With pharmaceutical and even robotic “cures” in the works for loneliness – a condition once considered part of the normal human emotional range but now framed as a health risk – we risk losing the ability to be alone at all.
The pathologization of emotion has been on the march for decades, especially in the US, where fully one sixth of the adult population takes an antidepressant or other psychiatric drug. Now the mental-health industry has a new target – loneliness.
Nearly half of Americans polled last year by health insurer Cigna said they lacked meaningful relationships or companionship. A solutions-based society might examine why so many people feel alienated from their peers despite the constant connectivity of smartphones and internet. A symptom-focused model, however, simply looks to stop them from feeling that way by any means necessary.
Loneliness is “worse than obesity,” according to a raft of studies that have emerged linking the emotion to increased risk of premature death, and even rivals smoking. And like obesity – big business for Big Pharma, gastric bypass surgeons and weight-loss gurus – it requires medical intervention.
THERE’S A PILL FOR THAT
The University of Chicago’s Brain Dynamics Laboratory recently began an eight-week trial of the hormone pregnenolone, rounding up volunteers with “off-the-chart” scores on a psychological loneliness scale. Based on animal studies suggesting the chemical can reduce the exaggerated threat reactions that researchers say characterize loneliness, they hope to normalize the lonely person’s self-centered hyper-vigilance that drives them to both desire human connection and deal poorly with it.
Researchers insist the intention is not to cure loneliness with a pill, but the trial sets a precedent for doing just that – with another psychiatric drug, if pregnenolone doesn’t work out. Antidepressants, for example, have for years been used (and abused) to treat conditions other than depression, with the largest pharmaceutical industry lawsuits targeting overprescribing and off-label prescribing.
And unlike most regular medical patients, individuals deemed mentally ill tend to remain on medication for years, if not for life.
Mental health professionals writing about the loneliness epidemic discuss behavioral interventions, community programs, and therapy, but the introduction of a pharmaceutical solution may prove too tempting for a profession that has learned to love the quick fix a pill provides. Like depression, loneliness has an infinite number of possible causes, some of which are natural and healthy reactions to major life changes. Other types of loneliness have clear behavioral causes that would (before the magic pill, at least) necessitate clear behavioral solutions. Would a psychiatrist reach to medicate the loneliness of a person who only socializes through Facebook with a pill rather than encourage them to talk to real people?
Studies have shown that just a week away from the platform can bring “significant” improvements in well-being, suggesting that in this case, at least, correlation may indeed equal causation. But why force the patient to change his life when a pill will do the trick?
In a quick-fix society that prefers to treat the symptoms while ignoring the disease, a pill for loneliness may be embraced with all the fervor with which antidepressants were greeted before people began to realize that they cause suicidal and homicidal behavior, sexual dysfunction, weight gain, and a host of other problems – and that they don’t actually cure depression.
A loneliness pill will also not address Americans’ emotionally unhealthy digitally-addicted lifestyles. After all, human contact, including real-life socializing, has become a luxury – so says the New York Times, explaining that humans are expensive, screens and robots are cheap, and expecting the unwashed masses to be able to afford access to living, breathing humans like themselves is simply unrealistic.
BRIDGING THE UNCANNY VALLEY
Because if the “loneliness pill” doesn’t work out, AI is waiting in the wings. Already seen as the future of at-home healthcare for aging populations under the care of cash-strapped governments, friendly, helpful robots could find their way into the homes of the lonely. And while snooping AI “digital assistants” like Amazon’s Alexa tend to creep people out, this new wave of robo-buddies would be framed as medical help. As lonely humans become accustomed to conversing with their robot pals, their expectation for real human contact may diminish, and their sense of loneliness with it. After all, you can’t miss what you never had. Already, given the stunted level of discourse on social media, many of us have found ourselves tricked into talking to bots, sometimes exchanging several messages before realizing our interlocutor is not human.
As the bar for “meaningful relationships” is lowered to the point where chatting with an AI can qualify, the loneliness epidemic vanishes – on paper, at least, and in US public health policy, sometimes that’s all that matters.
LONELY OR JUST ALONE?
The pathologization of loneliness will inevitably elide the difference between being alone and being lonely, as the mental health industry runs out of lonely people to treat with whatever therapeutic weapon wins this particular arms race and is forced to seek more patients. “Loners” – those dangerous types who actually enjoy solitude – are stigmatized as unpredictable weirdos who need to be brought into the fold. The man who shot up a Walmart in El Paso earlier this month was an “extreme loner,” according to media reports. Would we be reading about it if he was an “extreme extrovert”? The myth of the “introvert killer” pops up every time, even though it has been thoroughly debunked.
With no anti-loneliness pill on the market – yet – it is impossible to predict what’s next for the creeping pathologization of the human emotional experience. But Amazon’s Alexa has moved one step closer to the companion-robot model, rolling out a medical feature earlier this year which could conceivably be deployed to “check on” individuals at risk for loneliness.
And with implantable devices like Elon Musk’s Neuralink on the horizon, bringing that AI directly in contact with your mind, you’ll never be able to feel lonely again. Solitude – like privacy and human contact before it – thus becomes the ultimate luxury good.
Helen Buyniski is an American journalist and political commentator, working at RT since 2018
The Friends of the People caricatured by Isaac Cruikshank, November 15, 1792, Joseph Priestley and Thomas Paine are surrounded by incendiary items
Beyond Common Sense, most Americans know little about Thomas Paine (1737-1809). Few know that at the end of Paine’s life, he had become a pariah in U.S. society, and for many years after his death, he was either ignored or excoriated—the price he paid for The Age of Reason and its disparagement of religious institutions, especially Christianity.
Early in The Age of Reason, Paine attacks the hypocrisy of religious professionals: “When a man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind, as to subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe, he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime. He takes up the trade of a priest for the sake of gain, and in order to qualify himself for that trade, he begins with a perjury.”
If alive today, Paine may well have been even rougher on psychiatrists. Paine revered science, and he would have been enraged by professionals who pretend to embrace science by using its jargon but in fact make pseudoscientific proclamations that purposely deceive suffering people. “To subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe” is exactly what many modern psychiatrists are routinely guilty of—this by their own recent admissions. Before detailing this “perjury,” a little bit about Paine and his compulsion to confront all illegitimate authorities.
Beginning in 1776, both Common Sense and then The American Crisis made Thomas Paine a hero for insurgent American colonials. Following the successful American revolt against British rule, the globetrotting revolutionary Paine returned to England where his Rights of Man enraged William Pitt. Narrowly escaping arrest by Pitt’s goons, Paine fled to revolutionary France, where Paine then narrowly survived the disloyalty of his “friend” George Washington—a betrayal that kept Paine (a victim of the Jacobins-Girondins gang war) rotting in Luxembourg Prison. Only with great luck would Paine avoid Robespierre’s guillotine so as to return to the United States.
Bertrand Russell (the English philosopher, mathematician, historian, and social critic) observed that Paine “incurred the bitter hostility of three men not generally united: Pitt, Robespierre, and Washington. Of these, the first two sought his death, while the third carefully abstained from measures designed to save his life. Pitt and Washington hated him because he was a democrat; Robespierre, because he opposed the execution of the King and the Reign of Terror.”
No one could intimidate Paine into shutting up, but he could be marginalized. By the end of his life, owing to his The Age of Reason and its disparagement of Christianity, Paine was ostracized, even refused service by many innkeepers. Historian Eric Foner notes: “Paine slipped into obscurity. His final years were ones of lonely, private misery.” Moreover, for many years after his death, Paine was either ignored or attacked by the American political and cultural elite; as even in 1888, Theodore Roosevelt scored political points by calling Paine a “filthy little atheist.”
Paine, in truth, was not an atheist but a deist. He states at the beginning of The Age of Reason: “I believe in one God, and no more.” While it was Paine’s trashing of Christianity in The Age of Reason that made him an outcast, he also made clear in it that “all national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.”
Paine had respect for Jesus (noting that “He was a virtuous and an amiable man”); however, Paine had no respect for Christianity, for which Paine pulled no punches: “Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is none more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory in itself, than this thing called Christianity. Too absurd for belief, too impossible to convince, and too inconsistent for practice, it renders the heart torpid or produces only atheists and fanatics. As an engine of power it serves the purpose of despotism; and as a means of wealth, the avarice of priests; but so far as respects the good of man in general, it leads to nothing here or hereafter.”
As maddening as Christianity was for Paine, unlike psychiatry, Christianity didn’t pour salt into Paine’s wounds by pretending to embrace his beloved science. It is quite possible that Paine would be even more appalled by today’s psychiatrists who claim the authority of science but who, in reality, have debased it. Paine’s rebuke of clergy—“to subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe”—perfectly fits psychiatrists with regard to both (1) their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (commonly known as the DSM), and (2) their doctrine that has the greatest effect on treatment, the “chemical-imbalance theory of mental illness.”
The DSM is a publication of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), which is psychiatry’s guild organization; and the DSM is often referred to as the “diagnostic bible” of psychiatry. The initial DSM(1952) has been followed by several “new testaments”: DSM-II (1968), DSM-III (1980), DSM-III-R (1987), DSM-IV (1994), DSM-5 (2013, foregoing Roman numerals).
Many mental health professionals have long recognized the lack of scientific validity of the DSM, and its pseudoscience has at times become so obvious so as to be a public embarrassment for psychiatry. Prior to 1973, owing clearly to prejudice and not science, homosexuality was a DSM mental illness. Since what enters and exits the DSM has nothing to do with science (the actual criteria for DSM“illness” being what behaviors make an APA committee uncomfortable enough), homosexuality could only be eliminated as a DSM illness by political activism, which occurred in the early 1970s; and homosexuality was omitted from the 1980 DSM-III.
In that same DSM-III, however, again owing to prejudice and not science, a new mental illness for kids was invented by psychiatry: “oppositional defiant disorder” (ODD), the so-called symptoms including “often argues with authority figures” and “often actively defies or refuses to comply with requests from authority figures or with rules.” ODD is categorized as a “disruptive disorder,” and today disruptive-disordered kids are being increasingly medicated.
Thomas Paine would have immediately seen the political/pseudoscientific nature of the DSM; and given how oppositional and defiant Paine was with illegitimate authorities, I think it’s safe to say that he would have mocked specifically ODD and generally the entire DSM, perhaps even more so than he derided the Bible and the New Testament.
What may have inflamed Paine even more than pseudoscientific DSM mental illness proclamations would be psychiatry’s perjury about it. “To subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe” is exactly what has been the case for psychiatry with respect to the DSM. Psychiatrist Allen Frances had been the lead editor of DSM-IV, but in 2010 when the APA was in the process of creating DSM-5, Frances stated in an interview in Wired that “there is no definition of a mental disorder. It’s bullshit. I mean, you just can’t define it.” Frances, who lost his DSM-IV royalty share ($10,000 per year) once DSM-5 was available, published Saving Normal in 2014, a book trashing the new DSM-5.
With respect to treatment, even more influential than the DSM has been psychiatry’s “chemical imbalance theory of mental illness,” the doctrine which has convinced emotionally suffering patients that taking psychiatric drugs is as responsible as taking insulin for diabetes.
The lack of science behind the “chemical imbalance theory of mental illness” is no longer controversial. In 2014 in CounterPunch, I documented acknowledgment by establishment psychiatrists of this theory’s lack of scientific validity, including psychiatrist Ronald Pies, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of the Psychiatric Times who stated in 2011: “In truth, the ‘chemical imbalance’ notion was always a kind of urban legend—never a theory seriously propounded by well-informed psychiatrists.” In my 2014 article, I also reviewed how psychiatrists justified their promulgating this mythology by rationalizing that it would make it easier for patients to accept their emotional difficulties as illnesses and to take psychiatric medication. Leading psychiatrists actually confessed to pushing a theory that they don’t believe.
There is, however, something even worse than bullshitting about bullshit—that is attempting to bullshit us that that one has never bullshitted us about bullshit. The previously mentioned psychiatrist Ronald Pies, whose position makes him sort of a Cardinal Emeritus in psychiatry, is now telling us that his profession of psychiatry is not responsible for the fact that damn near everyone believes in an untrue chemical imbalance theory of mental illness.
On April 30, 2019, Pies told us in the Psychiatric Times that “anti-psychiatry groups are quite right in heaping scorn on the ‘chemical imbalance theory’ of mental illness, but not for the reasons they usually give.” Pies expects us to believe that “psychiatry as a profession and medical specialty never endorsed such a bogus ‘theory.’” For Pies, people wrongly believe in this theory because of drug companies’ mendacity and because psychiatry critics have falsely accused psychiatry of promoting it.
But there is a problem with Pies’s alibi for his profession—the truth. In 2001, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) president Richard Harding, writing for the general public in Family Circle, stated: “We now know that mental illnesses—such as depression or schizophrenia—are not ‘moral weaknesses’ or ‘imagined’ but real diseases caused by abnormalities of brain structure and imbalances of chemicals in the brain.”
Pies, undaunted by the facts, responded in his 2019 article: “Critics of my thesis are inordinately fond of citing a dozen or so statements by various psychiatric luminaries—yes, including two former APA presidents—that do, indeed, invoke the phrase, ‘chemical imbalance.’ By cherry-picking quotes of this nature, anti-psychiatry groups and bloggers believe they have demonstrated that ‘Psychiatry’ (with a capital ‘P’) has defended a bogus chemical imbalance theory. These critics are simply wrong.”
The reality is that the APA itself, even in recent years, has continued to promote the chemical imbalance theory. In Psychiatry Under the Influence, journalist Robert Whitaker and psychologist Lisa Cosgrove point out: “Even in the summer of 2014, the APA’s website, in a section titled ‘Let’s Talk Facts’ about depression, informed the public that ‘antidepressants may be prescribed to correct imbalances in the levels of chemicals in the brain.’”
Noting the obvious, Whitaker and Cosgrove point out: “The pharmaceutical companies couldn’t promote the chemical imbalance story without the tacit assent of the psychiatric profession, as our society sees academic doctors and professional organizations—and not the drug industry—as the trusted sources for information about medical maladies.”
