Lost in Medication

David Healy, MD

A medicine is a mix of a chemical that pharmaceutical companies produce and knowledge about how to use the chemical – that we produce.

Making even basic chemicals was beyond us for millennia. But once the process was cracked, discoveries and inventions came thick and fast. Making chemicals that could be used to treat diseases was beyond us for even longer but the pace of discovery began to pick up in the middle of the nineteenth century. The realization of what needed to be done to give a chemical a chance of becoming a medicine led to the hunt for a Magic Bullet. But even as the process became more rational the role of serendipity remained and remains enormous as the discovery of penicillin and so many other medicines demonstrates.

Huge amounts of knowledge are buried in the production of these chemicals that might be drugs. Some of that knowledge came from the pharmaceutical industry, especially the knowledge about how to mass produce the new chemicals to a quality standard. A lot came from university, institute or other research laboratories.

Patents or Prizes?

The emergence of these new medicines led to vigorous disputes as to how much an industry like the chemical industry needed to be incentivized to produce new drugs. Venice was the first economy to use patents and the English adopted the idea as a reward system in 1624 to stimulate commerce. At this point patenting seemed a better bet for something like building up a business that traded in goods rather than a means of fostering discovery. When there was a need for a radical breakthrough, Prizes looked like a better bet. The best illustration of this is the story behind the Prize offered for the discovery of how to determine Longitude won by John Harrison in the 1740s.

At a time when chemical companies could produce little of any value to medicine the French revolutionaries, ordinarily hostile to all things English, and with other things on their mind — like guillotining a King — figured it was a revolutionary thing to do to allow patents on medicines. The Germans initially frowned on this idea but later opted for process patents – I could get a patent on my way to make Prozac but not on Prozac itself. If you find a different way to make Prozac, you could make it. The Americans, who were much later to the game, from the get-go let companies have product patents – if I patent Prozac you can’t make it even by another method. I have a monopoly on it.

Process patents seem more the thing for the modern age with its emphasis on intellectual property rights than product patents that actively discourage innovation. And for a century the American pharmaceutical industry lagged behind all others, until political developments leveled the playing field and forced the Europeans in the 1960s to play by product patent rules and then the rest of the World to do so too through TRIPS in the 1980s, after which drug development slowed down.

Making a Medicine

But here’s the rub, whatever patent system or Prizes we offer them, companies just produce chemicals. It is we who produce medicines. A medicine is a chemical with information and the information comes from us.

In the 1950s, the information came from doctors giving us the new pill and both of us monitoring what happened. That was the ideal but some of them gave us a pill without telling us it was new, and some of the guys handing out these new drugs were people you probably wouldn’t want to take something new and potentially dangerous from. Whether we were fully on board or not though, this was a system where the knowledge was produced in a hands-on way by us and our doctors. If the drug didn’t obviously do something useful or clearly did something harmful it was either removed from the market or the knowledge of what could go wrong found its way pretty directly into clinical practice.

These new chemicals interfered with biology in a way that only poisons had done before. The need to get the information component right was brought home horrifically in 1961 when thalidomide stripped babies of their arms or legs and deformed them in multiple other ways.

Producing Health can never be just a matter of Consuming Chemicals.

The Wages of Fear

A wave of panic washed over the political establishment at the sight of armless babies. There was a reflex need to be seen to raise the bar for pharmaceutical companies bringing drugs to market. If these companies were going to make money out of people at their most vulnerable, they would have to pass through the eye of a needle. They would have to show in clinical trials that their drugs worked. And those of us who entered these trials would have to be informed that the drug was something not yet on the market so that we could make up our own mind whether to take the risks or not.

This sounds like and is portrayed as something good being drawn from an appalling tragedy, except that clinical trials had only just been invented and no-one realized they weren’t up to the task, except Louis Lasagna, one of their inventors and their main promoter – (See Marilyn’s Curse and related Lasagna series posts).

It took time for the problems to appear. In the 1960s, whether in trials or just by trial and error, the knowledge that made these new drugs into treatments that saved lives came from us. The doctors who gave the drugs were local – they knew us and our communities. In the first trials the doctors were treating patients they knew and when the trial was over and they broke the blind they were able to make sense of the findings in terms of the things they remembered seeing or hearing about directly from the patient.

And so in the decades just after the greatest cataclysm in human history, the risks we took in taking new drugs, whether in trials or just under the observation of our doctors, on behalf of people we knew, ushered in the most extraordinary period of medical advance in all of human history.

