Thursday, June 09, 2005

A Truth-Based Fable

A man in Dallas has a ten year old Ford, which although it is not a lemon, has given him trouble since the three-year warrantee expired. First it was little things like power windows that quit or a gauge that stopped functioning. Then it was a series of flat tires brought on, perhaps, by a curb-bruising parking job accomplished while slightly inebriated one dark night. Then the engine began to lose power and the transmission began to make an audible clunk when shifting into drive. What should he do? Paint it, some of his friends said. Disguise the damned thing and sell it! Get rid of it!

As it turns out the same Texan had a home computer that also malfunctioned from time to time. The man understood the concept of anthroperipheral (operator) input error, and so he always had been reluctant to call in professionals to fix it. He put up with the balky machine and its viruses and pop-ups for several years and then one day after making odd noises for several weeks the hard drive crashed. He had potentially lost all of his checkbook, addresses, favorites and bookmarks, plans to his house, pictures of his wedding and children, but being a reasonably intelligent person, he had most of these files backed up. The hard drive was replaced and the computer operated just fine. The repair shop did make a comment about some of the "cookies" they retrieved from the hard drive and cautioned the man about certain kinds of websites that he had been visiting.

The man's oldest boy was a lot like the man's computer. Since about age two or three the lad had been on the rambunctious side and when he entered public school he did not fare too well. By third grade he was reading at the first grade level, although there were increasing signs that his behavior was deteriorating faster than his reading comprehension was taking hold. At the graduation from third grade to fourth, the lad was held back—he was short and slight of build and his social graces were, at the best of times, not very impressive—so they thought that repeating the 3rd grade would not damage his personality too much. A year later, as he began the fourth grade, his reading skills were barely 2nd grade level and he began to erupt in class, punching nearby students, throwing paper airplanes, and talking out of turn. On the playground he was becoming a menace to anyone within a rock's throw distance. To the delight of his father, though, he was remarkably good at learning sequencing structures like jokes and travel routes. The lad was also a reasonably good artist, but his work was confined to drawings of spaceships and extraterrestrial monsters, being increasingly disinterested in sports and anything having to do with reading.

What to do? It would have been inappropriate to "paint" his son a different color (or rename him) and pretend everything was a-okay with him. He couldn't trade him in or sell him. It would to immoral to wait for his son's "hard drive" to crash. Moreover it was embarrassing because clearly, like the Ford and the computer, the man had not taken care of his son as he should have. He let him eat fast foods and sweets. And, like his computer, father was part of the problem, perhaps his son had acquired a vagrant chromosome from his father that caused all of this. It was depressing and soon enough the father fell into a series of fairly deep depressions, alleviated, though, by long periods of relative normality. But, the traps were already sprung. Father and son were soon outed by the government.

A prestegeous Harvard University study conducted by Dr. Ronald Kessler (reported by Rick Weiss of the Washington Post) had revealed that 25% of all Americans are mentally ill at some time in their lives. The national anguish over the appalling notoriety of Americans being the least mentally healthy people in the world had led to mandatory mental health testing and that, in turn, had led to mandatory mental health therapy, usually (99.99999%) drug therapy. In the Dallas case, first son and then father were whisked away to a local clinic, diagnosed with ADHD (instead of dyslexia, which the son really had) and clinical depression, respectively, and their HMO was notified that [yes!] life-long prescriptions for methylphenadate and for Prozac were authorized. Father and son were sent back home, their brains hammered with pharmaceutical chemicals, their problems (and the school's and the family's) solved! Father eventually semi-retired and lives very modestly on the shrapnel from his bankrupt pension plan. His son grew up, has been married twice—four children, two of whom are dyslexic—and drives a school bus for the same school system that shackled his IQ in chemical restraints as effective as a straight-jacket.

