I am scared of psychiatrists. In fact, my lovely GP excepted, I am generally scared of medical doctors full-stop. I think that quite a few are incompetent, overpaid megalomaniacs who become disillusioned with the personnel necessarily involved in their chosen career all too quickly, and whose over-the-top professional cynicism grossly deters patients from seeing them to the point where it could be dangerous. But I am not anti-psychiatry. In fact, I find some of the claims and terminology bandied about by the anti-psychiatry lobby to be, by turns, hilarious and personally insulting. But of course it’s a pseudo-science. All science, to an extent at least, is pseudo in that parts of it will have tenets that are based on ‘mere’ theory as opposed to proven, demonstrable results, and psychiatry is no different. I believe some parts of it can be proven – more on this later – but on the parts that cannot be, or have not yet been, the discipline is no different from any other hard science out there. Furthermore, psychiatrists themselves will be the first to admit that their particular brand of medicine is not perfect, at least in part because neuroscience is still so poorly understood. Indeed, would you dismiss the discipline of neuroscience itself merely because it’s investigative and highly speculative? What about astronomy, cosmology? Marine biology? Even human biology to some extent – let’s say stem cell technology. Clearly a promising field of medicinal investigation, but still very much at a preliminary stage. Quantum physics has not yet produced a unified and complete theory of everything – do we dismiss it with such ease? Point: psychiatry is like every science – it seeks to investigate issues through testing and examination with a view to obtaining results that back up or discredit existing theories. It is dealing with the mind, which is housed in the brain – a poorly understood organ, even now – and, moreover, it is dealing with the unpredictability that is people. These things, quite probably, make it imperfect, but that does not make its contribution to medicine and to patients invalid and contrived. On this one, I believe there is a difference between the USA and the UK. Certainly so-called ‘Big Pharma’ markets its drugs to the NHS, which is then co-funded by prescription charges (where applicable) and those paying national insurance, but individual patients here do not pay in the more traditional sense. Currently prescriptions are free of charge to everyone in Northern Ireland, though I don’t believe that this applies to the rest of the UK. Even where prescription charges do apply, they’re something like £7, which – relative to the overall price of the drugs, anyway – is fuck all really. The point I’m making here is that this means that, for the most part, the NHS has to fund psychiatric (and other) prescriptions. Anyone who’s followed my story of my battle with the fucking Trust will know that the NHS is completely obsessed with finances and cost-saving, to the point where it frankly endangers the lives of many. To that end, in my experience, they simply will not prescribe you expensive drugs unless they feel strongly that they are necessary. As an anecdotal aside, with no disrespect meant to anyone, I personally believe that most British and Irish NHS doctors/buyers are far too cynical to fall for ‘Big Pharma’ bullshit in the first place, unless they see a clear link between Drug A and Improvement. Point: the ‘Big Pharma’ conspiracy may or may not have weight in some parts of the world, but I think it’s applicability is very limited in this jurisdiction. I got lambasted on Facebook the other day for making a remark criticising censorship but defending medication. Apparently all psychiatric medication does is act as a tool of censorship. ”Take the meds like a good little girl – either that or stop banging on about censorship,” the woman ranted hysterically, as if Facebook had newly developed into a dystopian A Clockwork Orange-like world of indoctrination by medicine. Riiiiiight. I have been taking some form of psychiatric medication since I was 14 – that’s nearly 13 years, and nearly half my life. I do remember what things were like before it, however – both the good and the bad. My experience has been that what medication has done for me personally, the stuff that works anyway, is to help me become more like the person I was before mental illness (which apparently isn’t real – that one in a minute!) struck me with the force that it did as a teenager. It brings me back to some semblance of what I used to perceive as ‘normality’. I have not become some vapid, compliant, brain-dead bitch because I have taken it – far from it. In fact, the opposite is true – in general, I am fiercely anti-authoritarian, I am extremely intelligent and because of psychiatric medication I was able to get through school and get myself two degrees. Anyone who has read this blog should surely to be able to attest to the fact that I am not at all under