On December 1, Mad in America published an article titled When Homosexuality Came Out (of the DSM). The author is Vivek Datta, MD, MPH, a British physician. The article was also published the same day on Dr. Datta’s blog site, Medicine and Society. The article focuses on the removal of homosexuality from the DSM, which occurred in 1973. Dr. Datta discusses this issue and various related themes, and he draws some conclusions that, in my opinion, are unwarranted and misleading. Full Article →
Psychiatric drugs have the capacity to biologically cause all of the experiences that get labeled as mental illness; we need look no further than the lists of “side effects” provided by the drug companies themselves to know this. Psychiatric drugs have been known to frequently cause depression, anxiety, suicide, violent behavior, trouble focusing, psychosis, hallucinations, insomnia and delusions to name a few. How else do psych drugs cause the very illnesses they presume to treat? For one thing, historically, mental illness has risen exponentially with the creation of psych drugs and the rise in prescriptions.
The very shift from “mental illness” being a religious or personal problem in most cultures (not a medical illness at all) to an illness presumed to be caused by brain malfunction, directly coincides with there being some sort of medical treatment administered in the name of “legitimate medicine” as opposed to witchcraft/shamanism/occult practices, religious rituals or even basic common sense activities. Most research indicates this shift started in the 5th century BC with Hippocrates defining mental illness as a problem in the brain to be treated as an isolated physical condition. In contrast to witch hunts and vague mystical practices that couldn’t be officially quantified or qualified, this idea was perhaps a relief to the masses. Hippocrates used certain substances to treat these “brain problems” which were, perhaps the first notions of mental illness similar to the ones we so readily accept today, with names, symptom lists and specialized substances to treat each one.
Mental illness did not even exist as this type of phenomenon until there were substances or drugs to treat it. The religious or personal problems they were seen as earlier were not in the category of medicine, but rather issues of the soul, moral issues or other phenomenon considered to be outside of the self entirely such as demon possession.
There was never a biological brain disease until there were “medications” purported to correct chemical imbalances.
Is it safe to say psychiatric drugs themselves created mental illness and sustain the phenomenon? Let’s break this question down by pretending, for just a moment, that my wet dream came true and psychiatric medications ceased to exist (as FDA approved medicine. The drugs themselves could still exist as drugs). That’s right, no ads in magazines suggesting you ask your doctor about Abilify if your anti-depressant alone isn’t enough, no TV commercials to laugh at because they pay millions of dollars to tell you their drugs cause impotence, trouble breathing, diabetes and sudden death. No doctors, therapists or psychiatrists suggesting or prescribing any psychiatric pharmaceuticals whatsoever.
Let’s keep imagining this world. You are having an extreme time in life. You feel exasperatingly alone, freaked out, your heart is racing, you are having an out of body experience, a threatening voice in demanding you do something dangerous, and you wish there was something, anything that would take the edge off. Even a pill. Okay, so you figure something out-you ask for help- you drink some vodka or eat something or you smoke a joint or go for a run or cry into someone’s arms. There are infinite things you can do at that moment. Infinite.
The only option you don’t have is to go to a doctor covered by your insurance company and get free or cost-subsidized drugs and a mental illness diagnosis. Every other option is available to you. You can even get drugs similar to benzos or other psych drugs (in this utopia all drugs and substances are legal for consenting adults), but you have to pay for them, and they don’t cost a lot. Let’s say they cost a few dollars per pill (the street cost of most of them now, though it could be far lower). You are choosing to take them, if you do, over the glass of vodka, the joint of marijuana, the herbal supplement, the community acupuncture, the hug, whatever. Or you are taking them in addition to one or many of these things. You’re treating yourself as a respectable adult and making a conscious choice. You are viewing all of the substances and practices or “treatments,” if you will, as equal before god. None are intrinsically more or less “medicine” in the eyes of the law or in terms of resources sponsored by social services. If anything, benign or nourishing, life giving treatments are funded by social services.
So, let’s say you opted to buy a benzo for a few dollars. You take it, it calms you down, you assess what’s going on from a less panicked place. Maybe you decide it’s worth the investment to take benzos everyday and you become addicted, but just like a cigarette smoker or alcoholic, or soda drinker for that matter, you pay for your intake based on how much you use (plus tax). You are still harming your body and the ecosystem to some degree, and you may argue (and perhaps rightly so) this is harm reduction, keeping you alive until you can find a less harmful way. And maybe you will save the ecosystem someday, or have an important role in it, so it is important to keep you alive. Or maybe staying alive is intrinsically better than dying. In any case, mental illness has not been mentioned yet. And the reason? We are in an imaginary world where there are no psychiatric drugs prescribed as medicine.
