People labeled as "mentally ill" have, over the ages, been subjected to horrific mistreatment. We've all heard the stories about deplorable conditions that once existed in state-run mental institutions, for example, sordid tales of restraint and abuse that seem totally at odds with our American ideals of freedom and compassion. We know this already. We've seen Jack Nicholson in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST. But there is more to this story that needs to be told. Much, much more.
Robert Whitaker's MAD IN AMERICA, A HISTORY OF THE ENDURING MISTREATMENT OF THE MENTALLY ILL, the book upon which this article is based, is essential reading for anyone seeking an understanding of madness, both the purported "madness" of those receiving "treatment" and the far greater madness of those prescribing such treatment, but who are in reality inflicting MIStreatment instead.
Perhaps the most disturbing revelation contained in the book is that this unconscionable mistreatment of the mentally ill endures, even to this day, in an altered form, making modern-day "mental health professionals" essentially no different from their abusive counterparts in the unenlightened past.
Barbaric Treatments of the Eighteenth Century
Mad-doctors have a long, ignoble tradition of mistreating their patients in the guise of "treating" them. In eighteenth-century England, when Thomas Jefferson was writing about human rights and equality across the sea in the Declaration of Independence, mad-doctors were busy providing "help" to their patients. Since insanity was regarded as a loss of reason and was therefore a descent into the brutish state of an animal, human beings were cruelly treated as animals: as wild and unruly horses, for example, that had to be tamed and effectively "broken."
Such treatments were based on terrorizing and physically weakening the mentally deranged patients to such an extent that their symptoms of mental illness were no longer manifested. They were made too weak and too fearful to rant and rave, and then declared "cured" by their self-congratulating caretakers.
Some of the methods used by these eighteenth-century doctors appear to have been inspired by their distinguished colleagues in the Inquisition. Lunatics, like heretics, were mercilessly tormented. Victims were confined in small, filthy cells, chained, beaten, starved, bled, blistered, sickened, given surprise baths in frigid water, and even drowned and later revived. They were nauseated by potions and made deathly sick. They were dizzied and disoriented by spinning in swinging chairs and so terrified and robbed of all their strength and energy that they were rendered quite mute and thus deemed to be "cured" of their purported madness. But only someone who was himself a madman could fail to appreciate that the mentally troubled were ultimately made worse by such abominable atrocities.
One prominent doctor who failed to see the light was the American physician and signer of the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Rush. Although he proclaimed to favor the humane and compassionate treatment of the mentally ill, he was first and foremost a man of "science" who embraced the so-called "scientific" practices of his peers in Europe.
Rush, thinking like a modern-day biological psychiatrist, concocted his own pet theory about the origin of madness and added new variations to the existing grab bag of lunatic treatments. He believed that the cause of mental illness could be attributed not to a "biochemical" imbalance, as some contemporary theorists conjecture, but instead to a simple defect in blood circulation to the brain, a "circulatory" imbalance. Manic patients had too much blood flowing to the brain, for example, whereas depressed patients had too little.
So Rush devised methods to "correct" this "imbalance." Manic individuals, with too much blood circulation to the brain, were relieved of their "excess" blood by the practice of copious and often life-threatening bloodletting. Blisters, he advocated, should be raised on the ankles, and not on the scalp, as this would have the desired effect of drawing the offending blood away from the overheated head. Similarly, caustics should be applied to the back of the neck with the wound kept open for months at a time to provide "permanent discharge" for the overheated brain.
A depressed individual, on the other hand, with too little blood flowing to the brain, should be strapped to a rapidly spinning board with the feet at the center of the board's rotation and the head pointing outward to draw needed blood circulation to the depressed patient's head. And if these "advanced" techniques proved ineffectual, the "tranquilizer chair," a device invented by Rush to keep the patient-sufferer totally immobile for hours, or even days, could be employed to provide further "correction" of this circulatory "imbalance." This "scientific" medical marvel even featured a feces pot underneath as standard equipment, which indicates how long "patients" were restrained in this torturous contraption and how grossly uncomfortable an experience it must have been!
Rush also harbored crackpot notions regarding the efficacy of mercury compounds in the treatment of various diseases and frequently prescribed these toxic "calomel" potions for his unfortunate patient-victims. One very illustrious casualty of Rush's reckless assault on humanity was none other than George Washington, who very likely died from being bled by Rush while being treated for an illness from which he otherwise might have recovered.
This was the best that establishment medicine had to offer in the late 1700s: Benjamin Rush, regarded by many as the Founding Father of American medicine, but whose practices, quite clearly, were the quintessence of quackery. All this would be laughable if it were not so tragic, but there is an extremely important lesson to be learned here, and it is this:
Establishment medicine and the "quackery" that it so often rails against are, quite often, one and the same. Obviously, in Rush's time at least, "advanced, scientific" orthodox medicine was itself a bastion of the worst type of quackery, the type that does harm and even kills. What does this tell us about medicine today? Could it not likewise be prone to similar error? The time is long overdue for modern orthodox medicine to take a good, hard look at its own sordid history.
Clearly, medical treatment for the mentally ill in the late 1700s was an insane travesty, a shameful disgrace to the "healing" profession. The Hippocratic principle of "first do no harm" seemed to be operating exactly in reverse. Even though mad-doctors themselves were so hopelessly out of touch with reality that they failed to see how they were harming their patients, some of their more enlightened contemporaries were not so blind to the patently obvious.
A More Enlightened Form of Treatment Emerges
Around this time, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, Quakers in York, England and the French physician Philippe Pinel independently conceived and implemented a new form of treatment for the mentally ill, which Pinel called "moral treatment." Whereas the immoral treatment of the insane by insane medical doctors had been based on the belief that the mentally ill were little more than devolved, brutish beasts and that they consequently deserved to be treated as such, moral treatment was founded on very different assumptions. The mentally ill were regarded, not as defective, animal-like creatures needing aggressive forms of physical treatment, but as human beings, basically no different from anyone else, who had become overwhelmed with the shocks and disappointments of life and had retreated into a world of despair and delusion.
Such "brethren" should be treated with respect and compassion and deserve a safe and nurturing environment within which the forces of nature can bring about their healing. Proponents of moral treatment, unlike their mad-doctor counterparts, had no arrogant, self-aggrandizing delusions that they could, through their own petty actions, somehow impose a "cure" on their patients. Instead they perceived themselves as merely "assisting" nature, which is the true and ultimate physician and healer. Some patients might never fully recover, but at least their lives could be made more tolerable.
Patients were provided with adequate food and pleasant surroundings, and at all times were treated with gentleness and kindness. Restraints were only used as a last resort on the most unruly of patients. Various activities such as reading, gardening, and playing games were encouraged and made available. Guest lecturers were invited and social events were held where it was difficult to distinguish the dressed-up patients from the guests and officials of the institution. In every way possible, patients were treated as rational human beings who possessed the ability to control their thoughts and behavior, which they usually did in this more humane setting. And all this could be managed by lay individuals without the need for the "expertise" of doctors.
This more enlightened method of dealing with madness produced results that have yet to be equaled, even in our own time with our supposedly more advanced "antipsychotic" drug therapies. Overall, more than half of the patients so treated in progressive nineteenth-century asylums either fully recovered or improved to the extent that they could be discharged from the hospital and go on with their lives. Those who had been ill for only a short time fared even better, and most of these (70-80 percent) eventually made a complete recovery, with most never relapsing into their former state of madness and without ever needing any further treatment.
