Asylum Magazine (Volume 17 No 2) Summer 2010

Modern societies are highly medicated. You have a health problem? Pop a pill. While ever-inflating health budgets may sometimes benefit patients, they always benefit the drug companies. Since the Second World War, pharmaceuticals have proved even more profitable than the arms industry, the next highest performing sector in the economy.

Mental health products make up a significant part of pharmaceuticals. And all manner of political and professional parties have an interest in the unquestioned growth of drugs sales. In this issue we explore the dubious status of mental health medication.

At last, with the arrival of global metastudies of the drugs in the field (sometimes comparing over one hundred pieces of research on one drug) what for many years was known from a small number of studies is now becoming crystal clear: psychiatric medication is actually inappropriate or ineffectual for most patients most of the time.

But for decades it has also been known that too often psychiatric drugging is also positively harmful. Now science is making it clearer why some patients do seem to respond well enough to psychiatric medication but a greater number show no positive response or a definitely negative mental or physical health response. Pharmacogenetics is the clinical testing of genetic variations which give rise to differing responses to the various prescribed medications – it is the study of how our differently constituted bodies are able or unable to take up drugs.

There is now clear evidence that many mental health patients – and probably the neediest – are simply unable to metabolise their medications, and are, in fact, poisoned by them. This is the topic of Catherine Clarke’s important article, towards the back of this issue. She notes that pharmac

ogenetic tests are routinely carried out prior to treatment in general medicine, for example, with the medications prescribed for arthritis, HIV, cancer, Crohn’s and heart disease.

This is to assess the degree of efficacy or inefficacy of the proposed drug for each particular patient, and to reduce seriously adverse reactions. In those areas of medicine, the tests only take about 90 seconds and can be done at an out-patient clinic for just £10. So it seems that testing for the capacity for each mental health patient to metabolise and excrete a proposed medication could be fairly cheap, and it would soon pay off by vastly improving treatment and cutting the rate of iatrogenic illness.

And yet there are no plans to introduce pharmacogenetic tests into mental health medicine in the UK. Mental health remains the Cinderella of medicine. Just as in the 1960s and 1970s, when they closed their eyes to the medically induced epidemic of tardive dyskinesia, policy makers in the NHS do not seem interested in the uselessness of their treatments or the continuing drug-induced harm and suffering caused to this particular kind of patient.

Phil Virden, Executive Editor


Download Volume 17 No 2



  • Special issue: What everyone should know about psychiatric medication
  • The Truth about Psychiatric Drugs. Joanna Moncrieff
  • Book review: Drug-Induced dementia by Grace Jackson. Reviewed by Catherine Clarke
  • Psychiatry and the Toxic Drug Industry. Justice Lover
  • Combatting the Drug Companies’ Drug pushing. Evelyn Pringle
  • Psychiatric medication: Shooting in the dark. Phil Virden
  • The ADHD fraud: Chemical Holocaust for Children from an interview with Fred A Baughman
  • Turning Children into Mental Patients: ADHA in the UK. George Fowler
  • Psychotropic medications: remedies of poisons? The evidence from Pharmacogenetics. Catherine Clarke.More Drugging, Less riots
  • Surveillance and Tranquilisation vs Protest. Guy Holmes
  • How to withdraw from Psychiatric Drugs. Peter Lehman