The Horrifying Truth About Psychological Medication in America. ~ Annie Padma

Via on Dec 18, 2012
Photo: Fillmore Photography

Decisions made half a century ago may have helped bring us to last week.

The Sandy Hook Shooting was a disturbing event that really surprised all of us beyond other similar crimes because it involved young children. It came at a time when I was researching psychiatric medications and stumbled upon the information that some kinds of psych meds are given to suicide bombers and so on to desensitize them to the crimes they are committing.

Its looking like the 20-year-old Sandy Hook shooter was on some kind of medication, like so many others in America. According to the citizens Communion on Human rights, “At least 250,000 children worldwide, some as young as seven, are being used for terrorist and revolutionary activities and given amphetamines and tranquilizers to go on “murderous binges” for days. Yet these are the same drugs that psychiatrists are prescribing children for “learning” or “behavioral” problems.”

Just because most medicated people do not go postal, it fits into a theme which I’ve recently researched about psychological medication and how they can drain the humanity right out of people. If you don’t know someone who is medicated for a psychological problem, the people you know probably aren’t telling you everything. According to Time, one-in-five Americans is now on some kind of medication for a psychological “problem.” Depression, ADD, Bi-polar—whatever you are diagnosed with has a pill or drug cocktail to go with it. NAMI statistics state that one-in-17 people in the US suffer from a “serious” mental disability. If it was a physical illness such as diabetes or cancer, people would be freaking out.

When I asked a graduate from the Naropa psychology department his opinion on psych meds, he recommended the book Anatomy of an Epidemic by Robert Whitaker. I’m still in the aftershock after reading it. I’m genuinely shocked not only because of the author’s conclusion, but because it’s all firmly rooted in very disturbing scientific facts. The author was a medical journalist who also believed the conventional wisdom about treating psychological disorders until he looked into the research.

This is what he found: In the 50s, scientists stumbled upon medication like Thorazine and found it had a tranquilizing effect on patients. They began to mass market psychological drugs, stating that it was a cure for things like psychosis and schizophrenia. Following this discovery, “Mother’s little helper” type drugs boomed in the US, and the psychiatric market was eventually flooded with many magical solutions for everyone.

The standard wisdom for serious disorders like bipolar and schizophrenia is that “there is a chemical imbalance in your brain and these drugs are the antidote.” Whitaker points out that they tell people its like insulin for diabetics. This has been the party line for over 50 years, and it still is.

Here’s the kicker:

  • First of all, there is no medical evidence that “chemical imbalances” in the brain are the cause of any psychological disorder.
  • Second, research clearly shows that subjecting patients to medication produces a lower recovery rate in the long term.
  • Third, because these meds target the delicate brain, they tend to alter its structure when the biology tries to compensate for the addition of a chemical. This leaves the patient more prone to a relapse, because their brains start to psychically change to compensate. (For example, if you flood the brain with serotonin increasing meds like in Prozac, the brain compensates by creating more structures to shut down serotonin production. Then when you take away the drug, you are worse off then before. The longer you are on the drugs, the more your brain is going to change.)

That’s not all—many medications have horrible side effects, most of them not only leaving patients listless, flat and fat, but also cutting down life expectancies. People with serious mental disorders have 25 percent lower life expectancy than others. Although people are left feeling like they have no energy or spark and have to take on a list of health problems, they are told they need these meds to prevent a relapse. Not only that, but many have also been observed to slowly shrink the cerebellum. That’s your brain, people! Some medication for schizophrenia can cause such things as tardive dyskinesia, meaning certain muscles stop working completely.

Why are doctors still using an approach that has been proven to have been a miserable 50-year failure?

For one, there is the money involved. The drug companies are making serious bank, as are doctors and therapists who have to keep treating patients who never get better. Also, there is the obvious reason: many people going through psychological eddies are difficult to interact with. In the short run, the drugs must have seemed like a miracle. It could cause people to act “normally” again, maybe even leave the hospital sooner and get a fulfilling job at Walmart. That’s because they are basically tranquilized.

Of course, it is a tempting option for those brave souls actually working in mental health—a vegetable is easier to control than someone who is acting in bizarre and frighting ways. Indeed, some patients could be a threat to themselves or others. However, when looking at the big picture, it becomes obvious that the meds only provide a very temporary solution. Once hooked on meds, the relapse rates shoot up and the overall recovery rates drop. In terms of money and time, it would be better to give patients what most of them really need: personal attention, counseling and good old-fashioned TLC.

Several med-light or med-free therapeutic models have been tried with positive results, according to Whitaker. In Finland, a therapeutic model which features extensive counseling with the patient’s families has proven to have very high success rates, meaning that more patents go on to live happy lives. One model practiced in America for children and teens featured a med-free mentoring program that worked very well on disturbed youths.