In closing, an odd connection between psychiatry and Thomas Paine in the person of Dr. Benjamin Rush (1746-1813), who is well-known among psychiatrists as “the father of American psychiatry,” his image adorning the APA seal.
After Paine immigrated to Philadelphia in 1774, he and Rush became friends. At first somewhat protective of the audacious Paine, Rush cautioned Paine against his use of the then-taboo word independence inCommon Sense, but Paine disregarded Rush using that word many times in it. Later on, after The Age of Reason made Paine an outcast, Rush refused to see Paine.
In addition to abandoning Paine, Rush attempted to gain favor with the new ruling class in the United States another way. In 1805, Rush diagnosed those rebelling against the newly centralized federal authority as having an “excess of the passion for liberty” that “constituted a species of insanity,” which he labeled as the disease of anarchia—this an earlier version of oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). In this and several other ways, Dr. Benjamin Rush is the perfect person to be the father of psychiatry.
Rush was a progressive of his era, but “liberal” in the same sense that Phil Ochs—nicknamed “Tom Paine with a guitar” —mocked hypocritical liberals. For example, Rush proclaimed himself a slave abolitionist, however, he had purchased a child slave named William Grubber in 1776, continued to own Grubber after he had joined the Pennsylvania Abolition Society a decade later, and would own Gruber until 1794 when he freed him for compensation. Rush’s “progressive” views on race also included his idea that blackness in skin color was caused by leprosy, and Rush advocated “curing” skin color, changing it from black to white. Rush believed he could abolish slavery by curing black people’s blackness.
Rush also invented some frightening treatments. Based on an earlier imbalance theory that improper flow of blood caused madness, Rush devised two mechanical devices to treat madness: a “tranquilizing chair” and a “gyrator,” not any fun for patients unless they enjoyed being strapped down, immobilized, and violently spun.
Rush considered himself as an expert not just on madness but on every illness, and for virtually all of them, Rush utilized bloodletting as his primary treatment, even at a time when bloodletting was falling out of favor. In “Benjamin Rush, MD: Assassin or Beloved Healer?” (2000), physician Robert L. North reports that in Rush’s era, “The majority of the medical community, especially the members of the College of Physicians, rejected Rush and his cures, using terms and phrases like ‘murderous.’”
William Cobbett, a journalist in Rush’s era, mocked Rush’s treatments (which also included mercury) as “one of those great discoveries which have contributed to the depopulation of the earth,” and Cobbett accused Rush of killing more patients than he had saved. (Cobbett is better known today for his ill-fated plan to provide Thomas Paine with a proper heroic reburial by moving Paine’s remains back to England.)
By the early twentieth century, medical historians were viewing Benjamin Rush as one of the most embarrassing figures in the history of American medicine. North quotes the 1929 History of the Medical Department of the United States Army on Rush’s disastrous impact: “Benjamin Rush had more influence upon American medicine and was more potent in propagation and long perpetuation of medical errors than any man of his day. To him, more than any other man in America, was due to the great vogue of vomits, purging, and especially of bleeding, salivation and blistering, which blackened the record of medicine and afflicted the sick almost to the time of the Civil War.”
You would think that the American Psychiatric Association would not want such a historical embarrassment as their father figure. But perhaps the APA believes that the prestige of Rush being a signer of the Declaration of Independence trumps both his being a slave owner and his lethality as a physician.
Actually, Rush was not a complete loser, as he sued the journalist Cobbett for libel and won; and perhaps this legal triumph is inspirational for the APA and modern psychiatrists—providing them with the hope that they too can triumph over truth tellers.
If there’s one constant among addicts of all types, it’s shame. It’s what makes us lie and hide. It’s what keeps us from asking for help – though we don’t think we need it because we’re also good at lying to ourselves.
About why we eat. Or shop. Or gamble. Or drink.
Dr. Gabor Maté knows the feeling well. Maté, a renowned doctor, speaker, and author, has seen it in the heroin-addicted men and women he treats in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. He sees it in the behavior of well-respected workaholics. The cosmetic surgery junkies. The power seekers. The ‘I Brake for Garage Sales’ shoppers.
He’s seen it in the mirror.
Maté, author of the groundbreaking book In the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction, believes shame is behind our unwindable ‘war on drugs.’ Our ‘tough on crime’ policies. Our judgment of addicts. Our marginalization of street junkies.
Maté knows, as so many of our spiritual teachers have tried to teach us, that our judgments of others are really all about us.
Maté, who serves as resident doctor at The Portland Hotel, a Vancouver housing project for adults coping with mental illness, addiction, and other challenges, saw himself in the stories of the women and men who, day after day, came to see him for treatment and who slowly, over years, revealed to him their pain.
Those of us still hiding and denying? Gabor Maté sees us too.
Gabor Maté was born into the Jewish ghetto of Budapest in 1944, just weeks before the Nazis seized Hungary, to a loving but overwhelmed mother and an absent father, who had been sent to a forced-labor camp. Just months later, his grandparents were killed at Auschwitz. At a year old, he was handed by his mother to a gentile stranger who was assigned his safety.
Maté understands now that those early experiences – or, more accurately, his mother’s frantic state of mind – guided the neural circuitry in his still-developing brain. Impaired circuitry that virtually prescribed a future of addiction and its close cousin, attention-deficit disorder (ADD).
Over years of hearing the stories of street drug users, examining his own past, and putting it together with his medical training, Maté became convinced that – as he says in a recent interview:
both addiction and ADD are rooted in childhood loss and trauma.
It’s a novel – and surprisingly controversial – approach, examining not the addiction but the painbehind it. Fighting not the substance but the circumstances that lead someone to seek out that self-soothing.
Circumstance Over Substance
Addiction, says Maté, is nothing more than an attempt to self-medicate emotional pain.
Absolutely anything can become an addiction… It’s not the external behaviors, it’s our relationship to it.
Maté calls addicts ‘hungry ghosts,’ a reference to one of the six realms of the Buddhist Circle of Life. These hungry ghosts are depicted with large empty bellies, small mouths, thin necks — starving for external satisfaction, seeking to fill but never being full, desperate to be soothed.
We all know that realm, he says, at least some of the time. The only difference between the identified addict and the rest of us is a matter of degrees.
It’s a view that has earned him some critics, not least of which is the Canadian Conservative government, which has sought to shut down the safe-injection site he helps oversee. The conventional medical community certainly hasn’t embraced his ideas. Addiction is typically viewed through one of two lenses: as a genetic component or as a moral failure.
Both, says Maté, are wrong.
And he says he’s got the brain science to prove it.
“A Warm, Soft Hug”
Maté points to a host of studies that clearly show how neural circuitry is developed in early childhood. Human babies, more than any other mammals, do most of their maturing outside the womb, which means that their environment plays a larger role in brain development than in any other species.
Factor in an abusive, or at least stressful, childhood environment and you’ve produced impaired brain circuitry – a brain that seeks the feel-good endorphins and stimulating dopamine that it is unable, or poorly able, to produce on its own. A brain that experiences the first rush of heroin as a “warm, soft hug,” as a 27-year-old sex trade worker described it to Maté.
It’s the adversity that creates this impaired development, says Maté, not the genetics emphasized by the medical community.
And our response to addicts – criminalization, marginalization, ostracism – piles on that adversity, fueling the addictive behavior.
The good news is that addiction can be prevented, but only if you start early. Maté writes in Hungry Ghosts:
[Prevention] needs to begin in the crib, and even before then… in the social recognition that nothing is more important for the future of our culture than the way children develop.
Our brains are resilient organs… Some important circuits continue to develop throughout our entire lives, and they may do so even in the case of a hard-core drug addict whose brain ‘never had a chance’ in childhood.
What’s more, Maté, unlike many of his medical counterparts, factors in our potential for recovery, even transformation:
something else in us and about us: it is called by many names, ‘spirit’ being the most democratic and least denominational.
The Illusion of Choice
We’d like to think that addicts have a choice, that they can just choose to stop — even if it’s hard.
But Maté insists that the ability to choose is limited by the addict’s physiology and personal history. He states:
The more you’re driven by unconscious mechanisms, because of earlier defensive reaction to trauma, the less choice you actually have… Most people have much less choice in things than we actually recognize.
These unconscious impulses are why we find ourselves with our hands in a bag of chocolate after an argument with our spouse. It’s why we’re on Craigslist arranging a sexual encounter while our wife sleeps beside us. It’s why a respected medical doctor finds himself lying to his wife. Again.
“‘Have you been obsessing and buying?’ she’s asked me a number of times in the past few weeks,” Maté writes in Hungry Ghosts. “I look directly at my life partner of thirty-nine years and I lie. I tell myself I don’t want to hurt her. Nonsense. I fear losing her affection. I don’t want to look bad in her eyes. I’m afraid of her anger. That’s what I don’t want.”
For years, Maté struggled with a shopping addiction, spending thousands of dollars on classical music CDs in a single spree, then unable to resist the impulse to do it again weeks later after promising his wife he’d stop. It’s an addiction he refers to as wearing ‘dainty white gloves’ compared to the grinding drug abuse of his Downtown Eastside patients.
But, he writes, “I’ve come to see addiction not as a discrete, solid entity – a case of either you’ve got it or you don’t got it – but as a subtle and extensive continuum.”
Unless we become fully aware of the drivers of our addiction, he says, we’ll continue to live a life in which ‘choice’ is an illusion.
“Passion Creates, Addiction Consumes”
Is there a difference between a drug addiction and being hooked on a behavior — like sex? The medical community continues to debate the question, but Maté is adamant.
All addictions, whether to drugs or to behaviors such as compulsive sexual acting out, involve the same brain circuits, the same brain chemicals and evoke the same emotional dynamics… Behavior addictions trigger substances internally. So (behavior addicts) are substance addicts.
Where do we draw the line between addiction and, well, passion? What about the Steve Jobs of the world, who drive themselves — and others — to push harder, work longer, produce more and do everything better?
Daniel Maté, Gabor’s son and an editor of his books, says:
A lot of people make wonderful contributions to the world at their own cost… We often lionize unhealthy things.
To determine whether we’re serving a passion or feeding an addiction, Daniel Maté suggests that it comes down to a simple question, answered honestly: Are you free or are you not free?
His father takes it further.
What function is the addiction performing in your life? What questions is it answering . . . and how do we restore that?
Or, as he writes in Hungry Ghosts, “Passion creates, addiction consumes.”
Compassion for the Addict — and Ourselves
Responding to addiction requires us not only to care for the body and mind but also the soul, Maté says. The spiritual element of his practice is critical, he says, not only to understand the hard-core street addict but also our own struggle.
We lack compassion for the addict precisely because we are addicted ourselves in ways we don’t want to accept and because we lack self-compassion. – Gabor Maté
And so we treat the addict as an ‘other’ – this criminal, this person making poor choices – to whom we can feel superior.
Compassion is understanding, and to understand is to forgive.
Maté summed it up nicely in a 2010 talk at Reed College:
To . . . point the finger at that street-corner drug addict who’s in that position because of that early trauma is blind to say the very least… I think that if we developed a more compassionate view of addiction and a more deep understanding of the addict and if we recognized the similarities between the ostracized addict at the social periphery and the rest of society, and if we did so with compassion both for them and for the rest of us, we would not only have more efficient, more successful drug treatment programs, we would also have a better society.
Psychiatric drug use is on the rise in the U.S., with one out of every six Americans now taking some type of medication in this category. This is highly concerning given the scary side effects and poor effectiveness of many of these drugs, but there is one particularly disturbing aspect of this trend that seems to get glossed over, and that is the extraordinary number of children who are taking such drugs.
Mental health watchdog group Citizens Commission on Human Rights is drawing attention to the concerning fact that more than a million kids younger than six in our nation are currently taking psychiatric drugs.
While around half of these children are four to five years old, an incredible 274,804 of them are younger than a year old. That’s right: babies are being given psychiatric drugs. The number rises for toddlers aged two to three, with 370,778 kids in this category taking psychiatric drugs overall.
Data from IMS Health shows that the situation only gets worse as kids get older, with 4,130,340 kids aged 6 to 12 taking some type of psychiatric drug.
You might be forgiven for assuming that most of these statistics are made up by kids taking ADHD drugs given how common that approach seems to be nowadays, but it really only accounts for a small portion of it, with 1,422 of those younger than a year old and just over 181,000 of those aged four to five taking ADHD drugs.
Antidepressants and antipsychotics put forth some surprising figures, but the biggest category of psychotic drugs given to children appears to be anti-anxiety drugs. Just over 227,132 babies under one and nearly 248,000 of those aged four to five take these medications.
These numbers are even more shocking when you consider the fact that experts believe these estimates are far too low and the real numbers are actually much higher, due in part to the tendency for some doctors to hand out psychiatric medications for “off-label” uses. This risky practice entails giving out a drug to treat something that it is not indicated for, and the long-term effects of such an approach are completely unknown.
Safer alternatives to giving kids mind-altering meds
When adults choose to take psychiatric medication, it may be ill-advised in many cases, but it is still their choice to make. Children, on the other hand, lack the cognition to fully understand the lifelong impact of such a choice, and this essentially amounts to forced medication. We already know that many doctors have a financial incentive to get young people to start taking these drugs, but why are their parents so willing to get on board? Many of them are also taking psychiatric medications, of course. In fact, it has practically become a way of life in our nation and many people think of these meds as harmless.
The side effects of these drugs are nothing to scoff at, however, with antianxiety, antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs linked to heart attacks, psychosis, suicidal ideation, diabetes, stroke, mania and sudden death. As if that weren’t bad enough, there’s also the fact that many of the high-profile public shootings in recent years were perpetrated by young people on such drugs, so not only do kids have the risk of dying when they take these meds, but they could also take out a whole classroom or movie theater with them.
Psychiatric medications affect a child’s brain chemistry and could impact their development in irreversible ways, so it’s important for doctors and parents alike to reserve them as an absolute last resort. Some degree of anxiety is normal in children as they start to understand the way the world works. Life is full of ups and downs, and children who learn coping strategies when they’re young will have a valuable skill that can serve them well throughout their lifetime. There are lots of good coping mechanisms that can help children with depression, anxiety, and those who have been labeled with ADHD, including yoga, art therapy, breathing exercises, and physical exercise, to name just a few.
