04/28/17

Psychiatric Huffing and Puffing

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For awhile now I’ve been aware of the ongoing dispute between mainline psychiatry and what is disparagingly referred to as the “anti-psychiatry” movement instead of the critical psychiatry movement.  Over time I have come to identify with the “anti-psychiatric” types. The term sets up a false dichotomy, implying you can only be “for” or “against” psychiatry. Critiques of psychiatric diagnosis or the use of psychiatric medications are regularly dismissed out-of-hand by mainline psychiatry. One of the ongoing dialogues of dispute occurs between the author and journalist Robert Whitaker and the eminent psychiatrist Ronald Pies.

Robert Whitaker is the author of three books that relentlessly drive their readers to question the narrative for mental illness and psychiatry verbalized by mainline psychiatrists like Ronald Pies. These books are: Mad in America, Anatomy of an Epidemic and Psychiatry Under the Influence.  His articles on the mentally ill and the drug industry have won several awards. A series he wrote for The Boston Globe was a finalist for the Pulitzer in 1998. Anatomy was the 2010 winner for best investigative journalism by Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc. Mad in America is also the name of a nonprofit organization and webzine, madinamerica.com, whose mission is “to serve as a catalyst for rethinking psychiatric care in the United States (and abroad).”

Ronald Pies is a noted psychiatrist, a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Tufts University and SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse NY. He is also Editor in Chief Emeritus of Psychiatric Times. A bit of a Renaissance man, he’s published poetry: The Heart Broken Open, a novel: The Director of the Minor Tragedies, nonfiction: Becoming a Mensch: Timeless Talmudic Ethics for Everyone, as well as psychiatry: Psychiatry on the Edge, Handbook of Essential Psychopharmacology and psychotherapy: The Judaic Foundations of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.  He has authored or coauthored several other books as well.

Whitaker and Mad in America authors have disagreed with Pies on several issues. For example, they disagreed on whether psychiatrists widely promoted the chemical imbalance theory (see “Psychiatry DID Promote the Chemical Imbalance Theory” and “My Response to Dr. Pies” on madinamerica.com); or whether the long-term use of antipsychotics is helpful (see “Dr. Pies and Dr. Frances Make a Compelling Case that Their Profession is Doing Great Harm on madinamerica.com).

Into this mix Pies has written three articles for Psychiatric Times: “Is There Really an ‘Epidemic’ of Psychiatric Illness in the US?,” “The Bogus ‘Epidemic’ of Mental Illness in the US” and “The Astonishing Non-Epidemic of Mental Illness.” He’s clearly playing off of Whitaker’s book: Anatomy of an Epidemic. In his third article, “The Astonishing Non-Epidemic of Mental Illness,” Pies said that the epidemic of mental illness narrative is (with a few qualifications) “mostly fear-mongering drivel.” It sells books and makes for good online chatter, but “The so-called epidemic of mental illness among adults in the US proves largely illusory.”

He did some rhetorical sleight-of-hand, stating that by pulling out the bottom card of the epidemic narrative, the entire house of cards of the anti-psychiatry movement would collapse. In order to do this, he first quoted what he said was the CDC definition of epidemic: “ . . . an increase, often sudden, in the number of cases of a disease above what is normally expected in that population in that area . . .” Pies then said the CDC definition of epidemic applied to actual cases of disease; not to changing rates of diagnosis, which are subject to many socio-cultural variables. The distinction was critical,

Since psychiatry’s critics do not claim merely that there is more diagnosis of schizophrenia or major depression; rather, they claim there are actually more people sick with these illnesses, owing to misguided or harmful psychiatric treatment.

Remember that in psychiatric diagnosis, there are relatively few diagnoses that can be confirmed by medical tests. The vast majority of psychiatric disorders are assessed by a diagnostic process alone. If you demonstrate to a clinician that you meet the diagnostic criteria for a psychiatric disorder, you are treated as if you actually have the disorder. So Pies seems to be splitting hairs with his distinction between actual cases and diagnoses. And I don’t think he really hasn’t made as telling a point as he thought.

It would seem he is suggesting that psychiatric diagnostic rates for a disorder are overstated from the actual cases because of the influence of socio-cultural variables.  Yet how can you distinguish the actual cases from the false positives due to socio-culturally influenced diagnosis? The same diagnostic criteria are used. Is there an unstated assumption that diagnostic inflation is due to factors beyond psychiatry? Namely, that if a trained psychiatrist follows the structured clinical interview process, only actual cases of a psychiatric disorder will be identified?

Pies also said the “epidemic” claim was largely based on the increasing US rates of psychiatric disability over the past 50 years. Here he cited an article by Whitaker without mentioning Whitaker’s name. He dismissed the validity of using disability determinations, saying they cannot be used as “a legitimate index of disease incidence or prevalence.” He then shifts the focus to affirm there is a growing population of “persons with serious psychiatric illness who are not receiving adequate treatment.” Here he named two well-known psychiatrists who have written of their concerns with the “epidemic” of neglect with our most severely impaired citizens. But one of the persons he mentioned, Dr. Fuller Torrey, wrote The Invisible Plague about the rise of mental illness from 1750 to the present.

In the Introduction to The Invisible Plague Torrey described what he saw as “the epidemic of insanity.”  He said a major impediment to understanding the epidemic of insanity was that its onset occurred over so many years. Few people fully appreciated what was happening. “Those who did raise an alarm were largely ignored.” He said the suggestion today that we are living in the midst of an epidemic of insanity strikes most people as unbelievable.

Insanity is an invisible plague. There are no body counts with which one can compare the present with the past. In most countries, there are remarkably few statistics that can be used to assess insanity’s prevalence over time. Professional textbooks assume that insanity has always been present in approximately the same numbers as now.

Fuller Torrey is a believer in insanity as an epidemic of brain dysfunction. And he blames the likes of Michel Foucault, Thomas Szasz, Ronald Laing and others for emptying the insane asylums that have been “the mainstay for containing the epidemic for a century and a half,” without insuring these individuals received the treatment needed to control the symptoms of their illness.

When looking at the costs of this epidemic, Torrey said the combined costs in 1991 for the US were $110 billion. “And this included the single largest disease category for federal payments under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) programs.” So in quantifying the cost of the epidemic of insanity, Torrey used the same statistic to make his point that Whitaker did. Pies either didn’t realize this, or ignored it in his critique of Whitaker. I wonder if Pies sees what Torrey said as fear-mongering drivel or one of the few qualifications?

