Psych Treatment and Life Expectancy

Dear Washingtonian,

The Washington State Legislature has passed numerous bills that forward business as usual for public mental health. This is cause for great concern. There has been no debate about underlying reasons why our public mental health system is expensive, overcrowded and poses a risk to public safety. The legislature is in the vise grip of special interests – the treatment providers, the legal system and the mental health lobby all clamoring about their needs. While the patient, the individual that this system is supposed to be about, languishes in disability created by the psychiatric treatment that is forced upon them. This needs scrutiny. Once one begins to look at the revelatory research on the lack of results and how the true effects of psychiatric drugging has been minimized, withheld and outright lied about, we can begin to see the true reasons why 10s of thousands of Washingtonians are in the trap called public mental health.

For the Seriously Mentally Ill: The “Death Penalty”

In Washington State our legislature is about to pass a bill making it easier to forcibly drug the seriously mentally ill.Senate Bill 5480 would permit involuntary commitment even when the person’s symptoms and behavior do not meet current commitment standards, provided the symptoms and behaviors “are closely associated with symptoms or behavior which preceded and led to a past incident of involuntary hospitalization… and without treatment, the continued deterioration of the respondent is probable.”

Such legislation is based on a familiar story. Certain individuals, we are told, have a psychiatric disorder caused by a chemical imbalance in their brains.If they stop taking the “meds” that correct the imbalance, they deteriorate and commit acts of violence.So we need to keep them on drugs – by force, if necessary.

But in fact, that story is based on several myths.Two of them are easy to spot. The chemical imbalance theory has been thoroughly disproven and the long-term use of psychiatric drugs, far from correcting imbalances, produces them.According to Stephen Hyman, a former director of the National Institute of Mental Health, chronic administration of psychotropic drugs causes “substantial and long-lasting alterations in neural function” that make the brain function “different from the normal state.”Could those alterations produce long lasting and repetitive “symptoms and behaviors”?

But the story’s real fatal flaw lies in the assumption that drug treatment usually works.Most often it doesn’t. The National Institute of Mental Health’s (NIMH) 2005 “Clinical Antipsychotic Trials of Intervention Effectiveness,” published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that 74% of the patients stopped taking the antipsychotic drug they were taking, mostly due to “inefficacy or intolerability owning to side effects … asjudged by the doctor” (emphasis added). Nowhere in this study was it suggested that patients quit due to a lack of insight into their condition.

The average “duration of successful treatment” in this study was one month for all the drugs except one, which lasted three months.The study found that newer antipsychotics were neither better tolerated nor more effective that the older drugs.

These findings are, predictably, reflected in Washington State outcomes.In 2008 the Washington State Institute for Public Policy released the results of a four-year study of over 39,000 adults who received public mental health services in Washington.Using a scale that measures psychological and social functioning, the researchers found that “5.7 to 12.5% of consumers in the study cohort had a meaningful improvement … during the period of service.”

Antipsychotic drugs also shift outcomes away from recovery and towards chronic illness.Just last year a National Institute of Mental Health study that followed schizophrenics for 20 years reported that, “…patients not on antipsychotics (emphasis added) for prolonged periods were significantly less likely to be psychotic and experienced more periods of recovery.”

Antipsychotic drugs, however, do one thing very well.They shorten life.In 2006, the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors released the results of an eight state study which found that people with serious mental illness served by our public mental health systems die, on average, more than 25 years earlier than the general population. Antipsychotics cause a variety of life-shortening conditions, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and permanent brain damage. For many they are, in a very real sense, a death sentence.

Here’s the real story.We ignore the actual causes of mental and emotional problems, be they social, psychological, economic, physical, medical, nutritional, educational, environmental, ethical, or spiritual. Instead, we chalk it up to bad brains and prescribe extraordinarily toxic drugs – and we start early.Since few recover they just get progressively worse. In other words, to paraphrase the language of SB 5480, with treatment, “the continued deterioration of the respondent is probable.” So we lock them up and force feed them the very drugs that have made their condition chronic and are killing them.

Any questions?

Richard Warner, President

Citizens Commission on Human Rights of Seattle PO Box 19633 Seattle, WA 98109

CCHR Seattle

Mission Statement: The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) is a non-profit, non-political, non-religious mental health watchdog. Its mission is to eradicate abuses committed under the guise of mental health and enact patient and consumer protections. CCHR has helped to enact more than 150 laws protecting individuals from abusive or coercive mental health practices. CCHR functions solely as a mental health watchdog, working alongside many medical professionals including doctors, scientists, nurses and those few psychiatrists who have taken a stance against the biological/drug model of “disease” that is continually promoted by the psychiatric/ pharmaceutical industry as a way to sell drugs. CCHR’s Board of Advisers, called Commissioners, include doctors, scientists, psychologists, lawyers, legislators,educators, business professionals, artists and civil and human rights representatives. There are more than 250 CCHR chapters in 34 countries, with the international headquarters based in Los Angeles, California.

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