The Pill That Steals

I’m sure many of you have seen the ”You Tube” videos of the Roehampton University Conference called ”More Harm Than Good?” which took place last year at Roehampton. I attended and during a Q & A slot a young lady gave her experience having been prescribed anti-depressants due to the fact that she couldn’t sleep. Within a few hours she had a very bad reaction to these drugs and became dellusional, then being sent to a psychiatric hosp. where she spent a year of her life.
During the lunch break I managed to have a brief talk with this lady, Katinka Blackford Newman about my son and Chy-Sawel.


post-imageWhen out of hospital she came off the medication and after several weeks of the hell of ”cold turkeying” she is today well and back to work.  Many of you I’m sure have heard of her and bought her recently released book titled ”The Pill That Steals Lives”.    We have met and spoken a few times since the Roehampton event and I was invited to attend her book signing in Waterstone’s, Kensington, London,  which I did, where I met up with several mothers who are supporting Chy-Sawel and also the lovely caring Dr. Bob Johnson and his wife Sue. (for those of you who don’t know or heard of Bob, he is a registered Psychiatrist with the Royal College of Psychiatrists, but the NHS won’t employ him because he refuses to use drugs )
Please see the articles below which Dr. Johnson wrote after a meeting in Parliament where Robert Whitaker (one of our speakers at our Nov. conference this year.) was invited By Paul Flynn M.P. & Lord Patel to speak at the ”All Party Parliamentary Group for Prescribed Drug Dependance” which was promoted by CEP Council for Evidence-Based Psychiarty at Westminster.


That Robt Whitaker is a marvel.  His clarity of vision verges on the painful.  Yesterday, at Chy-Sawel he spoke fluently without a break, or notes, giving the following painfully simple account of our current appalling medical service.

Des Cartes and others said madness was a reversion to animal-status – so it was OK to bed psychotics down in straw.  Chimps brains lacked overgrown frontal lobes – which, like the appendix, were superfluous – cut or disable them, which is our current dysphoria, and there’s your medical answer.

Darwin assured us that inferior genomes become extinct so California had sturdier sterilization and eugenics programmes, pre-Nazi.

Recovery rates 1945-1955 were over 80%, and were expected to be.  They, and our expectations, have fallen consistently ever since chlorpromazine, which, truth to tell, lobotomises.  They can only fall ever further, ever after.

In 1998, eminent psychiatrists assured him that dopamine was a myth, a useful myth since it explained how drugs worked – except that even in 1960, the overwhelming evidence was that they didn’t.

As Jo brought out so clearly, in that Parliamentary meeting this week, the killer in our current ‘brain insufficiency’ model is that it disables patient agency, along with their frontal lobes and personality.  The symptoms are still there, but why bother about them, or anything else.

Into this unrelievedly dire scenario, DSM-III in 1980 fits perfectly – let’s eliminate ‘reaction’, even ‘death of a loved one’ – all impact on the frontal lobes, which the medical profession in its psychiatric ill-wisdom, disdains.

What I’ve found over the last 15 years, is that behind every psychotic symptom there is a deeply buried trauma which has the same effect – there’s nothing you can do about it, so why bother trying.  Reversing this internal pessimism, with its quasi-self-lobotomising, explains Open Dialogue, Soteria, Geel and the Early Quaker successes – simple but not easy.

Only stringent application of human rights, and the values of the HRA will begin to curb our appalling medical myths.  We, as a nation, have a government committee whose very title translates as “doctor induced addictions” – it is euphemised to “Prescribed drug dependency”, but the medical profession is responsible whatever you call it – time to change?  No wonder the Lancet, BMJ, BJP decline even to answer my letters – though recently the GMC does seem to have taken an unhealthy interest in my clinical approach  . . . .

Rock on, and thanks Mr Whitaker for your clarity and bravery and energy – you really are a marvel, and I wish I’d taped you  . . . . . .


Our guilty professional secret – exposed

Ladies and Gentlemen of the psychiatric and allied professions, our guilty secret is now exposed to public view.  It is only a matter of time before our central precepts collapse spectacularly around our ears, having been ground into the dust by outraged public opinion.  We can hide our heads in the pharmaceutical sand for a little while longer, but be in no doubt, cataclysm is upon us.  And whoever turns ‘crown’ evidence [or plea bargains] can guarantee themselves a mighty rocky time . . . . .

We may mock the US Congress as having become too “institutionally corrupt” to sort even the simplest of government issues – the exotic campaigns of Trump and Sanders do not come from thin air – they represent a wider reality, a public reality, bursting through the conventional pretence.  Wait until you find that our own institution is considerably worse.  Not because I say so, but because two incorruptible investigators have called time on our shibboleths, and not before time either.  If you are a psychiatrist, or work in mental health, and you are NOT losing sleep over this, then there’s something seriously wrong. . . . .

“. . . . Psychiatry too had allowed itself to be affected by an influence that had corrupted its core mission—to help patients. The dynamic of that corruption was different from the dynamic in Congress. But as [Professor Cosgrove] believed, the story could be understood in similar terms. The field had been vulnerable, she described, to the commercial influence of pharmaceutical companies. And the story of that influence, she argued, could be another paradigmatic case for “institutional corruption.” . . . . .

In an incredibly compelling and convincing account, Lisa Cosgrove and Robert Whitaker show just how and why psychiatry has been corrupted by the influence of the pharmaceutical industry. And in so doing, they may well have described an even clearer case of institutional corruption than Congress. The actors in this story are not evil, even if there are a few one would be tempted to use that term to describe. They are instead responding to understandable, if pedestrian, pressures. But through a slow, if pronounced, progress, the very aim of the field becomes linked to an influence that conflicts with the core purpose of any institution within medicine—to help the patient.  

. . . No doubt this book will attract incredible scrutiny. And indeed, given the interests at stake, it is certain to be attacked, as will its authors. But Cosgrove’s academic and professional experience, combined with Whitaker’s powerful investigative reporting, provide an account that will astonish the fair reader. And when the arguments they make are accepted, AS THEY WILL BE, they will induce a  fundamental change in how we approach the field of mental health. Whether or not there was an excuse for what broad swaths of psychiatry became, there can be little excuse for leaving it untouched now. [emphases added]

Alert psychiatric readers will recognise this as coming from the Foreword by Professor Lawrence Lessig, Professor of Law at Harvard, for Psychiatry Under The Influence: Institutional Corruption, Social Injury, and Prescriptions for Reform” by Robert Whitaker and Lisa Cosgrove; Palgrave Macmillan.   Hardback, ISBN: 978-1-137-50694-8; paperback ISBN: 978-1-137-50692-4.

This is beyond medical ethics or etiquette – this is what the GMS proclaims as “Working for Patients”.  Someone has to break ranks and tell the unpalatable truth.  Whistleblowers can be picked off one by one – but not indefinitely.  The Panama Papers and Wikileaks show that no system is watertight, omerta is invariably ephemeral.  The writing is now clearly on the wall for all who have responsibility for psychiatry – whether in admin, in the legislature, or at the coal-face – change is upon us, and woe betide those who hold out longest.

‘Fess up now, to avoid worse, later.

Rock on



Although not on the programme of our conference being held on Friday 4th. Nov. this year Katinka is going to attend and give a brief talk of her experience with also a Q & A session for the delegates.  I do hope many of you will attend and support our Charity as I’m sure you can appreciate we are up against the big guys and trying to bring changes or a choice for people suffering is no mean fete.    
I look forward to meeting some of you there.

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