There is no question that depression, anxiety, and many other mental disorders are real.
The pain, the suffering, the anguish are very real, and very visible.
This article will aim to shine the light of scrutiny and truth on the claims below.
As per usual, this article will feature very little of my own amateur opinion, but rather those of professionals in the medical industry, in addition to data and statistics gathered by people smarter than I.
- Mental disorders are caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain that is corrected by psychiatric drugs, and should therefore be classed as a disease.
- Psychiatrists can accurately diagnose mental illness, and have safe/effective drug-based treatments for it.
- Psychiatry is considered a valid medical specialty, like cardiology, and the claims of the movement are based on scientific research.
BACKGROUND – SCALE
It’s estimated that 45% of people in Australia will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime.
(Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2008). National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results, 2007. Cat. no. (4326.0). Canberra: ABS. )
Between 2000 and 2011, Australian use of anti-depressants has doubled, and Australia is listed as the second-highest prescriber of anti-depressant medications on a recent report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (Iceland is the only country that has a higher rate of use in the OECD Snapshot report).
In fact, of the 25 countries investigated in the OECD report, every single one had antidepressant use on the rise. Germany had a 46% rise in just four years and reportedly spends more than $2.6 billion a year on mental health. Spain and Portugal had a 20% rise during the same period. One in seven prescriptions in France includes a psychotropic drug and more than 50% of the unemployed – 1.8 million people – take psychotropic drugs. Mental health costs in France have soared, contributing $400 million to the country’s deficit.
Global sales of antidepressants, stimulants, anti-anxiety and antipsychotic drugs have reached more than $76 billion a year, more than double the US Govt annual spend on the “War Against Drugs”.
As at 2011, 54 million people internationally were taking antidepressants, a drug which is known to cause addiction, violent and homicidal behavior.
20 million school children worldwide have now been diagnosed with mental disorders, and prescribed cocaine-like stimulants and powerful antidepressants as treatment
Psychiatric drug use (and abuse) is surging worldwide. More than 100 million prescriptions for antidepressants alone were written in 2002 at a cost of $19.5 billion
Global combined spending on antipsychotic drugs and antidepressants jumped from around $500 million in 1986 to nearly $20 billion in 2004, and those figures already take inflation into account.
BACKGROUND – GROWTH
There have been many outbreaks of disease, even in our recent past. Think of Malaria, Swine Flu, Influenza etc. As we all know, most of these diseases have some form of medical cure.
When part of the population becomes infected, the cure is applied and the resulting effect is a decline in cases that have contracted the disease, and the rate that the disease spreads will either slow or stop.
Over time, as a result of these cures, many diseases become virtually eradicated. The decline in cases is how you know the cure is effective.
Now, given our great advances in care and treatment for depression, anxiety and many other mental disorders, we should expect that the number of cases would have declined over the past few decades, but this has not happened.
In 1955, in the US, there were 355,000 adults in state and county mental hospitals with a psychiatric diagnosis. During the next three decades (the era of the first generation of psychiatric drugs), the number of disabled mentally ill rise to 1.25 million.
The popular anti-depressant Prozac, arrived on the market in 1988. During the next 20 years, the number of disabled mentally ill grew to more than 4 million adults (in 2007).
Prescribing of psychiatric medications to children and adolescents took off during this period (1987 to 2007), and as this medical practice took hold, the number of youth in the US receiving a government disability pension because of a mental illness rose from 16,200 in 1987 to 561,659 in 2007 (a 35 fold increase over 20 years).
The number of mentally disabled people in the US has been increasing at the rate of 150,000 people every year since 1987.
That is an increase every day over the last 17 years of 410 people per day. 410 people, newly disabled by mental illness.
Cases and recipients of medications are simply going up. Drugs are clearly not a cure, and in fact, it appears that they are exacerbating the issue.
An (unconfirmed) percentage of people placed on Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs, todays antidepressants), will suffer either a manic or psychotic attack induced by the drugs.
This means that on top of dealing with depression, suffers may also deal with mania or psychotic symptoms. When these people have a manic episode, they normally end up in an emergency room with a new diagnosis – bipolar disorder. With this new diagnosis, they are normally given antipsychotic drugs to go along with the antidepressants, and at this point, they are moving down the path to chronic disability.
