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Manufacturing mental illness

Are the drugs used to treat mental illness working? Research shows that the number of people on government disability due to a mental illness has gone up dramatically, rising from 1.5 to over 4 million in the past 20 years. Need to Know asks Robert Whitaker, author of the recent book,Anatomy of An Epidemic,” about his analyses of scientific studies and what they mean for the future of mental healthcare in this country.



  • ron

    Lets get rid of the Stigma so people can educate themselves without being labeled, about what to use and how to use it and make sure they don’t quiet as fast as they feel a small improvement. This is the main reason why people don’t get the full benefit of the medications. I have been on 20mg ADD medications for the past 8 years, and it’s been the best 8 years of my life.

  • Claire Rebecca

    I have experienced two people in my life with schizophrenia and I have seen them off their medication. They had zero grasp on reality and repeatedly put themselves into dangerous situations. I cannot for the life of me understand the therapeutic drug free therapy that Mr. Whitaker said allowed schizophrenics to recover drug free. Short of being institutionalized I cannot imagine the schizophrenics I know to be unmediated. I wish this had more explanation because if there were a drug free path for my father I know he would be interested, he struggles with the medications and their side effects.

  • Lori Ventura

    Psychiatric medicines often have severe side effects to one’s bodies. I believe that psychiatric medicines are often over and mis prescribed. I am bipolar and took lithium for many years. Went off of the medicine when pregnant and back on five years later. I was completely functional while off the medicine. When I went back on medicine (when I had a relapse) the lithium started to adversely effect my kidneys. I tried three other medicines: one caused major migraines, one caused me to feel suicidal, and one present flue like symptoms. Now I no longer take any medication and have functioned well. I am not on disability. I own my own business, own my home, and am a single parent of a teen ager.

  • Professor

    Yeah, if I’d been on speed for the past eight years, I imagine they would have been the best years of my life as well.

  • Katie

    I get the argument, but I agree with Ron. Use talk therapy and lifestyle change (eg: exercise) as first-line attempts, but if you need them take the meds. After battling depression for over 20 years I went on meds 7 years ago. Oh, how I wish I could have my 20s back as they are a lost black hole to me. My quality of life was severely limited! If I had the vitality then that I have now things would have been very different. Let’s just say I’m enjoying the heck out of my 40s!

  • djlh

    I do believe that psychiatric illnesses are the most over & UNDER medicated illnesses we have today. Some physicians and patients are too quick to turn to the Rx, while many people are left suffering and refuse to get help because of the long-time stigma attached.
    -In short, my response to the increase of people on government disability over the last 20 years is not because we have embraced the drug-centered paradigm of care, but because we, as a society, have finally embraced the fact that mental illness is a brain disease and not a personality fault.

  • Mark Strodl

    It is a business. Sorry, call it as I see it, when any product is promoted so wildly. Advertising expenses of over a Billion dollars per year, perks given above it’s stated therapeutic plan, there is something horribly wrong here. The seduction of America.
    We are small pawns, rather than find the imbalance in their lives, lets cover the problem over, inebriate them, mask & hide the problem. It is a self fulfilling prophecy of inevitably turning us all into addicts, legally. Now we need another drug to counter the effects of the first one. We get lost, Doctors and Drug companies are the only winners. Say a preyer for those of us with the real problem to begin with, the suffering & lost without a degree to lean on, a profit margin to bank with. In real life, there simply are no quick fixes, fast answers.

  • Lynn

    To the idiot who talked about speed in response to the ADD. Before you shoot your ignorant mouth off try researching why the stimulants work for ADD. Yes for you and me they feel like speed because we aren’t ADD. To a person with ADD these drugs can be life saving. Yes, life saving. When you can’t keep a job, maintain a relationship, complete schoolwork, etc. because of your ADD, these drugs can mean the difference between good quality of life and teetering towards disaster.

    Do you know how many “addicts” are just self-medicating because some idiot like you put a stigma on mental illness? Congratulations.

  • David

    I have severe bi-polar illness with rapid cycling, I learned from a top notch doctor at a top notch institution. I have been educated to the fullest extent on the meds and my life has drastically changed! Without my meds I guarantee you I would be dead. Point blank.Stop the stigma NOW, it scares people away from what may pull them out of the hole! Thank YOU!!!

  • Susan

    Posted June 30, 2010 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    “…Yes for you and me they feel like speed because we aren’t ADD. To a person with ADD these drugs can be life saving. Yes, life saving. When you can’t keep a job, maintain a relationship, complete schoolwork, etc. because of your ADD, these drugs can mean the difference between good quality of life and teetering towards disaster.”

