Dr. Feelgood: Traveling ‘On the Path of Least Resistance’

Richard D. Lewis
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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as it continues to anesthetize part of a new generation of potential grave diggers for their corrupt and historically outdated system, no major reform would be allowed to disrupt this flow of wealth and this extremely valuable form of social control.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…”

 

 

 

42 COMMENTS

  1. The “Dr. Feelgood” approach, when not motivated by unfettered greed, is often motivated by a desire to make OURSELVES feel better by making the other person’s pain go away as quickly as possible. Because the truth is, their pain is making us uncomfortable, and it’s our own pain we want to alleviate. The current paradigm makes it all too easy to rationalize taking this approach under the guise of “relieving suffering.” Of course, our goals should not be to merely relieve suffering, otherwise we’ll all end up on Xanax or Oxycodone and living in a daze.

    What seems to be most helpful to people who are experiencing this kind of suffering is to have someone willing to BE uncomfortable with them and to sit in and feel some echo of the pain they are experiencing. Only then does the person stop feeling like they have to make the “helper” feel better and feel able to open up and be honest with you and themselves about what is going on. At least that’s my experience. So in essence, the whole idea of diagnosing and medicating appears to be diametrically opposed to what I’ve found people in distress need the most: an open, safe listener who isn’t going to judge or direct or control them but is simply going to listen and be interested in understanding the problem, and help the suffering person start to generate some potential solutions that might make the situation a little better from their own point of view. Anything that puts the sufferer in the place of feeling like they have to make the caretaker feel better prevents any real psychological healing, in my view. So I agree with Richard, the current system appears to meet the needs of the helpers more than the people being “helped.”

    Great article!

    —- Steve

    • “Because the truth is, their pain is making us uncomfortable, and it’s our own pain we want to alleviate.”
      and the feeling of being “uncomfortable” are not only psychological. I’d say a lot of people use psychiatry to run away from their responsibility to others” family members, partners, children. I don’t want to romanticize the past but in the previous eras society valued family relationships and made it clear that people have responsibilities towards their relatives and their community. In this day and age is “gain wealth forgetting all but self” and get the best of life not having to care for others. It’s easy to dumb your parents to a nursing home, sedate your kids so that you don’t have to spend time caring about them or label your partner as crazy and get a “new model” instead of fixing the relationship or staying with this person through difficult times. We have become a selfish society and for all of those how are not rotten psychopaths, that is for most of humanity, it is a deeply corrupting and depressing experience at the same time.

    • “safe listener who isn’t going to judge or direct or control them but is simply going to listen and be interested in understanding the problem”
      I’d also say that this is for many people psychotherapy doesn’t work or cannot work. Psychologists have this weird and in my mind sick “code of ethics” when they are supposed to have boundaries and not develop relationships with their “clients” (that is a sick use of this world in this context as well – the whole language mirrors the twisted logic). Sometimes you need to empathize and reveal your own weakness and your own anguish and fear – that is only when you can really connect with another human being. It has to be reciprocal otherwise it’s not real and it does not provide a real connection.

      • Totally agree. People mistake “professionalism” for not having or displaying any emotions or reactions to the client. This just makes you seem cold and unfeeling. In my experience, people need to know you’re real, need to see you step down from your power position and let them know that you’re just another person trying to figure out how to get through a complex world. I very commonly share my own emotional responses, in a rational way (not ACTING on them but describing them) in the context of helping understand what is going on. I also find those emotions I experience to be quite informative as to how the client may be feeling. Acting like you have no feelings is yet another way for the “professional” to protect him/herself from experience the client’s reality. Unfortunately, it usually prevents you from helping them as well.

        —- Steve

      • I agree, the psychiatric / psychological “code of ethics” is a huge part of the problem. Because if a doctor self imposes to not empathize with all “patients” from the onset, and agrees prior to meeting every patient to pathologize for payment instead, which is what the all “mental health professionals” have agreed to do.

        Well, obviously, the “patients'” real concerns will never be discovered or addressed. But you’ll end up with all those who had “delusions” doctors were there to help them, and had promised to “first and foremost, do no harm,” pathologized with one of the “lacking in validity” DSM disorders, and drugged.

        The entire “mental health” system is backwards, and wrong, at least for all the “patients.” But I will say the “mental health” industry is good at destroying the credibility of all doctors.

  2. “[A]s 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 … a new generation of [victims of] grave diggers, [via] their corrupt and historically outdated [“mental illness”] system, no major reform would be allowed to disrupt this flow of wealth and this extremely valuable form of social control.” If I understood this statement correctly, it is quite insightful, and I agree this is a huge part of the problem.