MENTAL ILLNESS IN CHILDREN
From 1990 to 2010, the number of disabled mentally ill children rose 35 fold.
Mental illness is now the leading cause of disability in children.
A study in the US (Massachusetts) shows that 60-70% percent of kids in foster care are now on psychiatric drugs. This indicates that rather than mental illness being a genetic or physical issue, it is rather a result of trauma.
Kids are often put on antidepressants, but also stimulants like Ritalin. Stimulants can cause mania and can cause psychosis, which also puts kids on the escalating medication problem.
One trial (linked in sources at the bottom) resulted in 75% of youth treated with antidepressants suffering an adverse effect of some kind.
In another study by the University of Pittsburgh, 23% of children treated with an SSRI developed mania or manic-like symptoms; an additional 19% developed drug-induced hostility.
The trials revealed no long-term benefits from antidepressants/stimulants; and only introduced all sorts of real problems in kids – mania, hostility, psychosis and even potential suicidality.
MENTAL ILLNESS IN THE ELDERLY
Benzodiazepines (tranquilizers) can be addictive after 14 days of use.
In our own home country, the elderly are being prescribed psychoactive drugs in nursing homes for being “noisy”, “wanting to leave the nursing home” or “pacing”.
In Canada, between 1995 and March 1996, 428,000 prescriptions for one particular highly addictive tranquilizer were written, with more than 35% of these for patients 65 and older.
British coroners’ reports show benzodiazepines as more frequently contributing to unnatural death each year than cocaine, heroic, ecstasy and all other illegal drugs.
Most antipsychotic drugs such as Zyprexa, Risperdal and Seroquel have a boxed warning to emphasise the increased risk of stroke and death.
In the US, 65-year-olds receive 360% more shock treatment than 64-year-olds because at age 65, government insurance coverage for shock typically takes effect. This implies the treatment is driven by funding.
There is not a single mental disorder that has been proven to have a biological or physical cause, or a genetic origin. Even if it were to be proven, it would not explain the previous 50 years of growth and escalation in prevalence and drug treatments.
Psychiatry has yet to develop a single physical test that can determine that an individual has a particular mental disorder. There are no blood tests, brain scans, or MRIs that can be taken to diagnose the issue.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) uses behavior, not physical symptoms, to diagnose mental illness. This means current diagnostic methods lack both scientific reliability and validity, as it is simply a checklist of behaviors.
It is also worth mentioning that the DSM also listed homosexuality as a mental illness, and it is no longer considered as such.
Mental illnesses are voted in and out of legitimacy.
LACK OF EVIDENCE
The claim that mental disorders are diseases, are simply not backed up by science.
The Surgeon General’s 1999 report on mental health states that:
- The precise causes of mental disorders are not known
- There is no definitive lesion, lab test, or abnormality in brain tissue that can identify a mental illness
The Textbook of Clinical Psychiatry (1999) states: “… Validation of the diagnostic categories as specific entities has not been established”.
These statements still apply today.
Psychiatric disorders are not medical diseases. As mentioned before, there are no lab tests, brain scans, X rays or chemical imbalance tests that can verify that any mental disorder is a physical condition. They are classed as disorders, which means simply that something is out of the ordinary.
Many people claim that “feeling better” as a result of taking medication is considered evidence of chemical imbalances. However, if you have a headache, and take asprin to treat it, can you claim that the headache was caused from a deficiency of aspirin?
DO THE MEDICATIONS WORK
After thousands of studies, hundreds of millions of prescriptions and tens of billions of dollars in sales, two things are certain about pills that treat depression; Antidepressants work, and so do sugar pills.
A new analysis in the US has found that in the majority of trials conducted by drug companies in recent decades, sugar pills have done as well as – or better than – antidepressants. Companies have had to conduct numerous trials to get two that show a positive result, which is the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) minimum for approval.
The sugar pills (placebos), cause profound changes in the same areas of the brain affected by the medicines, according to research. One researcher has ruefully concluded that a higher percentage of depressed patients get better on placebos today than 20 years ago. Essentially, this means that if you only receive a placebo, the brain still changes, even if you are not taking the harmful drugs. It is possibly the care and attention given to the problem that is actually making the change.
New research may shed light on findings such as those from a recent trial that compared the herbal remedy St. John’s Wort against Zoloft. St. John’s Wort fully cured 24 percent of the depressed people, who received it, and Zoloft cured 25 percent – but the placebo fully cured 32 percent.
