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Skirting The Issue In Missippi

This just in, there are fears that banning smoking in Eastern Missippi State Hospital will contribute to the black-market in cigarettes in that hospital. I seriously doubt that Missippi is the only state with a black-market for cigarettes in state psychiatric hospitals that no longer publicly permit smoking. I have seen Virginia, to mention one state, go through the process of banning cigarettes, and I’ve heard of a black-market for cigarettes in a hospital in that state.

Cigarette smoking is actually serving as the scapegoat for a very serious and more real health problem mental health consumers are facing these days. People in the mental health system are dying on average 25 years earlier than the rest of the population according to a National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors study. This phenomenon is attributed, to use of the atypical antipsychotic drugs developed to have fewer side effects than the original antipsychotic drugs. Another term for these antipsychotic drugs is neuroleptic which comes from the Greek, to “seize control of” the “nervous system”, and that word origin indicates, in health terms, the root of the problem.

These atypical antipsychotic drugs have been shown to contribute to a whole range of health problems from heart disease to obesity and diabetes. All of these health problems can cut short a person’s life span. Research has shown that the lives of people on many psychiatric drugs are shortened by every psychiatric drug they are taking. Not only can these drugs be harmful, but their long term use has been shown to be detrimental to treatment efforts rather than beneficial.

A more direct way of saving lives would be to ban the use of these antipsychotic drugs on the hospital units where they are used, but psychiatrists are unlikely to take this course of action any time soon. Involuntary patients have no choice and are routinely forced to take these drugs regardless of the health consequences of doing so while voluntary patients who try to assert themselves can end up facing a hearing, and ultimately on involuntary status. This is unfortunate, but until state hospitals are more open to other and healthy options, it will continue to be the case.

E. Fuller Torrey makes the claim that when it came to quitting smoking he would prefer to individualize treatment plans to fit the patient. I am very skeptical of E. Fuller Torrey’s statement in the sense that although he might individualize treatment plans when it came to quitting smoking, I am sure he wouldn’t allow this individualization when it came to the use of antipsychotic drugs. Until psychiatrists attend to the results of studies that don’t necessarily agree with the textbooks they used in school, they won’t take the steps necessary to save lives.