A new major study has found a link between childhood infections, both serious and mild, and an increased risk of mental health disorders in later life.
Using health and medical data from over 1 million people born in Denmark between 1995 and 2012, the researchers found that childhood infections that required hospitalization were associated with a roughly 84 percent increased risk of mental disorder diagnosis and a 42 percent increased risk of using psychotropic drugs in the treatment thereof.
Less severe infections that were treated with medication like antibiotics were associated with a 40 and 22 percent risk respectively. The findings are published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.
“The surprising finding was that the infections in general – and in particular, the less severe infections, those that were treated with anti-infective agents – increased the risk for the majority of mental disorders,” lead author Dr Ole Köhler-Forsberg, a neuroscientist and doctoral fellow at Aarhus University in Denmark, told CNN.
The increased risk relates to the onset of mental health issues ranging from spectrum disorders like schizophrenia and autism, to personality and behavioral disorders like OCD and ADD.
“For certain mental disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, the risk increase was particularly high, reaching a staggering 8-fold risk increase in teenagers,” the researchers wrote in an accompanying editorial.
Importantly though, the team emphasized that correlation does not equal causation and that substantial additional research is required given the number of variables involved, including genetics and socioeconomic factors, that were beyond the scope of their research.
“We can not conclude any causality. So we can not say this infection led to this mental disorder. So we can only speculate,” Köhler-Forsberg said. “The overall take-home message is that there’s an intimate connection between the body, the immune system, infections, inflammation and the brain.”
The study also doesn’t account for potential misdiagnoses and misreporting in the medical data. The researchers believe theirs is the first study that indicates any treated infection is associated with such a wide range of both childhood and adolescent mental disorders.
Your gastrointestinal tract is now considered one of the most complex microbial ecosystems on earth, and its influence is such that it’s frequently referred to as your “second brain.”
Nearly 100 trillion bacteria, fungi, viruses and other microorganisms compose your gut microbiome, and advancing science has made it quite clear that these organisms play a major role in your health, both mental and physical. Your body is in fact composed of more bacteria and other microorganisms than actual cells, and you have more bacterial DNA than human DNA.
In the interview above, originally aired in 2015, Dr. David Perlmutter discusses the importance of gut health, the connections between your gut and brain, and the role your gut plays in your health, and in the development of autoimmune diseases and neurological disorders.
According to an article published in the June 2013 issue of Biological Psychiatry,1 the authors suggest that even severe and chronic mental health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder, might be eliminated through the use of certain probiotics.
Two strains shown to have a calming influence, in part by dampening stress hormones, are Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifdobacterium longum. Others may have similar effects, although more research is needed to identify them.
Using MRI scans, Dr. Emeran Mayer, a professor of medicine and psychiatry at the University of California, is also comparing the physical brain structure of thousands of volunteers, looking for connections between brain structure and the types of bacteria found in their guts.
So far, he has found differences in how certain brain regions are connected, depending on the dominant species of bacteria. As reported by NPR:2 “That suggests that the specific mix of microbes in our guts might help determine what kinds of brains we have — how our brain circuits develop and how they’re wired.”
Your Second Brain
The human gut has 200 million neurons — the equivalent of a cat’s or dog’s brain. And, if an animal is considered intelligent, your gut is equally smart. Your gut also houses nearly 100 trillion microorganisms, which influence everything from biological to emotional functioning.
Your upper brain is home to your central nervous system while your gut houses the enteric nervous system. The two nervous systems, the central nervous system in your brain and the enteric nervous system in your gut, are in constant communication, connected as they are via the vagus nerve.
Your vagal nerve is the 10th cranial nerve and the longest nerve in your body, extending through your neck into your abdomen.3 It has the widest distribution of both sensory and motor fibers.
Your brain and gut also use the same neurotransmitters for communication, one of which is serotonin — a neurochemical associated with mood control. However, the message sent by serotonin changes based on the context of its environment.
In your brain, serotonin signals and produces a state of well-being. In your gut — where 95 percent of your serotonin is produced — it sets the pace for digestive transit and acts as an immune system regulator.
Interestingly, gut serotonin not only acts on the digestive tract but is also released into your bloodstream, and acts on your brain, particularly your hypothalamus, which is involved in the regulation of emotions.
While we’ve known that the gut and brain communicate via the vagus nerve, researchers have only recently come to realize that gut serotonin regulates emotions in a much more complex way than previously thought. Not only can your emotions influence your gut, but the reverse is also true.
When Things Go Wrong in the Gut-Brain Axis
Researchers have been able to better examine the gut’s influence on emotions by studying people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which affects 1 in 10 people, and is characterized by digestive difficulties and severe abdominal pain. This, despite the fact that no organic malfunction in the digestive system can be found.
One theory posits that IBS is rooted in dysfunctional information flow between the gastrointestinal tract and the brain. But what could be causing these communication problems? One theory is that the problem originates in the intestinal wall, and that IBS is the result of faulty communication between the mucosal surface of your intestines and the nerves.”
Research shows that in patients with IBS, the nerves in the gut are far more active than in healthy people, which has led researchers to speculate that the pain IBS patients suffer is the result of a hypersensitive nervous system.
Others have noted that IBS is frequently brought on by stress or emotional trauma. To dampen hypervigilance in the nervous system, some researchers are using hypnosis to help ease IBS patients’ pain.
While the brain is still receiving the same kind of pain signals from the gut, hypnosis can make your brain less sensitive to them. So, pain that was previously intolerable is now perceived as tolerable. The effectiveness of hypnosis has been confirmed using brain imaging, showing hypnosis in fact downregulates activation of pain centers in the brain.
Similarly, Dr. Zhi-yun Bo, a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine who specializes in abdominal acupuncture,4 has been able to treat a wide variety of health conditions, both physical and mental, from acute pain to chronic illness and depression, by needling certain areas of the belly.
The Gut as the Seat of the Subconscious
Another intriguing idea is that your gut may in fact be the root of, or at the very least a part of, your subconscious mind. Your gut can send signals, to which your brain responds, even though those signals never reach conscious awareness.
Your ability to think positive thoughts and feel emotionally uplifted is actually strongly associated with the chemical messages broadcast by your gut. Serotonin released during sleep has also been shown to influence your dreams.
The striking similarities between the gut and brain, both structurally and functionally, have also led scientists to consider the possibility that the two organs may share diseases as well. For example, Parkinson’s disease,5 a degenerative neurological disease, may actually originate in the gut.
Parkinson’s Disease — A Gut Disorder?
Parkinson’s affects nearly a half-million people in the U.S.6 According to recent research7 published in the journal Neurology, Parkinson’s disease may start in the gut and travel to the brain via the vagus nerve.
The study participants previously had a resection of their vagus nerve, often performed in people who suffer from ulcers to reduce the amount of acid secretion and reduce the potential for peptic ulcers.8
Using the national registry in Sweden, researchers compared nearly 10,000 people who had a vagotomy against the records of over 375,000 who had not undergone the surgery. Although the researchers did not find a difference in the gross number of people who developed Parkinson’s between the groups, after delving further they discovered something interesting.
People who had a truncal vagotomy, in which the trunk of the nerve is fully resected, as opposed to a selective vagotomy, had a 40 percent lower risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. The scientists adjusted for external factors, such as diabetes, arthritis, obstructive pulmonary disease and other health conditions. According to study author Bojing Liu, of Karolinska Institutet in Sweden:9
“These results provide preliminary evidence that Parkinson’s disease may start in the gut. Other evidence for this hypothesis is that people with Parkinson’s disease often have gastrointestinal problems such as constipation that can start decades before they develop the disease.
In addition, other studies have shown that people who will later develop Parkinson’s disease have a protein believed to play a key role in Parkinson’s disease in their gut.”
Protein Clumps Implicated in Parkinson’s Originate in the Gut
Indeed, mounting research suggests we may have had the wrong idea about Parkinson’s all along. As mentioned by Liu, there’s other compelling evidence suggesting this disease may have its origins in the gut. Research published in 2016 actually found a functional link between specific gut bacteria and the onset of Parkinson’s disease.10,11,12
In short, specific chemicals produced by certain gut bacteria worsen the accumulation of proteins in the brain associated with the disease. What’s more, the actual proteins implicated in the disease actually appear to travel from the gut up to and into the brain.
Once clumped together in the brain, these proteins, called alpha-synuclein, form fibers that damage the nerves in your brain, resulting in the telltale tremors and movement problems exhibited by Parkinson’s patients. In fact, the researchers believe alpha-synuclein producing gut bacteria not only regulate, but are actually required in order for Parkinson’s symptoms to occur.
The link is so intriguing they suggest the best treatment strategy may be to address the gut rather than the brain using specific probiotics rather than drugs. In this study, synthetic alpha-synuclein was injected into the stomach and intestines of mice.
After seven days, clumps of alpha-synuclein were observed in the animals’ guts. Clumping peaked after 21 days. By then, clumps of alpha-synuclein were also observed in the vagus nerve, which connects the gut and brain. As noted by Science News:13
“Sixty days after the injections, alpha-synuclein had accumulated in the midbrain, a region packed with nerve cells that make the chemical messenger dopamine. These are the nerve cells that die in people with Parkinson’s, a progressive brain disorder that affects movement.
After reaching the brain, alpha-synuclein spreads thanks in part to brain cells called astrocytes, a second study suggests. Experiments with cells in dishes showed that astrocytes can store up and spread alpha-synuclein among cells …”
Over time, as these clumps of alpha-synuclein started migrating toward the brain, the animals began exhibiting movement problems resembling those in Parkinson’s patients. Findings such as these suggest that, at least in some patients, the disease may actually originate in the gut, and chronic constipation could be an important early warning sign.
The same kinds of lesions found in Parkinson’s patients’ brains have also been found in their guts, leading to the idea that a simple biopsy of your intestinal wall may in fact be a good way to diagnose the disease. In other words, by looking at the intestinal tissue, scientists can get a pretty clear picture of what’s going on inside your brain.
These findings are now steering researchers toward looking at the potential role the gut might play in other neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and autism, as well as behavioral disorders.
The Immune System in Your Gut
In addition to digesting food and allowing your body to extract energy from foods that would otherwise be indigestible, your gut bacteria also help determine what’s poisonous and what’s healthy, and play a crucial role in your immune system. Your immune system is to a great extent educated based on the information received from your gut bacteria.
So, exposure to a wide variety of bacteria helps your immune system stay alert and actually optimizes its function. Bacterial colonization begins at birth, and things like antibiotic use by the mother or child, birth by cesarean section, bottle feeding instead of breastfeeding and excessive hygiene can all impair a child’s immune function by limiting exposure to beneficial bacteria.
Researchers have also discovered that humans can be divided into three enterotypes14 — three distinct groupings based on the makeup of our gut microbiomes, and the difference between them lies in our capacity to convert food into energy. All three groups produce vitamins, but to varying degrees.
Curiously, these enterotypes do not appear to be related to geographical location, nationality, race, gender or age, and the precise reason for the development of these enterotypes is still unknown. Diet is one possible, and likely probable, factor.
In the future, researchers hope to be able to determine how various bacteria influence health and the onset of diseases. Already, scientists have identified bacteria that appear to predispose people to conditions such as obesity, Type 2 diabetes, liver disease and cardiovascular disease.
Experimental data also show different gut microbiota can have a determining effect on behavior, for better or worse, and probiotics have been shown to dampen emotional reactivity, reducing the effects of stress.
More than half a million people age 65 years or older die every year in the West from psychiatric drug use, and the worst part is that these death pills aren’t even effective at treating either mental illness or depression. Researchers from Denmark’s Nordic Cochrane Centre found that the benefits of psych drugs are minimal at best, and that most people who currently use them would be better off just ditching them entirely.
Published in The BMJ (British Medical Journal), an eye-opening paper by Professor Peter Gotzsche reveals that most antidepressants and dementia drugs are generally useless when it comes to providing tangible relief. The drugs are also vastly overprescribed, he says, and they come with such a high risk of adverse effects that it isn’t even worth it for the average person to try them.
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people are dying every year from the normal and prescribed use of psych meds like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are linked to causing extreme depression and provoking users towards suicide or even homicide. Add to this the fact that most psych meds have never been shown effective, matching or not even reaching placebo in terms of their efficacy, and there’s no legitimate reason for their continued use.
“Their benefits would need to be colossal to justify this, but they are minimal,” Gotzsche warns about the more than half a million people age 65 and older in the West who die annually from psych med use. “Given their lack of benefit, I estimate we could stop almost all psychotropic drugs without causing harm.”
Drug companies fund fake trials to make psych meds appear safe and effective
But what about all those drug trials that supposedly reinforce the science behind the safety and efficacy of psych meds? A bulk of them are funded by pharmaceutical companies that have become experts in the art of manipulation and pseudoscience, says Gotzsche.
By knowing how to conduct clinical trials in such a way as to arrive at preconceived conclusions in favor of drug safety and effectiveness, pharmaceutical companies are able to pull the wool over the eyes of regulators and the public to keep the racket going. For psych meds, this includes enrolling trial participants who were previously taking other drugs that left them with withdrawal symptoms temporarily mitigated by the new drugs being tested.
“Animal studies strongly suggest that these drugs can produce brain damage, which is probably the case for all psychotropic drugs,” contends Gotzsche, who takes particular issue with antipsychotics, benzodiazepines and antidepressants, which he says collectively kill nearly 4,000 people every year in Denmark, and many more in the U.S.
“Given their lack of benefit, I estimate we could stop almost all psychotropic drugs without causing harm — by dropping all antidepressants, ADHD drugs and dementia drugs… and using only a fraction of the antipsychotics and benzodiazepines we currently use. This would lead to healthier and more long-lived populations.”
Big Pharma is an organized crime ring pushing deadly, ineffective drugs on the vulnerable
The only people who should ever be given psych meds, in Gotzsche’s estimation, are those with extreme mental conditions that require acute and closely monitored treatment that is tapered off as quickly as possible — and even then, patients are strongly advised to seek other, safer treatment methods if possible. By no means should any individual ever take psych meds long-term, in other words, as these drugs are highly addictive and can cause serious side effects when trying to quit them.
