Where is our honest discussion of psychiatric medications?

We did a post earlier asking for an honest discussion of psychiatric medication effectiveness, and now that mental health is back on the public forum due to yet another school shooting, it’s time to ask again. How about asking how many medications cause violence instead of reducing it?

Many medication users talk about psychiatric medication effectiveness they see. We don’t say their experience isn’t valid. It often comes back to the question, “How you would explain the root cause of your experiences? Some kind of physical deficit?” These theories about what the “root causes”  are tend to lead people into a lot of other decisions about how to handle to “root causes.”

Without an examination of psychiatric medication effectiveness, we can't create true exit plans from mental health care.

Without an examination of psychiatric medication effectiveness, we can’t create true exit plans from mental health care.

I think people just need a fully, informed choice of the items on this menu. Yes, a few of course cases of emotional distress have a genetic component. Like a dude came up to me last month and said an inability to metabolize copper led him into labels and meds. But I think if you talk to lot of people with a mental health label, most ended up in the system due to trauma, social isolation, poor job fit, nutrition imbalances, lack of exercise, or a spiritual crisis. An existential crisis in college or grad school is not a disease. I think if you start asking, very very few people have mental health symptoms “out of the blue,” regardless of life situations.

A physical deficit model says biology is more important than biography. I doubt this is true in the vast, vast majority of cases. It wouldn’t be too hard to put together a survey monkey project to come up with a solid number for what percentage.

So, when we talk about “stigma reduction”  or social inclusion, it’s good to look at the source of exclusion. If we share the message that extreme states are temporary, it’s much more hopeful than thinking it’s a permanent or genetic condition. Most abnormal states are just a normal response to an abnormal situation. So if there is no chemical illness, of course there is no chemical solution. Psychiatric medication effectiveness is pretty low for life situations, and the vast majority of emotional distress comes from life situations.

This is what Bob Whitaker’s research is all about, that psychiatric medication effectiveness is an assumption we haven’t challenged yet. For all meds, in the aggregrate, in the long term, the meds/drugs don’t work better than placebo. He asks his critics, “If you don’t think my research is right, show me where I’m wrong.” So yes, in fact it’s quite meaningful and well documented to say that meds are not helpful for many, many people.  Many advocates instead ask for alternatives,  but in order to turn towards one idea, often we have to turn away from another one. Psychiatric medication effectiveness is a debate we have needed to have for a long, long time.

Robert Whitaker calls for a true examination of psychiatric medication effectiveness:


The problem is that people aren’t given truly informed consent in order to make medication decisions. Even desperate people may choose something besides an antidepressant if they knew the about the ineffectiveness, the increased risk of violence, the increased chance or further problems, and the 8 fold increase in heart attack risk. Most people aren’t given any of this information ahead of time. Antidepressants are actually worse than placebo for a large number of people.

The ball is now in the disease marketers court:

As far as burden of proof, Whitaker and many other have made extensive proofs and claims, and in fact court decisions have done the same. There’s been over 20 billion lately in damages from lawsuits against pharma documenting this stuff. The case has been made. So when psychiatric survivors say, “Meds don’t work,” and disease model advocates say, “Well, you’re only telling one side of the story,” there is no data on the other side of the story. Only personal testimonies, which do not prove psychiatric medication effectiveness any more than they allowed  Avastin to keep their FDA approval with only testimonies from breast cancer patients.

If people took time to de-stress instead of working from a myth about psychiatric medication effectiveness, we'd all feel better.

If people took time to de-stress instead of working from a myth about psychiatric medication effectiveness, we’d all feel better.

Most people who like their meds benefit from the placebo effect, don’t know how to safely withdraw, or like the emotional painkiller the meds provides. I think there is some utility to being able to distance oneself from one’s emotions in the short term, but we need to be honest in our society that the mechanism of action is the same as the illicit meds. They just numb pain via brain disabling, which is sometimes useful, but why psychiatric medication effectiveness in the long term isn’t found.

So people should have the right and full information to figure out which drugs they can control the most that cause the least amount of harm. Well, in many cases med withrawal would improve people’s quality of life and recovery outcomes, but it’s a pretty painful process that takes a while and there’s not a lot of guidance to help people through that process. Many people decide their meds are working because when they go off the meds, they feel much much worse. But often this is withdrawal symptoms and not the return of the “illness.”

I would say my personal goal is to change the paradigm so our culture can have honest discussions of medications and labels and look for other and more effective ways that people can get through adversities or freakouts or different attention styles or long periods of lowness. Emotional suffering is not an illness. It’s time we started being honest about true causes and solutions of this kind of suffering in our culture.

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