I guess everybody knows by now that Robert Whitaker spoke at the NAMI conference in San Antonio last Saturday (June 29). You can view an outline of his speech, The Case for Selective Use of Antipsychotics here. He spoke about the fact that for people who have been assigned a “diagnosis” of “schizophrenia,” long-term outcomes are better among those who took relatively little of neuroleptic drugs, and worse among those who took relatively more.
NAMI traditionally is a strong supporter of bio-psychiatry. For years, Fuller Torrey was their champion and the psycho-pharmaceutical industry was their bank. I’m told that they’ve recently distanced themselves from Dr. Torrey and have stopped taking pharma money, but I haven’t seen these reports confirmed.
Anyway, the reception to Robert Whitaker’s address was predictably mixed, and there has been a good deal of discussion on the ‘net.
This morning, thanks to Monica on Twitter, I read a comment that was written by Kathy Brandt concerning Robert’s speech. Kathy is a former president of NAMI and served on their board of directors for six years. She has a son, whom she says has “…been on and off antipsychotics for more than ten years to treat the psychosis that comes with his bipolar episodes.”
Kathy’s response to Robert’s speech is very balanced, e.g.:
“Most difficult for those with mental illness and their families, me included, was the fear that the medicine we have relied on was damaging and that we had put our trust in the wrong hands.”
In her comment, Kathy raised a number of interesting questions. Here’s one of them:
“And how on earth do we treat people who are psychotic if not with antipsychotics?”
The fact is that neuroleptics are not antipsychotic drugs. They are actually neurotoxic major tranquilizers with devastating side effects, including tardive dyskinesia, akathisia, and loss of brain tissue.
These products are called antipsychotics by psychiatrists and by the pharmaceutical industry in order to create, and maintain, the false impression that these drugs somehow target psychotic thinking. In fact, they do have a suppressing effect on psychotic thinking in some individuals because they suppress all cognitive activity.
Using the term “anti-psychotic” to describe these toxic products is blatant and deliberate deception, but it has tragically become the norm in psychiatric circles.
Kathy – and this is not a criticism – bought the orthodoxy, and her question makes obvious sense. After all, don’t we treat infections with antibiotics; hypertension with anti-hypertensives; fungus infections with anti-fungals, etc…?
Why wouldn’t one treat psychotic thinking with antipsychotics? The only problem is that the drugs in this case are not antipsychotics. (And, of course, psychotic thinking is not an illness, but that’s a different issue.) The fact that Kathy phrased her question the way she did is a tribute to pharma marketing spin. These guys really know what they’re doing!
Again, I stress, this post is not a criticism of Kathy. She’s worried about her son and struggling to do what’s best. But she has been cruelly deceived for ten years by the profit-driven psychiatry/pharma consortium. My heart goes out to her.
Incidentally, in recent years these drugs are being widely used to control temper tantrums in children. It will be interesting to see if psychiatry/pharma changes the name again to spin this development: “anger-abatement antipsychotics” perhaps?
And let’s not forget that these drugs are also being given to returning soldiers for “PTSD.” “Anger-abatement, anti-painful memories antipsychotics”?
It’s time, I think, to call a spade a spade.