“The short-term relief seems to be replaced by long-term harms,” says Gotzsche. “Animal studies strongly suggest that these drugs can produce brain damage, which is probably the case for all psychotropic drugs.”
Gotzsche wrote a book published back in 2013 entitled Deadly Medicine and Organised Crime: How Big Pharma Has Corrupted Healthcare that exposes the drug industry for engaging in massive fraud and deception to push deadly drugs like psych meds on the public. The system has been so corrupted by this influence that millions of people are now taking drugs that don’t work and are extremely deadly.
“The main reason we take so many drugs is that drug companies don’t sell drugs, they sell lies about drugs,” reads the book. “This is what makes drugs so different from anything else in life… Virtually everything we know about drugs is what the companies have chosen to tell us and our doctors… the reason patients trust their medicine is that they extrapolate the trust they have in their doctors into the medicines they prescribe.”
When one of the world’s leading psychiatrist issues such a severe warning about antidepressants, we should probably listen. In 1994 Dr. Allen Francis chaired the committee that assembled the DSM-IV, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is sometimes referred to as the bible of mental health.
In a recent interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Dr. Francis addresses the very real problem with antidepressant addiction, which is something that is just now being understood by the public. He fust notes that it is a different type of addiction that what we would normally associate with substance abuse.
“Well they’re not really addictive in the sense that benzodiazepines are addictive, or cocaine or alcohol. They don’t cause the same degree of functional impairment when you’re taking them, but they definitely do have a withdrawal syndrome, and that withdrawal syndrome traps people. It’s so easy to start an antidepressant and sometimes so very difficult to stop it.” ~Dr. Allen Francis
It’s worth noting that in the DSM-IV from the early ’90’s, there is a reference that suggests that antidepressants are included among the psychiatric drugs which may lead to substance abuse issues, but it took nearly 25 years for this information to enter into the conversation about antidepressants.
“Well, it’s a deeply held secret. There’s almost no research on the withdrawal syndrome. There’s absolutely no interest on the part of the pharmaceutical companies in advertising the fact that getting on an antidepressant may trap you for years and maybe for life. So they’ve discouraged research, they don’t report adverse findings. The pharmaceutical industry is only marginally less ruthless than the drug cartels, and it’s not in their interest to advertise this, so there’s been very little research, and we really don’t know how the long-term use of these medications may affect the brain. We’re doing a kind of public health experiment on hundreds of millions of people around the world without really understanding the long-term effects.”
“There’s nothing easier in the world than starting an antidepressant. Primary care doctors are given far too little time with their patients, and the only way they can get a patient out of the office satisfied, after a seven minute visit is to write a prescription. Eighty percent of the antidepressants are prescribed by primary care doctors, usually after seven minutes, under heavy pressure from both the patient and from the drug company… On the other hand, stopping the medicine can take years.” ~ Dr. Francis Allen
In essence, Dr. Francis is subtly acknowledging an ongoing coverup about the dangerous side effects of these medicines. As Philip Hickey, PhD notes in a recent article for Mad In America, since antidepressants were first developed in the 1950’s there has been “almost no research on the withdrawal syndrome,” but all the while they have been quietly telling us that antidepressants cause said symptoms. Hickey comments:
Yet here’s Dr. Frances telling us that there’s “almost no research on the withdrawal syndrome.” And is he telling us this as an indictment of psychiatry? Is he acknowledging that routinely prescribing and promoting brain-impairing pills on which there is virtually no withdrawal research is a disgrace to the profession of psychiatry? No. Again, in the same shoulder-sloping fashion, he’s blaming pharma! Pharma have “no interest” in the addictive potential of these products. Pharma have “discouraged” research. Pharma doesn’t report adverse findings. Pharma are almost as ruthless as the drug cartels.
So, what we’ve got here is a self-styled medical profession that has been prescribing and actively promoting a class of drugs for almost 60 years, with little or no information concerning their withdrawal characteristics. And Dr. Frances blames pharma for this state of affairs! Why couldn’t organized psychiatry (e.g. the APA and Britain’s Royal College of Psychiatrists) have pursued such research? Why couldn’t the psychiatry departments of various colleges have pursued such research, either singly or collaboratively? And how could psychiatry be so venal and corrupt as to promote and prescribe these drugs without even this basic level of knowledge concerning their addictive potential?
And note the phrase: “…we really don’t know how the long-term use of these drugs may affect the brain.” After 60 years and countless millions of prescriptions, psychiatry doesn’t know how the long-term use of these drugs may affect the brain!
Alex Pietrowski is an artist and writer concerned with preserving good health and the basic freedom to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. He is a staff writer forWakingTimes.com. Alex is an avid student of Yoga and life.
To say that a person should have a right to consider himself mentally ill and to take a drug is one thing. This is an argument from the principle of individual freedom.
To say that such a person knows what he is doing by some objective standard is quite another thing.
Objectively speaking, mental illnesses and disorders do not exist.
Officially, all mental disorders are said to be chemical imbalances in the brain. Not just any imbalances, but specific ones. But, this is assertion is unproven. There is no evidence for it.
For example, for any of the 297 so-called mental disorders listed in the official publication of the American Psychiatric Association, there are no defining physical tests. No blood tests, no urine tests, no saliva tests, no laboratory tests of any kind.
Since it is a fact, it is odd that all psychiatrists are medical doctors. What are they doing that is medical?
Well, they are prescribing drugs. Yes. But I could prescribe drugs if I had a license to do so and a prescription pad.
The profession of psychiatry asserts that these drugs erase or alleviate “the brain chemical imbalances” that form the basis for all mental disorders. Yet the brain-imbalance hypothesis is unproven. It may “make sense” to some people, but that doesn’t constitute evidence.
People, of course, are free to believe the brain-chemical-imbalance hypothesis is true. Belief doesn’t make it true.
People are also free to believe the hypothesis that strange behavior emanates from the Devil or a Karmic curse.
A person says, “I was diagnosed with clinical depression and I took Prozac, and ever since then I’ve felt much happier.”
Yes. Fine. I have no interest in challenging that statement. I merely point out that there are people who have felt depressed and took a crystal they claimed was sacred, rubbed it on their heads, and felt better from then on.
There are people who have joined a church and prayed and felt better.
Why is the Prozac experience more compelling than crystals or prayer?
I’m not talking about what a person says makes him feel better. I’m talking about what psychiatrists claim is science. And when you scratch the surface of that, you come up with: no compelling evidence.
Yet, in courts and in doctors’ offices and at academic conferences and in the pages of professional journals and in political gulags, the science of discrete and separate and definable mental disorders is treated as settled, confirmed, verified, certain. That is a baldfaced lie.
All 297 official mental disorders, listed in the (DSM) publication of the American Psychiatric Association, are defined and approved by committees of psychiatrists. Whether it is schizophrenia or autism or ADHD or clinical depression or bipolar disease, the definitions consist wholly of described behaviors. That’s all.
Psychiatrists will tell you these symptomatic behaviors are signs of underlying chemical imbalances or genetic aberrations, but again, they have no tests to back up this assertion. Therefore, all they left with are the behaviors and their own menu-like collections of those behaviors.
Yes, people suffer in life, and they experience confusion and doubt. They have problems. They have trouble with relationships. They feel sad. They feel all sorts of things. They feel pain. They don’t know how to move ahead with plans. They sometimes feel their lives are at an impasse. Yes.
This is far different from claiming they have a specific and detectable chemical imbalance which can be tested for.
“Well,” many psychiatrists say, “the hypothesis of chemical balance is confirmed if the drugs work, because the drugs are, in fact, based on the idea that chemical imbalances underlie mental disorders.”
Let’s examine that approach. Take, for example, Ritalin.
The 1994 Textbook of Psychiatry, published by the American Psychiatric Press, contains this review (Popper and Steingard): “Stimulants [such as Ritalin] do not produce lasting improvements in aggressivity, conduct disorder, criminality, education achievement, job functioning, marital relationships, or long-term adjustment.”
Not a ringing endorsement.
How about, say, the antidepressants prescribed to children?
A shocking review-study published in The Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases (1996, v.184, no.2), written by Rhoda L. Fisher and Seymour Fisher, called “Antidepressants for Children,” concludes: “Despite unanimous literature of double-blind studies indicating that antidepressants are no more effective than placebos in treating depression in children and adolescents, such medications continue to be in wide use.”
Here is a link to the official psychiatric definition of autism disorder. It’s worth reading:
Notice that all the criteria for a diagnosis are behavioral. There is no mention of laboratory tests or test results. There is no definitive mention of chemical imbalance or genetic factors.
Despite public-relations statements issued by doctors and researchers, they have no laboratory findings to establish or confirm a diagnosis.
But, people say, this makes no sense, because children do, in fact, withdraw from the world, stop speaking, throw sudden tantrums. Common sense seems to dictate that these behaviors stem from serious neurological problems.
Let’s briefly examine that. What could cause the behaviors listed in the official definition of autism disorder:
* a vaccine injury; * a head injury in an accident; * an ingestion of a neurological poison; * an environmental chemical; * a severe nutritional deficit; * perhaps the emotional devastation accompanying the death of a parent…
However, in that case, why bother to call it “autism?” Why not just say vaccine injury or head injury? The answer should be clear: By establishing a label like autism, medical drugs can be sold. Studies can be funded. An industry can be created.
In fact, when it comes to the US government’s vaccine injury compensation program for parents whose children have suffered vaccine injury, the government can engage in a con game. The government can say, “In order to establish a cause for autism, we must find a single underlying factor that applies to all cases of autism. Since we know that some children who are diagnosed with autism have not received vaccines, or have not received vaccines containing a neurological poison (mercury), we do not compensate parents whose children are vaccine-injured on the basis that they have autism.”
But, of course, what is called autism (merely a label) is not one condition caused by one factor. It is a loose collection of behaviors that are caused by various traumas.
The official mental disorder called autism disorder does not exist.
People find such statements very unsettling. They argue, “My child’s life was stolen away from him. He must have autism.”
This proves that a label provides some measure of relief for the parents. It doesn’t prove that the label actually means something. In fact, the label can be a diversion from knowledge that would actually help the child. Suppose, for example, that after receiving the DPT vaccine, the child went into a screaming fit and then withdrew from the world. Calling that autism tends to put the parents and the child in the medical system, where there is no effective treatment. Outside that system, there might be some hope with vaccine detox or, say, hyperbaric oxygen treatments.
What is stated here about autism applies to all 297 official mental disorders. They are labels. There is no reason to suppose that, for each label, there is a single cause. There is no reason to suppose that the labels name actual conditions. Research that attempts to find a single cause for a label stands no better chance of succeeding than research designed to prove a man on the moon is selling land leases to citizens of Fiji.
Again, people have every right to believe they have been helped by a psychiatric diagnosis and a prescribed drug. But they also have the right to reject that paradigm and seek knowledge and help elsewhere. The whole thrust of official psychiatry and its allies is to monopolize their self-appointed territory and use all necessary means to eliminate the competition. This approach has nothing to do with science. It has everything to do with profit and fascist control.
“But my cousin was depressed. He took Zoloft and felt much better.”
Read this article again. It neither denigrates your cousin nor makes your cousin’s experience the basis of actual far-reaching science. This article is about science.
About the Author
Jon Rappoport is the author of three explosive collections, THE MATRIX REVEALED, EXIT FROM THE MATRIX, and POWER OUTSIDE THE MATRIX, Jon was a candidate for a US Congressional seat in the 29thDistrict of California. He maintains a consulting practice for private clients, the purpose of which is the expansion of personal creative power. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, he has worked as an investigative reporter for 30 years, writing articles on politics, medicine, and health for CBS Healthwatch, LA Weekly, Spin Magazine, Stern, and other newspapers and magazines in the US and Europe. Jon has delivered lectures and seminars on global politics, health, logic, and creative power to audiences around the world. You can sign up for his free emails at NoMoreFakeNews.com or OutsideTheRealityMachine.
(To read about Jon’s mega-collection, Exit From The Matrix, click here.)
At the age of 10 I was sent as a scholarship student to a boarding school for the uber-rich in Massachusetts. I lived among the wealthiest Americans for the next eight years. I listened to their prejudices and saw their cloying sense of entitlement. They insisted they were privileged and wealthy because they were smarter and more talented. They had a sneering disdain for those ranked below them in material and social status, even the merely rich. Most of the uber-rich lacked the capacity for empathy and compassion. They formed elite cliques that hazed, bullied and taunted any nonconformist who defied or did not fit into their self-adulatory universe.
It was impossible to build a friendship with most of the sons of the uber-rich. Friendship for them was defined by “what’s in it for me?” They were surrounded from the moment they came out of the womb by people catering to their desires and needs. They were incapable of reaching out to others in distress—whatever petty whim or problem they had at the moment dominated their universe and took precedence over the suffering of others, even those within their own families. They knew only how to take. They could not give. They were deformed and deeply unhappy people in the grip of an unquenchable narcissism.
It is essential to understand the pathologies of the uber-rich. They have seized total political power. These pathologies inform Donald Trump, his children, the Brett Kavanaughs, and the billionaires who run his administration. The uber-rich cannot see the world from anyone’s perspective but their own. People around them, including the women whom entitled men prey upon, are objects designed to gratify momentary lusts or be manipulated. The uber-rich are almost always amoral. Right. Wrong. Truth. Lies. Justice. Injustice. These concepts are beyond them. Whatever benefits or pleases them is good. What does not must be destroyed.
The pathology of the uber-rich is what permits Trump and his callow son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to conspire with de facto Saudi ruler Mohammed bin Salman, another product of unrestrained entitlement and nepotism, to cover up the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whom I worked with in the Middle East. The uber-rich spend their lives protected by their inherited wealth, the power it wields and an army of enablers, including other members of the fraternity of the uber-rich, along with their lawyers and publicists. There are almost never any consequences for their failures, abuses, mistreatment of others and crimes. This is why the Saudi crown prince and Kushner have bonded. They are the homunculi the uber-rich routinely spawn.
