Researchers Gain Insight into Stimulant Effects on Brain

In what a press release described as "a major advance in the field of neuropsychiatry," researchers from Oregon Health & Science University said they believe that they have gained a clearer understanding of precisely how cocaine, amphetamines and related psychostimulant drugs "disrupt the normal functioning of the dopamine transporter in the brain." The study appeared in Nature. More →

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Adventures at the APA

On May 18, I had the pleasure and privilege of chairing a workshop at the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting in Toronto. The topic: Rethinking the Long-Term Use of Antipsychotics in Schizophrenia: For Everyone, No one or Some?
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Questions About Jeffrey Lieberman’s “Notorious Past and Bright Future of Psychiatry”

I just attended my first American Psychiatric Association (APA) meeting even though it has been going for 168 years. I was invited to join a symposium on vitamin-mineral combinations as primary treatment of psychiatric symptoms. There was one talk I decided to attend, not because I was particularly interested in the topic, but because it would give me an opportunity to ask Jeffrey Lieberman a question.
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ECT: Safe and Effective for Agitation and Aggression in Cases of Dementia?

It is often not appreciated by the individuals receiving electrically induced convulsions that any gains they receive from the procedure will almost certainly be short-lived, and that the “treatment” will need to be repeated more or less indefinitely at intervals of about a month. Case studies can be helpful and informative, but they tell us little or nothing on the general questions of safety and efficacy.
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Psychiatry Reconsidered … Once Again

It would be a shame if Andrew Scull’s Madness in Civilization did no more than draw well deserved applause for his authorship and historical expertise, and a prominent place in the bibliography of madness. My own copy of Madness in Civilization arrived last week, and it is great; comprehensive, brilliantly written, lots of colourful and many disturbing illustrations. Madness’ continuing story, “From the Bible to Freud, from the Madhouse to Modern Medicine” is told as never before, but there seems to be something missing…
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What Kind of Forced Treatment Would You Prefer?

The new Danish psychiatric law which has been under development for a while has just been passed by the government and is due to be implemented on 1st June 2015. However the road to this new law, ostentatiously to improve the rights of the patients, has had an interesting history. Denmark was on its way to achieving the dubious title of European champion in the number of people subjected to physical restraints according to the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture.
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What Would CRPD-Compliant Mental Health Legislation Look Like?

Let’s be clear – I prefer to have no mental health legislation at all. The history and legacy of mental health legislation is anti-human rights, discriminatory, segregative, othering of people whose experiences of distress and states of consciousness are disapproved of by those who are able to fit more easily into social norms. Often too, “mental health legislation” is synonymous with “mental health acts” that are concerned with regulating involuntary commitment and compulsory treatment. It is with this in mind that I promoted the goal of “repealing mental health laws” and started the Campaign to Repeal Mental Health Laws.
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Is My Therapist Good or Not?

I frequently get asked by people on the internet whether or not I think their therapist is good. For a variety of reasons, I usually do not feel comfortable answering them directly. However, I do feel comfortable writing about the subject here, as a sort of amalgamated response. As such, here are some questions I might ask such people, and here is how I might respond to their answers.
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Physician, Heal Thyself (Luke 4:23)

Big Pharma has done their job so well that they no longer need to bribe doctors with cash to get them to tout the party line. Their neurobiological belief system — that complex mental states can be meaningfully reduced to neurological structures and biochemical processes — is now so well entrenched in our culture it is becoming more and more difficult to find folks who doubt it, especially in medical schools and in departments of psychiatry.
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It’s a Circus Under This ‘Big Tent’

Just once, I’d like to share my story at a conference (any conference) and have it truly be heard. I’d like to share how much I was hurt by psychiatric diagnosis and a ‘mental illness’ perspective, and how I regard my experience as being largely rooted in trauma, and have people not revert immediately back to referring to everyone as ‘mentally ill.’ Just once. It hasn’t happened yet.
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Psychiatry Through the Lens of Institutional Corruption