Pies dismissively cited two articles written by Marcia Angell for The New York Review of Books in 2011 (“The Epidemic of Mental Illness: Why?” and “The Illusions of Psychiatry”) in all three of his articles as an example of the promotion of the false narrative of “the raging epidemic of mental illness.” Her articles discussed three books and their implications for psychiatry: The Emperor’s New Drugs, Anatomy of an Epidemic, and Unhinged: The Trouble with Psychiatry. Angell’s review of Whitaker’s book drew it to the attention of a wide audience; so it seems this may be at least partly why Pies is dismissive of it.

However, read her articles. They will give you a thumbnail sketch of issues Pies goes to great lengths to deny and minimize. Then read the books she discusses. Remember that Marcia Angell is a Senior Lecturer at Harvard Medical School and was the first woman to serve as editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine. Don’t be dismissive of what she has to say; she has great credibility.

There is one final point to be made with regard to Pies’ third article. In the conclusion, he references Thomas Kuhn’s idea of “paradigm,” saying it is misleading and unfair to suggest that psychiatry is laboring under a “failed paradigm.” This was, he said, because “there is no one paradigm the defines all of psychiatry or that dictates practice on the part of all psychiatrists.” But I wonder if he truly understood the implications to his comment. If you apply Kuhn’s notion of paradigm (“a paradigm is what members of a scientific community share”) with Pies’ application of the term to psychiatry, then you would have to conclude that psychiatry as it’s practiced, is NOT a science. Rather, it would either be what Kuhn called a “pseudoscience” or pre-scientific. He also seems to be oblivious to the possibility of an implicit paradigm generated in psychiatric practice with DSM diagnosis—that it classifies a real “illness” or “disease” of the brain.

I’m reminded of what Robert Whitaker pointed out in his review of Jeffrey Lieberman’s book Shrinks, “The Untold Story of Psychiatry.” Whitaker noted how speeches given by the presidents of the American Psychiatric Association at their annual meetings regularly sounded the same theme: “Psychiatrists are true heroes.” He said it struck him that Shrinks served as an institutional self-portrait of psychiatry. “What you hear in this book [Shrinks] is the story that the APA and its leaders have been telling to themselves for some time.” Similarly, it seems Pies is preaching to the psychiatric choir—a message that there really isn’t an epidemic increase in mental illness; the argument of the anti-psychiatry movement is just a house of cards. Yet it seems to me that house is still standing despite the huffing and puffing of Pies and others.

07/12/16

Common Sense with Lithium

© Suljo | stockfresh.com

© Suljo | stockfresh.com

Lithium carbonate (not the element lithium) is used as a psychiatric medication primarily with bipolar disorder. It can be used with other psychiatric disorders such as major depression and schizophrenia, when first line medications are not effective. There are several advantages to lithium, particularly when it comes to cost. Available as a generic medication, a typical daily dose costs between 90 cents and $1.20. Major downsides are that therapeutic doses are just lower than toxic doses and there is the potential of direct damage to the kidneys and thyroid.

The website drugs.com said that since the toxic levels for lithium are so close to the therapeutic levels, patients and their families should watch for early symptoms, then discontinue the drug and inform the physician should they occur. Indications of lithium toxicity may include: diarrhea, vomiting, drowsiness, muscular weakness and lack of coordination. There are a host of other potential side effects that include: confusion, dry mouth, muscle twitching or trembling, vertigo, increased urination, memory problems and weight gain. These are only a few of the side effects found in 10% or more of the persons using lithium. See drugs.com or the Wikipedia listing for a more detailed discussion of lithium side effects.

In the late 1800s lithium was a popular ingredient in elixirs and tonics. It was even added to beer and other beverages. The theory was that it dissolved uric acid, so it could break up kidney stones and the uric acid crystals associated with gout. It was found to have no such effects. Lithium was eventually banned by the FDA in 1949 when it was found to cause cardiovascular problems.

Coincidentally, that same year an Australian physician named John Cade published a paper describing his treatment of 10 patients with mania with lithium. Cade had noticed that lithium made guinea pigs docile, so he thought it could have a therapeutic effect in manic patients. He announced dramatic effects in his paper and claimed they were specific to mania. What he failed to mention was that one patient died, two others had to discontinue lithium because of severe toxicity and one patient refused to take it. None of this was reported in his paper. Side effects were noted 41 times in the clinical records, but only 1 time in the published article. See The Myth of the Chemical Cure by Joanna Moncrieff for a more detailed description of lithium as a psychiatric treatment.

In Anatomy of an Epidemic, Robert Whitaker noted that psychiatrists in the U.S. had little interest in lithium until manic-depression was distinguished into unipolar and bipolar forms. Only a few placebo-controlled trials of lithium had ever been done up to that point. In 1985 UK researchers could only identify four with any merit. But within those studies, lithium was said to have a good response rate in 75% of the patients. This was much higher than the response rate in the placebo group.

A 1994 meta-analysis of nineteen studies by J.P. Baker of patients who were on lithium and had their lithium withdrawn showed that 53.7% of the patients relapsed, versus 37.5% of the lithium-maintained patients. This was seen as clear evidence that lithium prevented relapse. However, only 29% of patients who were gradually withdrawn from lithium relapsed. Note how this rate was better than those in the drug-maintained group.

Whitaker said this wasn’t very robust evidence of lithium’s benefit to patients, especially when you considered the additional studies raising concerns about lithium’s long-term effects. There was also a high rate of patients who stopped taking lithium—over 50%—because of how the drug dulled their minds and slowed their physical movements. In 1999 Baldessarini et al. found that almost half of all patients relapsed within five months of quitting lithium, while individuals who did not use lithium took nearly three years to reach that percentage of relapse. “The time between episodes following lithium withdrawal was seven times shorter than it was naturally.” Whitaker noted:

Although lithium is still in use today, it lost its place as a first-line therapy once “mood stabilizers” were brought to market in the late 1990s.

Now there has been a growing body of evidence that suggests lithium prevents suicide. In 2003 Baldessarini and others found that long-term lithium maintenance patients had lower suicide rates than individuals who did not. Cipriani et al. found lithium was an effective treatment for reducing the risk of suicide in people with mood disorders as well as bipolar disorder. Lewitzka et al. did a comprehensive review of more than 20 years of studies investigating the anti-suicide effect of lithium in patients with affective disorders. They also concluded lithium to be “an effective treatment for reducing the risk of suicide and suicide attempts in patients with affective disorders over the long-term course.”