The rule of the uber-rich, for this reason, is terrifying. They know no limits. They have never abided by the norms of society and never will. We pay taxes—they don’t. We work hard to get into an elite university or get a job—they don’t. We have to pay for our failures—they don’t. We are prosecuted for our crimes—they are not.
The uber-rich live in an artificial bubble, a land called Richistan, a place of Frankenmansions and private jets, cut off from our reality. Wealth, I saw, not only perpetuates itself but is used to monopolize the new opportunities for wealth creation. Social mobility for the poor and the working class is largely a myth. The uber-rich practice the ultimate form of affirmative action, catapulting white, male mediocrities like Trump, Kushner and George W. Bush into elite schools that groom the plutocracy for positions of power. The uber-rich are never forced to grow up. They are often infantilized for life, squalling for what they want and almost always getting it. And this makes them very, very dangerous.
Political theorists, from Aristotle and Karl Marx to Sheldon Wolin, have warned against the rule of the uber-rich. Once the uber-rich take over, Aristotle writes, the only options are tyranny and revolution. They do not know how to nurture or build. They know only how to feed their bottomless greed. It’s a funny thing about the uber-rich: No matter how many billions they possess, they never have enough. They are the Hungry Ghosts of Buddhism. They seek, through the accumulation of power, money and objects, an unachievable happiness. This life of endless desire often ends badly, with the uber-rich estranged from their spouses and children, bereft of genuine friends. And when they are gone, as Charles Dickens wrote in “A Christmas Carol,” most people are glad to be rid of them.
C. Wright Mills in “The Power Elite,” one of the finest studies of the pathologies of the uber-rich, wrote:
They exploited national resources, waged economic wars among themselves, entered into combinations, made private capital out of the public domain, and used any and every method to achieve their ends. They made agreements with railroads for rebates; they purchased newspapers and bought editors; they killed off competing and independent businesses and employed lawyers of skill and statesmen of repute to sustain their rights and secure their privileges. There is something demonic about these lords of creation; it is not merely rhetoric to call them robber barons.
Corporate capitalism, which has destroyed our democracy, has given unchecked power to the uber-rich. And once we understand the pathologies of these oligarchic elites, it is easy to chart our future. The state apparatus the uber-rich controls now exclusively serves their interests. They are deaf to the cries of the dispossessed. They empower those institutions that keep us oppressed—the security and surveillance systems of domestic control, militarized police, Homeland Security and the military—and gut or degrade those institutions or programs that blunt social, economic and political inequality, among them public education, health care, welfare, Social Security, an equitable tax system, food stamps, public transportation and infrastructure, and the courts. The uber-rich extract greater and greater sums of money from those they steadily impoverish. And when citizens object or resist, they crush or kill them.
The uber-rich care inordinately about their image. They are obsessed with looking at themselves. They are the center of their own universe. They go to great lengths and expense to create fictional personas replete with nonexistent virtues and attributes. This is why the uber-rich carry out acts of well-publicized philanthropy. Philanthropy allows the uber-rich to engage in moral fragmentation. They ignore the moral squalor of their lives, often defined by the kind of degeneracy and debauchery the uber-rich insist is the curse of the poor, to present themselves through small acts of charity as caring and beneficent. Those who puncture this image, as Khashoggi did with Salman, are especially despised. And this is why Trump, like all the uber-rich, sees a critical press as the enemy. It is why Trump’s and Kushner’s eagerness to conspire to help cover up Khashoggi’s murder is ominous. Trump’s incitements to his supporters, who see in him the omnipotence they lack and yearn to achieve, to carry out acts of violence against his critics are only a few steps removed from the crown prince’s thugs dismembering Khashoggi with a bone saw. And if you think Trump is joking when he suggests the press should be dealt with violently you understand nothing about the uber-rich. He will do what he can get away with, even murder. He, like most of the uber-rich, is devoid of a conscience.
The more enlightened uber-rich, the East Hamptons and Upper East Side uber-rich, a realm in which Ivanka and Jared once cavorted, look at the president as gauche and vulgar. But this distinction is one of style, not substance. Donald Trump may be an embarrassment to the well-heeled Harvard and Princeton graduates at Goldman Sachs, but he serves the uber-rich as assiduously as Barack Obama and the Democratic Party do. This is why the Obamas, like the Clintons, have been inducted into the pantheon of the uber-rich. It is why Chelsea Clinton and Ivanka Trump were close friends. They come from the same caste.
There is no force within ruling institutions that will halt the pillage by the uber-rich of the nation and the ecosystem. The uber-rich have nothing to fear from the corporate-controlled media, the elected officials they bankroll or the judicial system they have seized. The universities are pathetic corporation appendages. They silence or banish intellectual critics who upset major donors by challenging the reigning ideology of neoliberalism, which was formulated by the uber-rich to restore class power. The uber-rich have destroyed popular movements, including labor unions, along with democratic mechanisms for reform that once allowed working people to pit power against power. The world is now their playground.
In “The Postmodern Condition” the philosopher Jean-François Lyotard painted a picture of the future neoliberal order as one in which “the temporary contract” supplants “permanent institutions in the professional, emotional, sexual, cultural, family and international domains, as well as in political affairs.” This temporal relationship to people, things, institutions and the natural world ensures collective self-annihilation. Nothing for the uber-rich has an intrinsic value. Human beings, social institutions and the natural world are commodities to exploit for personal gain until exhaustion or collapse. The common good, like the consent of the governed, is a dead concept. This temporal relationship embodies the fundamental pathology of the uber-rich.
The uber-rich, as Karl Polanyi wrote, celebrate the worst kind of freedom—the freedom “to exploit one’s fellows, or the freedom to make inordinate gains without commensurable service to the community, the freedom to keep technological inventions from being used for public benefit, or the freedom to profit from public calamities secretly engineered for private advantage.” At the same time, as Polanyi noted, the uber-rich make war on the “freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, freedom of meeting, freedom of association, freedom to choose one’s own job.”
The dark pathologies of the uber-rich, lionized by mass culture and mass media, have become our own. We have ingested their poison. We have been taught by the uber-rich to celebrate the bad freedoms and denigrate the good ones. Look at any Trump rally. Watch any reality television show. Examine the state of our planet. We will repudiate these pathologies and organize to force the uber-rich from power or they will transform us into what they already consider us to be—the help.
Chris Hedges is a Truthdig columnist, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, a New York Times best-selling author, a professor in the college degree program offered to New Jersey state prisoners by Rutgers University, and an ordained Presbyterian minister.
Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Nottingham Trent University
Oct 3, 2018
In the hit BBC TV show, Killing Eve, Villanelle, a psychopathic assassin, tells Eve, a security service operative, “You should never call a psychopath a psychopath. It upsets them.” She then pouts her lip in an imitation of someone feeling upset.
Most people think they know what a psychopath is: someone who has no feelings. Someone who probably tortured animals for fun when they were little. But here are five things you probably didn’t know about psychopaths.
1. There’s a bit of a psychopath in all of us. Psychopathy is a spectrum, and we are all somewhere on that spectrum. If you’ve ever shown a lack of guilt or remorse, or not felt empathy with someone, or you’ve charmed someone to get what you want (remember that last job interview?), then you’ve displayed a psychopathic trait. Maybe you’re fearless in certain situations or you’ve taken big risks – also psychopathic traits.
2. Psychopaths are not all “psycho”. Patrick Bateman in American Psycho and Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs are typical portrayals of psychopaths in popular culture. While it’s true that most serial killers are psychopaths, the vast majority of psychopaths are not serial killers. Psychopaths comprise about 1% of the general population and can be productive members of society.
Their lack of emotions, such as anxiety and fear, helps them to stay calm in frightening situations. Experiments have shown that they have a reduced startle response. If someone gave you a fright while you were watching a horror movie, you would probably show an “exaggerated startle response” – in other words, you’d jump out of your skin. Psychopaths react far less intensely in such fear-evoking situations. If anything, they remain calm. This can be a useful trait if you’re a soldier, a surgeon or in the special forces.
Psychopaths can also be very charming (even if only superficially) and they have the ability to confidently take risks, be ruthless, goal-oriented and make bold decisions. This makes them well suited to environments like Wall Street, the boardroom and parliament. Here, psychopaths are more likely to be making a killing than killing.
3. Psychopaths prefer Sex in the City to Little House on the Prairie. Psychopaths are more likely to be found in towns and cities. They prefer what psychologists call a “fast life history strategy”. That is, they focus on increasing their short-term mating opportunities and number of sexual partners rather than investing a lot of effort in long-term mating, parenthood and life stability. This strategy is linked to increased risk taking and selfishness. Also, cities offer psychopaths better opportunities for finding people to manipulate. They also offer greater anonymity and hence a reduced risk of being detected.
4. Female psychopaths are somewhat different. Although male and female psychopaths are similar in many ways, some studies have found differences. For example, female psychopaths appear to more prone to anxiety, emotional problems and promiscuity than male psychopaths.
Some psychologists argue that female psychopathy is sometimes diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, instead – characterised by poorly regulated emotions, impulsive reactions and outbursts of anger. This might explain why most studies show that rates of psychopathy are lower in females.
Our latest research shows that female psychopaths seem to prefer to date non-psychopathic men in the short-term, perhaps as a plaything or to allow easy deception and manipulation. But for long-term relationships, a female psychopath will be looking for a fellow psychopath. Eventually, birds of a feather, flock together.
5. Psychopaths do have feelings … well, some feelings. While psychopaths show a specific lack in emotions, such as anxiety, fear and sadness, they can feel other emotions, such as happiness, joy, surprise and disgust, in a similar way as most of us would. So while they may struggle to recognise fearful or sad faces and are less responsive to threats and punishments, they can identify happy faces and they do respond positively when getting rewarded.
However, while winning a fiver might make you happy, a psychopath would need a bigger reward to perk them up. In other words, they can feel happy and motivated if the rewards are high enough. Of course, they can also get angry, especially in response to provocation, or get frustrated when their goals are thwarted. So Villanelle is right, to some extent. You can hurt a psychopath’s feelings, but probably different feelings and for different reasons.
Childhood trauma can leave a lasting imprint on a victim’s DNA, according to a new study from the University of British Columbia and Harvard University. (Shutterstock)
Children who are abused can be left with physical, “molecular scars” on their DNA that last well into adulthood, according to a new study from Harvard University and the University of British Columbia.
The findings could one day impact disease research as well as criminal investigations, though more work needs to be done before experts know how the “tagging” — known as DNA methylation — affects a victim’s long-term mental and physical health.
But Nicole Gladish, a PhD candidate at UBC and co-author of the study, said the research is a promising development for researchers looking to better understand the link.
“It’s a really good first step,” she said.
A team of UBC researchers looked at chemical tags on the DNA of 34 adult men for the study, published in Translational Psychiatry on Tuesday.
Gladish researchers were looking for methylation in the mens’ sperm.
If genes are lightbulbs, Gladish explained,methylation is a “dimmer switch” that affects how cells are turned on or off.
Seventeen of the participants had reported being physically attacked as children, with two saying they’d been sexually abused.
Gladish said there was a “striking” difference in tagging between those who’d been abused and those who had not.
“Typically, most studies see [percentage] differences about five per cent to 10 per cent … some of these differences were very large in the 20 per cent range up to 29 per cent,” said Gladish, who analyzed much of the data for the study.
“Essentially, [it means] these little tiny tags on the DNA are kind of put into place at the time of abuse and are just present and persist throughout the life’s course.”
Nicole Gladish is a PhD candidate at UBC’s Department of Medical Genetics and co-author of the study. (Nicole Gladish)
Gladish said researchers circled back to check if there could be other external factors causing the tagging — smoking, PTSD, more recent trauma — but the differences weren’t there, leading researchers to believe the tags were from childhood trauma.
As for how methylation impact a person’s day-to-day health, Gladish said that’s not clear yet — but the fact that researchers have linked child abuse and tagging is a good move forward.
“I wasn’t anticipating getting anything because the sample size was so small …To get the type of signal that we got, it was really exciting.”
Gladish also said the study could pave the way for genetic tests that would indicate whether someone had been abused as a child — a tool that could be used to weigh allegations of abuse.
It could also be used to determine how childhood stress can lead to diseases in adults — something long hypothesized in science.
“We don’t know what goes on in the body between the abuse and diseases that happen later in life,” Gladish said.
Gladish said it’s not yet clear if “tags” on a victim’s DNA can be passed along to their children. She also said the study was restricted to men due to the difficulty in extracting egg cells from women — who, statistically, are more likely to be abused as children.
Scientists are increasingly looking into what turns genes “on and off” over the course of a lifetime, known as the study of epigenetics, because the ons and offs are believed to be influenced by external forces: like natural environment or abuse.
The men who donated their sperm for the study were already part of a larger, separate study being conducted at Harvard. The data was gathered at the Ivy League University and analyzed at UBC.
This article is copyrighted by GreenMedInfo LLC, 2018
With 1 in 5 Americans taking a psychiatric medication, most of whom, long term, we should probably start to learn a bit more about them. In fact, it would have been in the service of true informed consent to have investigated long-term risks before the deluge of these meds seized our population over the past thirty years.
You may be unaware of a literature that suggests long-term treatment with all psychiatric medications is more likely to leave you with a lesser quality of life. Here’s one more reason to reconsider life partnership with your psychiatric medication – it may contribute to your cancer risk.
What if I told you that this cancer data came from pre-clinical trials conducted for FDA licensure of these medications? That these trials are documented in the package inserts themselves.
Because of the inherent challenge of studying cancer at the population level, using these rodent studies was felt to be important by Amerio et al because they are not subject to publication bias – a major issue in psychiatry – and the methods are consistent across drug class.
Reasonably, even the IARC/WHO back this up, stating:
“although this association cannot establish that all agents and mixtures that cause cancer in experimental animals also cause cancer in humans, nevertheless, in the absence of adequate data on humans, it is biologically plausible and prudent to regard agents and mixtures for which there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals as if they presented a carcinogenic risk to humans”. (International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and World Health Organization, 2000).
