Blog Archive: Feb. 2003

Blog subjects:

  • Pseudoscience in the mental-health industry

  • Unethical behavior among pharmaceutical companies

  • Whatever else strikes my fancy

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Blog archives:


Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Two days ago, the New York Times Magazine ran an excellent article by writer Lauren Slater.  The article is called, “Repress Yourself”.  Slater argues that, contrary to popular belief, talking about painful experiences may actually do more harm than good.  It's interesting how much of what we take for granted turns out to be untrue, or at least a lot more complex than we might have guessed.

The article doesn't address addiction-treatment centers directly, but many of the principles should apply.  When alcoholics and addicts undergo so-called “treatment”, what happens in practice is that these unfortunate people talk endlessly about their troubles.  I fail to see what good can come from spending 28 days wallowing in your own filth, and watching other people wallow in theirs.  How much more productive it would be if rehabs taught people specific strategies on how to refuse a drink at a wedding (for example), how to compose a résumé and apply for a job, or how to work out conflicts with spouses and relatives.  No wonder Robert Downey, Jr. keeps relapsing -- rehab is a farce.

Sunday, February 23, 2003

Can you name any other legal industry that's more ruthless and unethical than pharmaceuticals?  I can't (well, maybe Wall Street could give it a run for the money).

Saturday, February 22, 2003

More evidence for the effectiveness of cognitive-behavioral therapy:

Swedish and US drug experts believe they may have found an effective alternative to the traditional methadone treatment for long-term heroin addicts undergoing withdrawal.

Dr Johan Kakko and colleagues from Stockholm's Huddinge University Hospital – together with researchers from Rockefeller University Hospital in New York – say that a treatment involving the partial opiate-receptor agonist buprenorphine, in combination with cognitive behavioural treatment, should be made available to heroin addicts.

I'm happy any time research provides additional information about effective ways to treat addiction, especially when the research moves the field beyond the pseudo-scientific codswallop usually practiced in US-based rehab centers (i.e., where people sit in a circle, complain about their lousy childhoods, and vow to rely on their “Higher Power” to make them stop using drugs.)

Thursday, February 20, 2003

“Dear Abby” is a newspaper columnist here in the US.  In a highly significant departure from standard practice, Dear Abby actually endorsed Women for Sobriety, a self-help group that is not based on the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.  To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time that a nationally syndicated advice columnist has acknowledged the viability of alternative approaches to recovery from addiction.  (Note: the group is mentioned at the end of the column.)  Perhaps the tide is beginning to turn, and society is starting to realize that there are many paths to sobriety, not just one.


The television show 60 Minutes II had an excellent segment last night about Eli Lilly's unethical marketing campaign for its new, weekly formulation of Prozac.


Writer John Horgan has an interesting essay in which he debunks some of the mystique surrounding Buddhism.  The essay is called, “Why I Can't Embrace Buddhism”.

Sunday, February 16, 2003

Three Drug Companies Face Fraud, Bribery Charges

Thursday, February 13, 2003

This article about “Internet hypochondria” is essentially a puff piece, but it's still sort of interesting.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Are you sometimes nervous in social situations?  You have a disease!  And the cure is Zoloft (called “Lustral” in the UK).  Or maybe the cure is Effexor.  Either way, though, you must be one sick puppy if you feel anxious speaking in front of a group, or going on a job interview, or meeting your future in-laws, or whatever.

Monday, February 10, 2003

Do we have any blog-readers who are experts in attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?  Fred -- are you there, Fred?  I admit that I don't know much about ADHD or its treatments.  I'd like to get people's reaction to this article about the new drug Strattera (brought to you by the Eli Lilly Company, the makers of Prozac).

The Washington Post article is more guarded than I would have expected, but the overall portrait of the drug is fairly positive.  My guess is that Strattera will follow the same life cycle as most psychotropic drugs:  initial enthusiasm, followed by greater and greater skepticism.  This certainly seems to be the pattern with antidepressants.  Remember all the hype from the late 1980s, early 1990s?  Well, Prozac isn't appearing on magazine covers anymore, and there is a growing body of critical literature (see, for example, this article from USA Today).


Friday, February 7, 2003

Science journalist and book author John Horgan has an interesting article called, “The Anti-Gurus”.


NPR (National Public Radio) had an excellent piece concerning industry funding of biomedical research, and the resulting bias that gets introduced into the science.  There's no free transcript available, so you have to listen to the audio piece.  It's a good show, though, so check it out.

Wednesday, February 5, 2003

Antidepressants have now been linked to poor dental health:  “Almost 58 per cent of the subjects taking [antidepressants] were potentially in danger of a condition known as xerostomia – dryness of the mouth – which can lead to tooth decay, gum disease, halitosis and other oral health problems.”.  This might not be too big of a deal if antidepressants actually relieved depression – but they don't.

Monday, February 3, 2003

OK, I don't usually post links to humor, but I'm making an exception for this piece from The Onion:

Skeptic Pitied

FAYETTEVILLE, AR – Craig Schaffner, 46, a Fayetteville-area computer consultant, has earned the pity of friends and acquaintances for his tragic reluctance to embrace the unverifiable.

“I honestly feel sorry for the guy,” said neighbor Michael Eddy, 54, a born-again Christian.  “To live in this world not believing in a higher power, doubting that Christ died for our sins – that's such a sad, cynical way to live.  I don't know how he gets through his day.”

Coworker Donald Cobb, who spends roughly 20 percent of his annual income on telephone psychics and tarot-card readings, similarly extended his compassion for Schaffner.

“Craig is a really great guy,” Cobb said.  “It's just too bad he's chosen to cut himself off from the world of the paranormal, restricting himself to the limited universe of what can be seen and heard and verified through empirical evidence.”

Sunday, February 2, 2003

Blog-reader Fred kindly e-mailed me some items that may be of interest to other visitors.  I don't have time to comment on each one, but here they are for general consideration:

Saturday, February 1, 2003

I apologize for the sporadic updates and for the much shorter blog entries.  I'm just very, very busy at the moment, and I can't keep up with the blogging as much as I'd like.  I hope to return to daily updates eventually.


The New York Times is reporting on allegations that pharmaceutical company Merck was defrauding the government.


The Washington Times has another article about Bush's plan to fund religious treatment programs for alcoholics and addicts.  All I can say is — thank God for groups like Americans United for Separation of Church and State.  I hope they win their lawsuits against the government, though I'm not optimistic.

The irony, of course, is that the vast majority of current addiction-treatment centers are already based on religion.