How vastly different from what patients are being told today: that to avoid having a relapse, they must stay in perpetual treatment and remain on their "antipsychotic medication" like a diabetic taking insulin for the rest of their lives. It's true that drug-treated schizophrenics do tend to relapse at a very high rate when they are suddenly withdrawn from their addictive medicines. But what if they were not drugged and debilitated with such brain-disabling potions in the first place and treated instead like their more fortunate compatriots in the nineteenth-century asylums? What if they were provided a really safe refuge, which is what the word "asylum" is supposed to mean, a place where they could experience nature's true healing, instead of having their health further undermined by outrageous chemical assaults? It seems reasonable that they might also experience similar good results, like their drug-free predecessors, and likewise transcend the need for psychiatric "services" altogether.
Indeed, the age of moral treatment was the Golden Age in the treatment of madness, a period of time that has much to teach us. But as with the ephemeral radiance of ancient Greek civilization, it was destined to be replaced by a much darker era.
The Rise of Eugenics
Toward the end of the nineteenth century, as small, private asylums employing moral treatment methods increasingly gave way to much larger state-operated mental institutions run once again by medical doctors, the old, harsh ways of dealing with madness came back with a vengeance as a plague on humanity. Another sinister attitude toward the insane was brewing among the "intelligentsia" and the elite of society, a new justification for the persecution of the helpless: the discredited "science" of racial purification known as "eugenics."
The goal of eugenics was to "improve" the human race in the same manner that an animal breeder might breed faster racehorses: by selectively encouraging the propagation of "elite" individuals while preventing the reproduction of those deemed "unfit." Complex traits such as criminality and mental illness, which actually are caused by a variety of factors, were simplistically assumed to be genetically transmissible, in as simple and straightforward a manner as children inheriting blue eyes from their parents. The mentally ill were thus seen as a threat to society since they "inevitably" pass on this hereditary "defect," this "recessive gene for mental illness," to their children, thereby contaminating the race with defective "germ plasm."
But it was eugenics itself which posed the real danger. Because of vast hordes of academically prolific eugenicists rapidly breeding such aberrant fallacies and contaminating society with their defective IDEAS, the mentally ill, in the first decades of the twentieth century, were once again relegated to a subhuman status, just as they had been in the eighteenth century. They were now referred to, not as "brutes" and "wild beasts," but as "social wastage," "poisonous slime," and "malignant biological growths on society" that shouldn't be coddled with ineffective nostrums but needed instead to be "surgically removed." This sort of twisted, irrational, and mean-spirited thinking profoundly influenced Adolf Hitler, who mercilessly exterminated many thousands of mental patients before unleashing the terror of World War II.
America as well, also heavily indoctrinated in eugenics ideology, waged its own daring blitzkrieg on society's misfits. Eugenic policies that culminated in Hitler and the Nazis were implemented originally right here in America. The state of California, for example, was forcibly sterilizing mental "defectives" long before it was practiced in Nazi Germany. Eugenicist "thinkers" at prestigious American universities, calling, in some instances, for such extreme measures as the Nazi-like extermination of criminals and the insane, influenced the thinking of Adolf Hitler and convinced the American public and state legislatures as well.
Although the mentally ill were never actually killed in America as they were in Nazi Germany by the tens of thousands, "treatments" were developed that were tantamount to murder and laws were enacted that restricted their freedom and made their lives totally miserable. In 1933, the year Hitler came to power, the mentally ill were already prohibited from marrying in every state in the United States. They were routinely rounded up and shipped off to detention facilities that more closely resembled concentration camps than hospitals, where they were herded naked like cattle, very often forcibly sterilized, and subjected to horrific experimental procedures so appalling and destructive in nature that they rivaled those of the Nazi doctors prosecuted for their crimes against humanity in the Nuremberg Trials.
But instead of earning a trip to the gallows, one such perpetrator of "crimes against humanity" was awarded instead the Nobel Prize. This was indeed the heyday of madness.
Barbaric Treatments of the Early Twentieth Century
In the early decades of the twentieth century, a new Dark Age had finally dawned, and the mentally ill were once again treated much as they had been two hundred years earlier: with new variations on old, familiar themes of abuse and foul treatment. Rush's tranquilizer chair, in which tormented patients were strapped immobile for hours and even days on end, was replaced with various forms of "hydrotherapy." Patients were kept immersed in "continuous baths" for days, weeks, or even months at a time. Other even less fortunate victims were given the fearsome "wet pack" treatment, which patients found excruciatingly uncomfortable. They were wrapped tightly in sheets soaked in cold or hot water so that they were able to move only their head, fingers, and toes. As the sheet dried and shrank around the sufferer, trapping the body heat and exerting a vice-like grip, it produced a nearly intolerable sensation of burning up and suffocation. Imagine being bound in this damnable condition, wallowing in one's own urine and excrement, for hours, and possibly even for days at a time.
Only a madman could fail to perceive that the essence of this "treatment" was indeed restraint, yet lunatic mad-doctors denied the obvious. Harboring quack notions of the necessity of "conserving the body temperature," such doctors regarded this vile form of torture as a benign sort of "therapy." Perhaps this "therapy" should have been used on such doctors to provide a cure for their own insanity!
In addition to "hydrotherapy," which at the time was used quite extensively in psychiatry, other experimental, somatic "therapies" were also thought up by insane mad-doctors and tried out with impunity on their guinea-pig patients. Toxic chemical agents, reminiscent of the calomel used in the time of Benjamin Rush, were often administered: everything from sheep thyroid and horse serum to arsenic, cadmium, and other toxic metals. Gynecological surgeries performed on women for the purpose of "curing" their insanity included hysterectomies, ovariectomies, and mutilating clitoridectomies. Perhaps these doctors should have also been given a hearty dose of their own bitter medicine!
One notable doctor whose name shall live "forever in infamy" was Henry Cotton, superintendent of the Trenton State Hospital in New Jersey. Like Benjamin Rush over a hundred years earlier, Cotton also harbored unique ideas regarding the somatic origin of mental illness. Instead of an "imbalance" in the quantity of blood circulating to the brain, Cotton considered localized bacterial infection to be the root cause of his patients' madness.
He first attempted to remedy this problem by the simple extraction of "infected" teeth. When he failed to get the results he had hoped for by making his insane patients toothless as well, he proceeded to extract their "infected" tonsils, and when this also proved ineffectual, Cotton moved on to more vital organs, which he also theorized to be "foci" of infection. The colon, gall bladder, uterus, and ovaries, in addition to other perfectly healthy and essential body parts, were frequent targets of his mutilating excisions.
Cotton claimed to have achieved impressive results: a cure rate of 85 percent over a four year period. But when the hospital board grew increasingly suspicious and decided to launch its own investigation, Cotton's claims were found to be entirely fraudulent. Nearly 43 percent of this esteemed surgeon's patients receiving his so-called "thorough" treatment had actually died as a result!
This is reprehensible enough as it is already, but this sordid affair gets even worse. Rather than exposing their profession to public embarrassment by revealing the harm that Cotton had done, the medical authorities covered it up, and allowed Cotton to continue extracting teeth at the Trenton State Hospital for another twenty long years! When he finally died in 1933, he was eulogized as a physician who had amassed "an extraordinary record of achievement."
Other "extraordinary achievements" of early twentieth-century mad-doctors included putting patients to sleep for days or weeks with sleep-inducing barbiturates, deliberately infecting the mentally ill with malaria, and inducing high fever by hot baths and other experimental means. When they weren't busy experimenting with heating up their patients, they busied themselves instead with cooling them down: placing their subjects in ice-packed cabinets where many such victims died from hypothermia.
