Drug Me, Please

news_pills2Some local medical practitioners want to cure Santa Cruz of its prescription drug habit

Is Santa Cruz County one of the most drugged counties in the United States? Some might quickly reply with a yes. But it’s not for the reason you might think.

According to the Santa Cruz County Community Assessment Project Comprehensive Report for 2009, in the past 12 months, 9.2 percent of adults in Santa Cruz County have taken prescription medication for mental health or emotional problems almost daily for two weeks or more. This fact has some local medical practitioners asking: What are the consequences of having a significant portion of the population reliant on psychiatric drugs?

The issue is illuminated somewhat in The Marketing of Madness, a film recently released by Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR). In it, revealing details suggest that disorders listed in the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (DSM)—diseases found here are voted into existence by a panel of psychiatrists—have no proven pathology and therefore cannot be called medical diseases. According to the APA, 19 of the 27 psychiatrists on the [DSM] top panel … have financial ties to drug companies.” With an obvious conflict in interest, these psychiatrists are allowed to serve on a panel, voting in diseases with pharmaceutical money in their pockets.

This twisted way of doing business led Gwen Olsen, one such “drug pusher” to a revelation. “Everything that was wrong with me was a result of the health care system,” she says. “I had great health insurance and access to doctors that created my need for drugs.” As a former representative for Big Pharma such as Johnson & Johnson, Bristol-Myers-Squib and Abbott Laboratories, and author of “Confessions of an Rx Drug Pusher,” Olsen won the 2007 Human Rights Award after “waking up” and realizing the consequences of psychiatric drugs.

“Last year pharmaceutical companies made $285.6 billion,” Olsen says. “This industry is not in the business of health and healing. The pharmaceutical industry is in the business of disease management.”

Even the clinical tests that psychiatric drugs are required to pass for approval by the FDA can be easily skewed. Only two positive trials are required for approval, however that does not limit companies from running hundreds or even thousands of tests to guarantee that two will pass. The pharmaceutical companies themselves run such trials—another obvious conflict of interest. These companies have the discretion of choosing their test subjects and using or not using their data. If the data collected from a subject doesn’t meet the criteria for the drug to pass, that subject is often listed as “non-compliant,” according to CCHR.

“Less than 10 percent of these drugs are more effective than a placebo, according to a meta-analysis on psychiatric drugs,” Olsen says. “And 60 percent of that 10 percent is a placebo.” This may be why there are so many cases in which psychiatric drugs have been known to cause more harm than good when used in real-life situations.

“You have the right as a patient, as a customer, to know the good, the bad and the ugly of these prescriptions,” she adds, “but [pharmaceutical companies] are not revealing that information.”

More Problems

Psychiatric drugs have caused an estimated 63,000 suicides—some in people as young as 5—according to the CCHR.

For example, Prozac, a popular antidepressant, must warn its users, “If you develop any serious problems, such as suicidal thoughts or behavior, hallucinations, or panic attacks, notify your healthcare provider immediately,” according to eMedTV.com. Adverse drug reactions to prescribed drugs is the third leading cause of death, according to Dr. Duncan McCollum of the McCollum Wellness Center in Santa Cruz, and stopping psychiatric drugs suddenly can lead to intense withdrawal symptoms

Adverse side effects from psychiatric medication have had such an effect on its users that the FDA has had to issue several warnings after the drugs had already been approved. On March 22, 2004 the FDA published the following public health advisory: “anxiety, agitation, panic attacks, insomnia, irritability, hostility, impulsivity, akathisia (severe restlessness), hypomania, and mania have been reported in adult and pediatric patients being treated with antidepressants.”

Later that year, on Sept. 14, the FDA issued a black box warning in regard to antidepressants and suicide for those under 18. It read, “Call [a] health care provider right away if you or your family member has any of the following symptoms: acting aggressive, being angry or violent and acting on dangerous impulses.” By the end of 2006 this black box warning was updated to include users under 25.

“Every single mass school shooting is a result of psychiatric drugging,” says Genita Petralli, medical director of Shangri La BioSpa and Addiction Clinic. She notes that whether the shooters are withdrawing from the drugs or having an adverse reaction to them, mass shootings were not witnessed at schools before psychiatric drugs stepped in. If psychiatric drugs are supposed to make people feel better, she adds, why are some users killing themselves and others? Why are doctors pushing these psychiatric drugs on children if the reaction is not effective?

Schools and foster families are given a pay raise for each child that is on psychiatric drugs, Petralli notes before offering, “tax-payers are even paying for police to show up at the doors of parents who refuse to medicate their children with psych drugs, take their children away, charge them with child endangerment and neglect and put them in foster homes that are paid extra to medicate children,” she says.

Petralli wears many hats. She is also president of nonprofit Green Body and Mind, director of Patient Services at Alternative to Meds Clinic, and an author of several books. She says it’s her mission to “educate all those interested in what is causing the epidemic mental health crisis of today, how to avoid it, how to get off psychiatric drugs if you are on them now, and why toxic drugs should not ever be called medicine.”

To that end, Petralli launched the area’s first Green Mental Health Care Day, a day where speakers and healers came together to address the problems of psychiatric drugs and offer several alternative solutions.

The Solution

For those in need of getting off drugs, pushed or prescribed, or if there is a need to balance the psyche without the use of drugs, there are some solutions.

From the water we drink to the air we breathe, there are toxins in our environment and, if our organs are not up to the task of ridding these toxins from the body, physical and mental illness can occur. “Seventy-two percent of fruit and vegetables contain detectable amounts of pesticides,” says McCollum. “Meat contains hormones, antibiotics, PCBs, mercury and other chemicals.” With all of these environmental toxins, our bodies are not able to process them and they present themselves in mental and physical disease.

Nutrition plays a major factor in balancing the body. Supplements such as Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids have been found to aid in reducing depression, bipolar disorder, anger, aggression and anxiety. According to mentalhealth.samhsa.gov, B-complex vitamins, riboflavin, magnesium, and thiamine can treat anxiety, autism, depression, drug-induced psychoses and hyperactivity. Some food-related allergies have also been linked to mental illness: “allergies to such foods as wheat, sugar and milk cause or exacerbate symptoms in schizophrenia, autism, anxiety, learning disabilities, ADHD and other conditions,” reads helpguide.org.

There are many techniques to rid the body of such toxins and balance the body naturally. The McCollum Wellness Center focuses on nerve and muscle testing, nutrition and toxicity, and stress and environmental factors. McCollum is willing to give a free consultation to anyone that mentions this article at his center on 1726 Seabright Ave.

Other alternative medicines such as yoga, meditation, Ayurveda, acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine and massage therapy also help ease the tension that is often associated with mental illness.

There are answers. “As a species, mankind is disquieted spiritually. Together we can make a difference,” says Olsen.

To find more information on finding an alternative path to psychiatric medication or to help keep pharmaceutical drug pushers out of Santa Cruz psychiatric medicine visit: cchr.org or greenbodyandmind.com. To contact the McCollum Wellness Center, call 459-9990.

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