Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Anatomy of an Epidemic and alternative mental health

In Robert Whitaker's Anatomy of an Epidemic there is no mention of alternative mental health remedies. This, I suppose, is understandable given that the book is about how pharma and her willing handmaidens have contributed to the epidemic of mental illness. However, from a consumer point of view it would be instructive to know if the people whose stories are told in the book ever seriously tried some form of psychotherapy or took vitamin supplements to help them get off the drugs.

It is clear even if you haven't read this book that psychiatry has been hijacked by drug prescription and that psychiatrists (American ones, anyway) are handsomely remunerated for prescribing not listening. Psychiatrists have convinced themselves that the drugs are needed to help them do their job better, but their patients aren't at all convinced. If they were, why is drug compliance such a problem? Why are people so fed up with their psychiatrists not listening to them?

Drug based psychiatry seems to be one area where the customer is always wrong. If manufacturers noticed that people were failing to use their products in they way they were intended, would they blame the customer? Of course not! Many psychiatrists, however, have this patronizing view that their clients are mentally ill and incapable of making rational choices when it comes to how they feel about what they are swallowing.

There is another way and people shouldn't lose hope.

Taking vitamins, undergoing certain psychotherapies, practicing yoga and changing your belief system is not a quick fix, but it does work over time. As a relative, I can vouch that this also works for me. We all can benefit from the experience. Vitamin support should be a first line of defence if you are trying to get off your meds. Some people may not need this, but many do. Not everybody is going to have a hard time withdrawing from the drugs, but they will be the exception, not the rule. The drugs change your biochemistry. Your biochemistry is not changed because you are depressed or schizophrenic. For every study that claims it is, there is a study that refutes this. So why buy into the former claim? It makes you worse off in the long term, as Anatomy of an Epidemic so rightly points out.


  1. I would argue that your biochemistry is changed because you are depressed or psychotic. These human states do alter brain chemistry.

    I would also agree that a bichemical approach to resolving the issue is misguided. The problem needs to be addressed at the source. The individual needs to resolve his or her underlying interpretations that have resulted in a state of depression or psychosis and in doing so the brain's biochemistry will resolve itself.

    Vitamin supplements are merely another biochemical intervention in an attempt to offset the effects of depression or psychosis on the human brain. I'm not convinced they are any better (or any worse) than psychiatric drugs.

  2. I know where you are coming from on the altered biochemistry, however the Whitaker book refutes the altered biochemistry mantra that pharma and some researchers put out. The book shows that many studies have demonstrated no difference between what is considered "normal" and the brain biochemistry of schizophrenia. Pharma shows research results of the "damage" done by untreated psychosis which in turn drives people to the medication. Many people will not stop to consider that even within the normal brain, there is a range that others will try to assert as "bad biochemistry."

    I am also not entirely convinced that vitamins will change the course of schizophrenia, because, like you say, it is just another biochemical intervention. However, many people have a hard time withdrawing from the drugs and may need the support. Others claim that all they needed was the vitamin support. I can't argue with what they say is true for them.

    I also agree that resolving the problem at the source, if the source can be determined, will clear up any argument one way or the other about the biochemistry.

  3. Certainly for some the belief that vitamins have cured them is empowering. I think it provides a placebo effect. Nevertheless it is a far better belief to espouse than the one that suggests they have an incurable brain disease of unknown etiology that requires a life long regimen of psychiatric drugs to control.


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