In the post-World War II era, my father worked at a Veterans Administration hospital. Initially, lobotomies were a common practice. He did not like this at all; and eventually the viewpoint came to be “There needs to be a better way.” During his years at the V.A., he dealt with patients who were homicidal, suicidal, a patient who tried to kill him, and a patient who had hacked his wife into small pieces. These types of situations were in the minority. What he took away from his experiences at the V.A. was the logical viewpoint that unless a person poses a true threat to himself or others, “drugging” people is not the solution.
One thing that has stunned me in recent years is in some parts of the United States healthcare practitioners do not have the basic knowledge and information he had on the job more than fifty years ago. On the subject of PTSD, there are some widespread misconceptions. The first fact is not everyone who experiences a trauma ends up with full-blown Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The second fact is in the majority of instances, PTSD can be cured. And, directly related to that, the third fact is in the majority of cases, medication is not an appropriate form of treatment for individuals suffering from PTSD.
What initially brought this subject to my attention was a story in a local newspaper a couple of years ago. A woman who had been sexually assaulted twenty-nine years in the past continued to regularly experience PTSD symptoms. While the symptoms were severe enough to significantly impact her everyday life, she was deluded into believing she was “healing and recovering.” After reading the article I proceeded to some veterans’ websites, finding individuals as far back as the Vietnam era were in the same position. People are being misled to believe a traumatic experience automatically results in PTSD, that nothing constructive can be done about it, and all people can hope for is to be medicated for the rest of their lives. Psychiatric drugging does not stop at Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Upon moving to this city, I was surprised to hear teenagers and young adults state they had been diagnosed with bipolar conditions and attention-deficit disorders. Research from six years ago showed 30,000 adults in this state had been diagnosed as bipolar at that time. The statistics did not include any of the young people– only individuals over age 21.
Going on some theories, I discussed this with my father’s former coworker. She verified my theories: while these conditions can, occasionally, have other causes, in the majority of cases these mental disturbances are caused by lifestyle factors.
More simply put, the human brain is not designed to cope with constant chaos– and in some environments, constant chaos is a way of life. The solution is not to drug human beings– the solution is to make appropriate changes in the lifestyle.
In some areas, psychiatric drugging takes on another form. Whether it is flat-out ignorance of the facts or lack of concern, the mental health community deems psychiatric drugging an appropriate treatment for individuals who already have substance-dependency issues. In other words, even people who have a true desire to recover from alcohol and drug addiction are prevented from doing so. Instead, they are deemed “disabled,” medicated, and often advised to apply for SSDI. While some “cheat the system” intentionally, the majority simply do what their doctors tell them to do.
Literature from Narcotics Anonymous clearly spells out the need to abstain from all substances that are in the category of “mind-altering.” This includes many prescription medications in addition to alcohol and illegal drugs. One may or may not be surprised to find how many addicts choose “other” 12-Step programs that do not place this emphasis on recovery.
There are three equally-important parts to a solution:
First, be an active partner in your own health care, and that of your family.
Second, educate others.
Third, medical and mental health practitioners need to begin taking responsibility for their decisions– and the eventual outcome of those decisions. A question you can ask yourself is: is a prescription you are planning to give to a patient a legitimate part of an overall treatment program that will help the person get well and/or improve his quality of life– or will simply drop him below the normal functioning level?
I firmly support the Citizens Commission on Human Rights — www.cchr.org — both from the perspective of someone who worked in health care for many years, and as an average person who has seen the destructive consequences of psychiatric drugging. There is a huge difference between medication being an appropriate part of treatment for legitimate conditions and using psychiatric drugging that will do nothing more than destroy people’s lives.