Sunday, December 10, 2017

Comments by ATG

Showing 14 of 14 comments.

  • I don’t like the term progressive either, particularly since it rings of utopian constructs of “progress” at any cost (right now that’s part and parcel with tech progress and commercial science) and the misdirected idea that human beings can progress and “evolve” beyond their basic animal natures, which is what Dawkins’ proposes through memetic evolution (the concept that “thought and belief” can change DNA).

    I’m sure you don’t mean to say that psychiatry exists in a bubble. It may very well be that environmental factors are contributing to the explosion in mental illness– tainted food, increasing pollution, toxic medicine, etc., and the isolation of individuals who try to dissent from these things in a more and more militarized, controlled, surveilled and medicated society. To propose any kind of solution without addressing the fact that, say, chemotherapy can cause mental illness and dementia (starting with the realization that those receiving it are increasing because of increasingly toxic environment); or that mercury pollution can do the same; or that, for example, rape culture impacts emotional wellness would rather limit the scope of this forum. Though limiting is pragmatic because it would also avoid taking on too much controversy ballast at once and enraging too many front groups at once.

    But I have a feeling addressing the “mess” of issues which are truly relevant to psychiatry– and all the glorious chaos, front group flak and offended hard line ideologues that comes with it–would be constructive and worth it. I think in the end this kind of open pursuit rings of integrity for reaching outside the box for causes of mental disability and outside the box for potential solutions.

    I’d also be concerned that certain limits could arise from a “hammer and nail” mentality (someone has a hammer and every problem is therefore a nail). Some psychotherapists insist that all mental illness arises from social constructs because that’s how they make their living– though the fact that drugs can deepen or even cause mental disability and dementia proves that it may sometimes be solely environmental. I have the same jaundice towards medical people who, despite the existence of rape, abuse, trauma, bullying and injustice, insist that every mental ailment is caused by pesticides or poor diet. Both extremes sound like disaster capitalism: if someone makes a living from the existence of a problem, do they really want to solve it? Is the turf war more important than solving it?

    Bruce Levine, who appears to be a regular contributor, has discussed the maddening effects of conformity and corporate control and Robert Whitaker, the author of the site’s namesake book, has been open to discussing toxic environmental factors, so I’m not exactly sure what issues the forum is going to avoid.

  • Matthew– I appreciate your description of how people on medications can be turned into freebie sales reps for industry because it’s almost a “belief system” they’ve been drafted into. There is something like this going on with the Skeptics. I’ve been following the issue long enough to have caught several active members of the group discuss their own or their children’s med regimens.

    Your general response is really reassuring, especially coming on Mother’s Day. Because of the risk that my children– anyone’s children– could be targeted for drugging (via schools, via child welfare as in increasingly typical cases like Maryanne Godboldo, etc.) I have a pretty visceral awareness of the need for independence among various consumer rights and pharma-reform groups and hopes that these various groups can trade and share information and perhaps even combine forces over certain interrelated issues. I have a lot of concerns about what will happen if consumer rights becomes captured and fractured.

    There’s safety in numbers in the consumer rights and psychopharm reform is absolutely key to this for many reasons– which I’m afraid the industry front groups are all too aware of as well. Occupy, which may have avoided the controversy ballast of getting too specific about pharmaceutical dangers for a while, has been changing this tact in the past year especially, which is consequently increasing the threat to industry posed by independent psychiatric reformists and drug critics. Because so many people in the US have been harmed by drugs, psych reform could be a watershed to make these issues mainstream. So I see the increasing attempts to “capture” the psych reform movement and cause divisions as a direct result of a growing unity in consumer rights. I think the attempt to form divisions is glaringly obvious, but only because my starting point in researching the Skeptics was via their link to the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, Randi, Elizabeth Loftus, Susan Clancy and their pet NY Times columnists Abigail Zuger and Susan Dominus (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/26/health/26zuger.html?_r=0 ) and their “friends” at Wired, Salon, etc. The organized rape-defense association coupled with Sam Harris’ long-standing high status with the Skeptics (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqVNz7kdvd8 )put the group beyond any redemption as far as I’m concerned, even as they currently attempt a more open-handed “appearance” (Sam Harris was finally spanked for calling for genocide after years of enjoying total support from the group– and now he’s still involved and still calling for genocide).

    I don’t buy the new diplomacy– I believe they’re just taking a few strategic hints from the New York Times’ tablecloth trick of marching up to the edge of progressive discourse occasionally on rather trivial issues or periodically breaking “brave” stories… all the better to serve their traditional institutional and industrial bent while feigning independence.

    After getting the full aroma of what the Skeptics were about via FMSF and Harris and armed with informed cynicism, it’s quite easy to follow the money on their corporate defense agendas. I don’t think it would be that obvious to agnostics or mainstream atheists who got sucked in through the Skeptics’ freedom-from-religion stance and fish-in-a-barrel attacks on really dumb and transparent paranormalists, which only appeals to people who once bought into Psychic Network and now feel “brilliant” for seeing through what most people dismissed as crock from the start. Unfortunately, even with their goofy or hideous history, the Skeptic positions, due to their currently more sophisticated and orchestrated campaign to culture-jam and capture “progressives,” may prove to be an even more dangerous type of fanaticism than religious fundamentalism.

    I hope MIA will consider Hedges’ warning, research the Skeptics, follow the money regarding this groups’ increasing rallying around industry and institutional agendas, start recognizing the sources of some of the jargon being spread within the Mad Rights movement and take the Skeptics’ periodic “open handed” inclusion of pharma reformists’ POV with a serious grain of salt. The CSI/Skeptic collective is not about freedom of religion/freedom from religion but para-religious.