The Touch of Hands

While the work sounds intensive, instead of zombies hooked for life probably ending up on social welfare and drug cocktails that make them dull and unhealthy, they result in real people, you know, human beings. In Britain, regular exercise has been seen to be very successful curative for various psychological problems, especially in natural settings.

Whether its mild anxiety or Schizophrenia, we have to realize that many of these people aren’t broken just because they can’t function in our model.

With one in five—or maybe four—people requiring medication, what’s broken is our model. One’s society’s ADD kid is a child that might do better in a different educational setting or could stand to turn off the TV. In ancient societies, some people with today’s disorders would be considered shamans or medicine men. While we can’t ignore that many people are truly suffering from different disorders, the road to a happy life doesn’t seem to be turning on a permanent medication.

The facts reviled in the research are something horrifying to me, because its basically draining the lives of millions across the globe who use the medication model of psychiatric treatment. I personally suspect that some medication could be used on an emergency basis. In fact, humans have used substances of all kinds to finesse their minds over the ages. From coffee to morphine, we are a people who can’t disconnect from the chemicals we intake: they are part of our lives. Some of substances, even “man-made” ones, have a place in helping people deal with their own minds. But modern psychiatry is taking a sledge hammer to a Swiss watch.

Some people may personally attest to the fact that certain drugs have changed their lives and they can’t operate without them. But, try asking them this question: if you had gotten some serious therapeutic attention before you started taking the medication, might that have turned out better?

The movie Garden State puts it very wisely, when the doctor character tells our hero, “My opinion, since you’re paying for it…is that, yeah, those drugs may help you as a means to an end…but sooner or later, if you’re not in some sort of therapy…whatever’s going on in your mind will find a way to peek its little head out of the water.” The doctor of course is assuming that the therapist is a truly qualified individual. Carl Jung believed that therapists must go through therapy themselves before practicing on others. How many of today’s therapists can say they even have a grip on their own happiness?

Chemicals don’t deal with problems; people deal with problems. Before your toss out your perception, please note that if you are on some kind of medication, please also note that it’s been well documented that sudden withdrawal from some of those pills is very dangerous, even if its a mood stabilizer. If people choose to go off of them, then it should be in a slow and safe manner, with nurturing, stable people at hand.

If we believe in a the goodness of humanity, we know that all people have a unique story to tell. It’s a tragedy when anyone is flushed out of society. Instead of putting energy into finding what is permanently broken wrong with us, that energy should go to finding what is right and encouraging it, and realizing that all wounds can be healed with time and love.

It’s my observation that when a person is able to find themselves, and they are realized to be truly special by others in society, many problems that plague the mind subside. With at least one in five people in the U.S. and Canada taking a mind-altering medication because they are “broken,” its time to realize that our model is really what is broken. In a functional society, no one should be excluded, because everyone is valuable and unique—to debase one person lowers us all. Let’s raise a world of vibrant, included people, not mindless zombies who have lost all sense of their humanity to fit into a modality that doesn’t really value them to begin with.

Annie Padma is a non-superstitious astrologer who is based in Boulder. She has been studying the zodiac archetypes for over ten years now and has learned from experience how the signs express in people. As a life-long Buddhist, who is grateful to Theravada, Zen and Vajrayana traditions, she likes to use meditative insight to unravel astrology. She lived in Seoul, South Korea for three years teaching English and writing and editing articles for the Korea Times, which is ironic as she can’t spell to save her life. Somehow it has worked out alright, thanks to spell check. Her sun is in Gemini and moon is in Pisces.

~

Ed: Kevin Macku

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5 Responses to “The Horrifying Truth About Psychological Medication in America. ~ Annie Padma”

  1. Ellen says:

    I agree with some of your observations about psych medications; certainly they are completely over-prescribed. In our system unfortunately it's cheaper to give a pill then provide years of psychotherapy. Definitely there are people who end up on these meds unnecessarily and to the detriment of their health. That being said, I think you make some sweeping over-generalizations about individual responses to medications. Not all people on meds are 'mindless zombies' and it's a little offensive to characterize individuals that way who are doing ok on meds. Not all meds are 'tranquilizers'; there are many different types of medications and they they have different effects on the brain. Just because one person recovers with family and community supports does not mean that will be enough intervention for everyone. I also find it irresponsible and disturbing that you try to use the Sandy Hook shooting as some kind of evidence for your argument when you don't know any actual facts about the shooter's psychological treatment. Now suddenly we should be scared of everyone on 'some kind of medication'??

  2. Edie Lazenby edie says:

    I agree with the above statement and wonder what your actual experience with psychosis is…I agree we over-medicate and too often it is dispensed without other supports. However, when psychotic one cannot benefit in general from simple therapy alone.

    '"Some people may personally attest to the fact that certain drugs have changed their lives and they can’t operate without them. But, try asking them this question: if you had gotten some serious therapeutic attention before you started taking the medication, might that have turned out better?"