"Deep sleep therapy," "fever therapy," "refrigeration therapy." It seems that mad-doctors were unable to make up their minds as to which was therapeutic: sleep, heat, or its opposite, cold! But as crazy and as misguided as these mad experiments were, they were relatively benign compared to the horrors to follow.
The Assault on the Brain
Till this point in time, the abuses endured by the mentally ill were primarily assaults on the physical body. Aside from the negative influence exerted by the physical sickening and the psychological terror evoked by such practices, the mind itself was left relatively unscathed. The essence of one's being, the mind, the spirit, the soul of the person, despite all these sordid medical atrocities, remained basically intact and escaped unharmed. But beginning in the 1930s, contemporaneous with Hitler's rise to power, psychiatrists discovered that they could more effectively control their patients' thoughts and behavior if they bypassed the body and directly attacked the brain itself. Four new "therapies," touted in medical journals and the popular press as modern-day "miracles," arrived on the scene: insulin-coma therapy, metrazol convulsive therapy, electroshock therapy, and prefrontal lobotomy.
But "therapy" was decidedly not what these procedures had in common. All four treatments "worked" and produced their apparent "cures" in an identical manner: by inflicting severe trauma, and often irreversible damage, to the regions of the brain thought to give rise to insanity, the "higher" brain regions that also allow us to think and wherein lie the consciousness and our capacity to be human.
Patients so treated were reduced to a infantile state of confusion and imbecility, their brains so traumatized that they were left barely functioning. After they awakened from treatment, if such could truly be called an awakening, their previous manifestations of mental illness would often seem to be "miraculously cured," but they could scarcely think, feel, or even remember, having lost in the bargain their true selves as well. Only a fool could fail to appreciate that the loss of one's soul is too great a price for a remission of symptoms, but the asylum psychiatrists of the 1930s, like the Nazis in Germany who euthanized insane patients, were indeed such a pack of murderous fools!
Fools perhaps, but murderers as well? Consider this. In the movie mentioned earlier, ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST, Jack Nicholson's character is returned in the middle of the night to the psychiatric ward after having undergone a lobotomy. His friend, who is at first ecstatic to see him, goes over to his bed where he is greeted with only a vacant stare. Realizing what has happened, he then smothers and kills his lobotomized friend by forcibly holding a pillow over his expressionless face. But who in this scene was the actual murderer? The "Indian chief" friend who held down the pillow or the criminally insane doctor who performed the lobotomy?
Insulin Coma Therapy
Insulin coma, the first of these murderous new "therapies" to be devised by psychiatrists, involved giving patients repeated injections of the hormone insulin in such massive quantities as to induce unconsciousness. The injected insulin had the effect of removing glucose from the blood, the essential fuel required by the brain. In this glucose-deprived and starved condition, brain cells die, much as they do when they are deprived of oxygen.
The psychiatrists who employed this "bedside miracle," as it was foolishly described in READERS DIGEST, were well aware of its mechanism of action and discussed it quite openly in their medical literature. They knew full well that it induced severe pathology similar in nature to massive head trauma. Yet Manfred Sakel, who originated the procedure, rationalized its use by a preposterous pet theory.
According to Sakel, the comas "selectively" killed those brain cells that were "already diseased," allowing the "healthy" cells to "again become active." This, of course, is totally out of accord with the obvious facts, since glucose deprivation destroys "healthy" cells as well. All brain cells require glucose for their functioning. Indeed, the underlying notion that there are "diseased" cells in the brain that somehow correlate with mental illness was itself a mere pseudoscientific fantasy bearing absolutely no resemblance to any kind of "science." But what can one expect from a pseudoscience like psychiatry?
After nearly twenty long years of nightmarish experimentation involving thousands of subjects from all over the world, psychiatrists belatedly admitted, in the 1950s, the "possibility that insulin therapy may have retarded or prevented recovery" in the long-term results experienced by their patients. Possibility indeed! Although this treatment certainly worked "wonders" in the short term by suppressing symptoms and bolstering psychiatrists' over-inflated egos, the results for the patients in the long term were dismal. One study revealed that only 6 percent of these brain-damaged patients remained "recovered" three years after treatment. This is in contrast to the 70-80 percent who might have recovered if they had been treated in an asylum in the nineteenth century. Psychiatry had indeed regressed in this century and psychiatrists were making their patients worse, not better!
Metrazol Convulsive Therapy
The second of their abominable, brain-damaging "therapies," introduced shortly after insulin-shock treatment, was a hideous procedure euphemistically termed "metrazol convulsive therapy," which involved inducing multiple epileptic-like seizures with the synthetic compound metrazol. These chemically-induced seizures were incredibly violent, frequently resulting in broken bones, torn muscles, and loosened and cracked teeth, in addition to brain trauma and a "waste of neurons" in the cerebral cortex.
Moreover, the procedure was excruciatingly painful, amounting essentially to a form of chemical torture. Patients, some of whom had braved the perils of military combat, would cower in terror at the prospect of an injection, and having once been injected, they would invariably resist any further treatments. But their protests didn't matter. Patients were forcibly given repeated injections, twenty, thirty, or forty or more. Imagine the stress of being repeatedly tormented in such a hideously gruesome and despicable a manner in a place that was supposed to provide "asylum" for these people. It's scarcely any wonder that the prospects for recovery of metrazol-treated patients were so hopelessly bleak, even worse than for those who had been treated with insulin. Never was there evidence of any long-term benefit.
Psychiatrists were too "elated" with the immediate effects of metrazol to concern themselves with what really mattered. Just as with insulin, psychiatrists had received a much-need ego boost by achieving what to them was a "therapeutic victory." Again they succeeded in radically altering the thoughts and behavior of their mentally ill patients, something that they had been unable to accomplish with previous methods.
Immediately after treatment, patients tended to behave in a more "acceptable" manner. They were friendlier, more "accessible," more cooperative with their doctors, and much easier to manage, which psychiatrists interpreted as a sign of "improvement." The fact that such patients were so dazed and disoriented and so intellectually compromised that they would often masturbate and play with their own feces seemed not to alter their new "improved" status, at least not in the minds of their imbecile psychiatrists. Though imbecile patients were regarded by imbecile psychiatrists as "miraculously cured" and seen as "recovered," once again it is obvious to any sane being that these patients were made worse by such dastardly treatment!
Thankfully, insulin-coma therapy and metrazol convulsive therapy, after many thousands were maimed in these monstrous experiments, were eventually phased out and are no longer in use. Perhaps psychiatrists, despite their stupidity, finally realized that their patients were not getting better. Or (and this is a far more likely explanation) they simply found a better alternative: yet another type of brain-damaging "therapeutic measure" that also "worked" to produce "therapeutic successes," one that was quicker, easier, cheaper, more reliable, and therefore more convenient for psychiatrists to administer.
Electroshock therapy, also known as ECT or electroconvulsive therapy, invented by an Italian psychiatrist in 1938, induced its seizures by means of electricity, seizures that were as intensely violent and physically devastating as those induced by an injection of metrazol. But broken bones were the least of the patient's worries. Psychiatrists often administered paralyzing agents to prevent this type of bodily damage, but the actual intent of this fiendish procedure was to CREATE such damage in the human brain! Electrodes were placed on both sides of the head, and an electric current, strong enough to kill were it to go through the heart, was passed through the delicate regions of the cerebral cortex, causing "acute injury to the nerve cells," resulting in confusion, disorientation, memory loss, and an impairment in intellectual and cognitive function.
