Psychologist Rethinks Psychotropic Medications, Calls for Renewed Dialogue

Justin Karter
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Psychologist and Professor Amber Gum has published the story of her personal journey of rethinking psychotropic medication in a special issue on “The Politics of Mental Health” in The Journal of Medicine and the Person. Influenced by Mad in America and the work of Robert Whitaker, Gum became aware of evidence that “suggests that psychotropic medications are less effective and more harmful than most believe” and now hopes to encourage other mental health professionals and researchers to engage in open-minded, critical self-assessment of standard practices.

Anatomy-of-an-Epidemic1
Gum, a psychologist and researcher, was initaially led to reconsider psychiatric medications by Whitaker’s book Anatomy of an Epidemic.

“Over the past few years, I have reconsidered the evidence base for psychotropic medications,” Gum begins. “Although not widely publicized or recognized, persuasive evidence suggests that psychotropic medications are less effective and more harmful than most believe.”

Gum has decided to disclose her personal experience of realizing and processing information that is unsettling and disruptive to her professional identity in an effort to guide other mental health professionals toward an open-minded reconsideration of the evidence regarding psychotropic medications.

Gum credits her initial exposure to the counter-narrative on psychiatric drugs to news articles on madinamerica.com about “peer-reviewed research articles published in respected journals by researchers at respected institutions.” The news stories on psychotropic medications, Gum writes, were “the first inkling that something in my worldview might be amiss.”

Prompted by what she had read, she began reading Anatomy of an Epidemic with skepticism but, because the book was “heavily reinforced” and well-researched she “began to recognize that [Whitaker’s] thesis had merit and deserved further examination.”

“In summary, once I began to scratch below the surface, I discovered a compelling body of empirical research indicating that: (a) psychotropic medications are not very effective, overall; (b) short-term adverse effects are fairly common and can be severe; and (c) the brain’s compensatory mechanisms may paradoxically worsen the original problem and lead to chronicity, new problems (including suicide, homicide and violence, mania, psychosis, apathy, cognitive impairment), and polypharmacy.”

This realization led to the experience of cognitive dissonance. She reports feeling heartbroken when this evidence base prompted her to consider the magnitude of the harmful effects.

“These effects include unfathomable tragedies like highly publicized mass violence or suicide,as well as more common results, such as boisterous or abused children muted by stimulants, couples who drift apart due to sexual effects and apathy induced by SSRIs, or children and adults battling obesity and diabetes caused by antipsychotics.”

She concludes by emphasizing two goals: (1) “encouraging open-minded, critical examination of the research literature and your reactions to it;” and (2) “engaging in empathic discourse—examination and discussions in which we all become more cognizant of our cognitive dissonance and biases and compassionate about the ramifications for all of us if we reduce psychotropic medication use.”

Professor Gum recommends the following list of resources for those who are beginning to examine the evidence base for psychiatric drugs.

 

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Gum, A. M. (2015). Changing my mind: one professor’s story of rethinking psychotropic medication. Journal of Medicine and the Person13(3), 187-193. (Abstract)

9 COMMENTS

  1. “She reports feeling heartbroken when this evidence base prompted her to consider the magnitude of the harmful effects.”

    Welcome to the club! This is known as “The Broken Heart of Sufism”, the result of seeing things as they really are. The upside is that if you can muster the courage, the knowledge and the skills to go on somehow, your heart can never be broken again.

    Gayan: Song
    Ragas: The human soul calling upon the beloved God.
    “How shall I thank Thee for Thy mercy and compassion, O King of my soul?
    What didst Thou not unto me when I was walking alone through the wilderness, through the darkness of night?
    Thou camest with Thy lighted torch and didst illuminate my path.
    Frozen with the coldness of the world’s hardness of heart I sought refuge in Thee,
    and Thou didst console me with Thine endless love.
    I knocked at Thy gate at last when I had no answer from anywhere in the world,
    and Thou didst readily answer the call of my broken heart.”

