1/9/2000 – The Legal Drugging Of America

The Legal Drugging Of America

Here is a recent article from Arianna Huffington. – Mark M.
———-

The Legal Drugging Of America: A Status Report
Filed December 23, 1999
by Arianna Huffington

Two reports out this month highlight the continuing trend toward the
legal drugging of America.

The Surgeon General’s report on the state of the nation’s mental health
found that 22 percent of the population has a diagnosable mental
disorder.” At the same time, a study by the National Institute of
Mental Health concluded that we are under-medicating our children and
that for those diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder,
drugs — specifically Ritalin — are more effective than therapy.

The big drugmakers will no doubt use these studies as additional
weapons in their ongoing war to make mood-altering drugs the solution
to all life’s problems. Our magazines are already stuffed with ads
portraying pharmaceutical giants as noble enterprises, engaged in
nothing but the pursuit of pure science and the public good. And our
television screens are filled with commercials for drugs to cure
shyness and so-called “social phobias.”

The Food and Drug Administration has recently approved Effexor XR, a
drug for “generalized anxiety disorder” — the garden-variety
free-floating anxiety that has plagued humanity since the expulsion
from Eden. Mark Twain summed it up this way: “I am an old man, and
have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”

These days, the assumption seems to be that drugs can take care of
everything unpleasant in the human condition. “At Pfizer,” one ad
boasts, “we look to the future with the knowledge that the only thing
incurable is our passion.” What the ad doesn’t mention is that drug
company profits (Pfizer’s last year were $3.35 billion) are often spent
not on finding cures for serious diseases but for “lifestyle”
maladies — baldness, toenail fungus, and of course any interruption to
a perpetually sunny mood. Not one major drug company in the United
States has an in-house research program on malaria, for example, but
sales of pharmaceutical drugs for pets are approaching $1 billion
annually.

The major flaw of the Surgeon General’s report is the lumping together
of dramatically disparate conditions. According to Surgeon General
David Satcher himself, “tragic and devastating disorders such a
schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder, Alzheimer’s disease,
the mental and behavioral disorders suffered by children, and a range
of other mental disorders affect nearly one in five Americans in any
year.” This is a classic example of pseudo-scientific sleight of hand:
linking schizophrenia to childhood behavioral problems as though they
are in any meaningful sense on the same continuum.
It is this mind-set that has led to the Ritalin epidemic — with the
number of kids taking the powerful drug skyrocketing from 1 million in
1990 to 4 million today. And now along comes a study that says the
answer to those many instances where Ritalin has proved ineffective is
to simply up the dosage. As Dr. Peter Jensen from the National
Institute of Mental Health put it, “You find the dose that achieves
the absolute possible total benefit for this child … That’s the dose
you want, not the lowest possible dose that you can get by on.” It’s
ingenius, if Ritalin isn’t working, try more Ritalin. As they used to
say in the ’60s, “Why do you think they call it dope?”

It’s doubly tragic that these reports have arrived at a time when we’re
facing a crisis in managed health care. Because a diagnosis of a mental
disorder will almost always prompt managed care companies to take the
cheap way out — drugs rather than therapy, no matter how potentially
dangerous the long-term side effects, especially on children’s growing
brains.

Making this growing emphasis on drugs especially troubling is the
conclusion by federal investigators that the FDA has “no quality
control system” to track adverse drug reactions. Currently, doctors
and hospitals are not even legally required to report patients’ drug
side effects to the FDA. As a result, in one year, from the beginning
of June 1997 to the end of May 1998, the agency got only 13,825 such
reports even though in hospitals alone approximately 180,000 patients
die every year from drug reactions.

Even if the FDA moves from a voluntary to a mandatory reporting system,
the agency has only 80 employees to monitor more than 3,000
prescription drugs. Over the past year and a half, the agency has
banned only five drugs that it previously had approved but now deems
dangerous. But every year 2 million Americans are hospitalized due to
drug side effects.

“Most errors are not caused by stupidity, incompetence or neglect, but
by system failures that allow them to occur,” said David Lawrence,
head of Kaiser Permanente, suggesting that the safety tests done by
drug companies are not enough, and that the companies fail to educate
physicians and hospital workers on the proper administration of their
drugs.

As drugs, and the conditions treatable by drugs multiply, can we
continue to tolerate such slipshod oversight of a powerful industry
that so affects our lives — and our deaths? Or continue to rely on
reports tainted by the drug industry’s assumption that millions of
Americans are suffering from mental disorders whose cure is just a pill
pop away? Oh, the infinite possibilities of an America where everyone
has finally admitted to a mental disorder, and everyone is blissed-out
on appropriately high doses of the newest wonder drugs.

468 total views, no views today