Blog Archive: June 2004

Blog subjects:

  • Pseudoscience in the mental-health industry

  • Unethical behavior among pharmaceutical companies

  • Whatever else strikes my fancy

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My standard disclaimer:  Blog updates occur sporadically.  I'm just too busy to maintain a schedule of daily entries.  Thanks for understanding.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Most of the articles I cite on this blog have something to do with psychopharmacology (usually antidepressants), but that's mainly because the media have been focusing on that issue lately.  However, let's not forget that the mental-health industry has many other forms of pseudoscientific, irrational theories and treatments.  And I'd have to say that of all the sub-specialties in psychiatry, the single most pseudoscientific is addiction treatment.

This next article isn't recent, but it's worth a read anyway.  And don't forget to visit an entire website devoted to debunking the effectiveness of Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step groups.  The site is called, “The Orange Papers”.  The author's style can be a bit over-the-top sometimes, but most of the underlying reasoning is sound.  It's a big site, with lots of information – but even if you don't have time to read the whole thing, consider taking a quick look around.

But back to the article at hand.  I am completely in favor of harm-reduction.  The sooner society realizes that conventional addiction-treatment is an unmitigated failure, the better.  We need new, innovative treatments for people who want to achieve total abstinence from drugs & alcohol, and we also need to implement harm-reduction programs for people who can't (or won't) abstain completely.

Kicking the Habit (Sort of): Is Abstinence a Losing Battle?

By TARA PARKER-POPE, Wall Street Journal, July 2nd, 2002

For many people who smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol, abstinence seems impossible.  Now doctors and public-health officials are debating whether it's even always necessary.

A number of medical researchers now believe that smokers and alcohol abusers can benefit from “harm reduction“ – meaning instead of kicking the habit, they can reduce health risks by merely drinking less or switching to a less-hazardous alternative, such as smokeless tobacco.  With the success rate of abstinence programs abysmally low – about 75% of those who go to 12-step anti-alcohol programs drop out, for example, and only about 20% of those who remain actually stop drinking – the aim is for smokers or drinkers to “manage“ their addictions at a potentially less-harmful level.

The notion already is being promoted to consumers.  Vector Group sells Omni brand low-toxin cigarettes.  Brown & Williamson is test marketing another low-toxin line called Advance.  R.J. Reynolds is test marketing Eclipse, a cigarette that primarily heats tobacco rather than burning it, producing a less-toxic smoke.  UST, which makes smokeless tobacco, has asked the Federal Trade Commission for permission to claim its product is less hazardous than cigarettes.

Books such as “Alternatives to Abstinence” and support groups such as Moderation Management (www.moderation.org) promote the idea that drinking less rather than giving up alcohol altogether is an option for some problem drinkers.  [...]

Other articles of note:


Saturday, June 19, 2004

Blog-readers may be wondering what's been going on lately – why blog updates are so few and far between.  The problem is that I have spread myself pretty thin, with all kinds of ongoing commitments to local alumni clubs, as well as to big projects at my place of employment (projects that require me to take work home from the office).  I have most certainly not become apathetic toward exposing pseudoscience in the mental-health industry.  But when I'm faced with tasks that have firm deadlines, I'm forced to allocate and prioritize my time accordingly.

Anyway, enough excuses.  I'm still here, and I'm still scanning the newsfeeds for articles related to the subject of this blog.  I really don't have time to write full commentaries on all these articles, or even to provide excerpts, but here's a bunch of links that I've accumulated over the weeks:

I don't know when my next update will be.  If you have story suggestions, send e-mail to alexc@aya.yale.edu.  Thanks.


Tuesday, June 7, 2004

I'm back.  But I'm still very pressed for time.  For now, I'm just going to post some links to interesting stories, but I'm not going to quote any of them or write commentary.  Call this, “blogging lite”.  So here they are, in no particular order:

Note: My web-hosting company is experiencing on-going, intermittent problems.  So if you try to visit the blog, and you find it inaccessible, then understand that I'm not closing the site down, or anything like that.  I'm sure that the problem will be resolved eventually.  Thanks for your patience.