Psychiatrists and Psychotropics: An unholy alliance?

ritalin2One hundred million people worldwide are taking psychotropic medications: compounds designed to alter brain function with the goal of treating disorders like depression, ADD and anxiety. Psychotropics are often controversial, particularly if you ask those whose medical ideologies don’t mesh with the typical approach of western medicine.

Some of the anti-psychotropic arguments? The drugs can be addictive, cause mood or personality changes, and sometimes worsen psychotic behavior. And those are just the big ones. Like most meds, psychotropics can also cause all sorts of physical reactions, from nausea and headaches to insomnia and constipation.

Recently, Dr. Joseph Mercola, an alternative-med guru with his own website, newsletter and series of bestselling books, released a 10-part online documentary on the troubling connection he sees between psychiatric medicine and psychotropic drugs.

According to Mercola, the drugs fuel a $330-billion dollar psychiatric industry in the United States, and the problem is only growing, as new “psychiatric disorders” are named by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (published by the American Psychiatric Association) each year. Once a disorder exists, medication to treat it can be produced, patented, and sold. Among some of the newest psychiatric disorders:

Overdoing it on coffee and then suffering from trouble sleeping: “Caffeine-Induced Sleep Disorder.”

A child who argues with adults, loses his temper or annoys people: “Oppositional Defiant Disorder.”

Arguing with a brother or sister: “Sibling Relational Problem.”

I’m not sure that a big-league pharmaceutical company would take a stab at a drug to treat “Sibling Relational Problem,” but I’m intrigued to see how broad, and bizarre, the DSM has become. The first edition, published in 1952, contained 109 disorders. The most recent version now contains over 300. Do we know more about mental health, or do we just have more money-hungry drug makers to appease?

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