This blogpost is a continuation of a recent post on this subject where I have attempted to summarize my findings from Robert Whitaker’s book, Anatomy of an Epidemic. In the previous blogpost I focussed on Schizophrenia, whereas in this blogpost I would like to focus our attention on anxiety, depression, and ADHD.
When it comes to anti-anxiety drugs, the author makes a strong point that these drugs do not help over the long term. Benzodiazepines, one of the most commonly prescribed anti-anxiety drugs are highly addictive. These drugs have debilitating withdrawal symptoms and should never be prescribed for long term use. Depression and amnesia are commonly observed with long term use of benzodiazepines. Permanent brain damage can also result from long term use in the sense that without the drug, the patient can’t function anymore.
The author claims that antidepressants have not shown to be more effective than sugar pills in clinical trials. They have only been proven to work on severely depressed patients. Long term use of antidepressants has shown to disable people by causing a more severe episode of depression on medication withdrawal. Exposure to antidepressants has also shown to trigger manic depressive episodes in bipolar patients. Antidepressants are also addictive drugs in the sense that medication withdrawal can lead to severe side effects.
The author suggests that for people with mild to moderate depression, daily exercise may work better than antidepressants and has no side effects except that you may become physically fit.
According to the author, the cause of ADHD still remains largely speculative. The belief that ADHD is caused by a chemical imbalance is not a proven claim. ADHD drugs act as a dopamine uptake inhibitor, similar to how the illicit drug cocaine works on the human body. ADHD drugs have shown to subdue emotional responses in kids, make them more passive, submissive, and socially withdrawn. ADHD drugs don’t improve academic performance and rather only help with repetitive tasks that require attention. The author goes as far as to raise questions in regards to ADHD drugs being responsible for causing depression and bipolar disorder in children.
The author suggests that a child diagnosed with ADHD needs to be examined under a different lens. Instead of asking, “what is wrong with the child” we should be asking, “what happened to the child.” We should be encouraging these children to make stronger emotional and social bonds with family, friends, and mentors instead of drugging them to make them emotionally mute.
In conclusion, the author is very clear about the failure of psychiatric drugs in treating mental illness. Treating a psychiatric patient as a human being instead of a number on a chart is probably a good start. Understanding the circumstances that led to the patient’s illness are an important part of the diagnosis. Psychiatric drugs should not be used as a crutch for eternity for every patient. Rather they should be used only when necessary to bridge the gap and every effort must be made to help patients get back on their feet and fully integrate them back into society. All in all, the book is a great read for anyone who is touched by mental illness in some shape or form in their lives and is tired of suffering or seeing a loved one suffer from a cocktail of psychiatric drugs.