Lessons I have Learned About the Psychopharmaceutical Industry - By Gary G. Kohls, MD

Back in the 1990s, I was employed as a part-time physician on the medical staff of a mental hospital that was slowly being emptied out of its chronic “mentally ill” in-patients into smaller, theoretically less costly residential treatment facilities. My job was to do medical consultations on the physical health problems of the incarcerated inpatients of the hospital.

That state-funded mental hospital was among many others across the nation that for economic reasons were destined for the chopping block. The shuttering of mental hospitals was thought to be practical because of the nearly universal use cocktails of a variety of powerful brain-altering psychiatric drugs that state legislatures and leaders and obbyists from the pharmaceutical  and psychiatric industries believed could control any undesirable behaviors, thoughts or symptoms that were thought to be representative of a mental illness.  

Because the patients were being gradually discharged, that hospital was also in the process of gradually downsizing its staff.  But, because these closures were under the control of slow moving bureaucracies, the medical staff was disappearing at a slower rate than the patients.

Therefore, the medical clinics were not very busy, a reality that allowed me the luxury of being able to spend adequate amounts of time reading and researching the psychiatric literature and also having the time to review my patient’s old records. I was also able to obtain information from the patients that had often been overlooked by those doing the original intake histories. I even had time to review failed drug treatments from the distant past that often turned out to have been brain-damaging misadventures.

My experience as an outsider physician gave me a unique insider’s look at the dark underbelly of a psychiatric hospital. I had already taken to heart the sobering lessons of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. That movie and my experiences at that regional treatment center have haunted me – but also inspired me - ever since, partly because I became certain that my patients all had had preventable conditions. Also, I was certain that, if healing and curative, non-drug treatment options had been offered, some or all of those pitiful, drugged up and brain-disabled patients could have been leading normal lives instead of heading toward permanent, and impoverishing, social security disability

As a physician who took the Hippocratic Oath seriously, I felt strongly to try to offer some of those less harmful alternatives.

I thought it was curious that many of my patients had had a multitude of mental illness labels over the course of their sad lives that could not possibly have co-existed. Most of the patients had been told that their conditions were not curable but only “treatable” with drugs or electroshock, that their mental illnesses were permanent and that they were going to have to take their psych drugs for the rest of their lives. Such depressing information generated serious hopelessness and even suicidal thinking.

Each of the patients that I saw had already been tried on a multitude of different known-to-be-toxic psychiatric drugs that had been prescribed in a variety of dosage strengths and combinations, none of which had ever been proven to be safe or even efficacious for long-term use in human clinical trials or even lab animal experiments.

All of the patients that I saw had had serious adverse effects from the drugs, which usually led to the prescribing of additional new drugs to cover-up the side effects of the previous ones. I discovered that some of the patients had been admitted because of adverse neurological side effects of drugs rather than because of the symptoms of a mental illness.

Probably most disturbing for me was the fact that virtually all of the patients that I saw qualified for a diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that was caused by preventable childhood sexual abuse, childhood physical abuse, childhood emotional abuse, severe childhood neglect, spiritual abuse, accidents and even torture, but virtually none of my patient’s charts even mentioned that possibility.

PTSD is now increasingly being recognized as a neurological rather than a mental illness. It surely has a known cause, as opposed to most of the other 374 mental illness diagnoses that are listed in the DSM-IV coding and billing book. The chain of events following psychological trauma can easily initiate brain cell death via sleep-deprivation, re-traumatizing nightmares, malnutrition, isolation, electroshock “therapy”, illicit drug use, alcohol use and prescription psychiatric drug-induced neurotoxicity/brain atrophy.

Typical diagnoses at my hospital that were used instead of PTSD (thus overlooking the causative psychological traumas) included various types of schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, borderline personality disorder, etc. I discovered from my own history-taking (which was affirmed later from my reading of the PTSD literature) that traumatic experiences commonly begin the downward cycle into diagnosable “mental illnesses” (of unknown etiology, if one overlooks the trauma) which are usually treated with powerful brain-altering drugs, many of them “crazy-making”drugs

Given the fact that my patients also had histories of substance use/abuse (both legal and illegal), it seemed to me that drug-induced mania, drug-induced suicidality, drug induced psychosis, drug-induced depression or any of the many psychiatric drug withdrawal syndromes(especially mania and psychosis) that mimic mental illnesses were diagnoses that should have been included in the charts but were not.

Stimulated by the many weaknesses of what I had witnessed at that hospital, I eventually started a holistic mental health out-patient practice that evolved into one that primarily saw patients who had been sickened by (and addicted to) any number of psychiatric drugs. Most of my patients had been not listened to by the system and many had been psychologically traumatized.

The patients who came for help getting off their offending drugs were desperate for help. They knew the drugs had worsened them. Depending on the drugs they were on, some felt like zombies, some had drug-induced sleep disorders, many had drug-induced bowel and bladder dysfunction, neurological problems and some had drug-induced diabetes, drug-induced obesity and other drug-induced health problems like hypercholesterolemia and hypertension, which had caused them to be on many other non-psych drugs that had side effects..

