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Journalist: Psychiatry drug claims based on dodgy science

In an interview with Mother Board, journalist Robert Whitaker discusses the troublesome relationship between big pharmaceutical companies and the medical professionals who prescribe drugs meant to treat mental disorders.

Whitaker explores that relationship in his book Anatomy of an Epidemic. He said he first came across evidence casting doubt on the “chemical imbalance” theory of psychiatric illness when he was doing research for a Boston Globe series.

In the interview, Whitaker pointed out a lack of clinical evidence to back up the assertion that mental disorders are caused by a chemical imbalance. For example, according to Whitaker, studies were indicating as early as 1984 that levels of the brain chemical serotonin weren’t really low in depressed patients.

Yet that claim is still behind the marketing and prescription of antidepressants classified as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, such as Prozac and Zoloft.

“The chemical imbalance theory really was a marketing message, it’s the only way to put it,” Whitaker said. “It was a way to sell drugs.”

Numerous studies have linked SSRIs with potentially dangerous birth defects in babies born to women who take them during their pregnancy.

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.

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