    As French political philosopher and historian Tzvatan Todarov wrote: “Scientism (the cult of science) does not eliminate the will but decides that since the results of science are valid for everyone, this will must be something shared, not individual. In practice, the individual must submit to the collectivity, which “knows” better than he does.” The autonomy of the will is maintained, but it is the will of the group, not the person…scientism has flourished in two very different political contexts…The first variant of scientism was put into practice by totalitarian regimes.”

    I risk putting too fine a point on this because, as Hedges also warned, it only takes a tiny minority of fanatics to shift history and this group is a lot more dangerous than many perceive. Again, not because they represent atheism but because they represent a new fundamentalism and idolatry which worships commercial science (and is amply rewarded for it apparently). Once any consumer group lies down with those dogs, I don’t think they’ll ever get rid of the fleas.

    Rejecting the enticement to take a Monbiot-like role with groups like this is going to become harder to do as forums such as Huffpost and other presumably independent media become increasingly tainted with industry control. It’s like being herded towards the mouth of a trap. MIA’s open-minded bid to look into the issue is extremely important.

  • I think Mad in America is being punked on a much bigger scale than just this hacking incident.

    One pharma astroturf group that’s prided itself on using hacker skills in web attacks on consumer activists is the Skeptics.

    The Skeptics are a really bizarre collective of “radical atheists” who prosylitize idesa which are not supported by most mainstream atheists– like violent rhetoric about nuking Islam off the planet based on Richard Dawkins’ pseudoscientific Lamarckian throw-back concept of “memetic evolution.” The group seems to include a lot of “religiously injured” which Einstein (an atheist) spoke of when he discussed his disinterest in fanatical atheism. The aimless, fanatical rage of the “religiously injured” was very easy to corral once the Skeptics began turning into an obvious industry-defense front group. From the moment their anonymous Schedule B donations shot into the millions, the group began defending pharmaceutical products, Big Ag and the nuclear industry. The group became enough of a threat that Chris Hedges, one of the most prominent voices of the Occupy movement and former NY Times correspondent who filed suit against the Obama administration for “indefinite detention,” wrote a book about radical atheism (as opposed to less radical atheism, which Hedges defends) and cultish “scientism” in 2007 called “When Atheism Becomes Religion.” http://www.yuricareport.com/Religion/ChrisHedgesI_DontBelieveInAtheists.html

    The Skeptics are now enmeshed with and active in trying to revive Stephen Barrett’s pharma-defense front, Quackbusters, Peter Breggin’s old nemesis. I could easily include a list of links which demonstrate the direct ties but it would take up a lot of space: anyone interested could find these ties that bind on their own. Skeptic Magazine founder Michael Schermer, a transparent corporatist, is on the board of multi-industry front group, the American Council of Science and Health, which includes pharma alum like Fred Goodwin and Skeptic-enmeshed figures like Steven Novella, Barrett and others.

    The Skeptics have also played entryist into the Mad Rights movement and Anonymous. Entryism into Anonymous was made pretty easy because of Wikileaks’ “leak” of Scientology documents, which Assange apparently thought was a very minor gesture since the group usually goes after government corruption. But since then a clearly Quackbusters-leaning faction has formed within Anonymous whose sole aim is to revive Scientology’s very useful Straw Man status in order to renew the 90’s front group trend of tarring all independent pharmaceutical whistleblowers with the “Scientology” brush. After the Zyprexa Paper’s scandal, the Scientology Straw Man approach became increasingly feeble and toothless. If you comb through the threads on this Anonymous faction site, the lines of influence, the sources of pharma propaganda and the entryist factor should be pretty obvious: https://whyweprotest.net/community/

    Since Assange vowed to release millions of documents, including many exposing pharmaceutical fraud, after the web attacks on Wikileaks after the Manning scandal errupted, clearly Wikileaks’ agenda towards Scientology was not about stealth defense of the pharmaceutical industry and the Anonymous/Quackbusters/Skeptic faction was not a Wikileaks-approved offshoot.

    Since many followers of Anonymous are very young, some are apparently naive about these industry lines of influence, industry entryism and clearly aren’t familiar with or canny about the clearly industry-generated jargon used by industry moles within Anonymous. It was probably very easy to just sic some of these young activists after the religious group due to Scientology’s cult history and because Scientology made threats against Wikileaks after the document leaks. The Anonymous rank and file don’t seem to be aware that Scientology may have been initially built up as a Straw Man when Scientology reportedly blindly accepted anonymous donations by Eli Lilly in the 1980’s (according to Robert Whitaker’s research). If this is so, it was a rather brilliant industry scheme to defend itself against legitimate and independent whistleblowers. All in all, the continued silly distraction of Operation Chanology has successfully diverted factions within Anonymous from bigger and more serious “hacktavism” targets and unfortunately has attracted some rather aimless hacktavists who bird-dog on targeting the cult and have grown invested in attacking sites which criticize drugs. This may in part have to do with the fact that much of Anonymous draws from the “Ritalin generation,” but frankly I think there are less naive followers of this entryist faction than there are simply Skeptic “moles,” many of whom are just fanatical ideologues in their own right.

    Fortunately not all Anonymous activists are fixated on this and the Occupy movement, which has several points of ideological crossover with Anonymous, is increasingly starting to focus on the threat of pharmaceutical drugs as means of social control.

    I assume the attack on Mad in America was done by some group of individuals related to the above interwoven collective who were either fully knowledgeable and cynical about their reasons for doing it or else were simply confused fanatical attack dogs typical in the Skeptics rank and file who were directed to bark in a certain direction. Using hackers from this collective provides the all-important “plausible deniability” for industry. Then again the attacks on Mad in America might be random. I kind of doubt it.