Joanna Moncrieff reviewed several meta-analyses indicating the anti-suicide effects of lithium in The Myth of the Chemical Cure and said the studies included in these analyses had conflicting results. An article on her website, “Lithium and Suicide: What Does the Evidence Show?” said the proposed effect of decreased mortality rates was inexplicable since lithium was a toxic drug that made most people feel rather depressed. She wondered if the sedating effect of the lithium sapped people of the will to act. “A closer look at the evidence, however, suggests the idea [lithium reducing suicidality] is simply not justified.”

The first issue was that the evidence supporting this idea consisted of follow-up studies with individuals on long-term lithium, as with Copper et al. Moncrieff commented how these people are a particularly compliant group with medication. “People who follow their lithium regime religiously are, in general, not likely to be the people who are chaotic, impulsive, desperate and most likely to commit suicide.” One study, by Gonzalez-Pinto et al., showed that people who were highly compliant with their lithium were five times less likely than those who were ‘poorly compliant’ to commit suicide. A second issue was that given small margin of error between therapeutic and toxic doses of lithium, people with suicidality tendencies are less likely to be given lithium.

Another confounding issue is that people with medical conditions are less likely to be given lithium. Not only can lithium cause kidney and thyroid problems, but it interacts with many commonly prescribed drugs like diuretics, ACE inhibitors and NSAIDS like aspirin and ibuprofen. This can result in dangerously high lithium levels. So caution is used when starting lithium with someone who is physically sick or taking other medication. Moncrieff said better randomized controlled trials are needed.

She thought it curious that a meta-analysis by Cipriani et al. in 2013 did not include a single placebo-controlled trial where the suicide rate was zero, so she looked more closely at its methology. Moncrieff discovered that the authors excluded any trial whose treatment arm was uninformative, namely those whose suicide rates were zero. “This decision is totally unsound, however, as it reduces the denominator (the total number of participants) and thereby makes the events included appear more common than they actually were.” She speculated this was why some well-known studies were not included in the analysis of suicides. When the studies with no suicides were included, “the number of participants would have been much larger and the proportion of suicides in the placebo group much smaller.”

 So there is the evidence on lithium and suicide. The meta-analysis that has been accepted as demonstrating that lithium prevents suicide spuriously inflated the suicide rate on placebo by excluding studies in which no suicides occurred. The only double blind, prospective study designed to test whether lithium reduces suicide in people at high risk, ended up unblinding many of its participants, and in any case suicidal events were low in both groups.

The fact that studies of suicide prevention have been so difficult to recruit to, suggests patients may have more sense than researchers in this field!

05/31/16

To Be or Not to Be Bipolar

53409894_sOn The Oprah Winfrey Show in October 2007, Sinéad O’Connor disclosed that she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2003. The website, “Famous Bipolar People,” said Sinéad had suffered from depression and had thoughts of suicide since the age of 23. She also experienced voices urging her to harm herself. The voices got so loud, she said, she took herself to hospital. She was put on antidepressants, which helped. “These all confirmed that she had bipolar disorder.” Then a few years ago, she went public with an announcement that she had been misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder for eight years.

During her interview with Oprah, she said she didn’t think she was born with bipolar disorder. She thought her illness was caused by a number of outside pressures. “I believe it was created as a result of the violence I experienced.” She was scared to take the medication at first. But she realized that she had nothing to lose, so she tried them. “It was brilliant because I felt this huge hole. And when I took the meds, within half an hour, it was literally like I felt concrete coming in to fill the hole.” She said she thought she had died and then was ‘born again’ as a result of taking the meds.

But after spending eight years on the medications, she realized her depression was still there. Additionally, “some of the same problems she’d had before being medicated were persisting.” And she received complaints about her weight from people in the music business. By the way, weight gain is one of the side effects from antipsychotic medication. When she mentioned her weight problem to her doctors, they suggested taking her off of the bipolar meds as a remedy.

Writing for About Health, Angel Rouse said O’Connor was alarmed with the casualness of the suggestion and aware that simply stopping meds could be dangerous. So she sought outside opinions, eventually getting three additional ones. Their conclusion was that she was not bipolar. Rather, she actually suffered from PTSD. She revealed that when she cancelled her tour in 2012, she had tried to stop taking her medication cold turkey. Ironically, as a result of that attempt, she struggled with bipolar problems of mania and depression for nearly a year. Interviewed for the Irish Mirror, she said:

The illness was in fact what happens when you don’t go about coming off these meds properly. I’m delighted to be able to say that after ten years of poisoning myself with these drugs and having to live with the extremely difficult side-effects of them I can shortly begin the very, very slow indeed, process of getting them out of my system and my life and getting my life back.

Sinéad O’Connor is not a unique case. The NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) website claims that 2.6% or 6.1 million American adults have a bipolar disorder. NAMI referenced this “mental health fact” on data they took from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), which in turn cited this article by Kessler et al. from JAMA Psychiatry on the prevalence, severity and comorbidity of DSM-IV disorders. See Table 1 in the article for the reported percentage. But if Sinéad O’Connor could be misdiagnosed as having a bipolar disorder and mistakenly placed on potentially harmful medications that are seen as necessary to stabilize and control the bipolar ‘illness,’ how many others are similarly misdiagnosed? Regarding the medications she was on, O’Connor told the Irish Mirror:

They are extremely debilitating drugs. Tiring to the extreme. Ironically, extremely depressing. They can cause suicidal or self-harm type thinking. They can mess up your menstrual cycle very badly and cause you to be incapacitated for a week before. . . . [They] f**k up your liver, your kidneys, your eyes, your appetite, your entire way of thinking and generally your entire life.

Within his seminal book, Anatomy of an Epidemic, Robert Whitaker described “The Bipolar Boom” in chapter nine. He related a talk given by Fredrick Goodwin at the 2008 annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Goodwin said the illness has been altered since 1990. There was more rapid cycling; more mixed states; more lithium treatment failures than when he’d coauthored Manic-Depressive Illness. “The illness is not what Kraepelin described anymore, and the biggest factor, I think, is that most patients who have the illness get an antidepressant before they ever get exposed to a mood stabilizer.” Whitaker said not everyone speaking agreed that antidepressants had been disastrous for bipolar patients, but no one questioned Goodwin’s assessment that bipolar outcomes had noticeably worsened since 1990.

