Pseudoscience-in-Psych Blog

Blog subjects:

  • Pseudoscience in the mental-health industry

  • Unethical behavior among pharmaceutical companies

  • Whatever else strikes my fancy

Other sites:

Blog archives:

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

Friday, July 30, 2004

Still no time for extensive commentary (and you don't really need to hear my blather, anyway, do you?):

Friday, July 23, 2004

Just links today:

Monday, July 19, 2004

Sorry about the lack of updates recently.  I'll try to do a big update in a few days.  In the meantime, check out a new book by psychologist Stanton Peele.  The book is called, 7 Tools to Beat Addiction (and no, I don't get kick-backs for recommending it.)  Stanton Peele is one of the few people who writes accurately and insightfully about addiction.  See also his earlier classic book, The Diseasing of America.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

No time for long commentaries – just the links, ma'am:

Monday, July 5, 2004

The single-most significant article today is a long piece by Marcia Angell, M.D., who is a former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine.  The article is called, “The Truth About the Drug Companies”, and it appears in the most-recent issue of the New York Review of Books.  My only beef with the article is that it focuses too much on issues related to pricing and not enough on the way that Big Pharma intentionally corrupts science.  Still, the article is a good read and comes from an authoritative source.

Some other articles are listed below.

Looks like it's been a rough week for our good friends at Pfizer (the pharmaceutical company whose slogan used to be, “We're part of the cure.”).  The first four items all have to do with Pfizer:

Friday, July 2, 2004

Back on June 19th, the Sydney Morning Herald ran a long article about an Australian woman who tried to kill herself and her children.  The woman – named Merrilee Bentley – had been taking a high dose of the antidepressant Effexor at the time of the attempted murder/suicide.  A court ruled that Merrilee's capacity for rational thought had been adversely affected by the drug, and she didn't receive any jail time.

Now, I know that this is all just anecdotal evidence, and I know that Merrilee obviously has an ulterior motive in blaming her actions on Effexor.  Nevertheless, this is an interesting case and is reminiscent of the recent Traci Johnson suicide.

What's also significant is that the Sydney Morning Herald pulled the article off its website only a day or two after the story first appeared.  At first, I thought the disappearance was just a technical glitch.  I reassured myself that I shouldn't be some kind of “conspiracy theorist” who would see sinister plots where none existed.  However, when I contacted the newspaper, they wrote back with the following answer (I'm quoting verbatim here):  “That story was pulled because it had legal problems.  You won't be able to find this on our site, not even in our paid archive.”  Gee, now who do you think might have a motive to suppress this article?  (Cue the “Church Lady” from Saturday Night Live.)

Ah, but we've been busy little beavers here in the editorial offices of the “Pseudoscience-in-Psych” blog, and we managed to ferret-out the original story.  (Beavers?  Ferrets?  Am I mixing metaphors here?  I dunno.)  Anyway, without further ado, here is the article that the “powers that be” don't want you to see:

A Bitter Pill

by Richard Guilliatt, Sydney Morning Herald

June 19, 2004

The day Merrilee Bentley tried to kill herself and her two daughters began like every other day she endured last winter.  Some time around 8am, Bentley awoke in a fog of fatigue and listlessness, shuffling into the kitchen of the small bungalow she shared with her husband, Mat, in the orchard country south of Perth.  Her 10-year-old daughter Ally was getting ready for school, two-year-old Lauren was awake, and Mat was preparing to leave for his job at a local sawmill.  Bentley tried to help with breakfast, but felt overwhelmed by exhaustion.  She thought about asking Mat to stay home from work, but money was tight, so she let the idea pass.  In the kitchen, she made herself a cup of coffee and swallowed two tablets of Effexor, the antidepressant she'd been taking in ever-increasing doses for six months.

At 31, Bentley was in the grip of a fearsome depressive spiral.  The previous year she had tried to kill herself four times, twice by hanging.  Each new day now brought incessant thoughts of suicide, as if a malignant growth had taken root in her mind.  On this particular day, her social worker was unavailable and she began to feel increasingly agitated.  Almost as if she were fleeing her own thoughts, Bentley grabbed the car keys and resolved to drive 220 kilometres north-west to Perth.  She put Lauren in the car, picked up Ally from school, and was heading west to Bunbury when a familiar idea began gnawing at her.

"I was thinking, 'No one cares.  No one's there.  I'd be better off dead.' "  A year later, Bentley still cannot recall the events of that day without sobbing.  "And because my children were with me, they kind of came into the argument in my head:  should I just turn around and take them somewhere, or should they come with me?  And the argument in my head was, 'No, don't let them be without a mother.'  So I convinced myself to take them with me."

The New York Times is reporting an epidemic of post-traumatic stress disorder among U.S. troops returning home from Iraq:  “1 in 6 Iraq Veterans Is Found to Suffer Stress-Related Disorder”.  Well, maybe.  But for a different perspective, see this article from January 2001, courtesy of the BBC:

A suitable case for treatment


The current edition of the British Medical Journal carries a withering attack on post-traumatic stress disorder.

The illness has been the cause of a growing number of compensation claims in recent years and is seen by many as the clearest example of “medicalisation” of unhappiness.

Dr Derek Summerfield, of St George's Hospital Medical School, London, criticises the “disorder”, calling it a “non-disease” which has been invented for social and political, not psychiatric or medical reasons.

The disorder, he says, was invented as America's way of dealing with the aftermath of defeat in the Vietnam War in the 1970s.  It was invented by critics of the war, who saw American soldiers as psychological “victims” of the US military establishment.

“Thus the misery and horror of war is reduced to a technical issue tailored to Western approaches to mental health,” Dr Summerfield says.

At the same time, he adds, there has been a “conflation” of distress with trauma that has passed into everyday language.

Dr Summerfield says claiming to have been traumatised, “has become the means by which people seek victim status in pursuit of recognition and compensation”.

Some other recent articles of note: