Its the drugs, stupid

December 19, 2012 § 12 Comments

The Thinking Housewife takes up the question of psychotropic medications and violent behavior, with a list of school shootings (from Taki) by perpetrators on psychotropic drugs.

The usual question is raised: is it that violent people happen to be on psychiatric meds, or is it that psychiatric meds make people violent?

A commenter asked:

Are there any scientific or medical studies that show antidepressants, which are more like tranquilizers than stimulants, cause violent behavior?

Yes, there are. Here is a paper that surveys some of that large body of scientific evidence. (HT to commenter Vickie who saved me the trouble of collecting my own sources).

It has been decisively proven that these drugs actually cause violent and suicidal behavior: not just that people who are already suicidal and violent take them, but that the drugs actually make a significant number of patients violent and/or suicidal.

In addition, the “chemical imbalance” serotonin theory of depression has been completely discredited. Despite this it is still vigorously sold to the public by drug companies and the psychiatric profession.

Anyone who is on long-term medication — even for blood pressure — owes it to himself to read the book Pharmageddon by Dr. David Healy. Healy is not anti-drug, but he brings a scientific and clinical realism to the table that is sorely lacking in our pharmacomedical establishment.

I have some involuntary personal experience in this area. There are lots of things about prescription medications – especially their long term use – that most people do not know and about which most doctors are in denial. Just as a sampling:

The mechanism of action of most medications is unknown. When someone tells you that a medication “just” increases the neurotransmitter serotonin, for example, that is a sign that he doesn’t know what he is talking about.

Most medications – for any purpose – will exhibit a discontinuation syndrome (“withdrawal”) in some portion of the population after long term use.

Some portion of the population will go into “tolerance withdrawal” when on a medication long term. This means that you will start having withdrawal symptoms even though you have not discontinued the medication or reduced your dose. Your body has adapted to the presence of the medication, and now you are exhibiting withdrawal symptoms even though you haven’t withdrawn.

Most medical doctors would not recognize a withdrawal symptom if it beat them over the head repeatedly. Tolerance withdrawal isn’t even in their vocabulary.

Most doctors will not believe that the patient is experiencing withdrawal once enough metabolic “half lives” for the medication have gone by. The myth is that withdrawal syndromes last until you get the medication “out of your system”. The reality is that in some cases it takes years for your body to reach equilibrium.

The entire medical system takes a “see no evil, I’m not listening” approach to problems with medication. As a result, the great majority of medication-caused problems are attributed to some underlying illness rather than the medication. This means that as a systematic matter problems with prescription drugs are underreported by orders of magnitude. When your doctor tells you a prescription drug is “safe” he literally doesn’t know what he is talking about, because the way the system works now it isn’t possible for him to know what he is talking about.

The idea that patients with depression or bipolar disorder – or many non-psychiatric problems, for that matter – need to be on medications for life is very often a self-serving mythology propagated by drug companies. This mythology is perpetuated in many ways. One of those ways is that when the patient goes off the medication, he experiences a withdrawal syndrome that is attributed to a nonexistent underlying permanent illness. The idea that the transient problem for which the person was prescribed medication in the first place has passed, and that the medication is now the problem, is never taken seriously — even though it is often true.

The idea that these problems are limited to patients on psychiatric medications is a myth.

There are virtually no humane systems, clinics, or hospitals in existence that are capable of competently helping a patient come off of prescription medications safely. The last one I am aware of existing was one run by Dr. Ashton in the UK to help people get rid of benzodiazepines. It closed many years ago because she hit mandatory retirement, and she was doing a job that nobody else wants to do. Benzodiazepines are prescribed by doctors like candy, they are harder to get rid of than heroin, and if you seek medical help in trying to get rid of them you will most likely be categorized as either an addict or a mental patient and “treated” as such.

An unknown number of “addicts” started off by just doing exactly what their doctors told them to do and are not the sort of people to self-indulgently pursue a “high”. Their doctors got them addicted to one substance or another and then hung them out to dry (after they hit tolerance withdrawal, say); they self-medicate illegally and imprudently as a way, not of getting “high”, but of dealing with protracted withdrawal symptoms brought about by their doctors’ actions. Many of these end up dead either by overdose or suicide, never really understanding what happened to them.

I could go on and on.

§ 12 Responses to Its the drugs, stupid

  • Vickie says:

    One of my first hints that something is seriously wrong in public health policy is that after years in school, being told not to use drugs to overcome life’s difficulties, all of a sudden these antidepressants were literally pushed on people. I was put on one, Wellbutran, and felt like a wounded rhino.

  • sad says:

    I too have involuntary personal experience in this matter: I know too many people who are badly damaged because they followed the advice of their physicians, who were mostly incapable of examining the systemic flaws that Zippy describes. The whole system is broken (or fixed, depending on your point of view); the problems are clearly not limited to management of psychotropic drugs, which are inevitably more difficult to test for harm and efficacy. But what Zippy aptly calls the “‘see no evil, I’m not listening’ approach to problems with medication” is especially frustrating for psychiatric patients, since their complaints about medication are likely to be lumped with their “disease”: “you are not responding well because you are crazy, but we can fix that by giving you more of this drug.”

