The Ritalin Gang

Just came across this thought-provoking editorial by Richard Warner in Seattle on SAMHSA , which will soon launch an advertising campaign aimed at encouraging people (particularly those in the 18-to-25-year-old segment) to seek treatment for substance abuse and mental illness. Other campaigns will soon be directed toward other age groups, specific ethnic groups, etc. In a nation where substance and alcohol abuse are so common, especially among the young, who could argue that this is not an extremely important and worthy project? But benefits may be less clear in the mental-health portion of the outreach plan, where treatment usually means drugs. The editorial alludes to the growing number cases of "conflicts of interest" regarding the marketing of psychiatric drugs and public health, such as the Texas Medication Algorithm Project. GoozNews recently blogged about the resolution of one  case in Pennsylvania, in which felony charges were brought against  a state-employed pharmacist for improper industry connections. The post also mentions Allen Jones, a whistleblower who'd lost his Pennsylvania state government job for disclosing improper industry/government connections re: use of psychiatric drugs.  Click here to read the post and get to Jones' 60-page report (previously published by the New York Times and the British Medical Journal). Warner makes a good point about the 370 psychiatric disorders that have been labelled, many of which have been attributed to chemical imbalances.  Are all of them valid (for example, social anxiety disorder, the disease formerly known as shyness)? The New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast may have put it best in a cartoon that was published years ago that asked the question "what would have happened if some of the greatest writers and thinkers in history...had been 'medicated'?"  Edgar Alan Poe was then shown writing [presumably in the place of his classic poem, "The Raven")  "Hi, birdie." This isn't to denigrate the important advances made in the understanding of the brain and how it works, and the drugs that have resulted from this research.  Some conditions such as schizophrenia, require medication, but do all of them?  And for the rest, why should drugs be considered a first response rather than a last resort? -AMS