How such a grotesque state of mental debilitation could ever be seen as a desirable outcome is a mystery that defies all human understanding, yet such was the GOAL of these insane pseudo-doctors. The phraseology they used to describe their dark purposes makes clear their intent in no uncertain terms: to "knock out the brain," to "reduce the higher activities," to "impair the memory," and to reach "the proper degree of therapeutic confusion," as if imbecility and confusion are traits to be desired! It's enough to arouse one's absolute contempt!
One such case that was utterly despicable was that of a seventeen-year-old girl named Jonika Upton, who was committed to a sanatorium in Albuquerque, New Mexico on January 18, 1959 by members of her family who disapproved of her behavior. She had run off to California with an "artist" boyfriend, had previously had a boyfriend they thought was "homosexual," had developed "peculiar speech mannerisms," and often "walked about carrying Proust under her arm," which for some reason or other her family found disturbing.
Her parents may have been disturbed by her "defiant" behavior, but where in this description is anything to indicate that she was mentally disturbed in any way whatsoever? One would have to conclude, based on this account of her history, that she was a perfectly normal and sane young woman who was simply embroiled in a family conflict.
But her doctor, suffering from a profound lack of insight and what some might consider a case of insanity, deemed her a candidate for electroshock instead and initiated a series of interminable treatments, which ultimately totaled sixty-two in number. Over the course of the next three months, as her mental condition precipitously deteriorated, her doctor complained that she wasn't deteriorating enough! In his twisted, warped, and insane way of thinking, black was white and deterioration was "improvement." She wasn't "nearly as foggy" as he might have wished. Although there was "considerable confusion" and "dilapidation" of thought, "under this type of treatment a patient usually shows a great deal more fogging and general confusion." Fogging, confusion, and mental dilapidation were seen by this madman as the desired ends of treatment!
Finally at the end of April, this previously normal and healthy young woman, who on the date of her admission had been alert and vibrant, was finally seen as sufficiently "confused" and mentally "dilapidated" to satisfy her doctors. She was now quite incontinent, walked around naked, and couldn't even remember if her father was living. Shortly thereafter, she was discharged from the "hospital" and didn't seem to recognize her own foolish parents. The memory of her boyfriend had been effectively erased. Indeed it was true, as her doctor boasted on the day of her release, that "she showed marked changes in her thinking and feeling." But whether those "changes" were truly for the better didn't seem to matter to this schizoid profession. Psychiatry could now claim another "therapeutic victory" at the expense of having ruined a young woman's life.
Electroshock Therapy in Our Own Modern World
It's widely assumed that psychiatry came to its senses, that this shocking relic of a bygone era was eventually relegated to the shelf of a museum, and that it's no longer used by modern practitioners. But medical websites of the twenty-first century still tout this savagery as a "safe" and "effective" treatment. Clicking a link to the WebMD website is like being transported to an alternate universe, a place where truth is mysteriously absent. In this "other reality," the world of psychiatry as it's presented to the public, the door to the shock room is invitingly left open with the "big, bad wolf" of shock treatment lying stealthily under the covers.
In this fairy-tale world of WebMD, shock treatment is portrayed as something quite harmless, like Little Red Riding Hood's sweet, loving grandmother. Nowhere is there any mention of its true mode of action: that it suppresses patients' symptoms by damaging their brains. Instead, prospective patients are told quite the opposite: that the seizure induced by an ECT treatment "causes brain chemicals to be released, helping the brain function better," and that "studies have shown that ECT is safe, and there is no evidence that ECT causes harm to the brain." So here, in the alternate reality of WebMD, ECT, the harmless-sounding name for the big, bad shock treatment, is safe, causes no harm to the brain, and in fact, causes the brain to function even better? Only in the fairy-tale land of health-care answers, the parallel universe of WebMD!
Can they really expect us to believe such Mickey-Mouse hogwash when in the real-life world, "lower cognitive functioning," "extended memory loss," "restriction in intuition and imagination and inventiveness," and other such descriptions of the harmful effects of shock treatment have been published extensively in the psychiatric literature and discussed openly among psychiatrists for the last sixty years? It boggles the mind how they could think we're that stupid.
The intense electric current applied to the head in this vile and utterly contemptible procedure, strong enough to kill were it to pass through the heart, is falsely described here as "small electrical pulses." The violent seizure induced by this strong electric current, intense enough to break bones in an unanesthetized patient, is misleadingly characterized as "a brief and mild convulsion" resembling something as benign as a bodily "tremor." But this is only because of the drugs that are administered which act to suppress the true intensity of the seizure. And the reason many people are afraid of electroconvulsive therapy, so goes the story, "is probably because of lack of understanding about how the procedure works," as if there's no valid REASON to be fearful.
Perhaps in the Looney-Tunes world of WebMD where falsehood masquerades as "reliable information," shock treatment is harmless and "safe," as advertised. But in the real-life world that we all must return to, this ghastly assault on the essence of our being is indeed a threat that we all should fear, even as we might fear death itself. Even the name electroconvulsive "therapy" is itself an outrageous and damnable lie. This sorry excuse for a "therapeutic modality" is, in fact, quite the opposite of therapy, since it leads not to healing but to the worsening of patients; it leads not to enlightening but to the extinguishing of light. It is a disgrace that this dark relic of the 1940s is still shamelessly promoted in our own modern age!
Prefrontal and Transorbital Lobotomy
It would be hard to imagine a procedure more horrible than shock treatment's devastating attack on the integrity of the brain, but in the 1940s a grotesque assault even more damaging than electroshock was praised in the media as an "advanced" medical marvel.
Invented in 1935 by Portuguese neurologist Egas Moniz, psychosurgery, also known as prefrontal lobotomy, involved surgically disabling the frontal lobes of the brain. Holes were drilled in various locations on the skull into which instruments were inserted that severed nerve fibers, effectively disconnecting this entire brain region. A variation on this technique that was later developed was a simplified version that even psychiatrists could perform. Invented in 1946 by American neurologist Walter Freeman, a "transorbital" lobotomy involved hammering a device resembling an ice pick into the bony socket just above the eye ball and swishing it around inside the brain to destroy vital tissue. The patient, conveniently knocked out by electroshock, reportedly didn't "feel a thing."
The results of this surgery were nothing less than "striking," according to the surgeons who performed the procedure and according to articles in the popular press that publicized their "accomplishments." Patients whose condition had previously been "hopeless" were given a new lease on life by this "surgery of the soul," praised in THE NEW YORK TIMES as "another shining example of therapeutic courage." Anxiety, depression, delusions, hallucinations, and other manifestations of severe mental illness that were present in patients before the operation were miraculously "cured" in lobotomized patients, whom doctors would proudly proclaim as "recovered."
But something else had been lost in this bargain with the devil, not just mere symptoms of mental illness. In return for a remission of their symptoms of madness, such patients had forfeited their very souls.
As Whitaker points out in his perceptive analysis, this was not surgery OF the soul; this was a surgery that REMOVED the soul. Lobotomized patients in the first few weeks following surgery would lie motionless in their beds like "wax dummies," in a state of total indifference to the world around them, "completely out of touch" with their surrounding environment. They would need to be pulled out of bed, as otherwise they might not rise at all, even for the purpose of going to the toilet. To avoid getting bedsores, nurses would have to incessantly turn them.
When they finally did stir from their beds, which might as well have been coffins, they might "vomit into their soup plates and start eating out of the plate again," defecate into waste baskets thinking they were toilets, or behave in shameless and unusual ways consistent with the absence of higher brain function. They would be given coloring books and crayons and would be brought dolls and teddy bears to keep their simple minds occupied in their "surgically induced childhood."
