Polypharmacy Poisoning, Dependence and Recovery from the Psychiatric Paradigm


A little over eight years ago, I voluntarily signed myself into a psychiatric hospital for medication management as I could not get in to see a psychiatrist for months. A year prior, I’d gone off of two antidepressants too quickly. After an exhausting year of SSRI withdrawal, job loss and coming out of the closet, I was looking to drugs once again to solve basic life and health problems, just as I had at twenty-one while coping with the effects of childhood trauma and a bout of Lyme disease.

Being a passionate, fairly intelligent and compassionate Aries, one of my mottos has always been “No regrets.” But while I’ve come to accept and even at times rejoice in the rewards that my life-altering experience in the psychiatric system has given me, I do deeply regret signing myself into hospital. That one act opened up a door to the most profound hell-on-earth experience that I believe I will ever endure: benzodiazepine withdrawal.

Had I accepted a prescription for Ativan as an outpatient, I would have had access to the pharmacy print out and refused to take it for more than a week, owing to benzodiazepine’s addictive nature. But I didn’t have the print-outs locked up, even though I asked for them, and my self-esteem was being eroded by professionals who were profoundly committed to the idea that medicalizing extreme moods or thoughts is helpful to their patients. One nurse, to her credit, did say to me, “You’re an artist. You might have mood swings your entire life. You feel life deeply. You don’t need drugs for that”.

On a gut level, I believed her, but I had been trained to distrust my mind and was in considerable pain. The drug commercials continued to play through my head, and despite my higher wisdom, I continued my search for the “right” mood altering chemicals, still holding out some hope they were actually medicine. At that time, I was coming out as gay. I was in SSRI withdrawal. I was unemployed. This conflagration of events and realities would precipitate a change in role for me over the course of three years from social worker to psychiatric patient.

Although I began titration two months out of hospital release, because of the number of drugs they’d put me on and my fifteen-year dependence on antidepressants, the withdrawal would take twenty-two months. It would include two more hospitalizations for medical reasons, a partial hospitalization program, homelessness, a near death experience, cognitive dementia so extreme I would forget to shower for days on end and when I showered, would forget to use soap, as well as a wasting syndrome that would take me to the brink of a heart attack at eighty-three pounds.

I have recently published the story of what followed that first hospitalization in my book, Losing the Plot: A Journey Away from Psychiatry. In it, you won’t read that psychiatry is doing its best or that the clinicians who receive large kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies mean well; my book is a scathing critique of the industry from the inside out and outside in. My skepticism of the industry began years before my hospitalization, while I was a social worker who promoted an “anti-stigma” message to over-drugged, poverty-stricken individuals close to comatose from sedative mixtures in continuing day treatment programs, encouraging them to “self-care”, which meant of course to take those drugs. As any ethical person would, I began listening to that still small voice in myself and the sick-to-my-stomach feeling I was getting from my work. That is really when the departure from psychiatry began, but I’d dive in deep first, as any good researcher, to fully test the waters. Just like most of their drug trials, my long-term version of the experiment failed miserably.

While I have an incredible distrust for the psychiatric system, I do say that psychiatry healed me in spite of itself. Besides Lyme disease and a fairly dysfunctional upbringing with two Vietnam veteran parents, one of the main reasons I constantly sought help in the psychiatric system was because of a hefty dose of self-doubt. I wasn’t ok enough in my eyes, something was wrong with me. I didn’t even know what, but something, and having grown up in a medical family, I reasoned medicine—even half-hearted and experimental medicine—must be the answer. It took surviving all of the symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal, including derealization, gastritis, auditory hallucinations, wasting, dementia, panic attacks and profound depression, for me to come to understand that not only had I really been a cool person before all that shit, but also that nothing was wrong with me. I was smart and a little neurotic at times, but that was it. Drugs caused me to be mentally ill where I had not been before.

Yes, I had struggled as a child and through periods of high stress in adulthood with what some would label anxiety or depression, but all of those episodes had pretty big explanations, like post traumatic stress and coming out of the closet. Overall, my life was pretty grand compared to full-scale, chemically-induced psychosis. I had a lot of friends, in part because I was so anxious and concerned over my relationships. I was deeply interested in ethics and personal growth, excelled in school, found solace and contentment in nature and music, was a dedicated and hard worker, writer and director. I coped well with chronic pain and so I had a well of compassion at my disposal in my work with people with disabilities. I did get down, but those are often the cards you’re dealt when raised by two Vietnam vets and living with chronic pain. I never needed the drugs, ever, even when I felt they were helping me.

My book outlines the many problems inherent in diagnosing and drugging en masse the American population, but because it was written only a year or two after I got off of everything, it does not get into my life now much, or the spiritual rewards of rugged warriorship, which are many. I have been off of all medicine for five and a half years, and have been working for almost five, the last four full-time. I am again in social work, though now in the benefits management vs. “take your drugs” role. I am taking prerequisites toward medical school, just transcended my first plateau in learning the guitar for my songwriting, and for the first time am submitting my poetry for publication (it’s getting accepted, too.) I am also out in nature doing things the rheumatologist I had at fifteen may have never expected me to do, like backpacking.

Life has brought many challenges the past five and a half years, like incredible debt I still struggle with and other things unrelated to the drugging, but I go outside and garden, play with my spaniel mutt, cook a nice stir fry, complain about my job, love my job, attend women’s circles, drumming circles, spiritual retreats, wear fuzzy socks to bed in the winter. In short, I live life. As those with means are fortunate to do, I consider none of it therapy. It’s just life, with all its beauty and despair, best lived fully and unapologetically, except when apology is needed, for the short time we are here.

