Move over outdated chemical imbalance theory, now it is claimed that genetic misregulation underlies psychiatric disease, and that psychiatric drugs themselves can fix the genetic misregulation problem. “Anti-psychotics and mood stabilizing agents are capable of promoting epigenetic modifications associated with an active transcriptional state at disease-relevant loci, suggesting new molecular mechanisms of anti-psychotic efficacy” says the just released report by the Toronto-based Krembil Epigenetics Laboratory.
The report entitled- “Epigenetics of Major Psychoses: Progress, Problems and Perspectives”- was supported by the Canadian Institute for Health and the National Institutes of Health. It represents the cutting edge science on the brain, genetics, and so-called psychiatric disease.
To me this report heralds an Orwellian prophecy of hugely ominous proportions. Anti-psychotic and mood altering agents are being cheerfully seen as acceptable gene modifying substances that reverse the genetic misregulation that is boldly claimed to underlie so-called schizophrenia and bi-polar.
This is the new model. No more unproveable, debunked chemical imbalance theory of causation. Now we read – “Rapidly growing evidence shows that epigenetic regulation underlies normal cognition, and that cognition dysfunction occurs upon epigenetic misregulation.”
And – “Several psychiatric medications have been shown to produce epigenetic changes in the brain … the therapeutic actions of current medications for psychiatric disorders may occur via epigentic mechanisms.”
Epigenetics, is the study of modifications that occur in our DNA that cause certain genes to be suppressed. This report says that healthy genetic functioning or expression underlies normal cognitive functioning, and that genetic misregulation underlies psychiatric disease.
That in itself is a game changing model of human emotional suffering and madness if it is true. It tightens the science that says that all causation of human experience is caused by genetically determined neurological and biological forces and processes of normality vs. disease.
But to then assert that the psychiatric medications already in use can remedy all that, by altering us and changing how our genes work, is really breathtaking in its reach and possible consequences. The moral imperative to hesitate and deeply ponder how genetic science impacts people, has been a much proclaimed safeguard in the field of genetics. That requisite moral imperative seems to have been skipped over in this zeal to applaud anti-psychotic medication use as a ready way to modify genetic expression. Won’t all prescriptions for anti-psychotic medications have to include an informed consent now, about their genetic modifying effects? Most people I know don’t like to eat genetically modified produce. I wouldn’t be surprised if many people will be against their prescribed psychiatric drugs effecting their genetic functioning.
In this one landmark article, these researchers are claiming to have found the cause, and in psychiatric medications, the probable genetically modifying treatment for so-called schizophrenia and bi-polar. Should we doubt that every other DSM diagnosis will also be found to have such epigenetic underpinnings soon?
Maybe now the decades long, holy grail quest for a single gene causation of so-called schizophrenia, by the believers in the bio-psychiatry medical model, will come to an end.
Bob Whitaker’s recent courageous blog and video here on Mad In America, traces the thread of eugenics in our history right up to the present, in his blog- “The Taint Of Eugenics In NIMH-Funded Research Today.” It looks like our Canadian neighbors may have beat our own NIMH in boldly declaring the new era of the interface of psychiatry with epigenetics.
Will this new era also seek to separate those perceived as normal humans from those believed to be genetically abnormal? Will pathologizing eyes care to look deeper and ask questions about human rights?
Does anyone deserve to have their brain and gene functioning altered, perhaps permanently by psychiatric medications?
Instead of celebrating this research, I grieve for the millions who were not offered a viable alternative to such medications and who still are not.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.