The Pill Merchants: The Relentless and Tragic Marketing of Psychiatric Drugs - Hopelessness into Hope

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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Hopelessness into Hope

The rhetoric of psychiatric treatment of children and their moth- ers purports to offer hope. But the reality is that such pathologiz- ing and “treatment” undermines hope and causes damage and disability. Real hope for babies and moms lies in reclaiming the sacredness of motherhood with full-on support of pregnancy, childbirth and early parenting.

We love the title of Alice Walker’s book, Anything We Love Can Be Saved. It is cultural madness to think that salvation of our glorious mothers and precious babies lies in psychiatric labels and drugs. The solution lies in a much more beautiful realm. Walker quotes Samuel Zan, General Secretary of Amnesty International in Nigeria and activist for the abolition of the genital mutilation (female circumcision) of women: “If the women of the world were comfortable, this would be a comfortable world.” Walker points to the solution by amplifying Zan’s words: “Like Zan, I believe that if the women of the world were comfortable, so would the world be. In fact, I know this in my bones. Out of a woman’s security— which always means free agency in society, sexual and spiritual autonomy, as well as the well-being of her children and the sanctity of her home—comes ultimate security for the world.”

This we can create.

Closing Thoughts on Prevention: The True Nature of Children

The title of John Breeding’s earlier book, True Nature and Great Misunderstandings: On How We Care for Our Children According to Our Understanding, is based on the premise, attributed to Anaïs Nin, that “We see the world not as it is but as we are,” and act accordingly. As long as people are so confused and misinformed that they think challenges with children are due to biological or genetic defects in the children, then children (or mothers) will be blamed and hurt.

Our view on the true nature of children is that we are born with brilliant intelligence, tremendous energy and zest, and intense relational desire. We also think that we can trust in the natural trajectory of human development, and do not need to tame and suppress our children. Breeding’s “21st Century Manifesto for Parenting” [Pathways 25] makes clear, however, that we are also regrettably aware that we live in a highly disturbed society, one not structured to meet well many of the developmental needs of our children nor the safety and support needs of pregnant and new mothers. Blaming moms or children by labeling them defective and then suppressing, controlling and subduing them with drugs may provide a temporary false absolution of adult responsibility.

The bottom line, however, is that such practice is pathetic, cruel and tragic. Let’s stop it now. The challenge is doing what- ever it takes to be clear and strong enough as adults to fiercely defend children from unnecessary harm, and simply to enjoy and take delight in our beloved, spirited children, and the sacred ex- perience of pregnancy and birth.

How Psychiatric Drugs Nearly Turned Me into a Murderer

by Amy Philo

Because of my experience on Zoloft, I can put myself in the shoes of Andrea Yates, Melanie Stokes and all the moms you hear about who kill their kids or commit sui- cide, when it seemed like they had everything to live for. I know what it’s like to have thoughts in your head “telling” you what to do, thoughts that are not yours, thoughts that do not belong. I never had mental health problems in my life before I was on Zoloft, and I never have since. It’s been six years since my last pill.

In July 2004, I had my first baby, Isaac. At three days old, he nearly choked to death on some partially digested formula while trying to vomit. We had checked into the emergency room of Children’s Hospital only moments before this occurred, and the staff saved his life. Had we not noticed something wasn’t right and taken him to the hospital, Isaac could have died in his bassinet that night as we slept.

A home health nurse who visited me two days later told me I was at “high risk” of postpartum depression and needed drugs immediately. She even set up an “emergen- cy” appointment with my OBGYN. My OB gave me Zoloft samples and told me to start taking them right away, as- suring me that the drug was safe for me and Isaac, who was only 6 days old. Three days later, I started hallucinat- ing and having homicidal thoughts and suicidal urges.

I was involuntarily hospitalized for two days and had to fake a miraculous “stabilization” in order to be released. Twice an outpatient psychiatrist raised my dose, and both times my homicidal thoughts worsened. On 150mg of Zoloft I was overcome with intrusive thoughts of killing my mother, husband, son, cats and neighbors before kill- ing myself.

During the time I was on Zoloft, the FDA issued a black box suicide warning on antidepressants. As a result, I did some research of my own for the first time. I later went against medical advice and tapered off Zoloft with the help of my husband and parents. By Thanksgiving I was off Zoloft and able to be alone with Isaac for the first time since he was 9 days old.

My brief experience with psychiatry was the worst time in my life—during what should have been the great- est and most beautiful time in my life. Because my experi- ence was so emblematic of everything that is wrong with the MOTHERS Act and screening of mothers for so-called “risk factors,” I decided not to sit idly by and watch the MOTHERS Act ruin motherhood—not without a fight, anyway. The stories of those I meet in this cause continue to spur me on as an activist in an effort to educate, and thereby save, as many others as possible.

Excerpted from a longer piece by Amy Philo. For her full story, go to or

Pathways Issue 30 CoverThis article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #30.

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