On his website, Whitaker noted that before 1955, bipolar illness had been a rare disorder. Only 12,750 people were hospitalized with the disorder that year. There were only about 2,400 “first admissions” that year in the country’s mental hospitals. Outcomes were fairly optimistic. Seventy-five percent of these first-admissions were projected to recover within 12 months. And only 15% of first-time admissions were expected to become chronically ill. And at least 70% were projected to return to work and have active social lives.

Today, bipolar illness is said to affect one in every 40 adults in the United States. A rare disorder has become a very common diagnosis. There are several reasons for this. First, many drugs–both illicit and legal–can stir manic episodes, and thus usage of those drugs leads many to a bipolar diagnosis. Second, the diagnostic boundaries of bipolar illness have been greatly broadened.

Allen Frances is a psychiatrist and the author of Saving Normal. He was also the chair for the DSM-IV, which expanded the criteria in diagnosing bipolar diagnosis by adding the bipolar II category. In Saving Normal, he described a dilemma when the APA was revising bipolar diagnosis for the fourth edition of the DSM. Patients with “hypomania,” less-than-full-manic episodes, didn’t fit neatly into the unipolar or bipolar depression categories. The bipolar II category was seen as a compromise that would lessen the dangers of classifying them as having unipolar depression and treating them with antidepressant medication that could trigger a manic episode.

We knew that bipolar II would expand the bipolar category somewhat into unipolar territory, but we did not think that it would double. Undoubtedly, our decision resulted in more accurate diagnosis and safer treatment for many previously missed truly bipolar patients. But like all fads, it overshot and had led to unnecessary medication for many unipolar patients who have been misdiagnosed as bipolar on very flimsy grounds and are now receiving unnecessary mood stabilizing drugs.

Whether you agree with Frances’ assessment that adding bipolar II resulted in more accurate diagnosis and safer treatment for many, don’t miss that he also said it led to misdiagnosis and unnecessary medication.  If you follow this link, also given above, to Robert Whitaker’s website, Mad in America, you will find a series of journal articles describing how substance abuse can be related to developing bipolar disorder; the effects of antidepressant use on bipolar disorder and how these drugs can worsen long-term bipolar outcomes; and the deterioration of bipolar outcomes in the modern era.

For a postscript, I want to return to note one last piece of information on Sinéad O’Connor. While she has cast off her diagnosis of bipolar disorder, it isn’t finished with her. Many websites, like that of “Famous Bipolar People” mentioned above, still list her as one of their own. There was a concluding note in the “About Health” article on Sinéad O’Connor that said: “In spite of her having stated clearly on several occasions that she does not have bipolar disorder, O’Connor continues to be included at many sites that compile lists of famous bipolar people.”

Famous Bipolar People, if Sinéad had said it’s over between the two of you, accept it and move on. There are plenty of more fish in the sea. You still have Kay Redfield Jamison. She’s written two books that touch on bipolar disorder, An Unquiet Mind and Touched with Fire. And both have been made into movies. The movie, Touched with Fire, is a fictional love story about two people with bipolar disorder who meet in a psychiatric hospital and fall in love. The trailer has a slight Romeo and Juliet feel to it; two young lovers who family and friends try to keep apart. So there will be plenty of new discussions about who is and who isn’t bipolar related to the movie. Just let go of Sinéad; let her go and move on.

08/19/15

A Censored Story of Psychiatry, Part 2

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© alexskopje | 123rf.com

I was taken aback by Lieberman’s tone in describing Rosenhan as scornfully observing that no staff raised an issue of the apparent sanity of the pseudopatients in his famous study: “Being Sane in Insane Places.” Lieberman then said Rosenhan “saw another opportunity to inflict damage on psychiatry’s crumbling credibility.” Actually, a research and teaching hospital had been vocally saying that they doubted that such an error could occur in their hospital. So Rosenhan approached them and proposed that over a three month time period (not a year, as Lieberman claimed in what he indicated was a direct quote), “one or more pseudopatients would attempt to be admitted into the psychiatric hospital.” Here is what Lieberman wrote concerning what Rosenhan did:

He approached a large prestigious teaching hospital that had been especially vocal in contesting Rosenhan’s finding with a new challenge: “Over the coming year, I will send in another round of imposters to your hospital. You try to detect them, knowing full well that they will be coming, and at the end of the year we will see how many you catch.”

Rosenhan reported that the hospital staff members rated each patient on the likelihood of being a pseudopatient. Judgments were obtained on 193 patients admitted for psychiatric treatment. All staff members that had contact with the patients were asked to make judgments. Forty-one admissions were judged with high confidence to be pseudopatients. “Twenty-three were considered suspect by at least one psychiatrist. Nineteen were suspected by one psychiatrist and one other staff member.” Rosenhan then said: “Actually, no genuine pseudopatient (at least from my group) presented himself during this period.” Rosenhan encapsulated the question raised by his study in the provocative opening sentence of his article: “If sanity and insanity exist, how shall we know them?”

Psychiatry was at a crucial time of its history in 1973. Rosenhan’s article was published in January of 1973. Lieberman reported that the Board of Trustees for the American Psychiatric Association (APA) called an emergency conference in February of 1973 “to consider how to address the crisis and counter the rampant criticism.” He said that the Board realized that the best way to counter the “tidal wave of reproof” was to produce a fundamental change in how mental illness was “conceptualized and diagnosed.” They authorized the creation of a third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the DSM.

The APA eventually appointed Robert Spitzer to chair the revision process of the DSM-III, which was a radical change in how psychiatric diagnosis was done and how mental illness was conceptualized. As Robert Whitaker and Lisa Cosgrove reported in Psychiatry Under the Influence, the DSM-III was an instant success. “In the first six months following its publication, the APA sold more copies of its new manual than it had previously sold of its two prior DSM editions combined.” The DSM was adopted by insurance companies, the courts, governmental agencies, colleges and universities. It structured discussion in psychology textbooks. It was required to do research in the U.S. and eventually abroad as well. “DSM III became psychiatry’s new ‘Bible’ throughout much of the world.” Lieberman claimed:

The DSM-III turned psychiatry away from the task of curing social ills and refocused it on the medical treatment of severe mental illnesses. Spitzer’s diagnostic criteria could be used with impressive reliability by any psychiatrist from Wichita to Walla Walla.