Most of the patients that came to see me were what the alternative psychiatric literature called “psychiatric survivors”, survivors of electroshock, past psych hospitalizations (which can be traumatic enough to independently cause PTSD), psych drug treatments and ostracization from family and friends. Over the decade (before I retired), I saw over 1000 patients and successfully helped many of them withdraw (or at least taper down to lower doses) some or all of the drugs that were causing serious neurological and general medical problems, many of which mimicked mental illnesses.

During my research into the preventable root causes of mental ill health and the potential of non-drug treatment alternatives beyond good psychotherapy, I came across a number of well-researched books that blew the whistle on what had become the standard of care for American psychiatric patients who had been diagnosed (or mis-diagnosed) with a mental illness.

One of those books was Drug-Induced Dementia: A Perfect Crime, written by practicing psychiatrist and scholar Grace E. Jackson, MD. Dr. Jackson’s book is a scholarly review of the published neuroscience research literature (in animal lab experiments as well as clinical [human] research) that revealed that any of the five major psychiatric drug groups (antidepressant, sedative/tranquilizer, antipsychotic, mood stabilizer and psychostimulant) are fully capable of causing brain damage, brain atrophy and dementia (usually starting with memory loss and thus often confused with Alzheimer’s disease, a condition that can only be diagnosed post-mortem).

Another author, among many others, who has informed me about the realities and risks of the psychopharmaceutical industry and his own profession was Dr Peter Breggin, a practicing psychiatrist, scholar, author and activist. Breggin, known as “the Ralph Nader of psychiatry”, has written many well-documented books (utilizing his own vast experience in curative psychiatry as well as his study of the scientific literature) exposing the dangers of psychiatric drugs and the weaknesses of the industry that promotes them.

Those books include Toxic Psychiatry: Why Therapy, Empathy and Love Must Replace the Drugs, Electroshock and Biochemical Theories of the “New Psychiatry” (1991), Talking Back to Prozac: What Doctors Aren’t Telling You About Today’s Most Controversial Drug (1994), Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry: Drugs, Electroshock and the Role of the FDA (1997), Your Drug May Be Your Problem: How and Why to Stop Taking Psychiatric Medications (1999), Talking Back to Ritalin: What Doctors Aren’t Telling You About Stimulants for Children (2001) and Medication Madness: The Role of Psychiatric Drugs in Cases of Violence, Suicide, and Crime (2009), and his most recent book, Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal: A Guide for Prescribers, Therapists, Patients and their Families. For more valuable information from Dr. Breggin, check out (www.breggin.com).

Dr Breggin writes:

“Since my earliest books I have continued to develop the concept of the brain-disabling principle of psychiatric treatment. It states that all physical treatments in psychiatry—drugs, electroshock and psychosurgery—disable the brain and that none improve brain function. In the past year, I have added the theory of medication spellbinding

(technically, intoxication anosognosia) which helps to explain why so many people take so many different kinds of psychoactive drugs despite the fact that they cause more harm than good.

“Physical interventions that disrupt brain function, including all psychiatric drugs, tend to hide their damaging mental and emotional effects from the injured individual, making the medicated person unable to detect the adverse effects or to properly identify them as caused by the drug. Some people end up believing that they are doing better than ever when they are actually doing worse, and a number end up committing acts of suicide, violence or criminality that would ordinarily have appalled them if they had been drug-free.

“While each of these critiques and reform projects was initially considered highly controversial, and while each was frequently opposed by organized psychiatry, most are now accepted as rational and ethical by medicine in general. Here are some examples of the change that my work has contributed to:

The role of German psychiatry … in enabling the Holocaust, have now been confirmed by many studies and books. 

The first ECT [electroconvulsive therapy] malpractice case has been won and recent ECT research has confirmed that the “treatment” causes long-term brain dysfunction and widespread mental deficits.  

The multi-agency federal violence initiative aimed at screening and treating inner-city children for supposed genetic and biochemical causes of violence was disbanded. The head of NIMH, a powerful psychiatrist who sponsored the program, was forced to resign from the government.

The conference on the genetics of violence was delayed and then vastly modified, and eugenically-oriented psychiatry was driven back underground.  

All experts now recognize the dangers of [psychiatric drug-induced] tardive dyskinesia in children.  

Many researchers, and nearly all published articles, have confirmed that the neuroleptic [antipsychotic] drugs produce permanent widespread cognitive deficits or dementia.  

Many physicians and laypersons now realize that drug companies distort their research to their own advantage and that the controlled clinical trials used to obtain FDA-approval for a drug are deeply flawed and often rigged.  

Experienced doctors and the FDA now recognize the potential for dangerous withdrawal effects from the SSRIs.  

The FDA acknowledges that the newer antidepressants can cause suicide in children and young adults, that the drugs can cause a general worsening of the patient’s condition and that they do not work at all in children—conclusions I was documenting as early as 1992-1994.  

The controversy surrounding ADHD and stimulant medication has been growing, while my warnings about the ineffectiveness and toxicity of the drugs, and the lack of scientific foundation for the ADHD diagnosis, have been confirmed by a growing body of research.    

Nowadays the news is filled with disclosures about how doctors take money from drug companies in exchange for promoting their products, and how pharmaceutical company interests corrupt research and practice.  

    A growing body of research supports the concept of the brain-disabling principle of psychiatric treatment.

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Reposted with permission of the author.

Source: Email from the mailing list of Gary G. Kohls  gkohls@cpinternet.com

July 23, 2013

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