    For these reasons I’ve been extremely “skeptical” about Skeptic Magazine’s reasons for drafting people like Marcia Angell and publishing Bruce Levine’s “Killed by the Huffington Post.” https://www.madinamerica.com/2012/06/killed-by-the-huffington-post-article-now-on-the-newsstands-in-skeptic/

    I think the psychiatric reform community should be more wary of the fact that some front groups’ are growing sophisticated enough to use more time-honored and stealthy methods of propaganda, including the “hijacking” of figures from the opposition who are used to give an “eau de independent” smell to an industry-embedded publication. As MediaLens editors wrote in The Guardian in critiquing how George Monbiot guards his position as “pet progressive” by carefully retracting his claws in regards to select institutional and industry sacred cows (or brandishing them at select consumer dissident groups),

    “Their appearances stifle the idea that there is a need to turn elsewhere, to develop new forms of media. The more dramatic the better, from the media’s perspective – arrest Blair! Marvellous! This is just what they want to see – tiny doses of high-profile dissent keeping us all in our corporate media consumer boxes. This is actually a disaster for progressive change.” (Medialens editors, 27/10/09)

    Consumer dissidence has a long history of being hijacked and “absorbed” into astroturf operations and then systematically brought to heel. Activists get tired of censorship and become desperate and overly grateful to be given a pulpit and fail to look gift horses in the mouth or they may tell themselves that the manipulation “goes both ways,” and maybe they can shift the direction of an industry-leaning forum. When this kind of entryism, drafting and hijacking happens within the environmental activism, it’s part of “Greenwashing.”

    If Mad in America continues to allow itself to be used as the “progressive lipstick” on the front group pig, there’s really no hope that it’s going to make much of a lasting impact on important issues, partly because it shows a lack of scope and partly because this may mean it’s “letting in” the very forces that seek to destroy consumer dissent.

    Like Jim Gottstein’s refusal to have direct truck with Scientology- which is a good idea on many levels– I think there’s even more reason not to get tangled in the Skeptic’s astroturf scientism cult web. At least Scienotology, for all their crap, doesn’t call for genocide or support the new eugenics. Meanwhile the Skeptics… have called for medical mandates and imprisonment of consumer dissenters from commercial science; increased their ranks in the “alternative media” (Wired, Scientific American, Science Blogs, The New Yorker); have concertedly tried to cover up the original Skeptic icon James Randi’s pedophile tapes and are on board with Randi’s ties to the False Memory Syndrome Foundation (pool of expert witnesses that specializes in defending rapists and pedophiles by generating tobacco science to disparage victim testimony and has no branched out into creating strategy to deflect tort claims in pharmaceutical injury cases); long supported Skeptic Sam Harris’s support of torture and calls to nuke Islam off the planet and Dawkins’ eugenic neo-Platonism. If these associations continue won’t follow the MIA forum anymore, figuring at some point that there will be a repeat of the insider attack on Vera Sharav’s blog (which may have compromised subscriber privacy).

    Know thine enemy, as they say.

  • Jared— some good links, thanks.

    It’s not necessary to even partly concede to the better diagnosis explanation– it does not explain and doesn’t hold water.

    http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/welcome/features/20090218_autism_environment/

    The only solid epidemiology on prevalence changes states the rise in autism cannot be “better diagnosis/increased recognition.” “Better diagnosis” not only doesn’t account for a majority of cases but a bare single digit percentage of cases. There is absolutely no peer reviewed science to back the “better diagnosis/increased recognition” claim– this is merely mainstream spin, a bit like the claim of SSRI “brain chemical imbalance correction” that everyone spouted for years (and some still do).

    Furthermore, the vast majority with autism are not high functioning and could not, even if they had existed at these rates in the past, have fallen under the diagnostic radar. Only distant bystanders to autism– those who idly believe or convince themselves the bulk of the affected population is “just a little quirky”– or invested spin doctors even attempt to make this argument.

    What’s more, since the general rate of mental disability has skyrocketed in the pharma/industrial age, there’s the question of WHERE such an enormous, severely disabled population would have been hidden. The common claim is that they were hidden either under other mental illness diagnoses like schizophrenia or hidden within the ranks of the “intellectually impaired” (aka, the non-PC term, “mentally retarded”).

    As for the latter, attempting to argue that individuals with autism in the past were hidden within a “mentally retarded” population is tantamount to admitting that most were and are severely disabled– not the shiny genius version of autism promoted by front groups who want to lull the public into believing the rise is “no big deal” (even as the cost of care is exploding with the rate).

    To even entertain the idea that the current rate of autism was hidden within the ranks of the simply intellectually impaired for a moment, the big problem with this theory is that the rate of mental retardation has remained very stable over the past and previous century. The population with intellectual challenges is the same as far as rate… and now there’s the autism population beside it. So either autism has risen while intellectual impairment has gone down or vice-versa– somewhere there’s an epidemic which again points to environment. In any case, the above theory is impossible, the numbers simply don’t work. Fortunately those who try to spin autism as just “quirky” rarely visit that theory because it makes the case the population can’t fall “under the radar” and were not all Danial Tammets.

    As for the second idea, that individuals with autism were “hidden” under other diagnoses, the question is, hidden where? Here’s a table from Robert Whitaker’s “Anatomy of an Epidemic” derived from SSI/SSRI, NIMH and Census Bureau stats for mental disability:

    Year Mental Disability per 1000
    1850——- .2
    1903——- 1.86
    1955——- 3.38
    1987——- 13.75
    2003——- 26.2

    And here’s the rate of autism overlapping some of the same years only for those under 18:

    1850—— no reported cases
    1903—— no reported cases
    1955—— not statistically significant
    1970—— 1 in 14,500
    1987—— 1 per 10,000
    2003—— 1 in 166
    2004—— 1 in 150
    2011—— 1 in 110
    2012—— 1 in 88
    2013—— 1 in 50

    Try to do the math on these figures and then remember the UC-Davis study is the only standing, solid research on change in prevalence. The rest is media myth. Even if every other type of mental illness within any age group were supplanted in 1987, the disabled mentally ill population from just 26 years ago could never “hide” the current rate of young people with severe autism. The rate of autism would still overflow it.