But it is exactly this space to mull over what you are seeing and hearing or experiencing that trials have now now left as road kill as they have become the fuel for Fast Medicine.

The Risks in Destroying Knowledge

The initial rationale for trials was that they would be run on drugs or in situations where it was just not obvious that the treatment was helping or that the risks were worth taking. For things that were evident, there was no need for further evidence.

When things aren’t evident and we decide to run a trial, we take a calculated gamble on something risky – and probably well over ninety percent of trials that get run involve risks not worth taking.

To test something out you first need to hypnotize doctors and patients. The blinding in a trial means more than the idea that neither the doctor nor the patient know what the drug is – they can often guess. It means you limit their vision. You get both to focus intensely on whether there is any sign of benefit – to the exclusion of all else. Drugs do a hundred different things but in a trial everyone is guided to ignore the ninety-nine other things and focus on just one thing – does this drug work for whatever it is the company is interested in.

In fact we have introduced another complication which is we ask does it work for depression or to stop heart attacks. Just as SSRIs do, a drug might so obviously blunt or numb reactions that you don’t need a trial to demonstrate this – or so obviously lower cholesterol levels that you don’t need a trial to show this. This blunting or lowering cholesterol can be helpful or not, but rather than call this working, we want to see if this helps depression or prevent heart attacks. When the trials finally squeeze out an answer that you can’t say these SSRIs are of no benefit, we in fact have no idea how the benefit has come about. Or if the trial finds that lowering cholesterol makes no difference, we have no idea why not.

Look at it this way. Alcohol can be very good for social anxiety. Everyone who takes it for this purpose knows what they are doing, and knows how it helps. If we ran a trial of alcohol for social anxiety, and on some rating scale could show some benefit, you would be asked to forget any ideas you had about how alcohol might be helping and just accept a company line that it “works” and therefore you should be taking it – for the rest of your life in all probability.

In the same way, our knowledge of how SSRIs help – they numb – is discarded in favor of the company or expert knowledge that these things work. Into this knowledge vacuum, companies were able to insert all kinds of baloney about serotonin and continue to offer up the hocus-pocus of chemical imbalances (See So Long and Thanks.)

The Great Hypnosis

The great hypnosis involves a post-hypnotic suggestion – that out of the trial will come gold standard knowledge of what drugs do.

We are being told forget our ability to produce knowledge – to produce medicines. They have put us through a machine that erases any inconvenient observations we may have. Our only role now is to consume the pills they give us and to swallow without question the information they provide with them. We have been made into consumers; we are no longer seen as producers.

The hypnosis is pretty dense. In SSRI trials, one hundred per cent of us had genital numbing and a change in sexual function but less than 5% of us apparently noticed this, or at least had it recorded by the doctor – many of these trialists are third raters you wouldn’t want to be treated by. To this day we don’t know how many of us return to normal sexually or emotionally after taking an SSRI even just for the 6 weeks of a trial.

So when your son or daughter rocks up to a doctor (visiting is too twentieth century) with the disturbing information that they have stopped functioning sexually, that they could smear chili paste on their genitals and they wouldn’t feel a thing so numb are they, he will check the product label and not finding anything like this there will tell them it’s all in the mind, or this is their depression speaking.

The more they protest, the firmer the noose of neurosis will tighten around their neck.

If you were in one of these trials where your attention was diverted away from the effects of these drugs on sexual functioning or when you tried to make an observation the doctor didn’t record it, the fact that you took risks in a trial for the benefit of your family and friends and community is now being used to skewer your family and friends, just as surely as your work in a lead smelter for most of the twentieth century poisoned any family or friends you had living nearby.

At least working in a smelter you were paid for the work you did.

Many of the trials on which our safety now depends have now moved to places like Bhopal in India or the townships of South Africa where the patients may not exist or if they are injured they can be disposed of without any trace of the problem appearing on the record. The “knowledge” that comes from these trials is deemed by the FDA, the MHRA, AllTrials, the Cochrane Collaboration and Barack Obama as the only real knowledge there is. Your experience by comparison is anecdotal – irrelevant.

If you’re a politician who hasn’t lobbied to make access to clinical trial data freely available, you’re a politician who would lobby to keep the lead smelter running in your district and the level at which lead in blood is regarded as dangerous as high as possible. Hey if kids poisoned by lead are hyperactive – well isn’t that what we have Ritalin for?

The Garden of Good and Evil

Earth teems with life. It’s difficult not to be productive amidst this abundance. It takes the degraded circumstances of a concentration camp to turn humans into just consumers and even there the human spirit can find meaning.