I would say that I meditate and do yoga, and I have joined a Buddhist sangha and have taken yoga classes, but if I learned anything from my rendezvous with psychiatry, it is that no one pill or religion or cultural icon has the answer for life’s conundrums, or is a panacea to the reality that all of us eventually get sick and die. I have vowed not to become a new age priestess yielding an arsenal of ‘shoulds’ and ‘have tos’ related to personal growth and sitting in lotus position. In fact I have learned that, among other actual physical illnesses, I have a genetic mutation that causes me to improperly process folic acid. Low folate contributes to anxiety and chronic pain, so my inability to sit still for meditation has been a function of this actual physical illness.

I’m not here to claim mind over matter. Folks who hallucinate or obsess or want to kill themselves are either likely enduring/recovering from trauma and/or physically ill. Some of them are psychics and shamans, yes, but I know first-hand, from a drug-induced experience, that real hardcore horrible psychosis exists. Yet despite the numerical diagnoses in the DSM like 317.5 or whatever, the lack of specificity in pinpointing the causes for such phenomena in psychiatry is stunning. Each person’s brain, body and journey, are unique. The “pick 5 of 9” symptoms from this checklist method of diagnostics is, scientifically, horrifying. And the idea that some shading or lighting on an MRI can be accurate enough to induct someone into the psychiatric paradigm is equally baffling. How scary if our brains all lit up the same on an MRI! How frightening if we all believed and felt exactly the same; what would be left to discuss?

The critique I make of psychiatry is comprehensive. The experience I endured, along with many others, is damning of the way the profession currently operates. At the very least, the question of “Why psychiatry?” needs to be asked.

When I stopped seeing psychiatry as a viable resource, it stopped being a backup plan. When it was no longer a backup plan, I suddenly no longer needed it. But first and foremost, when I stopped thinking something was wrong with me, I already no longer needed psychiatry.

Losing the Plot documents the steps I had to take to leave psychiatry behind, including some details on tapering antidepressants, Lithium and benzodiazepines. It also provides snippets of my life as social worker before the drugging. It touches briefly on some family history, including the untreated mental health struggles of my mother (which might make anyone a believer in psychiatry, except that in retrospect, I am very glad she never did enter a hospital or take an antipsychotic.) And lastly, it leaves the reader with four possible future renditions of my life, none of which are under the auspices of psychiatry but each of which includes the continued influence of psychiatry, as all of our lives do. It begs the following questions: Is happily ever after realistic, preferable and for our highest good? Is Hollywood’s instant gratification narrative, which psychiatry relies on to sell drugs, the best story to live? Or is working through and being present with the grief, the visions, the tremors, and the uncertainty of our days a better prescription for a long and fulfilling life?


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.


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  1. Best of luck with your book. My story’s different – it’s the story of the typical misdiagnosis of antidepressant withdrawal syndrome as bipolar, during the DSM-IV-TR, when that was still considered inappropriate. But, it too, is the story of the insane stupidity of the bio-bio-bio psychiatric system.

    It took me much longer than you, to research the ‘system,’ since I was not initially in it myself, but had also been propagandized to trust in doctors. But I’m working on my book, finally. I was initially drugged for claiming God was inspiring a story in 2001. Now I’ve got it, and am working on my book. It’s a story of harm to millions of children, not just me, which did truly disgust me, and I’m still working through my disgust at the almost unfathomable betrayal of society by today’s psychiatric industry.

    It does strike me that the psycho / pharmaceutical industries’ complete and total disrespect for the artist communities in recent years may result in tons of “artwork” about their crimes against us. I already see that going on in my community in local art shows.

    My best to you with your book. And on your healing journey.

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    • From my book, “Nothing is more important when attempting to silence dissent as getting a community’s artists to turn In on themselves. No social change happens, just artwork on ‘bipolar disorder’.”

      Please get your book out there.

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      • Thank you for the encouragement, I’m working on it. And I have a lot of “bipolar” / actual “central symptoms of neuroleptic induced anticholinergic intoxication syndrome” artwork showing the iatrogenic hell of the psych drugs, and then the drug withdrawal induced mania that occurs while recovering. And, hopefully, our books can some day help to bring about the apparently much needed social change.

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          • Anticholinergic intoxication syndrome is a type of “Polypharmacy Poisoning.” The central symptoms are almost identical to the symptoms of schizophrenia. It’s how unethical or misinformed psychiatrists / doctors create the bipolar / schizophrenia symptoms in patients with their neuroleptics / antipsychotics, and other anticholinergic agents, for profit.

            Given all the polypharmacy going on within the psychiatric industry today, because the psychiatrists have delusions their new drugs are “safe” and “wonder drugs,” I would imaging it’s highly likely most schizophrenia today is actually anticholinergic intoxication syndrome, misdiagnosed as schizophrenia, or in my case bipolar. From drugs.com:

            “Agents with anticholinergic properties (e.g., sedating antihistamines; antispasmodics; neuroleptics; phenothiazines; skeletal muscle relaxants; tricyclic antidepressants; disopyramide) may have additive effects when used in combination. Excessive parasympatholytic effects may result in paralytic ileus, hyperthermia, heat stroke, and the anticholinergic intoxication syndrome. Peripheral symptoms of intoxication commonly include mydriasis, blurred vision, flushed face, fever, dry skin and mucous membranes, tachycardia, urinary retention, and constipation. Central symptoms may include memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, hallucinations, psychosis, delirium, hyperactivity, twitching or jerking movements, stereotypy, and seizures.”

            As to a class action lawsuit, I believe it’s actually legal for any doctor to prescribe any ‘medication’ for any reason they please currently in the US, so I don’t think a lawsuit would be possible. But I do think the medical community has been given too much power, and the right to force these toxic drugs onto people needs to be taken from the medical community.

