Bless you, Doris Lessing

Thanks to Beyond Meds for bringing to our attention Doris Lessing’s thoughts on schizophrenia. “So, craziness is not as far away as we’d like to think,” and she goes on further in the article to give her thoughts about loneliness bringing on craziness and how what we call Alzheimers and dementia might be linked to the loneliness of old age.

My mother started to develop signs of dementia about the same time that Chris began developing signs of dementia praecox (schizophrenia). I don’t know what really caused this, we tend to think of it as something that just happens in old age, but I do know that it began to develop around the time that my parents decided it was time to move back to Canada from Florida to be closer to my sister. The timing of this has convinced me to avoid making any life-changing decisions involving moving great distances when I am that old. My mother was a very intelligent woman and she was panicked by dementia. But, it was noticeable that she would “rise to the occasion” as my father would say, when they had company. She otherwise would spend many lonely hours in a house and a town she didn’t know or care for, humming to herself. For a while, she could still win at bridge.

My sisters and I wanted my father to get a break from being a twenty-four hour caregiver, so we tried to persuade my mother to check out an activities program at the local hospital. She sensed something was wrong as we drove into the parking lot. She started to curse under her breath that there was no way in hell she was going to go to a “program.” Miraculously, she pulled herself together on the tour on the five pin bowling room and the art therapy class. You would never know she had problems by the way she asked appropriate questions and professed great admiration for the set-up. She thanked the staff very nicely and then went home and refused to go back.

We once left Chris by himself for a week when my husband and I were both on business travel. This was at a time when he seemed to be well enough for us to chance it. When I got home, he was acting really strange He had drawn all the blinds and was talking gibberish and acting “spooked.” This took a few weeks to work its way through. It was enough to convince me that being alone, being abandoned, is the almost worst thing that can happen to someone.

After Her Brain Broke

After Her Brain Broke: Helping My Daughter Recover Her Sanity, by Susan Inman (introduction by Michael Kirby, Chair, National Mental Health Commission of Canada; with endorsements by E. Fuller Torrey, MD, Daniel Kalla, MD, Stephanie Engel, MD and others)

I ordered this book, not because I thought I would agree with it, but because there is actually another mother out there who has written about the mental health diagnosis of her child, which in this case is kickstarted by Paxil for some kind of depression/difficulties, thus raising bipolar, which then becomes schizoaffective, schizophrenia and OCD. With that many diagnoses, I would have lost my faith in psychiatry much earlier than I actually did. Susan Inman has not lost faith in psychiatry, only with the kind of psychiatry that doesn’t come with a prescription. If you are a person, like I am, who believes that schizophrenia is not a brain disease and that medications are ruinous in the long run, then this book is not for you. I am dismayed about how heavily the author relies on E. Fuller Torrey. Many people feel that the references cited in this book, including E. Fuller Torrey, Dr. Nancy Andreasen, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) have contributed to the rise in the overuse of antipsychotic medications today.

Mothers come in all shapes and sizes and political leanings. If there is one thing that the author and I might be able to agree on is the dismal state of psychiatry and how badly it has served both patients and families alike. Where we differ is in the details. It would come as no surprise to anyone since E. Fuller Torrey endorses this book, that Susan Inman fully subscribes to the broken brain theory of mental illness. The title strikes me as an homage to psychiatrist Dr. Nancy Andreasen’s book, The Broken Brain. Now even Dr. Andreasen has started to warn about the dangers of long term use of antipsychotic medication, something she helped promulgate. That’s no help to the people who have suffered under this regime, but hey, again, that’s how badly served people are by psychiatry. Susan Inman, despite the ten different medications her daughter has been on in about as many years, still clings to the idea that a better drug will be invented.

