On the 7th of November, Robert Whitaker was here in Copenhagen to officially launch the Danish translation of his book, Anatomy of an Epidemic and in conjunction with that, a conference had also been organized. Professor Peter Gøtzsche of the Cochrane Institute was also one of the speakers along with Ole Larsen, an Open Dialogue psychiatrist. Many of Whitaker’s books were sold that day, with many getting their copies signed, it was a great day and a sense of excitement prevailed. Even surprisingly, a psychiatrist who works in the closed wards and who promotes forced treatment had chosen to accept my invitation on behalf of the organizers to come, despite much skepticism. He told me afterwards how happy he was that he came and though he is unlikely to change his praxis overnight, perhaps the next time he meets someone who does not want treatment, he discovers, doubt has crept in and forced treatment will be just that much harder.
However, while we were celebrating the day, in another part of Denmark, psychiatry was preparing its attack. A professor of psychiatry Poul Videbech, one of our finest, specializing in depression with a particular emphasis on electroshock, was busy writing a review of the Danish version of Whitaker’s book for ‘Today’s Medicine’, an internet magazine for doctors in Denmark. ‘Today’s Medicine’ had asked the publishers for a copy so that Videbech could review it . . . only they had not yet received it as it was still waiting to be sent. However, that small detail did not deter Videbech who reviewed the book anyway, and on the 8th November, the day after the book was launched, Videbech’s review was published. The title of his review is “The Boy Has No Clothes On”. (Review is included as an appendix)
As you can imagine with such a title, the review is hardly going to be favorable, indeed it smacks of condescending paternalism framing the well-worn scenario for establishing psychiatric supremacy. Surprisingly, at least from my perspective, the review revealed more of the professor and by proxy psychiatry than it did anything else and certainly as reviews go, this is one that is difficult to take seriously. But precisely because it cannot be taken seriously it becomes a serious review, for we see psychiatry, as represented by professor Videbech, shooting itself in the proverbial foot.
What did professor Videbech as the psychiatric representative really expose? Psychiatric practice at its best! He states, “It is this assumption that (the author – Videbech’s words) psychiatry intends to prove and (he – Videbech’s words) it does so in such a way that all research in favour of this is included, and all that argues against it is systematically ignored.” Does anyone recognize this? Irving Kirsch, PhD certainly does as described in his book, ‘The Emperor’s New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth’
What about his following statement, “Next, the author seeks to show that there is no evidence that depression is due to a lack of serotonin in the brain, and that nothing suggests that schizophrenia is due to too much dopamine. […] No one today who knows anything about neurobiology believes that depression or schizophrenia can be explained so simplistically.” That inspired me to take a peek at the Danish Psychiatric Foundation’s latest book ‘Schizophrenia and other Psychoses’ for sufferers of schizophrenia and their families, and low and behold from page 77 – 80 what did I see? The ‘too much dopamine hypothesis for schizophrenia’ explained.
Of course a review of this calibre would not be complete without some element of pathos, however here Videbech has pulled out all the stops. The “heart-breaking experiment concerning drug free treatment of schizophrenia, which is occurring right in front of him: the hundreds of thousands of untreated people with schizophrenia in the United States who are homeless, sleeping in parks and found in prisons. If Whitaker were to study their terrible fate: how they are being raped and killed, how they die of frost-bite and tuberculosis . . . ” This is a reprehensible attempt at using human misery to push psychiatry’s drug agenda to the extreme while, at the same time, attempting to discredit a man whose message is that Harrow’s study shows that people off drugs have better outcomes than those on drugs. As a matter of interest, here in Denmark according to the National Indicator Project’s 2011 figures, 94% of all ‘schizophrenics’ in Denmark are medicated. I never knew the USA was a potential haven for ‘schizophrenics’ who could be part of an experiment regarding drug free treatment albeit in utter misery according to Videbech. I believe Harrow’s results show something profoundly important for us all and I am just one of many who proves his and Whitaker’s point. I would still be on the highest pension reserved for those who were 100% incapacitated by mental illness if I had not gotten myself off the psychiatric drugs.
Videbech’s finale is, “One cannot help but think that here it is most definitely the boy who has no clothes on.” I disagree.
I found that by the time I had read the whole review I was staring at a stark naked and frightened psychiatry, a psychiatry desperately trying by any means possible to shut the boy up who keeps saying “psychiatry has no clothes on . . . psychiatry has no clothes on . . . ” and now this boy has come to Denmark and is saying it in Danish “psykiatri har ingen tøj på . . . psykiatri har ingen tøj på . . . ”
Gerlach, Jes; ‘Skizofreni og andre Psykoser’ published by Psykiatrifonden 2011
Kirsch, Irving, PhD; ‘The Emperor’s New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth’ Basic Books; First Trade Paper Edition, 2011.
Baandrup, L, Voldsgaard, I, Cerqueira, C, Riis Jølving, L & Nordentoft, M; Den Nationale Skizofrenidatabase, Ugeskr Læger 174/42 15. oktober 2012
Whitaker, Robert; ‘Den Psykiatriske Epedemi, Illusionen om Mirakelpillen’ (2013) published by Psykovision
Here is Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, Poul Videbech’s review of Robert Whitakers Anatomy of an Epidemic translated.
The Boy Has No Clothes On
Today’s Medicine | 11.08.2013 | Page 32 | 1,105 words | Article ID: e413c4c2
The award-winning American science journalist Robert Whitaker’s book “Anatomy of an Epidemic” is published this week in Danish with the title “The Psychiatric Epidemic” The book is filled with rhetorical ploys and a selective choice of sources, writes guest reviewer Paul Videbech.
