Friday, February 08, 2008

One Reader's Account of Psychiatry and Drugs

Reader S.W. sent in this personal account of one family's experiences with American psychiatry and its "default setting" prescriptions of powerful, potentially dangerous psychotropic drugs.
Some readers of my Wednesday entry, The Drugs Which Drive You Crazy felt I had veered over the edge to hyperbole. Please read this account, which is hardly unique in today's U.S.A., and then tell me the American system of mental health via pharmaceuticals is healthy.

The reason I'm writing is that today's entry causes me to recall a personal nightmare with my teenage son and big pharma a few years ago. I don't like to think about it, it was a very harmful and painful experience. Happily I can say it is all behind us now. I want to thank you for warning people about the psych drug racket. From my personal experience I can only conclude that psychiatrists are nothing more than sales reps for pharmaceutical companies. (Emphasis added--CHS)

My son was having big trouble by the time he hit High School. Instead of doing schoolwork he sat in class memorizing japanese alphabets and pi. He just didn't care about the curriculum or anything else and because of his bizarre behavior he was referred for counseling. Then he was referred to a psychiatrist, and they immediately diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia and started him on a long series of drugs that had heartbreaking side effects and made no real improvement in his 'affect'. I had to pull him out of school. I am ashamed to say we had him warehoused in the back room, and it seemed there was no hope.

I would never have questioned the experts, and this could have gone on forever if it were not for the fact that a very similar child in the family was identified as being on the autistic spectrum. I made a great effort to have him diagnosed properly, and for over a year I never talked to my son about what I suspected as I didn't want to influence the process. I took my son to no less than three neurologists, and after a lot of testing he was diagnosed with a neurological disorder called asperger's syndrome.

When I went back and explained this to the shrinks, they refused to consider the new diagnosis and were very resistant to discontinuation of meds. There seems to be a disconnect between neurology and psychiatry when it comes to autism. Although my experts trumped their experts, they were insistent that the new diagnosis was a 'fad' and that I was just grasping at straws.

I was surprised at their opposition, as I had done everything right to get a second diagnosis. My son had just turned 18 and when I went with him to his appointments to discuss this, they treated me as if I was meddling in the affairs of an adult patient, and recommended that he needed 'case management'. I found out from reading the shrink's reports that my son's original diagnosis was based on 'negative' symptoms (i.e., flat affect, depression) and their opinion that he was concealing paranoid and delusional ideation, which he had never admitted to having.

They did not want to help with discontinuation, and when they finally relented and agreed to a 'trial' discontinuation, the prescription for the tapering was very rapid. I learned from reading a book on the subject that this is a common trick they use to cause discontinuation to fail, because you must taper from anti-psychotics very slowly or you can actually cause psychosis. I used a different formula for discontinuation, based on a self-help book. I was unsure throughout this period that I was doing the right thing, as I had no support. I had nothing to follow but pure intuition.

After discontinuing, my son shed all the horrible side effects. Over time his personality reappeared, after years of being a zombie. He is now healthy, happy, and pursuing his special interests, such as teaching himself Japanese and enjoying fine tea. I hope one day he can go back to school, but that's up to him.

I know there are some people who may need medication for real mental illnesses, and I am not anti-treatment. I am not a scientologist. All I am saying is that when faced with such a critical issue, parents must educate themselves, trust their intuition, and get another opinion before blindly accepting diagnoses and drugs from shrinks. Prescribing drugs is how psychiatrists make their $$$.

In my view, this reader's experience reflects the terrible dilemmas in the American mental health complex which have been accepted as "normal"--until you or your family are caught up and badgered to comply. Then your perspective rapidly undergoes a revolution.

The responsible parties include not just a medical profession all too enamoured of prescriptions and a pharmaceutical industry all too eager to push the prescriptions and not eager at all to test drugs in combination with other drugs, e.g. OxyCotin and Valium, which recently killed actor Heath Ledger--but the American public, too.

For the public all too often demands a "pill-fix" for their medical problems, and demands the impossible of medical professionals pressured to "do something" when all too often the "first, do no harm" step would be to eliminate all adverse environmental influences such as high-sugar and junk food diets, TV and video games, sedentary lifestyles, etc., all of which are in the direct control of the patients and their families. Doctors can prescribe such "treatment" but the patient all too often ignores this "prescription" in favor of a simple (but often horrendously costly and ineffective) "pill solution."

Clearly, S.W. did the right thing: she pursued a correct diagnosis of a difficult-to-diagnose condition in the face of opposition, and then sought to educate herself on treatments, side-effects, etc. In other words, there really is no alternative to taking responsibility for your own health and the health of your family.

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Thank you, Philip P. ($10), for your much-appreciated support of this humble site. I am greatly honored by your contribution and readership. All contributors are listed below in acknowledgement of my gratitude.

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