Same Old Story, New Wrapping Paper

Psychiatry has really geared up to resell itself to the public. This recent reselling involves designing a lot of research projects to support a few basic theoretical presumptions. This reselling is called a revolution, only it’s about as far away from any real revolution as you can possibly get. The reason for this reselling is merely to further discredit and taint any and all criticism of the status quo, the orthodoxy, with the suggestion of heresy.

Indicative of this reselling campaign is Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, issuing a call for “mental illnesses” to be treated as “brain diseases”. We understand why, for insurance purposes, a patient would have “mental illness” treated like a physical disease, but beyond that, the burden of proof should rest on the evidense of research. Making psychiatry mindless has the effect of making it brainless as well.

A recent article in The Economist reflects this reselling venture with all of its pseudo-scientific pretensions. That article is entitled, pretensiously enough, Psychiatric Diagnosis: Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis.

The aim is to help doctors offer patients the most appropriate treatment. But an important by-product will be that researchers working on the psychiatric drugs of the future will be able to test them in genetically engineered animal models that more closely resemble human reality. The importance of this was underlined by Eric Nestler of the Mount Sinai Medical Centre, in New York, and Steven Hyman of Harvard University in this month’s Nature Neuroscience, when they wrote that drug development for schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorder and autism “is at a near standstill”.

Frankenrat is seen as a positive development for the future. Knowing how Pavlov’s dog hasn’t really worked to benefit humankind so much, and if anything such experiments have worked to the detriment of our species, I have serious doubts that Frankenrat is going to prove very beneficial either.

If this drug doesn’t work, theory runs, maybe another drug will. The problem here is that nobody is suggesting that maybe this wonder drug won’t be found. Nobody who is doing the same old same old anyway.

When the danger of medicalization is hit upon, and when doctors are admonished to do no more harm, the article suggests two DSMs, one for the researcher, the psychiatric clergy, and another for the laity, the out and out dumb ass public. Go figure. How dumb do they think people actually are?

To overcome this, there have been suggestions in the past that the DSM should be divided into two: a scientific version, for use by researchers and psychiatrists, and a pragmatic version, for everyone else. Writing in the Psychiatric Times in August, Seyyed Nassir Ghaemi of Tufts University in Boston argued that this was not the answer. It would simply lead to the “gerrymandering” of definitions based on outdated and invalid knowledge.

Actually the science is not as sound as many in the psychiatry and neuroscience departments like to think it is. There would only be a pragmatic version because some psychiatrists don’t want people to see through their deceptions, and because they would like to underestimate and devalue the intelligense of the general public. Perhaps a Dummies Guide To The DSM would to do the trick. We’ve had Dummies Guides to various serious “mental illnesses” for some time now. These Dummies Guides have helped dumb down a lot of people.

The Economist article makes a feeble attempt to end on a comforting note.

In the end, says Dr [John] Krystal, the dichotomy between the valid and the useful may turn out to be a false one. The most commonly prescribed psychiatric drugs are effective for many diagnoses, precisely because those diagnoses have underlying features in common. In his view, society’s demands are not mutually exclusive. Doctors can continue to do no harm, while researchers brace themselves for exciting, and unsettling, times to come.

We’ve got a major problem here. This is bullshit. Doctors do much harm. You’d better brace yourself. They are going to do even more harm in the times ahead.

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5 Responses

  1. As governments become more Orwellian they know that there will be more dissent and civil unrest. Along with appropriate dissent there will also be increasing confusion and disorder. So they have been gearing up psychiatry thinking that the more people they can psychiatrize the less people will notice, and there will be lesser numbers of people able to notice, when the silk gloves come off altogether in about 20 years time.

    As things are at the moment they are still able to convince themselves that they are behaving more humanely than regimes where dissenters and the confused are simply eliminated.

    • When it comes to placing the blame squarely where the blame belongs, psychiatry circumvents any and all accountability. The great God double helix did it. Did what? Behaved in a manner annoyable enough to get a skin reaction from a large number of people. This amounts to a complete and utter evasion of responsibility on the part of all parties involved, on top of which it constitutes a threat to our hard won freedoms, our civil liberties. Somebody did it, and it wasn’t done by a whirlpool of bad genetic material. Throwing up ones hands in failure is not the way to deal with anything, and the biggest failures in this scenario are the doctors who expect only deterioration from their patients.

      Mental health law is a violation of human rights. No other branch of medicine has a relationship with the courts that allows it to lock people up, purportedly for their own good, against their will and wishes. Locking people up is a matter of taking away their basic freedoms, freedoms this country was founded on protecting. People are admitted into the hospital for pre-criminal offenses–bad thoughts in other words. The very legal definition of mental illness involves pre-crime. One has commited no offense, but one is thought to be “a danger to oneself or others”. One is the prime suspect in a criminal case that is to take place in the future. Hold on. When only a fraction of these suspects is ever going commit these crimes, aren’t we jumping the gun a little? I should say so.

      Of course, in a sanitized utopian nightmare vision of tomorrow, nothing short of perfection is to be permitted. We want to nip crime in the bud by locking up all criminals prior to their crimes. Eliminating the element of chance, in this case, means eliminating the chance for a crime to be commited. Out the window with chance goes choice for a certain percentage of the population–and things are similar to the way they were prior to 1862 in the USA. Ditto an Orwellian flashback to the Soviet block gulag. Progress is a relative matter, and sometime people miss those little dips on the graph. Behind the veneer, the future, as it always has, will look a little more like the past than we had initially hoped it would.

  2. Apropos of resell: The Danish news today reported that Danish researchers have found that dopamine may play a role in “schizophrenia”. And of course they hope that this revolutionary finding may contribute to the development of improved drugs. And here I thought the existing drugs were addressing a dopamine imbalance…

    (No, it’s not a — bad — joke. Here it is: http://nyheder.ku.dk/alle_nyheder/2010/2010.10/dopaminmodel/)

    • Yeah, that’s a good one. The idea that dopamine may play a role in “schizophrenia” comes from the fact that neuroleptic drugs suppress dopamine activity. What has been discovered is that people who have been labeled “schizophrenic” have no more dopamine activity on average than anybody else. This fact may change after the introduction of neuroleptic drugs because, while the drugs block dopamine receptors, these drugs also cause the brain to grow more dopamine receptors. Thus you will find the person who has been kept on these drugs for an extended length of time supersensitive to dopamine if the drugs are withdrawn. This is to say, if there is any chemical imbalance, the chemical that is out whack here is not dopamine, at least, not until the introduction of the neuroleptic drug. Of course, there are going to be all sorts of stories in the media linking “schizophrenia” to dopamine. Finding a connection between dopamine and “schizophrenia” is not news. Uncovering the truth–that’s news.

  3. Well, I wouldn’t be surprized if it’s the iatrogenic dopamine imbalance they’ve “discovered”, and are now trying to sell us as a “symptom” of the “illness”…

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