            Since I know, first hand, some doctors are abusing this power. I had the misfortune of being medically unnecessarily shipped to a Dr. V R Kuchipudi, who was arrested by the FBI, seven years later, for doing the same thing he did to me, to lots of patients (in my case his purpose was to cover up prior easily recognized medical mistakes for prior doctors):


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          • 5parts,

            These drugs cause so many horrific conditions. Class action lawsuits against the companies are difficult to launch b/c the pharm industry argues that controlling “mental illness” has higher priority than inducing physical. For example, no good class action has been brought against the makers of the shorter half life benzos, though not for my lack of trying not the medical records of thousands I assure you, but the financial risk/ratio is something no lawyer I know will yet take on.

            When I sought my own lawsuit, because my recovery took longer than the statute of limitations, no lawyer would look at my case, even to advocate for an extension of the statute owing to my health. Point blank I es told I had the evidence but the cost to launch the suit against these major companies and hospitals would not be enough profit for them. Despite losing two years of my life and income and all of my belongings, they told me I was lucky to get out alive and that I healed myself physically that I should take that as my victory and not look back. I still wonder about that, and do believe if I develop any conditions in the future associated with the poisoning, which would reopen the statute, that I will sue.

            Best to you

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  2. So much of this is like my story.

    I don’t know where I first read the word “pharmacaust” to describe the Psychopharmacuitical holocaust that is the mass drugging by psychiatry but there is no other one word to describe it.

    I am told my insomnia is a symptom of depression and of course like many people I believed the big lie that depression was caused by low serotonin and started those first pills, this crap called Serzone.

    Then Xanax, and that did work to put me to sleep but that walk in doctor was moving on to work at a hospital and sent me to psychiatrist .

    Xanax 1mg to sleep is bad. Here this Clonopin stuff is what you need. And bang 4mg of Clonopin right from the start. Take a pill a few times a day now .

    Then I have ADD or HD and that Dexadrine does help me focus, it sure does.

    Doc I really cant sleep and this anxiety is getting bad, that’s OK the friendly drug rep from Eli Lilly left some free samples of Zyprexa and don’t worry about those scary medical words you just read on the little paper on the box “its safe”.

    And like most people I never saw the inside of a psychiatric hospital till AFTER the pills made me sick and of course all they do in those places is push MORE pills or coerce them when you begin to figure out they are just making you sick or don’t like the effects.

    What were you like before psychiatric ‘medication’ ?? That was a question no one EVER asked and for some reason the pills make me forget what it was like before them.

    Lost 10 years of my life to the pharmacaust.

    How could I be so stupid and take all those nasty pills and how did I let it go on so long ? Nothing in my life before that taught me to not trust doctors. I believed they were all the most honorable people in society healing the sick and it almost killed me.

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    • “How could I be so stupid and take all those nasty pills and how did I let it go on so long ? Nothing in my life before that taught me to not trust doctors. I believed they were all the most honorable people in society healing the sick and it almost killed me.”

      Yes, same exact thing with me. Most all of us were taught in childhood to blindly trust doctors and other authority figures. There is no need to be so hard on yourself.

      Furthermore, these pills typically cause what Dr. Peter Breggin refers to as the “spellbinding” effect, in which a person in unable to realize the drugs are actually doing more harm than good, and they are really causing: apathy, decreased empathy and creativity, impaired judgement, mania, etc. We can’t perceive this is happening, and instead often believe we are functioning at a very high level.

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  3. Sorry to say this – But the question has to be asked, & it applies to a lot of people – If there was nothing really wrong with you to begin with, then why did you seek out psychiatric treatments, & take all the medications?

    What about the people that are severely mentally unwell?

    Part of the problem with all this pro/anti-psychiatry debate is that 80% or more of people seeking psychiatric treatment & medication are the worried well – there is nothing wrong with them. What a ludicrous position to then blame psychiatry.

    There are a small minority of people suffering severe mental/emotional illness, who need proper help & support & who are often helped by medical interventions.

    Of course there is the debate about best ways of helping people – But a large part of the difficulties would be resolved if the worried well stopped seeking out psychiatric treatment to begin with – it’s totally Noddy.

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    • Did you actually read what I wrote to hear it or to argue with it? Firstly, in answer to your question, it’s none of your business. But since you asked it on a public site I will attempt an answer.

      Whether anything was “wrong” with me or not actually has nothing to do with the medical malpractice that happened to me, and countless others. At the end of the drug withdrawal I was administered an mmpi and could have been diagnosed with 25 different things. One year later, sober, took the test again, nada.

      Secondly, again, although my personal medical history before the medical malpractice is irrelevant to the torture I endured on psychopharmaceuticals, I was actually first administered a tricyclic for sleep disturbance owing to the effects of chronic Lyme’s disease at 15.

      I like what you’ve done there with the shaming, though, good show. It’s almost as if I’m back sitting in a psychiatrist’s office… Unfortunately, for you, research bares out that these drugs are prescribed to people with physical health issues or situational anxieties/depressions repeatedly. I will let this site’s research do the talking on that one and refuse to engage any longer with any hecklers.

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      • “Whether anything was “wrong” with me or not actually has nothing to do with the medical malpractice that happened to me, and countless others.”

        How is it nothing to do with anyone? In most cases people have wilfully engaged with the system.

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        • “Wilfully?” Do you really mean that word? As if the users were somehow intentionally violating some social agreement or contract by seeking these services?

          Clearly, you have not watched the myriad ads nor ready the many news articles letting everyone know that “depression is a disease just like diabetes” and implying that treatment is for everyone. The message that “no one has to suffer” is clearly out there for one and all to see, and we are supposed to trust doctors to know whether we need the given prescription or not. It is the DOCTORS’ lack of ethics that lead a person to be misdiagnosed and forcibly “treated” with something that is either of no use or destructive. For instance, should the doctor not have said that Benzos are addictive and that using them more than a week leads to severe withdrawal reactions? Or is it “caveat emptor,” where the poor patient is forced to look up every drug personally or suffer the consequences? Of course, I know that “caveat emptor” is totally the current reality, but do you really blame the victim for being duped by the guys who are supposed to be telling her the straight scoop?

