Psycho-Babble Medication | about biological treatments | Framed
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Letters from the lunatic fringe ... (long post!)

Posted by Bob on November 28, 1999, at 19:47:22

In reply to Re: A question for Sam..., posted by Sam on November 28, 1999, at 16:25:06

No, not us ... Breggin and those looneys (and looney-tuners and lawyers) at!

Sorry for the long post ... if you don't want to read it, scroll to the bottom in order to skip to my conclusions.

Ali, you're drawing a false dichotomy, but that's exactly what extremists want us to do. If Breggin has stats and KNOWS how to interpret them, then he would know just how unlikely it is that, within the usual allowance for error-due-to-chance, 9,999 people out of 10,000 on psychotropics not only do not need them, but are actually harmed by them. That's just for one study. Given that a collection of studies will fall across some range of results, to say that there is **no** statistical support makes his claims all the more ridiculous. Allow me to pick the studies for a meta-analysis, and I can give you any statistical spin you want, too.

Twain attributes this famous quote to Disraeli: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." Often it's misquoted (if a true quote in the first place!) as "liars, damned liars, and statisticians." Given the studies I've seen on the efficacy of psychotropic meds, either Breggin is worse than a damned liar, twisting the stats to say what he means, or there's a conspiracy out there to do the same in the opposite direction. As with most dichotomies, the truth probably lies somewhere in between (but skewed, IMO, HEAVILY towards Breggin).

I've been tempted to pick up Breggin's book when I've had a minute or two in a bookstore to browse, but I can't say that I've read it. All the same, the arguments I hear coming from that camp also make a different fundamental mistake in interpreting statistics. Statistical results apply to (at best) populations or (at worse) specific samplings of a population. They do not apply to individuals. For instance, tho it may no longer be the case, there was certainly a time when the Average US Citizen was of the ethnic group "Caucasion--of European Descent". That statistical description of the norm does not mean you can pick out Person X out of all US Citizens and say with no doubt that this person will be Caucasian.

There have been times when my meds have made me ill. There have been times, including the present, in which they have aleviated my symptoms. But I wouldn't call psychotropics poisons or panaceas (particularly the latter!).

For those thinking that the philosophic discussion from a few threads above (more Disraeli for those following it--"Where knowledge ends, religion begins.") has no contact with the real world, this whole issue contradicts that notion.

Breggin's extreme basically states that since there is no single known or identified biological cause for what we call mental illness, then it simply is a social construct foisted upon those of us who have it by those of us who can profit by it. The other extreme would be that all "mental illness" is primarily biological in nature and, therefore, can (only) be treated by meds. Then there is a camp similar to Breggin's, perhaps, in that it can be claimed that all "mental illness" *does* have a social cause, and therefore only X-brand of talk therapy can work.

All these extremes fall prey to the desire to identify a First Cause. Although Aristotle's four causes supposedly have no place in Science, this notion of a First Cause is just too irresistible to those capable only of arguing from a single cause, single effect logic with no possibility for any sort of "feedback loop" or mutual causation.

In my case, you could argue that the death of my brother when I was eight and the atrocious way my parents dealt with that loss "caused" my depression. You could also argue that since I have consistently demonstrated far worse symptoms of depression than my two living brothers over the last 29 years that there is something fundamentally different about me in comparison. Since this difference dates back to our collective life growing up in my parents' home, one might suggest that a biological difference is more likely than one brought about by environment. That there is a history of individuals (not everyone, but select individuals) on both sides of my family tree that have exhibited similar extreme symptoms of depression also suggests a biological link, much in the same way some of us have red hair and some of us do not. Finally, that I respond to psychotropic medication also suggests a biological component to my depression.

But can you tell me which came first?

The genes may have created a potential, but without my brother's death, would the potential ever have been realized?

I don't know about anyone else out there, but I doubt my depression has any one First Cause. As optimistic as one of my doctors would like me to be, I also don't believe it has a cure, or a reversal of some fundamental cause.

One thing for which I have to give the webmaster at antipsych some credit is that he includes critical email. Well, okay, the reason he does is so that he can present his "last word" to illustrate how these naysayers are wrong. But one of his smug answers is, I think, the best argument about why he (and his peers in the Movement) is (are) wrong. It gets back to another matter of creeping philosophy-- mind-body duality.

This one -- thinking the mind and body separate entitites -- is Descartes' fault, essentially. One writer tags the Webmaster as a dualist (a philosophical no-no in post-modern, post-structuralist circles). The Webmaster comes back stating that there must be a separation between mind and body. His explanations fail, tho. For example, he argues that if you could download all the thoughts and memories of someone with PTSD into a new body, the new body would still have PTSD. Therefore, the disease is the product of the mind and independent of the body. This would perhaps be true if all human bodies were created equal, but we all have different capacities for dealing with stress. We probably have internal differences in how we deal with typical stress from atypical, intense stress as well. Sure, you can argue that how one deals with stress is (at least in part) a learned behavior, but success at dealing with environmental stress is at the very heart of evolution and, therefore, at the heart of biology as well. Dealing with stress is a characteristic of all species and, one could argue, those species still around at this point in geological time must have highly-developed mechanisms for dealing with stress. But that only means that there is a range of functioning for individuals -- most being average for the species, some being exceptional in a positive sense, and some being exceptional in a negative sense.

Bottom line? Extremists like Breggin are useful for discussion in helping to draw the "black" and the "white" of the issue into focus for those of us who live in the gray. As for practice, I am willing to place my IRAs against anyone's accrued Social Security benefits, value to be determined at retirement age, that extremists such as Breggin cause more harm than they prevent, when their work is put into practice.

Okay, I've lathered on for long enough ... my two cents from the lunatic middle....





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