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Canadian Psychiatrists and Sugar Pills

You want statistics? A survey in Canada found that 1 in 5 Canadian physician respondents have prescribed sugar pills. What this press release, The Power of Placebos, doesn’t go into is the ineffectiveness and damaging capacity of almost all prescription psychiatric drugs.

A recent survey, led by McGill Psychiatry Professor and Senior Lady Davis Institute Researcher Amir Raz, reports that one in five respondents – physicians and psychiatrists in Canadian medical schools – have administered or prescribed a placebo. Moreover, an even higher proportion of psychiatrists (more than 35 per cent) reported prescribing subtherapeutic doses of medication (that is, doses that are below, sometimes considerably below, the minimal recommended therapeutic level) to treat their patients.

Maybe, just maybe, the minimal recommended therapeutic doses are too high.

The survey, which was also designed to explore attitudes toward placebo use, found that the majority of responding psychiatrists (more than 60 per cent) believe that placebos can have therapeutic effects. This is a significantly higher proportion than for other medical practitioners. “Psychiatrists seem to place more value in the influence placebos wield on the mind and body,” says Raz. Only 2 per cent of those psychiatrists believe that placebos have no clinical benefit at all.

Psychiatric drugs have been known to impede the process of mental health recovery in some instances. When the drugs don’t work, of course, sugar pills work better. Also when drugs, falsely claiming to be medicine, are harmful, as they all too often actually are, poof, ‘mind over matter’ magic can look sooo goood!

I see an argument against psychiatric treatment coming.

Raz’s own interest in placebos grew out of his work in three very different areas: his explorations into how people’s physiology is influenced by their expectations of what is about to happen, his work on deception; and the time he spent as a former magician. Together, these three separate areas of experience have led Raz to explore what remains an uncomfortable hinterland of medical practice for many practitioners – the use of placebos in medicine.

This line of pursuit has got to lead eventually to some kind joke starting with the line, “What’s the difference between a confidence man and a psychiatrist?” Obviously, the answer is not going to be so much as people might have once thought there was.

Canadian psychiatrists prescribing sugar pills? Considering the 25 years of life lost for the patient, according to some recent studies, because of psychiatric drugs usage, I think they should be commended for doing so.

5 Responses

  1. Yeah, the placebo effect is strong.
    Always has been.
    Always will be.

    Of course, lots of psychiatrists argue that using a sugar pill is not “ethical.”

    Let me get this straight… using neuroleptics (especially, for the long-term) is okay, but getting the same results (without the fallout) is somehow “unethical!”


    If it seems like psychiatriatry lacks REAL ethics, it’s because it does!

    If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck…. Quack, quack…


    • I couldn’t say “using neuroleptics (especially, for the long-term) is okay”. The problem with the use of neuroleptics is that there haven’t been many long-term studies done of their uses. Most of the studies that have been conducted have been conducted by drug companies eager to get their product FDA approved. Most of these studies are relatively short-term studies.

      Neuroleptic use may, in fact, be chief among the reasons, as has been suggested in some quarters, that some patients find it so difficult to recover from their life crises. What I’m trying to say here is that the long-term or chronic nature of some folks mental conditions may be directly attributable to the pharmaceutical products they have been prescribed.

      You have to try other non-drug methods before you have statistics from which you might judge the relative effectiveness of non-drug treatments. I’m for carrying out those experiments to see how well treatments that don’t involve prescription drugs stand up beside those that do. Right now, from what I’ve seen, those non-drug approaches are looking pretty good.

      People in mental health treatment are dying on average at an age 25 years younger than the rest of the population. The newer atypical neuroleptic drugs have had a lot to do with this increased mortality. Long-term, or short-term, find another method of treatment that doesn’t involve the use of these powerful neuroleptic drugs, and you save lives. I’m all for saving lives.

  2. Alright, Duane. Understood.

    The healing capacity of a placebo is all in the head. When sugar pills out-perform neuroleptic drugs, that’s got to tell us something about psychiatrists.

  3. A third of the psychiatrists in Canada (by survey) use placebo in their practice!


    Could it be that to capitalizing on the “placebo effect” without the fallout of psychiatric drugs is what motivates their decisions to use placebo?

    Placebo effect is strong.
    Placebo effect works, and it works well.

    Drug makers need only beat placebo by a few points… Even AFTER they toss out half the data, it’s hard for them to do! –


    If a placebo pill is colored, marked (to look like a real drug), it’s tough for ANY psychiatric drug to beat a placebo. The amazing part is what happens when a side-effect, such as a dry mouth is put into the equation with placebo…

    That’s when the real “magic” of medicine happens.
    That’s when term “more harm than good” begins to really resonate with psychiatric drugs!
    Read ‘Anatomy of an Epidemic’ by Robert Whitaker

    Is it science?
    Is it “magic?”

    … Interesting that the survey from McGill (cited above) was commented on by not only a psychiatrist, but one who was a former MAGICIAN!

    If so many people weren’t being injured by these drugs, it would be hilarious! Unfortunately, people are being injured… gravely injured –


    And yet, psychiatry continues on its path… and those of us who choose to stand-up, and speak-out are called ‘scientologists’, or worse.

    It reminds me of some of the lines from one of my favorite movies…

    “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain…. The great and powerful Oz has spoken”

    The Problem with Drug Related Studies, Timothy Scott, Ph.D. –


    Duane Sherry, M.S.

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