Pseudo-Science Among Us
Increasingly one sees articles about the overprescription of psychiatric
drugs like Ritalin and Prozac among school children. Even the New
York Times got into the act recently, despite its bias towards the
large pharmaceutical companies who pay so much for ad space and
would prefer to pretend the controversy doesn't exist. When even
the Times decides that this news is fit to print, the issue is getting
too hot to ignore.
In the following article, I want to shift focus from debates about
how much of a drug is too much to the basic scientific validity
of the psychiatric labels -- alleged disorders -- that lead to the
drugging of millions of children in the United States. I want to
remove from the discussion some assumptions that make it difficult
for us to see what's before us. The main assumption is that because
a great deal of science (especially chemistry) is involved in psychiatric
medication, the psychiatric programs are, themselves, scientific.
By analogy, if a mass murder killed millions of people by use of
highly "scientific" weaponry designed in advanced laboratories
(a la Lex Luthor), one would conclude that the killing of millions
of people was part of a "scientific program". That sounds
absurd, but prominent Nazi psychiatrists running experiments in
the death camps tried, with considerable success, to persuade themselves
and their colleagues that the killing was the extension of a "valid"
scientific program (euthanasia of the insane and handicapped).
And in particular, I'd like to make it clear exactly what is meant
when someone argues that various alleged psychiatric conditions
(for example, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, ADHD) do not
exist. Obviously children can be found who manifest the symptoms
attributed to ADHD. How then can it be argued that ADHD does not
exist? No one denies that some people are tired, but we would probably
not be willing to call "tiredness" a psychiatric disorder.
Why not? And what would happen if we did? And is the psychiatric
classification (ADHD, for example) liable to lead to trouble? I've
tried to answer these questions below.
Finally, it is my intention to provide an overview, not a scholarly
study full of references to studies, but a view of the logic --
the science or lack thereof -- behind the current scene in psychiatry.
Most articles on the subject concentrate on horror stories, pro
and con: Mother fears her child won't get the Ritalin that has helped
him so much (how much? No scientific assessment available), or mother
claims her son has been ruined by Ritalin. Such stories impinge,
but tend to paralyze thought and observation. First of all, we know
that many people with ADHD and other conditions get huge gains when
given placebos (pills that are known to do nothing). Often, in the
tests submitted to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to prove
the effectiveness of new drugs, people given placebos (e.g., sugar
tablets) show nearly as much improvement as those given the new
drugs. Often the drug companies must nurse the statistics considerably
to be able to claim a significant difference.
And many of the drugs now in use were tested with inactive placebos.
That is, the "control group" is not supposed to know it
is receiving a placebo. It is supposed to think it is receiving
a potent drug. When sugar tablets are used as placebos, the people
taking them, noticing that there are no obvious physical side effects,
know they are receiving placebos. Studies have shown that when people
are given active placebos -- pills that are known to have no effect
on the disorder being treated, but that have noticeable side effects
(e.g., itching or dry mouth) they give a much higher rate
of "improvement" than do sugar tablets, because the control
group is convinced it is receiving a potent drug. The point is,
the fact that some people claim gains from, say, Ritalin, is meaningless
in the absence of statistics on the gains themselves and on what
proportion of users receive them and over what period of time. And
even then, gains must be closely defined: What a teacher calls a
gain (child sitting still in class) may have little to do with the
welfare of the child, but may please the parents, since the child
is given a glowing grade.
Similarly, stories of horrors (suicides, children taken from parents
who won't let the children be drugged, etc.) are moving, but hard
to evaluate without knowing how many others are helped by the drug.
And in most cases the pharmaceutical companies have pat, almost
indisputable answers to any claimed bad side effects, one or more
of the following:
1. You can't prove it was caused by our drug.
2. Of course he killed himself; he was depressed to begin with.
That's why he was taking our drug. He simply came to us too late.
3. He shouldn't have stopped taking the drug.
4. Yes, there are bad side effects, but they occur in only a tiny
percentage of cases.
The last answer is particularly clever, because, though doctors
are supposed to report bad side effects they observe, surveys of
doctors in recent years have shown that few of them know they are
supposed to do this or know how to do it. What the drug companies
really mean is "...in only a tiny percentage of cases, so far
as we know, based on the few reports we get and based on our eliminating
from the statistics any bad effects that we feel can't be PROVEN
to be connected with our drug." Where people have sued pharmaceutical
companies because someone has, for example, taken Prozac, then gone
berserk and killed people, the companies nearly always try to settle
out of court on the condition that the settlement be kept confidential,
then claim that it has not been proven that their product was at
Similarly, where children have shot up their schools, psychiatrists
and the pharmaceutical company agents are always on the scene to
ensure that the medical records of the shooters are sealed under
medical privacy laws, so that it is difficult to ascertain whether
the shooters were under psychiatric treatment or on psychiatric
drugs. In most cases, we've eventually learned that they were, but
the information came from relatives or friends. In the case of Eric
Harris (the Colorado shooting), we learned about his psychiatric
medication (Luvox) from the Army, where he'd tried to enlist.
It is hard, perhaps impossible, to get all the data needed to weigh
the anecdotes. It is easier to find statistics on the abuses than
on the gains, which is suggestive, since one would think that pharmaceutical
companies, earning billions and claiming their drugs are safe and
effective, would be able to produce proofs of their long-range effectiveness
-- long-range since children are expected to take these drugs for
years -- but no such proofs exist.
The battle of anecdotes is no doubt worth fighting, but here my
intention is to get behind the anecdotes to the scientific basics:
What is it that psychiatry calls a disorder? How does it determine
this? What science is behind this? How are the medications developed?
When we debate the effectiveness of Ritalin in treating ADHD, is
this analogous to debating whether a particular anti-biotic can
subdue a known microbe? Or is it more like debating whether to cure
an invasion of evil spirits by throwing pepper over one's right
shoulder or one's left shoulder. (And my apologies to the witch
doctors for this analogy, since studies exist that show they have
as high a cure rate as Western psychiatrists and psychologists.)
I simply want to put the debate in the correct perspective: Are
we debating about science, and should we defer to people who call
themselves scientific authorities and who know much more than most
of us know about brain chemistry and symptoms of disorders? If not,
let's find out what it is we're debating.
A final note: Little in what follows is new or original. Much of
it can be found in longer, more detailed works by Thomas Szasz and
others. I am trying to simplify and highlight a few key points and
make them as clear as I can for as many people as possible.
DSM IV: that is, edition 4 of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual
-- sounds scientific. What is it? It's a list of conditions, including
various supposed types of anxiety, depression, phobia (fear of flying,
coffee, colors, women, etc. -- over 500 fears), bad handwriting,
difficulty with mathematics, too much religious belief, too active,
too inactive, angry, upset after pregnancy, upset before or after
menstruation, difficulty reading, etc. -- thousands of fears, angers,
beliefs, emotions, attitudes. It is the Bible of organized psychiatry
and the envy of organized psychology.
Each condition is described by a list of symptoms (each such list
being a "syndrome") that one is supposed to use to diagnose
the condition. Each condition is said to be a disorder, a lapse
of mental health. Statistics accompany these lists that purport
to say what percentage of the population of the United States suffers
from each disorder. (Someone put the statistics together and concluded
that in the United States, many times the number of people there
are in the United States suffer from one or more mental disorders.)
The statistics are alarming, but shouldn't be, since they have no
scientific basis. They are simply pulled out of a hat. The current
figure -- if it hasn't increased as I write -- tossed about by the
media as being an estimate from the American Psychiatric Association
(APA) is that 50,000,000 Americans need psychiatric help. Years
ago (in the 50's), the announced statistics were "one in 25".
A decade later they were "one in 10" and later "one
in 3". The sources of these statistics have never provided
evidence for them, nor have the sound-byte-hungry media ever demanded
evidence. After all, they are statistics, and they come from the
authorities on mental health.
The definitions of the various conditions often overlap. No objective
tests for the presence or absence of these conditions is given.
Definitions are loose enough and conditions numerous enough that
it is possible to find a description that will fit ANYONE. Thus,
by use of DSM IV, any person can be found to suffer from a mental
health disorder requiring treatment. Any person can be said to be
either too active or too inactive, too anxious or too serene, too
religious or too cynical -- whatever you happen to be is (or may
easily be made to seem) a disorder (or dysfunction, a sexier term).
There are even disorders that apply to a person who disagrees with
the validity of such diagnoses. In other words, if you think the
DSM is bunk, you are, per the DSM, mentally ill.
Who compiled this manual? A committee of psychiatrists on behalf
of the APA. How did they compile it? By proposing new disorders
(the manual expanding greatly with each edition) and voting them
into the manual. One member of the committee later vented her disagreement
with the process publicly, stating that she was astonished at the
lack of scientific discussion and scientific evidence. She said
it seemed as though they were voting on whether to order Chinese
or Italian for lunch, not creating a standard list of mental illnesses.
The development of this manual from edition to edition has mostly
consisted of the creation of new conditions, but where politically
expedient, conditions have been removed. For example, early editions
included homosexuality, but when this became politically incorrect
(and with no scientific justification either for the inclusion or
the exclusion), homosexuality was removed from the DSM. Remember
those words, "politically expedient". They answer a lot
of questions. If women's organizations (e.g., NOW) raised enough
stink about conditions like Post Menstrual Syndrome being listed
as a mental disorder, it would vanish from the next edition -- with
no new studies to justify the change.
What, then, is the scientific basis for defining these conditions
as disorders, diseases, syndromes? To begin with, what constitutes
"scientific basis?" Most people confuse "science"
with anything scientific sounding. Thus, when medical wisdom called
for the bleeding of sick patients to rid them of excess "humors"
(a theory in vogue with the very best authorities for centuries),
this seemed quite scientific to the general populace, because it
was propounded in big words (like "propounded") by recognized
medical authorities, and because it was associated with all sorts
of scientific trimmings. For example, to bleed someone, a surgeon
had to know where to apply leeches, how the circulatory system worked,
etc. Similarly, lobotomies (which cut out or sliced up frontal lobes
and made vegetables out of people to cure them of depression) were
extremely scientific: It takes surgical knowledge to slice up a
brain without instantly killing a body or badly disfiguring it.
It takes enough knowledge of the brain to know which slices will
leave the motor controls intact (so that one gets a vegetable that
can still walk), and so forth. Doesn't the word "lobotomy"
sound more scientific than "torture" or "slicing
up brains"? And it's done by people in white lab coats on operating
In this sense of the word "scientific", everything to
do with psychiatry and DSM IV is thoroughly scientific. The scientific
trimmings are gorgeous: Every psychiatrist is an MD, and most can
talk persuasively about double-blind studies and chemical imbalances.
