assumes the validity
      of psychiatric diagnosis.
      Seth Farber, Ph.D.
      http://www.sethHfarber.com

  18. It is extremely difficult to prove causality in research. It took MANY MANY years to prove that cigarettes cancer. I don’t think so. The notion that low serotonin “causes” depression – the fact that they haven’t been able to prove the theory definitely does not make the theory false. Would you argue that cigarettes didn’t cause cancer until researchers managed to establish causality? I doubt it. Maybe low serotonin does cause depression, and maybe antidepressants do alleviate it. People on both sides of the issue should stop talking like they know for sure.

  19. From my observation, alternative medicine is just as guilty as mainstream medicine for continuing to espouse the “low serotonin” hypothesis. How many alternative websites and doctors do we see urging patients to buy and use 5htp (and in some cases tryptophan) to boost allegedly low serotonin levels associated with depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, etc.? Parenthetically I doubt serotonin precursors CAN boost CNS serotonin levels over time — surely there would be a compensatory mechanism.

  20. And yet, they’re trotting out two old favorites, brain defect (now with completely made up terms that allow anyone who doesn’t think they are mentally ill to be suspect and involuntary commitment. They do this with the same failed theories expecting different results, the power of psychiatry now is that they can lie blatantly about their findings, and no one will question it. What I can’t understand is their absolute refusal to note they were wrong and try something different.

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