London, UK – The Council for Evidence-based Psychiatry (CEP) launches today with an event at the House of Lords where it will release a publication entitled Unrecognised Facts about Modern Psychiatric Practice which challenges many of the assumptions commonly made about modern psychiatry. CEP intends to start a national debate about the use of psychiatric drugs and treatments, given the mounting evidence of ineffectiveness and harm, and is campaigning for essential changes to protect patients.
CEP will also share its analysis of recent data from the Department for Work and Pensions showing a 38% rise in the number of disability benefit claimants with mental and behavioural disorders in England, Scotland and Wales between 2000 and 2013. The total number of claimants has remained steady at about 2.3 million; however the number with mental and behavioural disorders has risen from 745,000 to over one million during this period.
While there has been a 24% drop in claimants for physical health conditions the data indicates that the current paradigm of psychiatric care, which centres on drug treatments, isn’t enabling people to get back to work. Furthermore, there is growing evidence that the increasing long-term use of psychiatric drugs may itself be contributing to the problem. This striking increase in mental health disability is mirrored in other developed nations, and the rises predate the recent financial crisis. For example in the US it has been calculated that there were around 4 million mentally ill recipients of disability payments in 2007, up from 1.25 million in 1987. Similar increases have been identified in other countries.
Dr. James Davies, the co-founder of CEP, says: “During the last thirty years we have seen a dramatic rise in the use of psychiatric drugs. In 2013 in England alone over 53 million prescriptions were issued for antidepressants, a 6% increase on the previous year and a 92% increase since 2003. If the drugs were helping you would expect a significant reduction in mental health disability over this period – and yet the opposite is true. These figures raise some very difficult questions for modern psychiatry and for society more generally.”
The keynote talk at the launch will be given by Professor Peter Gøtzsche, member of CEP, Director of the Nordic Cochrane Centre and co-founder of the Cochrane Collaboration which is considered the gold standard for the review of medical research data. Gøtzsche has recently published a book, Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime, which describes the fraudulent behaviour of the pharmaceutical industry over recent decades, drawing parallels with the tobacco conglomerates who fought to obfuscate the truth about the harm being caused by their products.
“The main reason we take so many drugs is that drug companies don’t sell drugs, they sell lies about drugs. Patients don’t realise that – although their doctors may know a lot about diseases and human physiology they know very, very little about drugs that hasn’t been concocted and dressed up by the drug industry,” says Gøtzsche. “For example, antidepressants are still being marketed as drugs which can rectify a chemical imbalance. This is a hoax, as no chemical imbalance has ever been proven in relation to any psychiatric condition. These drugs create a chemical imbalance, which is why it is so difficult for patients to get off them again. My studies in this area lead me to a very uncomfortable conclusion: the way we currently use psychiatric drugs causes more harm than good. We should therefore use them much less, for shorter periods of time, and always with a plan for tapering them off again to prevent people from being medicated for the rest of their lives.”
Dr. James Davies believes that the UK is trailing some other countries in its recognition of these issues. “In the US, Thomas Insel, head of the National Institute for Mental Health (the largest global research funding body), recently acknowledged that the current psychiatric diagnostic system lacks validity because of the absence of any objective measures. He also accepted evidence showing that long-term treatment of schizophrenia with antipsychotics may be worsening patient outcomes. Yet there has been no such admission or public discussion from the leaders of psychiatry here in the UK. Much greater public and parliamentary scrutiny of these issues is long overdue.”