Mark vs Cancer

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Anatomy of an Epidemic

Could it be that our drug-based paradigm of psychiatric care is fundamentally flawed, that the magic bullet medicines purported to correct chemical imbalances are actually worsening mental illness in America?

That is the conclusion of Robert Whitaker's new book, "Anatomy of an Epidemic:  Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America."

It is an evidence-based, highly persuasive critique of psychiatry's devastating failure as a medical specialty.  Disability from mental illness has multiplied ten-fold since the the introduction of psychotropic medications in the 1950s. Pharmaceutical giants make billions off patients from whom they have willfully withheld evidence of their addictive drugs' deleterious long-term effects.  And one in eight children in America is started, in childhood, on a pathway towards a lifetime of medication-induced mental disability, some before they are even potty-trained.  Two year-olds are being placed on antipsychotic medications for "bipolar disorder."  Read that last sentence again.

This is not to say that mental illness is not real, or not that psychiatric medications are not sometimes appropriate.  But how did we get from that point--limited use of psychotropic drugs to stabilize rare, severe episodes of mental illness--to this point:  some psychiatrists now suggest that over half of Americans suffer from a pathological, biochemical mental illness, and virtually all psychiatrists utilize, as their only treatment modality, cocktails of two or five or even seven mind-altering medications.

Mr. Whitaker's book rips away the curtain from psychiatry's hall of mirrors and gives its distortion of drug studies no place to hide. With even one step backwards to look at the big picture, it is all so ludicrous, so pervasive, and if it continues unchecked, so very calamitous for our children and future of our society . . . yet so very profitable for the drug companies.

Every physician, every patient struggling with anxiety or depression, every parent with a rambunctious child, should read this book carefully.  I know that in my own practice, I am foregoing the habit of mindlessly refilling my patient's psychotropic medications and initiating the discussion of the mind's capacity to heal, of our need to constantly reevaluate (every six months at a minimum) the use of psychiatric medications.  I've been surprised at how receptive my patients have been.

Read the book.  It's engrossing, and so important for all of us to try and reverse this destructive paradigm of mental health.


Anonymous said...


Matthew said...

I have some strong opinions about this. I'm not going to go into them... I have reasons why I won't. Let's just say I agree with you.

Reb Buxton said...

Mark, could you contact me via e-mail at


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