Last week, The Post reported that more than 145,000 city children struggle with mental illness or other emotional problems. That estimate, courtesy of New York’s Health Department, equals an amazing 1 in 5 kids. Could that possibly be true?
A serious conversation is under way in the United States on the subject of psychiatric drugs. The debate consists of three fundamental issues: first, whether antidepressants actually treat depression; second, the vast, growing body of evidence that psychotropic medications alter the brain permanently; and third, the pharmaceutical industry’s continuing, decades-old corruption of American psychiatrists, many of whom have been made by drug companies’ shenanigans into little more than handsomely paid industry shills.
Reviews published in the two most recent issues of the New York Review of Books (NYRB), taking the psychiatric profession to task for the shameful influence of the pharmaceutical industry, demonstrate the potentially destructive impulse of the profit motive.
Psychiatry has almost dropped its original reliance on therapy in favor of pills, despite evidence that therapy or, surprisingly, exercise are usually just as effective for depression as the new prescription drugs. There is more money in prescribing pills. Diagnosis of mental illness has expanded dramatically so that, as the review author ironically reports, “It looks though it will be harder and harder to be normal.”
Dr. Joan Luby, the preschool depression researcher at the center of a New York Times article that failed to mention her past research was funded by Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Shire (SHPGY) and AstraZeneca (AZN), is currently testing the antipsychotic Risperdal on autistic children aged 30 months to 5 years old, according to the ClinicalTrials.gov database. Although the study is not funded by Janssen, the unit of J&J that makes Risperdal, it nonetheless typifies a new field of drug research: The use of mood-altering pharmaceuticals on the very, very young.
A startling suggestion is buried in the fine print describing proposed changes for the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — perhaps better known as the D.S.M. 5, the book that will set the new boundary between mental disorder and normality. If this suggestion is adopted, many people who experience completely normal grief could be mislabeled as having a psychiatric problem.