63.6% of antidepressants were associated with carcinogenicity, specifically mirtazapine, sertraline, paroxetine, citalopram and escitalopram, duloxetine and bupropion.
90% of antipsychotics agents were associated with carcinogenicity. All agents were associated with carcinogenicity except clozapine.
70% of benzodiazepines/hypnotics were associated with carcinogenicity, specifically clonazepam, zolpidem, zaleplon, diazepam, eszopiclone, oxazepam and midazolam.
25% amphetamines/stimulants were associated with carcinogenicity, with methylphenidate specifially associated.
85.7% of anti-convulsants (“mood stabilizers”) were associated with carcinogenicity. The only agent not associated with carcinogenicity was lamotrigine. Specific agents associated with carcinogenicity were valproate, carbamazepine, gabapentin, pregabalin, oxcarbazepine and topiramate.
Cancer? How could psych meds cause cancer?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, and again. There’s no free lunch with pharmaceuticals. We must disabuse ourselves of the notion that we can yank only one thread out of the spider web. When you pull it, the whole thing moves.
When you expose your body to pharmaceutical grade chemical influence, it is forced to adjust.
We think of these medications as “fixing” brain problems, but we are just beginning to learn some of the many effects they have on the body as a whole, and the unmapped individual differences in metabolism and toxicant threshold effects, on the body’s mechanisms for survival in adversity – aka cancer.
Researchers today, including research in pregnant women, are asking the wrong safety questions. They are asking questions that made sense two decades ago, before we learned about the microbiome, epigenetics, and transgenerational effects of these individual variables. Particularly the differential effects on female vs male physiology.
This study furthers the theory that gender may impact on the nature of, and susceptibility to, certain side effects of antipsychotics. In addition, we demonstrate, what is to our knowledge the first time, an altered microbiota associated with chronic olanzapine treatment.
The challenge is, that the population-level effects can take decades to emerge and the incentive to limit study of adverse effects is very high. In the meantime you may have been entered into an uncontrolled and unconsented experiment. Take this information for what it is, an invitation to take a different, safer path to healing.
Featured Image Contributing Source:“Stilnoct2″ by Entheta – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
Dr. Brogan is boarded in Psychiatry/Psychosomatic Medicine/Reproductive Psychiatry and Integrative Holistic Medicine, and practices Functional Medicine, a root-cause approach to illness as a manifestation of multiple-interrelated systems. After studying Cognitive Neuroscience at M.I.T., and receiving her M.D. from Cornell University, she completed her residency and fellowship at Bellevue/NYU. She is one of the nation’s only physicians with perinatal psychiatric training who takes a holistic evidence-based approach in the care of patients with a focus on environmental medicine and nutrition. She is also a mom of two, and an active supporter of women’s birth experience. She is the Medical Director for Fearless Parent, and an advisory board member for GreenMedInfo.com. Visit her website.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of GreenMedInfo or its staff.
“Antidepressants are neurotoxic, that is, they harm the brain and disrupt its functions. As a result, they cause innumerable kinds of abnormal thinking and behaviors, including mania, suicide and violence. In the process, they cause detectable damage to the brain of the child or adult, and also to the fetus of pregnant mothers who take the drug.” (Peter Breggin, MD and psychiatrist, author of Toxic Psychiatry, St. Martin’s Press)
“I keep telling people all over the world that there are no reliable lab tests for diagnosing ANY so-called mental disorder. I explain this in great detail. Of course, for many people, this is too much to handle. They run away. What is my strategy for dealing with this? I keep finding new ways to tell them the truth. I don’t stop. That’s what an actual reporter does.” (The Underground, Jon Rappoport)
“The use of drugs for mental health conditions in the U.S. is staggering, according to a 2011 mental health report by Medco Health Solutions:”
“—more than one in 5 adults was on at least one psychiatric med in 2010, up 22% from 2000”
“—more than 25% of adult women were on mental health meds in 2010 vs. 15% of men; 21% of women were on antidepressants”
“—11% of women aged 45-65 were on anti-anxiety meds”
“—4% of adults were on medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). There are an estimated 5.4 million children carrying a diagnosis of ADHD”
“—The figures for use of these anti-depressants in children are even more appalling, being 2-3%. (This is especially scary since the drugs themselves can increase the risk of suicide).”
These numbers show there is a plague afoot in America—a plague of diagnosing and prescribing drugs.
Over the past 35 years, I’ve spent a great of time reporting on the complete falsity of psychiatric diagnoses, as well as the extreme toxicity of the drugs. We’re talking about nothing short of chemical warfare against the population. The nation is being eaten out from the inside—and all under the guise of proper psychiatric treatment.
I’ve spoken off the record with psychiatrists who readily admit that the whole basis on which mental disorders are labeled and described and diagnosed is a rank fraud; and they’ve also told me that this is an open secret inside the psychiatric profession.
I’ve published quotes from well-known psychiatrists admitting there are NO diagnostic lab tests for ANY of the 300 officially certified and labeled mental disorders.
To grasp the sheer insanity of this, imagine sitting in a doctor’s office chatting for a few minutes, when suddenly the doctor says, “You have cancer.”
“What?!” you say, bolting out of your chair.
“Yes,” the doctor says, “no doubt it’s cancer.”
What about tests??”
“Not necessary. I can tell it’s cancer from your answers to my questions. Anyway, there are no tests…”
Of course, manufacturers of the psychiatric drugs are having a field day. Researchers keep claiming they’ve “discovered” new mental disorders, and the manufacturers keep putting together new drugs to fit these research “breakthroughs.”
Psychiatry has monopolistic protections from the federal government. Without them, in a truly free and competitive market, the profession wouldn’t last another 20 years.
But that’s socialism for you. The government, colluding with corporations and professional organizations, gives credence and primacy to a whole industry that is based on fabrication and does grave harm through its products (the drugs, in this case).
“Dear Citizen, We, the government, care about you and love you. We keep psychiatry alive for you, so you can benefit from the most absurd and unfounded diagnoses possible, and the enormously toxic drugs that follow. Trust us…”
Who could resist such a good deal?
About the Author
Jon Rappoport is the author of three explosive collections, THE MATRIX REVEALED, EXIT FROM THE MATRIX, and POWER OUTSIDE THE MATRIX, Jon was a candidate for a US Congressional seat in the 29thDistrict of California. He maintains a consulting practice for private clients, the purpose of which is the expansion of personal creative power. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, he has worked as an investigative reporter for 30 years, writing articles on politics, medicine, and health for CBS Healthwatch, LA Weekly, Spin Magazine, Stern, and other newspapers and magazines in the US and Europe. Jon has delivered lectures and seminars on global politics, health, logic, and creative power to audiences around the world. You can sign up for his free emails at NoMoreFakeNews.com or OutsideTheRealityMachine.
(To read about Jon’s mega-collection, Exit From The Matrix, click here.)
In the last 15 years, antidepressant use has increased over 65%, while the suicide prevention industry has also grown to have a major cultural presence.
Prozac and other antidepressants increase the risk of “suicidal thinking and behavior in children, adolescents, and young adults” suffering from major depression. It says so in the package insert for Prozac. Take a look for yourself, as it helps to see it to actually believe it.
Prozac has long since gone off patent and in the last twenty or so years we’ve seen the development of a host of new antidepressant drugs, all of which carry similar warnings of an increased risk in suicidal thinking. Zoloft, Celexa, Lexapro, Luvox, Paxil, Sarafem, and more.
In the same time frame suicide prevention has become a booming business, one which is primarily organized and led by pharmaceutical companies and pharmaceutical executives, and is largely funded with taxpayer money.
“Indeed, at this time,  the Foundation regularly began collaborating with pharmaceutical companies to produce “educational” materials for the public and for medical professionals. In 1997, for example, the Foundation and Wyeth-Ayerst, the manufacturer of the antidepressant Effexor, jointly produced an educational video titled “The Suicidal Patient: Assessment and Care.” The video was designed to help “primary care physicians, mental health professionals, guidance counselors, employee assistance professionals, and clergy” recognize the warning signs of suicide, and help the suicidal person get the appropriate “treatment.” Shaffer was one of the experts featured in the film.
In subsequent years, pharmaceutical companies provided funding for the Foundation to conduct surveys, run screening projects, and support research. For example, in 2009, the Foundation reported that a new screening project had been made possible by “funding from Eli Lilly and Company, Janssen, Solvay, and Wyeth.” While most of the Foundation’s revenues today comes from its Out of the Darkness Community Awareness Walks, the Foundation’s leadership continues to feature a mix of academic psychiatrists and pharmaceutical executives.
The president of the board is Jerrold Rosenbaum, chair of the psychiatry department at Massachusetts General Hospital. In the early 1990s, while being paid as an advisor to Eli Lilly, Rosenbaum defended Prozac against claims that it could induce suicidal impulses in some patients. Other members of the board today include Mann, Nemeroff, and executives from Pfizer, Allergan, and Otsuka Pharmaceuticals. Allergan executive Jonathan Kellerman chaired the Foundation’s 2018 Lifesavers fundraiser, and the organizing committee included representatives from Lundbeck, Otsuka, Janssen, Pfizer, and Sunovion Pharmaceuticals.” [Source]
The suicide prevention industry has worked its way into every level of society. Federal, state and local government agencies, trade organizations such as in the construction and railway sectors, where suicide rates are markedly high, as well as public schools, universities and church organizations are trained and encouraged to look for signs of depression and mental illness in their members.
But is the introduction of suicide prevention actually associated with lower rates of suicide? In 2004 Australian researcher Philip Burgess looked at this issue, ultimately finding that suicide rates have increased with the rollout of a bureaucratic and institutional approach to preventing suicide.
However, in their study of 100 countries, they found that, “contrary to the hypothesized relation,” the “introduction of a mental health policy and mental health legislation was associated with an increase in male and total suicide rates.” They even quantified the negative impact of specific initiatives:
The adoption of mental health legislation was associated with a 10.6% increase in suicides.
The adoption of a national mental health policy was associated with an 8.3% increase in suicides.
The adoption of a therapeutic drugs policy designed to improve access to psychiatric medications was association with a 7% increase in suicides.
The adoption of a national mental health program was associated with a 4.9% increase. [Source]
Furthermore, researchers have found that mental health initiatives in many countries is actually linked with a rise in suicide rates.
Ajit Shah and a team of UK researchers studied elderly suicide rates in multiple countries, and once again, the results confounded expectations. They found “higher rates (of suicide) in countries with greater provision of mental health services, including the number of psychiatric beds, psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses, and the availability of training mental health (programs) for primary care professionals.”
In 2010, Shah and colleagues reported on an expanded study of suicide rates, this time for people of all ages in 76 countries. They found that suicide rates were higher in countries with mental health legislation, just as Burgess had found. They also reported that there was a correlation between higher suicide rates and a higher number of psychiatric beds, psychiatrists, and psychiatric nurses; more training in mental health for primary care professionals; and greater spending on mental health as a percentage of total spending on health in the country.
Finally, in 2013, A.P. Rajkumar and colleagues in Denmark assessed the level of psychiatric services in 191 countries, with a “combined population” of more than 6 billion people. This was a comprehensive global study, and, once again, they found that “countries with better psychiatric services experience higher suicide rates.” Both the “number of mental health beds and the number of psychiatrists per 100,000 population were significantly associated with higher national suicide rates (after adjusting for economic factors),” they wrote.” [Source]
If mental health screenings of patients, students or employees raise concern for an individual, that person is encouraged to seek out professional mental health, meaning doctors and psychiatrists who are qualified to prescribe antidepressants, which is the go-to treatment for mental illness today.
But just as with suicide prevention, psychiatric medications and ‘other’ mental health treatments are also linked to a rise in suicide rates.
In 2014, Danish investigators, led by Carsten Hjorthoj, determined that the risk of suicide increases dramatically with each increase in the “level of treatment.”
They found that, in comparison to age- and sex-matched controls who had no involvement with psychiatric care during the previous year, the risk of suicide was:
5.8 times higher for people receiving psychiatric medication (but no other care)
8.2 times higher for people having outpatient contact with a mental health professional
27.9 times higher for people having contact with a psychiatric emergency room
44.3 times higher for people admitted to a psychiatric hospital [Source]
The pharmaceutical, psychiatric and suicide prevention industries have grown so much in the last couple of decades, which is indicative of a ‘war on suicide,’ in much of a similar vein as the war on drugs or the war on poverty. We have the information to prove that when the government declares ‘war’ on a social issue, the end result is an exacerbation of that issue.
ABC News, 5/11/12: “…Columbia University researchers found a 40-fold rise in office visits among youth diagnosed with bipolar disorder between 1994-95 and 2002-3.”
In 1995, a new wind began blowing across the psychiatric landscape. The public wasn’t aware of it. But among professionals, it was big, very big:
Children, including the very young, could, for the first time, legitimately be diagnosed with bipolar disease (aka manic depression).
The impetus for this “revelation” was a 1995 report, “Is Your Child Bipolar?” written by two doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital, Janet Wozniak and Joseph Biederman.
Biederman would go on to become the target of internal investigations at Harvard and Mass General—did the pharmaceutical money he took influence his judgment in deciding bipolar was a real disorder among children? The charges against him were ultimately reduced to a few light slaps on the wrist; he retained his prestigious position.
But back in 1995, he and Wozniak, as the NY Times Magazine recounts (9/12/08, “The Bipolar Puzzle”), arrived at an earthshaking conclusion about children coming through their hospital clinic: a number of them fit the description of “bipolar irritable manic.”
It was a huge wow for the psychiatric profession. No one had seriously insisted, with “convincing evidence,” that very young kids could develop bipolar.
But now, psychiatrists were going to pick up that ball and run with it. Drug companies were going to develop and promote drugs (very serious and toxic drugs, like Risperdal) to treat childhood bipolar.
However, what the Times Magazine story mentions—but no one pays attention to—is this: Every one of these original manic “bipolar children” coming through Mass General, minus only one child, HAD ALREADY BEEN DIAGNOSED with ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
What Biederman and Wozniak—and the rest of the psychiatric profession—failed to realize, or didn’t want to see, was: drugs given to treat ADHD (e.g., Ritalin, Adderall) are versions of speed; and speed causes, among other reactions, very irritable hyper emotions, which are indistinguishable from “manic.”
