The Danger of Psychiatric Drugs
Last February, a friend of mine who is a physician strongly recommended that I read Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America, by Robert Whitaker.
This book, which I could hardly put down, changed my life. Because of it, I followed my friend’s other urgent suggestion: To stop taking the anti-depressant Cymbalta that I had been using for 18 months to deal with the pain associated with fibromyalgia . I talked with my physician, who laid out a systematic, gradual plan of reducing the daily dosage until I had completely stopped. I took my last pill in early June. The process went smoothly and I felt hardly any side effects.
Now for the reason why I decided to risk the pain, fatigue, and general malaise of fibromyalgia again.
Simply put: The common belief that psychosis and depression are caused by chemical imbalance in the brain lacks scientific evidence. The first drugs prescribed to treat psychosis and depression were not developed to correct any chemical imbalance, but were later discovered to give temporary relief. In the long run, they and other psychiatric drugs used to treat psychosis, depression, bipolar illness, and ADHD, do not work; they are addictive; they must often be supplemented with other drugs, in ever-increasing dosages; they cause other mental and physical maladies; and they damage the brain.
In my case, Cymbalta, which brought almost miraculous relief from symptoms of fibromyalgia to start with, was losing its efficacy, and carried some worrisome side effects, such as drowsiness and loss of short- term memory. The memory loss bothered me the most, especially as it seemed to grow more pronounced almost every week.
Before you “shoot the messenger “ for dangerous heresy, let me provide just a bare outline of what this revolutionary book says, and challenge you to read it yourself.
Author Robert Whitaker is a science reporter and writer who has won numerous awards.
This volume carries praise from noted experts.
The New Scientist: “Whitaker’s arguments are worryingly sane and consistently based on evidence.” The Portland Examiner’s review: “Take everything you know about psychiatry. Turn it upside down. You’ll have a pretty good idea of what Whitaker discovered.” Carl Elliott, MD, PhD, professor, Center for Bioethics, University of Minnesota, called it “the most alarming book I’ve read in years. . . Relying on medical evidence and historical documentation, Whitaker builds his case like a prosecuting attorney.” Nils Bruzelius, former science editor for the *Boston Globe* and the *Washington Post* wrote that *Anatomy of an Epidemic* “exposes a vast deceit. . . Scrupulously reported . . . , this book shreds the myth woven around today’s psychiatric drugs.”
Whitaker “began this long intellectual journey as a believer in the conventional wisdom,” that researchers had discovered biological causes of mental illnesses and that this knowledge had led to the development of a new generation of psychiatric drugs that helped ‘balance’ brain chemistry.” (Ix) He was planning to write a story on the effectiveness of psychiatric drugs when he stumbled upon startling evidence proving that the incidence of psychiatric illnesses has dramatically increased since these drugs began to be prescribed.
A huge part of the problem lies in the undeniable reality that many psychiatric medications are effective in the short run. That is precisely how so many people have become dependent upon them. The chilling fact that should cause us to doubt the entire psycho-pharmaceutical establishment is that, prior to the drugs’ being approved by the FDA and released to unsuspecting , well-meaning physicians and their trusting patients, no clinical trials of their long-term effects were conducted! Several decades later, the result of such negligence is upon us - with a fury.
Absence of scientific evidence for the “chemical imbalance” theory
As he traced the history of this epidemic, which has now afflicted tens of millions of people, Whitaker found something that has recently been quietly admitted by the highest authorities: “The ‘chemical imbalance’ notion was always a kind of urban legend – never a theory seriously propounded by well-informed psychiatrists.” (364)Thus wrote the former editor-in-chief of the Psychiatric Times, casually bypassing decades of evidence that mainstream psychiatry had, in fact, propounded this “legend” as scientific fact.
He also admitted a truth which has stood at the heart of this powerful “myth” : “And yes – the ‘chemical imbalance’ image has been vigorously promoted by some pharmaceutical companies, often to the detriment of our patients’ understanding.” (365) In other words, the old saying, “Follow the money,” applies here in spades.
Another expert wrote:
The theories that patients with depression lack serotonin and that patients with schizophrenia have too much dopamine have long been refuted. The truth is just the opposite. There is no chemical imbalance to being with, but when treating mental illness with drugs, we create a chemical imbalance. (365)
As the Epilogue to the 2015 edition notes, since the publication of Anatomy of an Epidemic in 2010, “even mainstream psychiatric journals have run editorials urging that the use of these drugs should be rethought.” (366)
Psychiatric drugs are not only ineffective, but dangerous!
Well, as I said at the outset, and as Whitaker shows with overwhelming scientific and historical evidence, they not only don’t work, but create worse conditions. As stated in an article in the Archives of General Psychiatry, create a process which “is associated with a worsening of negative symptoms and cognitive impairment.” (366) The drugs damage not only those who take them but unborn children and nursing infants of mothers using them.
What happens to patients who get off these drugs? They get better! A study of twenty-year outcomes showed that the ”patients off antipsychotics were less psychotic, less anxious, and had lower relapse rates. They also had better cognitive functioning and were much more likely to enjoy ‘sustained periods of recovery.” (368) Similar findings on the dangers and limited befits of antipsychotic drugs were reported in the British Journal of Psychiatry and the JAMA Psychiatry.
What about anti-depressants?
Medscape Medical News, commenting on one important study said that it “pointed to a lack of long-term efficacy for antidepressants.” (373) Whitaker quotes researchers in the Netherlands, at McMaster University, in France, and the U.S. who proved that long-term use of antidepressants leads to a higher rate of relapse; the production of “a malignant and treatment-unresponsive course” – that is addiction; chronic depression and permanent brain damage.
The same goes for drugs prescribed for ADHD and bipolar illness, both of which have exploded dramatically since drugs were employed to treat them.
The good news is that most so-called psychiatric conditions can be greatly reduced, if not eliminated, without harmful drugs.
So, what should those who are taking anti-depressants and other psychiatric drugs?
First, do NOT stop taking the medication without your doctor’s approval. Withdrawal effects can be severe and even deadly.
Second, work with your doctor to decrease the dosage gradually.
Third, you may want to seek help from a skilled counselor, preferably one who believes in Christ and takes the Bible as God's Word. Such a person can help you see where you are struggling with "toxic" ideas that need to be replaced by God's truth.
Fourth, mild depression may linger for a while, as it did for many years with me. In such cases, St. John's Wort may be of some use until you can deal with underlying reasons for your sadness. The Shaklee version contains other ingredients which make the herb more effective. Write me for more information if you like.
Finally, and most important, you will need to implement life-style changes that address the underlying causes of depression. These are usually numerous, complex, and inter-related, and require a comprehensive approach, including changes in diet, regular aerobic exercise, sunshine, healthy social interaction, and especially new habits of dealing with stress, sorrow, guilt, fear, worry, resentment, and other damaging emotions. Worship, prayer, transformation of the mind by the Scriptures, deep fellowship with other believers, and the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit will be necessary to bring lasting peace and joy.
My book The Lord’s Healing Words simply discusses and applies the teachings of the Bible on physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. This full-orbed study carries endorsements by a dozen physicians (including the former dean of the University of Virginia medical school), counselors, and pastors. You might find it a good place to start.