Mental Health Care:
What is the Alternative to Psychotropic Drugs?
Since 2003, there have been more than 60 international drug regulatory agency warnings about the risks inherent in taking psychotropic drugs. Antidepressants can cause suicide and hostility; antipsychotics can cause life-threatening diabetes; and stimulants prescribed to children may put them at risk of heart problems, stroke and even death.
Alternative ways of helping those suffering from mental disturbance are buried by the marketing hype that “mental illness” is the result of some neurobiological dysfunction or chemical imbalance that can only be corrected with psychotropic drugs. There is no scientific merit to these claims but they support drug sales of more than $27 billion a year in the United States and $80 billion worldwide.
Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Joseph Glenmullen, author of Prozac Backlash, says that despite “absence of any verifiable diseases,” psychopharmacology “has not hesitated to construct ‘disease models’ for psychiatric diagnoses. These models are hypothetical suggestions of what might be the underlying physiology—for example, a serotonin imbalance.”1
Dr. Darshak Sanghavi, clinical fellow at Harvard Medical School is among many medical experts publicly debunking the “chemical imbalance” theory. “[D]espite pseudoscientific terms like ‘chemical imbalance,’ nobody really knows what causes mental illness. There’s no blood test or brain scan for major depression. No geneticist can diagnose schizophrenia,” he said.2
Under media pressure in 2005, Dr. Steven Sharfstein, president of the American Psychiatric Association, was forced to admit that there is “no clean cut lab test” to determine a chemical imbalance in the brain.3
Dr. Mark Graff, Chair of Public Affairs of the APA said that this theory was “probably drug industry derived.”4
Not only do psychiatrists not understand the etiology (cause) of any mental disorder, they cannot cure them. For example, in 1994, Dr. Norman Sartorius, who shortly afterwards was appointed president of the World Psychiatric Association, declared, “The time when psychiatrists considered that they could cure the mentally ill is gone. In the future the mentally ill have to learn to live with their illness.” 5
In effect, psychiatrists are still saying that mental problems are incurable and that the afflicted are condemned to lifelong suffering—on psychotropic drugs.
Though psychiatry may have given up on mental healing, this is fortunately false. Mental problems can be resolved, and thankfully so. Imagine how it would be to believe man was destined never to overcome his personal obstacles, never to arrive at an understanding of himself and life.
In any society, the accomplishment of true mental health amongst its citizens should
rest upon three basic criteria:
1. Effective mental healing technology and treatments which improve and strengthen individuals and thereby society, by restoring individuals to personal strength, ability, competence, confidence, stability, responsibility and spiritual well being.
2. Highly trained, ethical practitioners who are committed primarily to the well-being of their patient and patients’ families, and who can and do deliver what they promise.
3. Mental healing delivered in a calm atmosphere characterized by tolerance, safety, security and respect for people’s rights.
While life is full of problems—and sometimes these problems are overwhelming—psychiatry and its diagnoses, treatments and drugs, do not fulfill the above criteria. Psychiatry largely relies upon forcing—often under the sanction of law—unworkable and dangerous methods, in particular those drugs mentioned in the opening paragraph.
J. Allan Hobson and Jonathan A. Leonard, authors of Out of Its Mind, Psychiatry in Crisis, A Call For Reform, warn that the psychiatry’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM) is the culprit that “tends to promote the idea that rote diagnosis and pill-pushing are acceptable.”6
That practice is fuelled by pharmaceutical company influence on psychiatry’s diagnostic criteria. The late Dr. Sydney Walker III, a neurologist and psychiatrist, wrote in A Dose of Sanity, said that influence “has focused on expanding the number of ‘psychiatric disorders’ recognized by the APA, and the number of drug treatments recommended for these disorders. After all, every DSM ‘diagnosis,’ is a potential gold mine for pharmaceutical firms.”7
Iona Heath, a general practitioner at the Caversham Practice in London, UK, determined “It is in the interests of pharmaceutical companies to extend the range of the abnormal so that the market for treatments is proportionately enlarged.”8
During a five-year period, the number of “mental disorders” added to the DSM increased 300%. Since the fourth edition of DSM was published in 1994, there has been a 256% increase in antipsychotic and antidepressant drug sales. A 2006 study published in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics disclosed that 100% of the psychiatrists who authored the mood and psychotic disorders sections of the DSM IV had undisclosed financial ties to drug companies. 9
A study published in the January 2008 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine revealed more undisclosed information: The makers of SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) antidepressants never published the results of about a third of the drug trials conducted to get government approval for the drugs, misleading people about the drugs’ effectiveness. The published studies showed that only about half of those taking the drugs reported any significant relief compared to about 40% taking placebo. However, when factoring in all the unpublished studies, the antidepressants were no more effective than taking placebo.10
Suicide risks were also withheld from consumers. While the FDA had evidence of these risks with SSRIs before they approved the first one, Prozac, in December 1987, it took 14 years before the FDA ordered antidepressant manufacturers to add a “black box” label to warn that the drugs could cause suicidal reactions in those 18 years of age and less. There had been an estimated 63,000 suicides by people taking SSRIs.
In 2004, the FDA also issued an advisory stating: “Anxiety, agitation, panic attacks, insomnia, irritability, hostility, impulsivity, akathisia (severe restlessness), hypomania, and mania, have been reported in adult and pediatric patients being treated with antidepressants…both psychiatric and nonpsychiatric.”11
At least 11 school shooters were taking prescribed psychiatric drugs known to cause violent behavior.
There are viable alternatives to these drugs.
This report highlights some solutions offered by health care professionals who prefer to practice nonpsychiatric medicine for various mental problems that psychiatry cannot, by their own admission, resolve.
Read the full report here: