Why drugs are not the answer to treating mental illness
My career in pharmacy treating so-called mental illness began with me dishing out large quantities of tri-cyclic tranquillisers.
These never achieved tranquillity, but they dulled a patient’s brain so they were more easily managed by doctors, society and families. Among the many side-effects of these tranquillisers was weight-gain, so we suddenly had an epidemic of sedated, fat people with no personality.
We also had MAO (monoamine oxidase inhibitors), which seemed to produce some results. This was as long as the patient didn’t eat cheese, meats, chocolates, vegemite, soy products and god knows what else. These foods contained tyramine and could produce alarming increases in blood-pressure, but, never fear, doctors would then prescribe anti-hypertensives.
All these patients were stressed and worried about the cold-war, nuclear weapons, job security, family tensions, environmental degradation and how to live a comfortable life — much like today but stresses are now much worse.
In those days, we sold uppers (Dexedrine and Methedrine), downers ( 15 classes of barbiturates), anxiolytics (Valium), anti-psychotics (Largactil, Melleril, Serenace), but all to no avail as the stresses mounted up.
Alcohol was then — and still is — an enormous problem. All these drugs played havoc with brain chemicals, interrupting the natural flow of serotonin, nor-adrenalin and dopamine.
Today, the SSRI drugs have taken over and 30 to 40 per cent of Australians are now on them. They achieve some sort of improvement in 50 per cent of people who take them, compared with 30 per cent on placebo (my advice is to make up your own placebo pill, using sugar and starch, and no money reaches Big Pharma).
These drugs — plus the new anti-psychotics — have less noticeable side-effects than the old ones, but anyone who is on them has their brain chemistry drastically altered, and no-one seems to know why they sometimes work and why they sometimes don’t.
Stress causes all these malfunctions and with the vast increase in human population, we are now like overcrowded rats in a maze, stressed out with road-rage, family violence, alcoholism, bullying and our pathetic dependence on phones and computers. If we could get an anti-stress tablet I may even take it.
Unfortunately for us, doctors and psychiatrists (with a few notable exceptions) not only fail to relieve all this stress — they help create it. I have the greatest admiration, however, for Dr.Nitschke and Rodney Syme who have been advocating physician-assisted suicide for many years. Other doctors I admire include Joseph Toscano (head of the anarchist media institute) and any doctor who treats drug addicts kindly. (There was one in Fairfield who supported children of drug addicts.)
There is a conformist hierarchy in every profession; Noam Chomsky called this “manufacturing consent”. It certainly exists amongst doctors, lawyers, politicians, bankers, religious bodies and any big business. Even pharmacists have a hierarchy and, strange to say, I was never part of it.
Psychiatrists have a particularly rigid conformity, speak with one voice and are all screwballs. Every psychiatrist I stumbled over in my pharmacy days, and in my own family, were quite simply nuts. They also had a degree of cruelty (they always know best, even when patients are suffering under their barrage of quick-fix drugs). Psychiatrists affix titles like schizophrenia, paranoia, manic-depression (or bi-polar, which sounds better), depression, insecurity, anxiety, and multiple phobias. As well as the stresses faced up to by everyday people, we now have epidemics among the young and very old. Psychiatrists have taken over treatment of autism and ADHD in the young by using anti-psychotic drugs and central nervous system stimulants. The elderly in nursing homes have been sedated and treated for psychosis and Alzheimer’s disease.
The frightening trend in America is that 30 per cent of its population will be afflicted by Alzheimer’s disease in the future. The idea, just as it was in the past, is to make everyone zombified, which suits families, doctors, nursing homes and society in general but doesn’t do much for the patient.
Being human means we have ideas about life and death, and stress in our lives would naturally cause depression, anxiety and insecurity. We all have successes and failures, and any treatment should be aimed at reducing stress, and re-assuring people that we all react in the same way.
My advice is to reduce pollutants in food and the air, reduce stress, ban coal, cut human population in half ( the psychiatrists would be the first to go), and simply ban drugs.
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About the author
Robert Gosstray is a retired pharmacist and the resident health writer for Midlifexpress. He is the author of The Pharmacist's Secrets: Drugs, lies and money.