          The main reason the “worried well” are getting so much “treatment” is because psychiatry and the pharmaceutical industry have sold us on the idea that we all need drugs any time we feel badly. We are supposed to trust doctors to tell US if there is “something wrong with us.” We shouldn’t have to avoid checking in with our physician for the fear they’ll prescribe us something addictive or deadly in the name of “treatment” without even bothering to tell us what the dangers are.

          — Steve

          P.S. I have reported this poster. While we’ve been cautioned to avoid using the “T” word, I think it applies in this case absolutely.

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        • Most of us “willfully” engaged with the system only because we were told that the system would look out for our best interests and would cause no harm. We know now that this isn’t true at all- the drugs they peddle are not “safe and effective” (a frequent term they use).
          We were told that our depression, anxiety, and other problems were the result of a physical disease process like diabetes, and we know know that’s not true, either. Psychiatry cannot prove a direct physical cause for mental and emotional issues. They really don’t even understand the mechanism of action of the drugs they peddle.
          It’s called being lied to- being sold a bill of goods. Haven’t you ever had that happen to you?

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          • A lot of this argument is 2 sides of the same coin.

            i’m against the mass drugging of society, always have been. i’m in strong favour of far more comprehensive psychological & social support approaches.

            But all things carefully considered – the fact remains that people are to various degrees & in various ways mentally ill – Rationally part of it is physiological/biologic. i don’t agree with mental illness Denial.

            The masses have just as much created the culture of mass drugging as psychiatry. It’s what people wanted & still want.

            My own case is in depth & complex – & it’s not necessary to go into details of it all here. Needless to say from day one i have resisted & fought against being drugged – for 30 years. i do however concede a valid role for the wise use of medications in the treatment of severe mental illness.

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          • & No, i haven’t watched the Myriad adverts – i choose to Not watch TV, & got rid of the TV around 7 years ago. i also don’t live in the United States of Idiocy – i’m in the UK & we don’t have TV ads for psych drugs.

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          • Ha, I have not nor will not read anything this poster writes; their excessive blame and shame centered wordiness is how they get under so many survivors skin and shut them up. Why the movement against drugging has been so silenced.

            I have met their kind before, some of them are patients who are actually curious about this info but too afraid to really dive into it, some pharm infiltrators, some hysterical overprotective family members. It is best to not engage with them after one or two attempts. We ruin the movement when we do as we allow them to word vomit all over the self-esteem of people in severe pain.

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    • @Cpuusage.”a ludicrous position to then blame psychiatry. ” To sell “drugs” as “medicine” is criminal. To force drugs as medicine is criminal. The criminals can get away with it because they write the rules.
      ” a large part of the difficulties would be resolved ” if psychiatry was exposed as quackery that would end a lot of the difficulties.

      “Drugs for life” is not a good solution for the patient, but it pays the drug dealer and it pays the people who supply the drugs.

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    • Cpuusage

      “There are a small minority of people suffering severe mental/emotional illness, who need proper help & support & who are often helped by medical interventions.”

      Please read through this website carefully before your next comment. Try reading Whitaker’s Mad in America and Anatomy of an Epidemic. Read Breggin’s Toxic Psychiatry. Read Szasz Psychiatry: The Science of Lies.

      After that, if you have any questions, let us know. Thanks.

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      • “Please read through this website carefully before your next comment. Try reading Whitaker’s Mad in America and Anatomy of an Epidemic. Read Breggin’s Toxic Psychiatry. Read Szasz Psychiatry: The Science of Lies.”

        Ha. i know all the arguments – have read all of them, & hundreds of books on pro/anti psychiatry, psychology & many other areas. Am currently sat with a 700 book collection mainly on the subjects of the self. i know more on it all than anyone else i know – & i say that humbly.

        i’ve spent over 30 years researching these areas at depth & have spent over 30 years dealing with the psychiatric/mental health system, with my own condition – & exploring all the alternatives (as far as possible).

        Neither ‘side’ is right imo. There needs to be a far more comprehensive approach across the board. i have however learnt a bitter lesson, that the masses are just as much to blame as the system & psychiatry.

        There is a very valid role for a wise use of pharmacology in the treatment of mental illness, as part of an ideal comprehensive approach to care. i’m Not anti-medication – Nor am i anti a more comprehensive psychiatry. Even with an ideal system, imo some people, albeit a minority, would likely still best be helped with medications.

        The fact remains that some people are mentally & emotionally ill, in various ways & to various degrees – some severely. imo 80% or more people currently involved with psychiatry, especially currently, there is nothing really much wrong with them – & there is a personal responsibility with those people, at least in part, as to what treatments they receive.

        i’ve heard the story far too many times, of people getting medication free, & rallying against psychiatry – where i’d seriously question what was actually wrong to begin with?

        i’ll say it again – what about the people with a severe mental illness? Not the worried well.

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    • Cpuusage,

      You say: “… a large part of the difficulties would be resolved if the worried well stopped seeking psychiatric treatment to begin with.” I agree that society would be better off if most people stayed away from psychiatrists, but institutional psychiatry must stop pathologizing normal human behavior (grief, shyness, etc.). People, and most tragically, children, end up on psychiatric medications because of conditions like depression, anxiety or inattention and thanks to “medical intervention,” they end up labeled as bipolar or schizophrenic, leading to further drugging. And if/when they figure it out and try to withdraw from their meds, all hell breaks loose. No one would tell an alcoholic or a user of recreational drugs “you are relapsing because your system needs more alcohol or street drugs,” but that’s exactly what the majority of psychiatrists will say to people experiencing withdrawal psychosis or other distress. So quite a few (though not all) who suffer from serious psychiatric disturbances suffer iatrogenic injury; something relatively manageable that could have been addressed with psychosocial support, diet, nutrients or good healing practices (yoga, meditation, etc.) leads to disabling mental illness. So what do we do for those who suffer serious mental illness? I have seen orthomolecular (nutrient) therapy work wonders, and if it were up to me, that would be the default treatment.

