Deadly Psychiatry and Organised Denial

Peter C. Gøtzsche

Reviewed by Mira de Vries

Gøtzsche is an angry physician. He describes in detail how psychiatry ruins people’s lives, from fake diagnoses through failed treatments based on false research to untimely death. His voice joins those of a growing group of whistle-blowers from within the medical profession who have published on this subject.

Some of his positions are refreshing. For instance, rather than calling for independent research as many other authors do, he states, “Unfortunately, publicly funded studies can be just as deceptive as those funded by the drug industry.” He urges us to be activists, protest psychiatry, and take the fight against it to the courts. Victims of psychiatry will surely agree that What we need more than anything else in psychiatry are detox clinics” for safe withdrawal from psychiatric drugs.

Beyond that Gøtzsche says little that anyone following this subject has not heard already, though he certainly is thorough. He frequently refers to Peter Breggin, Robert Whitaker, David Healy, Marcia Angell, and others. Anyone who is interested in this book is probably already familiar with those other authors.

He opens his introduction with the statement:
"Psychiatry is not an easy specialty. It requires a lot of patience and understanding, and there are many frustrations. I am sure psychia­trists sometimes get frustrated at patients who continue to destroy their lives, refusing to take on board the good advice they have been offered about how they could improve on their attitude to life’s many troubles."
Towards the end of the book he states:
"Psychiatry is not so much about drugs as it is about human relationships..."
This is mis-characterization of psychiatry. The word “psychiatry” literally means medicine of the mind. It is not about giving advice nor about human relationships. Like every branch of medicine, it is about healing. Healing is what the drugs ostensibly are for.

Gøtzsche faults his critics for “their dismissal of psychotherapy, although it is effective.” He devotes an entire chapter to psychotherapy, citing studies in support of this efficacy, though the results, even if unbiased, are not spectacular. This is in contrast to the massive evidence he presents for the inefficacy and harm of psychiatry. He does admit that “there are bad therapists and it can go wrong.” In a different chapter he states “[A]fter [psychiatrists] left the unscientific psychoanalysis behind, they must now accept that biological psychiatry ... has not kept its promises.”

Psychotherapy is no more “scientific” than psychoanalysis. Psychotherapists are no more successful at making their clients “take on board the good advice” than psychiatrists, assuming that their advise is indeed good. Psychotherapyhas not kept its promises either, nor can it. Of course psychotherapy is less harmful than poisoning or electrocuting, but that is insufficient reason to endorse it. Furthermore Gøtzsche rightly states elsewhere, “It may even be risky to consult psychologists, as some of them collaborate closely with psychiatrists and think that drug treatment is what it should all be about.”

However, my major issue with this book is his statement “I believe we could reduce our current usage of psychotropic drugs by 98% ...”

Why 98%? Why not 97% or 99%, particularly as two chapters later he asks “I wonder who invented these numbers and why people are so eager to ruin their credibility by citing them?”  Why does Gøtzsche leave a margin of 2% in which it would be justified to drug somebody?

Every psychiatrist with whom I have ever spoken would agree that colleague psychiatrists prescribe too many drugs. Every psychiatrist considers him/herself to prescribe only the unavoidable minimum, Gøtzsche’s 2%.

In spite of all the massive evidence Gøtzsche excellently presents about the damage done by psychoactive drugs, he does not categorically reject them. He does at one point acknowledge that the most safe and effective treatment is no treatment, yet throughout the book he slips in statements suggesting support of drugs. He is not referring to the drugs needed to mitigate withdrawal effects -- which he calls “abstinence syndrome” -- but to vague, unspecified circumstances:
Some drugs can be helpful sometimes for some patients.”
“...antipsychotics can be avoided in most patients...”
“...drugging of children is a form of child abuse that should be prohibited, with very rare exceptions.”
“...psychiatric drugs are a dangerous weapon that doctors can handle and most of them do far more harm than good.”
“...we need drugs for sedation in acute situations...”
“If a drug is needed, ask your doctor if cheaper drugs are available.”

Gøtzsche is like a gardener who correctly identifies a weed, then pulls off its flowers and leaves while leaving its root in the soil to sprout and overgrow the garden.

Of all the hundreds or thousands of books (depending which ones are counted) written on this subject in over half a century, the only author who fully uprooted the weed was Thomas Szasz. Gøtzsche does not mention Szasz even once, which must be deliberate as Szasz prolifically published around 700 articles and 35 books criticizing psychiatry.

