Prescription Psychiatric Drugs may be the Problem

Why  are there more people disabled by mental illness in America than ever before? The book  Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness by Robert Whitaker may have the answer. Since I’m only about sixty pages in and can’t give you an overview of the whole, here are some words, actually many words, to whet your appetite. This excerpt exposes the heart of Whitaker’s message.

“The ‘magic bullet’ model of medicine that had led to the discovery of the sulfa drugs and antibiotics was very simple in kind. First, identify the cause or nature of the disorder. Second, develop a treatment to counteract it. Antibiotics killed known bacterial invaders. Eli Lilly’s insulin therapy was a variation on the same theme. The company developed this treatment after researchers came to understand that diabetes was due to an insulin deficiency. In each instance, knowledge of the disease came first–that was the magic formula for progress. However, if we look at how the first generation of psychiatric drugs was discovered, and look too at how they came to be called antipsychotics, anti-anxiety agent, and  antidepressants–words that indicate they were antidotes to specific disorders–we see a very different process at work. The psychopharmacology revolution was born from one part science and two parts wishful thinking” (47).*

Back in 1974 when I was in my early twenties, I was hospitalized due to prescription Valium withdrawal. The dentist who prescribed the drug for my jaw joint pain said that it was like aspirin–non-addictive. Take it four times a day and whenever needed, he wrote on his handy pad. He did not warn of complications if used with alcohol or the danger if one suddenly stopped taking the drug. The man did not know it was addictive. Doctors in general did not know about the real Valium.  Why not?  Because the FDA did not test it adequately. Often, only when we guinea pigs fall in high numbers is the culprit discovered. And why didn’t the FDA do its job with Valium?  I am hoping this book will answer this question for me.

How many of us have early trauma and post-traumatic stress whose later symptoms are treated with medications? How often is the underlying cause of the stress or disease sought?  Are birth trauma or trauma due to early invasive medical procedures potential causes of post-traumatic stress?  YES!  And to my mind, pharmaceuticals often mask the cause. Moreover, the side effects cause other, sometimes more serious, problems.

Stay tuned for more on Robert Whitaker’s book. Learn why psychiatric drugs may be the problem.

*my bold




2 Responses to Prescription Psychiatric Drugs may be the Problem

  1. I often feel something of horror when I realize how many “stories” an investigative journalist could select for some attention – even in just one area of medical science. I tell myself this all too often as I interact with people who have had a brush with infant surgery: there are so many sad and bad stories – just here.
    Some “issues” are just troubling, but others involve widespread personal harm or even criminal conduct. Thalidomide, breast implant and hip replacement manufacturers and the food industry’s world-wide lobbying come to mind. It seems that Robert Whitaker has dug into one more to add to my list, and I thank you again, Wendy, for finding and opening up his book to our awareness.
    You knew that prescribed Valium had got you into big trouble, but it seems that only now are we unearthing some of the background to this. I can’t wait for the next post on this subject.
    Please keep up the digging, reading and writing.

  2. Yes, the stories you’ve been sharing about the bad brushes with PS due to incompetent doctors, for example, are heartbreaking. I suppose each one of us has many stories to tell. The criminal conduct and intentional misleading of the public really get to me. I hope to get back to this book soon. He’s such a good writer. Thanks for the encouragement.

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