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      • i agree – it’s a failed society/system – i personally lay the blame for that just as much with the masses as i do psychiatry – it’s a collective problem imo.

        In the vast majority of cases could we better help people? Yes, i am sure of it – imo over 80% of people currently under the psychiatric system i believe could be cured, or at least maintained at a high degree of wellness without medication.

        But it’s Not all the same stuff – cases are individual – a minority of people are suffering from genuinely severe cases of extreme mental illness – that is the facts of it – & i don’t think that there are any easy answers, even with a more ideal society/system as to how best to help them. i disagree that orthomolecular therapy is the solution in all cases, far from it.

        Even with a more ideal society & system, i’d still see a place for front line mental health services & medications.

        My personal opinion – the less severe cases are doing a great disservice to those more genuinely afflicted. That is just my opinion.

        i think there is also a lot of difference between the US & UK & other countries in relation to all these matters.

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        • Cpuusage,

          You say ” i disagree that orthomolecular therapy is the solution in all cases.” I did not say (and would never say) that anything is the solution in all cases. I did say and affirm that I have seen orthomolecular therapy work wonders and I would make that the default option. Try that first. Although I do not agree with most of the comments leveled at you, I understand that people have been badly hurt by the system (and I believe the U.S. system is much more brutal and degrading than what you experience in the U.K.), and that stirs a lot of passion. To my way of thinking, you are definitely not a troll and you raise a valid question: what does one do for people with severe symptoms for whom nothing else works? I can accept that for some people, drugs may be the answer (there are psychiatrists posting on MIA who do not like drugs but still use them); but I would still go to the end of earth to avoid them. By the way, when I extol the wonders of nutrient therapy, I am referring to the treatment protocol developed by William Walsh. If you have not yet done so, do yourself a favor and read his book “Nutrient Power.”

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          • Personally i think orthomolecular therapy is overrated. i’ve worked with nutritionists, have read & tried a lot with it all – in my own case i don’t think it’s an issue – for some people it may be? Beyond a balanced & healthy diet, i don’t really see it as an issue in relation to my mental health condition.

            i’m Not a troll, no. All said & done, for people in genuine psychosis, anti-psychotic medication generally works.

            i’ve been badly hurt & bitten by the system. i disagree with the current system, but i do think it’s a very complex issue. Society has created the way everything is – the mental health system is direct a reflection/mechanism of society – the majority of people want it all, & want it the way it is. People feel emotionally/mentally unwell & off they go to the Doctor to get a diagnosis & some drugs – that’s what everyone has done in this thread – they have played their part in it all.

            We live in a deeply sick society – humanity is sick. There won’t be a genuinely humane/effective mental health system until ‘we’ become genuinely civilisaed – which we’re Not – & that could take hundreds more years, if it all?

            i think people need only look at themselves for why everything is the way it is.

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    • Absolutely. And no worries, I eat people like that for breakfast. I have no tolerance for those who cannot find it in themselves to respect other’s feelings. And going through benzo withdrawal made me incredibly strong; underestimating my ability to thoughtfully yet skillfully dismantle the dangerous egos of these kind of hecklers is a deep error on their part.

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  4. Beautiful narrative, and congratulations on reclaiming your life. I especially appreciate how you ascended the dubious ‘reality’ of diagnostic and drugging practices, in order to be in the flow of natural life and your personal humanity. That’s a courageous and authentic path, kudos!

    It’s mind-boggling to me how the versions of reality differ so much between survivors and clinicians. Although considering the profit involved, I guess it’s not so mysterious after all, come to think of it. Still, these are not compatible realities, that’s for sure.

    Best wishes on all your endeavors!

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    • Thank you! It’s an amazing dichotomy for sure and one I am all too familiar with being a social worker.

      I see a large impetus behind the divide in perspective to be class warfare honestly (hey maybe it sounds crazy, but now that I have embraced that lol). You know…The class above oppressing the class below so that they do not lose status. Every social worker’s worst nightmare is to be found out she has any kind of ups and downs in life outside of her/his clients. I even had social work professors tell our classes we could not be social workers if we did not have all our shit together all the time.

      Ah imperialism’s little guessed effects to your run of the mill counselor. Anti-poverty work (vs. anti-stigma) is where this battle is at.

      Thanks again and peace!

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          • You totally missed the meaning of the comment. People who engage with psychiatry are told they are ill or led to believe they are ill, only to learn later that the problem is not a physical disease but a reaction to other things going on in life- which can include but are not limited to real physical issues such as cancer, etc. Or divorce, bereavement etc.
            We were lied to by the medical establishment, and by society which exhorts people to obey white coats without question.

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          • As far as ‘ill’ and ‘unwell’ are concerned, these are highly relative terms interpreted in so many various ways, which carry a lot of energy, judgment, and stigma on them, Many schools of thought on this. So that’s a dissertation waiting to be written.

            I agree with the author and the majority on here that we were taught to trust blindly what turned out to be the wrong people, and we were taught to think about ourselves in a way that was negative and inaccurate. Trauma, family dysfunction, etc., create this internal reality for us: we are sick and we need to see a doctor. It’s a cultural program, from family beliefs, media, and social norms–mostly based on terribly limited information and downright deceit and manipulation for the purpose of control. That’s standard procedure among the power elite, to fool the masses.

            We are re-writing this now. We are defining ourselves our way, by our truth, which seems to be working well for each of us, as we grow in number, by example, and with credible voices, far and away from this other nonsense, which is how I label this process of diagnosing and medicating. It is non-sense, as in, makes no sense. We have so much proof of this.

