Friday, February 17, 2017

Buying into idea of chemical imbalance causes psychotropic medication discontinuation problems

As mentioned in my previous post, I have been reading The sedated society: The causes and harms of our psychiatric drug epidemic edited by James Davies (2017). The chapter by Luke Montagu, entitled "Desperate for a fix: My story of pharmacetical misadventure", describes the problems he had discontinuing psychotropic medication after "having bought into the idea of a chemical imbalance" when he was taking medication. Luke's father is the Earl of Sandwich, and one of the co-chairs of the All Parliamentary Group for Prescribed Drug Dependence (see previous post). As Luke says:-
[P]sychiatry, in league with the pharmaceutical industry, chooses to perpetuate two fundamental hoaxes. The first ... is that the suffering we call mental illness has a biological basis, like cancer or diabetes, caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain ... The second hoax follows on from the first, namely, that today’s drug treatments target and correct this chemical imbalance, just like antibiotics fight infection or insulin treats diabetes.
He goes on:-
One day these beliefs and treatments will seem as misguided as the theory of the four humours, when bloodletting, blistering and purging were believed to restore the correct balance of blood, phlegm and bile
As I said in my previous post, historically it helps to see the chemical imbalance theory as a myth, as it's wrong like humoral theory. I hope Luke's right that it will be found to be misguided, but there are powerful reasons why people do believe it (see eg. previous post). Maybe one of the major reasons for getting rid of it is to prevent people developing discontinuation problems.


Olmy Olm said...

Makes sense. Just like buying into the brain disease theory of addiction makes it less likely for a person to quit/cut down.

Eric Setz said...

Of course if the chemical imbalance of the brain is a result of mental illness rather than a cause then messing around with these chemicals using drugs presents a very confusing picture in which these chemical imbalances have two causes now. My experience of people been taken of psychiatric medicines is limited but in both cases` the removal of these drugs was done far too quickly, in my opinion, and with no success. Ideally removal of psychotropic medication should be very gradual and accompanied with treatment for the underlying condition.

The Bad Mouth said...

I'm very much looking forward to getting my copy of The Sedated Society; thank you for the previews you have given so far. My trainees don't express this idea (chemical imbalance), although one of our other faculty members does. Overprescription and polypharmacy is still very common (southwestern United States) here, although there is a greater sense of frustration about it. Pharmaceutical (and diagnostic) inertia is astonishingly strong here...