My new article here explores the often taboo topic of
why parents may give potentially harmful psych meds to their children.
I’ll be discussing it with Dr. Peter Breggin on his radio program this Wednesday at 4 pm EST at http://www.prn.fm
Please join us!
My new article on Mad in America about the price we all pay for our universal and core needs for empathy, compassion and love not being met in our wasteland culture.
This entry first appeared at Mad In America on November 10, 2015.
I felt a chill go through my body when I read that the FDA has agreed to review for possible approval in early 2016 a new form of the drug Abilify that contains a microchip sensor capable of sending a message that indicates the exact time a tablet dissolves in the stomach. The message is recorded by a skin patch – along with data such as the person’s body angle and activity patterns – and, according to a press release from Proteus Digital Health, the developer of the device, “this information is recorded and relayed to patients on a mobile phone or other Bluetooth-enabled device, and only with their consent, to their physician and/or their caregivers.”
The Japanese drug giant Otsuka teamed up with Proteus Digital Health in 2012 to create this potentially profitable new “chip in a pill” just as its patent on Abilify – at $6.9 billion the #1 most profitable drug in the U.S. in 2013 – was set to expire in 2014, leaving one of Otsuka’s most valuable markets vulnerable to generics. It is especially ominous to me that our government is teetering toward passing the Murphy Bill, which would make forced in-home treatment the law of the land, at the same time it is lurching toward putting such an Orwellian device in the hands of a pharmaceutical company, courts, and families.
According to the Washington Examiner:
”The new smart drug could be particularly useful for ensuring the mentally ill continue taking their medications, not just by giving doctors a way to monitor their behavior, but courts as well…all but five states have court-ordered programs where a judge can mandate that offenders with severe mental illness stick with a treatment program as a condition of remaining in the community.”
As one Facebook commenter noted; putting a pill in your mouth and swallowing it, knowing it’s going to transmit a message to prove one is submissive and compliant, is beyond Orwellian – it feels fascistic. I agree. The social contract draws an invisible line that must be guarded against forces in a society that, driven by fears, fantasies of benevolence, or by simple greed, and are blind and deaf to the cries of its citizens as their bodily and personal integrity are ground into powder along with the preparations they are compelled to take in the specious name of “health” and “safety.”
Sometimes, radicalizing people politically takes a really callous, stupid, and dangerous threat to people’s liberty. This is one of those times.
The Washington Examiner article cites recent research that shows 74% of people who are started on antipsychotic medications stop taking them within 18 months. That’s the justification offered for a psych drug that monitors its own use.
“These individuals already have a history of problems due to their unwillingness or inability to voluntarily comply with treatment … this could be an important advance for them that would help them maintain treatment compliance.”
— D.J. Jaffe of the Mental Illness Policy Org.
Think about it: faced with the overwhelming 74% failure of a pharmaceutical intervention, why is the core issue deemed to be compliance rather than efficacy, and consumers’ safety & satisfaction? And why are we “gearing up” to ensure compliance in particular for a drug that even the FDA admits has an unknown mechanism of action?
What other medical specialty would blame its patients for so overwhelmingly choosing not to take the medications that have been prescribed to them? For a field that has taken on the charge of controlling and regulating social deviance, the ethical boundaries that the FDA should be protecting are blurred by the growing perception that people who are DSM-diagnosed are potential risks to society, despite overwhelming risk to the contrary; that a DSM diagnoses should be a signal that a person needs and deserves our protection.
Only a worldview that embraces the disease and deviance model of human emotional suffering would dare to suggest putting a sensor in a psychoactive substance to monitor and enforce its ingestion by an otherwise free citizen.
I believe that at some very basic level empathy seems to have failed in a society that sees the need to develop a sensor-equipped psychoactive substance. The blasé emphasis on prioritizing prescription compliance, without considering the profound subjective experience – to anyone, let alone a person in crisis – of having a digitalized foreign object inserted deep inside, an object that is in turn sending messages to an invisible outside presence. This oversight amounts to a vertiginous stumble forward in our society’s failure to muster empathy and compassion for its members, instead delivering them, in the form of a now-literally captive market, to the drug makers.