Some never progressed any further in their recovery and had to remain institutionalized, as a ghastly crop of grotesque human vegetables, but most were eventually able to return to their families, though none ever truly or fully recovered. Many functioned at the level of a "household pet," and even those who experienced the very best outcomes were now only shadows of who they once were, empty shells who had been cracked open and whose souls had departed.
Their doctors had "mercifully" put them out of their misery in a ghoulish experiment that was tantamount to murder. While the Nazis were thoroughly exterminating mad patients, Americans were engaging in PARTIAL euthanasia.
Considering the ghastly effects of this diabolical surgery, unacceptable consequences that should be obvious to anyone, results that in fact could be seen as murder, it's difficult to understand how any sane person could view this operation in a favorable light. Yet psychiatrists and surgeons and their friends in the media continued to sing lobotomy's praises, a procedure that could be likened to "curing" arthritis by chopping off fingers! Like the lunatic din from the back ward of an asylum, lobotomy advocates could be heard shouting accolades:
"The intervention is harmless. None of the patients became worse after the operation."
They can now "think better." Outcomes are "nothing less than miraculous."
"It can be stated categorically that if this procedure is ineffectual in helping the patient it will do no harm; the patient may not be improved, but he will not be made worse."
This "delicate brain operation" is "the most advanced type of treatment that is now available," and "every step of progress in this rapidly growing field is marked by a deep sense of primary obligation to the patient, and a profound respect for the human brain."
The SATURDAY EVENING POST joined this mad chorus by comparing lobotomy surgeons to master watch makers, who "at just the right marks" were "inserting tools very carefully to avoid touching little wheels that might be injured" in the brain.
The practitioners of prefrontal and transorbital lobotomy were in fact bungling FOOLS who knew nothing about brain function, savages and barbarians from the darkest of eras, whose only "abilities" were to inflict harm on their patients, and who could more accurately be likened to apes wielding scalpels than to anything remotely resembling physicians. And, judging from their delusional blabbering regarding the "harmless" effects of this partial euthanasia, they should have been locked up themselves right alongside their patients and had ice picks gouged "harmlessly" into their OWN eye sockets! But when Egas Moniz, who pioneered this procedure, and whose name might as well have been Josef Mengele, was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1949, he was praised instead by the NEW YORK TIMES as one who'd invented a "sensational operation."
The soul of psychiatry had long since departed, if it could be said to have ever had one at all. Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed forever to repeat its failures.
Antipsychotic Drug Treatment Emerges
Following World War II and the lessons it taught us, America stood at a crossroads in the treatment of the mentally ill. The Nazis had been defeated, eugenics was now a discredited "science" because of its intimate ties with Hitler and the Nazis, the horrific conditions inside America's own "detention camps" for mental "defectives" were being exposed in the media, and America began to rethink its care of the insane.
Although this was the perfect opportunity for a renaissance in mental health care, a return to the more enlightened principles of Pinel and the York Quakers, no modern-day equivalent of "moral treatment" appeared. Instead, a new Dark Age was once again dawning in the enduring mistreatment of America's mentally ill, a time hailed by some as our "advanced" modern era.
Our own "modern" age in the treatment of madness can be said to have dawned in May of 1954 when Smith, Kline & French introduced Thorazine into the American market, the first of psychiatry's so-called "antipsychotic" medications. Although presently perceived as something quite different from the brain-damaging therapeutics that immediately preceded it, this was not how chlorpromazine (the generic name for Thorazine) was seen in the 1950s. In an uncharacteristic expression of psychiatric honesty, it was seen as a possible "pharmacological SUBSTITUTE for lobotomy," not as a treatment that was radically different. Indeed, its effects were eerily similar to lobotomy, making it ideally suited to the control and management of potentially unruly patients in the confines of an institution.
Neuroleptics, as these drugs were originally termed before they were promoted as "antipsychotics," interfere in an essential function of the brain, the transmission of nerve impulses by means of the neurotransmitter, dopamine. By binding to dopamine "receptor sites" so that the dopamine itself can't bind as it's supposed to, nerve impulses are partially blocked by the drug, creating a condition of biochemical imbalance resulting in a diverse array of drug-induced pathologies.
It is important to note that there is absolutely no scientific evidence of dopamine abnormality in psychotic patients prior to treatment with neuroleptic drugs. Their brains, in this regard, are perfectly normal, as has been shown repeatedly in scientific studies. The assertion that so-called "antipsychotic" medications somehow restore normal function in a malfunctioning brain by "correcting" some sort of mythical "biochemical imbalance" can only be characterized as a bald-faced LIE propagated by drug companies to promote further drug sales (which is all they're ever really concerned with). In fact, exactly the opposite is happening in patients whose brains are chemically assaulted. Neuroleptic drugs actually CREATE biochemical imbalance by blocking the normal action of dopamine and thwarting the normal transmission of nerve impulses. Though the average moron should be able to grasp this, apparently psychiatrists find the concept too difficult.
The pathological disruption in dopamine activity induced by these mislabeled "antischizophrenic" agents assaults NORMAL brain function in three vital areas:
1) The ability of drugged patients to initiate body movements is dramatically impeded, making these drugs ideally suited for use in psychiatry as "chemical restraints."
2) The capability of drugged patients to experience emotion is severely curtailed or totally obliterated, resulting in more docile and more easily "managed" patients who are more to the liking of psychiatrists and staff.
3) As is the case with electroshock and the other brain-damaging atrocities, the capacity of drugged patients to control their own destiny by being able to reason clearly and to think for themselves is similarly compromised by this drug mode of "therapy," which impairs intellectual and cognitive function.
Clearly, calling drugs such as these "antipsychotic" or "antischizophrenic," as though they specifically target a patient's psychosis, grossly misrepresents their true mode of action. Neuroleptics "work" to suppress psychosis by suppressing our mental processes in general.
Early investigators observed such a hodgepodge of adverse reactions to chlorpromazine that it is difficult to understand how such a blatantly DANGEROUS substance could ever be considered appropriate for long-term use, even in the sickest and most desperate of patients. In addition to producing "an effect similar to frontal lobotomy" with "completely immobile" and "waxlike" patients who "couldn't care less" lying "quietly in bed," doctors also observed distressing PHYSICAL symptoms as well. Although the drug didn't seem to have any specific antipsychotic properties, it did often induce Parkinson's disease symptoms and the symptoms of viral lethargic encephalitis.
Yet THIS was the toxin that was eventually made over as the new "wonder drug" for the treatment of psychosis, a drug comparable to penicillin for infection and "insulin for diabetes" that would initiate a "revolution in psychiatry" and enable schizophrenic patients to "lead relatively normal lives and not be confined to institutions." But how could one lead even the SEMBLANCE of a "normal life" in the pathetic stupor brought on by this drug? Anyone with even an iota of sanity can see that this "veritable medicinal lobotomy" is entirely unacceptable as a means of "helping" even the most severely afflicted! Perhaps the drug should be administered to its advocates to test its "antipsychotic" properties on their own brand of madness!
Adverse Effects of Neuroleptic Drugs
Over time, as more and more patients were recklessly placed on these drugs for long-term treatment like "insulin for diabetes," other adverse effects that weren't immediately apparent in the short term began to crop up in alarming frequency.
