We are a nation of druggies. Many of us don’t think so, because our “dealer” wears a lab coat and the street corner we drive slowly up to for our “score” has a decent lighting, a push-out window box and microphone. But the at-large population of our country has become mentally and emotionally dependent on medications in order to cope with reality, or perhaps banish it altogether. Ergo, we are druggies. The problem is worse than you think.
According to statistics available through several industry sources, the percentage of Americans on psychotropic (mood-altering) medications is at a historic peak, with no end in sight. One could call it an epidemic, and some do. Over 49 million American adults are prescribed these drugs, which calculates to 1 in 5. This number doesn’t include the staggering number of teenagers and children taking these mood-altering concoctions. If so many adults and especially children really have debilitating mental disorders, then we have some enormous societal problems that drugs don’t address. They merely mask the symptoms. In one sense, the new “opiate of the masses” is ironically … opiates, of a sort. Also, if more Americans than ever now require daily doses of these chemical concoctions over the entire course of their lifetimes, are the drugs having a positive impact at all?
What has gone so wrong with us over the last 50 years that we now “need” all these mind-bending crutches simply to function? According to several notable voices in the psychiatric community, the answer is “Nothing”. There is a growing viewpoint in the field of psychology that the issue of mental health diagnosis and treatment has been hijacked by the unfounded idea that pills are nearly always the answer, and “chemical imbalance” is the primary culprit to most common “disorders”. These voices include those of Medical journalist and Pulitzer Prize nominee Robert Whitaker, and former New England Journal of Medicine editor-in-chief Marcia Angell.
While Angell may be considered a controversial figure in her opinions of pharmaceutical company practices in general, her facts in this area of medicine are unimpeachable. For those many whose lives and families have been affected in a positive way by the application of these drugs, this is not a blanket condemnation of their use, but rather a hard look at their abuse through over-prescription and misdiagnosis.
There are some very serious questions to consider before consigning someone to a lifetime of chemical psychotropic adjustment therapy. From whence do these drugs derive? Since the advent of these drugs, are we better off? Do they make people healthier over time, or instead turn them into dependent zombies, or worse, homicidal sociopaths? Does their broad application pass Hippocratic muster? And again, the aforementioned question as to how we developed at such a pandemic dependence on psychiatric adjustment. The first diagnostic question should perhaps be “What is really wrong with this person’s thinking and actions?”
I strongly suspect that if psychologists, psychiatrists and mental health workers took a bit more time and dug a little deeper and broader in their initial examinations, they would likely find an abundance of contributing environmental factors and influences that have produced gnarled values and behavior. Children are very impressionable, and as such are powerfully susceptible to the influence of their elders. Those impressions run deep and can impact enormous value decisions they make regarding others. When their values system is left to random or even hostile contributions by others lacking human decency, Judeo-Christian principles or even inherent parenting instincts, we can hardly be surprised that their tender minds adopt coping mechanisms or that they choose non-acceptable ways of acting out to deal with the damage.