On September 21, the Guardian/Observer (UK) ran an online article by Vaughan Bell titled Changing brains: why neuroscience is ending the Prozac era. Thanks to Paul Mace on Twitter for the link.
The gist of the article is that although the use of psycho-pharmaceutical products is at an all-time high and is still rising in most parts of the world, the psychiatric promise of drug-induced happiness may be at, or close to, its peak.
“In its place is a science focused on understanding the brain as a series of networks, each of which supports a different aspect of our experience and behaviour.”
For decades, psychiatry has been telling us, without evidence, that virtually all human problems are caused by “imbalances” in the chemicals that transmit messages between brain cells, and that these imbalances can be corrected by the drugs that pharma pays psychiatrists handsomely to promote.
The theory has always been nonsense, and has always had its critics, but we were voices in the wilderness, and were easily marginalized as “deniers” and “cranks.”
Today, thanks largely to the survivor movements and journalists like Robert Whitaker, the chemical imbalance theory is crashing about the feet of psychiatrists. You might imagine that their response would be: gosh, we’re so sorry. But no. Their response is: we never said that.
And – bold as ever – they’ve come up with a new theory to explain human woe: faulty brain circuits! But, take heart, sufferers, for relief is already here: brain stimulating implants. These are little gizmos that psychiatrists, presumably with the help of neurosurgeons, will implant inside your brain, neutralizing the precise circuit that’s causing you to worry about your children, or grieve for your deceased parent, or drink too much beer, or be violent, or throw the TV out the window – or whatever.
The article mentions a company called Medtronic, who claim that their products have been installed in the brains of more than 100,000 people. Most of these were for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease but:
“…increasingly they are being trialled for a wider range of problems. Recent studies have examined direct brain stimulation for treating pain, epilepsy, eating disorders, addiction, controlling aggression, enhancing memory and for intervening in a range of other behavioural problems.”
And Medtronic is just one manufacturer of these devices. Other manufacturers include Boston Scientific and St. Jude Medical Inc.
But history has a way of repeating itself. Here are some quotes from an AP report on Yahoo Finance dated December 12, 2011:
“Medtronic Inc., the world’s largest maker of medical devices, has agreed to pay $23.5 million to settle allegations that it paid kickbacks to doctors to implant its pacemakers and defibrillators, the U.S. Justice Department said Monday.”
“Over the past three years, the Justice Department has reached settlements with two other major medical devices makers — Boston Scientific and St. Jude Medical Inc. — over similar kickback allegations.”
Doesn’t that have a familiar ring?
Psychiatry – ever anxious to acquire physiological treatment to validate its spurious concepts and destructive track record – is embracing deep-brain stimulation with its characteristic fervor. I’ve just Googled “deep brain stimulation psychiatry mental illness,” and got 1.7 million hits! So the idea is catching on.
Columbia University’s psychiatry department (Chairman Jeffrey Lieberman, MD) has an information sheet on its Brain Stimulation Service. Here’s a quote:
“Stimulation with electrical or magnetic energy interacts with neurons, causing them to release chemicals called neurotransmitters, and possibly also helping form more healthy synapses, or connections, between nerve cells. Repeated stimulation can modulate or ‘reset’ the activity of specific regions of the brain to exert significant changes.”
Emory University has an article, Deep brain stimulation for psychiatric disorders, on PubMed. Here’s a quote:
“Investigators have produced preliminary data on the safety and efficacy of DBS for several psychiatric disorders, as well.”
So pretty soon, when people who are sad and depressed meet with their families and friends, they can talk about the gizmos inside their brains instead of talking about – and this is radical – the things that are making them sad and depressed.
Does anybody remember Harrison Bergeron?