Probably the most serious and well known of these adverse reactions to neuroleptics is a drug-induced neurological disorder known as tardive dyskinesia, or TD for short. Patients so afflicted exhibit abnormal spasmodic body movements, such as an uncontrollable jerking of the arms and torso and a rhythmic forward and backward motion of the tongue. What makes TD so insidious is that it tends to be permanent, persisting even after the drug is discontinued. Also, the extremely high incidence of TD in drug-treated patients can only be described as shocking and frightening: something on the order of an additional five percent risk for each year of treatment, which translates to a fifty percent risk over a ten-year period. Victims are often so mentally impaired by their drug use that they frequently don't realize that there's anything wrong with them.
As if the high risk of being stricken with the crippling and embarrassing ailment of tardive dyskinesia weren't enough already to make patients want to fly over this cuckoo's nest, neuroleptic drug use entails other perils as well. Akathisia, a profound and intolerable restlessness and anxiety, which especially afflicts users of more potent neuroleptics such as Haldol and Prolixin, is a potential cause of both suicide and violence. Studies have shown that arrest rates of patients, in relation to rates for the rest of society, have INCREASED since the introduction of neuroleptics. Prior to 1955, before such drug use, discharged mental patients were arrested for crimes at no higher rate than the general population.
It is important to understand that violence can be initiated in two separate ways by neuroleptic drug use: either as a direct result of taking the drug or by experiencing the effects of drug withdrawal. Too often when someone commits a bizarre act of violence after terminating a course of psychiatric drug treatment, the withdrawal effects of the drug are not considered and the violence is blamed on the patient's untreated "illness," when it's the drug itself which is truly to blame. Such was the case with Andrea Yates, the mother in Houston who killed her five children while suffering from the effects of withdrawal from Haldol, the insidious agent the Soviets used to torment political prisoners in psychiatric "hospitals."
Take time to reflect a bit on this madness: The very SAME drug that was once used to torture and to control Soviet dissidents in psychiatric prisons is now routinely administered like "insulin for diabetes" to "help" ailing patients such as Andrea Yates! In Russia, this "psychiatric chamber of horrors," as it was perceived at the time by most Americans, was a "horrifying" conversion of "human beings into vegetables," a form of "spiritual murder," and a "variation on the gas chamber." But HERE in the good old USA, as an alleged form of "medically sound treatment," these SAME "antipsychotic" drugs "are among the safest group of drugs known." Given this mind-set of doublethink and hypocrisy and our insane public policy of doling out drugs like psychiatric candy, chilling atrocities like the Houston child murders should come as no surprise. They are the inevitable result of our own stupidity, the frightening consequence of giving free rein to evil, and the final catastrophe of a society gone mad.
In addition to the risk of being turned into a cripple and being influenced to commit heinous criminal acts, neuroleptic drug use entails yet another serious danger: death itself as the ultimate side effect! Neuroleptic malignant syndrome, which can affect as many as one percent of patients and can therefore be classified by the FDA as "frequent," is a fatal toxic reaction that, like tardive dyskinesia, is too often lost in the Thorazine shuffle. This is in addition to the high risk of developing Parkinson's symptoms and degenerative symptoms resembling viral encephalitis. Only a delusional and degenerate profession could so poison its patients and see it as "help."
Further evidence of psychiatry's callous disregard for its patients can be seen in its failure to respond to these new drug-induced disorders. For an interminable time after it was first discovered and to a certain extent even up to the present, it was as though TD simply didn't exist. Psychiatrists and doctors simply went about their business of recklessly prescribing high doses of neuroleptics without so much as even mentioning to patients the extremely high likelihood of tardive dyskinesia.
With billions of dollars of drug money to consider, pharmaceutical companies and their friends in psychiatry were concerned with far more important matters than anything so trivial as the welfare of patients.
Unethical Medical Experiments
Along with the pursuit of billions in drug money, one other similarly "noble" endeavor often took precedence over the well-being of patients: unconscionable medical experimentation that placed the interests of "science" above the rights of human subjects. Though supposedly outlawed following the Nuremberg Trials where seven Nazi doctors were sentenced to death on the gallows, such fiendish experimentation continued in America.
One outrageous type of psychiatric research that was performed a great deal in the 1950s was the disturbing practice of psychosis "modeling," as practiced by the infamous Dr. Paul Hoch. Patients were administered psychedelic drugs such as LSD and mescaline to produce a type of "experimental" psychosis, thus "magnifying the schizophrenic structures in schizophrenic patients," and triggering full-blown psychotic episodes in patients who previously "did not display many signs of schizophrenic thinking." Electroshock and lobotomy were also tested in relation to these chemically-induced psychoses, making these experiments even more egregious.
Imagine the terror that could be evoked in already troubled patients by clandestinely drugging them with psychedelic agents, and try to imagine the abject horror of a Nazi-like regimen of experimental lobotomy! It boggles the mind how an American "doctor" could openly engage in such criminal debauchery, yet at an APA convention in 1950, this Mengele clone, Dr. Paul Hoch, was enthusiastically congratulated, and following his death in 1964, he was fondly remembered as a "compassionate physician."
At the cost of human sacrifice and inestimable suffering, Dr. Hoch had bequeathed to the world an amazing discovery: Virtually all human subjects, whether or not they were originally crazy, and in spite of such "treatments" as electroshock and lobotomy, could be successfully "freaked out" by a hit of "acid."
Another sordid line of psychiatric research began in the early 1970s and continued unabated until almost the turn of this century. Such taxpayer-funded "symptom-exacerbation" studies, as these sickening experiments were quite aptly named, involved administering amphetamines and other toxic agents for the express purpose of intensifying or precipitating psychosis. Patients were intentionally made WORSE in such studies so that their mental "pathology" could be more effectively investigated. Perhaps the mental pathology of those designing such research projects, and so egregiously violating their oath as physicians, might also be considered as worthy of study!
Patients were typically misled by these "doctors" and deceptively lured into becoming study participants in a fiasco that made a mockery of "informed consent." Patients were never truly informed of anything, for who in their right mind would "sign up for suffering" if the truth were fairly and thoroughly disclosed? Not even mental patients are as crazy as that, so psychiatric researchers resorted to subterfuge.
When Shalmah Prince, who had been taking lithium for manic-depressive illness since 1981, went to the emergency room of University Hospital in Cincinnati in early 1983, she was desperately seeking help for her condition, yet help was decidedly NOT what she received. She had felt herself becoming increasingly edgy and wanted to avoid another manic episode at all costs.
But instead of testing her blood level of lithium and possibly increasing her dose of the drug, "doctors" at the hospital deceptively enrolled her in a study that required her to be abruptly WITHDRAWN from lithium and then later be given a dopamine-releasing drug in its place, an experimental regimen that would almost certainly CAUSE the severe manic episode she wanted to avoid.
This is, in fact, exactly what happened. Though she had been well groomed, alert, and had been thinking fairly clearly when she first arrived at the hospital, after a few days of "treatment," her condition deteriorated to such an extent that she had to be placed in leather restraints. It was only many years later that she learned what had actually happened to her in this fiendish experiment, something that she would have NEVER agreed to had she been honestly dealt with and told the whole truth. Her "doctors" had never intended to help her; their real intent was to make her worse.
Not one single advance ever resulted from this demonstrably unethical psychiatric practice, and it was thankfully discontinued when it was eventually made public, like a loathsome vampire fleeing from sunlight.
Methylphenidate Enhances Psychosis
One of the chemical agents that was used in psychiatric research to "exacerbate" symptoms in susceptible patients is extremely intriguing, considering its other major use in psychiatry. Of all the various agents tested for the purpose of "symptom exacerbation," methylphenidate was tops, according to one study, causing an astounding doubling in symptom severity. In another study of seventy first-episode patients, methylphenidate caused 59 percent of them to become "much worse" or "very much worse" and greatly lengthened the time it took for them to recover. When methylphenidate, in another of these studies, was injected into patients who were partially recovered, it caused a "moderate" or "marked deterioration" in most of them, causing researchers to definitively conclude that "methylphenidate can activate otherwise dormant psychotic symptoms."