In the Garden, there were trees we could eat from that our parents and others had spent lots of time cultivating, whose fruit were Medicinal. But there was also a Tree, the Fruit of which Wisdom made clear we should avoid. Consuming this Fruit, which we hadn’t been involved in husbanding, we were told would lead to Exile.

The Fruit of the Clinical Trial Tree looks Medicinal – but it’s not life-giving.

It’s profoundly alienating because one more feature of the Clinical Trial process, at least within the current regulatory system, is that it locates the problem, the taint, the original sin in us. If trials show ADHD responds to Ritalin, it must mean the kid is defective.

Which lets politicians say or maybe nudge – “Why look at goddamned lead levels – you want to drive jobs out of this country? If you want to make this world a better place, just keep taking the pills. All of them”.

If Medicine is to be Safe, we need to reclaim our birthright as producers of Medicines.

To be continued.

This is a slightly modified version of the post on DavidHealy.org:
– Lost in Medication: The Crusoe Report 3


  1. Psychiatric medicine, especially in the United States, is little more than a cattle drive…

    Why bother to ask the cattle, what they think or feel? Because, they are obviously disturbed, or they wouldn’t be coming in for treatment. Their feelings are inconvenient, just another symptom of their pathology.

    There is no more, collaboration between, those that suffer and those that provide care. Maybe its the times, authoritarian systems seemed to be favored by the political elite, at this point.

    Treatment has become another way, to confine and control… The unhappy people.

    With 120 drug over doses a day, most of which are prescription medications, questioning who is doing what to who, and why, needs a lot more asking.

  2. Yes, yes, David…I think I follow you. So do you think if the primal parents had been active participants in real trials with Eden Pharmaceutical, as co-producers, maybe the one son would’ve had the benefit of some good Ableify, thereby not engaging in delusional behavior that incurred the lethal fury of his brother, who was apparently jacked up on coCaine?

  3. Another good read, I enjoy your insights.
    “Medications” in the fantasy world of psychiatry have done little of nothing even though their broad use began in the 1980’s (if memory serves). Depression, Anxiety, bi-polar and every other “mental illness” remains steady or has exploded. It doesn’t take a neuroscientist to understand the basic premise that if something is truly improving overall “illness” than it is truly a treatment. That leaves three possibilities: 1.) that the medication used by psychiatry don’t work by and large, 2.) that the diseases the medications are prescribed for aren’t accurately diagnosed (in the case of psychiatry we have to argue their actual existence at all are questionable) or 3.) a combination of the first two. To be fair, psychiatry isn’t the only guilty party when you look at the explosion of all medications related to reducing “heart disease” that haven’t actually reduced what they are prescribed for. The difference is that you can refuse those medications whereas mainstream “mental health” never gives you all the information in order to have informed consent.
    The FDA is a joke and as a regulatory are is as helpful as a screen door on a submarine. Trusting them to ensure that drugs are safe in light of their “fast-track” approach is a bad idea. One need only look at the recent lawsuits to see that.
    It’s sad that we have reached a point where we can’t trust the prescriber or the maker of these chemical compounds but maybe as people begin to wake up to this and begin to inform and advocate for themselves, the idea that all life’s problems can be solved by popping a pill will subside. Maybe the need to identify ourselves as “ill” will fall by the wayside and people will gain perspective and not allow themselves and others to be victimized so willingly without even recognizing it.

  4. Yes, Dr Healey is right on his assertion about the ADHD and Ritalin. For me, it was if the lithium seemed to work; I must be bi-polar and then if the benzos and SSRi’s seem to work I must have depression and ocd. Finally, if the risperadal or abilify seemed to work; I must have schizo-affective disorder. I will admit logic and mathematics are my very weakest of Gardner’s multiple intelligences. Yet, even “logic-challenged” this seems like there is a logical fallacy present. What I do see here and according to Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences; I have very strong Naturalistic intelligence; which says is indicative of a person who can see patterns in nature and in other areas. I see a flawed and dangerous pattern that is not only lacking in objectivity; but lacks even the most moral substance of causal subjectivity. I had thought this once myself. If these drugs worked; I must have that disease or disorder. But, I was not thinking. The drugs had dulled my mind until true critical thinking (that kind my high school English teacher taught me as the most important thing I could get from an education) had been totally disabled by these drugs. It is kind of like pulling the plug from the modem totally disconnects you from the internet. I had been disconnected from my brain by these drugs. Additionally, I was and still am (despite the fact I am no longer taking an of them) experiencing evil side effects to not only my brain, but my body and spirit. I do have a confident, optimistic attitude that these effects will soon disappear. It is dangerous to think that if the drug allegedly works; the patient must have that disease or disorder. Even I realize there are way too many variables to consider such a simplistic conclusion; especially now that I no longer take those drugs. And, the ultimate tragedy in these drugs is that they totally steal the self and spirit of the person taking them. It is beyond grief that many psychiatrists and other mental health “robot” think what Dr Healey wrote; if the drug works, the person must have the disorder or disease. It is true that like my father said about many of his fellow graduates from graduate school; they have not had an original thought at least sinc grad school; maybe before that, if ever. I am so glad Dr Healey thinks originally; because he is bringing to light the evil dangerous of this business that we need to know.