(Note: "Double-blind study" is one where neither the people
dispensing the drugs nor the people receiving the drugs know which
are receiving the "real" drug and which are receiving
the "fake" drug or placebo. That way the psychiatrist
isn't biased by his knowledge so that he "sees" improvement
only in the subjects receiving the "real" drug.)
But the sense of "scientific" we usually mean when we
speak of a scientific basis for something is a great deal more than
jargon and trimmings. For example, in traditional (that is, non-psychiatric)
medicine, a disorder or disease is typically defined as follows:
First a set of symptoms is observed repeatedly. Then research is
conducted to locate the cause of the symptoms -- for example, a
germ, a nutritional deficiency, a toxin. Then a remedy is found.
Such a set of symptoms is not labeled a "disease" until
the various similar sets of symptoms have been linked to a common
Why not? First, because it is dangerous to equate similar symptoms
to a single illness, for example, to assume that because two people
suffer from headaches, they must both have the same illness. What
if one person's headache derives from a vitamin deficiency, while
another's derives from a brain tumor? The second person may die
of his tumor while being treated with vitamins to remedy a non-existent
deficiency. The first person may die under the knife (for surgery
to remove his non-existent tumor) because his immune system is weakened
by the unremedied vitamin deficiency. They have similar symptoms,
but until these symptoms are found to be from the same cause, it
is dangerous, possibly fatal, to assume that they are the same disease.
The cause is that which, when remedied, eliminates the illness.
Medicine defines a condition tentatively, then searches for the
cause, then the remedy. Medicine proves out a proposed diagnosis
by verifying that every time the symptoms that are supposed to define
the condition are present, the identical causes are also present.
Thus, if a man has a headache and cramps, since several different
causes may lead to these symptoms, the doctor must look for other
symptoms to better diagnose the condition. There are, then, objective
tests (observable, repeatable, with predictable results) for a medical
condition, once it is understood. A person either has the condition
or does not. Any treatment of a condition not thus understood is
experimental at best. (By that standard, all psychiatric treatments
and medications are experimental at best.)
Second, inventing names for "syndromes" in the absence
of such understanding creates the illusion that something is known
about the cause of the supposed condition when nothing is known,
only a list of symptoms. This creates a medical elite exalted by
medical jargon, their status having no basis in useful expertise.
It substitutes a superstition (Scientism?) for science.
The Scientific approach, then, would be (and I know I'm repeating
this ad nauseam, but it's a key point, if we're to have scientists,
not high priests) to identify a possible illness (set of symptoms),
find (by verifiable experiments) a cause, then develop a cure that
handles the known cause. A non-scientific approach might be to chant
spells over patients, and if one of the patients gets better, use
the spell that apparently worked on every patient. Since many conditions
are entirely or partly psycho-somatic, this will often work, just
as a placebo will often work as well as the "real" medicine.
One highly effective treatment is to have Mummy kiss it and make
it well. And there are many other non-scientific approaches.
Some are perhaps more scientific than we think. That is, studies
not yet done may one day show us the scientific basis of having
Mummy kiss it and make it well. (Or the studies may have existed
for years but not found publication in professional journals. After
all, how would 12-year-educated experts make money if any mother
had as much expertise as they?)
The psychiatrists do not seek causes for the disorders they define.
That is, some assert one cause or another ("trauma", "the
unconscious", "chemical imbalance in the brain",
bad nerves, bad brains, bad parents, nasty church, guilt, poverty,
etc.), but seldom attempt to perform scientific studies to prove
such theories and more often ignore actual evidence of testable
causes. For example, there is solid evidence that many so-called
"mental" conditions are caused by long-understood medical
illnesses and real physical pain, but most psychiatrists do not
test for such conditions. They simply medicate to suppress the symptoms.
The head of the APA testified before Congress a few years ago that
psychiatry doesn't understand the causes of mental illness and cannot
cure it. What, then, is psychiatry trying to do? Well, let's not
guess at motives yet. Let's look at the procedure itself: First,
they define a disorder. "Clinical depression" means, essentially,
that you're feeling very sad for weeks, have difficulty sleeping,
etc. In other words, you act and feel like someone who has suffered
a great loss or done things of which you're deeply ashamed or have
recently been reminded of your childhood ideals and realized how
far you are from having any hope of attaining them, or you're physically
exhausted because you can't sleep well because of a mineral deficiency,
or you've been in pain for years from an old injury, or you live
with someone who makes your life hell (etc.). ADHD (Attention Deficit
Hyperactive Disorder) means that you're active, your attention shifts
rapidly enough to upset teachers who want you to concentrate on
what they are saying, etc. In other words, you act like someone
who is refusing to be bored stiff. Or you have a teacher who can't
tolerate motion in her environment.
What is gained by creating these definitions and labels? We've
always known that some kids seem over-active, that some people are
more melancholy than others -- always or at times. What do the new
definitions add? One incredibly perverse answer (from "mental
health advocates") is that they "destigmatize" these
conditions. The idea is that there's some stigma (shame, reproach,
guilt) attached to these conditions, and that labeling them as mental
illnesses removes the stigma. This is, of course, nonsense. There
is stigma attached to being mentally ill because the words "mentally
ill" or "insane" or "nuts" are often applied
to people who behave weirdly and anti-socially, often in sensational
ways. Similarly, there is stigma attached to crimes (like murder,
rape, masturbating in public or mugging people at knife-point) because
we don't want people to act that way and feel we can't understand
people who do.
Perhaps some people are wrongly stigmatized -- called nuts because
they are mildly eccentric or because a husband wants to get his
inconvenient wife institutionalized so that he can misappropriate
her wealth and live with his mistress. But in general, the mentally
ill are stigmatized (made to feel bad about being mentally ill)
just as children who misbehave are made to feel bad about misbehaving
-- because we consider they haven't behaved very well, and we want
them to behave better. The argument now is that they are simply
ill, so shouldn't be blamed for their actions. (And this argument
is made on behalf of murderers, too.) Perhaps blame is non-productive,
but the argument that they are simply ill is based on the notion
that any set of symptoms that psychiatrists elect to call an illness
is an illness.
In any case, the effect of psychiatry's creating the new labels
is not to destigmatize these conditions, but to stigmatize them.
Children who used to be referred to as a little hard to handle or
as "real boys" or as "spirited" or at worst
as "brats" or "disciplinary problems" -- and
at worst, these were adult admonishments that did nothing to lessen
the admiration these "brats" often received from their
friends, who considered them bold -- such children are now said
to suffer from a mental illness with a big name (ADHD for short)
and to require continual medication. THAT stigmatizes their condition.
The real agenda here is not to destigmatize depression, anxiety,
etc., but to destigmatize mental illness so as more readily to include
all of us under its umbrella: don't feel that there's any stigma
attached to being mentally ill, because we're all mentally ill,
and we all need our psychiatric labeling, counseling and medication.
The result is, we are ALL stigmatized: we are all told that we
are victims of conditions and can't help ourselves, that we all
need "intervention". We are told that we are less than
we thought we were in the days when we considered ourselves to be
somewhat responsible for our own conditions and able to change them
by our own decisions and self-discipline.
Those we don't understand and think to be less than human, we treat
badly. As soon as a father is told his son has a disorder, his gut
reaction is to withdraw responsibility, consider his son something
that can't be understood, something with a scientific-sounding label,
something for psychiatrists to handle, something to be drugged and
controlled. Not that the father didn't love his son, but that his
son vanishes behind the label with its cloud of pretended understanding.
His son becomes a disorder. When we are all persuaded that we have
and are our "disorders", we will, similarly, back away
from ourselves, from our sense of being responsible for ourselves.
The fact that we will consider that we are ALL mentally ill will
not lessen the stigmatization, because we will still have become
something that we cannot understand and that is less than what we
But this can be said more simply: "Hey, kid, you're not just
an active kid. You suffer from a mental illness called Attention
Deficit Hyperactive Disorder and need immediate treatment, which
you are ordered to begin tomorrow morning by reporting to the school
nurse for your drug.... Now, aren't you glad we've relieved you
of the stigma of being an overly active kid by telling you that
you can't help yourself because you're mentally ill and have a defective
brain with a chemical imbalance?" Don't feel bad about being
energetic enough to bother your teacher. You're just nuts.
If destigmatization isn't the reason for the new labels, what is?
Do the new definitions point to a cause? Doubtful. For example,
studies of kids diagnosed ADHD (and these studies were real science)
found that in some cases the symptoms vanished when nutritional
deficiencies were remedied (for example, too much sugar and fast
food). In other cases symptoms vanished when situations at home
or school (family breaking up, torment by bullies, etc.) were handled.
The kid had had his attention dispersed by chaos in his life outside
the class room.
In other words, "ADHD" is actually a variety of conditions
with a variety of causes and handlings. In other words, there is
no such thing as ADHD.
Did I just skip a logical step? The DSM lists a condition (a single
condition) and calls it ADHD. In fact (and the scientific evidence
for this is overwhelming), there are a variety of conditions that
manifest the symptoms supposed to indicate ADHD. They have different
causes and different remedies. Therefore, there is no one condition
with the symptoms assigned to ADHD. There are MANY conditions that
have those symptoms.
Another way of saying it is that ADHD is a confusing and counter-productive
label, because it implies that anyone with the ADHD symptoms suffers
from a particular condition called ADHD. This might be easier to
see if, instead of using obscure technical jargon (ADHD), we use
an example from outside psychology: There are a set of symptoms
that indicate a diagnosis of tuberculosis. These are reliable and
include various tests. These tests rely on the doctor's (or lab's)
basic competence, not on any great subtlety or art or depth of judgment
on their part. Anyone with minimal training can learn these tests
and symptoms and accurately diagnose tuberculosis. Tuberculosis
is a useful classification that has led to successful treatments.
Doctors can show you the microbes associated with tuberculosis and
can show you that medications that destroy those microbes improve
the condition of the patient.
This is no absolute. For example, further study may lead to a greater
understanding of what makes some patients fall prey to these microbes
and not others. One can always achieve greater understanding of
causes and better handlings. But tuberculosis makes sense as a medical
category. It leads to a cause and a handling.
