Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Diet and Pills and Mental Illness

An article in the New Yorker reviews three books that cast a skeptical eye on mental illness and especially the drugs given to fix or abate it.

I'm pretty skeptical myself that the majority of people who are taking stuff like anti-depressants really need them or that they have a net benefit. I remember watching a documentary a while back where Stephen Fry defended pharmaceuticals, saying they basically saved his life and maybe they did. One family he interviewed, however,  had their teenaged sons on an insane cocktail of pills saying that they'd been absolutely out of control. This frankly turned my stomach.

Nowadays, of course, I would point to diet as the first and foremost factor to be explored, especially for children.

From the article:
First, [the three authors] agree on the disturbing extent to which the companies that sell psychoactive drugs—through various forms of marketing, both legal and illegal, and what many people would describe as bribery—have come to determine what constitutes a mental illness and how the disorders should be diagnosed and treated. This is a subject to which I’ll return.

Second, none of the three authors subscribes to the popular theory that mental illness is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. As Whitaker tells the story, that theory had its genesis shortly after psychoactive drugs were introduced in the 1950s.
Now I think putting kids on anti-depressants or whatever should be a very, very distant last measure. On the other hand, Tom Cruise thinks Brooke Shields was a bad mom for taking Paxil, an anti-depressant, for postpartum depression. And let's face it, Tom Cruise is a stupid asshole. Cruise is so stupid he makes other actors look intelligent by comparison. BTW, isn't it ironic that Dolph Lundgren is one of the most intelligent and well-educated actors ever to star in a Hollywood film? The dude graduated top in his class with a masters in Chemical Engineering.

I'm so dang STOOOOPID!!!
So while I'm not a big fan of popping pills for health and mental health, I just can't subscribe to the idea that mental illness is NEVER caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Somewhere in a box in storage I have a fascinating book by Mark Vonnegut, The Eden Express, about his (apparently schizophrenic) mental breakdown after taking mescaline at a commune (yeah, I know). Like Stephen Fry, he believes that pharmeceuticals saved his life, and I think both these guys are smart enough that I can easily respect their opinion on this.

Incidentally both Fry and Vonnegut are now believed (or themselves believe) to have bi-polar disorder.

And you know who else had bi-polar disorder? THIS GUY!!!!

Well, supposedly. He was also a vegetarian. COINCIDENCE?!?!?!

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