Sunday, April 29, 2007

Response to "Bedlam Revisited"

From Gwen Olsen in response to this article
Dear Editor,
In response to your opinion article, "Bedlam Revisited,"  I would like to submit the following points of interest and facts:
Mr. Kellerman's article clearly suggests that lax laws and human rights movements against involuntary commitment practices and forced psychiatric drugging contributed to the murderous rampage last week at Virginia Tech.  Excuse me, but being a veteran pharmaceutical rep who sold psychiatric drugs, I'd like to say that this bit is getting a little old.  The tiresome rhetoric of attack against Dr. Szaz and the Church of Scientology is the oldest Pharma diversion tactic around.  I was taught to use it by a manager when I sold Haldol (haloperidol) over twenty years ago, and apparently, the smear campaign is still alive and well today.  Can't anyone come up with any new angles?
The truth is, the psycho-pharmaceutical interests do not dismiss these watchdog advocates lightly and Pharma's media "spin" machine is in constant motion counteracting their vigilant efforts...among others.  Therefore, I was not surprised to see Kellerman's cheap stab at this organization in his superfluous article--just bored with it.  However, it initially made me suspect a possible financial conflict of interest on the part of its author, as I know Pharma often pays hefty sums of money for the penning of articles such as this in times of controversy.
However, after researching Kellerman's background, I discovered he wouldn't be worth much to Pharma per se.  Being a retired clinical psychologist, Kellerman was never able to prescribe drugs, so he is of no value in terms of prescriptions or as an opinion leader, and since he is a science fiction writer not a medical writer, he wouldn't be much of an asset as a ghost writer either.  (Or would he?)  The manufacturers of antidepressants are constantly working overtime to convince the public that we are being protected by their humanitarian efforts rather than railroaded by their profiteering deception, and that their drugs are safe and effective products having only mild and transient side effects...truly science fiction copy where antidepressants are concerned!
If I sound skeptical, this is why:  Cho was reported to have been detained, evaluated and treated for depression in 2005.  It was never clear according to reports whether this detention was voluntary or involuntary on Cho's part.  However, psychiatric evaluation and treatment nearly always equal drug intervention, so it is safe to assume that drug therapy was instituted at that time. Cho's roommate reported seeing him take his prescription medication (for psychological problems) at 5 a.m. the morning of the shootings.  Therefore, it is also logical to assume that Cho was still under a psychiatric outpatient maintenance program and taking his medication.  Why wasn't he improving then?
Cho's behavior was said to have deteriorated over the past several months as he became more and more isolated and bizarre.  His roommate told reporters Cho slept restlessly, grunting and tossing and turning in his sleep;  that he was up and down throughout the night, and often gone by dawn.  He left behind a ranting, rambling, multiple-page letter of grievances and mailed a menacing video to NBC wielding guns and other weaponry before the camera. Could Cho have been exhibiting manic reactions to his medication that manifested in symptoms of sleep disturbance, anxiety, grandiosity, and eventually frank psychosis? 
These effects have been well documented with antidepressant toxicity, especially in the newer category of drugs called the SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).  As a drug rep, I was trained that Asians metabolize many drugs differently than the general population causing an increased accumulation of drug levels to occur.  This prompted labeling changes and a reduction in dose for Asians using the cholesterol drug Crestor because Asians were recorded with twice the blood plasma levels of the drug at the same 10 mg. starting dose.  These are some of the legitimate questions currently being asked by medical doctors, mental health experts, and psycho-pharmacology researchers--not science fiction authors. 
In addition, while much "to do" is being made about the latest meta-analysis released in last week's Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)--which concluded that antidepressants are safe and effective for treating anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, and major depressive disorder in children and adolescents--hardly anything has been reported on two other concurrently published articles.  One study appears in the New England Journal of Medicine and concluded that antidepressants are less effective than placebos in treating bipolar disorder; and the other is a study in this month's Archives of General Psychiatry which found that 1 in 4 people who were treated with antidepressants were not clinically depressed at all, but were dealing with the mental repercussions of a recent emotional blow, such as death, divorce, job loss, etc.  Only a small percentage were, in fact, by the researchers' definition, found to be clinically depressed.  Therefore, the authors concluded that the standard definition of depression should be redefined to exclude reactions to normal stressful life events, thus avoiding unnecessary stigma and misdiagnosis along with the unnecessary prescribing of antidepressant drugs.
How, then, can anyone educated about psychotropic drugs and their potentially toxic effects possibly suggest that increasing forced commitments and drugging on the population would have prevented this latest disaster?  In fact, the overuse and abuse of psychotropic drugs is what has unleashed this dangerous situation on an unsuspecting society in the first place.  But I forgot, Kellerman isn't educated about psychiatric drugs...apparently.
Pharmaceutical companies want to expand what are currently saturated markets for their multi-billion dollar depression drugs.  They need to increase market share in order to increase their bottom line and pay stock investors dividends.  They cannot afford the negative publicity brought on by events such as last week's VT shootings, that might prompt a more thorough investigation into the number of school shooters who were actually taking or withdrawing from antidepressants (or other psychotropic drugs) at the time of their crimes, and the possible dangers of these drugs--not only to the people who take them--but to the public at large.  If the treatments are found to have a causal effect and to be the real problem at hand, then additional forced treatment with these defective, dangerous chemicals will cease to be the answer in the future.
As for the author's futurama fear tactics to support more involuntary commitments, I think our time would be better spent revisiting Nazi Germany, rather than Bedlam, if we feel the need for a significant history lesson on this issue!
Gwen Olsen
15 year pharmaceutical sales veteran and author of
Confessions of an Rx Drug Pusher: God's Call to Loving Arms   

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I wrote to the WSJ about this piece but of course they didn't print my letter. This hate speech against people with psychiatric labels has to stop.