Tracking the American Epidemic of Mental Illness: Part I

by Evelyn Pringle / June 3rd, 2010

Over a twenty year span, starting when Prozac came on the market
in 1987, the number of people on government disability due to mental
illness went from 1.25 million to more than 4 million today. There has
been a 35-fold increase in the number of children disabled by mental
illness who receive federal disability payments, rising from 16,200 in
1987, to 561,569 in 2007.

These statistics come from a new book titled, Anatomy of an
Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of
Mental Illness in America
, by award winning journalist, Robert
Whitaker, who also authored Mad in America.

For the book, Whitaker reviewed 50 years of outcomes in the medical
literature, for adults with schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, and
bipolar illness, and the childhood disorders of ADHD, depression and
juvenile bipolar disorder, to see whether medications had altered the
long-term course of the disorders and whether drugs could bring on new
or more severe psychiatric symptoms.

His intent was to assess whether this paradigm of care increased the
risk that a person would become chronically ill, or ill with disabling
symptoms, he reports in his Mad in America blog, on the Psychology
Today
website.

“Although we, as a society, believe that psychiatric medications have
“revolutionized” the treatment of mental illness, the disability
numbers suggest a very different possibility,” he wrote in the April 28,
2010, Huffington Post.

On April 29, 2010, Alternet published an interview with
Whitaker by Dr Bruce Levine, with the headline question of, “Are Prozac
and Other Psychiatric Drugs Causing the Astonishing Rise of Mental
Illness in America?”

The “literature is remarkably consistent in the story it tells,”
Whitaker told Levine. “Although psychiatric medications may be effective
over the short term, they increase the likelihood that a person will
become chronically ill over the long term.”

“In addition, the scientific literature shows that many patients
treated for a milder problem will worsen in response to a drug — say
have a manic episode after taking an antidepressant — and that can lead
to a new and more severe diagnosis like bipolar disorder,” he said.
“That is a well-documented iatrogenic pathway that is helping to fuel
the increase in the disability numbers.”

During the interview, Whitaker discusses his research on the increase
of juvenile bipolar disorder in the US, as an example of how
prescribing psychiatric drugs to children can actually cause mental
illness.

“When you research the rise of juvenile bipolar illness in this
country, you see that it appears in lockstep with the prescribing of
stimulants for ADHD and antidepressants for depression,” he reports.

“Prior to the use of those medications, you find that researchers
reported that manic-depressive illness, which is what bipolar illness
was called at the time, virtually never occurred in prepubertal
children,” he explains.

“But once psychiatrists started putting “hyperactive” children on
Ritalin, they started to see prepubertal children with manic symptoms,”
he reports.

“Same thing happened when psychiatrists started prescribing
antidepressants to children and teenagers,” Whitaker says. “A
significant percentage had manic or hypomanic reactions to the
antidepressants.”

“Thus, we see these two iatrogenic pathways to a juvenile bipolar
diagnosis documented in the medical literature,” he states.

The bipolar kids often end up on cocktails of heavy-duty drugs,
including antipsychotics such as Zyprexa, Risperdal, Invega, Seroquel,
Abilify and Geodon, which cause a host of physical problems and possible
cognitive decline over the long term, he told Levine.

“When you add up all this information, you end up documenting a story
of how the lives of hundreds of thousands of children in the United
States have been destroyed in this way,” Whitaker says.

In fact, he thinks that “the number of children and teenagers that
have ended up “bipolar” after being treated with a stimulant or an
antidepressant is now well over one million.”

“This is a story of harm done on an unimaginable scale,” he told
Levine.

Levine, an author himself of Surviving America’s Depression
Epidemic
, describes Anatomy of an Epidemic as the “most
important book on psychiatric treatment in a generation.”

Role of American Psychiatric Association

In 2006, the 38,000 member strong, American Psychiatric Association,
received 30% of their funding, or more than $20 million, from the
pharmaceutical industry.