I can excuse that belief to some extent because the broken brain biochemistry model is what people have been told for decades by doctors they are supposed to trust, and families are desperate. However, my son and my family and others are the products of the NAMI/Torrey/Andreasen cabal that insists that medications are the only way to deal with schizophrenia. We suffer at the hands of doctors who refuse to consider that medications aren’t helping and are actually hurting people’s chances of real recovery. The doctors weren’t honest with us. They never clued us in that there are competing theories of mental illness, and that medication is not always the way to go. This is called “full disclosure” in other areas of endeavor. Neuroleptic medications are a bitch to withdraw from. Telling the doctors that weight gain, increased risk of diabetes, tardive dyskinesia and early death is unacceptable when there are other avenues out there falls on deaf ears.

I have a hard time with Susan Inman’s other main point (and Dr. Torrey’s): That the family background has nothing to do with a mental illness. She seems unwilling to even remotely entertain the idea that maybe there is something in the family environment beyond just a medical diagnosis of bipolar and epilepsy in distant relatives, that might have something to do with the rage and suspicion that her daughter spat back at her. She is upset with anybody who seems to even hint at this. Like it or not, most people labeled mentally ill, I have found, do believe it is their family that contributed to their breakdown. (People don’t listen to mental patients’ actual complaints.) No, the problem is with her daughter’s biochemistry, she asserts. The family is not dysfunctional, her daughter is mentally ill. She bristles at the suggestion of Expressed Emotion, as one of the doctors in a family education class spoke about. She reasons that she and her husband have been very careful not to criticize their daughter. The problem with Expressed Emotion, in my opinion, is that it is a concept that nobody has bothered to properly explain and therefore nobody really knows what it is about. It is a concept that I believe is valid, and is much larger than the family criticizing (or not) their relative. It is also the emotion around being told that you are mentally ill and that you must accept your sickness. Organizations like NAMI do this very well. What it tells the suffering individual is that there is something wrong with them. How can someone get well if they are constantly told they are sick and that they must accept that they are sick or they won’t get well? That is like a school teacher telling a child that they are stupid, but if they want to do well, they must first admit their stupidity. This approach is discouraged in every other area except mental health, apparently. Pity is also Expressed Emotion. So are medications (feeling singled out trauma associated with being fat, drooling, unable to drink alcohol when everybody else can, etc.). Expressed Emotion can be delivered by doctors and society. (Schizophrenia is the Diagnosis of Doom.) I had to find out about Expressed Emotion for myself. It is not mentioned much these days for exactly for the reason that Susan Inman found objectionable. She writes: “Fuller Torrey sees a lot of this work as just one of many efforts to find new ways to blame families.” Really? If anything, I think that family background has been unexamined for decades for fear of offending people.

I’m a mother, too, and I may not be wild about people hinting that maybe I should take a look at myself, but what I cannot understand is someone who isn’t intellectually curious and fearless enough to be willing to investigate the possibility if it could result in breakthroughs for her daughter. Yes, there are good therapies that address this (even for schizophrenia!), but that would mean, of course, that they might tread into family background. Susan Inman refuses to go down that path. She paints an idyllic but sketchy portrait of family life. How many of us are that fine and noble as parents? I am ashamed of things I have said and done in moments of anger when my children were small. My son’s childhood was normal enough, but mental illness is a lot more nuanced that what is on the surface. People on the outside looking in might think that ours was a normal family, and it was, but it isn’t really. No family is normal. None. What is so hard about that?