  5. Eventually, I did, also. It seemed to start out innocently enough; but, years later; I realized how much of me was stolen from by the evil, toxic, addictive drugs the doctors said were supposed to do me good and, of course, be for my own good. The withdrawal continues; but, each day improves. My mind suffered; but, my body has suffered even more for some reason. The major mind thing I noticed was the spending of more money than might been necessary; but, yet that is a pure judgement call. Some of the money spent was to find that which was truly me and almost lost in the medication and begin to restore that self and soul to me. I realize there are many who will never understand and can only point their finger at me and declare me again something that needs to improve or be improved. Despite “original sin”, many of us are never alright just the way we are; even though we were uniquely created by God for His purposes; not man’s purposes. It does go back to the same thing of placing judgement on other people when we really do not know the plan, purpose, and destiny of the person as created in the will and obedience to God. I try to do my best; but, I have never understood why I keep having to improve and improve and yet no else seems to have to improve like I do. I have been called one-quarter to one-half a person; not a complete package; and then, of course, all those lies about my being defective, diseased, or disordered or whatever they made up that day to suit their purpose and justify their toxic, evil addictive drugs being forced on me. I can not be anyone else but me. I have tried all these years; too many years and I have suffered dearly. I am not an advice giver. There are too many such people in this world. However, I would like to give one piece of advice to all persons of all ages on all the earth; be your own unique God-given self, spirit, and soul without apology. I just can’t see how being “true to yourself” hurts anyone; although. there are many parents, teachers, government officials, psychiatrists, and others who cry; “You hurt me!” And not even a blow to bear or even a coarse word was said. I just don’t understand. I guess there are those who prefer some to be “lost in medication” rather than as Shakespeare would say “be true to yourself.” We have definitely lost one of the most important words in the English Language: INTEGRITY. Please don’t allow yourself to “get lost in medication.” It is not at all like a fun maze at the Governor’s Palace in Williamsburg, VA. Not at all. Thank you.

  6. I have no problem with Dr Healy’s stance on psychotropic drugs. However I do have many questions and not a little confusion over his stance on ECT, Electroshock. Let’s look at this discourse of yours Dr Healy,
 in the light of this, the OTHER main treatment in biopsychiatry.
    Drugs have come lately to psychiatry. What you lay out below existed long ago, has always existed in psychiatry as long as DOCTORS have been involved
    Healy: “We are being told forget our ability to produce knowledge – to produce medicines. (treatments) They have put us through a machine that erases any inconvenient observations we may have. Our only role now is to consume whatever they give us and to swallow without question the information they provide with them. We have been made into consumers; we are no longer seen as producers.
The hypnosis is pretty dense.”
    In psychiatry the inconvenient has always been set aside such that in spite of the fact that in ECT studies placebo is always equal to or superior to `real’; memory/cognitive damage is recorded as serious and permanent; cell death is recorded in scans in ALL subjects; and only16-46% get ANY relief and that for under 4 weeks, there is NO critical analysis from the profession.
 What may not be recorded with drugs IS recorded for ECT, Dr Healy, but this seems to remain unnoticed by you.
    Healy: ”many of these trialists are third raters you wouldn’t want to be treated by. To this day we don’t know how many of us return to normal sexually or emotionally after taking an SSRI even just for the 6 weeks of a trial.”
    But we DO know that nobody returns to normal functioning following ECT as evidenced by neuropsychological testing and current day MRI scans.
    Healy: ”So when your son or daughter (or in ECT, mother, grandmother or child as well) rocks up to a doctor (visiting is too twentieth century) with the disturbing information that they have stopped functioning,” (slowed down, can’t learn, have forgotten years, decades of their lives, their education, their families, skills and talents), will you check the product label (literature including your own books and articles) and not finding anything (you)…”like there,”…will you tell them…”it’s all in the mind, or this is their depression speaking. The more they protest, the firmer the noose of neurosis will tighten around their neck.
 If you were in one of these trials where your attention was diverted away from the effects of this”…(treatment, on your memory for instance), or when you tried to make an observation the doctor didn’t record it, the fact that you took risks in a trial for the benefit of your family and friends and community is now being used to skewer your family and friends, just as surely as your work in a lead smelter for most of the twentieth century poisoned any family or friends you had living nearby.”