This year’s attendees at the group’s annual meeting last month in New
Orleans “had to brave 200 protestors chanting ‘no drugging kids for
money’ and ‘no conflicts of interest’ to get into the convention hall,”
according to Martha Rosenberg’s May 30, 2010 report in OpEd News.

“If there were a take home message at the APA meeting about the
blizzard of ADHD, bipolar and personality disorders threatening adults
and children, it was don’t wait,” Rosenberg says. “These dangerous
conditions, likened to cancer and diabetes, won’t go away.”

“Thanks to genetic advancements, psychiatric disease risks can now be
detected and treated before symptoms surface, said presenters,
fostering early treatment paradigms that are pretty Brave New World:
People being told they have a disease they can’t feel that needs
immediate and lifelong treatment at hundreds of dollars a month or their
health will suffer,” she reports.

“Preemptive psychiatric drugging is likely the most dangerous idea
that has come along since lobotomy,” warns the prolific anti-drugging
activist, Vince Boehm.

As far as drugs, there was no star of the show, Rosenberg says. “The
Next Big Thing was not a new drug at all but adjunctive therapy also
known as adding existing drugs to existing drugs because they don’t work
right.”

“Throwing good drugs after bad, popularized with the antipsychotic
Abilify,” she explains, “has only been enhanced by a study in the
January JAMA that found antidepressants don’t work for mild depression
at all.”

“Antipsychotics are also being “enhanced” by adding drugs to offset
weight gain and lethargic side effects,” she reports.

“The pharmaco-fraudulence which has taken over psychiatry today is
absolutely breathtaking,” says Dr Nathaniel Lehrman, former Clinical
Director of Kingsboro Psychiatric Center, Brooklyn NY.

“There is absolutely no rationale for adding antipsychotics to
antidepressants in the treatment of depression other than the hope that
somehow the patient will feel better when new medication is added when
the old is not enough,” he reports.

Lehrman can think of no medication “which is really specific for
anything in psychiatry.”

“The effect of all these medications is largely happenstance,” he
says. “If something happens to make the patient feel better while taking
a particular medication, the latter will be credited.”

Catalog of Mental Disorders

In January 2010, the APA released a draft for the 5th edition of the Diagnostic
and Statistical Manual
, or DSM-V, also known as the Billing Bible
of psychiatry, with the official definitions of normal and abnormal.
Criticisms of the revisions and the task force have been non-stop.

In a March, 2010 analysis in Psychiatric Times, Lisa
Cosgrove and Harold Bursztajn reported that approximately 68% of the
members of the DSM5 task force had financial ties to the pharmaceutical
industry, a 2% increase over the task force members of the DSM4 with
such ties.

The draft criteria for “Temper Dysregulation Disorder with
Dysphoria,” has specifically come under attack as “one of the most
dangerous and poorly conceived suggestions for DSM5,” by Dr Allen
Frances, who was chairman of the DSM-IV Task Force, in his “DSM5 in
Distress” blog on the Psychology Today Website.

“Apparently, the Work Group was trying to correct excessive diagnosis
of childhood bipolar disorder—but its suggestion is so poorly written
that it could not possibly accomplish this goal and instead would it
would create a new monster,” he advises.

“The ‘diagnosis’ would be very common at every age in the general
population and would promote a large expansion in the use of
antipsychotic medications, with all of the serious attendant risks,” he
warns.

“While trying to rescue kids who are now misdiagnosed as bipolar,”
Frances says, “it will undoubtedly open the door to the misdiagnosis of
normal kids who happen to be temperamental or in difficult family
circumstances.”

The syndrome was first called “severe mood dysregulation (SMD),” but
the Childhood Disorders Work Group decided to rename it “temper
dysregulation with dysphoria (TDD),” because (a) the new name is more
descriptive; and (b) the name of DSM diagnoses does not typically
include a denotation of severity, according to the group’s report.