            Even those you are calling ‘unwell’ aren’t helped by this, and there are so many other ways. They need to stop lying and being in denial. That’s what is damaging to society right now.

            I’m not saying that we’re not talking about some kind of imbalance at times, either within a person or within their life, that needs addressing, that happens to all of us, it’s human. We all have issues and challenges to face, and we do it however is best for ourselves.

            Many of us thought psychiatry was the way to go because that was the propaganda, that it exists to help resolve issues, heal our mental chaos and confusion, and relieve anxiety; whereas it does exactly the opposite, over and over again. This mental health treatment crap creates problems where they don’t exist, and makes the problems that people had upon seeking help even bigger and more entrenched.

            AND, they know it, it’s obvious, and they are digging their heals in, can’t surrender to the client’s voice as the last word.

            That’s where I would, indeed, blame them for the harm being done here. They don’t want to hear thousands or millions of voices in truth! We’re talking quality of life, family, communities, and life & deaths issues, here.

            So yes, I’d point the finger at psychiatry, too, I think that is just and accurate, beyond a doubt. I point the finger to identify the problem in society as precisely as possible, in order to fix this situation–that is, to remove the problem and allow for better solutions to come in, non-institutional, to my mind.

            Re classes, the upper tiers of society tend to shame and demean others, patronize at best, to preserve their illusion of ‘social rank.’ They make it up, based on arbitrary rules of their society. That’s what snobbery is, which is what comes from class division, people who think they’re ‘better’ for whatever reason, based totally on superficial things, that really don’t matter, but they want people to know they have what others could not possible acquire.

            Although I think this, in reality, is not true, but an illusion that has been created, that some are limited while others are not. Not true, but we can believe it if we’re taught this, until we wake up.

            I have found this to be the case, in general, with psychiatry, and a huge part of the problem, this kind snobbery, where they project lack and limitation onto clients, and worse yet, they fabricate a chronic illness to get you hooked on drugs for life. There is a definite class issue here, and it affects how ‘sick’ and ‘well’ are perceived and addressed, most definitely. I think it’s pronounced and obvious, goes without saying.

            Indeed, psychiatry has had its day. It has caused too many problems in the name of solving them. It makes no sense to preserve it at this point.

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          • A very complex question as to the psychopathology, neurology, brain function – physiological/biologic aspects to mental health conditions.

            i take a holistic/integral view – bio/psycho/social/spiritual – But i wouldn’t deny the biological elements.

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          • I don’t deny the biological aspects to any issue. I believe it’s all mind/body/spirit, they’re totally interconnected. However, I do not believe that psychiatry helps in regard to biological. issues, either. That field has made a tragic mess for people. It doesn’t know what it’s doing, I think that is clear, psychiatry is smoke & mirrors, all illusions, and at this point, not terribly convincing ones. Biological issues can often remedy themselves when we do work in other aspects. Often, when we remedy emotional issues, such as those which lead to self-sabotage, our body’s go back into balance, simply from relieving the pressure of false negative self-beliefs.

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          • “I don’t deny the biological aspects to any issue. I believe it’s all mind/body/spirit, they’re totally interconnected. However, I do not believe that psychiatry helps in regard to biological. issues, either.”

            Hi Alex – i think that we get into some very complex & in depth areas with it all. i came to the attention of psychiatry in a state of very severe & extreme psychosis – & for all the criticism of it all, the mental health system has always patched me up.

            If i don’t take a low dose of anti-psychotic medication i go into severe near catatonic psychosis. i have tried everything within my power to address & resolve it all & Not been able to, Not after 30 years of it all. That is Not a failing on my part – it’s the nature of the illness.

            Tell me what ‘you’d’ do/have done differently to deal with the states that i’ve been in?

            i’m all for a far more humane & caring system – But i think it’s a very debatable areas as to psychology vs psychiatry – it’s very debatable how much these are at least in part primarily physiological/biologic conditions – especially regarding severe mental illness.

            It works the other way around as well – i get blamed for being ill – i get blamed for Not trying hard enough & other things. When it’s Not my fault that i’ve suffered a severe mental illness. & for all the pros/cons, risk/benefit scenarios – about the one thing that works in regards to my own condition is anti-psychotic medication.

            Yes – i’d love to live in an ideal World – with comprehensive & compassionate care & support – with comprehensive & appropriate psychological & social support – But it’s hard to impossible to access – & i don’t see the anti-psychiatry lot offering all that either – even less so in cases – All a lot of them do is deny there is any problem to begin with, which ironically with some of them there isn’t. It remains a fact that there are those that do have serious/severe mental illnesses – whatever way it’s cut.

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          • Cpuusage, I would never begrudge you or anyone any remedy that works for you and brings you relief. I speak from my experience about what works for me and what I observe.

            Bottom line is that each of us, individually, is in charge of our wellness and how we deal with anything. At least as adults, this would be the case. It’s why I feel that research and incessant debate about what is or is not illness or wellness and what treatments work for what and how we interpret life’s events can fall short of what is really important–to alleviate our individual suffering. More than anything, that’s what I most appreciate on here, the stories of people who found their way out of suffering. That’s what I most care about.

            If what you did helps you in that department, then of course it is right for you! Hardly anything that is discussed here is universal. Why such nasty arguments occur, I don’t know.

            Perhaps we can learn to respect a bit more our individuality, and not argue about the reality of others. I think that’s a total waste of time and energy which takes us off track considerably, while also being rather hurtful to people, understandably. Healing is hard, courageous work which makes us all feel vulnerable. True, authentic universal respect would be a wonderful healing agent in here, I believe. I’m sorry if you feel this is idealistic. Regardless, I think it’s an excellent goal for which to aim, if anything at all is going to change.

