America conned: Psycho pharma drug pushing empire under fire
by Monica G. Young
Is America truly stricken with widespread mental illness? Do tens of millions need mind-altering drugs? A recent flurry of media articles lead readers to a realization that Big Pharma and the “mental health” industry have deceived Americans on a grand scale.
The “New York Review of Books” two-part article by Dr. Marcia Angell, Senior Lecturer at Harvard Medical School and former Editor in Chief of The New England Journal of Medicine, summarizes it extremely well. She analyzes three books by authors Irving Kirsch, Robert Whitaker, and Daniel Carlat. Each deconstructs the apparent mental illness epidemic and theory that mental disorders stem from brain chemical imbalances which can be corrected by drugs.
Dr. Angell’s review has sparked a host of other journalists to applaud her and fuel the fire. An article in Forbes even concludes, “psychopharma is looking like an idea whose time has passed.”
As an overview:
Ten percent of Americans over age six take antidepressants. Antipsychotic drugs, once reserved for schizophrenics, have become the top-selling class of drugs in the US, with over $14 billion in sales in 2009. ADHD, bipolar and autism diagnoses have exploded in the past two decades with at least 5 million US kids now on psychiatric drugs. Ten percent of boys take drugs for ADHD. Half a million kids take antipsychotics, including preschoolers.
The chemical imbalance theory rose to fame when Prozac hit the market in 1987, accompanied by massive hype that it corrected a chemical deficiency in the brain. In the years that followed, the number of people prescribed drugs for mental illness skyrocketed. Today, “treatment” for mental disorders is synonymous with psychoactive (mind-altering) drugs.
Tracing the origin of this theory shows it wasn’t that chemical imbalances were discovered in the mentally ill and then drugs were devised to correct the imbalance. Instead, drugs created for other purposes were incidentally found to also affect brain chemicals and blunt mental symptoms. Drug companies, hungry for new markets, and psychiatry, eager to build stature in the medical arena, leapt on this. They conducted a vast campaign to popularize chemical imbalances as the cause of mental disturbance and push drugs as the answer.
As Dr. Angell writes, “instead of developing a drug to treat an abnormality, an abnormality was postulated to fit a drug.” “Or similarly,” she says, “one could argue that fevers are caused by too little aspirin.”
Many scientific studies disprove the chemical imbalance theory. After fifteen years of research, Irving Kirsch – psychologist and author of “The Emperor’s New Drugs” – concludes, “It now seems beyond question that the traditional account of depression as a chemical imbalance in the brain is simply wrong.” Research studies show psychoactive medications actually disrupt brain chemistry and causes the brain to function abnormally. This year prominent neuroscientist, Dr. Nancy Andreason, announced proof that antipsychotics shrink the brain.
Studies also demonstrate that long-term recovery rates are higher for nonmedicated patients. For instance, the World Health Organization conducted an investigation in fifteen cities around the world and out of 740 depressed individuals studied, those that weren’t on psychiatric drugs had the best long term outcomes.
In the pre-medication era, it was known that with time, people usually recovered from depression. If kids had tantrums, were unruly or shy, they were apt to outgrow it. Today, individuals branded with disorders are likely to receive long-lasting diagnoses, endless prescriptions and the poorer ones tend to remain on disability for life.
Big Pharma manipulation
Dr. Marcia Angell says the author of each of the three books agrees on “the disturbing extent to which the companies that sell psychoactive drugs – through various forms of marketing, both legal and illegal, and what many people would describe as bribery – have come to determine what constitutes a mental illness and how the disorders should be diagnosed and treated.”
According to IMS Health, an information and consulting company, pharmaceutical companies spent $6.1 billion in 2010 in marketing to US doctors. Another $4 billion was spent on direct-to-patient advertising.
Drug trials, used to bring a drug to market, are funded by drug companies, heavily biased and misleading. Companies may sponsor as many trials as they like until they have just two positive ones to submit to the FDA. Great care is taken to hide negative trials. The highly positive results of placebo trials are downplayed: a high percentage of patients recover on a fake drug (like a sugar pill) – proving that the more a person believes he will benefit from a treatment, the more likely he will experience a benefit.
In regards the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual – the psychiatric bible of mental disorders, used in prescribing drugs – Dr. Angell points out “in all of its editions, it has simply reflected the opinions of its writers.” The majority of the psychiatrists involved in creating the current edition had financial ties to drug companies.
Author Daniel Carlat points out that “psychiatrists consistently lead the pack of specialties when it comes to taking money from drug companies.”
Crime against humanity
And where has the “mental health” industry and “drug therapy” brought our nation?
As Americans line up at their local pharmacy, documented side effects are legion: weight gain, deadened emotions, diabetes, heart problems, liver damage, stunted growth in kids, shortened life spans and on and on. Those prescribed one psychoactive drug are commonly prescribed another to address side-effects, with many on daily cocktails of meds.
An estimated 2.2 million Americans are hospitalized each year for adverse drug reactions. Over 100,000 die from them.
Instead of decreasing, the number of adults on disability pay for mental illness has soared 250% since 1987 and for kids it’s a 35X increase.
The greatest crime to humanity is the mass drugging of children. Yet it’s perpetrated within schools, doctors offices, foster homes and juvenile facilities daily.
There is good news. In the past few years, drug companies have faced a rise of multi-billion dollar class action suits. The key popularizer of childhood bipolar and antipsychotics for kids, Dr. Joseph Biederman, was publicly sanctioned by Harvard Medical School for failing to report $1.6 million he pocketed from drug companies. Some drugmakers are steering away from pursuing new psychoactive drugs.
Nazi chief propagandist Joseph Goebbels once said, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”
This chemical-imbalance/drug therapy lie has been told big enough and repeated enough, that much of America believes it. Isn’t it time we all put a stop to it?