Psychiatry’s mistaken manual


What have been the consequences of what Greenberg calls “a compendium of opinions masquerading as scientific truths?” Both he and Frances argue that medicine has ignored safer and longer-lasting methods of healing and addicted entire generations to pills that, in many cases, are no more effective than placebos but a lot more harmful. Worse, overreliance on the DSM and the rush to resort to drugs has led to “false epidemics” in autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, social anxiety disorder, and pediatric bipolar disorder, among others, and contributed to a public health crisis of widespread prescription drug abuse. As Frances reports, there are now more overdoses in the United States from prescription drugs than from illicit ones. I see this problem firsthand as a college professor: with so many students diagnosed with ADHD (about 30 percent, according to Frances) and taking stimulants like Adderall, we have sold a generation on the fiction that prescription drugs are safe to abuse. The truth, of course, is otherwise—stimulant abuse can lead to depression, anxiety, and even suicide. Ditto for powerfully addictive antianxiety drugs like Ativan, Xanax, and Klonopin, which, when combined with prescription painkillers or alcohol, often cause overdoses. The toll extends beyond the number of lives lost because of overdoses to the “massive but hidden costs” of treating complications caused by these drugs, be it obesity, diabetes, or heart disease.

more from Alison Bass at The American Scholar here.