What’s missing from this triumphal rhetoric is the battle waged by Spitzer against Rosenhan’s study and its implications as he and others worked to revise psychiatric diagnosis—and its reliability problems. In the 1980 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child [& Adolescent] Psychiatry, Michael Rutter and David Shaffer, both academic psychiatrists, were critical of the published reports of reliability studies done of the DSM-III field trials. Referring to two 1979 published reports by Spitzer, they commented that while the studies were useful, “as pieces of research they leave much to be desired.”

Both reports concern the reliability study which involved clinicians “from Maine to Hawaii.” Unfortunately this impression of spread is largely spurious in that the reliability concerned agreements only between close colleagues (each clinician chose his own partner in the study). . . . Of course, we are acutely aware of the difficulties involved in such field studies and it may well be that this was the best that could be done within the time and resources available. However, the findings do little to provide a scientific basis for DSM-III.

Note how Rutter and Shaffer’s comments about: “clinicians from Maine to Hawaii” applies equally to Lieberman’s rhetoric on: “any psychiatrist from Wichita to Walla Walla.” Both Psychiatry Under the Influence and The Selling of DSM have more comprehensive critiques of the claimed success in conquering reliability and validity problems with psychiatric diagnosis. But Lieberman’s “uncensored history” of psychiatry in Shrinks is completely silent on this well documented dispute. Ironically, in the same issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, Spitzer and Cantwell described how the DSM-III was “considerably more inclusive and more comprehensive,” than its predecessor, the DSM-II.

In a disclaimer paragraph on the page before the Shrinks Table of Contents, Lieberman said that bucking the convention in academics of using ellipses or brackets in quotations, he avoided them. “So as to not interrupt the narrative flow of the story.” But he assured us that he made sure that any extra or missing words did not change the original meaning of the speaker or the writer. So he did not use an author-date reference system that included endnotes with references and page numbers for the quotes he cited. But he did say the sources of the quotes are all listed in the Sources and Additional Reading section. And if you wanted to see the original versions of the quotations, they were available at: www.jeffreyliebermanmd.com. When I checked the website at the end of July 2015, they were not available for download or viewing on any page.

As I think I’ve demonstrated, Dr. Lieberman made some very specific claims about David Rosenhan’s professional background and expertise that were false. His presentation of the famous Rosenhan study appeared to be distinctly biased and inaccurate in places. He presented as a quote of David Rosenhan something that he did not say in “Being Sane in Insane Places.” Was it a quote from another source, perhaps someone else claiming the quoted material as what Rosenhan said? We don’t know and cannot know because Lieberman didn’t use conventional citations in presenting his storyline for Shrinks. He was tellingly silent on issues such as questions about the reliability of DSM-III diagnoses from the time of its publication.

Because of these and other problems with his version of psychiatric history, I did not find that Shrinks was “the uncensored story of how we [psychiatry] overcame our dubious past.” If anything, its dubiousness seems to be continuing into the present. But you won’t hear about those issues in Shrinks.

If you are interested in alternative views of psychiatric history, ones with endnotes and footnotes, I suggest you read Mad in America or Anatomy of an Epidemic by Robert Whitaker; Psychiatry Under the Influence, by Robert Whitaker and Lisa Cosgrove; or The Mad Among Us by Gerald Grob. Chapter two of Psychiatry Under the Influence, “Psychiatry Adopts a Disease Model,” gives a significantly more nuanced survey of psychiatric diagnostic history than Shrinks. Whitaker and Cosgrove’s use of the idea of guild interests of psychiatry was very helpful to me in putting Shrinks into perspective.

Be forewarned that Whitaker is not one of Lieberman’s favorite people. In a radio interview promoting his new book Shrinks, Dr Lieberman said that Whitaker was a “menace to society because he’s basically fomenting misinformation and misunderstanding about mental illness and the nature of treatment.” Here is a link to where this was reported on Whitaker’s website, Mad in America. There is also a link there to the original radio interview. Look around at the other material on the site, including further responses by Whitaker and others on Dr. Lieberman’s remarks.

12/3/14

To Use or Not Use Antidepressants

Image by Lightsource

Image by Lightsource

I ran across a report from the National Center for Health Statistics when reading Saving Normal by Allen Frances that had some incredible facts about antidepressant use in the United States. The report said that 11% of Americans 12 years and over take antidepressant medication. Women were 2.5 times as likely to take antidepressants as men. Individuals 40 and over are more likely to take antidepressants than those younger than 40. “Twenty-three percent of women aged 40-59 take antidepressants, more than any other age-sex group.”

When the severity of depressive symptoms was considered, use of antidepressant medication rose as the severity of symptoms increases. This seems logical; the worse your depression is, the more likely you are to try medication. But look at the other end of symptom severity—7.6% of those taking antidepressants have NO REPORTED symptoms of depression. The Data Brief pointed out that this group could include people taking antidepressants for reasons other than depression and those who are being “successfully” treated with antidepressants, and just don’t have any symptoms currently. See the table below.

Depressive symptoms

Percent

Total

   None

7.6

   Mild

19.2

   Moderate

28.4

   Severe

33.9

Males

   None

4.4

   Mild

11.5

   Moderate

18.6

   Severe

21.0

Females

   None

10.9

   Mild

24.6

   Moderate

34.5

   Severe

39.9

Allen Frances suggested that part of the problem was that drug companies capitalized on the placebo effect, that is: “people getting better because of positive expectations independent of any specific healing effect of the treatment.” Treating the “worried well” expanded the customer pool and guaranteed a pool of satisfied customers. “Placebo responders often become long-term loyalists to medication use even when the medication is perfectly useless.”

The best way to get great results with a pill is to treat people who don’t really need it—the highest placebo response rates occur in those who would get better naturally and on their own.

What’s at stake? The Statistics Portal indicated that the top ten selling antidepressants in 2011-2012 grossed 8.5 billion dollars. Considering that most of the antidepressants are off patent and not as profitable to the drug companies, this is an incredible haul. Another indication of the pervasiveness of antidepressant use in the U.S. is to look at the number of prescriptions written. The top antidepressant drugs in the U.S. based upon the number of dispensed prescriptions in 2011-2012 are given in the following chart, again from The Statistics Portal.