But what about tiredness? Tiredness is a condition. It can be described
in detail -- yawning, heavy-headedness, dryness around the eyes,
irritability, low energy, wanting to lie down, etc. But is tiredness
a useful medical category like tuberculosis? Is tiredness a disease,
a condition to be cured. Or is tiredness simply a symptom of a variety
You can be tired because you didn't have enough sleep, because
you've had too much sugar or are lacking some vitamin or have a
low-grade fever or were just told by your best friend that you're
a jerk, or you keep trying to achieve something you've already achieved,
or you have a dozen things started and can't seem to get any of
them finished because other things keep coming up -- and so on.
If you're tired because you have many things started and aren't
getting any of them finished, you will feel less tired if you simply
buckle down and take up one of the projects and finish it. If you're
tired because you're short of sleep, you'll feel better if you get
some sleep. And so on.
Thus, it would be worse than useless to announce as a new illness
"Tiredness disorder", whose symptoms are the symptoms
of tiredness. It wouldn't make it more useful to hedge by saying
you mean only a LOT of tiredness over a long time. It would still
imply that tiredness is a single condition with a single cause and
cure. Even long-term tiredness can be a symptom of many different
But of course there IS a single cure for all tiredness (many such
cures). For example, anyone who is tired will perk up if they snort
cocaine or other strong stimulants. A tired person will typically
feel more energetic if you fire a gun at him and just miss him or
confront him with a snarling tiger -- such things stir up the adrenalin.
So, yes, you can "cure" tiredness -- that is, suppress
with a single solution the symptom of some underlying condition,
without knowing what that condition is.
What's wrong with such cures? You haven't found out why the person
is tired and handled that situation. You haven't given him more
sleep, missing vitamins, a more disciplined approach to unfinished
tasks, an awareness that someone in his environment is putting him
But why bother with all these things if a snort of cocaine handles
the unpleasant tiredness? Because when he comes down from the cocaine
(or other such "cure"), he will feel worse than ever and
find it harder than ever to handle the real situation -- harder
to sleep, for example, or to concentrate on tasks. So he must either
continue to take cocaine (more and more of it) or to get into tiger
cages. And both are dangerous.
Unlike tuberculosis, ADHD is not a condition with a single known
cause or related group of causes. It's more like tiredness (or shall
we say EDHD -- Energy Deficiency Hyperwakeful Disorder?), a group
of symptoms associated with many different conditions. It too has
many "cures", but no one cure. That is, there are many
things that suppress the symptoms, but they don't handle the underlying
situation. For example, ADHD can be handled in every case by giving
the patient knockout drops or ether or any overwhelming narcotizing
drug. It's not hard to make someone quiet. In this case, the usual
drug prescribed is Ritalin, which is similar in action to cocaine.
It is an upper or stimulant, a form of speed.
Psychiatrists often say they don't know why a drug used by adults
as an energizer should have the opposite effect on children, but
ANY drug in small quantities tends to stimulate, in larger quantities
becomes narcotic (eventually puts you to sleep) and in still larger
quantities kills you (and often over time will accumulate in the
system and destroy organ function and kill, with the death attributed
to something else). One or two coffees energize, several more make
you tired. A dose of a stimulant (like Ritalin) small enough to
energize an adult is large enough, in a child's system, to narcotize
-- or make an active child sit still in school. Not so oddly --
in view of the fact that any narcotizing drug is also, potentially,
a stimulant -- one of it's listed "side effects" is that
in some cases it has the opposite effect: it makes the active child
far more active, anxious and generally crazy.
If the psychiatrists said that some kids are "antsy",
we would say,"Well duh!", and recognize that we were being
given a symptom, not a condition. But they call it "Attention
Deficit Hyperactive Disorder", to which we can only nod, in
awe of the expertise such language implies. Aha! We now understand
those troublesome kids! They have a CONDITION, a DISORDER, a DYSFUNCTION,
a MENTAL ILLNESS. Oh, be careful, say the conscientious psychiatrists.
We mustn't assume that ANY active child is ADHD. Some are only "borderline
ADHD" -- they only have a little bit of the ADHD gene or germ
or chemical imbalance. And to this we bow deeper before all this
obvious scientific objectivity -- scholarly qualifications! But
in effect such warnings tell us that there is such a condition,
and that it's all based on SCIENCE. Obviously scientists must have
detected a real, treatable condition to be able to say someone is
only borderline ADHD. (It wouldn't sound as impressive to say that
some kids are very antsy and others only a little antsy.)
Now that we know the condition exists, we are more likely to welcome
a claimed CURE. The psychiatrists announce that anxiety is a disease,
and the pharmaceutical companies unveil TV and radio and magazine
commercials for new anti-anxiety drugs. The psychiatrists announce
that ADHD is a disease "like any other disease", and the
pharmaceutical companies launch campaigns to educate doctors and
teachers and to get their anti-ADHD drugs into school systems, insurance
programs, federal programs, etc. And accuse those who oppose them
of trying to stigmatize the suffering ADHD kids and thus prevent
them from seeking the help they so desperately need.
If there were no DSM, no "scientific" condition called
ADHD, and one day the drug companies started promoting drugs to
make your children less antsy (drugs labeled dangerous by the Drug
Enforcement Agency -- as Ritalin is labeled), most of us would be
rather suspicious. Why should we give healthy active kids a dangerous
drug? But once our children have been labeled as suffering from
a tragic mental illness (ADHD), how can we deny them help? We could,
of course, look for the causes of our child's antsiness, but why
spend a lot of time on that when we know that the child suffers
from a mental illness and that a simple cure (a medication) is available,
paid for by insurance and federal money given the school for each
The very fact that a drug is available that (it is claimed) cures
ADHD and makes students brighter discourages looking for other causes
and handlings. If your child has pneumonia, you put him in the hospital.
You don't delay to look for nutritional or other causes. If your
child has type one diabetes, you put him on insulin. It's a disease,
it has a cure (or at least a means to stay alive), and that's all
there is to that. Your child has ADHD, which is a disease just like
any other disease (e.g., type one diabetes) -- or so all the media
and school officials and counselors claim. It's a disease and has
a cure (so say the drug ads, the doctors, the media). How can you
waste time hunting for solutions when the cure is known and available?
Of course, "dangerous drug" is controversial, because
many psychiatrists, psychologists, doctors and teachers (particularly
those pushing the drug -- excuse me, prescribing or recommending
the drug) claim it is harmless. Years ago psychiatrists (in published
articles) claimed that LSD was a harmless and therapeutic drug.
They said the same of angel dust. Earlier they prescribed heroin.
They denied for years -- and only recently admitted -- that thorazine
(the main anti-psychotic drug) was causing a chronic illness that
gave mental patients grotesque muscular spasms. Many of them still
deny the harmful effects of electro-convulsive "therapy"
But dangerous or not, Ritalin is a multi-billion dollar product
being given to millions of American school children (latest estimates
range from 4 to 6 million) who are expected to take the drug for
years. And it is being prescribed to handle a condition that doesn't
exist, ADHD. Yes, some students are antsy. Yes, in many cases Ritalin
makes them sit still (among other things). But no, there is no scientific
basis for calling ADHD a mental illness.
This is a very simple distinction: The scientific basis for calling
tuberculosis a disease does not exist for ADHD. There is no valid
scientific evidence for ADHD. There is no objective test that says
a child has ADHD. There is no evidence of any single cause for the
symptoms called ADHD. There is no evidence that an antsy child has
an illness of any sort, except if you simply assert that any antsy
child is crazy and craziness is an illness (a rather circular argument).
The valid science in the area of ADHD is that psychiatrists have
described (but not very well) a set of symptoms that fit some children
(and, unfortunately, can be made to fit nearly any alert child).
And they've noted that certain drugs suppress those symptoms. In
layman's language (as they say in court), psychiatrists have noticed
that some children are antsy in school and that if you drug them
with certain drugs, they are usually less antsy. That's all of the
science here. The rest is scientism, big words, untested assertions,
bullying and lobbying by authorities and big business, and great
care to avoid looking at the negative effects of drugging these
The same is true for all or most of the many disorders listed in
the DSM. They are lists of symptoms given heavy names and voted
into the book, as if there were some scientific basis for considering
them to be illnesses.
You might argue, it is unfair to compare a mental illness with
a physical illness or to expect objective tests (e.g., the view
of a germ through a microscope) for conditions that aren't physical.
After all, if a condition is unwanted, isn't it fair to call it
The question is, what is the scientific basis for the illness.
The value to psychiatry of the DSM is that psychiatrists are asserting
(and state publicly -- most days on National Public Radio, for example)
that the conditions listed in the DSM are diseases just like any
medical diseases and should be treated the same way (mainly with
medication) and, like any medical diseases, have physical causes
(chemical imbalances in the brain). The whole history of psychiatry
in the past two centuries has been in the direction of taking a
non-science that was rife with superstition and arbitrary treatments,
really a way to control difficult people in institutions, with little
real treatment; and giving that non-science the aura and authority
of science. This has been done by associating it with medicine (itself
a mishmash of superstition and science, but having SOME claims to
scientific credibility) and, more recently, biochemistry, genetics
and other advancing fields.
So yes, if you wish, call "tiredness" or "antsiness"
a mental illness. I don't agree, but that shouldn't stop you. And
when I say, "but on what basis do you call them an illness?
What is the cause? What is the cure?" -- you have all the right
in the world to say, "these are MENTAL illnesses, and needn't
be associated with some sort of cause like a germ or a toxin."
But don't then fill the media with pronouncements that "tiredness
and antsiness are just diseases like tuberculosis, diabetes or cancer
and as easily treated and no more to be stigmatized." Don't,
in other words, say that you don't NEED a scientific basis to claim
the existence of a mental illness, then demand that mental illnesses
be given the same sort of scientific validity as medical diseases
that DO have a scientific basis. You can't have it both ways. Or
perhaps you can. The psychiatrists and the drug companies are doing
quite well at it.
Of course, psychiatrists will occasionally caution that drugs should
be used only after "other means" have been tried, by which,
if pressed, they explain they mean counseling by a psychiatrist
or psychologist. But in practice, busy teachers and school administrators
and doctors and insurance companies go for the quick fix and prescribe
drugs. And it should be noted that psychiatrists and psychologists
HAVE no effective, proven approach to counseling. In fact, it is
the failure of the many and various forms of counseling (psycho-analysis,
behavioral, etc.) that led us to the new chemical solutions. None
of them have scientific validation. None of them ever produced better
results than talking to a friend. Various studies of a wide variety
of psychiatric and psychological and psycho-analytic patients and
non-patients have shown that success rates of all of the therapies
are about the same and are slightly LESS than the success rates
among people with similar woes who choose not to enter counseling.
