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[Back to Essays]

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 fault.

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.

Scientific Basis:

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 tables.

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 cause.

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?)

DSM Science:

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 are.

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 of conditions?

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 situations.

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 down, etc.

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 "disabled" student.

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" (shock 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 children.

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 an illness?

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!)

Pharmaceutical Science:

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 effects.

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 -- has worsened.)

(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 condition.)

Brain Chemistry:

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 nerve cells.

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 deficiency.

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 right).

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 effects?

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 solution.

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 the brain.

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 schools.

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 by them.

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 it?)

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 and destructive.


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 our time."

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 of stress?

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 the brain.

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 you."

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 or library.

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 exertions.

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 Rights


Last updated: December 13, 2004