Mental Health Industry’s Addiction to Drugs

Paper I Submitted for my Atlantic University TP5005 Course – August 24, 2019

Marcie Angell’s 2011 two-part book review of Irving Kirsch’s The Emperor’s New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth, Robert Whitaker’s Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America, and Daniel Carlat’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, paint a disturbing view of how the pharmaceutical industry and a cabal of forces have hijacked treatment approaches to mental health and mental illness, and how profits appear to be the driving force. Robert Whitaker’s 2011 Psychology Today article, “Andreasen Drops a Bombshell: Antipsychotics Shrink the Brain,” covers research done Dr. Nancy C. Andreasen, a former editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Psychiatry, indicating that not only is the efficacy of many of the popular mental health drugs in question, as Angell points out in her reviews, but there is strong evidence that they may be detrimental to those using them. Modern medicine’s reliance on drugs and the profits and power generated by their exclusive drug treatment approach leaves no room for modalities advocated by innovative and out-of-the-box mystics like Edgar Cayce.

Angell points to a critical shift that occurred in how psychiatrists approached their patients. Prior to the 1950s, when psychoactive drugs were first introduced, and through the 1980s before their use skyrocketed, “talk therapy” based largely on the Freudian model was the norm in treating people with mental health issues. As more and more profitable pharmaceuticals came online, “talk therapy” was relegated to counselors, therapists, and other non-MD’s who were unable to write prescriptions. Instead of spending an hour with one patient talking through their issues, psychiatrists could now see three patients in an hour, write them a prescription for Prozac or another “wonder drug,” and send them on their way.

The profitability of pushing drugs changed mental illness from being seen as caused by a number of factors, including spinal injuries as pointed out in the Edgar Cayce readings, to exclusively being an issue of “chemical imbalance” in the brain that only pharmaceuticals could solve. The drug companies lavished gifts and money on psychiatrists, medical associations, lawmakers, and state and federal regulators until they completely dominated every aspect of the mental health industry from R&D through treatment.

According to Angell, the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which she says is the industry’s “bible” has had pharmaceutical industry input from the beginning. As a result, the DSM has dramatically increased the number of mental illness diagnoses contained within from 182 in the DSM-II to 265 diagnoses in the 1980-published DSM-III. The DSM-IV-TR, released in 2000, includes 365 diagnoses and it sold a million copies. What’s more disturbing is that of the 170 contributors to the DSM-IV-TR, 95 have direct financial ties to drug companies, as Angell notes. She adds, “It looks as though it will be harder and harder to be normal” (2011, Part 2, The Illusions of Psychiatry).

Alarmingly, a large portion of these additional diagnoses and treatment for mental illnesses occur among children. As Angell notes, kids as young as two years old are “diagnosed” with mental illnesses, and many times, the drugs prescribed aren’t approved by the FDA. Angell points out that autism increased from 1 in 500 to 1 in 90 from 1993 to 2004, and 10% of boys now take stimulants for ADHD. According to the CDC, 1 in 59 children now have autism, and the federal health agency notes that in 2016, 6.1 million children have or previously had ADHD.

Angell, using data from Kirsch’s book, says that placebos used in antidepressant drug trials were three times as effective and no treatment and that antidepressants were only marginally more effective than placebos. When “active” placebos like atropine are used, ones that produced similar side-effects to real antidepressants like a dry mouth, “there was no difference between the antidepressant and the active placebo” (2011, Part 1, “The Epidemic of Mental Illness: Why?”).

What could be worse than discovering that the products of the multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry, an industry’s that has changed the entire approach to how mental illness is treated over the past 40 years, are no more effective than active placebos? Learning that the drugs are not only ineffective, but they are detrimental to the users. Whitaker, in his article on Nancy Andreasen’s research, notes that her work has found that “long-term use of the old standard antipsychotics, the new atypical antipsychotics, and clozapine, are all ‘associated with smaller brain tissue volumes'” (2011, p. 1). Andreasen also found that the higher dose a patient receives, the more damage is done to the brain matter, so arguably, those presenting with the greatest number of symptoms will be the ones harmed the most.

There must be a better way. And Edgar Cayce and other mystics have shown us with holistic approaches that include herbs, massage therapy, osteopathy, prayer, meditation, spinal cord adjustments, diet, and much more. Cayce has a much fuller view of the human person. Whereas modern medicine and their addiction to drugs see individuals as exclusively physical -a mass of cells and neurons that can be treated only by pharmaceuticals – Cayce, and mystics in general, views the human person as a mind, body, and spirit or soul. He doesn’t shy away from prescribing drugs in his readings, but they are only one tool in a huge tool chest. As David McMillan points out in Case Studies in Schizophrenia, Cayce also has a broader understanding of the body/soul connection where he associates “the chakras with the endocrine glands and the nadis with the nervous systems” (1995, p. 118).

Angell states that starting in the 1980s, a “powerful quartet of voices” including the pharmaceutical companies, the APA and psychiatrists from top medical schools, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), and National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), essentially locked down the mental health industry (2011, Part 1). So where does that leave holistic and mystical approaches like those found in the readings by Edgar Cayce? Out in the cold.

The last thing that a juggernaut of interests is going to do is allow an alternative approach that threatens their empire, particularly when their exclusive reliance on drugs to treat mental health isn’t working and is likely extremely harmful. All the mass shootings in the past 25 years, for example, have had one thing in common, and that is the shooter was either currently on or recently on psychiatric drugs. The pharmaceutical companies provide billions of dollars in ad revenue to the corporate media each year, which ensures positive coverage of the “miracle drugs” approach, and that “crazy” or “kooky” ideas like those professed by Cayce and other mystics are relegated to the trash heap of “conspiracy theories.”

References
Angell, M. (2011, July 14). Part 1: The illusions of psychiatry. The New York Review of Books. Retrieved from: http://web.missouri.edu/~segerti/1050H/docs/AngellNYRB.pdf

Angell, M. (2011, July 23). Part 2: The epidemic of mental illness: Why? The New York Review of Books. Retrieved from: http://www.zonein.ca/eletter/2011/sept/part2.pdf

Centers for Disease Control (2019). Data and statistics about ADHD. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/data.html

Centers for Disease Control (2019). Data & statistics on Autism Spectrum Disorder. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html

McMillin, D. (1995), Case studies in schizophrenia, A.R.E. Press: Virginia Beach, VA.