So what psychiatrists are saying is, if you have ADHD, before getting
yourself drugged, you should try some expensive counseling known
to be ineffective in most cases. Not a very useful alternative.
I'm not saying that all counseling is ineffective. There are all
sorts of useful approaches, but they are mostly unknown to psychiatrists
and psychologists. For example, drug rehabilitation programs run
by these trained experts produce, at best, about a 15% success rate
-- people who, with effort and self-discipline, remain off drugs
after graduating from the program. And these "successes"
are often people whose treatment consists of their being addicted
to a new drug (methadone) that is more addictive than heroin, its
benefit being that its manifestations are less obvious. The big
drawback is that methadone is such a downer, that many of the new
methadone addicts look for other drugs as well. (The "little"
drawback is that nothing has been done to reduce drug addiction.)
12-step programs developed outside psychiatry and psychology and
run by addicts and alcoholics (e.g., Alcoholics Anonymous) do as
well or better. Another sort of program altogether, Narconon, a
worldwide drug rehabilitation program, including the world's largest
rehabilitation center -- in Oklahoma -- uses NO psychiatrists or
psychologists and none of their teachings, applying only technology
developed by the leader of a religion. Its success rate ranges (from
year to year) from 86 to 96%. In two independent studies, years
ago, in Spain and Sweden, researchers studied hundreds of graduates
and found that, two years after leaving the program (typically a
3-month program), 80% had not used drugs again -- and had NO DESIRE
TO DO SO -- and 100% had not been back in jail (many previously
had been in and out of jail). The Narconon program, thus validated,
has, of course, been studied and emulated by psychiatric professionals
-- NOT! They treat it as an embarrassment, try to get it discredited
or ignore it.
I'm not trying to sell a drug rehabilitation program here, only
to indicate that when psychiatrists say to try psychiatric counseling
before resorting to an iffy drug, they are NOT saying, "Try
other likely alternatives first." They don't KNOW the alternatives
and don't want to know. Most of them, for example, know little about
nutrition, a major factor in a child's ability to study. Most of
them know nothing at all about study itself -- for example, that
a student who, in reading or listening, goes past misunderstood
words without stopping to clear up the meanings of those words will
soon manifest most or all of the symptoms of ADHD listed in DSM
IV, and that these symptoms will vanish when the misunderstood words
are located and cleared up with a dictionary. (And this is something
that has been subjected to exhaustive tests and found effective
in tens of thousands of cases.)
So...there's no scientific basis for the DSM; its disorders, mostly,
do not exist; and the medications offered to cure the conditions
are fraudulent. Furthermore, it's arguable that many of these fearsome
conditions are not bad conditions in the first place. ADHD is the
perfect example. Einstein, Churchill and many other brilliant people
were terrible students (probably bored to tears) and would, in our
day, be classified as ADHD and drugged (with what loss to us?).
We are told that kids with ADHD can't learn, and that we are drugging
them to make them brighter and better students. But often it is
the brightest, most eager students who are most troublesome, when
bored by plodding classes. They want to get out and do something
interesting. Left to themselves, perhaps they will. Drugged to sit
still in class, probably they never will.
Furthermore, studies have shown that teachers use the ADHD classification
to get troublesome students (e.g.,the ones who raise their hands,
loudly begging, "Ask me! Please ask ME") quieted down
-- actually nullified -- by drugs. And they do this without regard
for the actual success of the student in his studies. Teachers asked
to rate students on their abilities as students (in several studies),
nearly always rated active, often troublesome students as stupider
than the quiet ones, even where tests of the students showed the
active students brighter. There are similar biases among parents:
Some want their noisy active kids "fixed", and are likely
to see anything that makes them sit still as good -- and to ignore
any negative side effects.
(This points to another difference between traditional medicine
and psychiatry: Medical conditions are usually treated because the
patient wants them treated. "Mental Disorders" are often
conditions that someone else wants to change in the patient, even
a form of punishment; and many treatments derive from the traditional
psychiatric view of mental illness as a stubbornness to be driven
out of the patient by electric shock, ice baths, beating and other
forms of torture. It is perversely admirable that, in the past few
decades, psychiatry has persuaded people to ASK to be nullified
by their treatments -- with anti-depressants, etc. What an achievement!)
If there's little or no genuine science in the psychiatric classification,
what is the scientific basis of the cure? I've hinted at this above:
If someone gives you a cure to a non-existent condition, the cure
is fraudulent. Or at best, it's the equivalent of "curing"
tiredness with a snort of cocaine or "curing" sadness
by getting drunk. But it's difficult for most of us to believe there's
so little scientific validity to pharmaceutical cures when their
spokespersons speak so authoritatively of complex brain chemistry,
when professors of neuro-physiology hold forth on talk shows about
neuro-transmitters, and so forth. It all sounds scientific. And
certainly bio-chemistry is science. It's not a soft-headed your-guess-is-as-good-as-mine
field (or mine field) like psychiatry. It's hard science, done in
laboratories by technicians.
But suppose we use the "tiredness" example, begin with
the assumption that it is impossible or too expensive or too difficult
to locate and handle causes of tiredness, try cocaine, find it has
unwanted side effects, then apply science (chemistry) to find cocaine-like
drugs that can be made to seem less dangerous than cocaine? Notice
that we are now applying science (chemistry) on top of an assumption
that has no scientific validity: that it's optimal to ignore actual
causes and simply suppress the symptoms.
Is this how psychiatry and the drug companies have proceeded?
First let's review, working from the DSM "scientists"
to the pharmaceutical solutions: We have a condition like ADHD,
which is not a single condition, but many -- and often is not a
defect in the first place. And each of the various conditions that
have ADHD as a symptom has it's own cause and remedy.
But psychiatrists are doctors (they are medical doctors, unlike
psychologists, who can only recommend medication, not prescribe
it). That makes them scientific authorities -- even though many
have little training in the methods of science, nor need they ever
cure anything to qualify for their degrees in psychiatry.
So when psychiatrists vote a condition into the DSM, it increases
the number of conditions psychiatrists can diagnose and treat and
research and for which they can hope to receive MONEY -- federal
funding, state funding, patient fees (usually in the form of insurance
payments) and huge subsidies from the pharmaceutical industry, which
contributes millions of dollars to the APA and offers individual
psychiatrists free trips to conventions, paid vacations, jobs, grants,
etc. (And, oh yes, free drugs. Samples, you see.)
The pharmaceutical companies work with psychiatrists to plan out
campaigns to define new mental illnesses and match them with new
drugs. The new drugs don't cure the supposed illnesses. They suppress
symptoms. Psychiatrists will never define a condition such as: Piles
up a lot of projects, starts them, but before finishing any, starts
more. Why? Because no drug would cure it. A person who behaves that
way will be exhausted most of the time, have dispersed attention,
etc. A psychiatrist will list those symptoms, call them the condition,
and prescribe a drug to suppress the symptoms rather than show a
patient how to finish one thing at a time. A psychiatrist will never
define "Neglects clearing up meanings of words he misunderstands,
but reads right on past them" as a condition, because no drug
will cause a person to look up such words. A psychiatrist would
rather list some of the symptoms such a person will manifest (blankness,
anxiety, glee, stupidity, etc.), because there are drugs that will
suppress such symptoms of a "learning disorder".
Thus, the conditions in the DSM are never the real conditions,
but always sets of symptoms consistent with current pharmaceutical
capability: They ignore (and really bulldoze out of view) underlying
conditions and suppress symptoms. If you're in pain, take a pain
killer. If you're sad, take a drug that gets you high. If you don't
want to think about how bad things are, get drunk. The psychiatrists
and pharmaceutical companies don't tell you to get drunk, but that
is precisely the entire and only scientific rationale for the entire
psycho-pharmaceutical industry: If you don't want to think about
how bad things are, get drunk.
Well, it's ALMOST the entire rationale. There's a bit more to the
strategy and science here. There's "refinement" -- taking
that idea (you don't feel good, so get drunk) and using sophisticated
real science to make it look better. (That's where the real science
is in this whole program: the cosmetics.) Here's how it works:
Traditionally, this approach (get drunk) has at least two major
drawbacks: It doesn't cure anything, and it has bad side effects.
Killing the pain doesn't handle the CAUSE of the pain. If you keep
taking pain killers, you never find the broken bone and have it
set; you never find the tumor and have it removed before it kills
you. You never realize that you have your dead mother's illness
because you are trying to keep her alive, realize that you are not
her and don't need to perpetuate her illness. You never find that
you are deficient in some nutrient, and that this deficiency is
destroying your body. You just keep upping your intake of pain-killer
(or alcohol or heroin or whatever). Not only doesn't this cure the
cause of the pain, but often the pain (or whatever you are trying
to handle) is worse if you stop taking the drug -- and more difficult
to address by other means. Such drugs are, after all, toxic.
In theory, patients take them in small enough amounts to avoid being
killed by them. (This is the theory, but the number of deaths each
year from taking psychiatric and other medical drugs "as directed"
is huge -- in the hundreds of thousands, per some studies.) But
they are, none the less, poisonous and damaging to the organism.
Thus, if one comes off the drug (often with unpleasant withdrawal
symptoms) and then attempts to handle the original condition, it
is suppressed out of view by the trauma of the drug itself. For
example, if you get drunk day after day to forget your sorrows,
then manage to get yourself sober and confront the messes in your
life, those messes are harder to confront than they would have been
if you'd dealt with them in the first place. The light of day itself
is hard to confront.
And even while in use and apparently effective, the drug has other
side effects: A few drinks cheer you up, but there's the hangover,
brain damage, crazy behavior while drunk, loss of job, etc. Cocaine
may stir you from depression, but you get "hyper" and
difficult to be around, get nosebleeds and, eventually, more serious
conditions (including a stopped heart). Even the most popular, non-prescription
drugs (e.g., aspirin, Tylenol) have long lists of negative side
Pharmaceutical companies try to avoid these problems as follows:
First, they can't be suppressing symptoms if what they are knocking
out is the bad condition itself. So they invent a supposed cause
for the supposed condition or mental illness that their drugs supposedly
remedy. They do this after the fact and with no valid scientific
evidence that any such illness even exists, as we've seen. Thus
the drug companies claim they ARE handling the CAUSE, not just addressing
symptoms. In other words, because psychiatrists have taken a set
of symptoms and classified those symptoms as the condition to be
handled, if psychiatrists can suppress those symptoms, they can
claim (on psychiatric authority) that they are addressing or alleviating
(if not curing) THE condition.
