Tag Archives: neurotoxins

The Power of Words to Shape Attitudes

I recently wrote a post called:  Do Major Tranquilizers Make Things Worse?  The post was based on a study by Drs. Harrow and Jobe in which they speculated that the high relapse rate of “schizophrenics” who stop taking their drugs may have more to do with drug withdrawal than the supposed drug efficacy.

Monica, at BeyondMeds, pointed out that these drugs should not be called tranquilizers because some of their effects (e.g. akathisia, tardive dyskinesia, etc.) are anything but tranquil.  And this, of course, is a good point.

I refuse to call them “anti-psychotics” because this name implies that they somehow target psychotic behavior, which is simply psychiatric-pharma spin.  They target all behavior.  Monica suggested neurotoxic chemicals which, of course, is accurate but overly inclusive.  Almost all the psychotropic products are neurotoxic.  I think I’ll go with neuroleptic – something that grips the nervous system.  It’s accurate enough and has a connotation of damage or harm.

In general, I try to be fairly precise with language.  For instance, I don’t usually use the term “mental illness” without putting it inside quotation marks. I do this to make the point that “mental illness” is not something real.  It is a fictitious construct.

Similarly for terms like “schizophrenia,” “bipolar disorder,” etc., the quotation marks, though a hindrance to easy reading, do help clarify the fact that these terms have no objective reference, i.e. they do not correspond to anything that exists in the real world.

But Monica’s comment has me wondering if I need to go even further. Consider the term antidepressant, which I don’t normally put inside quotation marks.  But in fact, we know from numerous studies, including some that were initially suppressed by pharma, that these products do not actually lift depression, but rather contribute to chronic depression.  So perhaps that term needs to be inside quotation marks.

Words are vehicles of communication, but they can also be powerful attitude shapers.  I never use the term electroconvulsive therapy, with its connotations of benign high-tech care.  I prefer shock “treatment.”  But perhaps I should be saying something like electrical destruction of brain cells.  It’s cumbersome but more accurate.

In the same vein, I never use the term medication to describe psychotropic products.  Instead I say drugs.  Psychiatric neurotoxins would be more accurate, but perhaps the general reader might not realize what I meant.

Psychiatry and pharma are aware of the connotative power of words, and they routinely use pleasant or positive sounding names to disguise the true nature of their products and “services.”  (More quotation marks!)

I suggest that we need to become equally vigilant and adept at finding words that convey the spurious nature of their concepts and the destructive effects of their activities.

Or to put it simply:  Let’s watch our language!