The debate over mandatory testing was remarkably short and conclusive. Testing, of course, was begun for the best of reasons. There were just too many disruptive children in the public schools and they grew into menacing, knife and gun toting criminals by high school. Testing would be only by parental permission, unless the school board could show just cause for intervention. As a public health issue, it was over before anyone really noticed there was a debate. Parents with children whose real illnesses were caught in time were key to the development of public policy. The fact that real illnesses and imaginary ones were lumped all together was not noticed, particularly. It did not matter that medical science had not really figured out the brain yet; they knew how to mask symptoms and to chemically stun the brain into submission.

One organization, the Association for Human Research Protections took a different view. Their June 6, 2005 comment on the announcement in the press is quoted in full.

Americans may be astonished to learn that $20 million in taxpayers' money was spent on a study whose unacknowledged purpose is to increase the use of psychotropic drugs.

The study, called the National Comorbidity Survey Replication, found that the United States ranks No. 1 globally for mostly overlooked mental illness. This study was conducted jointly by Harvard and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). It is part of an orchestrated effort by Big Pharma, the government (i.e., the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health report), and the psychiatric establishment, to screen the nation for hidden mental illnesses.

Demonstrating Big Pharma's insidious influence at our nation's premier medical research institutions, the study's primary sponsor, Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the NIMH said: "The key point to remember is that mental disorders are highly prevalent and chronic." According to the study, "Younger sufferers are especially overlooked, the survey found, even though mental illness is very much a disease of youth. Half of those who will ever be diagnosed with a mental disorder show signs of the disease by age 14, and three-quarters by age 24. But few get help."

Translation: detection of chronic mental disorders will require chronic treatment to enrich the pharmaceutical industry and mental health professionals at taxpayers expense.

Dr. Paul McHugh, former chairman of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University, and a member of the President's bioethics commission, scoffed at the claimed findings:

"Fifty percent of Americans mentally impaired - are you kidding me?"

Dr. McHugh noted the flawed diagnostic tool that psychiatry relies on: "the problem is that the diagnostic manual we are using in psychiatry is like a field guide and it just keeps expanding and expanding." "Pretty soon," he said, "we'll have a syndrome for short, fat Irish guys with a Boston accent, and I'll be mentally ill."

One wonders whether Congress will buy into this contrived effort to divert public budget allocations to enrich the mental health industry. The declared mental health epidemic in the US is an irresponsible marketing ploy whose veiled purpose is to encourage increased chronic use of mind-altering prescription drugs whose hazardous effects pose a threat to the health and safety of the community.

The drugs-psychostimulants, antidepressants, and antipsychotics-induce severe hazardous effects in some who take them. The hazards often exceed the symptoms for which they are prescribed. They include: insomnia, mania, agitation, akathisia (i.e., excruciating physical and psychological restlessness), sexual dysfunction, violent outbursts, liver damage, diabetes mellitus, and potentially fatal effects, including cardiovascular damage, NMS, stroke, violent suicidal /homicidal acts, not to mention they retard children's growth.

NIMH director, Dr. Insel, indicated that "mental disorders are highly prevalent and chronic."

But prevalence and chronicity are correlated to widespread use of psychotropic drugs in the US. A body of evidence shows that chronic use of psychotropic drugs--including psychostimulants, SSRI / SNRI class of antidepressants, and the most dangerous drugs of all, the antipsychotics--results in drug dependency.

If the NIMH-Harvard study is taken seriously and we accept its claim that most of the US population is mad, the credibility of our leaders and our national policies will be the butt of international ridicule.

Unfortunately, the AHRP opinion was drowned in a sea of alarmist politics, industrial strength lobbying, massive drug advertizing and the merest dollop of truth for icing on the cake. The icing sold the cake and now we are all permanent clients of the pharmaceutical companies and our inner thoughts are the property of the state!

As for your humble servant, well, I was apprehended by President Karl Rove's Emergency Committee for Public Health and Safety, diagnosed with liberal paranoia morbidus, and confined to my room with a budget-breaking IV drip of Levitra to keep my mind off politics.

Oh, and here's an additional reference for your reading pleasure!