    “Because life means a continual battle one’s success, failure, happiness, or unhappiness mostly depends upon one’s knowledge of this battle. Whatever be one’s occupation in life, whatever be one’s knowledge, if one lacks the knowledge of the battle of life one lacks the most important knowledge of all.”
    http://hazrat-inayat-khan.org/php/views.php?h1=26&h2=13

    • That’s beautiful, subset416, exactly what I did to survive the psychiatric anticholinergic toxidrome poisonings to which I was subjected, trust in God.

      As to, “’She reports feeling heartbroken when this evidence base prompted her to consider the magnitude of the harmful effects.’

      Welcome to the club!”

      I, too, was completely overwhelmed and disgusted by the magnitude of the problem, I had initially just thought I had dealt with unethical, child abuse, and easily recognized iatrogenesis, covering up pastors, bishops, and doctors.

      I had no idea the entire psychiatric system was built on corruption and fraud. I had thought everyone learned from WWII that making up “mental illnesses,” then defaming, torturing, and killing people based upon such medical fictions, was immoral behavior after WWII. I had no idea that the entire mainstream medical community and the religious leaders didn’t learn this. I’m still shocked.

  2. The light of truth is beginning to shine in even the darkest corners of the pseudo-science drug racket known as “psychiatry”. Yes, there indeed are some “crazy” people. Probably not much more than 10% of those currently mis-diagnosed as “mental”. And, probably 1/2 of ALL current psych drug Rx’s could be stopped unilaterally, either abruptly, or with a quick taper. Drug cessation by one drug at a time would be more preferable. Of the remaining 50% of Rx’s, most could begin a longer taper, with a readjust at lower doses, and fewer overall # of Rx drugs. Our current gross OVER-medication is the result of pressure from Pharma, not the middle-man market pressure from M.D. Rx writers….
    After enjoying the past 20+ years both “shrink-proof”, and psych drug free, some FACTS emerge.
    The worst of my so-called “symptoms” did NOT appear, until AFTER I had been on psych drugs.
    And, in the years since, my mind has healed, and I am more whole, healthy and happy than I knew was possible. My “symptoms” have almost entirely DISAPPEARED. I look forward to living a long, healthy, (relatively) life, and dying still shrink-proof and CLEAN. Beyond ANY question, psych drugs are far more dangerous than ANY illicit, or “street drug” that I have taken. Just imagine – I *CURED* my so-called “mental illness” by ceasing to “treat” with the psychs…. And I have little, if any, sympathy for these quack shrinks….They have done, and continue to do, – far more harm than good….

    • They could have known better. They SHOULD HAVE known better. As far as I’m concerned,
      Pharma OWES ME $$$$…. They can’t ever give my best years, stolen by them, *BACK*….
      But I forgive you, Amber Gum. You knew not what you were doing.
      (c)2016, Tom Clancy, Jr., *NON-fiction

  3. This lady is a rarity. She has COURAGE, not to just speak out but to face her own pain at seeing her beliefs trashed. How long did it take? How many people did she listen to with a closed mind before she opened it? It is terribly hard to face the fact that you have hurt so many people when you thought you were helping them. BUT she is one of, how many, who have the guts to fess up. VERY, VERY few. I wonder how her change of heart has affected her income? Someone said, `It’s very hard to know the truth about something when your livelihood depends on your NOT knowing it.’ or words to that effect. I say again, too – nobody is holding a gun to the doctors’ heads to prescribe these drugs, big pharma bribes and corrupts but you cannot bribe or corrupt someone who is unwilling to be bribed and corrupted. It is pandying to the doctors’ cognitive dissonance by blaming the drug companies – it is the Nuremberg defense – “I was just following orders, that’s why I tortured and killed men, women and children, even when there wasn’t a gun to my head.” Good for you Dr Amber Gum, you are now an outsider like the rest of us. But the tide is coming in on psychiatry’s sand castle, and we WILL see it collapse. Happily new ideas are really beginning to surface, we just have to keep the destroyers, the psychiatrists OUT.