Dear NIMH, Is It Really a Chemical Imbalance?


In Manchester Patch, Bev MacPhee writes about her efforts to get the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and National Institute of Mental Health to substantiate their statements that mental illnesses are caused by chemical imbalances.

“I thought that they would send me a quick answer to what must be a very common question,” begins MacPhee.

NIMH FOIA Data Reveals that FDA Should Stop False Chemical Brain Imbalance Advertising (Manchester Patch, February 4, 2015)


  1. I have left the following comment at the Manchester Patch, in response to the article linked above.

    The NY State Attorney General has recently sued major chain retailers for selling vitamin supplements whose content doesn’t track with ingredients listed on the label. Why hasn’t anyone yet sued National Institutes for Mental Health (NIMH) or the American Psychiatric Association (APA) on the same grounds?

    The professions of psychiatry and psychology have entered a crisis of public confidence. Articles like Bev MacPheee’s help us to see some of the reasons why this is happening. Professionals in the healing arts are losing their credibility with a public which has realized that many of their theories would better be called “speculations”, and very nearly all of their asserted cures are illusory. Our kids are vastly over-medicated for ADHD, and one in ten Americans are taking an anti-depressant medication. But the evidence is strong that the anti-depressants don’t work for mild to moderate depression. And more powerful neuroleptic drugs used in the severely disturbed people (schizophrenia or other psychosis) can cripple them for life with permanent disorders such as tardive dyskinesia.

    It is long past time for the FDA to get off its fat duff and ban media advertising for prescription drugs of all types. We continue on the present path partly because FDA regulators and their Congressional masters have been bribed by pharmaceutical companies through the medium of political campaign contributions and “speaking” fees. Big Pharma is corrupt to the core, and many of its executives deserve long prison sentences for fraud and negligent homicide.

    Richard A. Lawhern, Ph.D,

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    • Dr. Lawhern;

      “Why hasn’t anyone yet sued National Institutes for Mental Health (NIMH) or the American Psychiatric Association (APA) on the same grounds?”

      You may find the U.S. Govt. response to PhRMA’s assertion that off-label marketing in and of itself is Not prohibited by Law so long as it remains verbal in nature, to be illustrative.

      [My suggestion would be to return both the FCA and FDCA to Congress for fixing]

      While the Govt. found this claim preposterous, the Govt. refused to Do anything about it.

      Sound familiar to the NIMH and APA still pushing chemical imbalances?

      [And I’d also suggest that these chemical imbalances be turned over to Congress for express prohibition, but I’m afraid that K Street will see to it that that never makes it out of the starting blocks.]

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  2. I debated chemical imbalance theories with a psychiatry registrar this week. I argued that they were unscientific, while he was of the opinion that low serotonin levels caused depression, high dopamine levels caused psychosis and schizophrenia and a combined high level of serotonin and dopamine caused mania. This was, of course, primarily based on the known pharmacology of SSRI and dopamine blocking drugs.

    I asked him how it was that drugs targeting serotonin were said to be effective for treating psychosis. I also pointed out that dopamine is a vital neurotransmitter for movement and motivation and that blocking dopamine could be expected to decrease motivation, flatten emotions and reduce motivation, causing depression, scientific facts with which he had to agree.

    After causing a supposedly ‘elevated’ person, I argued, the treatment with dopamine-blocking ‘antipsychotic’ drugs predictably causes depression. A single episode of elevated and depressed mood is sufficient for a lifelong disease label of ‘bipolar affective disorder’ (with the stigmatising acronym of BAD). Needless to say the registrar disagreed – arguing that dopamine elevation caused psychosis, and schizophrenia, but that mania ‘involved other neurotransmitters, like serotonin’.

    I suggested to this young doctor that he watch the videos and read the writings of Robert Whitaker, who eloquently argues against such chemical imbalance pseudoscience. He had never heard of him, and admitted that he had never read any antipsychiatry material of any sort, including the writings of psychiatrists such as Szasz and Laing. He retorted that he hadn’t read any ‘overtly pro-psychiatry material either’. I laughed out loud. I hope he doesn’t think I have an elevated mood or inappropriate affect, because he didn’t see how funny what he said was.

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