Dr James Davies writes:
On Wednesday 11th May, CEP brought into the heart of Westminster some of the leading figures in critical psychiatry to discuss the link between rising mental health disability claims and rising psychiatric prescriptions. Hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Prescribed Drug Dependence, for which CEP provides the secretariat, the event opened with an introduction by Paul Flynn MP, who strongly advocated the need for parliamentarians to address the over-prescribing of psycho-pharmaceuticals and their associated effects. He noted that the machinations of the pharmaceutical industry had significantly driven current over-prescribing, and noted the lack of will within the psychiatric profession to truly address let alone reverse over-prescribing and its associated harms.
Presentations followed from Paul, a service user whose life had been upturned by psychiatric medications. Losing the ability to work and to properly engage with his family following a long period of being moved from drug to drug, Paul’s recovery only began once the drugs were stopped. Robert Whitaker, the Pulitzer-nominated science writer, then provided evidence that the effects of long-term drug use, especially antidepressants, are driving disability rates – rendering people less able to recover and return to work. Prof Allan Young, chair of psychopharmacology at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, responded by suggesting this may only be a US problem and that here in the UK things were different. This was rebuffed by Prof Sami Timimi, the next speaker, who argued this was an international problem, respecting no boundaries; his argument was strengthened by data showing that the correlation between rising disability and prescribing rates can be observed in diverse countries – Australia, Iceland, the New Zealand, Sweden and the UK – not just the US.
Then followed Dr Joanna Moncrieff, who discussed the myth of the chemical imbalance, and how it took such a hold on society. She also added that significant drivers of disability are the psychological effects of taking medication long-term – taking drugs day after day make it increasingly difficult to think of oneself as anything other than a chronically ill patient. Dr Andrew King of the Royal College of GPs proceeded to acknowledge there was a problem with over-prescribing, but said that GPs did their best to follow guidelines. Finally, Baroness Philippa Stroud, Director of the influential think tank, The Centre for Social Justice, discussed how many of the problems being medicalised were actually problems of social depravation and exclusion for which social interventions should be preferred.
The main takeaway from the meeting was that the evidence offered by Whitaker and other critical members of CEP was not satisfactorily countered, leaving participants and audience members questioning as to where we must go from here. Prof Peter Kinderman, president of the British Psychological Society, who chaired the event, called for future action both in terms of undertaking more research and addressing current prescribing practices.
In all, the significance of this event cannot be overlooked. To see leading critical thinkers in the heart of Westminster is surely symbolic of how far the critical community has come in recent years. To see the room full of influential persons – from the Shadow Minister for Mental Health, Luciana Berger MP, to the previous president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Baroness Sheila Hollins – is also cause for optimism. But what matters now is the translation of compelling evidence and widespread concern into tangible change, and we realise that it will take far more than optimism to achieve that.
Likewise, thank you James and all the panel and all who attended this meeting and made it a valuable event.
Well done! It’s about time the powers that be were made aware of the true cost of psychiatric drugs. So many people are disabled by mental illness who were functioning before taking medication and end up disabled on drug cocktails and unable to stop them because of horrendous withdrawal that is usually diagnosed as relapse and even more drugs added to the cocktail.
A big thank you to Dr Davies and those brave professionals attending this important event in the name of all of those who are crying out for justice and reform, also to Prof. Sammi Timmimi and Paul Flynn.
A big thumbs up to Prof. Timmimi for putting Prof. Allan Young in his place. I ahve been to the US, Far East, South America, France, Spain, Finland and other European countries and and have seen the worldwide plague with my own eyes, the only difference is that in the developing world families tend to give great support to the distressed relative mostly without or with little medication, and recovery is quicker. Young’s views in favour of the present model are well known, and he would not be in his post if his views were different …. like the views of the 29 dissenters who challenged the RCP and the present model a few years ago. I would have gone further and ask Young to visit the psychiatric units and assessment units to see for himself the number of distressed zombies artificially created by drugs in the name of psychiatric experimentation shooting in the dark, I have seen and spoken to many patients over the last 16 years here and abroad. Being the Chair of psychopharmacology in the RCP Young knows only too well the pharmacokinetics and why drug companies state in the Patient Information Leaflets and drug monographs that “.. the mechanism of action of this drug is not known …..” ….there is no better explanation for shooting in the dark and get away with producing suffering, distress and death.
I would like to ask Paul Flynn how he managed to gradually reduce his drugs and stop them … we are surrounded by psychiatrists pandering to pharma companies pushing drugs for life like diabetics, and cannot escape this hijacking. If anyone can suggest a way to escape this hijacking and trap, please say so here.
Thank you Laurie. You might find adaptationpractice.org interesting.
What is going on? This is the core question in James Davies’ book Cracked and it is the unspoken core question at this meeting of the APPG for Prescribed Drug Dependence. We are hearing from a well-informed panel. They are all trying to discover and make clear the true state of conventional wisdom with regard to mental health and are not in the pay of the pharmaceutical industry.
There’s none so blind has he, or she, who does not wish to see. It is clear that many of our colleagues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology turn a blind eye, or a deaf ear (or both) to what is being said by experts in the field.
At a recent conference at the Royal College of Psychiatrists I asked a number of young psychiatrists, all of whom use the DSM for diagnosis and prescribe the drugs being discussed, what they thought about the book Cracked: Why Psychiatry is Doing More Harm Than Good (2013). None of them had heard of it. More worrying was that none of them wanted to know about it. Nor had any of them read David Healy’s book Let Them Eat Prozac: The Unhealthy Relationship Between the Pharmaceutical Industry and Depression (2004), or Elliot Valenstein’s book Blaming the Brain: The Truth About Drugs and Mental Health (1988) or Robert Whitaker’s book The Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America (2010). All were convinced that the chemical theory of depression was valid and had been proved and required drugs to treat it. All believed that levels of chemicals such as the neural hormone, serotonin, have been measured in live human beings. They did not want to know what a professor of psychopharmacology said recently ‘I don’t think anyone can measure serotonin levels directly in the brain yet.’ Well might we ask doctors what is going on?
Why, in this age of transparency and tolerance without prejudice or self-interest, particularly in those whose vocation is dedicated to helping those in need of help, would we not want to explore and look as carefully as possible at all the evidence. What possible reason could there be for not wanting to see? The answer is obvious: as human beings we naturally take sides, identify with our group, back the winning team and so on. And we naturally resist any challenges or threats. Perhaps this is what is going on.
Ignorance in Law, medicine and psychology is no excuse.
There are other, safer and more effective ways of helping our fellow human beings without doing more harm than good.
Yes thank you so much to all who put the time and effort into making this happen. It was a very inspiring and hopeful event and I felt privileged to be there on behalf of ISPSUK and Soteria Network? I give talks to many psychiatrists from a family member perspective and can detect a small shift in thinking and attitude. Yesterday told them about this meeting and people were genuinely interested. Let’s see where we go from here.
An excellent meeting, which I was able to attend.
A thoroughly convincing summary of the research by Bob Whitaker.
Disappointing but predictable response from College of Psychiatry, represented by Professor Allan Young. He accused Bob of using ‘sound bites’. I asked how many studies would Bob have had to present (he cited over twenty in the 30 minutes talk) to avoid this silly accusation, and pointed out that this was the same sort of denial from psychiatry as when the first evidence about the harm from Benzodiazepines emerged. Do they still have no ethical,or scientific standards?
Well done to all involved in organising this gathering and exposing the harm perpetrated by the pharmaceutical industry and the compliance of the profession of Psychiatry.