Blog Archive: March 2003

Blog subjects:

  • Pseudoscience in the mental-health industry

  • Unethical behavior among pharmaceutical companies

  • Whatever else strikes my fancy

Note:  This site has absolutely no association with any outside group, and most especially not with the “Church” of Scientology.

Other sites:

Blog archives:

Note:  Starting in 2003, blog updates will occur sporadically.  I'm just too busy now to maintain a schedule of daily updates.  Thanks for understanding.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

MSNBC.COM has a reasonably good article called, “Are psychiatric drugs overused?”.  I say “reasonably good” because the article doesn't go far enough in exposing the problems with psychotropic medications.  Lack of antidepressant effectiveness, for example, is hardly addressed.

Here's an excerpt from the article:

While some of these critics scorn psychiatry as a pseudo-science of hucksters in an unholy alliance with predatory drug companies, others simply see an overburdened profession that relies too heavily on drugs.

But the strand that binds them is a belief that the psychiatric profession is being led astray by an overdependence on drugs at the expense of time-intensive “talk” therapy – and intangibles like compassion, societal and family support, meaningful work and creative outlets for troubling thoughts and emotions.

Britain has disbanded a review panel that was to have investigated the safety of antidepressant drugs (note that Paxil is called “Seroxat” in Britain.)

In a rare bit of good news about the pharmaceutical industry, a survey reveals that the American public is not being heavily influenced by direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs.  I hope that this is actually true.

Saturday, March 22, 2003

Liza Minnelli is back in rehab (how many times has she been already?).  I can't understand why society continues to think that rehab is an effective way to overcome addictions.  Rehab doesn't work, and the sooner we stop being in denial about this fact, the sooner we can start finding methods that actually might work.

Friday, March 21, 2003

Forget the war on Iraq – what is the Bush administration doing to addiction-treatment programs here in the US?

What Mr. Jefferson Would Think of Ms. Myles's Addiction Program

By Adam Cohen

BATON ROUGE, La. — “Holy, Holy/Are You Lord God Almighty,” a Christian rock band sings, as the crowd sways, palms in the air.  The music stops, and a preacher with a microphone speaks.  “God, you are bigger than any addiction!  You are bigger than any crack cocaine, you are bigger than any beer, than any pornography!”

It is Friday night at Healing Place Church, and Tonja Myles is presiding over one of the most controversial church services in America.  It is a meeting of a “Christ centered” addiction-treatment program, led by the woman who has become the face of the Bush administration's campaign to send tax dollars to faith-based social service providers.  Ms. Myles was President Bush's special guest at the State of the Union address in January, when he asked Congress for $600 million over three years to finance vouchers for addiction programs, including religious ones.

The article makes no mention of studies gauging the effectiveness of such treatment programs.  (Incidentally, the author of that article apparently doesn't realize that the term “secular 12-step programs” is an oxymoron.)  For a different perspective, see an article called, “Booze, God, and 12 Steps”.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Eli Lilly's neuroleptic drug Zyprexa may be causing patients to die from diabetes.  Incidentally, that article is far too positive about other aspects of the drug.  See, for example, Robert Whitaker's essay, “Mind drugs may hinder recovery”.  Better yet, see his excellent book, Mad in America.

The British are having some trouble launching an inquiry into the safety of antidepressant drugs.

My blog is now listed under Yahoo's “Social Science” category.  I didn't even request this listing – Yahoo just found me somehow.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

OK, today's entry has nothing to do with debunking or skepticism or exposing pseudoscience.  Rather, the subject is real science.  I've started an e-mail list to facilitate discussion of positive psychology.  I was inspired by seeing psychologist Martin E. P. Seligman give a lecture at Monroe Community College a few weeks ago.  Seligman is a good speaker, and his book, Authentic Happiness is truly excellent (and I'm hard to impress).

Friday, March 14, 2003

Two items about antidepressants:

  • Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, is urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban the antidepressant Serzone (generic name: nefazodone).  Most of Europe has already banned the drug, where it is known as “Dutonin”.  Public Citizen has counted 53 cases of liver injury – including 11 deaths – associated with the use of Serzone.

  • A British coroner is so concerned about safety issues related to Paxil (called “Seroxat” in the UK) that he wants the drug withdrawn from the market.

Are you rich?  Are you usually drunk, coked-up, or otherwise addled?  Forbes magazine has a guide to ultra-chic rehab facilities – places that make traditional rehabs “look like boot camp by comparison”.

Penny Wood, a methamphetamine addict, is upset that she's the new poster child for a local anti-drug-abuse program.  Actually, I kinda like those “before and after” photos.  Gets the message across, though who knows whether or not it's actually effective at preventing drug abuse.

The Yoga Journal has an article about using yoga and meditation to treat depression.  The article is called, “Better than Prozac?”.  They cite a couple of recent scientific studies that sound interesting.  Who knows?  Maybe yoga and meditation do work.  Prozac certainly doesn't work well.

Researchers at Columbia University have demonstrated that interpersonal therapy can be used to treat depression in pregnant women.

Dr. Michael Lascelles does such an outstanding job of exposing abuses in the pharmaceutical industry that I've virtually stopped blogging on this subject.  I might as well leave it up to him.  His “Pharma Watch” blog is excellent.  He can be pretty funny, too:

The habitual wrongdoing of drug companies makes me feel like a teacher in charge of a class of naughty kids.  Glaxo!  How many times have I told you to stop interfering with the science experiments?  And Pfizer where did you get those patents!?  OK, give them back.  Astrazeneca, have you been copying other people’s work?  This drug is exactly the same as the one you handed in for homework yesterday.  You’ve been sitting next to Bayer again haven’t you?  Come on, down to the front, where I can keep an eye on you...

And Novartis, stop bullying that little company and let them get on with developing a drug for peanut allergy.

Sunday, March 9, 2003

The Christian Science Monitor has an article about the disturbing trend toward increased use of psychotropic medications (like Prozac and Ritalin) in young children.  The article is called, “Chemical Kids”.  The problem with these types of articles, though, is that they almost always focus on issues of safety, while neglecting to address effectiveness (or lack thereof).  In some sense, effectiveness is a more fundamental issue than safety.  After all, if the drug doesn't do what it's supposed to do, then safety becomes a moot point.

Thursday, March 6, 2003

NPR (National Public Radio) had an excellent segment this morning about PhRMA – the lobbying arm of the pharmaceutical industry.  (Note that NPR's web page misspells PhRMA as “Pharma”.)

Wednesday, March 5, 2003

Hey, do you remember that time that you met Bugs Bunny at Disney World?

Saturday, March 1, 2003

The previous blog entry concerned an article written by Lauren Slater.  About a year ago, she had another outstanding piece published in the New York Times Magazine.  The article was called, “The Trouble With Self Esteem”.  Slater debunked many of the myths surrounding the “self-esteem” movement that has been so faddish for the last ten years or so.

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.