Psychiatric drugs are controversial. Some people take the drugs and find a benefit, some people take the drugs and are harmed, and some people avoid them altogether. Medical journalist and author Bob Whitaker has uncovered a deception in psychiatry’s claim of scientific progress.
It sounds counterintuitive: Shouldn’t taking psychiatric drugs fix the problem? In fact, we see that psychiatric drugs create a problem.
In 2017, former director of the National Institute of Mental Health, Thomas Insel, confessed to the public, “I spent 13 years at NIMH really pushing on the neuroscience and genetics of mental disorders, and when I look back on that, I realize that while I think I succeeded at getting lots of really cool papers published by cool scientists at fairly large costs — I think $20 billion — I don’t think we moved the needle in reducing suicide, reducing hospitalizations, improving recovery for the tens of millions of people who have mental illness … I hold myself accountable for that.”
In addition to poor recovery, the harmful side effects of psychiatric drugs have been well documented. Individuals can develop akathisia (a movement disorder characterized by a feeling of restlessness) or tardive dyskinesia (which causes stiff, jerky movements of the face and body).
The list of side effects continues with weight gain, vomiting, diarrhea, confusion, irritability, and increased risk of suicide. Long-term consequences of taking psychiatric drugs are even more devastating — studies reveal they shorten life expectancy.
Services to help people get off psychiatric drugs are nearly nonexistent. For those trying to wean off psychiatric drugs, the Icarus Project and Freedom Center have published the “Harm Reduction Guide to Coming Off Psychiatric Drugs.” Groups such as the Sunrise Center have been running workshops that help people wean off psychiatric drugs. Psychiatric survivor Laura Delano has also founded the Inner Compass Initiative and the Withdrawal Project to connect individuals going through psychiatric drug withdrawal.
So if drugs don’t work, then what does work?
In 2012, MindFreedom International ran the “I Got Better” campaign, encouraging psychiatric survivors to share about their recovery. In addition to posting videos and written stories, nearly 400 people completed a survey on what worked best for their recovery.
Two-thirds of the respondents reported being “recovered” or “fully recovered.” And more than half of respondents reported being drug free. The survey revealed that people not taking psychiatric drugs were further along in their recovery than those taking them.
MindFreedom concluded that “an individual’s rejection of the mental health system’s hopeless message might actually be a fundamental part of recovery.”
MindFreedom’s “I Got Better” survey asked people what actually helped. Respondents said they found a variety of alternatives more helpful than psychiatric drugs during mental/emotional distress. And combining multiple treatment tools was far more effective than relying on one alone.
MindFreedom International has created the Directory of Alternative Providers, a searchable list of mental health professionals who agree with MindFreedom’s principle of nonviolence and believe in providing choices for their patients.
Another form of therapy is peer support, which is the focus of our next segment.
“GRANDFATHER CLOCK” Written & produced by MARK STURGESS & ADAM CARVER
“KREISLERIANA, OP. 16: NO. 8, SCHNELL UND SPIELEND” Written by ROBERT SCHUMANN Performed by AURELIA VIŞOVAN
“LUCID DREAMSCAPE” Written & produced by MARK STURGESS & ADAM CARVER
“NECESSARY EVIL” Written & produced by MARK STURGESS & ADAM CARVER
“TIME IS A CONSTRUCT” Written & produced by MARK STURGESS & ADAM CARVER