The other thing to consider is what sorts of things would not be taking place in this post-psychiatry utopia of sorts. Polypharmacy, for one, would taper or cease to exist. Anyone taking multiple psych drugs in this imaginary reality would be seen as having a problem, similar to a person in our current culture who uses 3 different types of synthetic street drugs on a daily basis, even in small to moderate doses, or who uses several different forms of one each day.
There would also be far far far less people taking psych drugs for daily “maintenance” of mood or with hopes and illusions of drug induced emotional stability with a hefty price tag of good health. Why? Because these drugs would not be labeled medicine, therefore few people would go beyond the initial week or two of delirium. Psych drugs meant for daily use (excluding stimulants and sleeping pills) don’t “work” right away the way benzos do. Benzos, like opiates, are designed to be a quick emergency fix of relief. Other psych drugs like SSRIs, neuroleptics, and anticonvulsant drugs start off with a week or two of making the substance user feel disoriented, sick, confused and nauseous in many cases. Few people would bother to take them beyond that trial period (or at all) without a doctor coaching them along. People take stimulants, benzos, sleeping pills and opiates recreationally and/or addictively, but other classes of drugs give no immediate good feeling or relief beyond the placebo effect.
Doctors routinely execute the placebo effect and encourage their patients to wait out the first few weeks. They give their clients hope by saying, “The drugs take a little while to work.” All of this is very well supported by a system that covers or highly subsidizes doctors visits and drugs under the heading of medical need. If someone were to try to sell you a drug that would take a few weeks before possibly making you feel happier, would make you feel bad first, had lots of side effects and health risks and had not been shown to work better than placebo, AND you had to pay a few dollars per day for a months supply to start out, would you try it? It just sounds like a scam.
Without the dishonest medical validation of drug use for a non-medical situation that has never been shown to have a biological basis that can be diagnosed, treated, cured, or prevented (despite FDA approval) with any medical procedure, people would not become psychiatric patients for life.
We may become substance abusers or drugs addicts, and many of us currently are. These issues would surely need to be addressed, as would, of course, the needs of the millions of psychiatric substance users who already exist and whose substances are called medicine to treat a mental illness because a doctor diagnosed them based on unproven theory and speculation.
Medicine is not the track. It’s not Vegas. It’s not, and should not be, a cheap scratch card. Millions of lives are being gambled on with these unproven theories. The drugs we are gambling with cause violent behavior, suicides, diabetes, early death, obesity, birth defects and so much more. For those fully covered by insurance, they can be cheaper than a lottery ticket, cheaper than a game of poker. What will it take to remind the American public (and other countries Western Psychiatry has infiltrated) these are not safe substances, these are not medical necessities?
How do we genuinely heal from the damage of racism and internalized racism, as well as mental health oppression, adultism and all form of oppression? We can change all the laws in the land – and we have changed many laws (civil rights laws, employment laws via the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Americans with Disability Act laws) but that doesn’t change attitudes. Full Article →
On November 28, Psychiatric Times published an article titled Psychiatric Diagnosis and Treatment of Somatizing Neuropsychiatric Disorders. It addresses the phenomenology, epidemiology, and developmental course of the so-called somatization disorders. Under the heading “Postulated pathogenic influences,” the authors present working hypotheses from psychoanalytic theory, learning theory, behavior analysis, social-affective neuroscience, autoimmune sensitization, and theories of dissociation. But they advocate a discussion of the role of medications in “normalizing brain neurotransmitter function.” Full Article →
Depression during pregnancy is an important issue. Depression should not be ignored and depressed pregnant women deserve good treatment and care. Part of that good care, though, is providing them with full and correct information. I care for pregnant women taking antidepressants on a daily basis and too often they tell me that the only counseling they received about the medication was, “my doctor told me it’s safe in pregnancy.” This post will review the evidence in this area and address the counterarguments. Full Article →
As a mother of 3 children, grandmother of 3, I was both shocked and disturbed to read that ECT was being promoted as a safe treatment for children and a viable option in healthcare. For I know that ECT causes fits to the brain, memory loss, headaches and trauma, to some if not many. I know this because I’ve heard it from people who have received ECT voluntarily. They tell me that it caused them to lose “good” memories, eg of holidays, and some have said it made no difference to their mental wellbeing, in terms of being able to come off psychiatric drugs or in dealing with low mood. They talk of having “maintenance” shock treatment and of not being allowed hospital discharge until agreeing to have it. Full Article →
