In an article for the New York Review of Books, Marcia Angell examines the latest edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, as well as several recent books by mental health professionals that take a critical look at modern psychiatry’s over-reliance on pharmaceuticals.
She writes that the books “document the ‘frenzy’ of diagnosis, the overuse of drugs with sometimes devastating side effects, and widespread conflicts of interest.”
According to Angell, the current emphasis on medication stemmed from a deliberate attempt by psychiatrists in the 1970s to deal with a growing anti-psychiatry movement, as well as the competition presented by social workers and psychologists.
One advantage psychiatrists had over their competitors was their ability to issue prescriptions. According to Angell, psychiatrists have capitalized on that advantage to a point where prescribing drugs has effectively replaced other methods such as talk therapy.
Yet many mental health professionals, citing clinical studies, now question whether positive outcomes from antidepressant use can be attributed to the placebo effect.
Other research has shown that some antidepressants can have harmful side effects. For example, a number of studies indicate that a type of antidepressant classified as SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, can cause potentially harmful birth defects in newborns. SSRI antidepressants include Prozac and Zoloft.
Angell writes that drug manufacturers actively encouraged the pharmacological model of modern psychiatry by throwing money around. Of the 170 contributors to the current version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, she writes, ninety-five had financial ties to drug companies. That includes all of the contributors to the sections on mood disorders and schizophrenia.
She concludes by writing: “Our reliance on psychoactive drugs, seemingly for all of life’s discontents, tends to close off other options. In view of the risks and questionable long-term effectiveness of drugs, we need to do better. Above all, we should remember the time-honored medical dictum: first, do no harm (primum non nocere).”
Patients should consult their doctors before making any changes in their medication. A consultation with an SSRI lawyer is also important if there are significant injuries from SSRIs.
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