Since the mid-1990s antipsychotic medications have been increasingly prescribed for children, adolescents, and adults. The most recent report finds an increase in use for older children from 2006 to 2008. Most of the prescriptions of antipsychotics for children reported by the study were for conditions which had not been approved by the FDA (called off-label use).
There appears to be increasing acceptance of the idea that lithium prevents suicide, and even that it can reduce mortality rates. For a toxic drug that makes most people feel rather depressed, this seems curious. I did wonder whether it might be having this effect on suicide by sapping people of the will to act, but the proposed effect on mortality seems completely inexplicable. A closer look at the evidence, however, suggests the idea is simply not justified.
The first benzodiazepine – chlordiazepoxide – became available, from Hoffman-La Roche, in 1960. Benzodiazepines largely replaced the earlier barbiturates, which had received a great deal of negative publicity because of their much-publicized role in lethal overdoses, both accidental and intentional. Initially, there was a good measure of skepticism among the general public with regards to benzos, and indeed, with regards to psychotropic drugs generally. The dominant philosophy in those days was that transient, drug-induced states of consciousness were not only ineffective in addressing human problems, but were also dangerous. But pharma-psychiatry systematically, deliberately, and self-servingly undermined this skepticism.
I’ve been teaching a course on substance abuse for about 30 years now. In this course, I cover a new drug class each week and always review the history of the drug. All of the drugs of abuse, cocaine, alcohol, marijuana, opiates are not new on the human scene. They date back to the Sumerians and the Greeks. The question for me is what accounts for epidemics? I have come to believe that epidemics are supplier driven rather than a function of consumer demand. For the current opiate epidemic, the suppliers were the pharmaceutical houses.
‘I Don’t Believe in God, But I Believe in Lithium’ is the title of Jamie Lowe’s moving account of her manic depression in the New York Times. The piece reminds us how devastating and frightening this condition can be, so it is understandable that the author put her faith in the miracle cure psychiatrists have been recommending since the 1950s: lithium. The main problem is that there is no study in which people who have been started on lithium have been compared with people who haven’t.
Alarming headlines, based on a recent study, declare that diagnosis with ADHD doubles the risk of early death. Psychiatrist Stephen Faraone, commenting on the original study published in the Lancet, concludes that: “for clinicians early diagnosis and treatment should become the rule rather than the exception.” This conclusion represents a false assumption that the deaths occurred in cases that were not treated.
Medicating children for a host of mental disorders has become very popular in some parts of the USA. More than 8 million kids from 6 months to 17 years of age are on pharmaceutical drugs in this wonderful country. We lead the world in drugging youth for behavioral, cognitive and attention issues. We are once again #1. But I would like to share with parents as well as adults working with children a few not so readily available facts related to medicating kids for behavior issues.
Depressed pregnant women need good care. They should not be made to feel guilty for the choices they make concerning their depression or lectured to by those who don’t understand the area or lack compassion for them. In that sense, Andrew Solomon does the public a service by turning his attention and writing talents to the topic of depression and pregnancy this week in the New York Times. However, a crucial part of providing good care to depressed pregnant women is to give them accurate information on the topic. In this sense, Andrew Solomon falls short.
In November of last year, Schizophrenia Bulletin published a research study that, on the face of it, would seem to upset the notion that neuroleptic drugs are toxic and that their use markedly reduces life expectancy. There are, however, some problems with the study that need to be considered.
This column is partly a report on the marketing of Abilify, the atypical antipsychotic that has become America’s best-selling drug. It’s also an appeal for advice and feedback from the RxISK and Mad in America communities, and a call for some brainstorming about strategy. The plans laid out by drugmakers Otsuka and Lundbeck for Abilify’s future, and the cooperation they’re getting from leading universities, are alarming enough to me that reporting on them seems inadequate. We need action, although I’m not sure exactly what kind.
With 1 in 5 Americans taking a psychiatric medication, most of whom, long term, we should probably start to learn a bit more about them. In fact, it would have been in the service of true informed consent to have investigated long-term risks before the deluge of these meds seized our population over the past thirty years.
The promotion of the chemical imbalance theory did occur, and continues to occur, and is a most shameful chapter in psychiatry's history. It is arguably one of the most destructive, far-reaching, and profitable hoaxes in history. I could not begin to estimate the number of clients I've talked to over the years who told me that their psychiatrists had told them they had a chemical imbalance in their brains, and that they needed to take the pills for life to correct this imbalance. Even today, I regularly receive emails from readers contesting the assertions in my posts and telling me in no uncertain terms that they have chemical imbalances in their brains that cause their problems.
I thought I would make a small contribution to the discussion about how coverage of the recent airline tragedy focuses so much on the supposed ‘mental illness’ of the pilot and not so much on the possible role of antidepressants. Of course we will never know the answer to these questions but it is important, I think, to combat the simplistic nonsense wheeled out after most such tragedies, the nonsense that says the person had an illness that made them do awful things. So, just to confirm what many recipients of antidepressants, clinicians and researchers have been saying for a long time, here are some findings from our recent New Zealand survey of over 1,800 people taking anti-depressants, which we think is the largest survey to date.
When I was researching Anatomy of an Epidemic and sought to track the number of people receiving a disability payment between 1987 and 2007 due to “mental illness,” I was frustrated by the lack of diagnostic clarity in the data. The Social Security Administration would list, in its annual reports on the Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) programs, the number of people receiving payment for “mental disorders,” which in turn was broken down into just two subcategories: “retardation,” and “other mental disorders.” Unfortunately, the “other mental disorders,” which was the category for those with psychiatric disorders, was not broken down into its diagnostic parts.
The Division of Clinical Psychology of the British Psychological Society published a paper titled Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia. The central theme of the paper is that the condition known as psychosis is better understood as a response to adverse life events rather than as a symptom of neurological pathology. The paper was wide-ranging and insightful and, predictably, drew support from most of us on this side of the issue and criticism from psychiatry. Section 12 of the paper is headed "Medication" and under the subheading "Key Points" you'll find this quote: "[Antipsychotic] drugs appear to have a general rather than a specific effect: there is little evidence that they are correcting an underlying biochemical abnormality."
What if I told you that, in 6 decades of research, the serotonin (or norepinephrine, or dopamine) theory of depression and anxiety - the claim that “Depression is a serious medical condition that may be due to a chemical imbalance, and Zoloft works to correct this imbalance” - has not achieved scientific credibility? You’d want some supporting arguments for this shocking claim. So, here you go:
The Finnish Psychological Association held a meeting in Helsinki on 1 Sept 2014 titled “Mental Health and Medicalization.” I spoke at the meeting and four days later I sent a letter to another speaker, psychiatrist Erkki Isometsä. Professor Isometsä replied: “I will respond to it in detail within a few days..." As "Open Dialogue" is essential in science, I have published my letter to Isometsä here as well as on my own website, although I didn’t succeed in starting a dialogue.
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