    These observations of David Healy’s re drugs are equally true for Electroshock as we can see. As a reviewer of his and E Shorter’s book, `The History of ECT’ said,
    “The oddest thing about Healy and Shorter is that they appear to accept the conflict-of interest-driven, spun, “research” on ECT, while they excoriate similar psuedo science when applied to other areas of bio-psychiatry…this book stands in stark contrast to the clear-eyed analysis Healy has displayed elsewhere. Peter C Dwyer”
    Hippocracy? Cognitive dissonance? The true believer syndrome? Confirmation bias? I remain confused and ambivalent about Dr Healy which is a pity because the rest of his work is very worthy.

    • I’d like to post Dr Healy’s response to this post and my reply to that.
      From David Healy 5/8/15
      What I consistently say – and said recently in at an ISEPP meeting in LA is that what I as a doctor can do for you that your granny or lifestyle coach, priest or guru can’t do is I can poison, mutilate or shock you. That poisoning, mutilation and shocking must be expected to come with problems – none of which should be ignored – and its only when the condition you have warrants taking the risks – with you fully informed of the risks – and both of us monitoring for things going wrong that I as a doctor should treat or you should engage with treatment.
      When it comes to telling you about the risks of ECT – I would tell you and tell anyone that ECT is linked to memory problems but part of the problem is that that no one who gets ECT is drug free and the benzos, antipsychotics and antidepressants you may also be on are likely causing memory problems (memory problems are the commonest complaint I get from people on antidepressants for instance who have never had ECT) so one of the hazards after ECT will be you will almost certainly have memory issues but aside from the short-term problems that no-one has ever denied are linked to ECT, it may be difficult for me or you to work out which of the longer term ones are linked to ECT rather than to any pills you are on. I have talked to many people who are very anti-ECT and when they describe their memory problems, these are much more consistent with antipsychotic or benzo induced problems that with ECT.
      In terms of the research you mention – there are no scan data showing damage and there are no animal or other studies showing brain damage, whereas there are scan and animal studies showing damage on antipsychotics. In the case of scans and ECT this may be partly because it is close to impossible to run a study in which you can isolate out the effects of ECT. I know because I worked on a protocol to do just this and found it was not readily do-able.
      In terms of letting other voices be heard, one of the best books written from an anti-ECT point of view is Linda Andre’s Doctors of Deception – this only got published because of my intervention and support for its publication.
      In the case of the History of Shock Treatment parts of which were written by Ned Shorter and parts by me – the Sections on Informed Consent were written by me and are a paean of praise for the many people damaged by shock who over the years have worked hard to get a recognition or the hazards written into consent forms. I even had nice things to say about CCHR, Thomas Szasz and Peter Breggin en route.
      I have never called for a treatment to be removed. They are all dangerous. But with the right collaborative arrangement good can be done. After my talk at ISEPP, several people in the audience mentioned privately that they had had ECT in the past and it had helped them. I know many other people who have also been helped by it – and have friends and relatives who haven’t been helped in any respect. Finally I’ve done more than anyone else here in N Wales to ensure that people who should not be getting ECT don’t get it.
      My reply 8/8/15
      As a DOCTOR, Dr Healy, you are `licensed’ by the state to be paid to poison, mutilate or shock. You are PERMITTED to do these things which means you have an OBLIGATION to make sure that when you do, the individual, your patient, suffers LESS overall as a result. What you are supposed to do is HEAL (I’m sure you’ve noticed) or try to, without causing HARM. An ancient tenet, too often ignored as you so often point out. What you seem to be saying here is that it’s okay to cause harm if you tell people you’re going to, and if these people choose that, the ball is in their court.
      Isn’t this a bit ingenuous? No lay person can understand all the ramifications of risk and harm, they have to trust the expert to take care of them, therefore the expert must honour that trust.
      THIS is your point in your article. I haven’t queried that, merely that you confine it to one area and abandon it in another.
      As the author of a book on the history of ECT it seems odd that you ignore the fact that memory problems, especially autobiographical retrograde memory loss, were documented from 1938, some 15 to 20 years BEFORE benzos, antipsychotics and antidepressants existed. An excellent study by Janis in 1952, very clearly demonstrated this. Since this was such a definitive study, it was deemed unnecessary by honest researchers to repeat it, and was/is avoided by less rigorous researchers later who didn’t/don’t want those kinds of results to see the light of day.