Susan Inman has such fears about anything less than a perfect family for her children that I fear she has not stretched herself enough to be honest with her daughter or herself. A holistic person would feel that the person with the label is on to something, even if not understanding the root of it. Psychiatry has been too busy with the prescription pad in the second half of the last century to build on the base established by Freud, Jung and others in the first half. Freud appears to be utter rubbish to her. She has bought the medical model. She routinely dismisses the idea that there is another side to this. When a member of the Vancouver Playwrights’ Theatre Centre writes a letter objecting to the terms of the guidelines of the conference the author is sponsoring, saying that there is no evidence that schizophrenia is a neurobiological disorder, she portrays the basis for his opinion as mental illness being invented by psychiatry and pharmaceutical companies to make money. Full stop. No acknowledging that this is a widely held opinion by many thoughtful people. Most people have no opinion about schizophrenia unless they have an intimate involvement with it, as I would assume the letter writer has. She sees his complaint as romanticizing mental illness. This is what she calls an anti-science approach, which makes me sad because science hasn’t been especially good to her daughter or my son. When her daughter manages to enroll in a sociology class, she discovers to her horror that the teacher tells the class that pharmaceutical companies in cahoots with psychiatrists have made up a bunch of mental disorders for which there is no evidence. Well, isn’t a first year college course (especially sociology) exactly the kind of place that should challenge your closely held assumptions? Not when it comes to mental illness, I guess.

To Susan Inman’s credit, she is tenacious, but in a completely opposite way than I would go. She’s got involved with NAMI to fight the stigma. I said NAMI perpetuates stigma. Stigma will remain as long as people are not getting better. “Science” has enabled people to remain mentally ill and now it wants mental illness to be accepted by removing the goal posts. NAMI is an organization that encourages relatives to continue to medicate their relatives, thus putting real recovery even further out of reach. U.S. Congressional investigators have determined that, in recent years, the majority of NAMI’s donations have come from drug makers. The disclosure came about after longstanding criticism of NAMI for coordinating its lobbying efforts with drug makers and pushing legislation that also benefits the pharmaceutical industry.

To illustrate what a colossal train wreck the biochemical model of mental illness is, it is interesting to see how dosage is viewed in different countries. Of course, recommended doses are changing yet again, so what Susan Inman and I were told a few years ago is not what we would be told today, but here is her experience. She goes to the Menninger Clinic in the United States and is told that the level of meds her daughter was on in Canada was not high enough. Doctors in the United States administer much higher doses of antipsychotics early in the treatment because they have found it more effective in stamping out psychosis. This causes her to worry, naturally, that it is too late for her daughter. In Europe where we live, the doctors told me that in North America the doses are too high and that in Europe they have found that minimal doses work best. I am not thrilled with the European logic, either, because what is actually considered a low dose? If someone passed me an antipsychotic and urged me to try one, even at a low dose, I would decline. I don’t think I would function very well.

Kudos to Susan Inman for being a mother willing to write about a difficult subject. I have wrestled with the rating I want to give this book. It’s a gripping read. My hesitation is that when someone first is given The Diagnosis of Doom the doctor may suggest that you read E. Fuller Torrey, and now maybe they will include Susan Inman’s book. If you want to actually get over your diagnosis, you will have to look elsewhere. The web is full of self-help advice from people who’ve been there and emerged transformed. No praise to this book for perpetuating the NAMI biochemical “just take your meds and don’t even bring up the family environment” version of mental illness. Schizophrenia is not like any other illness. It has to be tackled with more imagination and respect than just administering drugs and telling your relative that it’s brain damage. Refusing to recognize the importance of the family background will guarantee the persistence of the purely pharmaceutical model and extended mental illness.

Thoughts in passing

I wonder about the U.S. Military. How is it that being under psychiatric treatment means you get to STAY in the military and still perform your functions? Flat feet used to render you unfit to serve in World War II, although Donald Duck did serve in the army (KP duty I’ve heard.)

I wonder how come we are doing the legwork on Chris’s meds reduction rather than allowing the psychiatrists to manage the process?

I wonder why Daniel Carlat thinks he’s been too focused on hunting for textbook symptoms of mental disorder in his patients and then he turns around and diagnoses a patient with ADD and gives her Ritalin like he has learned nothing at all?

I wonder how Phillip Dawdy and Mike and Sam are these days.

