Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Robert Whitaker - "Anatomy of an Epidemic" - book review from outside mental health *Update*: Video - Whitaker speaking @ Alternitives Conference 2010


Robert Whitaker - "Anatomy of an Epidemic" - book review from outside mental health

I came across this thoughtfully written review of Robert Whitaker's Book "Anatomy of an Epidemic" I thought was well worth posting here since it comes from a source outside of the mental health world.

Link to Medical Center blog diabetes news A "Must Read" Book | medical center

A Must Read Book:

October 5, 2010 · Posted in Diabetes news

Though it isn’t about diabetes, I came across a book last week that I believe is essential reading for anyone with any interest in health-related topics.The book is Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America by Robert Whitaker.

Warning, this is not easy reading, because the story Whitaker makes–and documents–so convincingly is downright horrifying. And it makes the poor medical treatment and drug company malfeasance we in the diabetes community have come to take for granted look downright benign.

Because what Whitaker proves, quite convincingly, is that the drugs that doctors have been prescribing to people for transient, basically normal, episodes of mental imbalance are damaging their brains in ways that make them permanently mentally ill.

I knew from my own researches that the popular argument that people with depression have a “chemical imbalance that means they have to take psychiatric drugs just like people with diabetes need insulin” was utter hogwash. In fact, normal people and people who are depressed have identical amounts of serotonin in their brains, nor do the SSRIs actually raise the amount of serotonin long term.

But Whitaker documents that the psychiatrists who prescribe these drugs have also known this was untrue for decades, but continue to tell it to patients because it sounds convincing.

What I didn′t know, was that what all the psychiatric drugs do is downregulate receptors for neurotransmitters, which results in the brain growing MORE receptors for these neurotransimitters in an attempt to maintain homeostasis.

What this means is that, when a person who now has an abnormal distribution of neurotransmitters in their brain stops taking the psychiatric drug, the many new receptors in their brain regain sensitivity to the neurotransmitter. This causes the person to experience overloads of neurotransmitter signals that result in what is in fact an extreme state that is very much “mental illness.” But it isn’t the underlying condition causing the mental illness, it’s the warping of the brain structure caused by the drug.

What is even more tragic is this: Whitaker documents that after a very brief honeymoon period, these psychiatric drugs do NOT improve symptoms. In fact, the main thing they do is cloud the mind and decrease cognition.

He gives the frightening statistics showing how millions of people who take these drugs are unable to hold jobs, which contrasts with what used to be the case before these drugs were in widespread use.

Statistically reliable studies prove conclusively that in the pre-drug era and even today, people who do not take psychiatric drugs for depression or certain kinds of psychosis are far more likely to recover completely than those who take the drugs–by a huge percentage.

Even more significantly, far more people who don′t take the drugs, whatever their diagnosis, are able to keep on working productively, whereas those who take the drugs end up, overwhelmingly unemployed on disability, for life.

I had always wondered why the diagnosis of “Manic depression” a.k.a. “Bipolar″ which was extremely rare back in my youth had become so common now. My father was a clinical psychologist who headed the Psychology Department at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital and specialized in the use of diagnostic tests. So I grew up listening each night at the dinner table to long talks about psychiatric illnesses and their manifestations. Manic depression was considered a fascinating oddity, because it was very rare. Now it is so common you will find someone with it in any room containing fifty people.

Whitaker had an explanation for the surge in “bipolar” diagnoses, too. It turns out that cycling up and down, though mostly down, is another side effect caused by the commonly prescribed psychiatric drugs.

It turrns out that most people are not diagnosed as “bipolar” until AFTER they have been given an antidepressant for what is all too often the normal sadness everyone experiences as part of the process of growing up and living through the tough things that happen in life.

In the course of his book Whitaker demonstrates, with sickeningly convincing documentation, that the same pharmaceutical companies who brought you Avandia et al, hid the data that showed what their psychiatric drugs really do and how they worsen patient outcomes long term. Every time the psychiatric community has roused itself to question the usefulness of these drugs, the drug companies have done what they do best.

They’ve paid “thought leaders” huge consulting fees to promote their drugs to peers. They’ve made sure researchers avoided doing research that could kill their golden geese by making it clear that studies that damage their market will result in institutions losing the huge amount of “research” dollars the drug companies provide.

And of course, as they do in diabetes, they’ve put most of their efforts into marketing to the overburdened family doctor, who has no background in psychiatry but is the person who prescribes most psychiatric drugs to the average person.

Whitaker devotes a lot of room to the surging trend of putting children on these brain damaging drugs, and frankly, I found this section so painful to read I avoided completing it. To face the fact that doctors and schools are putting children on drugs that permanently damage the structure of the maturing brain in ways that ruin lives was like reading about the holocaust.

I know too much from my diabetes studies about how effective drug company marketing is in keeping doctors from knowing the truth about effective, non drug treatments for common conditions to be very hopeful that this terrible epidemic of drug-caused brain damage can be halted.

But as is the case with diabetes, people willing to read and study the facts can protect themselves and their friends and lovesd ones. And that is better than nothing.

So read this book.

Talk about its findings to your friends in the community. Get across to them what psychiatrists all used to know in the 1960s:

It’s normal for people to go through periods where they feel depressed but that the overwhelming majority of people who experience episodes of depression lasting a few months will recover completely with short term support and go on to live normal happy lives.

There is not an iota of proof that mental illness of any type is caused by “chemical imbalance.” The drugs prescribed for mental illness do not supply missing chemicals, they change the sensitivity and distribution of receptors and over time they shrink brain tissue in ways that look a lot like early dementia.

I worried that reading this book might prove too terrifying for those of you who have already been trapped by them, since I know that many people with diabetes developed their diabetes after taking one of them.

(Whitaker doesn’t go into this in depth, but I document on my site that SSRIs and atypical antipsychotics like Zyprexa are known to cause insulin resistance and outright diabetes in people who did not have them before taking them. Details HERE and HERE)

So I contacted the author and asked for resources for people who need support to confront these frightening facts.

He sent me this link:

The Icarus Project: Harm Reduction Guide To Coming Off Psychiatric Drugs & Withdrawal

If you are currently taking a dangerous psychiatric drug, read the link above. Do not attempt to get off these dangerous drugs before studying this information and providing yourself with a support system.

Recovery is possible, but stopping the drugs cold turkey can cause acute episodes of mental illness. Learn the safe way to recover your mental health and reverse the damage that has been done to your brain.

Robert Whitaker speaking @ the Alternatives conference 2010 in Anaheim California Video 1-4









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