    It’s simply wishful thinking to try to make this “increased recognition” theory fit or worse– a totally faith-based adherence to industry spin which has a serious investment in casting autism as genetic (to the tune of $5 billion in “autism drug” sales coupled with increasing evidence of culpability for the epidemic).

    Some try to argue again that most with autism are so high functioning that they once evaded diagnoses. If this is true, then there should be serious alarm that autism has become so much more severe that 40% are nonverbal and 70% will never be independent. Try to fit 40% or 70% of the current 1 in 50 children (1 in 31 boys) into the stats for 1955.

    There is no evidence of similar current numbers of affected people over age 24. There was one pharma funded study in the UK which purported to find 1/100 adults with the condition but a colleague of Brugha blew the whistle on the research, demonstrating that the methods were unsound– tiny sample diagnosed over phone interview and without using any of the standard tools to screen for childhood onset. It was concluded the study may have been cynically measuring instead adult onset prescription drug injury, precisely because, as Breggin warned and as the SSRI-pregnancy-autism study may hint, SSRIs and other drug classes are known to produce in children and adults very similar symptoms to autism such as social withdrawal, speech and memory issues, OCD, etc.

    It’s curious to see who falls for the “increased recognition/better diagnosis” malarkey– people who usually pride themselves on reading between the lines of media or who claim to be critical of industry spin. The “increased recognition” is the most in-the-box, conformist view– on top of simply being demonstrably wrong and in service to an extremely evident agenda.

    Autism is not grab-bag like ADHD. We’ve all heard NPR (J&J) and Slate (Bill and Melinda Gates/pharma) trying to cast autism as something only a hair away from typical, just kind of pleasant and quirky. But this is autism for most: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PzYREX0jrY4

    All the spin does is leave the majority of severe children like this without medical support for the actually physical injuries involved with the etymology of the condition. The video is from the UK and, due to the genes/gut-brain-injury debate, many children there are literally left to die of GI disorders when they come in tow with autism.

    I’m sure those in a time warp who never heard that the “refrigerator mother” theorist faked his credentials, was repeatedly accused of child molestation and committed suicide will comment that the child is this way because of parental abuse or whatever, but it hardly explains how parenting became so much worse in the past twenty years (since eras of slavery? Since eras of legal child thrashing? Since legal domestic violence??) that there are 70% of 1.5 million children who are arguably this severely impaired in the US (give or take a few more words in a very limited vocabulary)– more than 1 million, 50 thousand– or why so many terrible cases of trauma are seen in children without any autism symptoms.

    Lies kill, even PC-sounding I’m-so-evolved-I-embrace-disability kind of lies. No need to give them any credence or parse the difference for the sake of diplomacy. It’s very tragic.

  • Jonah,

    Thanks for the response and the links. I’m involved in the media, not a scientist, and so far there’s been a pretty slow uptake in marrying these concepts in science but there is movement in that direction.

    Part of the problem is political and ideological: environmental autism researchers would have to take on the controversy ballast (and they have enough as it is) of psychopharm criticism; and then psychopharmaceutical critics would to stop fearing an admission that this one condition may, in fact, be the turf of medicine tacitly includes an admission that depression and the rest are as well. And I also sense that certain pharma watchdogs want to hang onto the few stray pediatricians among their supporters who are on board with psychopharm reform but yet make their living off vaccinations. Everyone would have to stop delegating opinions outside their own specialties to their buddies in those unfamiliar fields, generally get out of their respective comfort zones and dig into the science.

    Autism is medical the way a blow to the head with a brick is medical or alcohol-induced brain and physical damage. Anyone who’s spent time around it in real life can even see the evident physical manifestations of past encephalopathic and physical events. That doesn’t mean kiddy fidgeting or sadness is the territory of medicine or psychiatry or due to so-called brain chemical imbalance– and the “pathways” in question seem to have have as much or more to do with mitochondrial and immune systems than brain chemicals per se, or at least brain chemicals are secondary signs, not the immediate scene of the crime. But I’m afraid this area of research represents an intersection where all “angels” and potential whistleblowers fear to tread. The cooperative research is at last happening, but not at light speed.

    The SSRI in pregnancy/autism study followed an earlier study which found that SSRIs in the water supply were causing fish to act “autistic” (in fish terms, whatever that means. Then the pregnancy study was followed by a stealthy Harvard study which, though it actually largely measured the link between high rates of SSRI use among female abuse survivors (they’re prescribed the drugs at five-fold the already high 1 in 10 rate of the general pop) and their subsequent elevated rate of having children who were eventually diagnosed with autism, the media crowed that it was the abuse itself which was linked to increased risk.

    The cynical manipulation tells you someone already knows the mechanisms by which the meds are contributing to the condition and now they’re just figuring out how to spin it before the lid blows off, muddy the waters a bit. I’m sure we’ll be seeing more tobacco science making oblique correlations between highly drugged populations in studies which either don’t control for drugs or simply count on the media to highlight only the expedient, pharma-friendly results. The obvious goal is to quarantine the cause back to families of origin– their bad genes or bad lifestyles– in the minds of the public and consequently take the onus off pharma and other industrial culprits (big polluters, Big Ag, etc.)– the usual. Affected families and individuals will be further marginalized, stripped of services and support as a result of the quarantining spin (and worse), but no worries as long as everyone’s sacred cows, profits, reputations and ideology remain comfy.