Another run at med reduction

Chris has the go-ahead by his psychiatrists to start lowering the Serdolect. (He is on 8 mg Serdolect and he remains on 10 mg Abilify for the foreseeable future.) I am not necessarily optimistic that this will be the beginning of the end of the medications, but I’m willing to entertain the thought. The problem the last time, despite the fact that the psychiatrist recommended a program of supplements and slow, methodical lowering over a one year period, was that Chris relapsed anyway eight months after finishing the reduction program. So, I tend to take it all with a grain of salt.

This time I consulted a website that instructs Chris to pre-taper for a week before the taper by adding certain supplements such as Omega 3 and Body Calm. Then he begins an exponential process of lowering his meds by 5% every fourteen days for a total of six weeks, waiting two weeks, then reducing every two weeks by 10% until the end. The number of vitamins he needs is minimal to the thirty-five supplements he was on the last time.

I hesitate to leave the process entirely to Dr. Stern, mainly because doctors have a reputation of lowering the medication too fast. Whether or not anything we are doing will define the outcome remains to be seen. Chris is also thinking about starting yoga classes, which in addition to his chakra spinning sound therapy and the books he reads hopefully will give him the resilience he needs to successfully pull this off.

Chris has been on medications for six years, and only off them for a brief period of about a year. I must confess to feeling a bit jaded about the outcomes. We can do everything right and he could still relapse. There is more to relapse than blaming it all on the meds. So, we will try to maintain a calm, non-judgemental environment. We will not put pressure on him do start any new directions.

This week’s obituaries

Alice Miller, a psychoanalyst who repositioned the family as a locus of dysfunction with her theory that parental power and punishment lay at the root of nearly all human problems, died at her home in Provence on April 14. She was 87.

Dr. Mortimer Sackler. . . became a prominent psychiatrist, specializing in schizophrenia and depression, before becoming a pharmaceutical entrepreneur along with his brothers Arthur and Raymond. The brothers were convinced that pharmaceutical solutions and what they called psychobiology could replace common treatments such as electric shock or lobotomy. But it was only when Mortimer was nearly 80, 14 years ago, that the painkiller OxyContin, produced by his company Purdue Pharma, brought him a serious fortune. That drug alone brought in $2.5bn last year. He and his family were estimated a few years ago as worth £300m but he gave much, if not most, of his wealth to education, science, medicine and culture.

The readers’ revenge

A sample of readers’ comments to the Carlat article in today’s New York Times:

“I’m glad that at least one psychiatrist has noticed that most psychiatrists could be replaced very effectively by an online multiple-choice questionnaire and a vending machine.”

“Your profession is not listening to your patients. Of course talk therapy should not be suspended. That seems obvious. Why is it not to you and your profession? And why has your profession accepted the “20 minutes” deemed by the insurance companies as adequate and the standard of care?”

“A psychiatrist is advocating for the importance of understanding the person for whom he/she is prescribing medication. That would be refreshing news, were it not so dismaying that we have a system of treatment where such an obvious and fundamental principle is in need of such advocacy. Part of the problem with psychiatric care is the fact that you perceive other mental health professionals as “lower in the mental-health hierarchy,” rather than as colleagues.”

“I’m glad you’ve written a book, Dr. Carlat. I could write a book–actually I have–wrote it at UCSF, too. I’ve had over 20 years of various forms of pscyotherapy,counselling, my own personal psychopharmacologist, and the one thing none of these many professionals has ever “gotten” is that I’m a human being. I keep wondering how that can be. On the other hand, back when I was married to a philosophy professor (when he was teaching at a v. small college), I met his new colleague across the hall, the psychology prof. Turned out he’d never read Freud, or so he claimed. I’m no particular fan of Freud overall, but it does seem to me that someone who has taken the trouble to earn a PhD in psychology might at least have the curiosity to find out what the man had to say. And that in an anecdotal nutshell is what is wrong with psychiatry today–most professions today–lack of curiosity about what’s outside the walls of the profession.”