In other words, the obvious takeaway, which no one took away, was that the “manic” symptoms of these kids were reactions to the prior speed drugs prescribed for ADHD.
There was no bipolar.
In fact, and you can find this repeated in many press reports, there are no lab tests for diagnosing bipolar. No blood tests, no brain scans. It’s all done by consulting menus of “indicative” behaviors assembled by committees of psychiatrists. See, for example, the National Institute of Mental Health, “Bipolar Disorder in Children and Teens”: “There are no blood tests or brain scans that can diagnose bipolar disorder. Instead, the doctor will ask questions about your child’s mood and sleeping patterns. The doctor will also ask about your child’s energy and behavior…”
You can give young kids ADHD drugs like Ritalin or Adderall and watch, in many cases, all the symptoms of so-called bipolar come to life before your eyes. In the old days, people used to call this a speed crash.
At first, speed can give a person a sense of clean fresh energy and clarity. Then after taking it for a few days or a week or a few weeks or a month (user reactions vary widely), the person begins to come apart. He’s sitting in a corner, in a puddle of sadness, then he’s very high energy (“manic”) and yelling and throwing things and cursing at people.
This isn’t a sophisticated situation. This is basic brain disruption.
Here’s another drug sequence with the same outcome: ADHD diagnosed, Adderall prescribed; child goes into a big funk and this is diagnosed as depression; doctor prescribes Zoloft, which causes a few high-flying “manic episodes.” New diagnosis: bipolar.
Or a young toddler is fed formula that is largely synthetic, and chemicals cause a severe series of reactions, which are labeled “bipolar.”
Or a child is given a series of vaccine shots containing aluminum (a known neurotoxin), formaldehyde, and other injurious chemicals, and as a result develops severe symptoms labeled “bipolar.”
The drugs prescribed for bipolar are quite heavy and dangerous: Valproate, Lithium, Risperdal.
Adverse effects of Valproate include: * acute, life-threatening, and even fatal liver toxicity; * life-threatening inflammation of the pancreas; * brain damage.
Adverse effects of Lithium include: * intercranial pressure leading to blindness; * peripheral circulatory collapse; * stupor and coma.
Adverse effects of Risperdal include: * serious impairment of cognitive function; * fainting; * restless muscles in neck or face, tremors (may be indicative of motor brain damage).
In January, 2002, psychiatrist and author Peter Breggin told CBS News: “Psychiatry is out of control when it comes to drugging children…The drug [Risperdal] has an effect. The effect is basically a chemical lobotomy . . .”
And all this bipolar fakery started in 1995 when kids on psychiatric speed showed up at Mass General Hospital…
And here’s the key paragraph from the New York Times Magazine article, “The Bipolar Puzzle,” 9/12/08, about that decisive moment in time at Mass General: “…In an influential 1995 paper that began the paradigm shift toward bipolar disorder within child psychiatry, Janet Wozniak — the director of the pediatric bipolar-disorder program at Massachusetts General Hospital and co-author of “Is Your Child Bipolar?” — working with the chief of pediatric psychopharmacology, Joseph Biederman, revealed that 16 percent of the children who came to the clinic met the D.S.M. criteria for mania [manic symptoms]. This was shocking news; it was widely believed until then that mania in children was extremely rare. Wozniak reported that the children’s mania most often took the form of an irritable mood rather than an elevated one, and that the mood was often chronic: the norm, rather than the exception. All but one of the manic children in the study also suffered from A.D.H.D.”
It almost seems as if the author dropped in that last sentence as a clue to the whole scam.
“Attention is an intentional, unapologetic discriminator. It asks what is relevant right now, and gears us up to notice only that,” cognitive scientist Alexandra Horowitz wrote in her inquiry into how our conditioned way of looking narrows the lens of our perception. Attention, after all, is the handmaiden of consciousness, and consciousness the central fact and the central mystery of our creaturely experience. From the days of Plato’s cave to the birth of neuroscience, we have endeavored to fathom its nature. But it is a mystery that only seems to deepen with each increment of approach. “Our normal waking consciousness,” William James wrote in his landmark 1902 treatise on spirituality, “is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different… No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded.”
Half a century after James, two new molecules punctured the filmy screen to unlatch a portal to a wholly novel universe of consciousness, shaking up our most elemental assumptions about the nature of the mind, our orientation toward mortality, and the foundations of our social, political, and cultural constructs. One of these molecules — lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD — was a triumph of twentieth-century science, somewhat accidentally synthesized by the Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann in the year physicist Lise Meitner discovered nuclear fission. The other — the compound psilocin, known among the Aztecs as “flesh of the gods” — was the rediscovery of a substance produced by a humble brown mushroom, which indigenous cultures across eras and civilizations had been incorporating into their spiritual rituals since ancient times, and which the Roman Catholic Church had violently suppressed and buried during the Spanish conquest of the Americas.
Together, these two molecules commenced the psychedelic revolution of the 1950s and 1960s, frothing the stream of consciousness — a term James coined — into a turbulent existential rapids. Their proselytes included artists, scientists, political leaders, and ordinary people of all stripes. Their most ardent champions were the psychiatrists and physicians who lauded them as miracle drugs for salving psychic maladies as wide-ranging as anxiety, addition, and clinical depression. Their cultural consequence was likened to that of to the era’s other cataclysmic disruptor: the atomic bomb.
And then — much thanks to Timothy Leary’s reckless handling of his Harvard psilocybin studies that landed him in prison, where Carl Sagan sent him cosmic poetry — a landslide of moral panic and political backlash outlawed psychedelics, shut down clinical studies of their medical and psychiatric uses, and drove them into the underground. For decades, academic research into their potential for human flourishing languished and nearly perished. But a small subset of scientists, psychiatrists, and amateur explorers refused to relinquish their curiosity about that potential.
The 1990s brought a quiet groundswell of second-wave interest in psychedelics — a resurgence that culminated with a 2006 paper reporting on studies at Johns Hopkins, which had found that psilocybin had occasioned “mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning and significance” for terminally ill cancer patients — experiences from which they “return with a new perspective and profound acceptance.” In other words, the humble mushroom compound had helped people face the ultimate frontier of existence — their own mortality — with unparalleled equanimity. The basis of the experience, researchers found, was a sense of the dissolution of the personal ego, followed by a sense of becoming one with the universe — a notion strikingly similar to Bertrand Russell’s insistence that a fulfilling life and a rewarding old age are a matter of “[making] your interests gradually wider and more impersonal, until bit by bit the walls of the ego recede, and your life becomes increasingly merged in the universal life.”
More clinical experiments followed at UCLA, NYU, and other leading universities, demonstrating that this psilocybin-induced dissolution of the ego, extremely difficult if not impossible to achieve in our ordinary consciousness, has profound benefits in rewiring the faulty mental mechanisms responsible for disorders like alcoholism, anxiety, and depression.
One good way to understand a complex system is to disturb it and then see what happens. By smashing atoms, a particle accelerator forces them to yield their secrets. By administering psychedelics in carefully calibrated doses, neuroscientists can profoundly disturb the normal waking consciousness of volunteers, dissolving the structures of the self and occasioning what can be described as a mystical experience. While this is happening, imaging tools can observe the changes in the brain’s activity and patterns of connection. Already this work is yielding surprising insights into the “neural correlates” of the sense of self and spiritual experience.
Pollan reflects on the psilocybin studies of cancer patients, which reignited scientific interest in psychedelics, and the profound results of subsequent studies exploring the use of psychedelics in treating mental illness, including addiction, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder:
What was most remarkable about the results… is that participants ranked their psilocybin experience as one of the most meaningful in their lives, comparable “to the birth of a first child or death of a parent.” Two-thirds of the participants rated the session among the top five “most spiritually significant experiences” of their lives; one-third ranked it the most significant such experience in their lives. Fourteen months later, these ratings had slipped only slightly. The volunteers reported significant improvements in their “personal well-being, life satisfaction and positive behavior change,” changes that were confirmed by their family members and friends.
What is striking about this whole line of clinical research is the premise that it is not the pharmacological effect of the drug itself but the kind of mental experience it occasions — involving the temporary dissolution of one’s ego — that may be the key to changing one’s mind.
My default perspective is that of the philosophical materialist, who believes that matter is the fundamental substance of the world and the physical laws it obeys should be able to explain everything that happens. I start from the assumption that nature is all that there is and gravitate toward scientific explanations of phenomena. That said, I’m also sensitive to the limitations of the scientific-materialist perspective and believe that nature (including the human mind) still holds deep mysteries toward which science can sometimes seem arrogant and unjustifiably dismissive.
Was it possible that a single psychedelic experience — something that turned on nothing more than the ingestion of a pill or square of blotter paper — could put a big dent in such a worldview? Shift how one thought about mortality? Actually change one’s mind in enduring ways?
The idea took hold of me. It was a little like being shown a door in a familiar room — the room of your own mind — that you had somehow never noticed before and being told by people you trusted (scientists!) that a whole other way of thinking — of being! — lay waiting on the other side. All you had to do was turn the knob and enter. Who wouldn’t be curious? I might not have been looking to change my life, but the idea of learning something new about it, and of shining a fresh light on this old world, began to occupy my thoughts. Maybe there was something missing from my life, something I just hadn’t named.
The root of this unnamed dimension of existence, Pollan suggests, is the inevitable narrowing of perspective that takes place as we grow up and learn to navigate the world by cataloguing its elements into mental categories that often fail to hold the complexity and richness of the experiences they name — an impulse born out of our longing for absolutes in a relative world. Psychedelics break down these artificial categories and swing open the doors of perception — to borrow William Blake’s famous phrase later famously appropriated by Aldous Huxley as the slogan of the first-wave psychedelic revolution — so that life can enter our consciousness in its unfiltered, unfragmented completeness. In consequence, we view the world — the inner world and the outer world — with a child’s eyes.
Over time, we tend to optimize and conventionalize our responses to whatever life brings. Each of us develops our shorthand ways of slotting and processing everyday experiences and solving problems, and while this is no doubt adaptive — it helps us get the job done with a minimum of fuss — eventually it becomes rote. It dulls us. The muscles of attention atrophy.
Habits are undeniably useful tools, relieving us of the need to run a complex mental operation every time we’re confronted with a new task or situation. Yet they also relieve us of the need to stay awake to the world: to attend, feel, think, and then act in a deliberate manner. (That is, from freedom rather than compulsion.)
The efficiencies of the adult mind, useful as they are, blind us to the present moment. We’re constantly jumping ahead to the next thing. We approach experience much as an artificial intelligence (AI) program does, with our brains continually translating the data of the present into the terms of the past, reaching back in time for the relevant experience, and then using that to make its best guess as to how to predict and navigate the future.
One of the things that commends travel, art, nature, work, and certain drugs to us is the way these experiences, at their best, block every mental path forward and back, immersing us in the flow of a present that is literally wonderful — wonder being the by-product of precisely the kind of unencumbered first sight, or virginal noticing, to which the adult brain has closed itself. (It’s so inefficient!) Alas, most of the time I inhabit a near-future tense, my psychic thermostat set to a low simmer of anticipation and, too often, worry. The good thing is I’m seldom surprised. The bad thing is I’m seldom surprised.
Together with his wife, Judith, he ingests a psilocybin mushroom he himself has picked from the woods of the Pacific Northwest with the mycologist Paul Stamets, author of the foundational guide to psilocybin mushrooms. Pollan reflects on the perplexity of the experience:
In a certain light at certain moments, I feel as though I had had some kind of spiritual experience. I had felt the personhood of other beings in a way I hadn’t before; whatever it is that keeps us from feeling our full implication in nature had been temporarily in abeyance. There had also been, I felt, an opening of the heart, toward my parents, yes, and toward Judith, but also, weirdly, toward some of the plants and trees and birds and even the damn bugs on our property. Some of this openness has persisted. I think back on it now as an experience of wonder and immanence.
The fact that this transformation of my familiar world into something I can only describe as numinous was occasioned by the eating of a little brown mushroom that Stamets and I had found growing on the edge of a parking lot in a state park on the Pacific coast — well, that fact can be viewed in one of two ways: either as an additional wonder or as support for a more prosaic and materialist interpretation of what happened to me that August afternoon. According to one interpretation, I had had “a drug experience,” plain and simple. It was a kind of waking dream, interesting and pleasurable but signifying nothing. The psilocin in that mushroom unlocked the 5-hydroxytryptamine 2-A receptors in my brain, causing them to fire wildly and set off a cascade of disordered mental events that, among other things, permitted some thoughts and feelings, presumably from my subconscious (and, perhaps, my reading too), to get cross-wired with my visual cortex as it was processing images of the trees and plants and insects in my field of vision.
Not quite a hallucination, “projection” is probably the psychological term for this phenomenon: when we mix our emotions with certain objects that then reflect those feelings back to us so that they appear to glisten with meaning. T. S. Eliot called these things and situations the “objective correlatives” of human emotion.
Pollan finds in the experience an affirmation of James’s notion that we possess different modes of consciousness separated from our standard waking consciousness by a thin and permeable membrane. The psychedelic puncturing of that membrane, he suggests, is what people across the ages have considered “mystical experiences.” But they are purely biochemical, devoid of the divine visitations ascribed to them:
I’m struck by the fact there was nothing supernatural about my heightened perceptions that afternoon, nothing that I needed an idea of magic or a divinity to explain. No, all it took was another perceptual slant on the same old reality, a lens or mode of consciousness that invented nothing but merely (merely!) italicized the prose of ordinary experience, disclosing the wonder that is always there in a garden or wood, hidden in plain sight… Nature does in fact teem with subjectivities — call them spirits if you like — other than our own; it is only the human ego, with its imagined monopoly on subjectivity, that keeps us from recognizing them all, our kith and kin.
Before this afternoon, I had always assumed access to a spiritual dimension hinged on one’s acceptance of the supernatural — of God, of a Beyond — but now I’m not so sure. The Beyond, whatever it consists of, might not be nearly as far away or inaccessible as we think.
