The Huffington Post
By Dr. Peter Breggin
May 23, 2010
It has been a routine week in my clinical and forensic practice. I evaluated a malpractice case involving a woman on the West Coast whose family doctor from a decade earlier kept prescribing Prozac to her for ten years without ever seeing her again. When she ran into emotional difficulty, she called this doctor who simply raised the dose and added a new drug, still without seeing her for a decade. This woman, a respected professional and parent in her community, then landed in a hospital where her adverse drug reaction was mistaken for a mental illness, more psychiatric drugs were added, and she soon killed herself in a most horrendous fashion.
In this same past week of routine events, one of my own patients came to the office for an emergency session. He had sought my help to come off a cocktail of psychiatric drugs that had been prescribed for him during a personal crisis. We had recently cut back on his tranquilizers and he had become unable to sleep all night. He was feeling anxious and scared. “Am I going crazy, or is it drug withdrawal?” It turned out to be a withdrawal reaction that was easily handled by a slower taper of his medication. A very bright, creative young man, he had a series of traumatic events in his background. He needed counseling and encouragement, not a psychiatric diagnosis and drugs.
Meanwhile, my wife Ginger has been handling the flood of mail we get from our books, websites, and public appearances. People email and call the office identifying themselves as “bipolar” or “clinically depressed.” Or they describe their children in the same terms, as well as “ADHD.” By the time they contact our office, their lives or those of their children have been deeply complicated, compromised and sometimes ruined by psychiatric drugs. They can no longer separate their original emotional problems from their complex array of drug side effects. They devote themselves to adjusting their diagnoses and their drugs instead of addressing their lives. After yet another week like this, Ginger tells me, “You’ve got to write about our Psychiatric Civilization.”
The culture is so imbued with biological psychiatry — which is to say, modern psychiatry — that self-defined patients diagnose themselves, sometimes with the help of a one-minute TV ad. They visit their family doc, give him the diagnosis, “I think I have an anxiety disorder,” and get the appropriate drug. If they arrive a few minutes early, or the doctor is a few minutes late, they’ll get a chance to get educated by a flat screen TV in the waiting room which instructs them about the symptoms of the psychiatric diagnosis de jour as well as its treatment with a propriety drug.
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