If psychiatrists said, "There are various situations that
cause a set of symptoms we call ADHD, and these situations include
nutritional problems, environmental problems, study problems, and
others, each with various remedies available," then it wouldn't
make sense to announce a drug to "cure" or "treat"
ADHD. It would be obvious that this would be the same as getting
drunk to avoid thinking about bad news. But psychiatrists define
ADHD (or Clinical Depression or Anxiety, etc.) as THE condition.
ADHD is simply a name they've given to a bunch of vaguely described
symptoms, but since ADHD is listed by psychiatrists in DSM IV as
a mental illness, these symptoms have become an illness (like tuberculosis),
not symptoms (like those associated with tiredness or hunger).
In other words, the condition is defined in such a way as to make
the pharmaceutical company claims look reasonable. All these familiar
symptoms that we thought were reactions to all sorts of complexities
of life are actually a disease -- haven't you heard? The scientists
have discovered that those are actually a condition called ADHD,
and you can take a drug to cure it. How wonderful! No more complexities
of life to deal with!
(Note: The pharmaceutical companies don't really claim to cure
anything. They only imply this -- for example, in ads for anti-depressants,
showing smiling, lovely people looking vital, relishing life and
family activities, tossing laughing babies into the air. They can't
claim to cure, because the patients must continue to take the drugs
indefinitely -- for life, as far as the pharmaceutical companies
can predict. There's no evidence that any of their psychiatric drugs
have ever cured the condition they claim to treat. Patients are
warned to come off the drugs with great caution, and frequently
find, when they do, that their condition -- once off the drugs --
(And how odd that a drug that addresses the real cause of a real
condition -- as claimed -- doesn't remedy that cause or cure that
Let's take a closer look at how drugs are designed and promoted
so as to sound like reasonable and scientific solutions. We'll use,
as our example, the "serotonin reuptake inhibitors" (anti-depressants
like Prozac and Zoloft).
A chemist working for a pharmaceutical company notices that a chemical
being researched for some other purpose (for example, treating ulcers
or lowering blood pressure) makes test subjects less nervous or
less apathetic (or whatever). Human subjects on this drug don't
seem to care as much about what had been distressing them. The new
drug is then developed as an anti-depressant. And, after the fact,
researchers look for a scientific explanation for the drug's effects.
(And, yes, this "after-the-fact" sequence does lessen
the reliability of what's found. The researchers are being paid
to find what they are supposed to find. They are not objective.)
They find that there's a neuro-transmitter (substance used to carry
"messages" from one nerve cell to another -- in this case,
in part of the brain) called serotonin, and that once serotonin
has carried its message, a chemical in a nerve cell reabsorbs the
serotonin into the cell, so that it is no longer available to carry
messages. They find that the new drug inhibits the "reuptake"
action of the chemical that catches the serotonin and reabsorbs
it, so that more serotonin remains floating around between cells,
available to carry messages -- maybe increasing transmissions between
So they theorize, maybe depression is caused by too little serotonin
floating free. Then they study brain activity of people they rate
as depressed and find that these people have less than normal available
serotonin and that while on the drug they have more serotonin. So
they say, "This indicates that a serotonin deficiency (a chemical
imbalance -- too much reuptake chemical) causes depression.
Now this is science -- sort of. First of all, I've simplified the
science. Second -- so have they, since the researchers picked on
one of many effects caused by the drug and ignored others. They
also assumed more than they proved: they find a chemical phenomenon
associated with an emotional state, and assume that the chemical
phenomenon is the CAUSE of the emotional state. (Why not vice versa?)
They also brush over the fact that in many cases the drug simply
doesn't work (no lessening of depression), which suggests that not
all depression has the same chemical characteristic. So the science
is a bit sloppy. But that's not the main problem -- which is that
more or less genuine science has been joined to pseudo-science --
like putting a pretty wig on a skull. Here's how that works:
Assume that the chemistry is correct, that the main effect of the
drug is to increase the amount of available serotonin, that all
people when depressed have less serotonin available and that all
people, given the drug, have more serotonin and are less depressed
as a result. Now that's a lot to assume and a lot more than is known.
But assume it. What does it amount to: If you don't want to think
about something unpleasant, get drunk. Getting drunk, too, has chemical
effects on the brain, and they occur in every case. And it works
as long as you can stay drunk.
In other words, all the more-or-less-real chemistry entered into
the equation doesn't change the basic rationale: We are still failing
to distinguish between symptoms and causes.
Let's grant that one can consistently identify people who are "clinically
depressed". (And this is doubtful. Psychiatrists, at any rate,
are notorious for diagnosing murderers as harmless and harmless
people as dangerous.) Grant that such people have less serotonin
free between brain neurons. But we also know that if we kick a person
off his job, steal his wife, take away his children or his home
or his car, put him into no-win situations, tell him repeatedly
that he's good for nothing and of no use to anyone, keep him from
getting food and sleep, etc. -- if we do all or some of this, he
will almost certainly get depressed -- and may then have a serotonin
If we then restore wife, job and a sane environment and make sure
he's well-fed and rested and generally repair what we broke, he
will probably recover from depression -- AND cease to have a serotonin
deficiency (assuming, again, that the chemists have their chemistry
Which was cause? Which was symptom? Did we cure his depression
by removing free serotonin from his brain, thus causing him to lose
his job, etc.? Or vice versa? Do we raise flowers by watering and
fertilizing them so that they grow from their roots upward? Or do
we reach down to the roots with our hands and yank the flowers up
out of the roots?
A car that won't go has wheels not turning. A car that moves has
wheels turning. Does this mean that you repair a car that won't
go by spinning the wheels? Or do you find out why the car isn't
moving and fix that? You could jack the car off the ground, then
manually spin the wheels and say, see, it's fixed. And in a way
it would be as long as you kept spinning the wheels with your hands.
We know that mental state affects physical state. Anger stirs up
the adrenals, which affect heart beat, digestion, thyroid -- even
brain chemistry. Fear, joy, anxiety, hatred, apathy -- all affect
the entire organism. But which comes first, the anger or its chemical
The argument of bio-psychiatry (the science created to vindicate
the pharmaceutical approach) is that one should differentiate between
a "real" fear (meeting a mugger with a knife) versus a
phobia; between a "real" anger versus an anger disorder,
and so forth. The disorder versions of our emotions are caused by
chemical imbalances. You can distinguish between them by whether
or not the "real" source of emotion is plainly visible
in the environment.
Even if this reasoning were valid, it would be purely academic,
because in practice, most psychiatrists and doctors don't bother
to inquire after real environmental factors. If the patient complains
of depression, he's given an anti-depressant. Most insurance companies
and HMOs expect doctors -- including psychiatrists -- to spend only
a few minutes with each patient. There's no time -- not if you want
to be paid by the insurance company -- for any questioning or therapy
other than prescribing the miracle drug of the week, which only
takes a few minutes, and, in the short term, seems to save money
for the insurance companies and HMOs. This discourages even psychiatrists
who WANT to look for real causes from doing so.
Besides, once the disorders are in the DSM, any doctor -- not just
psychiatrists, but ANY doctor can prescribe psychiatric drugs for
them. Thus, some psychiatric spokespersons say that these drugs
should be used only after an expert (that is, a psychiatric expert
-- a label akin to "military intelligence") has eliminated
the possibility that the patient needs to be counseled to help him/her
handle some environmental difficulty -- like the loss of a loved
one or problems at work. But in practice, the patient has come to
a doctor, who is not a psychiatrist and has not been trained as
a counselor, who knows only that the patient says "I'm depressed"
and that he has in hand the latest drug for depression -- which
he then prescribes.
I've heard a psychiatrist who felt psychiatric drugs were being
over-prescribed explain at great length that this is not mainly
the fault of psychiatrists, since the drugs were being prescribed
mainly by family doctors. This is probably true, but the family
doctors can prescribe the drugs only because the psychiatrists and
pharmaceutical companies have invented the illnesses and their treatments
and persuaded insurance companies to pay for the treatments and,
in many cases, persuaded politicians to pass laws requiring insurance
companies to pay for those (and ONLY those) treatments.
But even if every patient complaining of a condition (for example,
anxiety) were carefully questioned to determine whether or not this
is a "REAL" anxiety or a "mental disorder",
the reasoning itself is shallow. It assumes that if no cause is
immediately visible in the environment, there must be no such cause.
Suppose someone is afraid of dogs. They have no "reason"
to be afraid of dogs. No dogs are bothering them. There aren't any
dogs in their neighborhood. They can't recall having any trouble
with dogs. Therefore the phobia must be a chemical imbalance in
the brain? That's ignoring the way people make irrational associations.
Typically such a phobia derives from something earlier (and probably
painful enough to have been pushed out of view -- its details forgotten)
that in some way (maybe an utterly nonsensical way) is stirred up
by the sight or smell or sound of a dog.
Freud gave this approach a bad name, because he didn't ask; he
TOLD the patient what the patient REALLY feared, and did so based
on unproven theories about what people really fear and speculations
about what dogs might "symbolize". But there are hundreds
of thousands of people who've rid themselves of fears simply by
spotting and examining the real sources of those fears (and other
unwanted emotions and pains). Freud's follies don't discredit (as
they're said to do by bio-psychiatrists) the fact that what we react
to when we react is not necessarily something that comes immediately
to view, yet is no less real for being suppressed out of view.
The current psychiatric view is that if no cause is immediately
evident, one should simply assume a bio-chemical cause and medicate
it. Here again the failure of psychiatry (the ineffectiveness of
talk therapy) has led psychiatry to an unusual and perhaps desperate
And usually, since it is faster than helping a person handle complex
life situations, a psychiatrist will ignore even obvious external
causes and go immediately to medication. Or if he refuses to medicate,
the patient will find a psychiatrist who WILL, because the patient's
insurance won't cover any other treatment.
Note that, even if you don't believe that a condition can have
causes (the "real" kind) that are not immediately visible
in the environment and that the patient doesn't even know about,
still, there is no evidence that the causes of these conditions
are chemical imbalances in the brain. All that's KNOWN is that in
some cases a drug (that affects brain chemistry) can suppress symptoms.
If it were true that where no obvious environmental cause is evident,
it is correct to assume that the cause is a chemical imbalance,
then the result of remedying that imbalance would be a cure, but
this is never the case.