“Clearly, mental illness is a brain disease..” I’m sorry, but that is not clear at all. The mind and the brain are not the same thing; they may overlap in a functional sense, but the physical organ of the brain is neither the seat of consciousness nor the locus of the sense of self. It is sad that psychology, the only discipline of modern medicine that took the mind seriously, has devolved into the simplistic materialism of its peers.”

“Am I the only reader who found it discouraging that Doctor Carlat spent a just a little more time with a patient and then congratulated himself on finding yet another drug to prescribe? He does not seem to have abandoned his deeply ingrained practice of symptom hunting at all.”

“I undoubtably have an unbalance or two but those years in therapy taught me the SKILLS I needed to face any problems I come across head on, and deal with the resulting feelings. My mother, on the otherhand, accepted the “medicate” method of treatment over the years, and continues to have years that are like train wrecks.”

“One psychiatrist attending one of my sons as an in patient even exhorted me several times in a single visit to get on anti-depressants myself, “Mr., I see it in your eyes!” My response was, “Yes, I’m depressed over my son’s situation, but no thank you, I’m going to a lap pool instead!”

See also, Brainless and Mindless my post from today.

Laws with people’s first names on them

There has been a growing tendency in the United States to push for laws in remembrance of the victim. So, we have “Kendra’s” law, New York State legislation that forces the mentally ill into treatment programs if they meet the following criteria:

is 18 years of age or older; and
•is suffering from a mental illness; and
•is unlikely to survive safely in the community without supervision, based on a clinical determination; and
•has a history of lack of compliance with treatment for mental illness which has led to either:
◦2 hospitalizations for mental illness in the preceding 36 months, or
◦1 or more acts of serious violent behavior toward self or others or threats of, or attempts at, serious physical harm to self or others within the last 48 months; and
•is unlikely to voluntarily participate in outpatient treatment that would enable him or her to live safely in the community; and
•is in need of AOT in order to avoid a relapse or deterioration which would be likely to result in serious harm to self or others; and
•is likely to benefit from AOT.

Kendra’s law has a sunset provision for June 2010. According to a petition that is circulating: The proposed new law includes provisions such as increasing the original court order from 6 months to one year; not requiring doctor testimony, requiring fiscal management, allowing an expired order to be renewed 60 days after it expires without needing a new hearing, and viewing “non-compliance” with drugs, urine or blood tests, or drugs and alcohol use as grounds for “dangerousness”.

I can understand society’s frustration with mentally ill people who are violent and roaming the streets, but statistics show that most violent crime is committed by the “non-mentally” ill. That is no comfort to the victim or the victim’s family, so we end up with laws like Kendra’s, aimed at justice for the individual while claiming justice for society. My concern with Kendra’s law. “Assisted Outpatient Treatment” smells like meds to me. Are meds all they’re going to get? Is that it? Any real therapy going on here? It smells to me like people will be stuffed full of meds until they are so zoned out they are no longer violent, but also not employable. Kendra’s law has a whiff of buck passing. Nobody wants to be responsible here, so again, make it look responsible by passing a law, get drugs into them and you’ve done your duty. If they fail to adhere, then there is always America’s already over-crowded prison system.

One glaring absence in the reporting about Andrew Goldstein, who pushed Kendra Webdale into the path of an on-coming subway train, was Andrew’s family. Where were they? It appears he was abandoned to a group home after lurching around New York City for a number of lonely years. Not one mention of his family other than the fact that his mother refused to see him. That doesn’t cut it with me. How about an “Andrew’s law” that would force families into therapy along with their relative and would force the family to take their relative off the streets. If you don’t like Andrew’s law, there’s always “Kendra’s law”.