After another psychedelic journey on the drug LSD, which left him with “a cascading dam break of love” for everyone from his wife to his grandmother to his awkward childhood music teacher, Pollan reflects on some of the things he had said during the experience, recorded by his guide, and the limitations of language in conveying the depth and dimension of the feelings stirred in him. A century after William James listed ineffability as the first of the four features of transcendent experiences, Pollan writes:
It embarrasses me to write these words; they sound so thin, so banal. This is a failure of my language, no doubt, but perhaps it is not only that. Psychedelic experiences are notoriously hard to render in words; to try is necessarily to do violence to what has been seen and felt, which is in some fundamental way pre- or post-linguistic or, as students of mysticism say, ineffable. Emotions arrive in all their newborn nakedness, unprotected from the harsh light of scrutiny and, especially, the pitiless glare of irony. Platitudes that wouldn’t seem out of place on a Hallmark card glow with the force of revealed truth.
Psychedelics can make even the most cynical of us into fervent evangelists of the obvious… For what after all is the sense of banality, or the ironic perspective, if not two of the sturdier defenses the adult ego deploys to keep from being overwhelmed — by our emotions, certainly, but perhaps also by our senses, which are liable at any time to astonish us with news of the sheer wonder of the world. If we are ever to get through the day, we need to put most of what we perceive into boxes neatly labeled “Known,” to be quickly shelved with little thought to the marvels therein, and “Novel,” to which, understandably, we pay more attention, at least until it isn’t that anymore. A psychedelic is liable to take all the boxes off the shelf, open and remove even the most familiar items, turning them over and imaginatively scrubbing them until they shine once again with the light of first sight. Is this reclassification of the familiar a waste of time? If it is, then so is a lot of art. It seems to me there is great value in such renovation, the more so as we grow older and come to think we’ve seen and felt it all before.
In a passage that calls to mind Nathaniel Hawthorne’s stunning description of the transcendent state between wakefulness and sleep, Pollan writes:
Because the acid had not completely dissolved my ego, I never completely lost the ability to redirect the stream of my consciousness or the awareness it was in fact mine. But the stream itself felt distinctly different, less subject to will or outside interference. It reminded me of the pleasantly bizarre mental space that sometimes opens up at night in bed when we’re poised between the states of being awake and falling asleep—so-called hypnagogic consciousness. The ego seems to sign off a few moments before the rest of the mind does, leaving the field of consciousness unsupervised and vulnerable to gentle eruptions of imagery and hallucinatory snatches of narrative. Imagine that state extended indefinitely, yet with some ability to direct your attention to this or that, as if in an especially vivid and absorbing daydream. Unlike a daydream, however, you are fully present to the contents of whatever narrative is unfolding, completely inside it and beyond the reach of distraction. I had little choice but to obey the daydream’s logic, its ontological and epistemological rules, until, either by force of will or by the fresh notes of a new song, the mental channel would change and I would find myself somewhere else entirely.
For me it felt less like a drug experience… than a novel mode of cognition, falling somewhere between intellection and feeling.
Temporarily freed from the tyranny of the ego, with its maddeningly reflexive reactions and its pinched conception of one’s self-interest, we get to experience an extreme version of Keats’s “negative capability” — the ability to exist amid doubts and mysteries without reflexively reaching for certainty. To cultivate this mode of consciousness, with its exceptional degree of selflessness (literally!), requires us to transcend our subjectivity or — it comes to the same thing — widen its circle so far that it takes in, besides ourselves, other people and, beyond that, all of nature. Now I understood how a psychedelic could help us to make precisely that move, from the first-person singular to the plural and beyond. Under its influence, a sense of our interconnectedness — that platitude — is felt, becomes flesh. Though this perspective is not something a chemical can sustain for more than a few hours, those hours can give us an opportunity to see how it might go. And perhaps to practice being there.
Looking back on his theoretical and empirical investigation — his research on the ancient history and modern science of psychedelics; his interviews with neuroscientists, psychologists, mycologists, hospice patients, and ordinary psychonauts; his own experience with a variety of these substances and his sometimes meticulous, sometimes messy field notes on the interiority of his mind under their influence — Pollan writes:
The journeys have shown me what the Buddhists try to tell us but I have never really understood: that there is much more to consciousness than the ego, as we would see if it would just shut up. And that its dissolution (or transcendence) is nothing to fear; in fact, it is a prerequisite for making any spiritual progress. But the ego, that inner neurotic who insists on running the mental show, is wily and doesn’t relinquish its power without a struggle. Deeming itself indispensable, it will battle against its diminishment, whether in advance or in the middle of the journey. I suspect that’s exactly what mine was up to all through the sleepless nights that preceded each of my trips, striving to convince me that I was risking everything, when really all I was putting at risk was its sovereignty… That stingy, vigilant security guard admits only the narrowest bandwidth of reality… It’s really good at performing all those activities that natural selection values: getting ahead, getting liked and loved, getting fed, getting laid. Keeping us on task, it is a ferocious editor of anything that might distract us from the work at hand, whether that means regulating our access to memories and strong emotions from within or news of the world without.
What of the world it does admit it tends to objectify, for the ego wants to reserve the gifts of subjectivity to itself. That’s why it fails to see that there is a whole world of souls and spirits out there, by which I simply mean subjectivities other than our own. It was only when the voice of my ego was quieted by psilocybin that I was able to sense that the plants in my garden had a spirit too.
It is a notion evocative of Ursula K. Le Guin’s conception of poetry as a means to “subjectifying the universe” — a counterpoint to the way science objectifies it. “Science describes accurately from outside, poetry describes accurately from inside. Science explicates, poetry implicates,” Le Guin wrote. Perhaps psychedelics, then, are a portal to the poetic truth that resides beyond scientific fact — the kind of transcendence Rachel Carson found in beholding the marvels of bioluminescence, “one of those experiences that gives an odd and hard-to-describe feeling, with so many overtones beyond the facts themselves.” Such a feeling radiates beyond the walls of the ego-bound self and into a deep sense of belonging to the whole of nature, part and particle of the universe.
The usual antonym for the word “spiritual” is “material.” That at least is what I believed when I began this inquiry — that the whole issue with spirituality turned on a question of metaphysics. Now I’m inclined to think a much better and certainly more useful antonym for “spiritual” might be “egotistical.” Self and Spirit define the opposite ends of a spectrum, but that spectrum needn’t reach clear to the heavens to have meaning for us. It can stay right here on earth. When the ego dissolves, so does a bounded conception not only of our self but of our self-interest. What emerges in its place is invariably a broader, more openhearted and altruistic — that is, more spiritual — idea of what matters in life. One in which a new sense of connection, or love, however defined, seems to figure prominently.
One of the gifts of psychedelics is the way they reanimate the world, as if they were distributing the blessings of consciousness more widely and evenly over the landscape, in the process breaking the human monopoly on subjectivity that we moderns take as a given. To us, we are the world’s only conscious subjects, with the rest of creation made up of objects; to the more egotistical among us, even other people count as objects. Psychedelic consciousness overturns that view, by granting us a wider, more generous lens through which we can glimpse the subject-hood — the spirit! — of everything, animal, vegetable, even mineral, all of it now somehow returning our gaze. Spirits, it seems, are everywhere. New rays of relation appear between us and all the world’s Others.
In the remainder of the immensely fascinating How to Change Your Mind, Pollan goes on to explore the neuroscience of what actually happens in the brain during a psychedelic experience, how such a temporary rewiring of the cognitive apparatus can translate into enduring psychological change and precipitate profound personal growth, and why this breaking down of “the usually firm handshake between brain and world” may be particularly palliative to those perched on the precipice of mortality. Complement it with Albert Camus on consciousness and the lacuna between truth and meaning, then revisit William James’s trailblazing treatise on the limits of materialism.
Summary: A new study reports people living in areas with more sun light have lower rates of OCD.
Source: Binghamton University.
Living at higher latitudes, where there is also less sunlight, could result in a higher prevalence rate of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), according to new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York.
“The results of this project are exciting because they provide additional evidence for a new way of thinking about OCD,” said Meredith Coles, professor of psychology at Binghamton University. “Specifically, they show that living in areas with more sunlight is related to lower rates of OCD.”
To compile their data, Coles and her research team read through many papers that addressed OCD prevalence rates in certain places and then recorded the latitudes of each location.
Individuals with OCD commonly report not being able to fall asleep until later than desired. Often times, they will then sleep in very late in order to compensate for that lost sleep, thus adopting a delayed sleep-wake pattern that may have adverse effects on their symptoms.
Individuals with OCD commonly report not being able to fall asleep until later than desired. Often times, they will then sleep in very late in order to compensate for that lost sleep, thus adopting a delayed sleep-wake pattern that may have adverse effects on their symptoms. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.
“This delayed sleep-wake pattern may reduce exposure to morning light, thereby potentially contributing to a misalignment between our internal biology and the external light-dark cycle,” said Coles. “People who live in areas with less sunlight may have less opportunities to synchronize their circadian clock, leading to increased OCD symptoms.”
This misalignment is more prevalent at higher latitudes – areas where there is reduced exposure to sunlight – which places people living in these locations at an increased risk for the development and worsening of OCD symptoms. These areas subsequently exhibit higher lifetime prevalence rates of the disorder than areas at lower latitudes.
While it is too soon to implement any specific treatment plans based on this new information, future studies are in the works to test a variety of treatment methods that address sleep and circadian rhythm disruptions.
“First, we are looking at relations between sleep timing and OCD symptoms repeatedly over time in order to begin to think about causal relationships,” said Coles. “Second, we are measuring circadian rhythms directly by measuring levels of melatonin and having people wear watches that track their activity and rest periods. Finally, we are conducting research to better understand how sleep timing and OCD are related.”
Additionally, the team of researchers hopes that further study exploring exposure to morning light could help develop new treatment recommendations that would benefit individuals with OCD.
“I want to tell you about Omar, a 5-year-old Syrian refugee boy who arrived to the shore on Lesbos on a crowded rubber boat. Crying, frightened, unable to understand what’s happening to him, he was right on the verge of developing a new trauma. I knew right away that this was a golden hour, a short period of time in which I could change his story, the story that he would tell himself for the rest of his life.
Omar looked at me with scared, tearful eyes and said, “What is this?” as he pointed out to the police helicopter hovering above us. I said: “It’s a helicopter! It’s here to photograph you with big cameras, because only the great and the powerful heroes, like you, Omar, can cross the sea.”
Omar looked at me, stopped crying and asked me, “I’m a hero?”
Now, to Omar, the smell of the sea will not just remind him of his traumatic journey from Syria. Because to Omar, this story is now a story of bravery.”
The global refugee crisis is a mental health catastrophe, leaving millions in need of psychological support to overcome the traumas of dislocation and conflict. To undo the damage, child psychiatrist and TED Fellow Essam Daod has been working in camps, rescue boats and the shorelines of Greece and the Mediterranean Sea to help refugees (a quarter of which are children) reframe their experiences through short, powerful psychological interventions. “We can all do something to prevent this mental health catastrophe,” Daod says. “We need to acknowledge that first aid is not just needed for the body, but it has also to include the mind, the soul.”
This talk was presented at an official TED conference, and was featured by our editors on the home page.
Dr. Valerie Taylor is originally from Boxey, a small town on Newfoundland’s south coast. (Provided by Valerie Taylor)
Groundbreaking research by a scientist originally from Newfoundland’s south coast could broaden treatment options for mental illness — thanks to fecal transplants.
Dr. Valerie Taylor, head of psychiatry at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, is studying how gut health could affect mental illness symptoms.
The research is the first to potentially link gut bacteria to bipolar disorder, but it’s part of a growing area of investigation that examines how the bacteria that live inside our digestive systems might affect our mental health.
Taylor’s potentially groundbreaking research relies on a medical treatment that might make some squeamish: fecal transplants.
‘An aha moment’
Taylor’s path to the unusual treatment wasn’t as winding as the small intestine, and actually came to her through direct experience with a patient.
She and a patient of hers struggled because she was unable to find a treatment that relieved the symptoms of his mental illness. While the patient was being treated with antibiotics for pneumonia, she noticed that those symptoms were decreasing — and that they unfortunately returned once the antibiotic treatment ended.
Scientists use donated stool to make a filtrate, or a slurry of sorts, out of feces, similar to this one made to treat C. difficile. (Maureen Taylor)
“For both of us it was sort of an aha moment,” Taylor, originally from Boxey, N.L., told the St. John’s Morning Show.
“What’s going on that an antibiotic that fights bacteria seems to be helping with his symptoms of depression?”
When she began researching the idea she found that there was interesting research done in animals, mainly rats and mice, showing that altering the bacterial flora in their digestive systems could, for example, make them anxious when they were not previously, or alleviate depression. It made Taylor curious about what the results would be like in humans.
“Humans aren’t rats or mice so we may not see the same things, but we thought that it was really worth looking into.”
Going straight to the source
It’s not advisable to give someone a particular antibiotic over the long term without an infection to fight, because it can lead to antibiotic resistance, Taylor said.
That meant changing the bacteria where it lives.
“We decided to go straight to the source, in that we’re interested in the [gastrointestinal] system,” Taylor said.
“So what we’re doing is a process called fecal transfer, which is exactly what you think it is.”
Taylor is chief of psychiatry at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto. (Ben Rahn/A-Frame)
For a fecal transfer, a carefully screened, healthy person donates stool, which is then prepared in an infectious disease lab into a filtrate.
The prepared stool is injected into the gastrointestinal tract of the patient in a sort-of reverse colonoscopy.
Taylor’s study will monitor those patients to see if changing the bacteria in the GI system by introducing healthy bacteria actually has an impact on mental health outcomes.
Valuable results either way
The idea of a fecal transplant may sound strange, but there is interest in this research, said Taylor, who has received inquiries from people around the world who want to be part of the study.
“I think it speaks to the fact that a lot of the medication treatments that we have for mental illness don’t work very well for a lot of people, and people are desperately ill,” she said.
“Our citizens should know the urgent facts…but they don’t because our media serves imperial, not popular interests. They lie, deceive, connive and suppress what everyone needs to know, substituting managed news misinformation and rubbish for hard truths…”—Oliver Stone