  • sad says:

    Long ago, I was trained in structural biology by the biochemists who developed the first SSRIs. Like all of us members of the Good Intentions Paving Company (cf. Saul Bellow), these people meant well; they wanted to make money, yes, but they also wanted to help people who were suffering. I kind of liked them personally, though at the time I was appalled by the cruelty of their experiments on animals. They designed a drug that did what it was intended to do. But their theory about the biology of depression and anxiety was wrong, and as a result, many, many, many people have been killed or permanently damaged. How can the system accommodate such expensive errors?

    A drug that activates depression into black suicidal mania is demonic.
    It does not seem possible to do anything worse than prescribe such a drug to a vulnerable patient, and yet SSRIs are still being prescribed for depressed persons — even to patients with symptoms of bipolar disorder, who are especially likely to reach a mixed state by taking SSRIs.

  • tz2026 says:

    Another source I find interesting and often on the mark:
    http://market-ticker.org/akcs-www?post=215059
    http://market-ticker.org/akcs-www?post=215013

    I cannot remember the last time I took a prescription drug. It is probably two decades, but I’ve not had anything significant enough to need it. Doctors tend to push pills as it is easier to treat symptoms.

    If you want to be outraged, read Gary Taubes Good Calories, Bad Calories about the push of addicting carbs over fats with no real science behind it (you are told to cut fats, but that usually means eating more sugars and starches), and it becomes an orthodoxy-heresy situation (while Atkin’s diet and the variants like primal and paleo always work and people keep weight off). There are youtubes if you want the abridged version.

  • Vickie says:

    Yes TZ. Two years ago I was at a scientific symposium on this topic. Even the supporter of dietary fat restriction admitted that the USDA Dietary Recommendations are erroneous. One old time stood up and told them point blank that at the meetings to draw up them up, dissenting views were not permitted. Not only the Soviets had politburos.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    Isn’t here a great Christian failure?. Do the Christians present an alternative to the harmful medications?

  • Vickie says:

    How is this a Christian failure? Except maybe because we tend to be weak and gullible and believe the “experts” even though they are feeding us pseudoscience as the real thing.

  • Robert says:

    @vishmehr24:

    There’s no such thing as a “Christian” psychology or a “Christian” medicine, in the sense of a psychology or medicine that is based on Christian revelation and doctrine.

    But Christian revelation and doctrine is to seek the truth in its fullness, everywhere and in everything. Moreover, a Christian living his faith can be (at least relatively) free from the fears that drive so many in positions of power to defend or promote false ideas and practices.

    So a Christian working in the fields of psychology and/or medicine has certain advantages which can lead to deeper understanding, better care, and perhaps even breakthroughs in the science. This is even without considering that some Christians are graced with particular gifts of the Holy Spirit in these areas, as in every other area of human life and work.

    If Christians abandon these fields of study and work, we leave them to those who are more vulnerable to the slavery of fear or desire. So to the extent that we wall ourselves off from the world and disobey our Lord’s command to bring his gospel everywhere, yes, this can be considered a Christian failure. But there is no “alternative” medicine that is the exclusive province of Christianity. We do not have mechanistic command of the power of healing – though we can and do pray for healing, and miracles continue to occur. Truth is one, including the truth of the human mind and body; Christians don’t have more information about this truth, just more freedom to explore the information available to us.

  • Stogie says:

    The chemical imbalance theory has not been “completely discredited.” Indeed, one of the psychiatrists who rebut the simplistic article says the theory of serotonin is disproved only because there are other neurotransmitters out of balance as well — this doesn’t disprove the theory, it enhances it. Further, the psychiatrists who rebut both authors who argue against the effectiveness of SSRI’s are highly qualified and make excellent arguments. See here:
    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2011/aug/18/illusions-psychiatry-exchange/

  • sunshinemary says:

    What is particularly sad is that psychotropic medications are pushed on children in an attempt to mask other, more serious issues. In the years that I was a teacher and then a speech therapist in a low-income school district, I saw more and more children who were acting out in school and whose pediatricians put them on ADHD medications such as ritalin or a related drug, as well as other medications such as anti-depressants. This was an attempt to mask the effects of being raised in poverty by a single mother.

  • OhReilly says:

    Some readers may find the following article interesting (I particularly recommend the paragraphs under the heading “The Serotonin Hypothesis”):

    “Serotonin and Depression: A Disconnect between the Advertisements and the Scientific Literature”

    A small caveat, though – according to the commenter Stogie, who posted a comment in this thread, the link I just provided points to a “crank website”, and he has identified me as a crank and a kook without any qualification to have an opinion on depression, serotonin or SSRIs. Therefore, if readers think Stogie has presented a convincing and powerful argument for why you should ignore the article or at least parts of it, they should feel free to do so.

  • […] explanation for the disappearing comment thread is as mysterious and impenetrable as an explanation for  the Las Vegas mass […]

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