Antidepressants

Prescriptions

Celexa (citalopram hydrobromide)

39,087,000

Zoloft (sertaline hydrochloride)

37,893,000

Prozac (fluoxetine hydrochloride)

24,961,000

Trazadone (trazadone hydrochloride)

23,449,000

Cymbalta

18,468,000

Lexapro

16,367,000

Paxil (paroxetine hydrochloride)

13,834,000

Effexor (venlafaxine hydrochloride ER)

13,679,000

Wellbutrin (bupropion hydrochloride XL)

13,365,000

Elavil (amitriptyline hydrochloride)

12,880,000

Returning to the NCHS Data Brief, once people start taking antidepressants, they tend to continue taking them. Sixty-one percent of Americans taking an antidepressant have been taking it longer than 2 years; 13.6% have been taking them ten or more years. The problem is that the widespread use of antidepressants and their long-term use may be actually causing depression.

Robert Whitaker commented in Anatomy of an Epidemic that prior to the appearance of antidepressant drugs, depression was seen as a rare problem with typically good outcomes over time. Now the NIMH says that an episode of major depression “can occur only once in a person’s lifetime, but more often, a person has several episodes.” In 2012, an estimated 16 million adults and 2.2 million adolescents had at least one depressive episode in the past year.

Whitaker noted how Italian psychiatrist, Giovanni Fava began in 1994 to look at the changing face of depression. In that article, Fava raised the possibility that “long-term use of antidepressant drugs may also increase the biochemical vulnerability to depression and decrease its likelihood of subsequent response to pharmacological treatment.” In a 2003 article, Fava suggested that antidepressants may, in some cases, actually cause depression.  “Whether one treats a depressed patient for 3 months or 3 years, it does not matter when one stops the drugs. A statistical trend suggested that the longer the drug treatment, the higher the likelihood of relapse.”

In a 2014 article, “Rational Use of Antidepressant Drugs,” Fava said that rational use of antidepressant drugs should consider all the potential benefits and harms. They should only be used with the most severe and persistent cases of depression. They should be used for the shortest possible duration. Using antidepressants to treat anxiety disorders should be reduced, unless a major depressive disorder is present or other treatments have been ineffective.

These suggestions may seem to be radically different from current guidelines such as those of the American Psychiatric Association, but they reflect the weighing of risk, responsiveness and vulnerability that should be applied to the use of AD [antidepressant drugs] in each individual case.

To use or not to use antidepressants, that is the question. There is serious potential harm that may occur with their use. And sometimes they can literally save a life. What seems to be clear is that current guidelines for their use can, in the long run, worsen the problem they were originally supposed to “treat.” Along with the above suggestions for the rational use of antidepressants given by Fava, I think there needs to be a change in how we think about psychiatric drugs. The current disease-centered model of drug action needs to be replaced by a drug-centered model of drug action. You can find more on this distinction in the writings of Joanna Moncrieff, such as The Myth of the Chemical Cure and my article, “A Drug is a Drug is a Drug.” Also see two longer articles on antidepressants available in the Counseling Issues section under the “Resources” link of this site.

11/12/14

What a Drag It is Getting Old

Things are different today. Grandmother needs something to calm down. Although she’s not really ill, they’ll give her a little yellow pill. And it helps her on her way, and gets her through the day. So she goes running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper. Four will help her sleep right through the night; and might even help to minimize her plight.

“Doctor please, some more of these
Outside the door, she took four more
What a drag it is getting old.”

Above and below are the chorus and two paraphrases taken from the lyrics of the Rolling Stones 1966 song, “Mother’s Little Helper.” Following the runaway success of the first modern tranquilizer, Miltown, Hoffman-La Roche brought the newest benzodiazepine—Valium to market in 1963 and then targeted women in its advertising. “From 1968 to 1981, it was the best selling drug in the Western world.”

Recently there has been a good bit of press (Science Daily and Web MD and others) on a study published in the British Medical Journal that indicated benzodiazepine (benzo) use was associated with the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. A BBC report about the study quoted some Alzheimer’s experts who minimized the study’s findings by saying that it was hard to know the underlying reason for the link.  Other reports, such as that by Paula Span, on her New York Times blog, The New Old Age, noted how the study was designed to reduce the possibility of reverse causation. That is, reverse causation claims the correlation existed because individuals first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s were given benzos afterwards as part of their medical treatment.

Mad in America quoted from the study’s abstract, where the researchers said: “the stronger association [between Alzheimer’s and the use of benzos] observed for long term exposures reinforces the suspicion of a possible association.” The study’s authors further said:

Risk increased with density of exposure and when long acting benzodiazepines were used. Further adjustment on symptoms thought to be potential prodromes [precursors] for dementia—such as depression, anxiety, or sleep disorders—did not meaningfully alter the results.

The results of the study were consistent with five previous studies. It reinforced the suspicion of an increased risk of Alzheimer-like dementia among benzo users, particularly those who are long-term users. Their findings are particularly important when considering the wide spread use of benzos with older people, and the concurrent rise of dementia in developed countries. “Unwarranted long term use of these drugs should be considered as a public health concern.”

A JAMA Internal Medicine article noted that: “The American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation Choosing Wisely Campaign recommends against the use of benzodiazepine drugs for adults 65 years and older.” Paula Span reported in another article that a particular concern with older adults is falls, which are a leading cause of death and disability. The CDC estimated that one out of three older adults over the age of 65 falls each year. “In 2012, 2.4 million falls among older adults were treated in emergency departments and more than 722,000 of these were hospitalized.” Advice for tapering older adults off of benzos and other sleep aids like Ambien is available.  See the Paula Span article, “More on Sleeping Pills and Older Adults,” linked in this paragraph.

Not only are benzos problematic when given to older adults long-term, there is a well-documented concern with any long-term use of this class of drugs. Quoting Dr. Stevan Gressitt, Robert Whitaker indicated in Anatomy of an Epidemic that there was no evidence supporting the long-term use of benzos. Additionally, they could aggravate medical and mental health problems like anxiety, depression, cognitive impairment and functional decline.

Whitaker described a 2004 Australian study that looked at the potential deficits in cognitive functioning after long-term benzo use. The duration of benzo use by the patients in the research studies they looked at ranged from 1 to 34 years. The mean was 9.9 years. They found that long-term benzo users were consistently more impaired across all the cognitive categories examined. “The observation that long-term benzodiazepine use leads to a generalised effect on cognition has numerous implications for the informed and responsible prescription of these drugs.”

