Monday, Nov 23rd, 2009
Contrary to the impression promoted by the psychiatric and drug industries, psychiatric drugs do not work by correcting a chemical imbalance in the brain, Joanna Moncrieff of University College London wrote recently in an opinion piece for the BBC. Instead, such drugs merely put people into “drug-induced states” that make it harder for them to experience the symptoms of their illness.
“Magazines, newspapers, patients’ organizations and Internet sites have all publicized the idea that conditions like depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder can be treated by drugs that help to rectify an underlying brain problem … just like a diabetic needs to take insulin,” Moncrieff writes. “The trouble is, there is little justification for this view.”
Moncrieff notes that prior to the 1950s, mental health workers largely saw antidepressants as psychoactive drugs, primarily sedatives, that eased the symptoms of depression without addressing the underlying cause – much as over-the-counter cold drugs may stop a runny nose without affecting the cold virus. This view was eventually replaced by the idea that depression, schizophrenia, anxiety and other mental health conditions result from chemical imbalances in the brain, imbalances that can be corrected by the right “magic bullet.”
“However, this transformation was not based on any compelling evidence,” she says.
Moncrieff holds to the older view, that “drugs used in psychiatry are psychoactive drugs, like alcohol and cannabis. They affect everyone, regardless of whether they have a mental disorder or not.”
Antipsychotics, she notes, mute people’s emotions and thoughts, which can reduce the effects of psychosis as a side effect. Anti-anxiety drugs are central-nervous system depressants, like alcohol.
“If you told people that we have no idea what is going on in their brain, but that they could take a drug that would make them feel different and might help to suppress their thoughts and feelings, then many people might choose to avoid taking drugs if they could,” she writes. “People need to make up their own minds.”
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This article was posted: Monday, November 23, 2009 at 4:40 am