My “Andrew’s law” social engineering proposal at least has some merits that I think are missing in Kendra’s law. One is the acknowledgement that a supportive family is key and that families should be expected to be fully involved from the outset. Another is to give the individual and the family factual information about what is out there in terms of help that doesn’t involve medications. A third is to let the individual/the family decide what therapy is best for them and support this choice. If they want to bring in an African shaman or a Celtic priest or decide that orthomolecular therapy is also what they want, then assume that they know best. A fourth option is a personal favorite, which is “emulation.” Let people find out from other real people in real life situations what worked for them. A fifth option is to give the family some relief through short term accommodations where drugs will not be automatically administered. (The fifth option is not available in most jurisictions and is why we tried to keep Chris out of the hospital when he was relapsing.)

The “system” such as it is, discourages the family in favor of the professional and the use of medications from the start. The family is told that alternative treatments are unproven. All of this instills fear into the family, who quickly come to regard their relative as strange and hopeless.

What Andrew’s family did was to warehouse him in a group home. That is harsh judgement for me to make, not knowing much more than what I read. But it’s got to be said. Their son was their responsibility in the end, despite the problems with the way medical help was offered. The tragedy may have been prevented had the parents been given more hope from the onset and encouraged to be an integral part of their son’s recovery process. They probably weren’t told that their son could recover from schizophrenia without drugs if other interventions were in place. They were probably told instead that he had a damaged brain and that schizophrenia could only be treated using medications. If they had done more, despite the lack of help from institutions, and been encouraged with better disclosure of treatment options, perhaps there wouldn’t be a Kendra’s law. If real help was available for them perhaps this tragedy would not have happened.

The New York Times deals with the issue of the warehousing in the army’s trauma care units. It reminded me very much of the day program Chris was enrolled in for two years. Chris never wanted to go to the day program, where he felt demeaned, despite the “best of intentions.” He felt like a freak there, so he acted like one. All in all, I figured two years of “recovery” were wasted by good intentions that didn’t support the family working it out for themselves in their own way. Once you enter a program, you abide by its definition of recovery and how to go about it.

The article interviewed the mother of one young man about his experiences in the transition unit.

But things are looking up, his mother believes: he will be able to stay with her in Michigan while awaiting his discharge. His mother, Sally Darrow, has already seen one son commit suicide. She believes that Michael would become the second if he had to return to Fort Carson and the transition unit. “At home, with family and schoolmates, he’s dealing with things better,” Ms. Darrow said. “He’s not safe there.”

Brainless and mindless

The day program that Chris was involved with for two years made me a critic of the mental health industry. Chris was clearly not recovering, was horribly overweight, and yet the doctors refused to consider that maybe medications weren’t helpful in his case. (By the way, no matter what your diagnosis was in that program, you all got the same drugs. This reasoning strikes me as not very scientific.)

Ron Unger points out this hypocrisy in his latest blog post. It’s well worth a read.

Here’s psychiatrist Daniel Carlat’s take in today’s New York Times on why this is so. About the only thing I can say to this shabby admission, is well, at least he’s honest with his readers if he hasn’t up until now been honest with his patients. The lack of intellectual curiosity about what makes the individual tick is appalling in most doctors. There are enough Daniel Carlats beginning to rethink the psychopharmacology model that there is hope. However, to these doctors, schizophrenia is always a special case, so I don’t hold out much optimism that much will change unless change is forced on them by “schizo positive” activists.

After J.J. left my office, I realized, uncomfortably, that somehow, over the course of the decade following my residency, my way of thinking about patients had veered away from psychological curiosity. Instead, I had come to focus on symptoms, as if they were objective medical findings, much the way internists view blood-pressure readings or potassium levels. Psychiatry, for me and many of my colleagues, had become a process of corralling patients’ symptoms into labels and finding a drug to match

Belief systems are not science but they can produce outcomes

We who do not believe in mental illness as pathological disease continue to have our work cut out for us. In a blog with the tantalizing title Family Dysfunction and Mental Illness, psychiatrist Dr. David Allen believes that there is something called “true bipolar” which does not arise from childhood trauma because it is “genetic.” Dr. Allen also asserts that “psychosis is never a normal variant of anything.”