Although it was thirty years ago that governmental review panels in the United States and the United Kingdom concluded that the benzodiazepines shouldn’t be prescribed long-term, with dozens of studies subsequently confirming the wisdom of that advice, the prescribing of benzodiazepines for continual use goes on. Indeed, a 2005 study of anxious patients in the New England area found that more than half regularly took a benzodiazepine, and many bipolar patients now take a benzodiazepine as part of a drug cocktail. The scientific evidence just doesn’t seem to affect the prescribing habits of many doctors.” (Robert Whitaker, Anatomy of an Epidemic, p. 147)

“Life’s just much too hard today,”
I hear every grandmother say.
The pursuit of happiness just seems a bore
And if you take more of those, you will get an overdose.
No more running for the shelter of a grandmother’s little helper.
They just helped you on your way, towards your busy dying day.

10/29/14

Creating Chemical Imbalances

“Rather than fix chemical imbalances in the brain, the drugs create them.” (Robert Whitaker, Anatomy of an Epidemic)

One of the most enlightening books I’ve read recently was Anatomy of an Epidemic, by Robert Whitaker. In the foreword, Whitaker said he originally believed that psychiatric drugs were like “insulin for diabetes.” He believed that psychiatric researchers were discovering the biological causes of mental illnesses and that this led to the development of a new generation of psychiatric drugs that helped “balance” brain chemistry. Then he stumbled upon some research findings that challenged that belief, “and that set me off on an intellectual quest that ultimately grew into this book.”

What follows is a collection of quotes from Anatomy of an Epidemic and a chart containing data on psychiatric medications.  There is little additional commentary by me. The power of the quotes is underscored by the sales and prescription data in the chart.

Some of the quotes were handily gathered together for me on Goodreads. My chart is a combination of a listing of the top 25 prescribed psychiatric medications in 2013 found on PsychCentral and data for 2013 pharmaceutical sales on Drugs.com. It follows the rank order given by John Grohol on PsychCentral for the top 25 most prescribed psychiatric medications in 2013.  I then included the sales data found on Drugs.com from its list of the top 100 pharmaceutical drugs by gross retail sales for the listed drugs.

Drug

Prescriptions-2013

Use

Sales-2013

Xanax (alprazolam)

48,465,000

Anxiety

Zoloft (sertraline)

41,416,000

Depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, PMDD

Celexa (citalopram)

39,445,000

Depression, anxiety

Prozac (fluoxetine)

28,258,000

Depression, anxiety

Ativan (lorazepam)

27,948,000

Anxiety, panic disorder

Desyrel (trazodone)

26,242,000

Depression, anxiety

Lexapro (escitalopram)

24,920,000

Depression, anxiety

Cymbalta (duloxetine)

18,573,000

Depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, diabetic neuropathy

5,083,111,000

Wellbutrin XL (bupropion)

16,053,000

Depression

Effexor (venafaxine)

15,796,000

Depression, anxiety, panic disorder

Valium (diazepam)

14,754,000

Anxiety, panic disorder

Paxil (paroxetine)

14,335,000

Depression, anxiety, panic disorder

Seroquel (quetiapine)

14,326,000

Bipolar disorder, depression

1,183,989,000

Amphetamine salts (Adderall)

12,785,000

ADHD

727,892,000

Risperdal (pisperidone)

12,320,000

Bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, iirritability in autism

Vyvanse (lixdexamfetamine)

9,842,000

ADHD

1,689,091,000

Concerta ER (methylphenidate)

8,803,000

ADHD

Abilify (aripiprazole)

8,747,000

Bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression

6,293,801,000

Wellbutrin SR-W (bupropion)

8,238,000

Depression

Buspar (buspirone)

8,065,000

Sleep, anxiety

Vistaril (hydroxyzine)

8,052,000

Anxiety

Amphetamine salts ER (Adderall)

7,925,000

ADHD

Zyprexa (olanzapine)

5,101,000

Bipolar disorder, schizophrenia

Concerta/Ritalin (methylphenidate)

5,335,000

ADHD

1,383,814,000

Pristiq (desvenlafaxine)

3,217,000

Depression

Of the top 25 prescribed psychiatric drugs in 2013, 13 were to “treat” anxiety; 13 were to “treat” depression; 4 were to “treat” panic disorder; 4 were to “treat” bipolar disorder; and five were to “treat” ADHD. As the chart indicates, some of the medications are used for two or more disorders. In fact, 11 of the top 13 prescribed medications in 2013 could be used for anxiety; 10 of the top 13 could be used for depression.  Three of those were benzodiazepines (Xanax, Ativan and Valium); nine were antidepressants of some type (Zoloft, Celexa, Prozac, Desvrel, Lexapro, Cymbalta, Wellbutrin, Effexor and Paxil); and one, Seroquel, was an antipsychotic.

In addition to causing emotional distress, long-term benzodiazepines usage also leads to cognitive impairment (137). Although it was thirty years ago that governmental review panels in the United States and the United Kingdom concluded that the benzodiazepines shouldn’t be prescribed long-term … the prescribing of benzodiazepines for continual use goes on (147). Antidepressant drugs in depression might be beneficial in the short term, but worsen the progression of the disease in the long term, by increasing the biochemical vulnerability to depression. . . . Use of antidepressant drugs may propel the illness to a more malignant and treatment unresponsive course (160). In a recent survey of members of the Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association, 60 percent of those with a bipolar diagnosis said they had initially fallen ill with major depression and had turned bipolar after exposure to an antidepressant (181). Given that the biology of ADHD remains unknown, it is fair to say that Ritalin and other ADHD drugs ‘work’ by perturbing neurotransmitter systems. . . . Cocaine acts on the brain in the same way (227).

Disturbing, huh?

Only six of the most widely prescribed medications were among the 100 best sellers. The six best selling psychiatric medications in the order of their sales were: 1) Abilify ($6.294 billion); 2) Cymbalta ($5.083 billion); 3) Vyvanse ($1.689 billion); 4) Concerta/Ritalin ($ 1.384 billion); 5) Seroquel ($1.184 billion); 6) Amphetamine salts (found in Adderall, $727.9 million). Part of the explanation for the difference is that the majority of the prescribed psychiatric medications are now off patent and available as generic drugs. So they typically don’t make as much money for pharmaceutical companies. An example would be how Abilify was the top grossing prescription for all medications in 2013, but only the 18th most prescribed medication.