      I didn’t mention any specific research into brain damage but your claim that there are no animal or other studies showing brain damage astonishes me. There are few if any animal studies that DON’T show significant, definitive and specific brain damage in ALL subjects. Before 1952 there was a bit of to-ing and fro-ing about whether the damage every study found was actually caused by the electric shocks, but after Hartelius’ exhaustive and rigorously designed cat study it was accepted that this was the case. There were further studies in the 1970s in Russia that supported Hartelius, and the researchers recommended that ECT be withdrawn as a treatment, so later `modifications’ in the procedure did not avoid the problem.
      I am surprised that you state that there are no scans that indicate ECT specific brain damage. I must believe you aren’t aware of the 2012 study by Perrin et al where all subjects were given an MRI scan before and after ECT and ALL showed `changes’ that could only have the the result of ECT. Second to this, you may not have noticed Dr Charles Kellner’s (Mt Sinai Hospital, New York) article posted in the Psychiatric Times in January 2015 where he suggested that because of the sensitivity of todays MRI scans, a rethink about structural brain `changes’ caused by ECT might be necessary.
      I am aware of your involvement with Linda Andre’s book, `Doctors of Deception’ but I’m not sure that your claim that it `only’ got published because of your intervention is quite as simple as you say. Here is Linda’s feeling about the matter in 2007… “From: “Linda”,INTERNET:[email protected]
      To: “‘David Healy'”, healy_hergest
      Date: 03/12/2007 15:52 PM
      RE: RE: Book blurb
      The book is unlikely to be published. Doreen (the publisher) simply cannot accept that it is true…The only purpose the book contract has served so far is to prevent criticism of your book. (The History of Shock Treatment). You know Doreen, you know a bad review is her worst fear in life.
      Even if the book eventually gets published—and what purpose would that serve for Rutgers at that point?—it has served you well.
      You are too smart not to have known this was what would happen right from the beginning.
      You can deny it, but you are a liar. We’re not pretending any more.
      Regarding your book, one review (of many) sums up the continual confusion people feel about your stance on ECT.
      “The oddest thing about Healy and Shorter is that they appear to accept the conflict-of interest-driven, spun, “research” on ECT, while they excoriate similar psuedo science when applied to other areas of bio-psychiatry…this book stands in stark contrast to the clear-eyed analysis Healy has displayed elsewhere. Peter C Dwyer 2011”
      My point is that very contrast. You appear today to be scrambling to justify both yourself and ECT. I’d like to think you have a subconscious conflict resulting in cognitive dissonance reduction, that your need to continue to believe in yourself as the good guy, the beleaguered messiah, attacked not only by the `establishment’ but by ill-informed people who don’t understand that you only want to do good, allows you to deny facts, evidence or reality that contradict this belief. But I’m afraid I don’t.
      You are too intelligent to have such a large `blind spot’ and be unaware. As a scientist who is rigorous in one field it is reasonable for people to believe you are equally rigorous in others. Therein lies the rub. People come to you, believe in you, trust you. The fact that you, here, in your book and in public places such as ISEPP conferences, avoid and deny any evidence that doesn’t support your position, prevaricate and divert with anecdotes, indicates that when it comes to ECT you behave exactly as those you castigate so eloquently and persistently elsewhere, and that you use the extraordinary respect you have striven so hard to generate to continue to deceive vulnerable people.
      You promote yourself very well, claiming you give credit and help to your enemies, stating you do ECT better than anyone else, but really, up to 80% of psychiatrists NEVER prescribe ECT, many new graduates balk at even having to do it in training, only doing so under threat, several countries, including Italy where it began in 1938, ban or rarely use it, and no one under 18 `needed’ it in Texas in 2013-14, so should anyone get it AT ALL, better or not?
      In `cognitive dissonance’ the more one invests in a belief, the more value one will place in this belief and, as a consequence, be more resistant to facts, evidence or reality that contradict this belief.
      The `true-believer syndrome’ examines the phenomenon whereby no amount of evidence, no matter how good it is or how much there is of it, is ever going to convince the true believer to the contrary…No amount of logic can shatter a faith consciously based on a lie.”(Witness `Creationism’)
      `Confirmation bias’ which contributes to overconfidence in personal beliefs and can maintain beliefs after the evidence for them is shown to be false. This is contrary to scientific thinking which is the search for falsifying as well as confirming evidence.
      Which one do you use when you talk about ECT, Dr Healy?

