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Question
Posted by: anon ct | 2007/08/20

problems with psychiatry

Good day :)

I am a mental health consumer, and have been taking prescribed antipsychotic medication for more than 5 years now. I have a question regarding the proven effectiveness of medication over time , the damage it does to the brain over time and the genuine curative impact of psychiatric drugs. i have taken antipsychotics and experienced the harm of coming off them briefly (experiencing psychosis/mania) so i would not advise anybody taking medication to stop suddenly without medical supervision, but my question is do the drugs actually cure anybody? It seems they just lock away all the psychotic symptoms deep into the brain but dont actually cure the root of the illness. Speaking from experience when i stopped taking medication i literally went back in time with my illness and was close to being as ill as i was before i started taking medication. There seems to be no curative quality to taking the drugs, they only "contain" the problem and if your "blessed" or "lucky" (depending on what you believe in) you are able to function while taking them.

Isnt the true cause of mental illness trauma or more on the psychological side to the equation than brain chemistry?
For quite awhile now psychiatrist have been going the "biological" route and blaming psychosis on a "chemical imbalance" ...this is marketed aggressively as the gospel truth when in fact it isnt even proven and is just a theroy!! Drugs dont seem to cure mental illness they only lock it away and make people dependant on the psychiatric system empowered by multi billion dollar drug companies.

Even with my above opinons i still wouldnt stop taking meds for the risk of relapse but the truth is you can relapse even while taking the meds,medication is no guarente that you wont relapse! where is the light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to a cure?? a genuine cure?? Do you believe there ever will be one?

Your thoughts please.
Thanks

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Our expert says:
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I think I understand your concerns, and the issues are complex. One aspect which even doctors often get muddled about, is that medicine rather rarely CURES things. Its nice when we can. But more often medicine helps someone to live longer and more functional lives WITH an incurable condition than they would otherwise do. We can't cure diabetes, for instance. But with medication, a diabetic can live a full life, instead of dying in their teens or 20s in an unpleasant way.
And drugs may not always cure, but can enable the body's natural defences to function more effectively than otherwise. Generally, drugs, including psychiatric drugs, do not cause significant brain damage, more than the illnesses themselves do ( not all changes that occur while we are taking drugs are caused by the drugs ). In schizophrenia, for instance, there is increasing evidence as new methods have developed for taking accurate images of brain structures, of changes in some brain structures occurring long before symptoms were noticed and before meds were used.
Yes, drugs often contain or limit the symptoms, and isn't that better than having the symptoms uncontained or unlimited ? Analgesics only reduce pain, they don't in any way remove its causes --- but would we rather suffer unrelieved pain because they can't cure the condition ?
I think it is unwise in most conditions to see drugs as the ONLY aspect of dealing with any problem, but they are often a very useful part of a plan for dealing with significant problems.
There isn't s single tiny shred of evidence that ANY aspect of mental illness is caused entirely by psychological events or factors WITHOUT these causing, in turn, chemical changes in our brain. Our brains are electro-chemical devices, much more powerful than any known computer, but eerything that goes wrong or right with them, involve chemical activities.
I understand your sense of frustration that medications are helpful but far less helpful than you would want them to be. I think any sensible doctor share your sense of frustration. But what else should we do, except the best job possible at this specific time ? One of the advantages to having been around a long time, as I have, is that you get more of a historical sense of perspective. And when I feel frustrated at how much more we'd like to know and achieve now, than is currently possible, I can also look back 10 or 20 years, and see how far we have come. Progress continues. As we gain a better understanding of the details of how the brain functions and malfunctions, treatments can focus more specifically on trying to currect anomalies, and the results improve.
And as jcat wisely says, be cautious about uncritically adopting the highly unrealistic views of CCHR and Scientology --- remember, when they rail about the multimillion dollar drug industry, they're kvetching as competitors, selling a different ( and totally unproven ) product --- they want those dollars themselves.

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Our users say:
Posted by: jcat | 2007/08/20

Ummm...so presumably, the contraceptive pill that you took 5 years ago should keep you from falling pregnant now?

There's no magic cure for most psychiatric disorders, or for most other human failings. Even antibiotics - as a class, one of the most 'effective' drugs ever developed - do not provide life-long immunity, even to infections of a type that you have been treated for already.

Psychotic disorders, bridging the first two axes of the DSM, are generally responsive to both therapy and meds - but it's kind of difficult to respond well to therapy while listening to the voices in your head. Far more useful to keep an open mind and try other methods in addition to meds. I have never yet heard a psychiatrist advocating that meds be the only approach taken, an openness that seems sadly lacking from the 'anti-psychiatry' advocates. At least you are still taking yours....

Have to say though that the moment phrases like "make people dependant on the psychiatric system empowered by multi billion dollar drug companies" start creeping in, the effectiveness of your post is reduced dramatically - particularly when the phrase is so at odds with the grammar and language use of the rest of your post. It kind of feels like I've just warped over to the dear old CCHR site and am about to be told to throw away my crutches and walk! Or else!

Regards,
jcat

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