I’ve been seeing clients in therapy for over 35 years, and at no point can I imagine sitting a few feet away from a person in distress and suggest to them that they should consider having a device inside them that would let me know every day at a distance their most intimate experiences – let alone when they digest something, lie down, or when they have taken their meds. I couldn’t do it. It would feel ghoulish and perverse.
And I don’t want to be a part of a society that would do. Even – and perhaps especially – if it were being done “in my name.”
There is an aura of something shameful, a violation of a basic human right to privacy and bodily boundaries that is being ignored in the pursuit of this new digital monitoring of psychiatric medication. The shame is that, with a pill that records the moment of its absorption into our bodies, we are seeing the realization of a long-sought ideal of totalitarian governments; to cross the blood-brain barrier, gaining access to the very seat of our autonomy, and of our souls. With this, Otsuka could fairly revamp its marketing for Abilify by renaming it “Dis-Abilify,” without so much as risking – and potentially augmenting, in a society that seems to be exuberantly embracing an Orwellian ideal – its market share.
This is a time, if there ever was one, for citizens to act, and to act decisively; before the ability to make decisions, let alone act on them, is excised from our bodies completely by the next wave of pharma development.
Of course some will object to my characterization of those who developed this seeming well-meaning medical breakthrough as lacking a moral compass. But I have already heard the cries of outrage and fear from many of those for whom this Orwellian medicine is intended.
I’ll end here with an ever-more apt quote from C.S. Lewis –
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims, may be the most oppressive.”
This entry first appeared at Mad in America on March 8, 2014.
The safety of our children is a sacred obligation we strive to preserve. Anything or anyone that harms them becomes the object of our distrust and potential wrath.
I want to raise the possibility that psychiatry, for all its accomplished champions like Thomas Insel of the NIMH, may have forgotten the elemental fear people feel for the safety of their children. If psychiatry becomes perceived as a consistently increasing threat to our children, then are its days as a monolithic social institution numbered?
This essay was prompted when I recently had a pronounced visceral reaction of repulsion as I read about dozens of young children being subjected to new MRI brain scan research. Many friends that I shared this research with had a similarly strong negative reaction. The NIMH-supported research article, “Disrupted Amygdala Reactivity in Depressed 4- to 6-Year-Old Children,” was reported in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. The two experimental groups were described as “… depressed 4- to 6-year-old children and their healthy peers.”
The pathologizing process of diagnosing and labeling a 4-year-old child as being a clinically depressed research subject and therefore unhealthy compared to their peers, is done with the assumption that making that medical diagnosis is in the best interest of the child.
It is harmful to assume something is wrong with a young child’s brain when there is no doubt ample evidence that something has happened or is happening in the child’s life, that is causing them distress, to say nothing about the negative effects of a child receiving a DSM identity-transforming diagnostic label and being officially categorized as an exceptionally young mental patient.
Plus, what does a doctor tell a 4-year-old child before the MRI machine starts? “Please hold very still now, because we need to find out if there is something wrong with your brain.”
The children in this research on depression were also described as being “medication-naive.” None of them had been on medications – yet. If the word “naive” was instead used to mean that the children were innocent, then that would be accurate because a 4-, 5-, or 6-year-old child is indeed innocent and is helplessly at the mercy of the adults who decide what happens to them.
For over 30 years, I’ve known and worked alongside many child psychiatrists. They are some of the most dedicated and caring people I have ever known. When I would repeatedly protest to them about the dangers of prescribing antipsychotic meds and SSRI’s to children and teens, the psychiatrists often, with true anguish would respond to me by saying, “But Michael, I have to do it! The latest brain imaging research says that psychosis damages the brain, and it has been shown that depression is caused by a lack of serotonin.”
The solid, peer-reviewed research I would then offer, attempting to counter their biochemical, genetic-based, disease model beliefs, would unfortunately not be taken seriously enough to change my psychiatrist coworkers’ minds.
