December 30, 2012

Another View: Overuse of psychiatric meds may be part of the problem


Your editorial of Dec. 23, "Gun problem won't be fixed by psychotherapy," missed a key point in terms of the relationship between violence and mental illness. There is a very high degree of correlation between the use of anti-depressants and anti-psychotics and mass violence, whether self-directed or otherwise.

You were correct to point out that we do not have a higher degree of mental illness than other countries. We do, however, have a psychiatric and pharmaceutical industry that is only too happy to prescribe a pill to solve just about every issue in life.

Consequently, we have seen a 35-fold increase in juvenile diagnosis of "mental health disability" since the introduction of Prozac. At the same time, we now have fewer beds per capita for people with mental illnesses than we had in 1850.

There are a variety of cross-cultural studies that prove fairly conclusively that most incidences of the onset of mental illness can be cured within six months to a year if the patient has received adequate psychosocial supports and has never been prescribed an anti-psychotic or anti-depressant. Many National Institute of Mental Health studies confirm that these drugs increase the chronicity of mental health episodes.

The chemical cure so embraced by U.S. medical clinicians can be effective in some cases, but old-fashioned talk therapy has to be the first line of treatment. The selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and atypical anti-psychotics, as well as the drugs we are administering for ADHD, are creating a dependent class. I am deeply saddened but not surprised when a few of these people become violent, as we have changed their brain chemistry -- and not in a good way.

We need to do more to treat the mentally ill. We need more beds, more community supports, more clubhouses, mental health insurance parity, more educated practitioners -- but certainly less cavalier prescribing of these high-risk drugs.

State Rep. Richard Malaby, R-Hancock, is a member of the Health and Human Services Committee.

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