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          • i don’t think it’s idealistic Alex – i’ve spent my life focused on a serious healing path.

            i don’t think it’s all solely about personal responsibility – i think society has a duty of care to it’s more vulnerable members.

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          • No argument there, but if a society can’t take care of itself (as ours obviously is not doing terribly well at the moment), then good luck with a society that can take care of others. Being self-responsible is primary, and safe, because it is ourselves we are asked to trust. Perhaps a new–or forgotten–skill for some, but necessary, I think, right now. It can be re-learned.

            Good and trustworthy support is, indeed, hard to find, at best, whether we like it or not. We’re all trying to find the delicate balance, it’s different for each of us.

            Ok, I’ll stop here because I’ve already gotten my wrist slapped once for not taking a dialogue to forum, but this seemed relevant, and I’ve found it productive, so thanks for the prompting cpuusage. I wish you the best in your continued healing.

            And thank you also, Amy, for sharing your very thought-provoking and passionate story. Really good stuff. I love reading and hearing about peoples’ various paths to freedom. We’re creating a whole new world…

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      • Alex… “We are defining ourselves our way, by our truth, which seems to be working well for each of us, as we grow in number, by example, and with credible voices, far and away from this other nonsense, which is how I label this process of diagnosing and medicating. It is non-sense, as in, makes no sense. We have so much proof of this.”


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  5. Great article. Thank you for being so brave. I really think we professionals who have been outside then inside the system need to come up and talk. Scary thing though for us in terms of employment and professional community. So professionals just don’t want to go there. They don’t want to see and it is really hard to apologize for what happened to so many folks who were led down the medication path.
    Yes I was a different person before any medication. People think that medication is the answer and they push you against your better judgment to just try and then the floor falls out.
    I really think a truth and reconciliation process is needed.
    We who have walked into locked wards as professionals and spent time in locked wards as patients need to shut out the stories and how much we didn’t know about what goes on.
    I am trying to get brave – glad you have done so!

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    • Truth and reconciliation, yes.

      I lived on $150 a month for over a year. I was privy to the graces of homelessness, like a homeless man slipping $100 into my pocket (he thought anonymously) so that I could purchase a phone. Poverty does not scare me so much as dying at the end of a meaningless life. Also, now that I have fully regained my health, should social work doors ever close for me, I have the ability to change careers into one perhaps without so much social pressure.

      I thought long and hard before putting this out there; it sat on my shelf for 3 years. Do your due consideration, not everyone is in the position to be open, but as social work is not my last career ambition, I was.

      Blessings to you,

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  6. Amy,

    Thank you for a well written and heartfelt article. I wish you all the health and happiness in the world. I too survived the Pharmacaust (great word!) by falling for the lies- that my anxiety and depression was the result of a “genetic disease” and not from circumstances in my life (just lost neighbor in the WTC attacks among other things) and that only pills would fix it.
    Ten years later, the mania, restlessness, violent outbursts, lack of inhibition, alcohol abuse spurred by the drink, and other problems that arose from steady use of Celexa, Xanax and occasional Trazodone landed me in an ER after a suicide attempt using those very drugs washed down with alcohol, and I realized then that the drugs were my problem.
    The shrink who put me on that cocktail laughed at me when I told him I wanted off and offered to increase my dosages instead, so I fired him, and began the long process of weaning myself off. Now I am more or less my old self again, with a few lingering problems like tinnitus…but I was robbed of a decade of my life.
    Good luck and thanks again for sharing your story.

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  7. i think that there is a very marked distinction, between critics of the system, & the mental illness deniers.

    Laing & Jung were very critical of the system, but they fully acknowledged the realities of madness/mental illness. Szasz on the other hand denied mental illness existed. Those are some big examples that spring to mind, but people seem to fall into either or both camps, especially on this forum.

    i’ve experienced a lot of significant distress & overall functioning/life has been greatly effected by the condition. i do think it rational to consider it an illness. Of course, i understand that for various reasons there are those people that don’t consider they have any illness to begin with, & maybe they are right?

    i suppose this is part of the problem with current psychiatry – where diagnosis is largely based on subjective interpretation on what is being presented (speech & behaviour). i think that some kind of distinctions need to made between who is suffering a more severe form of mental illness & who isn’t. That would be difficult to do, but i don’t think impossible.

    In the UK there are far stricter controls on who receives a diagnosis of severe mental illness (for example). There would be ways, i think, of filtering out severity of condition. Lumping everyone together under the same ‘mental illness/health’ umbrella, just is not working, & we don’t do that with physical health. There is likely even more variety within mental health – far more distinctions should be made, & people taken on an individual case by case basis. That may stop some of these stories here.

    i do know how some people ‘present’ to health professionals – with a lot of moaning, crying, wailing & screaming, when it’s obvious it’s their own little ego drama/stage performance, & little in reality is really that wrong. Whose fault is that if people present that way? In what way are health authorities meant to respond? The sad reality is, regardless of what may be wrong with people (or not) the majority want their labels & drugs. Some realise what that actually entails further down the line – i think people should be far more aware of what it all entails to begin with, i was.

    i’d love to see a paradigm shift & transformation within all these areas – But that does require the masses Wake Up from their self induced collective trance of mass stupidity.

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    • I think I can speak for Szasz when I write the mind can not be diseased. The mind can be wrong or right, legal or criminal but thoughts and emotions are not diseases.” Diseases are malfunctions of the human body, of the heart, the liver, the kidney, the brain”.

      If someone is NOT functioning ( eating and sleeping like a Hominid) , it may be considered a mercy to have a psychiatric intervention. RE”who is suffering a more severe form of mental illness & who isn’t”

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      • “I think I can speak for Szasz when I write the mind can not be diseased. The mind can be wrong or right, legal or criminal but thoughts and emotions are not diseases.” Diseases are malfunctions of the human body, of the heart, the liver, the kidney, the brain”.”