When you write a book, you usually do so in response to a prompt of some type, and in the process of researching and writing the book, you will come to see your subject in a new way. Psychiatry Under the Influence, a book I co-wrote with Lisa Cosgrove, provided that learning experience, and this is what I now know, with a much greater certainty than before: Our citizenry must develop a clear and cogent response to a medical specialty that, over the past 35 years, has displayed an “institutional corruption” that has done great injury to our society. In fact, I think this is one of the great political challenges of our times.
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Book Review:  Tales From The Madhouse, by Gary Sidley

Earlier this year the British publisher PCCS Books published Tales From The Madhouse: An insider critique of psychiatric services, by Gary Sidley. Gary’s criticisms of psychiatry are cogent and convincing. But in addition he has drawn on his extensive experience working in the system to describe in close detail psychiatry’s devastating effects in the lives and hopes of real people. Through Gary’s sensitively written anecdotes, psychiatry’s “treatments” are exposed as the disempowering, hope-destroying tactics that they are.
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Sheller’s Appeal Demonstrates FDA’s Indifference to Drug Harm

As I wrote in Let’s All Support Stephen Sheller’s FDA Petition to Revoke the Pediatric Approval of Risperdal, Stephen Sheller’s law firm, which represents hundreds of boys who were prescribed Risperdal and then grew breasts (gynecomastia) as a result, filed a petition with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to change the label and revoke its approval for use on children. During the course of discovery for litigation in its Risperdal cases, Sheller became privy to documents not provided to the FDA that showed Johnson & Johnson hid the problem. This is a very important case. If it is successful, it will give hope of forcing the FDA to follow its mandate to protect the public from harmful drugs.
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Musings on the Yale Conference

On April 24, I had the pleasure of attending the conference “New Directions & New Hopes Call for New Practices in Clinical Psychiatry.” Jointly sponsored by the Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health, the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care and the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, this was a rich experience.
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Baltimore is Burning: Who Defines ‘Violence’?

The person living on the streets with whom no one will make eye contact, or who the police hassle for requesting spare change from passersby. The individual who has learned to cut themselves to manage emotional pain, and so is punished by emergency room staff who sew them up without anesthetic (both physical and emotional pain disregarded), or confuse their efforts for suicide and contain them against their will. The person of color who some might cross the street to avoid, or who is arrested for lashing out when another is murdered at the hands of those employed to ‘serve and protect.’ Each is only looking for a way to survive, but instead finds themselves ignored or blamed.
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RCTs: Really Concerning Trends in Research and Marketing

An RCT is simply a research tool and, as a tool, it can be used in a variety of ways. Unfortunately, the idea of a hierarchy of evidence seems to be hypnotically seductive for many people and powerfully useful for the drug companies. In order to get a drug to market, regulators in the US such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and also in Europe, only require the drug companies to produce two RCTs with statistically significant positive results. Perhaps this very low standard has contributed to the fact that RCTs can be much more useful as marketing tools for drug companies than for discovering new and useful ways for people to live healthy and meaningful lives.
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Kudos to Art Levine for Exposing Government Complicity in Illegal Psychiatric Drugging of Children

In a well-researched, comprehensive article in today’s Huffington Post Art Levine has brought to the attention of the mainstream media the government’s complicity in the illegal psychiatric drugging of poor children, especially foster children, through Medicaid.  The article, Feds Pay for Drug Fraud: 92 Percent of Foster Care, Poor Kids Prescribed Antipsychotics Get Them for Unaccepted Uses is the only mainstream article I know about that has really pressed the federal government over its refusal to enforce Medicaid’s coverage restrictions to “medically accepted indications.”
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Forced Psychiatry is Torture

I am a survivor of forced psychiatry, and I bring this perspective with me as a human rights lawyer. People with disabilities have a right to be as we are and not to have our bodies and minds made over to suit other people. We alone have the right to decide whether a medical treatment will support who we are or detract from who we are, and that is why free and informed consent is the essential requirement.
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Hearing Voices: Misconception, Misdirection & Moving Forward