    I agree about BPA by the way. It meshes with research on mercury and other metals as metallo-estrogens. These things coupled with hormones in milk and meat could go a long way towards explaining a generation of seven year-olds who are going into puberty. Mercury is also being found to change the sexual characteristics and behavior of wildlife, leading one crazy Italian journalist to suggest it was causing homosexuality (talk about reductive). Probably more to the point is that mercury is synergistic with testosterone and an excess of estrogen has been found to cause a backlash in the hormone feedback system, surprisingly causing a boost in androgens in some cases (something which is known in commercial fertility science). I have no idea what role this may play in autism, but it all certainly needs a harder look than it’s getting.

    In the meantime, it’s great to see that some are starting to question the spin.

  • This is an important issue to broadcast, though I doubt impact on serotonin is the whole story. And because most mothers of the current exploding population of children with autism did not take antidepressants in pregnancy (or even before pregnancy), the drugs can’t be the cause of an epidemic of a very identifiable disorder which has gone from 1 in 10K to 1 in 50 within a generation. Nevertheless, SSRIs may be key to identifying the toxic mechanism.

    In 2007 I attended the ICSPP conference in Maryland and Senate presentation and heard Dr. Grace Jackson present a modest case study she’d done of a case of Depakote induced autism in a seven year-old boy. The paper, later published in the group’s newsletter (it may be available online in archives), was titled “Chemo Brain.”

    Apparently the subject of the paper had undergone chemotherapy at age two and had developed seizures, for which he’d been prescribed Depakote and an antipsychotic later in childhood and it seems the drugs, particularly valproic acid, had compounded the already existing damage wrought by chemotherapy in this typical but medically fragile child. He then developed symptoms of autism.

    I later got to know the mother of the child subject through mutual contacts and the paper only describes a sketch of autistic behaviors: in fact, according to his mother, the boy developed all the hallmark symptoms of severe, full-blown autism until he was removed from Depakote. Unfortunately, though the more severe autism symptoms abated, he continued to have seizures and severe dementia set in.

    This quiet little study of late-onset autism of course didn’t get the attention or recognition it deserved, particularly because the mechanisms of cellular damage Dr. Jackson identified in the overlap between chemo and known effects of Depakote, rather than displacing the mercury-induced autism theory (thimerosal, a mercury preservative in vaccines, has long been fingered as playing a role in the epidemic of autism), actually replicates some of the findings on thimerosal/mercury and identifies another overlap, namely a mitochondrial pathway.

    Jackson identified several interweaving modes of damage along the lines of mitochondrial injury which, like every other toxic drug it seems, surely have an impact on serotonin, though this may only be one of a slew of effects. And the crucial thing is, the identical effects have been identified via SSRI antidepressants.

    1) Mercury, SSRIs and Depakote may all act as HDAC inhibitors to varying degrees- compounds which inhibit deacetylation of histone proteins within cell nuclei. All three can induce programmed cell death.
    2) All three can increase serum ammonia in the brain, replicating an effect of L-asperiganase. “Excessive ammonia levels deplete energy, impair neurotransmission, impair glial uptake of glutamate, increase the formation of glutamine and result in pathological tissue change” and swelling which Jackson likens to Alzheimer’s Type-II astrocytosis.
    3) All three disrupt the assembly of tubulin in the brain, replicating what Jackson identifies as the ototoxic and neurotoxic effects of vincristine, arresting mitosis in rapidly dividing cells (autism has resulted from chemotherapy treatment in some case studies).

    The argument I’ve heard from many researchers is that autism boils down to affected cellular pathways. The various causes of the specific damage which result in autism spectrum disorders in children may be more than one single cause but will not be limitless, since only a handful of substances to which children are commonly exposed (and even fewer to which children are ubiquitously exposed) can induce the critical overlaps which are likely to be key in producing the “right” kind of damage to the brain, nervous system and immune system (via mitochondrial damage).

    Epidemics are said to be pretty simple according to unconflicted epidemiologists, but here’s where the problem is: if we’re causing it, and because vaccine sales went from $6 billion in 2006 to $40 billion today and the $5+ billion “autism drug market” being driven by drug industry front groups like Autism Speaks, the NIMH and a slew of other astroturf collectives, (which help drive the overall $40 billion dollar psychopharm market largely on the growing sales of drugs like SSRIs) there’s a huge and growing disincentive to ever pinpoint the “hole in the bucket” and “fix it” (dear Abner). Like any form of disaster capitalism, drippy “Awareness” campaigns are only meant to raise funds for multi-million dollar front group board member salaries and sell more “autism drugs,” not to actually resolve the very profitable epidemic.

    In any case, the “jury” may not yet be in regarding the cause of the autism epidemic, but the evidence table is piled high and the rise in rate clearly represents a genuine epidemic despite all flimsy claims to the contrary. A population of 1 in 50 people under age 24, 60% of whom are low- to non-verbal, could not have been “hidden” in society in the past nor hidden within mental institutions or SSRI/SSI rosters which had past per capita mentally disabled populations that were far smaller than the current rate of autism.

    Any search of PubMed can bring up substantiations for Dr. Jackson’s case study and the overlaps with mercury and SSRIs, but here’s a few links and a cut and paste of a discussion on overlaps:

    Thimerosal/mercury and disruption of tubulin assembly: http://www.icnr.com/articles/autism2002.html

    SSRIs and the disruption of tubulin assembly:
    http://ukpmc.ac.uk/articles/PMC2928987//reload=0;jsessionid=9AD6FB232485184363EAFC4BF41B33C3.jvm1 “Here, in rats submitted to a behavioural test widely used to predict the efficacy of antidepressant drugs (forced swimming test: FST) a significant decrease of both cerebral tyrosinated α-tubulin expression and serotonin levels is monitored.”