In any event, the prescribing of psychiatric drug cocktails will
continue no matter what they end up calling the new disorder. If TDD is a
form of BD, “first-line treatment would consist of atypical
antipsychotic medication and/or mood stabilizers,” the group states in
the report. “On the other hand, if TDD is on a continuum with unipolar
depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, and ADHD, first-line treatment
would consist of serotonergic reuptake inhibitor antidepressants
(SSRI’s) and stimulants.”

In a March 8, 2010 article in Skeptic Magazine, Dr John
Sorboro warned that the “folks writing the new DSM-V are even
considering a new classification of ‘prodromal’ disorders, which means
you may qualify for diagnosis of a mental disorder just based on the
hunch of your psychiatrist.”

“Psychiatrists get paid for treating mental illness,” he says. “There
is a strong motivation for them to look at things they used to
attribute to chronic personality, or just life, and see them as
psychiatric illness.”

“These changes have nothing to do with any real definitive science or
specific tests that can effectively demonstrate who has a disorder,”
Sorbora notes. “It’s little more than psychiatry repackaging people with
different labels.”

“Who gets what label has a lot more to do with politics and the
economics of psychiatry than it does with any true understanding of the
developmental or biologic underpinnings of specific behavior let alone
whether we choose to see ‘different’ as ‘disordered,’ he points out.

Sorboro says following the money has led many people to seriously
question “the motivations of some of psychiatry’s most prolific
researchers who shape how people get diagnosed, what disorder label they
are given, and what drugs they are prescribed.”

He notes Senator Charles Grassley’s ongoing investigation to
determine the full extent of industry fees paid to psychiatric
researchers, and that “some of the biggest names in the business have
been accused of misconduct.”

The “biggest names in the business,” identified by Grassley thus far,
include Harvard University’s Joseph Biederman, Thomas Spencer and
Timothy Wilens; Charles Nemeroff and Zachery Stowe from Emory
University; Melissa DelBello at the University of Cincinnati; Alan
Schatzberg, the president of the American Psychiatric Association from
Stanford University; Martin Keller at Brown University; Karen Wagner and
A John Rush from the University of Texas; and Fredrick Goodwin, the
former host of a radio show called Infinite Minds, broadcast
for years by National Pubic Radio.

“Among all the problematic suggestions for DSM5, the proposal for a
‘Psychosis Risk Syndrome’ stands out as the most ill conceived and
potentially harmful,” according to Dr Frances, in his “DSM5 in Distress”
blog on the Psychology Today Website.

“This is a clearly the prescription for an iatrogenic public health
disaster,” he warns.

“The whole concept of early intervention rests on three fundamental
pillars — being able to diagnose the right people and then providing
them with a treatment that is effective and safe,” he explains.
“Psychosis Risk Syndrome” fails badly on all three counts, he warns.

“The false positive rate would be alarming,” he says, “70% to 75% in
the most careful studies and likely to be much higher once the diagnosis
is official, in general use, and becomes a target for drug companies.”

“Hundreds of thousands of teenagers and young adults (especially, it
turns out, those on Medicaid) would receive the unnecessary prescription
of atypical antipsychotic drugs,” he warns.

“There is no proof that the atypical antipsychotics prevent psychotic
episodes,” he says, “but they do most certainly cause large and rapid
weight gains (see the recent FDA warning) and are associated with
reduced life expectancy—to say nothing about their high cost, other side
effects, and stigma.”

“Imagine the human tragedies that follow the mislabeling of 70% of
children as severely mentally ill, who are then exposed to extremely
toxic drugs that induce diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and a host of
other severe adverse effects,” warned Vera Hassner Sharav, founder and
president of the Alliance for Human Research Protection, in a February
10, 2010 Infomail.

Unnecessary Drugging

“We are going to have an epidemic of young adults with
yet-to-be-determined neurological problems due to the long term use of
psychotropic drugs,” warns Washington DC psychiatrist Dr Joseph
Tarantolo, Board Chairperson of the International Center for the Study
of Psychiatry and Psychology.