Note: Since no gene has been discovered for schizophrenia or bipolar we can take any “proof” of a genetic link as hearsay. Epigenetics, on the other hand, is the study of inherited changes in gene appearance that do not change the underlying DNA sequence. These changes can come from the environment, can last for the life of the cell and express themselves over generations. So, if one of your grandparents went on wild spending sprees, had multiple sexual partners and/or was down in the dumps a lot, there is a chance that this behavior is established currency in the generations that followed whether you like it or not. Your genetic coding looks like the culprit, but so far it it not.

Dr. Allen writes: We know that true bipolar disorder is a real brain disease that has a significant genetic component. Earlier studies indicated that if you have a bipolar parent, your odds of developing the disorder are 5 to 10 times higher than the general population. Since the prevalence in the general population is about 1 percent, that means you have a five to ten percent chance of developing the disorder yourself. True bipolar disorder usually manifests itself in the late teens or early 20’s, most frequently with a depressive rather than a manic episode.

Further on in the same blog he writes: “Some 12 year olds actually do have mania and are psychotic, but they are extremely rare” and in the comments to one of his earlier posts, “With schizophrenia, however, I do not think that the evidence that the condition is due to to trauma or abuse is particularly strong. There is a lot of evidence now being developed that there are marked changes in the neural networks of the frontal lobes in schizophenia that are well outside the bounds of normal neural plasticity.

Admittedly, we still have not pinpointed the exact nature of the brain pathology in schizophrenia, nor have we found out what causes it. In the past, patients with true bipolar were often misdiagnosed as schizophrenic, so some of the people who “got better” may have been misdiagnosed in the first place.

Dr. Allen believes that family trauma does not contribute to schizophrenia or true bipolar. These are always “special cases.” Dr. Allen is expressing opinion, not hard science, because science isn’t there yet. Patients operating under a doctor’s belief system are probably under the impression that his advice is science. They are doomed from a treatment point of view because their doctor believes that they are intrinsically a separate species. The rest of you might be helped, but, despite the fact that the blog links family problems to mental illness, “schizophrenia and true bipolar” mysteriously are not the results of your birth environment. Psychiatrists who believe that schizophrenia and bipolar are true brain diseases will not give their clients the kind of help they deserve. I’ll let Dr. Allen have the final word here.

After dealing for over 30 years with what I consider to be the extreme case of normal reactions to abnormal situations – borderline personality disorder – and with schizophrenia, I remain convinced that schizophrenia is a true brain disease.. . . Just for other readers, claims of 75-85% recovery rates for schizophrenia from non-traditional medicine are pure snake oil. I hate to see people given false help through outrageous claims. True psychosis is never a normal variant of anything. And I never tell people that they have a chemical imbalance, because that is truly a meaningless phrase.

Paranoid or “on to something?”

My husband, Ian, fondly recalls his high school teacher telling him back in the 1970s that in the future, we would all be faced with the “problem” of what to do with our leisure time, due to advances in labor saving devices. We all know how that worked out. If we do have leisure time, it might be because we are unemployed. There is now an imbalance of work in many industrialized societies.

You know the standard line “as a journalist, I don’t believe in conspiracy theories?” This line is supposed to make people like me who do, go underground in fear of being labelled small-minded, low I.Q. or a paranoid right winger.

So, here’s one conspiracy I’ve been mulling over lately. The set-up: People are supposedly living longer, well into their nineties. There are more and more old people blowing out their 100th birthday candles. We have been told that advances in medicine will make people live longer healthier lives. At the same time, old, sick people are a burden on society. The national coffers will not be able to keep up with the health care need. So, how is this going to play out?

The solution? Convince people that they will benefit from taking advantage of the latest labor saving medical advances, such as, but not limited to, antipsychotic medication. Studies show that long term use of antipychotics shortens an average lifespan by twenty-five years. Extrapolate that to medications for other conditions, and who knows how far the predicted lifespans can be brought into line with national budgets?