    SSRI antidepressants can also cause or worsen hyperammonemic encephalopathy, aka hepatic encephalopathy, which is the same principle discussed below in a correspondence with a professor emeritus of toxicology. Since the SSRI in pregnancy/autism study didn’t control for vaccination, there’s no way to know if the drugs are a direct cause of autism or co-factor, though Depakote appears to be a cause and again shares mito/cellular damage overlaps with SSRIs. From the professor of toxicology (bear in mind that the discussion of Depakote also applies to the toxic mechanisms of SSRIs):

    “I finally had time to read your attachment on Chemo brain. There are two biochemical items that infer that Depakote mimics the biochemical toxicity of mercury. First, it causes the elevation of serum ammonia. Mercury inhibits the brain enzyme called ‘glutamine synthetase’ which combines glutamate (an excito-toxic amino acid) with toxic ammonia making the non-toxic amino acid glutamine. Inhibition by mercury of glutamine synthetase therefore increases levels of toxic ammonia and glutatmate.

    “Second, according to your attachment Depakote has a metabolite that inhibits the assembly of tubulin. Mercury not only does this but can also unravel previously formed normal microtublin into abnormally polymerized microtublin that does not disassemble at low temperatures as does normal brain tubulin. There are many compounds that disrupt microtubulin or prevents is polymerization, mercury is one of the best and it is found in the mouths of many older Americans at gram levels and exposes them to toxic levels of mercury every day. Other compounds, like Depakote, could add to this exacerbation of microtubulin. Tubulin, the protein that aggregates and makes microtubulin is the major brain protein as it is found in the major structures that coat the neurofibillary fibers that hold an axon in the proper position for nerve-nerve interaction. It is this synapse between nerve-nerve cells that is destroyed in AD brain… over 85% of microtubulin is abnormal in AD brain and that mercury could mimic this effect if added to normal brain. So can drugs like Depakote. Many drugs were developed first to interfere with tubulin polymerization which is also needed in the mitotic spindle for cell division. They were hoped to be treatments for rapidly dividing cancer cells but many also tested for other medical uses. Many compounds interfere with tubulin polymerization…”

  • Stephen– thank you for the professional insights, your honesty and the affirmation. There are times when we wish the children could be in school but considering the legal immunity which the DOE and ed lobby have carved out for themselves, it’s just too dangerous.

    As if to illustrate what we felt in our guts about it, after we withdrew our children, two teachers were credibly accused of molesting former students in a scandal that blew up in the national press. That’s when we came across the DOE’s own report that the risk of sexual abuse by staff is now 100 times greater in public schools than in the church. When children aren’t taught to think for themselves, we have to take the bottom out of expectations– there is no limit, anything can happen.

  • Fear is definitely the major theme in education at the moment and I agree that the situation has become so dire in some instances that, though I really applaud Zimbardo’s positive ideas, much would need to change before “hero training” could be taught in schools as they exist now, moreover not merely be mutated into some psychotic, bastardized institutional version of Zimbardo’s conception. Our example is extreme but I don’t think any family or child is exempt from something similar these days.

    Though we were never homeschool fanatics and actually find it sad that schools have become so toxic and destructive, we couldn’t leave our kids in school and they’re being educated at home. We’re lucky we had the option and can almost scrape by on one income and zero supportive services so that one parent can stay home and do the work. Many families could never manage it, so it’s ludicrous to sell it as the “thing to do.” It’s too bad we had to do it.

    Our boy-girl twins are recovering from autism through drug-free interventions like a gluten-free, organic diet and a few supplements for clinically demonstrated nutrient deficits due to GI problems. All very, very controversial whereas loading up small children– who may already be toxically injured– with major sedatives, stimulants and medications with a known causal association for causing autism (among other horrible side effects) are considered acceptable.

    To say the least, the twins’ last school district was irked by our approach and there was really no way to hide our “non-authoritarian” practices. Even if we never expressed any righteousness over choices, simply by not complying with standard regimens– junk food and drugs– we were like walking indictments that what staff pushed on other children and considered normal for themselves was wrong. I would guess that one in three staff were medicated and many had pretty lousy personal health habits. If our children were palpably defying diagnoses and getting better, it was just adding insult to injury.

    In any event, it was clear how simple personal choices were perceived: staff fought us on everything, even to the point of refusing to peel an apple for a child who wasn’t allowed to come home from lunch. Everything about us and our children was just “wrong” and staff took it out on the kids in the most vicious ways. If a typical student– or even an “appropriately medicated” disabled student– cried in gym class for not making a basket in basketball, they might be consoled or distracted. Not our kids, they were stuffed in cinder block closets and, if they resisted, they were physically restrained and injured.

    Any small child may have difficulty reporting what authority figures do to them, so there was a lag in our finding out about the abuse. As soon as we knew, we took the children out of school with signed medical leaves, both because the kids were made sick by the treatment as well as the fact that, without a medical excuse, schools can typically file spurious truancy charges. That in itself is due to the fact that the Office of Civil Rights for the DOE is a joke, police and child services mostly claim (falsely) that they have no jurisdiction to report schools and schools have no incentive to investigate themselves.

    So though we never planned on it, we ended up homeschooling. What was so interesting about it is that we were free at last to teach our children from our own anti-authoritarian perspectives. My husband and I had both been raised with admiration for the principles of nonviolent struggle, for civil rights heroes and humanitarian rebels. We’d found we’d been skipping over those messages a bit or failing to explain how these things applied to daily life while the kids had been in school, fearing they’d misunderstand and it would create more friction with authority figures. Considering that the potential for friction was already there, this was a real fear: the mounting number of stories of institutional retaliation and abuse are terrifying.

