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'The myth of the chemical cure'



Former member
Taking a pill to treat depression is widely believed to work by reversing a chemical imbalance.

But in this week's Scrubbing Up health column, Dr Joanna Moncrieff, of the department of mental health sciences at University College London, says they actually put people into "drug-induced states".

If you've seen a doctor about emotional problems some time over the past 20 years, you may have been told that you had a chemical imbalance, and that you needed tablets to correct it.

It's not just doctors that think this way, either.

Magazines, newspapers, patients' organisations and internet sites have all publicised the idea that conditions like depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder can be treated by drugs that help to rectify an underlying brain problem.

People with schizophrenia and other conditions are frequently told that they need to take psychiatric medication for the rest of their lives to stabilise their brain chemicals, just like a diabetic needs to take insulin.

The trouble is there is little justification for this view of psychiatric drugs.

Altered States

First, although ideas like the serotonin theory of depression have been widely publicised, scientific research has not detected any reliable abnormalities of the serotonin system in people who are depressed.

Second, it is often said the fact that drug treatment "works" proves there's an underlying biological deficiency.

Psychoactive drugs make people feel different

But there is another explanation for how psychiatric drugs affect people with emotional problems.

It is frequently overlooked that drugs used in psychiatry are psychoactive drugs, like alcohol and cannabis.

Psychoactive drugs make people feel different; they put people into an altered mental and physical state.

They affect everyone, regardless of whether they have a mental disorder or not.

Therefore, an alternative way of understanding how psychiatric drugs affect people is to look at the psychoactive effects they produce.

Drugs referred to as antipsychotics, for example, dampen down thoughts and emotions, which may be helpful in someone with psychosis.

Drugs like Valium produce a state of relaxation and a pleasant drowsiness, which may reduce anxiety and agitation.

Drugs labelled as "anti-depressants" come from many different chemical classes and produce a variety of effects.

Prior to the 1950s, the drugs that were used for mental health problems were thought of as psychoactive drugs, which produced mainly sedative effects.

'Informed choice'

Views about psychiatric drugs changed over the course of the 1950s and 1960s.

They gradually came to be seen as being specific treatments for specific diseases, or "magic bullets", and their psychoactive effects were forgotten.

However, this transformation was not based on any compelling evidence.

In my view it remains more plausible that they "work" by producing drug-induced states which suppress or mask emotional problems.

If we gave people a clearer picture drug treatment might not always be so appealing

This doesn't mean psychiatric drugs can't be useful, sometimes.

But, people need to be aware of what they do and the sorts of effects they produce.

At the moment people are being encouraged to believe that taking a pill will make them feel better by reversing some defective brain process.

That sounds good. If your brain is not functioning properly, and a drug can make it work better, then it makes sense to take the pill.

If, on the other hand, we gave people a clearer picture, drug treatment might not always be so appealing.

If you told people that we have no idea what is going on in their brain, but that they could take a drug that would make them feel different and might help to suppress their thoughts and feelings, then many people might choose to avoid taking drugs if they could.

On the other hand, people who are severely disturbed or distressed might welcome these effects, at least for a time.

People need to make up their own minds about whether taking psychoactive drugs is a useful way to manage emotional problems.

To do this responsibly, however, doctors and patients need much more information about the nature of psychiatric drugs and the effects they produce.

Source - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/8138893.stm


Well-known member
Founding Member
Apr 14, 2008
South West Scotland
very interesting, i must admit i did think it was to do with an imbalance. The part about causing an altered state is undeniable though otherwise people without the problems these drugs are prescribed for wouldn't take them recreationally.


Well-known member
Founding Member
Jan 7, 2008
I had the chemical cure pushed in the past but on attempting to work turned out it wasn't a cure, now more cynical unfortunately i feel my shrink beleives the chemical cure and the sort of reference she's likely to give could get me in trouble with the dwp

Even if it was true theres the label, my unemployment history, my age and the recession, if they decide to put me on the fit for work level of benefits i could be up shit creek without a paddle due to the extra costs of illness


Jul 10, 2009
Interesting post. Can you please elaborate on what you mean by giving people a clearer picture. Are you referring to the chemical induced state that will arise or of their own emotional state ?