In many respects it is difficult to fault the report Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia, recently published by the British Psychological Society (BPS) and the Division of Clinical Psychology (DCP)[i]; indeed, as recent posts on Mad in America have observed, there is much to admire in it. Whilst not overtly attacking biomedical interpretations of psychosis, it rightly draws attention to the limitations and problems of this model, and points instead to the importance of contexts of adversity, oppression and abuse in understanding psychosis. But the report makes only scant, fleeting references to the role of cultural differences and the complex relationships that are apparent between such differences and individual experiences of psychosis. Full Article →
On August 11, Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, published an article that was based on data derived from a random selection of families concerning their health problems or concerns. Surprisingly, the incidence of disability due to physical conditions declined by 11.8%, while disability due to mental/neurodevelopmental conditions increased by 20.9%. The highest increases were among children under the age of 6, and children from more advantaged homes. At least part of the reason for this stems from the fact that while the prevalence of physical disability is limited by the prevalence of the particular pathology in question, no such limitation applies to “psychiatric disabilities.” Full Article →
The Mad in America Continuing Education Project is preparing for takeoff after months of planning. The project will provide on-line classes on the full range of psychiatric medications, and the ways in which they affect the neurology, physiology and outcomes for people taking them. The overarching goal is to change the standard of practice so that it becomes consistent with well-designed research. Full Article →
This week we launch Mad In America Continuing Education. It is an enormous privilege to be a part of this project and to proudly announce that the first course offering is a series of lectures by me on neuroleptic drugs. I review the history of the development of these drugs as well as their short and long term effects. I discuss what conclusions I have drawn from the data; I recommend that we need to work harder to keep people off these drugs or – if we use them – to minimize the dose and stop them as soon as possible. But there remain other pressing concerns for those individuals who are currently taking these drugs. Full Article →
We are an unlikely duo, sharing secrets only known to insiders, the inmates and staff of Bader 5, Boston Children’s Hospital’s adolescent psychiatric unit. I am the nurse who blew the whistle that no one heard in 2010, she is the teenager who was imprisoned on Bader 5 for nine months in 2013. We met for the first time on this past Thanksgiving Day at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital, where she has been a *medical* patient for the past nine weeks. Full Article →
Katie Higgins has been a registered nurse since 1974 and an adolescent psychiatry nurse since 1988. She has worked in child psychiatry at Johns Hopkins since 1992. After reporting human rights violations and illegal restraints at Boston Children’s Hospital to the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health in 2009, Katie was forced to resign and has spent her time advocating for young adults on inpatient psychiatry units, and assisting with withdrawal from psych drugs. Katie has also taught math and science in a high school alternative program, and early childhood education in Bright Horizons, a toddler/preschool program.
With a diagnosis of schizophrenia, if internalized, comes the erosion of personhood, lowered self-esteem, shattered dreams, and a sense of disenchantment. The psychiatrist Richard Warner has even suggested that those who reject the diagnosis of severe mental illness may have better outcomes as they retain the right to construct their own narrative of personhood and define what really matters for them. Despite public education campaigns (or perhaps because of them), the stigma of mental illness is as enduring as it was 50 years ago. Full Article →
I’ve been arguing against calling this movement that I’m a part of a ‘peer’ movement for a long time. What has happened with Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri has helped me to crystallize that point. If we do not see what happens to some of us in the psychiatric system as connected to what happens to others because they are black or because they are transgender or because they love someone else of the same expressed gender (or because they live in poverty, etc. etc.), then I’m not sure any of us really, fully understands what it is we are trying to accomplish at all. Full Article →
As awareness spreads about there being something wrong with existing approaches to “psychosis” aka “madness.” Interest grows in exploring what to do instead. One meeting place for exploring this question of “what to do” will be the ISPS conference in NYC in March 2015, which is titled “An International Dialogue on Relationship and Experience in Psychosis.” This conference promises to stand out in terms of the variety of voices, perspectives, approaches and traditions that it will bring together to focus on the deeper issue of how helpers can best understand and interact with those experiencing what is called psychosis. Full Article →
