Tag Archives: mental disorders

Mass psychosis in the US—How Big Pharma got Americans hooked on anti-psychotic drugs

Has America become a nation of psychotics? You would certainly think so, based on the explosion in the use of antipsychotic medications. In 2008, with over $14 billion in sales, antipsychotics became the single top-selling therapeutic class of prescription drugs in the United States, surpassing drugs used to treat high cholesterol and acid reflux.

Once upon a time, antipsychotics were reserved for a relatively small number of patients with hard-core psychiatric diagnoses – primarily schizophrenia and bipolar disorder – to treat such symptoms as delusions, hallucinations, or formal thought disorder. Today, it seems, everyone is taking antipsychotics. Parents are told that their unruly kids are in fact bipolar, and in need of anti-psychotics, while old people with dementia are dosed, in large numbers, with drugs once reserved largely for schizophrenics. Americans with symptoms ranging from chronic depression to anxiety to insomnia are now being prescribed anti-psychotics at rates that seem to indicate a national mass psychosis.

The problem with the DSM

Do you have a shopping addiction disorder? Perhaps an addiction to food? Maybe one of your kids has Internet addiction disorder, or video-game attachment syndrome. Well, not quite yet, because these kinds of new mental diagnoses are only proposed, not final, for the new revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the bible of the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

And there is a terrible problem with this. The DSM was first created in the 1920s. Based on psychoanalytic theory, it enumerated fewer than 100 mental problems that a psychiatrist could diagnose, all of them attributable to environmental conditions, generally the role of parenting. We know now that this theoretical stance was limited and, in many cases, wrong. In 1980, the second revision of the DSM took place. Freud was discarded, and the revised bible now included several hundred disorders, all delineated by a list of observable symptoms and a framework for limiting and differentiating diagnoses.

Three versions later, the current DSM lists more than 1,000 disorders. No theories are espoused for their origins, though implicit in it is that there is a mix of genetic and environmental causes that shape neurological development. During this period of about three decades, the incidence of attention disorders in the general population has increased from 2 percent to 10 percent. In the 1980s, people diagnosed with bipolar disorder represented less than 1 percent of the population; now the number has increased to 5 percent. New diagnoses, like oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder, now cover as many as 5 percent of children.

Autism, which afflicted a tiny percentage of the population in the 1990s, now accounts for 1 out of every 100 children. What is wrong with this picture? Do we have an epidemic on our hands? Something in the water we drink, or the air we breathe?

52% of foster kids are prescribed psych drugs—One of them is fighting back

At just 6 years of age, still grieving over the death of the only mother he had ever known, his foster mother, Giovan Bazan would receive the first of many psychiatric ‘diagnoses’ and drugs that would plague him for the next twelve years of his life. Moved from foster home to foster home, orphanages and other modes of state care, Giovan was stigmatized with a plethora of psychiatric diagnoses and drugs until the age of 18, when he could finally make his own medical decisions and quit. Now a child advocate working part time at the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) in Georgia, Giovan is on a mission: To get a full-time job with DFCS and help enact laws to combat the wholesale labeling and drugging of foster children. In the video below, Giovan tells his story and why he decided to fight back against the abuse of kids in foster care.

The Illusions of Psychiatry

Not only did the DSM become the bible of psychiatry, but like the real Bible, it depended a lot on something akin to revelation. There are no citations of scientific studies to support its decisions. That is an astonishing omission, because in all medical publications, whether journal articles or textbooks, statements of fact are supposed to be supported by citations of published scientific studies. (There are four separate “sourcebooks” for the current edition of the DSM that present the rationale for some decisions, along with references, but that is not the same thing as specific references.) It may be of much interest for a group of experts to get together and offer their opinions, but unless these opinions can be buttressed by evidence, they do not warrant the extraordinary deference shown to the DSM. The DSM-III was supplanted by the DSM-III-R in 1987, the DSM-IV in 1994, and the current version, the DSM-IV-TR (text revised) in 2000, which contains 365 diagnoses. “With each subsequent edition,” writes Daniel Carlat in his absorbing book, “the number of diagnostic categories multiplied, and the books became larger and more expensive. Each became a best seller for the APA, and DSM is now one of the major sources of income for the organization.” The DSM-IV sold over a million copies.