Another 1987 study revealed how methylphenidate injections provoked psychotic episodes of "frightening intensity." Fifteen minutes after an infusion, one patient shouted, "It's coming at me again - like getting out of control - it's stronger than I am," as he slammed his fists into the bed and table and warned his doctors not to touch him, lest he might become assaultive.
Psychotic episodes of "frightening intensity." That, indeed, is a fitting description of recent events in our nation's history, bizarre outbreaks of senseless violence that are now taking place like never before. On December 1, 1997, fourteen-year-old Michael Carneal opened fire on students at a high-school prayer meeting in West Paducah, Kentucky. Three teen-age girls were killed, and five other students were seriously wounded. On March 24, 1998 in Jonesboro, Arkansas, thirteen-year-old Mitchell Johnson and an eleven-year-old accomplice shot fifteen people, killing four students, one teacher, and wounding ten others. On May 20, 1999, T.J. Solomon, a fifteen-year-old student in Conyers, Georgia shot and wounded six of his classmates. All three of the shooters are believed to have been taking methylphenidate at the time of the shootings, the same chemical agent used to provoke and exacerbate psychotic symptoms in psychiatric research studies.
How in heaven's name did these kids obtain methylphenidate? Did they break into a psychiatric research facility and steal this dangerous substance that "can activate otherwise dormant psychotic symptoms" and use it in the manner of an illegal drug? No, they were PRESCRIBED this potent psychosis-provoking agent by their "well-meaning" psychiatrist or family doctor like millions of other school-age children in our country who obediently take their daily dose of Ritalin. Methylphenidate and Ritalin are one and the same!
What a deceitful gang of unprincipled scoundrels! To use this admittedly "frightening" agent in psychiatric studies to "provoke" and "exacerbate" psychotic symptoms in hundreds of improperly informed research subjects is highly unethical, to say the least. But to turn around and prescribe this exact same substance under a different name to millions of totally defenseless CHILDREN (and to claim that methylphenidate, as Ritalin, is "safe") is an offense that can only be described as CRIMINAL in nature, and is something that our society must not tolerate! It is time that the charlatans prescribing this poison are held accountable for these acts of terror!
Manufacturing Madness by Making Patients Worse
It is also high time that these psychiatric criminals and their drug-dealing accomplices in the pharmaceutical industry are held accountable for yet another crime against humanity: that of making "schizophrenic" patients worse, not better (actually MANUFACTURING chronic illness!), by unnecessarily placing patients who might otherwise recover on toxic neuroleptics that make them "patients for life." If psychiatrists and drug companies are engaging in the nefarious practice of pushing harmful, addictive substances and profiting handsomely from the suffering that such substances are causing, how do they really differ from criminals and drug dealers? Irrefutable evidence exists that psychiatric patients fare better WITHOUT neuroleptic drug "treatment," yet psychiatrists and pharmaceutical companies ignore such evidence and continue to push these dangerous drugs.
Patients who "might otherwise recover" from their illness? Is this a fair description of "schizophrenic" patients? Most psychiatrists would disagree with this assessment and would regard "schizophrenics" as highly unlikely to recover. It is important to understand that psychiatry's pessimistic attitude toward so-called "schizophrenia" may, in fact, be entirely unjustified and that the diagnosis itself is scientifically questionable. It is also important to recall the outstanding recovery rates of drug-free patients treated in early nineteenth-century "moral treatment" asylums, which would seem to justify an attitude of optimism. So where did this attitude of PESSIMISM originate?
Psychiatry's pessimistic attitude toward "schizophrenic" patients, the belief that there is little chance for them to recover, can be traced to the work of Emil Kraepelin, a German psychiatrist of the late nineteenth century. After examining case histories for more than a decade, Kraepelin was able to differentiate psychotic patients into two distinct groups: those with "manic-depressive illness" who were emotionally disturbed and who had a good chance to recover, and those with "dementia praecox" (premature dementia) who were emotionally apathetic and who would likely deteriorate into an end-stage dementia. The term "schizophrenia" was later put forward as a substitute for the older term "dementia praecox."
But WHY were these patients experiencing such bleak outcomes, which were so totally at odds with the recoveries of others? And why did they exhibit peculiar physical symptoms in addition to their mental and emotional problems, symptoms reminiscent of Parkinsonism? Could it be that these original "schizophrenic" patients, those that were tagged by Kraepelin with such pessimistic outlooks, were afflicted instead with a totally different disorder, one that was entirely PHYSICAL in origin and unknown until the early twentieth century?
A reexamination of Kraepelin's observations in light of modern-day medical knowledge suggests this scenario as a likely explanation: His "schizophrenic" patients who tended not to recover, upon whom this attitude of pessimism was based, were infected with the encephalitis lethargica virus and this was the reason their outlooks were bleak. Perhaps true "schizophrenics," those not infected with the encephalitis virus and whose problems are purely mental in nature, have a far greater chance of complete recovery and should be assigned a much more optimistic prognosis. Perhaps they should even be EXPECTED to recover and should not be automatically placed on the usual "antipsychotics," which might, in fact, IMPEDE their recovery.
The Soteria House Study
In the early 1970s, Loren Mosher, director of the Center for Schizophrenia Studies at the NIMH, set out to find an answer to this question: Would treating acutely psychotic patients in a drug-free environment and in a way that emphasized empathy and compassion be as effective as treating them with standard neuroleptics? Mosher obtained funding for his study and in 1971 established Soteria House in Santa Clara, California which provided accommodations for six "residents" at a time.
There, acutely ill "schizophrenic" patients, who might otherwise be restrained and drugged in a psychiatric hospital, would be given food and shelter and be cared for in a kind and compassionate manner by a respectful and caring non-professional staff, in a mode of treatment that was essentially identical to the "moral treatment" of the early nineteenth century. They would be seen as "residents," not second-class "patients," and would be treated at all times with dignity and respect. Most importantly, they would NOT be exposed to the "antipsychotics" that were the standard fare of conventional therapy.
When the results of the experiment were finally tallied, not only was it found that Soteria House treatment was "as effective as" conventional neuroleptics in the treatment of acutely psychotic individuals, it was also determined to be significantly MORE effective, producing patient outcomes that were decidedly BETTER. But when this striking success was reported by Mosher to the committee of psychiatrists overseeing the project, they denied that the positive results were "compelling" and criticized the study for having "serious flaws." Mosher was replaced with another investigator, one who would agree to obediently "work with" the committee, and was essentially accused of being scientifically dishonest for rediscovering a truth that was heretical to psychiatry: that common and ordinary NON-professionals (and without using drugs!) can achieve better results than highly paid psychiatrists.
Psychiatry Pushes Fraudulent Science
It's ironic that these same "academic" psychiatrists, who are so piously concerned about the "credibility" of studies, use flawed studies of their own to support the merits of neuroleptics. In 1995, Patricia Gilbert and her colleagues at the University of California at San Diego concluded from a review of sixty-six such studies that "the efficacy of these medications in reducing the risk of psychotic relapse has been well documented," a conclusion diametrically opposed to the results of the Soteria House study (and many other such studies as well), which clearly show that the use of neuroleptics INCREASES the risk of psychotic relapse. A careful look at the design of these studies reveals the obvious reason for the contradicting results.