Evidence based care is supposed to drive up standards, ensure uniformity, establish best practice, guide clinicians and protect patients. This should be celebrated. Instead, evidence-based mental health is openly disparaged, and when psychiatrists don’t get the results they want, they ignore them, suppress them, or denounce them. These attitudes have repercussions on the training of psychiatrists. Full Article →
Psychiatry clings to the broken brain theory, because without it, there is no justification for the employment of medical techniques in this area. Without the broken brain theory, psychiatrists are unnecessary, and even counterproductive. In their hearts, all psychiatrists know this, which is why they never address the fundamental question: why should all significant problems of thinking, feeling, and/or behaving be considered illnesses? Full Article →
On November 16, 1989 in El Salvador, liberation psychologist Ignacio Martin-Baró was murdered by a Salvadoran government’s “counter-insurgency unit” created at the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas. This year, 25 years after his assassination, peace and justice activists around the world will honor Martin-Baró. Embarrassingly, the vast majority of U.S. psychologists and psychiatrists know nothing about Martin-Baró and liberation psychology. Why would mainstream mental health institutions keep U.S. psychologists and psychiatrists and the general public ignorant of the life and work of Martin-Baró? Full Article →
The idea of schizophrenogenic or refrigerators mothers was an embarrassing era for psychiatry, and so psychiatrists were only too happy to explore the brain and the genome to unlock the secrets of mental illness. Today, the rhetoric has shifted away from intrapsychical conflicts and traumatic ruptures, and instead aberrant neurochemistry or delinquent genes are held as the source of mental illness. Regardless, the message is clear: mental illness is beyond our control and requires psychiatric intervention. The moral authority the mental health industry claims over our mental life rests on this claim. Full Article →
I’ve heard countless horrific stories of abuse, neglect, trauma and most every form of torment that one human can inflict upon another. The sting of such stories never lessens. I’ve often marveled at the mind’s capacity to focus a sustained attention upon ever new ways to perpetuate and promote anguish. Sophia’s story, presented here, is tragically similar in regards to the abuse she suffered. Full Article →
Peter R. Breggin, MD is a Harvard-trained psychiatrist and former full-time consultant at NIMH. Dr. Breggin has been called “The Conscience of Psychiatry” for his many decades of successful efforts to reform the mental health field. His scientific and educational work provided the foundation for modern criticism of psychiatric drugs and Electroshock (ECT), and leads the way in promoting more caring, empathic and effective therapies.
Dr. Breggin acts as a medical expert in criminal, malpractice and product liability suits, often involving adverse drug effects such as suicide, violence, brain injury, death, and tardive dyskinesia. A review of Dr. Breggin’s forensic work can be found at Legal Cases on his website. As documented in his resume, he began testifying in the early 1970s and has been qualified in court 85 times or more since 1987. In 2010, he testified before Congress about psychiatric-drug induced violence and suicide in the military.
Dr. Breggin has a weekly radio program on the Progressive Radio Network (prn.fm). His radio interviews are informative and inspiring discussions with pioneers in the field of mental health. Archives of the “Dr. Peter Breggin Hour” are available, free from iTunes or Podbean.
Dr. Breggin and his wife Ginger founded and direct the Center for the Study of Empathic Therapy (a nonprofit 501-C3). The center conducts conferences with cutting-edge professionals and reformers, and offers a free e-newsletter and therapy resources center. Dr. Breggin’s professional website is www.breggin.com and provides many resources for professionals, reformers, and anyone interested in learning about psychiatric drugs, electroshock, and other critical issues in psychiatry.
Dr. Breggin’s private practice is in Ithaca, New York where he treats adults, couples, and families with children. He has a subspecialty in clinical psychopharmacology, including adverse drug effects and psychiatric drug withdrawal.
On October 23, Simon Wessely, MD, a British psychiatrist, published an article, The real crisis in psychiatry is that there isn’t enough of it, at the online site The Conversation. Dr. Wessely is the Professor of Psychological Medicine at King’s College, London, and is also the president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. The Conversation is an independent non-profit online media outlet that delivers “…news and views from the academic and research community…” directly to the public. Their aim is “…to promote better understanding of current affairs and complex issues.” Full Article →
Is it possible to create a “Rainbow Coalition” with a common agenda of (1) reforming prisons, (2) providing affordable housing, (3) limiting the use of psychotropic medications, and (4) providing community-based mental health and psychosocial support? Prominent psychiatrist Allen Frances asked us at the Mad in America Film Festival to join such a coalition. Rather than rejecting Frances’ agenda outright — as I appeared to do in a recent Mad in America blog — we should give his proposal a fair hearing. As always, the devil is in the detail. Full Article →