Former member
Interesting post. Can you please elaborate on what you mean by giving people a clearer picture. Are you referring to the chemical induced state that will arise or of their own emotional state ?


If, on the other hand, we gave people a clearer picture, drug treatment might not always be so appealing.

Society is ruled by powerful myths around mental illness. If people are given a clearer picture about different understandings, treatments & perspectives - then they can make their own more informed choices. What we have at present is dire - Go to a Doc & get drugged up, based on a lie - it isn't healthy.


Following Quoted from above site -

It is interesting to begin gathering up the "presumed causes" in one place. Having done so we can begin to break these "presumed causes" down into a few subsets...

# Nutritional: Milk; Lack of Sunlight/Vitamin D; Niacin Deficiency; Caffeine; Lack of Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids; Gluten Intolerance

# Psychosocial: Trauma; Stress; Social Environment; Attempt at Self-Healing; Cultural Memes & Mutations; Double-Bind Theory & The Family; Ego Collapse; Repressed Bisexuality

# Biomedical: Dopamine Dysfunction; Genetics; Blood Type

# External Cause: Cat Poop; Marijuana; Neuroleptics; Cough Syrup; Qigong; Subliminal Peripheral Vision; Brain Trauma; Tetrachloroethylene Exposure; Lyme Disease; Mercury Fillings

# Psychospiritual: Demon Possession; Shamanic Calling; Ego Death; Kundalini; Individuation/Transpersonal Crisis

Based on what we each know of our personal histories, we can then begin to identify which subset and therefore, which form of treatment may best aid us in recovering on an individual basis. For instance, in my own case, psychosocial and psychospiritual factors are the most significant "causes". Is it any wonder then that I responded best to "talk therapy" and the insights and spiritual connection offered by "depth psychology"?

It's worth drawing attention to these entries as well:

# Dialogue is the Change

# Dr. John Weir Perry & Diabasis

The two clinicians with the best recovery rates -- 80% to 85% -- are a clinical psychologist (Jaakko Seikkula) and a Jungian psychiatrist (John Weir Perry). Both of them relied on forms of talk therapy.

Jaakko Seikkula, Ph.D. is a professor at the Institute of Social Medicine at the University of Tromso in Norway and senior assistant at the Department of Psychology in the University of Jyvskyl in Finland. Between 1981-1998, he worked as a clinical psychologist at the Keropudas hospital in Finland where he and colleagues developed a highly successful approach for working with psychosis known as Open Dialogue Treatment (OPT).

Among those who went through the OPT program, incidence of schizophrenia declined substantially, with 85% of the patients returning to active employment and 80% without any psychotic symptoms after five years. All this took place in a research project wherein only about one third of clients received neuroleptic medication.

Source - http://spiritualrecoveries.blogspot.com/2006/05/dr-jaakko-seikkula-dialogue-is-change.html

"...85% of our clients (all diagnosed as severely schizophrenic) at the Diabasis center not only improved, with no medications, but most went on growing after leaving us."

- John Weir Perry

The Facility: Diabasis was an experimental project in San Francisco. It was a residence facility that lived through three years and more of inpatient work with acute "schizophrenic" episodes in young adults without the use of medications, always as part of the county's community mental health system. Its purpose was to provide a home in which clients might have the opportunity to experience with full awareness their deepest processes during this intense turmoil.

Source - http://spiritualrecoveries.blogspot.com/2006/05/dr-john-weir-perry-diabasis.html

These are some facts & research denied & ignored by the majority of people & most of orthodox medicine - over the chemical imbalance/forced drugging Myth; & drugging for profit; on which the 'system' is based. Very powerful scotomas operate in most people - & they cannot see the evidence & truth that plainly stares them in the face.
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Jul 25, 2009
Complex problem

Interesting topic, I have had a few arguments with psychiatrists about these issues and will probably have another one in a couple of days time.
I believe that balance in all aspects of your life is the key to nearly all mental health problems. A little of what you fancy won't kill you. The problem with most drugs is that they can seem to work well in acute cases and calm a person down but continued use can become a chemical straight-jacket that pacifies and eventually zombifies you.

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