Not sorry enough

Dr. Joseph Biederman, the popularizer of the bipolar child phenomenon, and two colleagues, have been called into the principal’s office by the Harvard Medical School and the Massachussetts General Hospital, and, gosh, they are very sorry. Instead of being publically drawn and quartered for accepting pharmaceutical money for promoting dubious research and misleading the public, they have been given the adult equivalent of writing on the blackboard 50 times (okay, once) that they are very sorry that they have brought Harvard and MGH into disrepute, and they will never do it again, or, at least, they will check with their employer first before they accept any more money from industry…  for a year. So, it’s Harvard and MGH that are “upset” about being in the spotlight, and we the public will have to continue to cyberstalk Dr. Biederman et al, until, what? But they are not apologizing for the hell they have wreaked on the public, to which this “apology” letter attests. (Thanks to One Boring Old Man via Stephany and for bringing this wrap-up to my attention.)

One Boring Old Man says that the evidence for the bipolar child is thin on the ground, and he demonstrates in his post how paltry the evidence is that the bipolar child hinges upon. “Over the course of the years between 2000 and 2008, Biederman’s group reported 9 clinical trials [among their 78 articles]. I included this table because I was surprised at how thin it was – seven small open label trials, one retrospective analysis [of someone else’s Janssen financed double blind study], and only one double blind trial of their own. With all the noise they were making, I would’ve expected more:”

We can fight back by continuing to agree from here on in that there is no such thing as childhood bipolar disorder, there never was, there probably never will be. Bipolar is a rare occurence, and was diagnosed only in adults until Dr. Biederman got going. What we have are children acting out. We also have children who act out in a myriad of ways as a result of being given a cocktail of pharmaceuticals that go along with this diagnosis or cause this diagnosis to happen in the first place. I said “acting out.” Head banging rage and talk of suicide is acting out, but try telling that to parents who feel that nobody understands their particular situation. This is not a discipline problem, they insist, my child is really ill. He has (Biederman inspired) bipolar. To which I would say, a problem is still a problem in need of a solution, but it isn’t bipolar.

Anger and irritability can take people’s breath away when a rare child gets going. (I was an extremely angry, irritable child who, if this happened today, might have been placed on an antipyschotic.*) It seems like a mental illness, it walks and talks like a mental illness, but is it a mental illness or is it a failure to understand how to help? Families aren’t getting the kind of help they need because Dr. Biederman and colleagues have sidelined psychological and nutritional support in favor of pharmacogical treatment. For years we have heard that talk therapy doesn’t work but really what was going on was that pharmacology paid more to the doctor, who had no incentive to speak well of the competition. So a real avenue of help has been trashed and it will take quite a while to right that wrong.

*Holistic thought: I used to vent my spleen a lot, regularly, several times a day in fact. Anybody and anything set me off. For those not familiar with this expression, a spleen is an organ near the stomach that produces and cleanses the body’s blood.** To vent one’s spleen means Fig. to get rid of one’s feelings of anger caused by someone or something by attacking someone or something else. Jack vented his spleen at his wife whenever things went badly at work. Peter vented his spleen on his car by kicking it when it broke down.  There were two events that happened round about the same time that may have turned me into the sweet, good-natured person I am today (irony). When I was eleven years old my spleen was surgically removed. I also remember that just before Christmas, my mother grabbed me by the shoulders and said, in a very menacing tone of voice, that if I ruined one more Christmas for the family she was going to knock my teeth down the back of my throat! Two possibly unrelated events. Same outcome. I changed.

**Cambridge On-Line Dictionary