    I must add, the same can be said about cannabis. My medication keeps me out of the chair and my curtains open. has a comprehensive article regarding ADD/ADHD and the efficacy of cannibis sativa. (Many people don’t realize the difference between indica and sativa strains.) post #16.


  • djlh

    Re-entering conversation….
    Ron, Claire, Katie, Lynn & David, thank you. Yes, stop the stigma!
    I’m not sure whether the rest of you even know of what you speak. Just because some people achieve success w/o medication doesn’t mean everyone can (Lori).
    I am a wellness coach and always prescribe exercise and meditation (and would advocate talk therapy if I had that lattitude) to people suffering from stress, anxiety, and depression. When these are not enough, sometimes medication IS necessary.
    I was diagnosed with panic disorder, agoraphobia, and depression in 1993 when I was 25 years old. I had lost my job and thought I was going to lose my mind. Since then, with treatment, I’ve been a restaurant manager, a human resources manager, and am now a wellness coach and athletic instructor.
    I exercise AT LEAST 12 hours a week but still require medication to achieve full functionality. Shame on those of you who admonish the suffering population for taking care of themselves. In a world where too many people self medicate with illicit drugs, alcohol, tobacco, gambling, cutting, eating disorders, etc., we need to be open minded about that which we don’t understand instead of judgemental and discouraging.
    Mark, I understand you want to make a political statement. I almost see what you mean when you speak of the ‘seduction’ from the ads etc., but how dare you say that people who are rightly medicated are pawns, inebriated and masking and hiding our problems.
    ‘We’ are not pawns, and have nothing to mask or hide. Shame on you, too.
    finally… ‘Professor’… definition of profess #1). transitive verb -declare something falsely: to make a statement falsely claiming that something is the case (you are simply out of line)

  • Eva

    I have Bi-Polar disorder. I tried living without medications. It Does NOT work. I would die without them. People with mild issues maybe able to go without medication. I am truly happy for them. STOP trying to stigmatize those who need them. Medication alone is not the answer either. EDUCATION is a must for everyone involved, learn your triggers, what are your signs of trouble, where to go for help, what is the nearest 24 hour crisis phone line. I encourage WRAP Training written by Mary Ellen Coppeland.

  • susan55

    I can honestly say that antidepressants and benzos have completely destroyed my life.
    I was given prozac in 1990 for leg pain this caused a chemical imbalance in my brain. I know this now and but spent years in agony. Another huge issue is the withdrawal from antidepressants doctors and pharma do not talk about it and use it to keep you hooked. Wake up people…. time to put a stop to this and get our politicians out of bed with corporate drug dealers we have been sold out. FDA…. Flooding drugs in America…. pass everything just get the cheque.

    For me 18 years of on again off again antidepressant use with benzos to offset the anxiety side effects of the ADs. I have lost so much and I am angry very angry. I have read this book and it is a start by no means does it go far enough. I think he could have gone further in condemning this industry that has destroyed and kill so many unsuspecting people. The days of trusting doctors has passed for me and many enlightened others.

    There are lots of sites that back this up if you are addicted and suffering tolerance withdrawal or side effects go to topixs effexor withdrawal.

    Globally millions of people are learning and taking action there is a tipping point where there will be more people pissed with these companies and supposed watchdogs regulators for drug safety …

    Nobody will buy their drugs and we will have new people leading us that do their job… not line their pockets.

  • altostrata

    Antidepressants ruined my life, in the way Whitaker describes in his book. I’ve had Paxil withdrawal syndrome since October 2004 and have just been approved for Social Security Disability — one of his statistics.

    To see many other cases of antidepressant withdrawal syndrome, I suggest you visit, a completely not-for-profit patient site for support in withdrawing from all antidepressants, not just Paxil.

    My withdrawal from 10mg Paxil over a few weeks in October 2004 was “supervised” by UCSF Langley Porter Outpatient Psychiatry Clinic here in San Francisco, the staff of which clearly did not know what they were doing. I very quickly developed severe withdrawal symptoms that they failed to treat properly.

    I have had many, many symptoms and spent several years looking for a doctor who could treat antidepressant withdrawal syndrome, speaking to psychiatrists, neurologists, and endocrinologists to no avail. Finally, I found a doctor here in San Francisco who recognizes and treats injury from psychiatric medications, one of the few in the world. He has a very busy practice. As withdrawal also made me hypersensitive to medications, I am very difficult to treat, but I have very gradually been improving.

    Prior to my misadventure with Paxil withdrawal, I was earning a 6-figure income as a software designer. I just turned 60 and I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to work again.