  7. Deirdre,
    Thank-you so much for your
    comments. Like you, I find it difficult to understand a man like Healy who has done so much good, so much research, and provided so much support, encouragement, and information to the individuals and their families who lives have been disrupted or destroyed by psychiatric drugs has, at the same time, advocated for the use of ECT when the science and the victim testimonies
    clearly show it is unpredictable, dangerous, and destructive. How long can one pretend not to see the gigantic elephant in the room painted with ECT.=brain damage?
    It is upsetting to see someone reframe brain damage as “memory problems” suggesting it is difficult to “tease out” what damage can be attributed to ECT and what can be attributed to use of benzos, antidepressants, and anti-psychotics. Interesting to note Linda Andre was medication naive when she was given modern, state of the art ECT in a renowned hospital by well respected doctors. As a direct result she lost 40 IQ points, 5 years of her memory, and ended up with cognitive dysfunction which she had NO difficulty connecting to ECT.
    It is interesting to note Healy mentions two outcomes: the many people, including strangers, friends, and relatives who have been “helped” by ECT and those who received “no benefit”.

    Somehow he has eliminated category 3, those brain damaged by ECT suffering permanent amnesia, cognitive dysfunction, loss of skill sets, change in personality, loss of IQ points…etc. Is it possible not one of these people approached him after his “presentation”?? It beggars belief.
    Healy has managed to dismiss the Janis study, the Hartelius study, and the recent MRI reports identifying “changes to the structural architecture of the brain”, ridiculously spun to suggest that “reduced connectivity in the frontal lobes of the brain” is a good thing rather than proof of electrical lobotomy.

    It is wonderful that Healy helped Linda Andre get her book published. Too bad he has chosen to ignore or reject the carefully researched evidence she presents regarding the malignant nature of ECT and its devastating effect on victims.

    I found the following statements found in “The Iatrogenic Handbook” by Dr. R. Morgan to be of particular interest:
    “Shock treatment at its very best, those rare times when carefully fit to proper symptoms, constitutions, constitutions, and administrations, is STILL NOT worth the ultimate RISK to the patient. NO ONE genuinely open to the EVIDENCE could REASONABLY advocate for the continued use of this DESTRUCTIVE historical dead end…Practitioner-induced convulsions should no longer be tolerated in the contemporary treatment of our patients.”

    “It has become increasingly clear that ECT is the psychiatric equivalent of a nuclear pre-emptive strike on the brain..”

    Dr. Friedberg, neurologist, made note of “hemorrhages, large and small causing permanent seizure disorders in some patients” and the MRI and CT scans documenting the “breakdown of the blood brain barrier and cerebral edema -brain swelling” after every shock. (see Weisberg, L. Elliot, and Mielke: “Intracerebral Hemorrhage Following ECT, Nov. 1991. Neurology. Vol. 41.) He states that “assuming free and fully informed consent, it is well to reaffirm the individual’s right to pursue happiness through brain damage (ECT) if he or she chooses. But we might ask ourselves whether we, as doctors sworn to the Hippocratic Oath , should be offering it.”

    Deirdre, I think your attempt to clarify if cognitive dissonance, true-believer syndrome, or confirmation bias is fascinating. I think all three at at play here to varying degrees. I think your psychoanalytical insights regarding Dr. Healy’s motivation and behavior regarding ECT are quite insightful and interesting.

