New guidelines for mental illness turn shyness in children from a personality trait into a mental disorder that warrants drug treatment. Drug companies already target children, who fidget too much in class or have trouble concentrating on their homework, with stimulant drugs for treating attention deficit disorder. Now children who sit too quietly or are more withdrawn than their peers will also be targeted with medication for social anxiety disorder or depression.
When Dorothy Washburn Dundas was 19 years old she became sad, felt lonely and attempted suicide by swallowing a half a bottle of aspirin. Her parents took her to the Massachusetts General Hospital where Dundas began what she called her “three-year hellish odyssey as a prisoner of the mental-health system.” She was transferred to Balpate Hospital, a drug treatment centre in Georgetown, MA, diagnosed with schizophrenia and, in spite of her opposition, given 50 shock treatments. Fourty insulin and ten superimposed electric shocks.
FOR decades, antipsychotic drugs were a niche product. Today, they’re the top-selling class of pharmaceuticals in America, generating annual revenue of about $14.6 billion and surpassing sales of even blockbusters like heart-protective statins. Lawyers suing AstraZeneca say documents they have unearthed show that the company tried to hide the risks of diabetes and weight gain associated with the new drugs. Positive studies were hyped, the documents show; negative ones were filed away. According to company e-mails unsealed in civil lawsuits, AstraZeneca “buried” — a manager’s term — a 1997 study showing that users of Seroquel, then a new antipsychotic, gained 11 pounds a year, while the company publicized a study that asserted they lost weight. Company e-mail messages also refer to doing a “great smoke-and-mirrors job” on an unfavorable study.
Adderall and Adderall XR, schedule II controlled substances composed of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, have several Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved uses. However, both prescribed and recreational use of these drugs, especially among young people, is associated with serious, life-threatening side effects.