    Once free of the constraints of fear, we realized how inhibiting the fears were for genuine education. For instance in order to illustrate historic examples of justice, humanism, and the questioning of authority by using life situations that the children are familiar with, one renders one’s children completely unfit to get by in public schools as they currently stand. It would take too long to explain how this applies, just suffice it to say that you can’t teach anything properly or interestingly under a pall of hypocrisy. It makes it too necessary to skip over the really juicy details, those things that grab the attention of children who have such an innocent and untainted perception of justice. You can’t teach irony if you exemplify it, and a sense of irony is intrinsic to teaching history and ethics. You can’t teach health practices or science while simultaneously adhering to tobacco science (i.e., pushing drugs and corporate philosophy)

    And the other side benefit of this type of learning is that it meshes with healing from emotional trauma because you’re free to provide a realistic view that the price of standing up for principles is sometimes high and, most of all, that people who are punished for being different are hardly alone in an historic sense.

    We had been hesitant to enroll our kids in public school because of all the bad news about bullying, the pressure to drug, etc., but were told that they needed the special learning services and socialization. The services turned out to be nil– even if guaranteed by law, too many schools have developed ways to terrorize families out of rallying for them. And some socialization: Every child in their classrooms was getting “the treatment” in a sense, being shown what happens to those who are different. If a child was different in another way, say merely creative and a free thinker, our children were the heads on pikes. The point to which the institution’s retaliation against our attempts to report abuse also made us the heads on pikes for other parents who even thought about advocating for their child’s needs, individuality or basic integrity. For “hero training” to be possible, schools would have to stop the violent bystander training which is becoming all the more prevalent as rates of disabilities and drug injuries among children keep rising and children’s health in the US is now worse than any other developed country. There are just too many easy targets to “teeth” the bystanders-in-training on now.

    In our case, unplugging from the system boiled down to basic safety and sanity. But along the way we found many other upsides which the fear induced by even being even tied to the system had drowned out. It makes me think of a book I read as a kid, “A Wrinkle in Time.” When consumed by the “Dark Thing” radiating from “It” you start to lose your soul. The “Dark Thing” is very present in schools and institutions now and I’d venture to guess that “It” is largely corporate influence on education and an increasingly militarized, controlled society. Perhaps Zimbardo is just proposing to combat “It” with love and a counter example. This is wonderful but it will take more than that.

  • The title of this and the evocation of “Pinball Wizard” from “Tommy” invites mention of the only exception I can think of in terms of the DSM’s tendency to expand diagnoses: the contractions in diagnostic criteria for conditions largely shown to be caused by products marketed by industries which sponsor DSM panel members. In the latest DSM, the autism diagnosis is split up in such a way that it pushes the bulk of those with the diagnosis off into newly concocted diagnostic categories, like “Social Communication Disorder”– which is already being hooked up with corresponding on-patent or soon-to-be-patented drugs.

    Anyone over 35 who’s set foot in a school which doesn’t have the resources to ship its disabled students out of sight to institutional schools can see for themselves that not only is autism more prevalent than it used to be, not only aren’t “most” on some vaguely definable “high functioning” end of the spectrum, the rate of autism is far higher than the currently pronounced 1 in 88. Is it any wonder that the strongest environmental evidence points to pharmaceutical products– both psychopharm drugs and vaccines– and the fuel industry?

    Not that this exception disproves the rule of fake DSM diagnostics or undercuts the point of this post. Autism is probably the only case where industry is driven to actually hide the increase in rate (while more quietly crowing about the promised increase in drug sales from an epidemic out of the other side of their mouths:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12954440 ). But I don’t think it’s the only case of false turf-grabbing, just the most obvious one. Mixed within more “grab bag” diagnoses like “ADHD” and “OCD,” etc., are probably clinical cases of actual medical environmental conditions such as moderate lead poisoning and so forth.

    Thomas Szasz once wrote something to the effect that if every diagnosis in the DSM had a biological basis, psychiatry would have been absorbed into the field of neurology ages ago. Mostly this statement is taken as an argument– which I think is mostly correct– that the vast majority of diagnoses have no biological basis. But it could also be taken as a caveat that industry is in a turf war to label little understood (or hugely denied) environmental conditions with druggable voodoo psychiatric labels. After all, Prozac and Ritalin do zilch for lead poisoning– other than increasing the porosity of the blood brain barrier and ensuring more lead will get to the brain. They defend their turf by launching legal wars against labs and clinicians that test for sequestered heavy metals– metal levels already absorbed deeply into bone and tissue– since lead levels won’t show up in blood tests if the gap between last exposure and testing is too great.

    Patients and parents of children who view autism and certain less definable conditions like OCD and some cases of so-called “ADHD” as environmental are far less likely to drug their children with neurotoxic medications and this stands as a threat to the pharmaceutical industry’s growing “Halliburton” construct as well as threatening big polluters which share board members with Big Pharma.

  • David– Peter Breggin’s “Medication Madness,” “Talking Back to Ritalin” and “Your Drug May Be Your Problem” include a lot of discussions and study citations regarding drug-induced akathisia, dementia and violence along with Healy’s more current “Pharmageddon” and Grace Jackson’s very technical “Drug-Induced Dementia: The Perfect Crime.”

  • I was waiting for some coverage on this because I suspected it was going to be another Soderbergh pharma/public health public service announcement.

    The heads up that the film was going to double back on the teaser regarding “violent side effects” is that Soderberg has certain ideological affiliations with the “Skeptics”– the ideological-cum-astroturf front group which worships Richard Dawkins, the late Hitchens and psychotic “scientism” fundamentalists like Sam Harris.