    However, I find it very sad that today’s “warrior elite” do not see, or are intentionally, repeating the horrendous crimes that occurred in Germany, pre-WWII, in the US today, and seemingly worldwide. We are supposed to learn from history, not repeat it.

    I do now understand why the bible says, “For the love of money is the root of all evil;” I do so hope those currently in power will wake up and see the error of their ways before “they have erred from the faith,” too far, ” and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

    And, absolutely, one knows way too many artists are being tranquillized, when one can tell the entire story of their dealings with the unjust “mental health” industry in the lyrics of music.

    “Someone call the doctor
    Got a case of a love bi-polar
    Stuck on a roller coaster
    Can’t get off this ride”

    And when one’s drug withdraw induced super sensitivity “manic psychosis” results in being illegally dragged out of the comfort of one’s own bed and taken to a hospital, due to a sleep walking/talking issue:

    “But I’m not crazy, I’m just a little unwell
    I know right now you can’t tell
    But stay awhile and maybe then you’ll see
    A different side of me
    I’m not crazy, I’m just a little impaired
    I know right now you don’t care
    But soon enough you’re gonna think of me
    And how I used to be

    I’ve been talking in my sleep
    Pretty soon they’ll come to get me
    Yeah, they’re taking me away”

    And especially when one notices the story of judgement day seemingly being played out across the radio waves:

    “I’m waking up, I feel it in my bones
    Enough to make my systems blow
    Welcome to the new age, to the new age
    Welcome to the new age, to the new age
    Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, whoa, oh, oh, oh, I’m radioactive, radioactive
    Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, whoa, oh, oh, oh, I’m radioactive, radioactive”

    “No matter what we breed
    We still are made of greed
    This is my kingdom come
    This is my kingdom come”

    “All the right friends in all the right places, so yeah, we’re going down.”

    I don’t claim to have all the answers, or know if or when judgement day will arrive, only God knows that. But what if the decent Christians and artists are not all “mentally ill” for believing in the Holy Spirit and God? What if psychiatric practitioners trying to maintain a money only worshiping, unjust, and unethical status quo is our society’s problem?

  3. Richard,

    There is another matter of grave importance that I believe trumps the *demand and distribution* aspect of the scourge of psychiatric drugs. It is the criminality of fraud, known risk of harm and willful deceit. I wonder why our judicial system is left out of discussions about capitalism and for profit health care? It is as though just because it has taken at least 5 years to establish evidence for these crimes committed by Pharma and Psychiatry in tight collusion, that there is resignation instead of indignation in the face of the next great challenge- prosecuting criminals.

    Here is a very succinct and concise account of the real problem– or, rather the *IT* that I see as the thing that needs to be exposed and reckoned with:

    http://davidhealy.org/persecution-brand-fascism/

    I have witnessed the demise and sell out of my profession over the last two decades. Most of my colleagues accepted the roll over to a business model, claiming to be powerless to prevent it. I ,on the other hand, continued to assert that both Pharma and Health Care Insurance/Industry could not operate without *us*, professionals– I was that lone *crazy* voice insisting that we should hold out-, that WE should be dictating the guidelines for health care (before I entered the speciality of child/adolescent psychiatry, and was a Real Nurse, so to speak). I saw no reason for capitulating to profit hungry industries who were too far removed from patients to lay claim to so much authority. The situation in psychiatry was much worse– as I discovered in the late 80’s/early 90’s.- and my lone *crazy* voice became a real threat. Where is the academic arena that thrives on debate and dialogue? It is not the child adolescent unit of one of the most prestigious children’s hospitals in the world. I can attest to that ! This is beyond sad, beyond ironic; it is the harbinger of certain disaster for our precious youth.

    There are countless branches that grew from one lie, from one major transgression that placed profit above the well being of patients/people/children. The proliferation of the foliage from these branches is as lush and impenetrable as a rain forest– so many excuses, rationalizations–so many health care professionals in denial–. Hacking away at the branches seems like a fools errand to me. I say this from the perspective of close encounters with children, teens and young adults who have become prey–or rather *the new market* for Pharma/Psychiatry .