Back in 1960 when Gøtzsche was ten years old, Szasz published an article titled “The Myth of Mental Illness” and a year later he published a book by the same name which became a worldwide hit. In this book and throughout his long career, Szasz posited that psychiatry is phoney because mental illness does not exist. It cannot exist because only the body can be ill, not the mind.

Nowhere in his book does Gøtzsche discuss the meaning of mind. I propose defining “mind” or any other term for the same concept such as “psyche” or “soul” as that part of our being which is not the body. It encompasses our thoughts, emotions, memories, dreams, aspirations, instincts, etc. The concept of mind includes the nowadays much used word “personality” (as in “personality disorder”) which means the pattern in which an individual tends to respond to other people, experiences, and environment. Mind is behind behavior.

Thoughts, emotions, and so forth, are not part of the body, hence Szasz’s rejection of the possibility that they could be ill. In fact they exist nowhere in the physical, material world.

The idea of non-physical, non-material existence is pooh-poohed by many people, including Szasz. He resolved the dilemma by reasoning that the mind, not being part of the body, does not exist. Most people, among whom myself, reject the idea that we have no mind.

Biopsychiatrists and their supporters resolve it by reasoning that the mind is a product of the brain the way bile is a product of the liver. The comparison is wrong. Bile is a physical, material substance. It can be seen, collected, weighed, smeared on a slide for observation under a microscope, and tested with litmus paper. It probably stinks.

Contrary to bile and other bodily secretions, the mind is not observable through any of the five senses. We are aware of our own thoughts, emotions, etc. but we cannot prove or disprove them to others, as in “I really do love you.” We think other people’s behaviors reveal their feelings but we can be easily fooled. Actors excel at it. Brain scans cannot show thoughts. Checklists for depression employ the same non-material, unobservable factors that are purportedly being measured. Gøtzsche comes close to recognizing that the mind is not material when he states that “psychosis is not a biological illness.” (Actually, psychiatrists call anything “psychosis” including toxic deliriums from drugs they themselves prescribe.)

So the thoughts, emotions, etc. that constitute the mind belong to the domains of poetry, philosophy, and religion, or as Szasz called it, “rhetoric,” but not science or medicine.

This does not mean that the mind has an existence independent from the body. All the languages I personally speak have a variety of expressions demonstrating awareness that a blow to the head causes distortions of the mind. In English, for instance, one might say, “Have you fallen off your rocker?” In my own country, the Netherlands, we have the picturesque expression “hit by the windmill.” The effects of toxicity such as by alcohol have been known since recorded history.

It is tempting to believe that if damage to the brain distorts the mind, mending the mind is a matter of fixing the brain. Gøtzsche relates, “An ancient practice of dealing with the mentally ill was to throw them into a pit of snakes. The theory was that if something like that would make a normal person insane, then it must work in reverse as well.” It doesn’t. Fiddling with the brain always only injures it and impairs the mind.

Think of that other quality that is not physical yet dependent on the body: life. Life can be snuffed out of a body by depriving it of oxygen, yet no amount of oxygen pumped into a dead body will restore it to life. Likewise, a brain can be bludgeoned, electrocuted, poisoned, mutilated, or otherwise molested, but anything done to it will only harm, never heal.

Because the mind is not material it cannot be observed, let alone ameliorated. There can be no medicine of the mind. This is why psychiatry is a hoax and everything pertaining to it is fraudulent. All of Gøtzsche’s extensive arguments criticizing psychiatry are unpinned by his rejecting it for only 98%. There is no legitimate 2%. This is the pernicious root he neglects to purge from his garden.
Note to Mr. Gøtzsche:
    Maybe mechanical restraints are used more often in Austria than in the Netherlands but this provides no solace to those people in the Netherlands who are nonetheless so restrained, in some cases for years. What you call seclusion (solitary confinement of a usually naked person for usually at least a week, not infrequently for months, sometimes for years) and involuntary medication are not only rampant in the Netherlands, but standard practice. Perhaps you were duped by statistics which fail to reflect the actual situation. Although our law stipulates that all cases of restraint and/or seclusion must be reported to the Inspectorate they almost never are even though every compulsory psychiatric inmate and many a so-called voluntary patient has experienced them.
    The Netherlands is no psychiatric free-state. It is important for me to clarify this because MeTZelf is regularly contacted by people outside of the country who wrongly expect to be eligible for asylum here on the grounds that in their own country they are persecuted by psychiatrists. At the same time, people inside the Netherlands contact MeTZelf and ask to which country can they flee to escape psychiatry.

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