Anatomy of an Epidemic

Anatomy of an Epidemic

Having watched one friend after another succumb to the lure of Prozac, and the irresistible argument that it’s a chemical imbalance that’s responsible for all their problems (and not their difficult marriage, family circumstances or financial straits) – I’ve been searching for a book to finally put the whole ‘chemical imbalance’ debate to bed, once and for all.

If it exists, it must be provable, scientifically, and that information must be out in the public domain somewhere.

Sadly, the more I’ve been trying to find this proof, the clearer it’s becoming that the Loch Ness Monster is actually more of a fact than the ‘chemical imbalance’ theory of mental illnesses.

The latest nail in the coffin has been Robert Whitaker’s investigative masterpiece: Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America.

Whitaker is a seasoned journalist of many years’ standing, who went looking for an answer to the question: Do people taking psychotropic medications have a better quality of life over the long term?

He reasoned that if drugs like Prozac, Xanax, Abilify, Zyprexa, Adderal – and all the rest of them – really were ‘solving’ the problems causing mental illnesses, as claimed by groups like the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and of course, the pharmaceutical companies themselves, that should be showing up in much better long-term outcomes for patients who are taking their pills.

Whitaker spent a couple of years trawling through thousands of medical records, research studies and clinical trials to come to the stunning conclusion that not only are psychiatric drugs failing to provide any long term benefit to users, in many instances they are actually leading to even worse outcomes.

To quote just a couple of the more eye-opening findings from the book: Before the advent of psychopharmacology, around 76% of schizophrenic patients recovered by themselves, and went on to live productive lives, with around 50% never experiencing another psychotic break. By contrast in more modern times, only 5% of the schizophrenia patients who stayed on the drugs they were prescribed by their psychiatrists recovered enough to hold down a job and re-integrate into the communities.

In another chapter, Whitaker explained how the infamous ‘chemical imbalance’ theory has never been proved for any mental illness – despite 30 years’ of research – and told the story of a group of 6 ‘survivors of psychiatric drugs’ who went on a hunger strike in 2003, to try to force the APA into releasing the evidence they claimed to have proving the chemical imbalance existed.

The APA never responded.

And yet, this hasn’t stopped psychiatry building ever taller castles in the sky about how they can ‘diagnose’ increasing numbers of mental illnesses (around 350, by the last count) and ‘cure’ them by prescribing the right little pill.

One more piece of information: regular use of psychotropic medication has been proven to shorten patients’ lives by between 15-25 years on average – thanks to all the side effects that no-one really talks about, but that plenty people are still suffering very badly from.

Whitaker remains clinical and detached throughout, throwing in one additional fact, one extra scientific study, one more personal story after another, to carefully build his solid edifice of proof that the drugs don’t work.

By the end of Anatomy of an Epidemic, I literally felt sick to my stomach about the amount of deception, bogus science, greed and personal suffering woven into the whole sordid tale of psychiatric medicine.

I couldn’t help wondering about the dubious mental state of all the doctors and shrinks who are busy herding their trusting patients on to more and more meds, without telling them about all the side-effects, drawbacks and long-term suffering they are potentially letting themselves in for. Not for the first time, it struck me that in 2016, the lunatics really have taken over the asylum.

Anatomy of an Epidemic is beautifully written, but is not easy reading – particularly for those who still want to believe that their ‘chemical imbalance’ is the true source of their misery. But for anyone who wants to know the truth about psychotropic medications, and who wants to be reassured that drugs are NOT the route to happiness and wellbeing, and who wants to have the facts they need to debunk the many myths being told about what’s causing mental and emotional issues and how best to resolve them, Anatomy of an Epidemic is one of the very best out there.

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