Or perhaps we should say, these drugs do not remedy the imbalance.
They just cope with it, at best. Because, again -- and this is something
psychiatrists and pharmaceutical chemists don't even TRY to refute
-- these drugs cure nothing and usually leave the patient worse
than when he started, once he goes off the drugs or, in many cases,
if the patient doesn't increase the dosage gradually over the years.
(It can be argued that they are worse while ON the drugs, which
we'll look at under "bad side effects" later.)
In other words, this idea most of us have been given by the media
that science has proven that mental illnesses are all the result
of chemical imbalances in the brain is simply pseudo-science. Science
has shown that in some cases chemical states of the brain can be
associated with certain conditions. Science has not shown that these
conditions are caused by these chemical states or cured by treating
these states chemically. In many cases (e.g., ADHD) no one has even
managed to find a chemical state in the brain that can be associated
with ADHD (or supposed cases of ADHD). One researcher made headlines
years ago with claims that he had found brain shrinkage in a high
proportion of ADHD cases. What the newspapers didn't say (and the
researcher didn't tell them) was that these "ADHD cases",
when their brains were studied, had already been on Ritalin and
other drugs for a long time, and that these drugs are known to cause
such brain shrinkage. In other words, what he really "discovered"
was the validity of previous research indicating that Ritalin damages
What the current rationale amounts to is, "We don't know what
causes these conditions, we don't know how to cure them, and when
we can't see any obvious environmental cause for them, we may as
well assume they're chemical imbalances, so that we can justify
suppressing the symptoms with drugs. Meanwhile we'll keep researching
to find more chemical mechanisms in the brain that seem to be associated
with these conditions, in order to give a greater semblance of science
to what we're doing."
All drugs (alcohol, tobacco, Prozac, marijuana, cocaine, Thorazine,
Valium, LSD, arsenic, caffeine, aspirin, etc.) mess with brain chemistry
to some degree. The real science here is chemistry. Real chemists
make some verifiable pronouncements about brain chemistry, which
lends a scientific aura to the whole pseudo-science of promoting
a drug that suppresses a symptom (pushes it out of view). They then
invent a chemical explanation, claim that the chemical mechanism
is the CAUSE of the situation. Thus Ritalin and related drugs in
the speed family, such as dexidrene, are given to millions of children
in the United States to control ADHD -- and schools are paid hundreds
of dollars a month by the federal government for each child they
diagnose as ADHD!
All this despite the fact that there is no scientific evidence
that the supposed disorder, ADHD, exists, there are no scientific
tests for ADHD, there is no known chemical imbalance (scientifically
validated) associated with this supposed condition, and, while there's
evidence that some active children become less active when given
Ritalin (except for the ones who get wilder), there's NO evidence
that this improves them as students or yields any long-term gain
in their grades or achievement. Some people swear by it, as, for
centuries, people swore to the efficacy of bleeding the sick or
visiting witch doctors, but it ain't science.
Notice that I'm not delving into statistics or anecdotes. I'm not
telling you about kids put on Ritalin who soon after commit suicide
or kill people. Nor am I telling you about kids who claim to have
gotten better on Ritalin. I'm leaving the war of anecdotes to others.
I don't have to go into statistics, because in the key areas there
are none. There's simply NO evidence that Ritalin has improved students'
ability to study. There IS evidence to the contrary -- for example,
the general decline in student IQ, which, when graphed, exactly
parallels the graph of increased psychiatric intervention in our
But my main point here is to deal with the LOGIC and ILLOGIC of
the current psychiatric scene, because most of us are instantly
paralyzed by the idea of challenging SCIENCE, with all its complexity
and power. I'm not making the whole case here for the damage caused
by these drugs. I'm trying to remove from this picture the blinding
aura of SCIENCE, the idea that the experts have proven all these
things, that it must all make sense if it's printed in big books
in big words and spoken with authority by intelligent-sounding voices
on "All Things Considered"; the idea that all these invented
conditions are scientific developments and realities, and that all
these people who are supposed to have these conditions are somehow
changed from what we used to think they were, now that we "know"
that they "suffer from mental illnesses".
I want to remove some of the false preconceptions from the way
we think about these things, so that we can look at what's really
there and make up our own minds on the subject. I'm more interested
here in unraveling the LOGIC of psychiatric claims to being scientific
than in producing scholarly references to studies and statistics.
The big question here is, do the premises make sense? Are we dealing
here with science at all? If not, all the scientific trimmings in
the world won't make it scientific. A million studies of ADHD patients
won't produce scientifically valid results if there's no such condition
as ADHD. You may as well research the mental chemistry of the angels
standing on the head of a pin.
Tailoring Drugs for Acceptable Side Effects:
We've looked at how the pharmaceutical industry handles the first
objection to symptom suppression: They don't say, "You feel
bad? Get drunk." They say instead, "You suffer from clinical
depression? We have scientifically proven that clinical depression
is a result of insufficient serotonin in your brain, and we have
a drug that will remedy that scarcity." (They don't say, "Your
brain has a Prozac deficiency", though that's what their argument
amounts to.) Is this more scientific than "You feel bad? Get
drunk." No, but it has more science in it. Similarly, "You
feel bad? Get drunk" could be given more science by having
chemists research what exactly changes in the brain when a drunk
feels less miserable (and many drunks say they do, when they're
drinking) and then (supposing that they find alcohol stimulates
the brain's production of chemical XYZ) saying, "You suffer
from clinical depression? We have scientifically proven that clinical
depression is a result of insufficient chemical XYZ in your brain,
and we have a medication that will remedy that scarcity." (And
they could produce long, detailed, difficult-for-laypersons-to-follow
studies from prestigious journals explaining the exact mechanisms
by which Alcohexine tablets stimulate chemical XYZ in the hippocampus.).
They would be saying no more than "You feel bad? Get drunk."
But they'd be saying it with a lot more science. The science would
be somewhat real. But that wouldn't make the statement more scientific.
It wouldn't prove that getting drunk is a good treatment for depression.
It wouldn't prove that the depression was caused by a lack of chemical
XYZ. But it would certainly fool most of us. And of course, it would
help that the alcohol is to be delivered in some new, exotic form
(Alcohexine tablets -- my new invention).
(This isn't as ridiculous as it sounds. For decades, patent medicine
peddlers sold housewives miracle drugs that were mainly alcohol.
The Food and Drug Administration [FDA] was legislated into existence
partly to stop such false cures from being imposed on a credulous
public. Now equally false, but far more complex and credentialed
drugs are being foisted upon an even more credulous public -- better
educated to believe in well-credentialed scientific wizardry, though
less educated in basic literacy and logic. And the current FDA-endorsed
drugs are probably more damaging than the old patent medicines.)
So the first objection (the drug doesn't handle causes, just suppresses
symptoms, like getting drunk to feel better) is handled by misdefining
the condition so that it sounds like what the drug deals with and
covering up the actual non-scientific basis of the rationale with
biochemical complexity. We miss the fact that no science is involved
in the diagnosis or the treatment, because our attention is distracted
by the science applied to finding an explanation for the drug's
effects in the brain. There's science associated with it; therefore,
it must be scientific.
As for the second obstacle to this approach -- side effects --
the pharmaceutical handling has been to tailor drugs (with new "improvements"
in each chemical generation) to eliminate the more obvious side
effects, leaving us with more subtle and deniable side effects --
deniable in that, when the person medicated gets a fatal liver disease
or kills himself or his family, the companies can insist, "There
is no proof that our drug caused this."
When drugs are tested for six weeks on mostly healthy adults, then
approved by the FDA for use by anyone (children, pregnant women,
the elderly) for years and years, NO ONE KNOWS WHAT THE DRUGS WILL
DO. The fact that the tests are conducted by scientists working
for the pharmaceutical companies; that bad results are often ignored
or lost or statistically rationalized; that most doctors don't know
how to report bad side effects, so that there's little real follow-up
to find out what the drugs do; and that the FDA committees that
approve drugs are often composed of scientists who have worked for
the drug companies or own stock in them or are now or were receiving
payments from them or had or are expecting jobs from them -- all
this adds uncertainty to the safety and effectiveness of these drugs.
The fact that these drugs are seldom tested in combination with
any of the other drugs people take (and many people take several
different drugs or drink alcohol the same days they take drugs)
adds greatly to the risk. And when one takes such a drug, not for
weeks, but for months or years (as is typical), the accumulation
of side effects can be subtle, and the connections between drug
and side effect hard to prove -- especially when no one wants to
investigate it. That is, the companies that have the financial means
and facilities to conduct such studies (the drug companies) are
not interested in funding such studies. They have nothing to gain
The listed, KNOWN (but in tiny print) side effects are scary enough,
usually including death "in a very small percentage of cases".
We know, for example, that Ritalin stunts growth, that if you stop
taking it suddenly, you're a suicide risk, and that it sometimes
causes psychosis. But in most cases a kid on Ritalin appears quieter
and shows no immediate obvious sign of being harmed by the drug
-- certainly nothing that a teacher who has a student drugged for
being too active is likely to notice. Many parents who have protested
having their kid on Ritalin mentioned that their child seemed OK
at home, but said he didn't like the drug, and that they didn't
understand what was wrong until they actually went to school and
saw their child in the class room with the Ritalin in full bloom
(like many drugs, it has a period of greater potency and then fades
out of view until renewed the next morning), then were shocked to
see that their child seemed to be a zombie.
The point is, the drugs are engineered in the direction of reducing
obvious bad side effects. If an anti-depressant drug causes dry
mouth, there will be an effort to add something to the drug to counter
dry mouth. If a drug causes weight gain, there will be a search
for a way to counter that. This is heavy-duty science. It has nothing
to do with making the drug safer or more effective. It has to do
with making the drug do whatever it does without anyone noticing
what it's doing. It is cosmetic. It is dangerous.
Why dangerous? We begin with a drug aimed at curing nothing, but
suppressing symptoms. In the process of suppressing some symptoms,
we create other symptoms, so we alter the drug to suppress THOSE
symptoms as well. It's a bit like sweeping stuff under the rug until
the rug mounds up in the center. One of the dangers is that we've
now made any bad effects of the drug more difficult to detect or
prove. Prozac doesn't usually do anything as obvious as making someone
drunk or ravingly euphoric and out of touch. You probably won't
immediately detect that someone is on Prozac the way you would spot
someone on heroin or even, if you look at the dilated irises, pot.
Yet sometimes Prozac turns people into murderous or suicidal psychopaths.
