The distribution and demand for psychiatric drugs is at its highest level since their first introduction over 50 years ago. As part of our culture of addiction modern psychiatry, in collusion with the pharmaceutical industry, has greatly expanded and increased the demand for their own particular versions of legal and highly profitable mind altering substances. This demand has become so great that even if the current medical establishment wanted to reverse this trend (something that will never happen), they would now face tremendous outrage from a mass of desperate consumers.
Even if it became widely known by the public that the “chemical imbalance” theory was patently false and that these drugs will more often cause great harm to people than any good, this would not stop the current high demand for these drugs. It most definitely would not stop Big Pharma’s profit hungry desire and need to sell them.
The promise of Biological Psychiatry’s psychiatric drug (counter) revolution, including its decades of experimentation on a misinformed public, has led to a state of full-blown dependency on these mind-numbing substances. This promise has become so deeply imbedded in our present day human experience that nothing will stop this demand within the present order of things. This is a sad reality full of major addictions, excruciating withdrawal syndromes, and a perpetual state of learned helplessness from which only a precious few (though growing in numbers) are currently able to escape. And as long as this distribution of drugs is so highly profitable to a small segment of the rich and powerful, and as long as it continues to anesthetize part of a new generation of potential grave diggers for their corrupt and historically outdated system, no major reform would be allowed to disrupt this flow of wealth and this extremely valuable form of social control.
For this oppressive mental health system to begin any significant process of change (leading to its ultimate dismantlement) it would require a total revolutionary transformation of the entire status quo that surrounds it. This would necessitate the introduction of actual laws, strict medical protocols, and clear penalties (involving serious legal and professional consequences) for all those who would still improperly prescribe or distribute psychiatric drugs or abuse people with any form of coercive type of “treatment.” It is my belief (as stated in my other writings) that these changes cannot, and will not happen within a profit based economic system and the surrounding political apparatus that maintains and props it up.
How do I know this to be true? How can I be so certain that there will never be any newly established set of reforms within today’s mental health system that could reverse the current dangers involved in the distribution and demand for psychiatric drugs, or somehow end all forms of forced “treatment?” Is it a narrow form of pragmatism or tunnel vision on my part to say that this is the unrelenting and ugly truth based on only my limited experience of working 21 years in the community mental health system in this country; having worked with perhaps only two dozen different psychiatrists or prescribers? I don’t think so, and I’ll explain why I believe this so strongly.
Every prescriber I have ever worked with over these years has promised me that they were well aware of the dangers of benzodiazepines, and they would only prescribe them on rare occasions. In addition, all of them would clearly identify themselves as against any form of a poly-pharmacy or similar potentially dangerous pattern of prescribing psychiatric drugs. Many of these same prescribers would read some of the various types of scientific material I handed out over the years detailing the growing body of knowledge related to some of the dangers of various types of psychiatric drugs. Some have even read all, or parts of, Robert Whitaker’s Anatomy of an Epidemic, stating afterwards that they agreed with most of the content.
In the past year I have even taken the risky step of writing two open letters to the medical staff at the community mental health clinic where I work regarding the dangers related to the high number of benzodiazepines being prescribed, especially in an area with high levels of opiate addiction and overdose deaths. (There have also been other significant efforts I have made regarding possible dangerous prescribing patterns at my clinic which I am not prepared to detail at this time.) What has been the response to these efforts? Has this fundamentally, or even minutely, changed any prescribing patterns? As you might have guessed by the content and tone of my blog, that so far I have been virtually ignored and nothing has changed, and (as you might also guess) I am not optimistic that this situation will change in the immediate future.
To get a better handle on just how deeply imbedded the Biological Psychiatry belief system and practice has become in today’s world, let us now consult with the world renowned and immensely popular, Dr. Feelgood. And also let’s take a much closer look at the well-worn, “path of least resistance,” upon which not only the great doctor forever travels, but where many of us often find ourselves pulled by powerful and unforeseen forces of cultural gravity.
Definition: Dr. Feelgood is colloquial reference identifying any person (more often a medical doctor) who, recklessly or without informed restraint, distributes or prescribes mind altering substances. More often these are legal drugs, provided for the alleged purpose of relieving pain and suffering, either physical and/or emotional, but in different circumstances it could be just any person assisting someone else in the act of “getting high.”
