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The Pill Merchants: The Relentless And Tragic Marketing Of Psychiatric Drugs

In our work, we strive to alleviate distress and to support and enhance people’s personal growth, transformation, individua- tion, self-determination, and clear and expanded awareness. Necessity dictates that we also spend a lot of time challenging aspects of the mental health profession that do the opposite— creating more distress, suppressing growth and transformation, violating self-determination, and dulling and blinding awareness. We call it psychiatric oppression—the systematic, institutional- ized mistreatment of those judged “mentally ill.”

This essay focuses on the ever expanding encroachment of psychiatric oppression to more and more of the population, to people of all ages and to individuals who are less and less in need of actual help. This encroachment takes the form of mass marketing for psychiatry and the pharmaceutical industry. The elders are covered already, as it appears that at least half of nurs- ing home residents are on psychiatric drugs (as shown in John Breeding’s book The Necessity of Madness and Unproductivity: Psychiatric Oppression or Human Transformation). We will exam- ine the expanding movement downward, from the grave to the cradle, so to speak.

One key aspect of oppression theory is the claim to virtue. For psychiatric oppression, that claim is the notion that mentally ill people need their treatment. Now pharmaceutical marketing is expanding into the concept of prevention—that potentially mentally ill people need treatment, as well!

Disability and Disease: Measures of Failed Development

In 2005, investigative journalist Robert Whitaker analyzed adult psychiatric disability in the United States. The data is incredible. A century ago, one in 500 people was considered “disabled” by mental illness and in need of hospitalization. By 1955, with the advent of Thorazine, that number reached nearly one in 300. Over the next 50 years, as psychiatric drugs became the primary treatment, the disability rate climbed steadily. Today, nearly one in 50 U.S. adults receives Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for psychiatric disability.

The data on schoolchildren eligible for special education am- plifies the Whitaker data. As described in my book The Wildest Colts Make the Best Horses, the number of children labeled as learning disabled (LD) or diagnosed with “disruptive behavior disorders” has increased dramatically. Federal legislation in the 1960s spurred the growth of special education, and in 1991, when the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was expanded to include so-called Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) as a qualifying disability, it sparked tremendous growth. It is not unusual for a school district to have one in four of its students in special education.

About 60 percent of children qualifying under IDEA have no physical disability. These children are given labels such as LD, ADD or ED (emotionally disturbed). Could it be that these “diag- noses” are a modern way of “blaming the victim?”

Pathways readers know that we are clearly failing in pre- vention of real illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and asthma, including with our children. The situation in so-called mental health may be even worse. Childhood “mental illness” is now virtually pandemic in the United States, as an estimated 1 out of 7 school-age children is on at least one psychotropic drug, and many are on several. Our analysis showed an estimated 40-fold (4,000 percent) increase in the number of children on psychiatric drugs between 1970 and 2000. It is a fair estimate that at least 12 million young people are on psychiatric drugs in the U.S. today.

Pseudoscience and the Creation of Imagined Disease

The drugging of our nation’s children is utterly tragic because of the very dangerous, toxic nature of these substances. But it is beyond tragic when one confronts the fact that these “illness- es” are only alleged or imagined diseases. Real diseases are discovered—confirmed by objective physical or chemical ab- normalities such as a cancer tumor or a blood sugar imbalance. Alleged disease is proclaimed by fiat. The American Psychiatric Association decides that certain behaviors (“symptoms”) are abnormal and votes these sets of behaviors into existence as diseases. For example, ADD was voted into existence in 1980, and ADHD in 1987.

It is difficult enough to prevent unnecessary physical dis- eases among our nation’s children. When one truly understands that childhood “mental illnesses” are imagined, then how in the world can they be prevented or treated? Well, just as the government claims it can detain and torture a man it thinks is a terrorist (not always using those words), our society claims the right to select, label and drug a child we deem mentally ill. The difference is, terrorists do exist, while ADHD does not. As hard as they may be to accept, the words of retired neurologist Fred Baughman Jr. are nonetheless absolutely true: “ADHD is a total, complete 100 percent fraud.”

You cannot prevent ADHD because it is not real. But you can prevent stigmatizing children with the label, and you can certainly prevent drugging them with addictive stimulants, commonly called speed.