To no avail, I would urge them to consider that valuable scientific inquiry in the broader field of psychology doesn’t have to be limited to only studying genetics and the physical human brain. They shunned the evidence proving the efficacy of psychosocial alternatives to psychiatric medications. They seemed compelled to elevate applied neuroscience as a reified paradigm of understanding and treating human psychological distress.
It should be no surprise that almost all psychiatrists continue to believe what they were taught in their medical training, and believe what is affirmed in every journal they read about the future of psychiatry being applied neuroscience, and that they believe what is repeated to them by every drug company rep who frequently visits them with medication samples.
The path seems to be clear ahead for even more research on preschool children’s brains, because NIMH Chief Thomas Insel has a clear vision that he is determined to make happen. When he says, “The future of psychiatry is clinical neuroscience based on a much deeper understanding of the brain,” Dr. Insel means that his five-year plan called the Human Connectome Project, that will build a baseline data base for brain structure and activity using MRI imaging is leaving the DSM era of psychiatry in the dust.
The DSM is an embarrassment for a world class research scientist like Insel. But what he envisions is much more ominous for children and everyone else.
Insel’s leadership at the NIMH has the very strong support of forced treatment advocate, Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, who says of Insel: “He is the best director we have ever had.”
Insel and newly-elected APA President Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman want to preside over a new era of psychiatry where it gains the stature of any other medical specialty based on hard science. Insel and Lieberman want a research-proven genetic and biological basis for psychiatry, to qualify it as a fully functioning and respected clinical neuroscience.
Dr. Lieberman has recently said in The Scientific American, that vocal critics of psychiatry are “Misinformed or misinforming self-interested ideologues and self-promoters who are spreading scientific anarchy.”
Dissidents such as may appear on Mad in America are dismissed as scientific anarchists by the head of the APA, while President Obama and Congress are hugely bankrolling the new NIMH research on the brain.
The dramatic future for psychiatry envisioned by Doctors Insel, Torrey and Lieberman as a golden age of applied neuroscience appears to be assured.
Is psychiatry, as such a powerful monolithic social institution, truly “too big to fail?” Or is there a hidden vulnerability present in the proud edifice?
I wrote a blog here on MIA a couple of years ago called “I Don’t Believe in Mental Illness, Do You?” What that means to me is that I don’t believe in the centuries-long medical model project of pathologizing human emotional suffering that is the hallmark of psychiatry.
The medical model never satisfied my answers about the causes and healings from my own experiences of emotional suffering and madness, or spoke to me as a reliable guide in helping the children and adults I provide therapy for. If I did believe in the medical model, I would surely do what my child psychiatrist friends unintentionally sometimes do – I would risk harming innocent children while truly believing that I am helping them.
What we believe can dictate what we do. But surely our beliefs should not result in children being harmed.
The problem is, that the medical model belief system sets psychiatrists up to be blind to its harmful applications. Psychiatrists who did lobotomies and sterilizations convinced themselves according to medical model tenets, that such harmful procedures were necessary and in the recipient’s best interest. The fact that child psychiatrists in Australia will actually administer ECT to children under 4 years old, and that antipsychotic and antidepressant medications are given to toddlers in the U.S., is dramatic continued proof of how the treatments dictated by a morally numb psychiatric science are still failing to pass the caregiver litmus test of “First, do no harm.”
Blindly failing that ethical test means that psychiatry is clearly in the process of losing the moral authority to deserve our trust, especially as we learn more of how our children are at risk of being harmed.
So, I have come to believe in recent years that Dr. Insel’s vision and the incredible psychiatric social experiment of pathologizing human emotional suffering will ultimately fail, because psychiatry will continue to zealously and blindly cross a morally repulsive line and forget that a great many people will never accept their children and grandchildren being exposed to danger.
I believe that at some point, those continued treatment excesses with our children will finally cause the general public to lose faith in and simply abandon psychiatry, moving on to a new paradigm of care where the growing demands for safe and nonpathologizing alternatives are met.
