There seems to be mounting evidence that psycho-active drugs are no more effective than placebos; that they may cause real harm; and that the belief that many mental illnesses are caused by chemical imbalances in the brain has never been proven but has been forwarded by the drug manufacturers.
I was most persuaded by Irving Kirsch’s work. Drug companies only publish the studies which are favorable toward their drugs, though they submit all studies to the FDA. The FDA does not publish the negative studies either, considering them to be proprietary information. Kirsch obtained the studies for six anti-depressant drugs from the FDA through a Freedom of Information Act request. The drugs were Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa, Serzone, and Effexor. He found that these drugs were only slightly more effective than placebos and did not have a “dose response curve,” i.e., that higher doses did not do more that lower doses. That is very unlikely in a drug that actually does something. He then compared these drugs to “active placebos,” things which cause side effects such as a dry mouth but which do nothing more, and found that the drugs were exactly as effective as the active placebos.
It is very troubling that, “a 2009 study showed that 18 out of 20 of the shrinks who wrote the American Psychiatric Association’s most recent clinical guidelines [in the DSM] for treating depression, bipolar disorders, and schizophrenia had financial ties to drug companies.”
Finally, it is most disturbing that many the psycho-active drugs cause significant side-effects (including shrinkage of the frontal cortex) which in turn cause more psychotic symptoms which are in turn treated with additional psyo-active drugs.
Take a look at two articles that I think are well worth the read. First, Al Jazeera’s Mass psychosis in the US looks at the rising rates of treatment with anti-psychotic drugs in the US. This class of drugs has become the most prescribed in the country, surpassing drugs that treat both high cholesterol and acid reflux. Much of the background for that article comes from the New York Review of Books article, The Epidemic of Mental Illness: Why?, by a former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine.
I would love to hear your reactions.