BIGGEST BULLSHITTER IN AMERICA?
WHO IS DR. ALLEN FRANCES?
JUNE 30, 2011. Hey, the man may be a saint. Who knows? He might be so far beyond my ability to comprehend him I can’t hope to grasp the meaning of his work. He might deserve a Nobel Prize and the thanks of a grateful nation and a statue in the Smithsonian. But…
Is it possible this doctor is the biggest bullshitter in America? I’m just asking, because I’ve been thinking about running a contest. Also because I’ve been reading the interesting statements he made to Gary Greenberg, author of a Wired article: “Inside the Battle to Define Mental Illness.” (Dec.27, 2010).
How that article failed to make it out into the mainstream and grab big headlines is beyond me. Well, not really, given its incendiary implications. Editors and reporters at major media outlets have an uncommon nose for avoiding the sort of trouble Greenberg’s piece would have created, were it to be unleashed on the population—and although they like to call themselves journalists, that’s a myth even they don’t really believe anymore. They’re mutts on short leashes.
Dr. Allen Frances is the man who, in 1994, headed up the project to write the latest edition of the psychiatric bible, the DSM-IV. This tome defines and labels and describes every official mental disorder in the known universe. The DSM-IV eventually listed 297 of them.
In an April 19, 1994, New York Times piece, “Scientist At Work,” Daniel Goleman called Frances “Perhaps the most powerful psychiatrist in America at the moment…”
Well, sure. If you’re sculpting the entire canon of diagnosable mental disorders for your colleagues, for insurers, for the government, for pharma (who will sell the drugs matched up to the 297 DSM-IV diagnoses), you’re right up there in the pantheon.
But 12 years later, long after the DSM-IV had been put into print, Frances talked to Wired’s Greenberg and said the following:
“There is no definition of a mental disorder. It’s bullshit. I mean, you just can’t define it.”
That’s on the order of the designer of the Hindenburg, looking at the burned rubble on the ground, remarking, “Well, I knew there would be a problem.”
That’s much more serious than the president telling the American people, “We sent our combat planes to Libya, but I meant to say Liberia.”
After a suitable pause, Dr. Frances remarked to Greenberg, “These concepts [of distinct mental disorders] are virtually impossible to define precisely with bright lines at the borders.”
Obliquely, Frances might have been referring to the fact that his baby, the DSM-IV, had rearranged earlier definitions of ADHD and bipolar to permit many more diagnoses, leading to a vast acceleration of drug-dosing with highly powerful and toxic compounds.
Finally, at the end of the Wired interview, Frances went off on a quite intriguing foray, praising what amounts to a mass-population placebo effect which would justify the existence of the entire psychiatric profession.
“Diagnosis [as spelled out in the DSM-IV] is part of the magic…you know those medieval maps? In the places where they didn’t know what was going on, they wrote ‘Dragons live here’…we have a dragon’s world here. But you wouldn’t want to be without the map.”
Here is the import of Dr. Frances’ words: People need to hope for the healing of their troubles; so even if we’re shooting blanks and pretending to know one kind of mental disorder from another, even if we’re inventing these mental-disorder definitions based on no biological or chemical diagnostic tests—since the tests don’t exist and we’re just juggling lists of behaviors—it’s a good thing, because people will then believe there is hope for them; they’ll believe it because we place a name on their problems…
If I were an editor at one of the big national newspapers, and one my reporters walked in and told me, “The most powerful psychiatrist in America just said the DSM is bullshit but it’s still important,” I think I’d make room on the front page.
If the reporter then added, “This shrink was in charge of creating the DSM-IV,” I’d clear more room above the fold.
If the reporter went on to explain that the whole profession of psychiatry would collapse overnight without the DSM, I’d call for a special section of the paper to be printed.
I’d tell the reporter to get ready to pound on this story day after day for months. I’d tell him to track down all the implications of Dr. Frances’ statements.
I’d open a bottle of champagne the toast the soon-to-be-soaring sales of my newspaper.
And then, of course, the next day I’d be fired.
Because there are powerful multi-billion-dollar interests at stake, and who in his right mind would challenge them?
And as I walked out of my job, I’d see a bevy of blank-eyed pharmaceutical executives marching into the office of the paper’s publisher, ready to read the riot act to him.
But oh well; would I have a candidate for biggest bullshitter in America? Just asking.
And as I chewed my cud and wandered the avenues of the big city, I’d look at all the people and something would seep in: the difference between the delusion called reality, which all these people accept, and the actual state of affairs: the giant con game, the giant shell game that allows the drugs to be sold, the drugs that—each and every one—deliver what the shrinks politely call “adverse effects.”
Look them up sometime, if you have a strong stomach.
Here is a sampling:
Adverse effects of Valproate (given for a bipolar diagnosis) include:
acute, life-threatening, and even fatal liver toxicity;
life-threatening inflammation of the pancreas;
Adverse effects of Lithium (also given for a bipolar diagnosis) include:
intercranial pressure leading to blindness;
peripheral circulatory collapse;
stupor and coma.
Adverse effects of Risperdal (given for “bipolar” and “irritability stemming from autism”) include:
serious impairment of cognitive function;
restless muscles in neck or face, tremors (may be indicative of motor brain damage).
In 1986, The International Journal of the Addictions published a most important literature review by Richard Scarnati. It was called “An Outline of Hazardous Side Effects of Ritalin (Methylphenidate)” [v.21(7), pp. 837-841].
Scarnati listed a large number of adverse affects of Ritalin and cited published journal articles which reported each of these symptoms.
For every one of the following (selected and quoted verbatim) Ritalin effects, there is at least one confirming source in the medical literature:
Hypomanic and manic symptoms, amphetamine-like psychosis
Activation of psychotic symptoms
Can surpass LSD in producing bizarre experiences
Effects pathological thought processes
Since Ritalin is considered an amphetamine-type drug, expect amphetamine-like effects
High-abuse potential DEA Schedule II Drug
Decreased REM sleep
When used with antidepressants one may see dangerous reactions including hypertension, seizures and hypothermia
Brain damage may be seen with amphetamine abuse.
A recent survey revealed that a high percentage of children diagnosed with bipolar had first received a diagnosis of ADHD. This is informative, because Ritalin and other speed-type drugs are given to kids who are slapped with the ADHD label. Speed, sooner or later, produces a crash. This is easy to call “clinical depression.” Then comes Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft. These drugs can produce temporary highs, followed by more crashes. The psychiatrist notices this up and down pattern—and then comes the diagnosis of bipolar (manic-depression) and new drugs, including Valproate and Lithium.
In the US alone, there are at least 300,000 cases of motor brain damage incurred by people who have been prescribed so-called anti-psychotic drugs (aka “major tranquilizers”). Risperdal is one of the major tranquilizers. (source: Toxic Psychiatry, Dr. Peter Breggin)
This psychiatric drug plague is accelerating across the land.
Where are the mainstream reporters and editors and newspapers and TV anchors who should be breaking this story and mercilessly hammering on it week after week? They are in harness.
Jon is the associate producer on a film in progress, American Addict, detailing the effects of pharmaceuticals on the US population.