the influence of some sort of evil tool of social control. If you think that I am then sorry, but I’m not the delusional one here. Kindly fuck off. If you think that I am simply an anomaly, please go and speak to the hundreds of other mental health bloggers, Twitterers and Facebook users out there who take psychiatric medication and are not some degraded servants of the big, bad state. To be fair, I recognise that particularly strong medication such as Haloperidol can turn individuals into drivelling nobodies devoid of any personality and moral agency, and I agree that use of such drugs is appalling – in general. If someone is in imminent danger of being violent, though, I can see the need for such tranquilisers. I think it’s horrific, but I think that it can be – on occasion – a necessity. I can’t speak for other parts of the world, and in fact I can’t speak from experience either as I’ve never been a psychiatric inpatient, but I really believe that in the vast majority of cases, the hideous days where One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was a daily grim reality are gone from UK medicine. People are only forcibly drugged to such grotesque extents when there is a clear and imminent need for it. Point: psychiatric medications are only used for ‘control’ purposes when there is some sort of utilitarian reason, such as a need to protect a number of people from violence. Otherwise it’s merely there to treat illnesses, and is offered to people, not forced upon them. So what if it is? It isn’t, but so what if it was? A placebo effect is still an effect. Anyway, I beg to differ; I quite simply would not be alive but for Fluoxetine and Quetiapine. But why listen to me – I’m just the indoctrinated fuckwit who is compliant with the evil medics and who erroneously just thinks she’s experiencing a beneficial modification in brain chemistry. Since I am no longer taking Fluoxetine, I’ll concentrate on Quetiapine here: Study One
Study Three You might also be interested in taking a gander through Neuroskeptic’s neuroscientific archives . For the sake of brevity (insofar as I am capable thereof), that’s all I’m going to include here for now, but feel free to ask me for further studies should you wish to do so. *ponders* Augh, screw it. Here’s one I liked on Fluoxetine (specifically on how it works) after all. Now I’m done. A friend of mine recommended I read a book called The Chemical Cure dealing with the supposed myths of the benefits of psychiatric medication. I intend to do so, but one criticism I have of the book before even having picked it up is the inference that medicine purports to be a ‘cure’. It isn’t a cure. Medication is nothing more than managerial, so the terminology is, I feel, misleading. In a case like mine, where it can be reasonably argued whether correctly or otherwise that a mental illness is induced psycho-socially, medication can make things less bad, but if the disorder(s) can be cured (and I am not convinced of that), then it is only through proper, individualised psychotherapy. Just because medication is not a cure, though, does not mean that it is necessarily unhelpful. In a case where one can reasonably argue that the illness is more organic in nature – and I know supporters of anti-psychiatry dismiss that as a possibility, but indulge me for a minute – medication specifically doesn’t claim to be able to cure; it is prescribed for the management of the disorder in question. Maybe people can be ‘cured’ of things like schizophrenia, and maybe they can’t. For now, though, the most provably effective management of such an illness is medication, in conjunction with therapy that helps the sufferer manage specific symptoms when entering or when in ‘an episode’. Point: medication is imperfect, but for many it is very helpful. I find this an incredibly insulting argument. Of course I know about the fucking side effects. I know they suck arse. I don’t like them and I don’t want them. I did, however, know about them. Just because I am mental does not make me incapable of reading, asking questions or weighing up the pros and cons when making a major decision. I know that both Quetiapine and Venlafaxine, my current medications, are some of the most horrible tablets side-effects wise that are out there. Nevertheless, I made the decision, based on all the information, to act on my consultant’s advice and take these drugs, because on balance I hoped and believed that their positive indicated effects would outweigh their negative side effects. This has, indeed, been the case. Point: don’t insult our intelligences, please. We have mental health problems, not IQs of -7,293. Even in the unlikely event that our psychiatrists or GPs don’t tell us about the nasty side effects, we can very easily find them out for ourselves, then weigh up whether or not we feel the bad outweighs the good. I actually find this one hilarious, because it is so far removed from most people’s experiences of mental ill health that it’s absurd.