    I am of the opinion that digging out the root makes the most sense– that it is time to utilize the tools of a developed, civilized country. JUSTICE… It is built into our system of government — remember?? It is time for the medical profession to *man up*– prosecuting criminals, giving the boot to psychiatry,
    as only they [we] can

    Hi ho (Silver– and away!)
    Katie

    • Re: Profit and Government

      This organization has a *2 million* dollar per day operating budget. It is non-profit, relying on donations to help children; without billing parents. It is also not dependent on government money (or control):

      http://www.stjude.org/history

      This is the type program needed for children in the mental health arena. Although, especially with children and “mental health”, it should use *zero* drugs.

      Duane

    • Katie: I was originally ensnared into the system along the same time (1989) that you experienced your epiphany. I am interested if the cultural apparatus of support that complimented the elevation of “chemical imbalances” into the consciousness of the public. It seems to my recollection that along about this time, that television and film began to buttress this phenomenon. Patty Duke’s story was a biopic that helped to enshrine this model, as well as the plethora of cop show with their plots and subplots concerning characters that went off their meds and the horrors that ensued. I have been following Homeland on pay TV which incorporated “bipolar,” as a subplot, and I am looking forward to tracking down Black Box. I have been reading the Gabbard brothers book about psychiatry on film (somewhat dated 1987), one brother is a psychiatrist and the other is embedded in the entertainment community. It is a good book about Hollywood in that it touches on the many trends in that I industry as it relates to changing mores in the greater society such as feminism. The authors allude to the scientific basis of psychiatry, but to refer to another Hollywood formula-the buddy movie (Jerry McGuire)-they never show me the money.

  4. Excellent article Richard. I also work in the mental health system (in the UK) and I’ve had the same experience in stepping of the path of least resistance, in particular having psychiatrists express genuine interest in Open Dialogue, Soteria, Robert Whitaker etc, but then continuing with business as usual with regard to prescribing, use of compulsion etc. The cynic in me might conclude that they do this in order to retain their power. They acknowledge the counter arguments, are seen to ‘encourage debate’, but we are effectively patted on the head, and the debate runs into the sand.
    I differ from you on one issue though, compulsion. While I spend my working life trying to find ways to avoid compulsion, I still believe there are times when its needed. Even Soteria used the rolled carpet technique occasionally. Sometimes people need compassionate containment. Its what we then do with that containment that matters. Certainly forcibly medicating people in those circumstances is not the way. Containment is the point at which dialogue can potentially be started. Dialogue, not medication, is the way to healing.

  5. “This promise [of psychiatric drugs] has become so deeply imbedded in our present day human experience that nothing will stop this demand within the present order of things.” Excellent point in an excellent article. In fact, the existing trend suggests that things may get considerably worse before, and if, they get any better. A 2010 article in the The American Journal of Psychiatry, “National Trends in Outpatient Psychotherapy” included the following based on the 2007 Medical Expenditure Panel Surveys: Between 1998 and 2007 the use of only psychotropic medication as treatment increased from 44.1% and to 57.4%. During the same time the use of psychotherapy alone decreased from 15.9% to 10.5% and the number of annual psychotherapy visits declined from 9.7 to 7.9.

    Where treatment is anything and everything and outcomes are largely irrelevant the economics of the current mental health system requires that treatment be primarily medication based. Sadly, so little has changed long into the Era of Recovery when so had been promised. As a consumer is reported to have said, “I was a patient, a recipient, a client, and then a consumer but the only thing that changed was my medication.”

  6. This is where public AWARENESS comes in. People need to know the real truth about these drugs and the harm they cause a LOT of people. Once people are made truly aware and are able to take charge of their own health and be able to make informed educated decisions, not just relying on what doctors/psychiatrists tell us, then hopefully there will be a LOT less demand or in my opinion coercion. Advertisements on TV for these drugs are also a big part of the problem telling people they should actually ASK for these drugs(making them seem like a good thing) which is CRAZY ! These advertisements also should be banned in my opinion. There is a lot of misinformation still in general and people need to be INFORMED about this sick reality of over drugging and poisoning people with these toxic drugs.

  7. As much as I am inclined to agree with most of the article I have a bit of a problem with this assumption:
    “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. ”
    It implies that most of the psychiatrists take the “path of least resistance” because of some sort of misguided empathy and need to help someone who’s suffering. I haven’t seen much of that and I have seen none of that it coercive settings. In my view the motivations are much less noble and I’m not even talking about people who may be consciously abusive and taking pleasure from it (who are out there too). I’m talking about laziness, avoidance of any kind of responsibility, racism, sexism, lack of empathy and othering, total indifference combined with contempt for patients, projection etc. It’s not that psychiatrists are the only people with such unfortunate tendencies but they are the only people endowed with ability to imprison and torture others based without any due process.