    In Anatomy of an Epidemic, Whitaker was unable to address antidepressant withdrawal syndrome specifically because, in studies, diagnosis is almost universally confounded with relapse. But the cycle of overmedication, adverse effects, and further overmedication leading to deterioration holds true enough even without delving into the question of whether a large number of so-called relapses and even psychiatric disabilities might actually be withdrawal syndrome. In my personal opinion, I believe this is so.

  • heather

    I have a son who is schizophrinic and when he is of his meds, he is homeless and will steal to survive and ends up being arrested. I think if there was a safe Haven he could live in ,not assisted livings because he can walk away from this. My fear for my son that he dose something like locknear did in Touson , ariz . I know my son would be better of dead I don’t want this ever to happen but being locked up drives in more into his Ilness. a Mom who is a advocate for her son

  • heather

    I have a son who is schizophrinic and when he is of his meds, he is homeless and will steal to survive and ends up being arrested. I think if there was a safe Haven he could live in ,not assisted livings because he can walk away from this. My fear for my son that he dose something like locknear did in Touson , ariz . I know my son would be better of dead I don’t want this ever to happen but being locked up drives in more into his Ilness. a Mom who is a advocate for her son

  • Alto Strata

    If you would like to reach me regarding the above post or prolonged antidepressant withdrawal syndrome, please contact me on Facebook.

    Also, I recommend this site,

  • Altostrata

    A colleague of Dr. Giovanni Fava is looking for patient reports of prolonged antidepressant withdrawal syndrome, see

  • Lin Holmberg

    I am getting ready to begin a withdrawal of over 15 years of Effexor XR, which I take 225mg per day. I am now working with an Ortho molecular psychiatrist who is having me send urine and spit samples to a lab for neurotransmitter testing. I have been told by disability to wait to apply until Sept as they are so backlogged they are not even looking at new applications until then. I am on State disability until May because I lost my 13 year successful career due to gradual deterioration of cognitive abilities, balance loss, increased irritability, paranoia, inability to spell, write, remember anything I did in a day, not worth anything to my company…and I had no idea why? Until doing this research and finding Robert’s book online. I do not have any income as of May 2012, and no health insurance so of course suicide seems like an option and I am scared. I want to sue. This is outrageous. Linniek I have contacted one lawyer.

  • Michael Hausmann

    I would have to agree with the idea that mentally ill people are often not capable of understanding what is going on and what the truth is of their situations.  This is first and foremost true when these people are living on drug cocktails and using aggressive and coercive “therapeutic” programs.  There is nothing that they can comprehend because the main manipulations of the social control vehicles are being used on them in ways that have morphed their view on reality to be almost absolutely in line with those who are manipulating their life views in ways to make them more like the labels.  This is passive but nonetheless very aggressive and effective.  Were it not for the overall sensationalism that is adopted by the majority for the issues of mental disturbances in the rather fascistic states of America then there would not be so much of a blur between communal Zeitgeist and beliefs emerging from it and the personal observations of reality and their environments founded by the mentally ill. 

    The whole cycle amongst those whose psyches have been hijacked in this manner wherein they think to themselves I am abnormal, I am a freak, I don’t want anyone to see how much of a weirdo and sick person I am.  I must hide it anyway possible and move past this stage in my life as quickly as possible so I may become NORMAL.  Well, that is the key to the whole perspective blur that occurs in the heads of the mentally ill.  They co-opt a world view wherein they put themselves at a level of inferiority and vulnerability to others abuse which they interpret as valid and constructive criticisms because their perspective and self-esteem is so fucked and use that abuse as a leveraging force to try to tear down their flaws.  Which, do exist.  But, are fundamentally different from what they are brainwashed to believe because the criticisms originate from a place of dishonesty and manipulation that are meant to control but not help or heal..

    This grows tiresome to me. If you want to be slaves to one thing or another and live your lives that way.  FINE!  Go right ahead.  But, don’t you fucking DARE inflict that on your children if or when you have children and are still a sick in the head mess of indecision, insecurity, and no responsibility.  You better beat your children if you are so sick to not be able to control yourselves.  But, YOU RAISE YOUR KIDS TO GO TO THE GODDAMN SHRINK AND THEN HAVE THEM AS LIFE LONG DRUG ADDICTS WHO SUFFER FAILURE TO THRIVE RELATED RESULTS THEN I SWEAR TO GOD YOUR WILL BURN AFTER YOU DIE.  You will suffer a fate worse than death if does not come to a point where people like me grow fed up of abusive mentally ill parents and decide to drag from where you live and tie you to burning stakes.

    Don’t ever hurt a child because you are screwed up and desperate.  Other, than that you are free to live as you will and make any decisions you want.