7 Reasons America's Mental Health Industry Is a Threat to Our Sanity
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5. Pseudoscientific Drug Effectiveness Research
There are multiple tricks that psychiatric drug manufacturers and their researcher psychiatrists and psychologists use to make their drugs look more effective than they really are. One of the most common depression measurements used by researchers paid by drug companies is the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression. In the HRSD, researchers rate subjects, and the higher the point total, the more one is deemed to be suffering from depression. On the HRSD, there are three separate items about insomnia (early, middle and late) and one can receive up to six points for difficulty either falling or remaining asleep; however, there is only one suicide item, in which one is awarded only two points for wishing to be dead. The HRSD is heavily loaded with items that are most affected by drugs, and it is therefore especially damning for antidepressants that even with such measurement dice-loading, these drugs routinely fail to outperform placebos—even dice-loaded placebos.
Proper drug research requires that neither subject nor experimenter knows who is getting the drug and who is getting the placebo (a true double-blind control). Drug company antidepressant researchers use inactive placebos such as sugar pills (which don’t create side effects). Independent research on inactive placebos show that many subjects in antidepressant and other studies can guess if they are getting the actual drug or not, which changes their expectations and subverts the double-blind control. In order to make it more difficult to guess correctly, an active placebo (which creates side effects) should be used. In 2000, a Psychiatric Times article concluded: “In fact, when antidepressants are compared with active placebos, there appear to be no differences in clinical effectiveness.”
Dice-loading depression measurements and placebos are just two of many techniques drug company researchers use to make antidepressants look more effective than they really are. But even with such dice-loading, antidepressants have not fared well, at least when one examines all the studies.
Drug companies try to ensure that those studies showing antidepressants to be no more effective than placebos are not published; however, all studies must be submitted to the FDA. So independent researcher Irving Kirsch and his research team at the University of Connecticut used the Freedom of Information Act to gain access to all data, and analyzed 47 studies that had been sponsored by drug companies on Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Effexor, Celexa, and Serzone. Kirsch discovered that in the majority of the trials, the antidepressant failed to outperform a sugar pill placebo (and in the trials where the antidepressant did outperform the placebo, the advantage was slight).
6. Psychotropic Drug Hypocrisy
Chemists consider psychiatric prescription drugs and illegal mood-altering drugs all to be psychotropic or psychoactive drugs. Cocaine and ADHD drugs such as Adderall and other amphetamines affect the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine; and antidepressants used in combination also affect the same neurotransmitters. Not only are prescription psychotropics and illegal psychotropics chemically similar, they are used by people for similar reasons, including taking the edge off their discomfort so they can function. The hypocrisy surrounding illegal and prescription psychotropic drugs is harmful to society in at least two ways.
At one level, because people are being misinformed about the realities of prescription psychotropic drugs, they are more likely to gulp them down and to give them to their children. This has helped create a tragic phenomenon detailed by investigative reporter Robert Whitaker in his book Anatomy of an Epidemic (2010). Psychiatric drug use turning mild and episodic conditions into severe and chronic ones has helped create a huge increase of Americans with severe mental illness, especially among children.