The Hearing Voices Network is spreading in the United States… but not fast enough for my tastes. (The inactivity demanded by patience takes a ridiculous amount of energy to sustain.) In spite of being one of the more groundbreaking efforts to take hold in our country in the last several years, it’s still most often relegated to ‘balcony seating’ at public events and referenced only as an afterthought or honorable mention. (Never mind all the people in the mental health system who are left without options in the interim.)
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The Spurious Chemical Imbalance Theory is Still Alive and Well

The promotion of the chemical imbalance theory did occur, and continues to occur, and is a most shameful chapter in psychiatry’s history.  It is arguably one of the most destructive, far-reaching, and profitable hoaxes in history. I could not begin to estimate the number of clients I’ve talked to over the years who told me that their psychiatrists had told them they had a chemical imbalance in their brains, and that they needed to take the pills for life to correct this imbalance. Even today, I regularly receive emails from readers contesting the assertions in my posts and telling me in no uncertain terms that they have chemical imbalances in their brains that cause their problems.
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A Challenge to Dr. Lieberman

On a national Canadian radio show on Sunday (April 26), former APA president Jeffrey Lieberman called me a “menace to society” for my writings on the long-term effects of psychiatric medications (and other writings.) He said there was abundant evidence that psychiatric medications improved long-term outcomes for various psychiatric disorders. And so now we would like to issue a challenge: Dr. Lieberman, please point out these studies for us.
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Getting Our Anti/Critical Psychiatry Authors Read:
A Case for Book Activism

Our success as a movement depends on our ability to sway the general public—and if the mainstream press and media never afford our books their due—not even the blatantly cutting edge ones (and if anything, these are treated worse) and the general public, as a consequence, remains largely unaware of their existence, the likelihood of succeeding in our primary mission(s) is substantially reduced.
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A Reply to Peter Kramer:
Do Serotonin Imbalances Cause Depression?

A recent article on the website i09 titled, ‘The Most popular Antidepressants are Based on an Outdated Theory” has again raised the issue of Chemical Imbalances.  It is interesting that the author of the  i09 piece cites Dr. Peter Kramer and states, “Some psychiatrists vehemently disagree with the way journalists and other psychiatrists have pushed back against the chemical imbalance theory….” In both cases he cited what he considered the best evidence in support of the theory, but he did not discuss the research in any depth. Back in 2008, we took an in-depth look at the evidence that Dr. Kramer used to support the chemical imbalance theory. When one takes a closer look at that research we do not think it supports the theory. For this reason, we are reposting our 2008 essay about this.
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So Long, and Thanks for All the Serotonin

The serotonin reuptake inhibiting (SSRI) group of drugs came on stream in the late 1980s, nearly two decades after first being mooted. The delay centred on finding an indication. They did not have hoped-for lucrative antihypertensive or antiobesity profiles. Even though a 1960s idea that serotonin concentrations might be lowered in depression had been rejected, drug companies marketed SSRIs for depression even though they were weaker than older tricyclic antidepressants. They sold the idea that depression was the deeper illness behind the superficial manifestations of anxiety. The approach was an astonishing success, central to which was the notion that SSRIs restored serotonin levels to normal, a notion that later transmuted into the idea that they remedied a chemical imbalance.
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Allen Frances and the Spurious Medicalization of Everyday Problems

On April 5, Allen Frances MD, published an article on the Huffington Post blog.  The title is Can We Replace Misleading Terms Like ‘Mental Illness,’ ‘Patient,’ and ‘Schizophrenia’.  It’s an interesting piece, and it raises some fundamental issues. Dr. Frances’ position in this and other recent papers appears to be that in general, psychiatric “diagnoses” and “treatment” are OK, but that they are being overused by unscrupulous practitioners with the encouragement of pharma, and perhaps other monied interests. But the central issue is the spurious medicalization of non-medical problems in the first place.
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