    I do find it unsettling to read Healy’s comment:”I have talked to many people who are very anti-ECT and when they describe their memory problems, these are much more consistent with antipsychotic or benzo induced problems than with ECT.” Seriously? You wish to reframe their experience, to view it from the lens of “they don’t know what their problem is or what it resulted from”? Research has indicated that patients can clearly tell the difference between ECT generated injury and drug injury or so-called symptoms of depression.
    Mary Maddock, Loretta Wilson, Jonathan Kott, Linda Andre, Evelyn Scoggin, Leonard Ray Frank, Liz Spikol, Peggy Salters, Marilyn Rice, Nancy Rubenstein Del Giudice, “amnesia”, Ted Chanasinski, Wendy Funk….ALL were quite clear about the source of their memory loss and brain injuries.
    Who needs a study? It is fairly evident when a person agrees to “psychiatric treatment”, distressed, but with no complaints of memory loss or intellectual dulling and cognitive dysfunction ONLY develops such “problems” after being assaulted by ECT. This relates to your reference to drug treated patients being ignored or not believed when they report “side effects” to their doctors. Would you tell them they must be mistaken, that their sexual dysfunction or suicidal or homicidal ideations cannot be springing from drug treatment and is “much more consistent” with depression problems or ECT problems?

    Strange that you mention “the MANY people DAMAGED by shock who over the years have worked hard to get a recognition or the hazards written into consent forms” without letting the reality of what you said sink in. Should a treatment that has resulted in MANY damaged people be endorsed for anyone??

    If Dr. Healy is sincere in his efforts to “ensure that people who should not be getting ECT don’t get it”, he should logically work to have it banned since NO ONE “needs” or should be getting ECT/ closed head injury electrical lobotomy as “treatment”.

    I suggest Dr. Healy re-read Doctors of Decception, Brain -Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry, the article by Robertson and Pryor and the article by Bentall and Read, and all the articles by Phil Hickey related to ECT. Perhaps he will have an epiphany.

    If I were an acclaimed and highly-esteemed doctor, researcher, and author, I would find it increasingly embarrassing to stick to my
    obviously indefensible position regarding ECT. My face would be red and I would feel I had severely damaged credibility. It would be so uncomfortable to keep insisting the emperor was wearing clothes in light of the fact, clearly visible to thousands and thousands of other doctors, researchers and patients , that he isn’t.

    It may be a bit of a stretch, but denying ECT causes brain damage, trauma, and disability is on some levels like Bill Cosby denying he assaulted dozens and dozens of women, Bill Clinton claiming he did not have sex with that woman, and the church covering up the claims of children being assaulted by pedophile priests. It strains credulity.

    I SO badly want the obviously charismatic, brilliant, passionate, and witty Dr. Healy to be the “good guy”, the savior, the hero with no feet of clay. After all, he has “heal” as part of his name.

    And, Oldhead? Love the Goebbels/ holocaust comment, but agreed with Deirdre that we need others to see the “ducking, dodging, weaving”…

  8. While Dr. Healy’s goal of capturing the variability of drug effects on individuals is laudable, his elevation of individual anecdotes above randomized clinical trial data ultimately boils down to a simplistic “if something happened to you while taking a drug, the drug must have caused it” epistemology. Indeed, this is the exact type of reasoning that guided the development of medicine prior to the development of the scientific method, and which supported over 1000 years of treating illnesses of all sorts by phlebotomy. His suggestion that the double blinding of clinical trials “destroys knowledge” ignores the considerable body of well-established knowledge regarding placebo and nocebo effects. In clinical trials of Prozac, 21% of those receiving drug developed headaches, as did 19% of those receiving a sugar pill, and substantial therapeutic effects were seen in the latter group. Placebo controlled clinical trials do not “destroy knowledge”, but rather serve to distinguish effects of drug from those caused by other factors.

    I was also troubled by the degree of artistic license that the article takes with the medical record, including comments such as “100% in SSRI trials experienced genital numbing” and the statement about chili paste, which describes symptoms very different from the sexual dysfunction commonly associated with SSRI use. Historically, Dr. Healy has taken some very courageous stands in pointing out mis-statements and distortions of the medical record by pharmaceutical companies that led to great patient harm. The best approach to combatting these mis-statements and distortions is rigorous truthfulness and careful attention to the facts, rather then the creation of an edifice of opposing mis-statements and distortions.

  9. I would like to apologize to Dr. Healy and other readers at MIA for the excessively harsh tone of my remarks on this and several of Dr. Healy’s other recent posts. In reviewing my comments, I believe they were unnecessarily confrontational and in some cases inappropriately cast aspersions on Dr. Healy’s good intent and character. I regret these comments and will maintain a higher standard of civility and respectful behavior in the future.

  10. John, I’m confused, I don’t see, in this post that there anything particularly harsh about your comments? For me, offering a critique of the way someone presents a topic is hardly the same as casting aspersions on their character. My experience of Mad in America has always been that the site welcomes such critiques and encourages scientific debate. Has this changed or was there something else, was there another post or has some editing taken place?