|Drugs and Madness: Image source.|
According to the US National Institute for Mental Health, at any one time, approximately 5% of Americans suffer from a serious mental illness, while Mental Health America estimates that 54 million Americans suffer from some form of mental disorder in a given year. Thus, during their lifetime, a very large proportion and perhaps a majority of Americans suffer some form of mental illness. This is a startling realization and suggests that in America, and most likely other Western nations also, mental illness is now epidemic.
To the question “how come?”, a brilliant investigative journalist, Robert Whittacker offers an answer, which is proving to be surprisingly uncontroversial. American’s are being driven mad by the psychotropic drugs they consume to combat what are often, at least initiallly, rather trivial so-called mental disorders such as anxiety, female sexual dysfunction, minor depression, etc. Whittacker recounts his investigation in the book The Anatomy of an Epidemic.
I will not review the book, since it has been very widely reviewed elsewhere. Amazon.com currently offers 89 reader reviews, of which 72 give the book a five-star rating. And there is a superb review by Marcia Angell in the New York Review of Books, which outlines Whittacker’s basic thesis; namely, that psychotropic drugs do not, as the psychiatric community and drug industry have long maintained, correct any known chemical imbalance in the brain, but rather, they create a chemical imbalance that makes drug withdrawal extremely difficult. Moreover, the benefits of psychotropic drugs are often transient, or even non-existent, purported evidence to the contrary, which is necessary for drug certification, often being the result of inappropriate trial design, selective publication of results and the not infrequent resort to outright fraud.
But not only may psychotropic drugs give no long-term benefit, they may even prolong illness. Whereas, before the age of antipsychotic medication, most schizophrenics recovered from their first bout of illness within several years, leading thereafter, healthy and productive lives without relapse, in the age of universal medication, the prognosis for schizophrenics is poor.
Moreover, there is evidence that antidepressants and stimulants can induce bipolar disorder, which leads to additional medication, including use of anti-convulsants and antipsychotics, with consequent health complications that may shorten life by 15 to 25 years.
Whittaker’s book should be read by anyone with a serious interest in mental health issues, as presumably are most Americans, ravaged as they are by an epidemic of madness.
Not everyone, understandably, agrees with Whittacker’s conclusions. Many who are dependent on psychotropic drugs believe that these chemicals improve their lives, and in some cases, they are surely right. Moreover, it appears to be the case that for many suffering an acute mental illness, chemical sedation is a prerequisite of psychotherapy, exercise therapy or other non-chemical treatments to which the patient would otherwise be wholly unamenable. Nevertheless, the evidence suggests that we are witnessing an epidemic of psychotropic drug poisoning that is both damaging and shortening the lives of tens of millions.