But even they seem "normal" until the moment they start
shooting. Nearly all the kids involved in recent school shootings
fit this pattern: They'd been examined by psychiatrists, given psychiatric
drugs, and pronounced OK. People were mostly shocked. Isn't it one
of our modern clichés? "He seemed so normal!" "I
just don't understand -- he seemed to be such a nice, quiet, polite
young man!" The very fact that some people on these drugs,
while seeming to have been fixed by them (no longer deeply depressed,
for example) and seeming to have no ill effects from them, suddenly,
for no sane reason we know of, do terrible, outrageous things --
this fact places in doubt the notion that these drugs do no harm
just because obvious dramatic side effects are not visible.
What do we know, for example, about the people who claim to have
improved from Prozac and who have NOT started shooting people, but
appear calm and rational? Typically (so these people say on talk
shows and in books) they feel less concerned about how others might
feel about them or their actions and less able to feel concerned.
They find it harder to get turned on sexually. They feel their creativity
has lessened. And eventually they have to up their dosage of Prozac
to retain that feeling of no concern (lessened empathy is probably
a reasonable description), and will be less able to stop taking
Prozac without plunging into depression worse than before.
(So a drug addressing a "cause" -- chemical imbalance
-- not only doesn't cure it, but makes it worse -- apparently lessens
the ability of the brain to produce serotonin.)
And there are many more unpleasant or dubious side effects claimed
for Prozac, some admitted by the manufacturer, others denied as
unprovable. The point is, something is wrong in your life, you don't
find out what it is, you use a drug to suppress the effects of that
something wrong -- and of course there are side effects! You've
never fixed the cause. So the cause transfers its bad effects to
"side effects." You feel sad because you're in a lousy
job and going nowhere. Rather than exert the necessary effort to
improve things, you get drunk and (briefly) feel better. There are
bad side effects -- bad for you and for others. You FEEL them. Others
can SEE them. You do NOT look normal.
Pharmaceutical companies tailor drugs to CONCEAL side effects.
This means that part of YOU will be suppressed out of view, will
seem no longer to exist -- guilts, anxieties, concern about what
others think or feel, hates, fears, conscience. But you will appear
normal, be able to hold a job, be with family and friends -- and
yet more and more of you is MISSING. It is you, after all, who'd
like a better job or a better relationship with wife and children
or bigger, better games to play, faded dreams rekindled, a reason
to live, an ability to enjoy the first morning light. Unable to
have these things, you are depressed. You take Prozac, and you feel
less depressed (perhaps), but you don't handle the causes of the
depression. At any rate, there's no evidence that people on Prozac
have more loving relationships or greater appreciation for morning
light -- though such things are implied by the drug ads. But there's
no scientific evidence for it.
It may be that, if a person is depressed by one thing in life (say,
a boss who puts him down) and that depression makes him a burden
to his family, then if the Prozac makes him not give a damn what
the boss thinks, he seems more cheerful and tolerable to his family
-- but loses the job. There are all sorts of variables here. But
the basic situation is that you take a person who has difficulties
in living, you suppress the difficulties out of view without in
any way handling them, and you do this in such a way as to make
it appear that nothing has happened.
Some people hate the drug, but others say, "Oh, you should
try this. It's wonderful" -- which always reminds me of the
pod people in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. (Forgive me, I'm stigmatizing!)
But the "body snatcher" allusion may be relevant. The
logic, the direction of drug design is dangerous. It may be a movement
toward the creation of textbook psychopaths: Emotional vacuums who
appear normal and actually work at imitating normal reactions to
things. Current drugs are far from perfect in this respect (since
they have visible bad side effects), but the ideal drug (what psycho-pharmacy
is currently aiming at) would produce a cheerful psychopathic personality,
someone skilled at acting normal, but no one is there. Not every
psychopath is Ted Bundy or Hitler, but all, however subtly, are
at war with those around them, hidden from themselves and others,
a continual vacuum of humanity among us, black holes in disguise.
This point is more speculative than what has gone before. When
I say that ADHD as a mental disorder with the same reality as any
medical illness is non-existent, I'm stating a plain fact. When
I describe the rationale and science (or lack thereof) in the pharmaceutical
approach to mental illness, I'm stating something you can easily
verify for yourself from psychiatric and pharmaceutical literature.
The point I'm making now (about the creation of psychopaths) is
not as obvious, nor as certain, but I think it needs to be made:
We need to know what we may well be getting into:
If psychiatrists continue to define as mental disorders all the
qualities that make us human, and pharmaceutical companies continue
to develop drugs to suppress out of view all of these qualities,
while leaving us looking normal, that's where I think we're heading.
When you suppress symptoms out of view without in any way handling
their causes, you are bound to create bad side effects (really just
bad effects -- for they are the MAIN effects of the drugs), and
the more you suppress side effects of side effects of side effects,
the worse -- and at the same time more subtle and hard to detect
-- the side effects become. This sounds mathematically pleasing,
but is hard to prove.
However, it is plausible. We've all had some experience of this,
I think. It's certainly obvious in the case of the guy who drinks
to feel better. And we can think of thousands of other examples.
If you'll grant me that one point -- that it is highly likely (if
not certain) that you cannot suppress these symptoms out of view,
not dealing at all with their human causes, without creating negative
effects, then the rest of the argument follows: The current psycho-pharmaceutical
solution produces fewer and fewer clearly visible and provable effects
while suppressing more and more out of view, so must be moving people
in the direction of psychopath -- all normal on the surface, a great
deal missing within. This sounds wild and implausible at first,
but really it follows logically if you grant the more plausible
point above. It's like hollowing out an Easter egg by making small
puncture holes at top and bottom and blowing or sucking out the
white and yolk -- leaving an apparently intact eggshell.
Certainly if this were occurring, we wouldn't expect most psychiatrists
to notice. These are the same people (or their students) who for
decades insisted that lobotomy was helping people.
And, again, the number of people on psychotropic (mind-changing
psychiatric) medications who look cheerful and normal right up the
point where they go on a shooting spree has to cast doubt on the
cheerful normality of the others -- not that we should expect them
to do anything awful, but that we should be skeptical of the idea
that the absence of obvious bad effects indicates no bad effects.
This is a tricky argument: It seems to put the pharmaceutical proponents
in a no-win position: The "better" their drugs work (fewer
obvious side effects), the more dangerous they are. That point might
be valid in the absence of all the other arguments I've made. But
when you begin with fraudulent conditions, cures that worsen the
symptoms (if one goes off the drugs), the known bad side effects
(and for all its subtlety, Prozac has had more bad side effects
reported than any drug before it) and the illogical pseudo-scientific
elements pointed out earlier, my argument gains a few points.
After all, for all the complex chemical research involved, each
development in the process takes us further and further away from
the avowed intention of relieving a mental illness. First you develop
a drug because it seems to relieve a symptom. Then you tinker with
it to relieve a symptom caused by the drug. Then you tinker further
to relieve a symptom caused by the earlier tinkering. At each step
the drug becomes more complex, further removed from the actual condition
of the patient, its chemistry harder to understand, and it becomes
harder to see how it will interact with other drugs, harder to know
what its long-term effects will be.
The drug companies don't fund studies to show how long people survive
on their drugs, how well they do in school or on the job or in their
marriages, etc. You'd think they would want that sort of information
known (if the drugs help people). Try to find such studies. There
ARE studies showing the number of suicides related to Ritalin, the
number of acts of violence related to Prozac, etc. These are disputed
by the drug companies -- or simply ignored, but such studies exist
-- NOT studies showing that people do well in life on these drugs.
To me this suggests that the bad effects are there, but have been,
mostly, hidden or refined so well, that they develop gradually over
time and are hard to prove without strong statistical follow-ups
of the sort not being done. (Where's the real science when you need
By analogy, electro-convulsive therapy ("curing" depression
-- usually by suicide soon after -- by giving the brain strong electric
shocks) had an obvious bad side effect: The spasms induced broke
the patients' bones or at best left patients black and blue. To
refine this bad effect out of existence, psychiatrists began to
give the patients muscle relaxant drugs before shocking them. No
more bad side-effects -- except the destruction of lots of brain
cells, loss of short term memory, loss of long-term memory, and
so on. But it was better with the relaxants, right? No broken bones,
but it increased the brain damage and trauma. For one thing, the
memory loss is increased: The trauma of the shock itself blocks
things. To this trauma is added the effect of the muscle relaxant
(a drug after all) suppressing the shock itself out of view (that
is, memory of it) to some extent. And there are other factors. The
point is, the change was cosmetic, like giving a lobotomy or leukotomy
by pushing a pointed object into the brain by reaching around the
eyeball and puncturing the bone behind the eye, so as not to leave
an operation scar on the forehead. The patient is depressed, so
shock the depression out of view. The shock spasms muscles, so suppress
the spasm out of view with a muscle relaxant.
That is the philosophy behind the complex chemistry of the pharmaceutical
industry. The science involved in tailoring drugs to eliminate targeted
symptoms is complex and impressive. The science behind the rationale
for doing this is, at best, sloppy coping, at worst, fraudulent
The DSM is not just a ploy for psychiatrists and pharmaceutical
companies to make a few billion dollars. It's part of an attempt
to legislate mental health into our lives. For example, efforts
to make it mandatory for every insurance policy to include full
coverage for mental illnesses are based on the DSM. The idea is
that mental illnesses are real illnesses, "just like cancer
or Parkinson's disease" and should be given equal coverage
(or "full parity"), and this is supposed to hold up for
every condition listed in DSM IV. ADHD is a real illness, just like
diabetes; Depression is a real illness, just like chicken pox; a
woman feeling bad during menstruation is a real illness just like
measles. I haven't yet heard "fear of peanut butter sticking
to the roof of one's mouth is a real illness just like muscular
dystrophy", though the peanut butter fear is one of the phobia's
listed in DSM IV and will, therefore, be treated as a full-blooded
illness under legislation now being considered, so that all insurance
policies will have to pay for treatment of people worried about
peanut butter's adhesive qualities.
And how easy to defraud insurance companies, when there are no
objective tests for ANY of these illnesses (not even such classics
as schizophrenia). Any psychiatrist can label any patient and get
paid for doing so. There are no lab tests, for example, to show
that someone has these illnesses. ("Of course not! They're
mental!" you say, but, again, the rationale for the treatments
is that they are caused by chemical imbalances.)