The pro-drug studies were flawed and misleading for the simple reason that drug-free patients weren't even studied! Incredibly, there was NO comparison whatsoever of the outcomes of drugged and drug-free patients in any of these grossly misleading studies. The study protocols required that patients who were ALREADY taking neuroleptics be divided into two separate cohorts. One group would continue taking the drugs and the other group would be suddenly taken off the drugs.
As one might expect, the drug-withdrawn group (like heroin addicts experiencing drug withdrawal) exhibited a significantly higher rate of psychotic relapse compared to those who were maintained on the drugs. But as it turns out (and as it was never addressed in ANY of these studies), drug-FREE patients, those who have never been exposed to neuroleptics in the first place, have the lowest incidence of relapse of all.
Yes indeed, the efficacy of these drugs IS "well documented" in alleviating the withdrawal effects caused by the drugs themselves, in the same way that the efficacy of heroin is "well documented" in reducing the suffering of heroin addicts. This is the sort of fraudulent "science" that psychiatry is pushing on a gullible public, while doing everything possible to ignore and discredit scientifically credible data that doesn't fit their agenda.
The World Health Organization Study
Perhaps the most egregious and amazing example of psychiatry's propensity for ignoring the truth, while pursuing its own self-serving agenda, can be seen in its response (or LACK of response) to a landmark study conducted by the World Health Organization in the 1970s and 1980s. This truly astounding study proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that an overwhelming majority of "schizophrenic" patients can indeed COMPLETELY recover, and that the major risk factor for having a POOR recovery is living in one of the richer nations, and receiving so-called modern psychiatric "care."
The WHO researchers were able to determine that almost 64 percent (that's nearly two thirds!) of "schizophrenic" patients living in the impoverished nations of India, Nigeria, and Colombia were completely recovered at the end of five years. In contrast, almost the exact same percentage (nearly 65 percent) of "schizophrenic" patients in the USA and other developed countries were faring POORLY at the end of the same five year period, with only a scant 18 percent who were asymptomatic and functioning well.
What possibly could account for this mind-boggling paradox (as if the solution to this puzzle is not already obvious)? Patients in rich countries were faring quite poorly, while patients in poor countries had lives that were richer. WHO investigators set out to discover the "elusive" cause of this amazing disparity.
After a painstaking analysis of the study data, the dumbfounded researchers finally concluded that for UNKNOWN reasons "schizophrenic" patients in developed nations typically failed to "attain or maintain a complete remission of symptoms," whereas patients in poor countries generally recovered, not really explaining the reason for the difference.
Perhaps they simply lacked the courage to humble themselves and face the truth, the obvious answer that should be clear to anyone: The only variable that could account for this difference was in the type of medical care these patients received, with the so-called "advanced" type of care provided in the richer countries producing outcomes that were decidedly WORSE. In the developed nations experiencing such dismal outcomes, 61 percent of "schizophrenic" patients were being maintained on the usual "antipsychotics," whereas in the third-world countries, where most patients recovered, only 16 percent were kept on these drugs.
Here was credible, irrefutable SCIENTIFIC evidence that psychiatrists were making their patients worse, not better, and here also was psychiatry's golden opportunity to right this wrong, to set the record straight, and to provide a measure of new HOPE to its patients by swallowing its pride and admitting the truth:
"Schizophrenia is not a biological condition, requiring antipsychotic medication like insulin for diabetes that patients must stay on for the rest of their lives. It isn't a case of being hopelessly defective. It is, in most cases, a transient illness from which patients can hope to COMPLETELY recover!"
Imagine what good news this would have been to these patients and how this message of hope could have helped them recover! But alas, such words of hope were never once spoken by any of our "compassionate" and "caring" psychiatrists (except perhaps by Peter Breggin), and in 1998, more patients than ever were having their lives utterly ruined by being placed on disease-CAUSING neuroleptic drugs. An astounding 92 percent of American "schizophrenics" were BEING MADE hopelessly defective for the rest of their lives!
Psychiatry Itself Is Truly Crazy
How is it possible to be any more crazy? Here we have a "healing" profession that is callously HARMING unsuspecting patients. Psychiatrists appear to be even more demented than criminally insane lunatics locked up in asylums.
When one finally realizes the awful truth of the matter, that there is no real intent within this unscrupulous profession to provide TRUE help for any of its patients and that mad-doctors are in business, first and foremost, to help THEMSELVES, even at the expense of HARMING their patients, then and only then can this whole insane travesty of enduring mistreatment begin to make sense and take on an aura of sanity. It's not so much that mad-doctors are mad; it's more a case of criminal avarice. It's as if they're saying in their clandestine meetings:
"Let's keep ourselves in positions of power and keep those billions in drug money flowing, in spite of the fact that we might be harming our patients. Let's spin a false web of lies and deceit and convince ourselves and our foolish patients that our "wonder" drugs really ARE helping (we'll just ignore all the studies that show exactly the opposite). Let's put our heads in the sand and go into denial; maybe we can just make the truth go away. And so what if we're making our patients a little sicker? Were making ourselves a whole lot richer!"
It's far more likely that this is what they're TACITLY saying, since words such as these are too shameful to utter. It's enough to make one's blood utterly boil with contempt and revulsion when the truth is revealed about this despicable profession! How is it possible to provide true help to patients if the providers have no concept of what true help entails? Help is definitely NOT churning out drug-impaired zombies or causing irreparable brain damage with jolts of electricity.
So what if there might be a lessening of symptoms? Is it worth it if there's also a lessening of intelligence, creativity, insight, and understanding? Is it worth it if there's also a destruction of memory or an impairment of the ability of a person to function? Is it worth it to forfeit the very essence of our being, to toss away everything that's exalted and noble, and sacrifice our identity and our personal uniqueness? Selling one's SOUL for a remission of symptoms is an unacceptable bargain with the devil himself! It's like cutting off fingers to relieve arthritis or chopping off heads to "cure" migraine headaches.
Freeing Ourselves from These Criminal Madmen
Patients would have to be TRULY psychotic to have anything to do with this psychiatric racket! But too often, unfortunately, there isn't a choice since psychiatric atrocities are FORCED upon patients.
With the long criminal record of abuse and foul treatment that is so well documented in MAD IN AMERICA, what can we expect in the future but more of the same? The continuing abuses of these psychopathic criminals read like a list of the offenses of King George: They have made false claims about the merits of new drugs. They've conducted fraudulent studies in which research subjects have died. And they've prescribed neuroleptics for healthy teenagers and two-year-olds. How is it possible to sink any lower? And that's just a few of their intolerable acts of crime. Pushing "antidepressants" such as Paxil and Prozac would require a whole other article to adequately describe.
As Robert Whitaker explains in the final chapter of his magnificent expose, "There will be no rethinking of the merits of a form of care that is bringing profits to so many. Indeed, it is hard to be optimistic that the future will bring any break with the past."
Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are forever destined to relive its horrors.
But we don't have to tolerate what is clearly intolerable. There IS an alternative to this psychiatric tyranny that has brought misery and suffering to so many millions. We don't have to submit to brain-damaging shock treatments and have our minds turned to mush with disabling chemicals. We can learn from this history and return once again to a "moral" form of treatment, as practiced by Pinel and the York Quakers, and successfully revived in the Soteria House experiment. Let's rise up and proclaim a revolution in mental health care and overthrow the oppressive "regime" of psychiatry by establishing a patients' "Declaration of Independence." Let's reaffirm the great and self-evident truth that OUR SOUL IS SACRED and that any assault on our brain by psychiatry is also an assault on our very soul.