Author Robert Whitaker’s starting point is based on what he calls a modern plague. In 1955, he says, there were 566,000 people admitted to hospitals for the mentally ill in the United States, equivalent to 1 in 468 Americans. In contrast, in 1987, it was 1 in 184 who received a pension due to mental illness in the United States. The comparison is somewhat unconvincing, but let’s accept the premise.
Initially this appeals to a scholarly epidemiological, sociological and psychiatric discussion of the complex changes that have occurred in society during the same period: the demographic composition of the population has altered, our diagnostic practices have changed (and our threshold for defining mental illness has probably become too low), drug and alcohol abuse has exploded, family structures have changed. Moreover, exclusion from the labor market has also intensified: the tolerance towards people who do not perform 100 per cent has decreased. The pharmaceutical industry invents new diseases that has to be treated with medication, etc. All these things could conceivably increase the incidence of mental illness. However, this exciting and important discussion the author pretty much jumps over, for he knows, mirabile dictu, what the main cause of the plague is: It is the psychiatric treatments that make people sick! It is this assumption that the author intends to prove and he does so in such a way that all research in favour of this is included, and all that argues against it is systematically ignored.
Kicking down an already open door
However before he gets that far, we are introduced to the psychopharmacological history. How most ‘big’ psychiatric medications have been largely discovered mostly through coincidence. The story is true enough, but has been told better in other books.
Next, the author seeks to show that there is no evidence that depression is due to a lack of serotonin in the brain, and that nothing suggests that schizophrenia is due to too much dopamine.
Here the author is seized by his own enthusiasm and with great energy kicks down an already open door: No one today who knows anything about neurobiology believes that depression or schizophrenia can be explained so simplistically. It is an old rhetorical trick: A clearly ridiculous point of view is given to the opposition, which one then argues against and wins. It’s like reading Elliot Valentine’s book “Blame it on the Brain” from the eighties, a book the author frequently refers to.
There is something idealizing about the description of schizophrenia. In fact, it is even possible that schizophrenia does not exist, and that Kraepelin was wrong: his patients whom he believed suffered from dementia precox, had in fact encephalitis, which was the cause of their hallucinations and progressive disease.
Deja vu for 70s
At a time when studies document the benefits of early detection in adolescents with schizophrenia, for example, the OPUS project, and where people all over the world are aiming to make the period of untreated psychosis as short as possible to avoid chronicity and damage to the brain. It [therefore] becomes a deja vu from the previous anti- psychiatric era in the ’70s when one reads about how much healthier it is to live through one’s psychosis than be treated. Moreover, if you have the misfortune to get antipsychotic medication it increases one’s risk for relapse and becoming a chronic patient. The drug damages the brain, claims the author, yet all the studies with modern scanning techniques, which shows that people with schizophrenia who have never received medication have an increased propensity for shrinkage of certain brain regions, are quietly ignored. Granted – these cases are not easy to understand.
One could however wish that Whitaker had devoted more attention to the gigantic and heart-breaking experiment concerning drug free treatment of schizophrenia, which is occurring right in front of him: the hundreds of thousands of untreated people with schizophrenia in the United States who are homeless, sleeping in parks and found in prisons. If Whitaker were to study their terrible fate: how they are being raped and killed, how they die of frost-bite and tuberculosis, it would probably be a completely different book he wrote. Maybe even a book that was dangerous for the system?
One could go on: Depression that is created by antidepressants and, the reason for the explosion in bipolar illnesses is, according to the author, due to the use of antidepressants which makes them bipolar. That ‘switching’ exists, is true, but that it is very rare is not addressed by the author.
Notes that are worth noting
Whitaker’s Notes feature is remarkable. He cites many references, but very selectively, and those who find favour in his eyes, are from the 60s through to the 80s with few newer references.
There are not many references to scientific studies, instead quite a number [of references] citing newspaper articles and popular science books. The author, who is a journalist, cannot obviously be expected to comprehend in depth the original scientific literature, which has been published within just the last five years. But surely it is not unreasonable to expect that the most important and recent meta-analyses would have been read and understood? Especially when [he is] trying to peddle such a controversial message? It is also amazing that all the famous psycho-pharmacologists during this time that Whitaker quotes from, are out of context in such a way that it looks as if they are passionately against the use of medication for mental illness.
One could continue to describe this demagoguery, but space does not allow it.
Everyone in the whole world knows the story of “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” It tells about how the little boy revealed the emperor’s conceit, though everyone closed their eyes to the truth.
We love the little boys that reveal system errors and corruption.
However, when one has read this book, one cannot help but think that here it is most definitely the boy who has no clothes on.
It is an old rhetorical trick: a clearly ridiculous point of view is given to the opposition, which one then argues against and wins. If Whitaker were to study their terrible fate: how they are being raped and killed, how they die of frost-bite and tuberculosis, it would probably be a completely different book he wrote. Maybe even a book that was dangerous for the system?
Award-winning journalist comes to Denmark
The award-winning American science journalist Robert Whitaker’s book “Anatomy of an Epidemic” is published this week in the Danish under the title “The Psychiatric Epidemic.” Robert Whitaker has won several American awards for his articles and books on mental health care and pharmaceutical industries, and he was one of the nominated finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in 1998 for a series of articles about abuse of the mentally ill in scientific experiments. In 2011, he won the Investigate Reporters and Editors’ award for investigative journalism for “Anatomy of an Epidemic.”
In connection with his book which was published in Danish yesterday Thursday, he participated in a conference regarding the future of psychiatry, organized by PsychoVision. The conference was also attended by Professor Peter Gøtzsche, director of the Cochrane Institute, and psychiatrist Ole Larsen.