We are psychiatrists (let's say). We create disorders by psychiatric
fiat (no science need apply). We find drugs that can make most active
kids sit still. We make activity an illness, so that the makers
of these drugs can make billions "treating ADHD", sharing
the wealth with us in exchange for our prestige as experts. If we
admit that there is no such condition as ADHD, the drugs to treat
it would be a very hard sell, so we keep mum. If we hinted that
there are lots of reasons a kid may act bored, that too would queer
the sale. No, a single condition implies a single cause, which must
be biochemical, because, behold, a drug makes kids sit still. So
does a mallet to the head, which might suggest that the real cause
of ADHD is a deficiency of concussions.
Of course, defenders of the drugs say they are only for extreme
cases, that for most students counseling or other treatment should
be preferred. But in practice teachers, nurses and doctors diagnose
ADHD and medicate the kids. It is increasingly dangerous for a kid
to have a boring teacher. School becomes more and more like that
mythological bed whose owner (Procrustes) would trim or stretch
the guest to make him fit the bed.
Have our schools improved, become safer or smarter, since becoming
psychiatric clinics for medication of children (and psychological
clinics for teaching values clarification, sex education, death
classes, etc.)? No, the reverse. Students were brighter and saner
before this began (evidence galore, including standardized test
results, violence statistics, the need for metal detectors in the
schools, etc.). Psychiatric apologists (a strange phrase, as psychiatrists
never apologize; they say "He came to us too late") --
psychiatric apologists respond, "True, but pressures are greater
now and kids are under devastating stresses from the pressures of
Aha! So the causes of these disorders are the pressures of our
time? Then why don't we deal with the circumstances alleged to be
causing those pressures? Why don't we recommend programs to improve
the inferior quality of our food (mineral deprived, for example)
or to reduce the number of broken families? How does using a drug
to make a kid sit still or an anti-depressant or an anti-anxiety
drug to make him not give a damn -- how do these handle the CAUSES
Or if brain chemistry is the cause, did chemical imbalances of
the brain increase dramatically around the time we began psycho-medicating?
That would be suggestive indeed.
Folks, it's a Brave New World, and we're in it. It is totalitarian
in tendency: Parents have had their children seized by Social Services
because they've refused to let them be put on Ritalin or other drugs.
(And this while we finance a war on drugs. And by the way, Ritalin
is a popular street drug. Kids hide their tablets to sell them on
the street, where it is considered by the Drug Enforcement Agency
to be a dangerous drug -- what they call a "type 3 drug".)
A psychiatrist can, using the DSM as scientific authority (good
enough for most courts) diagnose anyone as having a disorder and
requiring commitment -- and once committed, one can be drugged and
shocked for long periods of time with no or little or very difficult
recourse. It's hard to get out -- especially if insurance is available
to cover the treatment, and current measures in Congress would require
indefinite coverage. Increasingly laws make it more difficult to
fight commitment or to refuse to take prescribed medication.
In theory, you have to be a danger to yourself or others, but in
practice, psychiatrists have vast latitude. You're in particular
danger if someone in your family wants to put you away and pays
a psychiatrist to help. (If you say it's a frame-up, you're obviously
paranoid.) In the old USSR and currently in other countries, psychiatry
is a tool for controlling the politically troublesome -- institutionalize
them, drug them, shock them, reprogram them. The infrastructure
for such a system is mostly in place here, now. We are, far more
than most of us realize, on the brink of a world controlled by an
elite body of rulers and their faithful Svengalis (the social-psychiatric-psychological-pharmaceutical
authorities) in which a normative "adjustment" can be
defined legally, and any departure from that state (for example,
if someone slated by educational program to become a plumber insists
on becoming a musician) can be treated, first, with programmed "learning"
experiences, then (if the propaganda doesn't work) with counseling,
which, if not quickly successful, will lead to medication, then
to shock treatment, institutionalization, etc. -- the good news
being that the medication will be so effective at creating the normal
level of conformity that shock and institutionalization will no
longer be required. We often hear talk about the danger of "getting
into the system" and the difficulty of getting out. In the
near future, we may all be in that system.
There will, of course, in the Brave New World, be an increase,
amidst general bland inertia, in random, crazy acts of violence,
but most of us will gobble our pills and ignore it.
Or maybe we won't go that way. But that's the way the DSM, the
pharmaceutical companies, the two APAs (psychiatric and psychological)
and much recent state and federal law are pointing. There is vigorous
lobbying to have psychiatrists test all infants for signs of violent
personalities, so that they can immediately be put on drugs -- with
or without parental consent. (Much drugging of children today is
done without even advance parental knowledge, much less agreement.)
And who will diagnose these infants? The same people who, after
each school or post office shooting, are inevitably found to have
given the latest serial killer a clean bill of health days or weeks
before he went on the rampage, often immediately after the same
psychiatrist upped his dosage.
Please note that this is not intended to be an article about ADHD,
but about a pseudo-science called psychiatry. If I've stressed ADHD
and the drugging of children, it's because this seems to be the
most egregious and dangerous psychiatric/pharmaceutical program.
Children, given the chance to grow up drug-free and literate, will,
in most cases, say no to psychiatric drugs. At least most of the
adults who take anti-depressants CHOOSE to do so. But when psychiatrists
and drug companies lobby (as they do now) for laws to require psychiatric
testing and drugging of infants -- in addition to the millions being
drugged in our schools, the world becomes dangerous, indeed, for
sanity. ADHD stands out from most psychiatric applications in that:
1. The people drugged on dangerous drugs (per the Drug Enforcement
Agency, among others) are children, whom we are trying to keep OFF
drugs -- remember "the war on drugs"?
2. We know little about what these drugs do to adults, far less
about what effect they have on the brains and nervous systems and
livers, etc., of children, who are still growing their new bodies.
What little we DO know suggests these drugs stunt growth and damage
3. The children aren't given any choice in the matter. Usually
the parents aren't either.
4. And, of course, the obvious point: These children are our future.
For all these reasons, I've talked a lot about ADHD, but I want
to stress that the points I've made about the lack of a scientific
basis for DSM IV and for the medications being marketed to treat
the alleged disorders listed in the DSM -- all these points apply
to the whole range of psychiatric illnesses. ADHD is now in the
news. Finally (the warnings having been dismissed by the media and
politicians for decades) legislators in several states are taking
actions to limit the prescription of anti-ADHD drugs in the schools.
But these measures are only the beginning of what's needed.
In a few years, we'll all talk about the over-prescription of Ritalin
as if it were something we'd all known about all along, the way
we all know and have always known that heroin is bad for you, and
Thalidomide causes birth defects. But psychiatrists will create
new listings of symptoms and new disorders, new jargon, new advertizing
and new alarms. New drugs will be developed to profit from the newly
defined suffering victims. The game will continue until we learn
the rules. It's not enough to limit prescriptions for Ritalin. It's
not even enough to recognize that ADHD is a fraud. What's in question
here is an entire scientific-industrial complex, whether or not
it is, in its basic assumptions and purposes, truly scientific at
all, or rather a sort of religion in the process of creating in
this country, perhaps in the world, its own theocracy: "What
you call soul' or human' is simply very complex brain
chemistry which only we understand and can control. The way to be
happy is to come to us for a label and a drug that will suppress
out of view anything unpleasant in your life. Because we want to
have a well-adjusted society, you MUST come to us or we will come
to you. You have no choice in the matter. We know what's good for
The assumptions that have given us the ADHD/Ritalin boom have nothing
to do with science. And they are the same assumptions behind the
anti-depressant boom and all the other current pharmaceutical beneficiaries
of DSM IV and bio-psychiatry. So please don't stop at "Let's
not over-prescribe Ritalin for children." That's like telling
a serial killer, "Please spare the babies and stop using such
large-caliber bullets, as you go about your obviously necessary
and beneficial murdering."
It's not hard to find documentation for my assertions. There are
several thorough studies of the psycho-pharmacology industry. Please
learn more about it. As far as newspapers and TV are concerned,
it's the great untold (or half-told) story of our time. If a TV
special or newspaper article mentions a psychiatric abuse, it implies
that this is a departure from psychiatric normality or, on the next
page or show, it heralds the breakthrough psychiatric drug of the
week or the latest psycho babble fad. Psychiatric financial frauds
are exposed, but the basic fraud of psychiatry in itself is never
touched upon. We have here a naked emperor, and the media, at best,
notice that the emperor is barefoot.
What's going on is associated with assaults, by the same experts,
on sexual morality, women, the legal system, the concept of right
and wrong, the concept of personal responsibility, the value of
honesty, the value of competition, religion, family (I hate to say
that, since "family values" have become such a political
volley ball, but the family structure is under attack, with divorce
and unwed parents becoming the norm and communication across the
age gaps increasingly rare and hectic) -- the works. If you think
this has nothing to do with organized psychiatry, read the speeches
of the founders of the World Federation of Mental Health (Reese
and Chisholm). These are all programs they proposed in 1946 for
psychiatry to achieve. For example, they called for the undermining
of all moral codes and said that the all mental illness derives
from the notion of right and wrong, which must be eliminated by
psychiatrists taking over education, the legal system, religion
and politics, acting as a "fifth column" to eliminate
morality and, with it, unhealthy guilt. They're on record, folks
-- quoted extensively in a book called The Cloning of the American
Mind, by B. Eakman, available in paperback at your nearest mega-bookstore
The psychiatric authorities substitute pseudo-science for science
and (with much support from psychologists) substitute whatever-feels-good
for ethics. They substitute chemistry for the notion that you or
I bear any responsibility for our conditions and exist as anything
other than chemically-motivated body parts. Psychiatrists and psychologists
generally consider irrelevant to the study of mental health the
possibility that we have any spiritual side (something that is us,
and not body or brain chemistry), something that we are that has
the ability to improve conditions in life by our own decisions and
You can find DSM IV in a library or on the World Wide Web and see
for yourselves. You can get the text of Senate Bill 543 (under consideration
as of August 2001), the latest attempt to legislate complete insurance
parity for "mental health". You can read books by Thomas
Szasz (for example, The Myth of Mental Illness) or publications
from the Citizen's Committee on Human Rights (CCHR)
-- check out their website, http://www.cchr.org.. Get more data.
Sort things out for yourself. See what you can do about it, either
by yourself or by working with others who are trying to shed some
light on this scene. Just your finding out about what's going on
will make a difference. Our knowledge is our most feared weapon
in this war that we have almost lost without even realizing that
we were at war.
For more information about the pseudo-science of psychiatry, visit
the Citizens Commission on Human