DOES THE TREATMENT WORK
An eight-year study undertaken by the World Health Organisation found that severely mentally disturbed patients, in three economically disadvantaged countries (India, Nigeria and Columbia), whose treatment plans did NOT include a heavy reliance on drugs, recovered significantly better than their counterparts in the US and four other developed countries.
In the US, in the 1970’s, the late Dr. Loren Mosher’s “Soteria House” experiment was based on the idea that “schizophrenia” can be overcome without drugs. Soteria clients who didn’t receive neuroleptics actually did the best, compared to hospital and drug-treated control subjects. Swiss, Swedish and Finnish researchers have replicated and validated the experiment and are still using this today.
In Italy, Dr. Georgio Antonucci dismantled some of the most oppressive psychiatric wards by treating severely disturbed patients with compassion, respect and without drugs. Within months, the most violent wards became the calmest.
Psychostimulants such as Ritalin and other amphetamine based drugs, cause brain atrophy (i.e. brain shrinkage).
Over the past 15 years, psychiatric researchers have maintained that the brains of children with ADHD, as seen on brain scans, were on average 10% smaller than those of normal controls.
What they have withheld from the public, as well as their readership and professionals that attended their professional meetings, is that virtually all of the ADHD subjects in these many studies over the past 15 years had been on long-term stimulant treatment and that this treatment was the only physical difference between the ADHD subjects and the normal control subjects.
A study that was highlighted at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in Miami, Florida, had Yale University researchers present findings that brief, low-dose, amphetamine use in primates caused possibly permanent cognitive impairment.
Antipsychotics profoundly block dopamine receptors. They block 70-90% of the dopamine receptors in the brain. In return, the brain sprouts about 50% extra dopamine receptors. (i.e. it tries to become extra sensitive to counteract the imbalance the drugs have caused).
This means, if anyone goes off the drugs abruptly, they will have too many dopamine receptors which results in an overactive system. This results in the relapse and exaggerated bipolar behavior.
WHY IS ALL THIS HAPPENING
Dr. Margaret Hagen, psychologist and author of Whores of the Court: The Fraud of Psychiatric Testimony and the Rape of American Justice is blunt about the real motive that lies behind the DSM voting system: “If you can’t come up with the diagnosis, you can’t send a bill.”
The amount of money the US spends on psychiatric drugs is more than the Gross National Product of two-thirds of the world’s countries.
“…modern psychiatry has yet to convincingly prove the genetic/biological cause of any single mental illness. Patients have been diagnosed with “chemical imbalances” despite the fact that no test exists to support such a claim, and…there is no real conception of what a correct chemical imbalance would look like.” – Dr. David Kaiser, psychiatrist
While “there has been no shortage of alleged biochemical explanations for psychiatric conditions…not one has been proven. Quite the contrary. In every instance where such an imbalance was thought to have been found, it was later proven false.” – Dr. Joseph Glenmullen, Harvard Medical School psychiatrist
“No biochemical, neurological, or genetic markers have been found for Attention Deficit Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Depression, Schizophrenia, anxiety, compulsive alcohol and drug abuse, overeating, gambling or any other so-called mental illness, disease, or disorder.” – Bruce Levine, Ph.D., psychologist and author of Commonsense Rebellion
The suffering and anguish caused by mental disorders is very real – though the disorders themselves are not a disease.
As mental disorders are not (yet) physically verifiable, no conclusions have yet been made on what a cure might look like.
Many people claim to be fully recovered from a mental disorder, some with drug treatment, some with placebo treatment, and some with no drug treatment. We do know drugs used to treat mental disorders are harmful, and have been proven to be less effective than placebos or no drugs at all in many cases.
A commonality between those suffering with a mental disorder, is one or more traumatic events suffered at some point in their life.
Effective non-drug solutions are available (e.g. cognitive behavioral therapy) that will help people process and deal with these traumatic events, as well as how to move forward in life with new or improved coping mechanisms.
There are occasions where drug treatment may be beneficial on a short term basis, to inhibit emotion from hindering rational thought, when undergoing any form of therapy.
Those that might consider ceasing drug treatment for a mental disorder must do so under doctor supervision to ensure minimal relapse.
As always, be good to yourself, and be sure to be compassionate toward any sufferers of a mental disorder.