    So you can google my name and read my posts. I had therapy and though beneficial when psychotic I think it was good. Now in general I have a strong dislike for therapy. And many therapists don't know what they're doing. Talking and talking and talking is not always the answer, it is just part of the solution. Healing is necessary but we all need that, right? Working with the body is necessary. Giving individuals with severe mental illness support so they can make their decisions is vital. The mental health system and most psychotherapists and psychologists treat people like they are broken. And I am not a Zombie, thank you. I take Saphris. I work full time. Am saner than most. I teach yoga, more classes than many a week. And I write and work here at Elephant Journal. I teach all ages. I ran a children's yoga program. I teach therapeutics. I teach special needs children as well.

    Unless you know psychosis, and maybe you do, I must say I wonder about your experience. It is not the most painful thing but definitely the most terrifying. What do I do with those experiences? I don't do anything. I don't say that what I saw felt and heard was real or not real. It was a dimension I cannot function in and survive. One teacher said delusion is too much subject.

    Sorry to ramble on. I think we do over-medicate. I think therapy can be useful. I have not done traditional therapy in over 15 years and last time I left an MSW I left because she could not grasp what I said. And I was not delusional.

    I was in the system. I was on disability. I had tardive dsykenesia, Akethesia and distonia. One time I took one pill for my diagnosis and three for side effects.

    And I am not done thinking I have to take what I take till I die….healing from the inside out is something most people have trouble doing…being whole inside and out…now that is a rare bird…indeed. And a someone who can engender healing? I have met 3 in my life and I am blessed and none of them were mental health professionals.

    Enough said. Sorry I got carried away.

  3. littlewing108 says:

    Thanks for you comments!
    Yes just realize I was really shocked to learn these facts. Although it may seem "cheaper" to prescribe meds than years of therapy, actually mentoring and care are certainly less expensive. I took the "extreme path to the middle" (meaning offering the extreme POV) on this one because it's a plague on society which no one really knows about. I realize that inner work is extremely difficult and hard to come by, unfortunately. Yet I think in light of the facts, people have to face up to it. Its not that patients are lazy, I don't think that's the case in most instances. It seems to me as if the whole American mentality is lazy, opting for quick fix solutions when other approaches would in fact work better. The Quakers were on to the nature therapy approach in the 1800s but it never caught on. Another fact is that people in less developed countries have a much higher recovery rate and a much lower medicating rate. So when you look at the numbers it does not seem to be working for a whole lot of people. I am glad that both of you are living a happy life with the aid of medication, and i don't doubt people can develop a healthy relationship to any substance. But the reigning paradigm is to make people functional, not happy.

    I am someone who believes that spiritual work should always come before mundane obligations. While this may not be possible for everyone, I feel that the social norm is not to shoot for it at all. The Psychiatrist's goal is to make you a functional member of society. The real yogi's goal is to make you a functional member of the universe, and the human family. While they go hand in hand, the higher goal shouldn't have to compromise for fitting in, because that's dictates who you are in the long run. I'm not saying people have never benefited from long term medication, but I seriously doubt if they have been in the majority. I recommend reading Whittaker's 's book for more information, he is quite scientific in view where's I'm summarizing the visceral feeling I get from all this with support of the facts.

    Ellen, as for the Sandy Hook Shootings, I don't think its a wrong to tie this together. If the shooter was in fact receiving treatment, do you think the psychiatrists and therapists involved should be held accountable at all? Doctors face malpractice suits if they don't treat their patients correctly.
    -Annie

    • Shirley0401 says:

      "But the reigning paradigm is to make people functional, not happy."
      Exactly. I think it's really important to ask ourselves why we (as a society) do what we do. We pump ourselves full of drugs to be able to do the jobs we wouldn't be able to do without pumping ourselves full of drugs.
      And re: your point on permanent effects, I can attest to that. I was on Paxil for about three years, and I think it did provide some relief, at first, by helping me get out of my own head. But I also know that I experience my own thoughts/feelings differently now, two years after going off the Paxil, than I did before. (I also ran up thousands of dollars on credit cards, because the part of my brain that worries about existential dread is also apparently the part that worries about money.) If I had it to do over, I wouldn't.
      Does this mean some people don't go on SSRI meds, prefer life that way, and stay on them indefinitely? Of course not. But I know a few of those people, and I knew one of them before he went on the meds. They're all good workers, citizens, and find people. But the guy I knew pre-SSRI sure used to be a whole lot more interesting and creative, too. And it makes me wonder exactly what we mean when we say someone is "benefiting" from meds.

  4. [...] didn’t have these kinds of school shootings before the proliferation of psychiatric medications. Dig deeply into these stories and you find that most of the murderers were taking psychiatric meds [...]

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