The obsolescence of psychiatry may not happen in my lifetime, but you will see the tide turn even more in that direction when a first young blogger appears on Mad in America to proclaim, “I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and put on antipsychotic medications when I was very young. Please understand, I was only four years old when they started injuring me.”
The chemical imbalance theory is so yesterday. Here comes the genetic theory of mental illness. Of course, pharma drugs supposedly fix the genetic flaws. If true, our brains are being genetically engineered by drugs.
by Michael Cornwall, Ph.D.
Does Anyone Want a Genetically Modified Brain? – Anti-Psychotic Medications May Have Been Causing It To Happen All Along
Move over outdated chemical imbalance theory, now it is claimed that genetic misregulation underlies psychiatric disease, and that psychiatric drugs themselves can fix the genetic misregulation problem. The just released report by the Toronto-based Krembil Epigenetics Laboratory says:
Anti-psychotics and mood stabilizing agents are capable of promoting epigenetic modifications associated with an active transcriptional state at disease-relevant loci, suggesting new molecular mechanisms of anti-psychotic efficacy.
The report—entitled “Epigenetics of Major Psychoses: Progress, Problems and Perspectives”—was supported by the Canadian Institute for Health and the National Institutes of Health. It represents the cutting edge science on the brain, genetics, and so-called psychiatric disease.
To me, this report heralds an Orwellian prophecy of hugely ominous proportions. Anti-psychotic and mood altering agents are being cheerfully seen as acceptable gene modifying substances that reverse the genetic misregulation that is boldly claimed to underlie so-called schizophrenia and bi-polar.
This is the new model. No more unprovable, debunked chemical imbalance theory of causation. Now we read:
Rapidly growing evidence shows that epigenetic regulation underlies normal cognition, and that cognition dysfunction occurs upon epigenetic misregulation.
Several psychiatric medications have been shown to produce epigenetic changes in the brain … the therapeutic actions of current medications for psychiatric disorders may occur via epigentic mechanisms.
Epigenetics, is the study of modifications that occur in our DNA, which cause certain genes to be suppressed. This report says that healthy genetic functioning or expression underlies normal cognitive functioning, and that genetic misregulation underlies psychiatric disease.
That in itself is a game changing model of human emotional suffering and madness if it is true. It tightens the science that says that all causation of human experience is caused by genetically determined neurological and biological forces and processes of normality vs. disease.
But to then assert that the psychiatric medications already in use can remedy all that, by altering us and changing how our genes work, is really breathtaking in its reach and possible consequences. The moral imperative to hesitate and deeply ponder how genetic science impacts people has been a much proclaimed safeguard in the field of genetics. That requisite moral imperative seems to have been skipped over in this zeal to applaud anti-psychotic medication use as a ready way to modify genetic expression. Won’t all prescriptions for anti-psychotic medications now have to include an informed consent about their genetic modifying effects? Most people I know don’t like to eat genetically modified produce. I wouldn’t be surprised if many people will be against their prescribed psychiatric drugs affecting their genetic functioning.
In this one landmark article, these researchers are claiming to have found the cause, and in psychiatric medications, the probable genetically modifying treatment for so-called schizophrenia and bi-polar. Should we doubt that every other DSM diagnosis will also be found to have such epigenetic underpinnings soon?
Maybe now the decades long, holy grail quest for a single gene causation of so-called schizophrenia, by the believers in the bio-psychiatry medical model, will come to an end.
Bob Whitaker’s recent courageous blog and video here on Mad In America traces the thread of eugenics in our history right up to the present in “The Taint Of Eugenics In NIMH-Funded Research Today.” It looks like our Canadian neighbors may have beaten our own NIMH in boldly declaring the new era of the interface of psychiatry with epigenetics.
Will this new era also seek to separate those perceived as normal humans from those believed to be genetically abnormal? Will pathologizing eyes care to look deeper and ask questions about human rights?
Does anyone deserve to have their brain and gene functioning altered, perhaps permanently by psychiatric medications?
Instead of celebrating this research, I grieve for the millions who were not offered a viable alternative to such medications and who still are not.
Republished from Mad in America with thanks!