        It’s very simplistic reasoning & Szasz has been arguably very well refuted, & i’m not going to repeat all those arguments here, when a little research would suffice. A lot depends on whether ‘you’ take a dualism perspective, but imo of course the mind can be ill, of course there is a potential for psychopathology. Szasz was/is sorely mistaken.

        ‘If someone is NOT functioning ( eating and sleeping like a Hominid) , it may be considered a mercy to have a psychiatric intervention. RE”who is suffering a more severe form of mental illness & who isn’t”‘

        imo i think it obvious there are cases of far more severe psychological/emotional distress/illness within some people than others.

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  8. 7 years post my heart failure due to a medically abusive psychiatric staff while in the care of my State’s mental health hospital after having gone well into the onset of renal failure from a “lethal cocktail” prescribed by the administering outpatient care, when they found I was ill responsive to all anti-psychotic medications for a never before present malady of depression that had been initiated from an initial prescription of antidepressants meant to help with an ignored case of stress induced generalized anxiety from overworking. They are at it again. AstraZeneca knows no limits in their malignant behavior to get FDA approval, and no remorse in who they will discredit in the process. 0ver 80% of the inpatient population, regardless of their initial diagnosis were given measure of treatment to ensure that their drug Seroquel XR would be passed for use on PTSD, people who were being treated for alcoholism, depression, you name it were reassessed to have Bipolar NOS or some variation to approve use of Seroquel in varying quantities regardless of past medication success/failure or lacking evidence to prove diagnosis. I do not care where you live or who you are to say otherwise: this is unconscionable, and bordering if not directly equivalent to eugenics type practices, where the medical practitioner and institution is monetarily motivated to pass falsified judgement, using below fuzzy logic to justify income supplementation. Promising Trial of Drug for Mental Illness Unravels http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/19/business/seroquel-xr-drug-trial-frayed-promise.html?_r=0 I hope posting this article is acceptable information.. Thank You Amy Upham for taking your story serious enough to publish and pass along your lessons! looking forward to reading your book.

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    • Most of what was written in my previous comment above is not part of the article because it was my personal experience in an otherwise relative situation that unfortunately continues by the same megalith Co. that strikes a massively abusive discord for mental wellness in their practices. I believe that it supplements Amy Upham’s own experiences of medical negligence. I empathize greatly for anyone who has had to face these uncertainties and abysmal forms of malpractice with no ability of seeking reformative and rehabilitating justice to compensate their losses. Sometimes all we have is our voice and the accumulative expressions of our experience to afford us the weight of the damages undertaken at the hands of such seemingly untouchable forces.

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      • “I do not care where you live or who you are to say otherwise: this is unconscionable, and bordering if not directly equivalent to eugenics type practices, where the medical practitioner and institution is monetarily motivated to pass falsified judgement, using below fuzzy logic to justify income supplementation.”

        Yes, yes, yes. Abuse, systemic abuse and genocide are the only words for polypharmacy practices and psychiatric abuses such as seclusion and restraint, which kill 2 people each week in hospitals. What other words when folks treated in the public mental health system die 25 years earlier than everyone else? Unconscionable, unethical, immoral, medical malpractice and all the rest. The FDA as accomplice.

        I hope you have recovered from the heart and renal failure. It is only by miracle and my growing up in a medical household that I was able to treat myself and recover.
        All the best and in solidarity,

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    • MadOmOLandly – Right. They assume you have forever to adjust to whatever you suffer, and can’t bother to learn what it is. It is what the label says, and so you must somehow really feel glad to know them in the mental hosptial. That’s what I ran into and sound like what you endured, too. So now the “right” labels also make no sense to use, because the clinicians’ s knowing more than me is magnitudes less likely at this point. They were so pointless in their attentions to me, even the nicest ones, except for proving that they could have been helpful if they weren’t brainwashed about the whole approach to care. What mattered most was that with one particular hospitalization, many staff began to tell me they didn’t understand why I was being kept so long. Specifically different ones each began to act more strangely and accusatorily toward me, as though I were hiding something by acting so typically like we were equals in the game. The only ideal treatment that ever came my way happened to come from a lawyer who won the early release for me in the mental health court. Probably somehow another doctor who noticed that my case was much less exageratedly abnormal than my doctor pretended about me must have influenced the situation. Between my lawyer and whoever or whatever else rescued me, that was up there with the best psychological treatment for me since getting labelled. (Court happened without me, there, but the result was as good to wait on as to have in person, too.)

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  9. Amy – Congratulations yourself for all you got through and have started heading towards. Your responses were also very generous to all concerned. I doubt that anyone could actually complain that they felt left out or ignored, notwithstanding the reliable commenters in the thread. You have great perspicacity and incredible focus on communicating with respect to the central issue in what someone says to you.

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  10. First, I believe that the term “worried well” I think coined by E Fuller Torrey is without conscience. It is is a derogatory term used to hurt people who are already suffering for whatever reason. There is no such person as “worried well.” Thank you, Amy for being brave and bringing your story out that so many of us must overcome.
    Second, I will bring some “familial” input into this psychiatric/bigpharma bullying, bigotry and control. To me, my mother signifies in a smaller way this psychiatric/bigpharma terror we have all undergone. She is “unhappy” with me because I did something healthy and strong for me! I drove my new car into the mountains for a little trip. She considers that selfish and irresponsibile. Everything worked out so great! This is the first time I have been able to drive since being under the influence of the harmful meds. My dear mother is so worried and obsessed with money and control that she denies me my right to do what I know is good for me! This is in a small way the way the psychiatrists treat us. They give us dangerous, deadly meds and are very afraid that we will find out and rebel against their alleged authority and control! Thank you again, Amy for all your comments. You are a very smart, courageous and inspirational person! Keep up your greatness!

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