The Pill Merchants: The Relentless and Tragic Marketing of Psychiatric Drugs - Further into the Abyss

Author // John Breeding, PhD & Amy Philo

Article Index
The Pill Merchants: The Relentless and Tragic Marketing of Psychiatric Drugs
Further into the Abyss
The Mothers Act
Hopelessness into Hope
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Further into the Abyss:

The Creation of Real Disease

Columbia University’s Dr. Mark Olfson analyzed national outpa- tient records and found another incredible 40-fold increase, this time in the diagnosis of “bipolar disorder” in youth (0 to 19 years old) within a 10-year period (1994–2003). The numbers increased from roughly 20,000 such diagnoses in 1994 to about 800,000 in 2003. The primary treatment of so-called bipolar disorder is psychotropic drugs—mood stabilizers like Depakote, and anti- psychotics like Abilify or Zyprexa. Olfson’s study also found that “nearly one in five psychiatric visits for young people included a prescription for antipsychotics.”

Antipsychotics are powerful and highly toxic, even more dangerous than stimulant speed. They have caused probably the largest epidemic of neurological disease in history—tardive dyskinesia—in millions of adults around the world. There is a nationwide trend of “skyrocketing numbers” in drugging our children with neuroleptics. The St. Petersburg Times reported a 250 percent increase in Florida between 2000 and 2007.

“Bipolar disorder” is a prime example of a fictitious medical disease used to justify giving poisoning drugs like Zyprexa to our precious children. A closer look shows that a tremendous percentage of children diagnosed bipolar started off with an ADHD label. Typically, these kids took stimulants for years before they were diagnosed as bipolar. Given that psychosis, agitation, anxiety, mania and cognitive and mood deterioration are all effects of stimulant drugs, it is easy to see that the end result is a tragic and pathetic example of an iatrogenic disease (a disease caused by medicine or medical doctors). As the above analysis reveals, there is one way to prevent many of the behaviors that psychiatry uses to justify its creation of the budding epidemic of “bipolar disorder”—simply do not put young children on toxic stimulant drugs.

Universal Mental Health Screening and Suicide Prevention

A storm of controversy surrounded the recommendation of Presi- dent Bush’s 2003 New Freedom Commission for universal mental health screening, and the suggestion that the 56 million young people in the nation’s public schools would be a great place to start. We slowed them down in Texas, defeating the push for New Freedom–type mental health screening in the 2005 and 2007 leg- islative sessions. The Texas 2009 marketing push had morphed into screening for suicide prevention, and we defeated that, also.

Teen Screen and other programs that claim to prevent suicide by identifying at-risk young people have incredibly high rates of false positives. In a 2004 article published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Dr. David Shaffer, the Columbia psychiatrist who developed Teen Screen, acknowledged that it “would result in 84 non-suicidal teens being referred for evaluation for every 16 suicidal youths correctly identified.” A prime example of the problems that can arise with a false positive is the nightmare that Aliah Gleason went through in Austin, Texas. Aliah ended up taking at least 13 different psychotropic drugs. That is what happens to children targeted by screening in our system today.

These types of suicide prevention programs do not work. The United States Preventive Services Task Force found in 2004 that screening for suicide risk does not reduce suicide attempts or mortality. What these programs do is select more children to be labeled, pathologized and poisoned with psychotropic drugs. They are very effective marketing campaigns for the psychophar- maceutical industry.

Infants and Toddlers: Targeting Younger and Younger Children

In the 1980s the pharmaceutical industry recognized a market, and with the launching of ADD in 1980 and ADHD in 1987, its ex- pansion into schools was underway. With the inclusion of ADHD as an “other health impaired” category in the IDEA in 1991, the numbers really exploded. Kindergarten and first grade became main entry points into psychiatry. Now there is an exponential increase in the numbers of drugged preschoolers and toddlers. Even infants sometimes get drugged!

The ethical corruption is significant. For example, a 2008 New York Times editorial titled “Hidden Drug Payments at Harvard” revealed that Harvard psychiatric researcher Joseph Biederman and two of his colleagues took millions of dollars in undisclosed drug company money while acting as public relations point men for children’s “bipolar.” Boston Globe report- er Carey Goldberg reported: “Newly disclosed court documents portray Dr. Joseph Biederman, a leading Harvard child psychia- trist, as courting drug company money by promising that his work at Massachusetts General Hospital would help promote the use of antipsychotic drugs for youngsters diagnosed with bipolar disorder.” (Italics ours.)

Researchers from Rutgers and Columbia Universities found that antipsychotic prescriptions written for privately insured children aged 2 to 5 years doubled between 1999-2001 and 2007. Children covered by Medicaid are more likely than privately- insured children to be prescribed antipsychotic drugs, and have a higher likelihood of being prescribed antipsychotics even if they have no psychotic symptoms. Recall that antipsychotic drugs cause permanent neurological and metabolic damage in most people who take them for very long.

Whitaker notes in his new book, Anatomy of an Epidemic, that this system of “treatment” disables 850 adults and 250 children every day. He reports that in 1987, there were 16,200 children under 18 who received an SSI payment by virtue of disabling “mental illness”—5.5 percent of the 293,000 children on dis- ability rolls. In 1990, the numbers began to dramatically rise. The number of children under 6 receiving SSI tripled to 65,928 between 2000 and 2007. By the end of 2007, there were 561,569 “mentally ill” children on the disability rolls, a 35-fold increase, becoming the leading “cause” of child disability and 50 percent of the total number. That’s 250 children every day, enough to fill an elementary school auditorium.

Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #30.

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