The Myth of Medication, The Rapid Increase in Prescriptions for Mood-Altering Drugs and their Side Effects

The Myth of Medication: Drugs are the Answer to Mental Illness

One of the problems of conventional medical training is that doctors are not trained to identify the root causes of health disorders, but trained more to act as clinical pharmacologists.  M.D.s are trained to diagnose disease, and choose the most appropriate medication to treat it.  A typical medical doctor’s only tools are pharmaceutical drugs.  If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  Our goal in medicine should be to find the right “medicine” for each person, without prejudice, whether it is a drug, a therapy, a nutrient, diet change, detoxification, a hormone, or exercise.  We must embrace whatever works and inquire into its effectiveness with all our scientific, economic and political resources.

Let’s take a look at the main categories of medicine for the brain:

  • Anti-depressants (SSRIs, like Prozac)
  • Stimulants (Ritalin)
  • Tranquilizers/Anti-psychotics (Risperdal, Zyprexa, Seroquel, Geodon)

The Rapid Increase in Prescriptions for Mood-Altering Drugs

These mood-altering drugs are the fastest-growing segment of the pharmaceutical market and as a group constitute the second biggest class of medication in total sales and prescriptions

  • In children alone, over the 3-year period from 1997-2000, the use of antipsychotic medication increased 138%.(1) It has continued to increase since then.
  • The global use of ADHD medication rose by 300% from 1993 to 2000.(2)
  • From 2000 to 2010, the number of physician outpatient visits in which ADHD was diagnosed increased 66% from 6.2 million to 10.4 million visits.(3)
  • Of these ADHD visits, psychostimulants have remained the dominant treatment; they were used in 96% of treatment visits in 2000 and 87% of treatment visits in 2010.(4)
  • Use of antidepressant drugs has soared nearly 400% since 1988, making this class of medication the most frequently used by people ages 18-44.(5)
  • 11% of Americans ages 12 years and older took antidepressants during the 2005-08 study period.(6)
  • The use of untested and potentially unsafe combinations of psychotropic drug cocktails has increased 500% in children.  The authors of the study warned that our prescribing practices are not in sync with our current knowledge.(7)

Consider the increase of prescribed uses due to pharmaceutical marketing of tranquilizer/anti-psychotic medication such as Risperdal, Zyprexa, Seroquel and Geodon.  This class of medications is one of the biggest-growing sectors in drug sales.  Antipsychotics (tranquilizers) were originally prescribed for conditions of psychosis (ie: inability to distinguish what’s real from what’s imaginary).  Now they are given to children with behavioral problems, autism and ADHD and to adults with depression, anxiety, OCD, bipolar disease, dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

  •  Antipsychotic usage has shown a 10-20% rate of increase per year over the last few years
  • Current sales of these drugs total about $12 billion/year

Psychotropic Drugs Can Lead to Serious Side Effects

Besides acting like a chemical strait-jacket and making people dull, slow and stupid, they increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, stroke, blood clots, and more serious conditions known as neuroleptic malignant syndrome (where your body literally burns up with fever and your muscles are destroyed) and tardive dyskinesia (uncontrolled repetitive, involuntary, and purposeless movements such as lip-smacking, rapid eye blinking, grimacing and spasms in the legs).(8)

What most consumers don’t understand is that drug testing is often very limited before drug approval.  New drugs are tested on a few hundred to a few thousand people often for a very limited time (usually a few weeks to a few months).  Then they are released on the market, supported by more than $30 billion in pharmaceutical advertising dollars (or about $25,000/year for each of the 737,000 physicians in America)

Once approved, these drugs can be prescribed for any use.  Once approved, there is no official tracking of its risks or benefits to the millions who are prescribed the drug.  It’s left up to the patients or doctors to self-report problems.  This leaves the public very vulnerable.  Unfortunately, it appears drug companies often see any backlash or lawsuits as simply part of their “research and development” expenses of their drugs.

The Pharmaceutical Companies Consider Lawsuits a Part of Drug Marketing and Development

Eli Lilly, the maker of the antipsychotic drug Zyprexa, has already paid $1.2 billion to settle 30,000 lawsuits from people who claim that Zyprexa caused them to develop diabetes or other diseases, and is also alleged to have promoted Zyprexa for unapproved off-label use, which it denies.  Zyprexa is approved for schizophrenia, but doctors also prescribe it for anxiety.

Bloomberg News reported the following in December 2006:

“Nationwide, several lawsuits accuse drug companies of engaging in deceptive marketing by overstating the effectiveness and understating the risks of new anti-psychotics.  The suits also claim companies promoted the drugs for unapproved uses.  Mississippi, Louisiana, Alaska and West Virginia sued Eli Lilly and Co. this year on behalf of their Medicaid health programs for the poor.  They said the company fraudulently touted the antipsychotic Zyprexa for unapproved uses.  Indianapolis-based Lilly settled about 8,000 personal injury complaints for $700 million in 2005 and faces 4,000 more claims.”

We are a drug-addicted society and we are overprescribed medication when there are better solutions.  According to the JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), in an average week, 81% of Americans use at least one medication, 50% take at least one prescription drug, and 7% take 5 or more drugs.  Of those over 65 years old, 12% take at least 10 medications and 23% take at least 5 medications.(9)  Why are Americans prescribed so many medications?

In the next article, we will reveal the brain-body separation myth, take a different look at autism as a systemic disorder that affects the brain (instead of primarily a brain disorder) and look at the blood-sugar and Alzheimer’s disease connection.


  1. Vargas, D. L., et al. 2005. Neuroglial activation and neuroinflammation in the brain of patients with autism. Ann Neurol 57 (1):67-81.
  2. Lenoir, M., et al. 2007. Intense sweetness surpasses cocaine reward. PLoS ONE       2 (1):e698.
  5. The data are from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, which included information from 12,637 participants about prescription-drug use, antidepressant use, length of use, severity of depressive symptoms and contact with a health professional.
  6. The data are from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys.
  7. Bhatara, V, et al. 2004.  National trends in concomitant psychotropic medication with stimulants in pediatric visits: Practice versus knowledge.  Atten Disord 7 (4):217-26.
  8. The UltraMind Solution.  Mark Hyman, MD.  Simon and Shuster. 2008
  9. Kaufman, D. W., et al. 2002. Recent patterns of medication use in the ambulatory adult population of the United States. The Slone Survey. JAMA 287:337-44.