An epidemic is defined as 1% of the population and there will be far
more than 1% injured by these drugs, he says.

Every human being is at risk of becoming “psychotic,” he states. “It
has been said that in the Nazi Germany concentration camps psychosis was
100%.”

“Once one agrees that something is universal, one is simply trying to
describe the human condition, not make a medical diagnosis,” Tarantolo
advises.

Dr Stefan Kruszewski, a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard
Medical School, has seen many patients who experienced one or more
episodes of psychosis from medications, illicit drug withdrawal, acute
stress, metabolic conditions, PTSD or other psychiatric diagnoses, “who
recovered and did not re-experience problems later in life.”

In his extensive clinical experience with psychotic individuals,
“recovery after psychosis has been the “norm,” not the exception,” he
says

“More significantly, and somewhat contrary to the prevailing
psychiatric professional view,” he notes, “the overwhelming majority of
my clients in who I observed this ‘norm’ did NOT require psychiatric
medicines to sustain them.”

“And, many of them who were prescribed antipsychotic medications to
‘thwart’ another psychotic episode fared somewhat worse than those who
were not prescribed any combination of antipsychotics and mood
stabilizers,” he adds.

Dr Thomas Edward Bratter is president and founder of the John Dewey
Academy in Massachusetts, a residential, voluntary,
educational-treatment school for gifted but self-destructive
adolescents. This drug and medicine-free facility uses compassionate
psychotherapy.

Most students arrive at the Academy with multi DSM-IV labels to
justify prescribing psychotropic poisons and receiving third party
payments, Bratter says, and have been “raped by the pejorative
psychiatric cartel.”

He calls the “Psychosis Risk Syndrome” criminal because “such a
diagnosis ignores the awesome toxic power of a negative self-fulfilling
prophesy which maximizes failure by perpetrating the unproven myth of
mental illness.”

“There needs to be a class action against those who would endorse
this movement,” he says, and Bratter would gladly testify on behalf of
children and adolescents who need to be protected from such a toxic and
damaging conspiracy.

Toxicology expert, Dr Lawrence Plumlee, is president of the Chemical
Sensitivities Disorders Association, and editor of The Environmental
Physician of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine
.

The Chemical Sensitivity Disorders Association was established to
provide information and support to chemically sensitive people; to
disseminate information to physicians, scientists and other interested
persons; and to encourage research on chemical sensitivity disorders and
minimizing hazards to human health.

Plumlee is concerned about the DSM5 proposal by the Somatic Symptom
Disorders Work Group, to change the name of the category “Somatic
Symptom Disorders,” to “Complex Somatic Symptom Disorder.”

“The new draft DSM manual proposes that chronic fatigue syndrome,
fibromyalgia, and multiple chemical sensitivity are ’somatiform’
disorders requiring psychiatric consultation,” he says. “It’s the same
old story of psychiatry trying to extend its diagnostic labels and drug
treatments to new populations.”

This is “an effort by psychiatry to psychiatrize physical illnesses
and to try to suppress the complaints of these patients by prescribing
psychiatric drugs,” Plumlee says.

“But experience is showing that the psychiatric procedures and drugs
are making patients worse,” he advises.

Using psychiatric diagnoses and drugs on diseases of neurotoxicity
helps the chemical companies in two ways, he reports. “It fools some
people into thinking that poisoned people are crazy, thus getting the
poisoners (chemical companies) off the hook,” and two, “it sells more
chemicals (psychiatric drugs) to treat those who really need
detoxification, not more chemicals in their bodies. ”

• Part II of this series with show how tax dollars are being used to
fuel the American Epidemic of Mental Illness

• This series is sponsored by the International Center for the
Study of Psychiatry and Psychology
.

Evelyn Pringle is an investigative journalist
focused on exposing corruption in government and corporate America. She
can be reached at: evelyn-pringle@sbcglobal.net.
Read other
articles by Evelyn
, or visit Evelyn’s website.

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