    To understand any of it, it would help to backtrack on the history of the collective. Journalist Chris Hedges, currently the lead plaintiff with Watergate Whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg in suing against the “indefinite detention” provision of the National Defense Authorization Act, called it in 2007 with his book, “When Atheism Becomes Religion: America’s New Fundamentalists.” Regarding the Skeptic’s pseudo-rationalist movement, Hedges warned that this was not merely a politically disinterested group of mainstream atheists or agnostics lobbying for freedom of non-religion but a rabid ideological and para-religious “scientism” front acting as a precise reverse parallel to the radical right. It’s only natural that the group ultimately sought funding from commercial science industries and aligned itself with the power of industry-captured institutional public health. From the moment affiliated Skeptic groups began receiving Anonymous Schedule B donations in the millions, they’ve been hysterically defending pharmaceutical products, GMO’s and a long list of dicey industry platforms. Michael Shermer, editor of Skeptic Magazine, sits on the board of the multi-industry front group American Council of Science and Health. Fellow ACSHoles include Breggin-stalker Stephen Barrett of Quackwatch and a long alumni list of pharmaceutical operatives including Sally Satel and Fred Goodwin. ACSH board members come and go but there are screenshots in circulation of membership lists going back to several years and all the usual industry henchmen appear.

    Soderbergh’s ego would probably preclude him being a “follower” per se, more a de facto trendsetter for members of the front group which, due to some “stealth” edicts by Skeptic leaders like Harris, have been advised to obscure affiliations the better to promote their “message.” Still, it’s easy enough to see the lines of influence by picking over Soderbergh’s interviews and recent projects.

    It all sounds very cloak and dagger and even silly on the surface, but when Peter Breggin warned that the pharma front had become a “religion,” he wasn’t being fanciful. Chris Hedges also warned in his book that it only takes a tiny minority of fanatics to perform a cultural coup– and now the nuts are forming factions within “progressive” news sources like The New York Times, Slate, Wired, Vanity Fair, Mother Jones, NPR, etc., many of whom come out of Bill Gates’ “science journalism” training seminars, often through his sponsored program at MIT. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is increasingly invested in the pharmaceutical industry, funded Participant Media which produced Soderbergh’s “Contagion.” All the “population reduction” conspiracy nonsense about Gates aside, Gates is clearly a radical utopian “true believer” in the wonders of modern tech and frankly more than a little unhinged.

    It’s funny that one of the chief ploys of Skeptics and other astroturf fronts is to accuse consumer rights advocates and corporate critics of irrational belief in “conspiracy theories”– meanwhile pundits like Harris act like 12 year-olds playing “enemy camp invasion” and are begging to be viewed as “legion.” The disconcerting thing is that, due to the money pouring in, this ideological front is gaining a real foothold and is now branching out into creative culture capture. Soderbergh thinks he’s very clever playing culture jammer by teasing his current film as consumer criticism only to do astroturf jujitsu and flip it into commercial science propaganda, but he’s not that subtle. The title of Soderbergh’s “Contagion” wasn’t a very well veiled either—obvious reference to Gladwell’s and Dawkins’ respective versions of the “meme” theory regarding supposedly “beneficial” propaganda meant to capture the culture through a “contagion” of beliefs and ideas (which Dawkins and followers purport have the power to impact human DNA and guide evolution, but best to leave the fine points of their crock hypotheses for another discussion).

    Any prescription reform advocate who happened to see certain earlier films co-produced or directed by Soderbergh such as “We Need to Talk About Kevin” would probably have detected an emerging industry-friendly pattern in Soderbergh’s recent cinematic work. “Kevin” had the same premise as “Side Effects”– a teenager fakes a Prozac reaction as an alibi to commit mass murder in his high school, though apparently the film didn’t “capture the culture” quite enough for Soderbergh’s liking and so he took another crack at inoculating the public against criticism of commercial science agendas. Soderbergh’s “Contagion” was also another case in point– a sort of hagiography of the vaccine industry and public health which depicted safety advocates as profiteering Luddites (never mind that the vaccine industry has turned into Haliburton and that the hallowed days of Salk are over).

    All told, there may be a silver lining to the fact that Soderbergh tipped his hand a bit more regarding psych drug promotion. Pharmaceutical front groups specialize in creating strawman constructs (e.g. “anti-psychiatry”) by trying to align independent industry critics with fanatical “anti-progressive” special interest groups to create one big flammable target. By the same token, industry tries to avoid overly centralized flak operations which take on too many consumer rights platforms at once, since industry PR mavens obviously know the danger of this. But now it’s all starting to come together.

    Since the Skeptics went astroturf, they’ve focused on genetic industry, vaccine industry and Big Ag GMO defense and have been relatively quiet regarding psychopharmaceuticals. The group’s defenses of drugs have been visible, though not very loud or frequent. But growing public awareness of the link between modern mass violence and meds no doubt poses such a viable threat to industry that the Skeptics have been forced to take a clearer stand on behalf of sponsors.

    I’m going to take this film as a cue that the Skeptics are now going full frontal after psychiatric reform, which probably means Gates is in the picture somewhere. Expect a familiar resurgence of equivocations comparing psychopharmaceutical critics with fanatical followers of cults and the usual industry sponsored anthropological and social research putting this into “science speak.” You’ll be seeing more than the usual number of paid trolls spouting Latin legalese, discussing “low cognitive processing,” and “logical fallacy.” Skeptic pundits in the New York Times and on NPR are going to start peppering their “rationalist” arguments with analogies between people believe prescription drugs play a role in mass murder and fanatical proponents of “Intelligent Design.”