The person distributing these substances may consider themselves to be highly ethical, with all the best intentions, or they could be motivated principally by some type of monetary gain and/or some other nefarious goal. Frequently the user of these substances becomes addicted and/or dependent on both the substance and its distributor, and eventually suffers mightily in the long run from these relationships. The doctors who supplied an endless array of legal drugs to Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Anna Nichol Smith, and other Hollywood stars prior to their tragic deaths, more often have been given the “Dr. Feelgood” label. These types of prolific drug prescribers can also be found in many local doctors’ offices and throughout the community mental health system in this country.
Definition: The “path of least resistance” has a particular scientific meaning in the realm of physics, but it is also used to describe the path taken in a certain passive pattern of human behaviors. In these cases resistance is often used as a metaphor for personal effort or confrontation; a person taking “the path of least resistance” avoids any type of resistance, and subsequently takes the “easy way” despite any resulting long term negative consequences.
In today’s world we all have spent some time travelling “on the path of least resistance.” It is a very difficult path to avoid (or get off of once we are stuck on it) given the overwhelming power of the institutional and cultural gravity exerted by the status quo. This path has enormous strength within the murky waters of the so-called mental health treatment field. If one finds themselves caught within the potentially deadly currents created by Biological Psychiatry’s domination of the mental health field, it is very difficult to “swim against the tide” or ultimately escape the pull of these treacherous waters.
To work in today’s mental health system is to be engaged in a daily battle against getting stuck “on the path of least resistance.” This path contains all the established “disease” labels necessary for insurance billing and related forms of mental and physical coercion that include psychiatric drugging and forced treatment. The more power we have within that system (from doctors on down), while traveling on this path, the more damage we can do to those people we think we are helping.
Let’s face another reality, we, all have a little Dr. Feelgood in us. We all have experienced physical and psychic pain, and our first human instinct is to seek avoidance of that pain. And when we are confronted with another human being going through deep emotional pain related to a tragic loss or some other horrible trauma, our empathy takes us immediately to our own painful memories of such psychic pain or to that of a close loved one. Our first set of instinctual thoughts can often be to seek out the quickest way to relieve that person of their emotional suffering even before we may have even bothered to find out where it comes from in their life experience, or what particular meaning it may represent within their life. Acting on these first instincts, without truly informed thinking, can do great harm to people. This is especially true for those individuals working in today’s mental health system who have the power to prescribe drugs or the power to sign away someone’s freedom.
If we have not done our homework analyzing the true nature of today’s disease-based/psychiatric drug model of mental health “treatment,” as well as, completed some essential deep self-evaluation related to the concepts of equality, mutual respect, and the development of human psychological resilience in the face of great suffering, then we will inevitably find ourselves on the potentially deadly “path of least resistance,” and be at risk of doing great harm to people. Staying on this same deadly path will also gradually transform us into some incarnation of a Dr. Feelgood. This will happen no matter how ethical or well intentioned we believe ourselves to be.
Many psychiatrists and other mental health workers (including some who write on this website) have frequently stated that they are motivated to “medicate” or hospitalize someone by force in order to “relieve suffering” or protect someone from potential harm or self-harm. This becomes a primary personal and professional justification for behavior choices that involve either the use of force or some other potentially dangerous form of coercive persuasion. These various “fence walking” like routines practiced by those working within today’s mental health system, including those who fancy themselves as so-called system critics or reformers, are becoming increasingly precarious; like walking on razor blades. It can quickly become a bloody mess for those we believe we are truly serving, and ultimately for ourselves who have to live with all the terrible consequences that has befallen those we thought we were helping.
To avoid (or get off of) “the path of least resistance” we have to first know that it exists, and then ever so deeply study its intricate set of disaster filled ruts and life consuming pot holes. History also demands that we travel on a new path of “full resistance” while becoming part of a major (system changing) human rights movement that ensures that we will never find ourselves either isolated or alone.
And as far as Dr. Feelgood is concerned, he or she needs to be permanenetly retired, or somehow magically transformed into the great “doctor of love” that Aretha Franklin and other lesser known singers of the blues have made reference to in their music over the years.
“…Don’t send me no doctor
Fillin’ me up with all those pills
I got me a man named Dr. Feelgood
And oh, yeah, that man takes me off all o’ my pain and my ills…”
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.