With the exception of VyVanse, I’d expect most of the six to also drop out of the top 100 selling drugs of the next few years. Abilify’s patent expires in October of 2014. Cymbalta’s patent expired in December of 2013. Vyvanse’s patent will expire in 2023. Concerta’s patent expired in 2011. Seroquel’s patent expired in 2012.

If you expand the boundaries of mental illness, which is clearly what has happened in this country during the past twenty-five years, and you treat the people so diagnosed with psychiatric medications, do you run the risk of turning an anger-ridden teenager into a lifelong mental patient? (p. 30) We have been focusing on the role that psychiatry and its medications may be playing in this epidemic, and the evidence is quite clear. First, by greatly expanding diagnostic boundaries, psychiatry is inviting and ever-greater number of children and adults into the mental illness camp. Second, those so diagnosed are then treated with psychiatric medications that increase the likelihood they will become chronically ill. Many treated with psychotropics end up with new and more severe psychiatric symptoms, physically unwell, and cognitively impaired. This is the tragic story writ large in five decades of scientific literature (209). Twenty years ago, our society began regularly prescribing psychiatric drugs to children and adolescents, and now one out of every fifteen Americans enters adulthood with a “serious mental illness.” That is proof of the most tragic sort that our drug-based paradigm of care is doing a great deal more harm than good. The medicating of children and youth became commonplace only a short time ago, and already it has put millions onto a path of lifelong illness (246). For the past twenty-five years, the psychiatric establishment has told us false story. It told us that schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar illness are known to be brain diseases, even though … it can’t direct us to any scientific studies that document this claim. . . . Most important of all, the psychiatric establishment failed to tell us that the drugs worsen long-term outcomes (358).

 

08/13/14

The Dumbest “Diagnosis” Ever

Is your child drowsy/sleepy at times? Do you see signs of daydreaming, mental confusion, slowed thinking or behavior, lethargy or apathy? Don’t worry; it may just be the early signs of Sluggish Cognitive Tempo (SCT)! By some estimates, SCT is present in two million children. While still not acknowledged as an official psychiatric disorder, the January 2014 issue of The Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology devoted the entire issue to SCT. Be patient, it will eventually become an official childhood psychiatric disorder, if its advocates have their way. And then you will have a brand new reason to give your son or daughter stimulant medications.

If you think this satire is too off-the-wall, read the April 11, 2014 article in the NYT by Alan Schwartz, “Idea of New Attention Disorder Spurs Research, and Debate.” Schwartz said that “Experts pushing for more research into sluggish cognitive tempo say it is gaining momentum toward recognition as a legitimate disorder—and as such, a candidate for pharmacological treatment.” He added that some of the identified symptoms so far in the research “have helped Eli Lily investigate how its flagship A.D.H.D. drug might treat it.” The psychiatric drug industry has excelled at expanding the market for its drugs, generating tremendous wealth for many.

Becker, Marshall and McBurnett did a search of journal articles (for their own article in January 2014 issue of The Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology) and found that “very few papers explicitly examined or even mentioned SCT between 1985 and 1999.” Since then there has been a steady increase in the articles that either focused on SCT or mentioned it in the body of the paper. They observed that while symptoms of under-arousal and low levels of mental energy were noticed to be part of attention deficit as early as 1798, it wasn’t until the 1970s that inattention was seen as causing even more impairment than hyperactivity. By the mid-1980s, “empirical support for the SCT dimension separate from inattention emerged.”

Russell Barkley, one of the most influential advocates for ADHD, noted in his article for the special issue of The Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology that there was a dearth of studies on SCT. Students now entering the profession could make a successful research career specializing in the research of SCT. He felt there would surely be an increased demand for such empirically-based research in view of the clinical referrals already occurring; and the anticipated increase in the near future as the general public becomes aware of SCT. “The fact that SCT is not is not recognized as yet in any official taxonomy of psychiatric disorders will not alter this circumstance given the growing presence of information on SCT at various widely visited internet sites such as YouTube and Wikipedia, among others.”

Alan Schwartz reported in his NYT article that Barkley has said that SCT “has become the new attention disorder.” Barkley also has financial ties to Eli Lily, receiving $118,000 from 2009 to 2012 for consulting and speaking engagements. He has also published a symptom checklist to identify adults with the condition. The forms are available for $131.75 apiece from Guilford Press. Oh, and Barkley also edits sluggish cognitive tempo’s Wikipedia page. The SCT Wikipedia page carried the following note at the top of the page on June 20th, 2014: “A major contributor to this article appears to have a close connection with its subject. It may require cleanup to comply with Wikipedia’s content policies.”

One of the SCT researchers, David McBurnett, said a scientific consensus on SCT could be many years in the future. “We haven’t even agreed on the symptom list—that’s how early on we are in the process.” And yet, Dr. McBurnett recently conducted a clinical trial funded and overseen by Eli Lilly to see if the proposed SCT diagnosis could be treated with Straterra, the company’s primary ADHD drug. Published in The Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology in November of 2013,his study concluded: “This is the first study to report significant effects of any medication on SCT.”

This process with SCT reminded me of what Robert Whitaker depicted in Anatomy of an Epidemic. He showed that in order to sell our society on the benefits of psychiatric drugs, “Psychiatry has had to grossly exaggerate the value of its new drugs, silence its critics, and keep the story of poor long-term outcomes hidden.” This has meant telling a false story to the American public, and then actively hiding research results that reveal the poor long-term outcomes with a drug-centered paradigm of care. Whitaker said it was a conscious, willful process that exacts a horrible toll on our society.

The number of people disabled by mental illness during the past twenty years has soared, and now this epidemic is spreading to our children. Millions of children and adolescents are being groomed to be lifelong users of these drugs. This grooming happens by twisting childhood behaviors like daydreaming, slowed thinking or behavior, and lethargy into symptoms of a new so-called childhood psychiatric disorder.

Allen Frances, chair of the fourth edition of the DSM, said that “’Sluggish Cognitive Tempo’ may possibly be the very dumbest and most dangerous diagnostic idea I have ever encountered . . . .The risk that it could do great harm is real . . . .The last thing our kids need is to be misdiagnosed with ‘Sluggish Cognitive Tempo’ and bathe in even more stimulants.”

Still not convinced? Listen to this pod cast by Peter Breggin where he interviews psychologist Fred Ernst about Sluggish Cognitive Tempo and the “psychiatric assault” on children through psychiatric medication.

Are you concerned with the growing tendency to medicate childhood behaviors?