By Cortland Pfeffer
Contributing writer for Wake Up World
“A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” — Mahatma Gandhi
An 18-year-old girl is diagnosed with Anorexia because of her underweight body image. She pleads to remove the diagnosis as this has resulted in years of bullying throughout her schooling. In doing so, she is labeled as defiant and gets a new diagnosis on her chart, “Oppositional Defiant Disorder.”
Following more refusal from any adult professional to hear her case, she retaliates to some persistent bullying and she is told she had a “psychotic break.” The psychiatrist that barely remembers her name writes a new script for Seroquel to control her “psychosis.” This medication makes her drowsy and she cannot function, though the staff member (who is only three years her senior) tells her she needs to wait it out and she can not refuse medication.
So she sleeps past noon, misses breakfast and lunch with the group, and asks if she can have something to eat. She is told, “No, that is just natural consequences.”
Diagnosed with anorexia and then refused a meal? Is this legal? More importantly, is this ethical?
In her chart, it says “refused treatment today. Did not eat breakfast or lunch.” The psychiatrist who comes in once a month and forgets her name again reads this chart to her as a form of validating himself that she truly does suffer from anorexia. She explains the situation and he cuts her off as a means of treating her newly diagnosed Oppositional Defiance Disorder.
All of this for just $1000 per day!
Over the past 25 years, I myself have been immersed in the mental health and addiction system as a patient, later as staff, as a Registered Nurse (RN), and eventually as a supervisor. My time in the mental health system officially began at age 17 when I was first hospitalized in a psychiatric unit. This preceded further hospitalizations, a number of treatment episodes for alcoholism/addiction, along with multiple stints of incarceration in jails. Eventually, through this experience, I was able to embrace recovery and ultimately gain employment at some of these same facilities in which I was treated.
Psychiatry’s Dark History
Psychiatry has had a dark history of mistreatment and failures. In ancient times, they would drill holes in the skull of the person with symptoms as a means to release their demons. The middle-ages led to burning people at the stake, claiming they were witches. In recently modern times, the age of asylums included inhumane torture, isolation, abuse, and cruelty. Yes, the mentally ill have been one of the most mistreated groups of people throughout human history.
During World War II and the rise of the German Reich, there is a lesser-known fact that the first systematic killings of the holocaust were part of a euthanasia program to wipe out the mentally ill. It was believed that the mentally ill were a financial burden to the German society and state. In 1934, the first forced killings of citizens began under the secretive Trogram. Hitler believed that during war-time it would be easier to cover up the killings and would also free up hospital beds and medical personnel.
And while Hitler’s eugenic attempts to create a master race are widely reported, the idea initially stemmed from the United States. Between 1907 and the mid-1970’s, the United States sterilized more than 60,000 citizens – all of which were unbeknownst to the subjects. Hitler praised the United States eugenics system in his book, Mein Kampf, stating to one of his comrades, “I have studied with great interest the laws of several American states concerning prevention of reproduction by people whose progeny would, in all probability, be of no value or be injurious to the racial stock.”
In the post-war era, psychiatry was still trying to prove itself as a true medical profession. On March 26, 1954, they claimed to have a medical breakthrough with the introduction of the FDA approved first psychiatric drug – Thorazine. Prior to this “breakthrough,” mental illness had been treated with psycho and eltroshock therapies and institutionalization. In fact, Egaz Mozine – inventor of the lobotomy – won the Nobel Prize in 1941 in Medicine.
Thorazine was the first of the magical drugs. It was considered a chemical lobotomy. Psychiatrists no longer needed to do a medical procedure, they could just prescribe a pill to shut off the frontal lobe of their patients.
The breakthrough was the latest of attempts of a corrupt profession to gain credibility. We tried drilling holes in skulls, burning them alive, sterilization, and abusing them in inhumane facilities. All those methods seem torturous and barbarian. Today’s method is medication, what makes us think we got it right this time?
Thorazine was a money-maker. It allowed psychiatrists to deinstitutionalize their facilities and bring their services out in the community. It was the death of psychotherapy and the birth of treating every difficult in life with a pill. This put hundreds of thousands of mentally ill on the streets – most of which ended up homeless or incarcerated.
The oft-criticized President Carter signed the Mental Health Systems Act in 1980 in an effort to improve services for the chronic mentally ill. But that was repealed a year later by the well-loved and adored President Reagan, leading to a 30-percent reduction in services for the mentally ill.
The Great Recession of 2009 led to a $4.35 billion reduction in spending for mentally ill, leading to an increase in incarcerations. The mentally ill have simply been moved from hospitals to prisons. And with the rise of private prisons, members of congress invest in these same prisons and profit of the incarceration of the same people in which they cut funding.
Today, psychiatry drugs the mentally ill in a multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry. What makes us think that we have it right this time? Are we really working to help those in need or is this a way to secretly profit?
The marriage between psychiatry and pharmaceuticals is about 100 years old, but only recently has it exploded into this billion-dollar industry.
In the early 19th century, the first magical drugs were morphine and opium. Until they quickly discovered they solved nothing and only created more problems with addiction. Then it was Sigmund Freud, the father of psychotherapy,” introduced the world to the new magic drug – cocaine. He spoke candidly of the drug for its effects of creating joy, excitement, motivation, and euphoria despite his patients overdosing on the “medicine.”
While it has been well-documented of Freud’s love and addiction with cocaine, it is not as well known that his persistent promotion of the drug was a result of his hefty payments from the newly formed pharmaceutical companies Merck and Park Davies to endorse their rival drugs.
This has been the pattern of pharmaceutical drugs ever since. There is some type of scientific-medical breakthrough, a new drug is deemed the miracle drug with no side effects, eventually the side effects become glaringly obvious, and the search for a new drug begins.
After Thorazine started the trend in 1954, the mental institutions began to empty in 1955 before the new magic drug was introduced to the market. Milltown was created with high endorsements of notable psychiatrists at the time. This was also the beginning of the free sample marketing scheme in which sales reps give free samples of their drugs to the doctors. If the doctors have free samples, they are willing to give them out. If the patient likes them, it only makes sense to continue to supply. It wasn’t until another decade went by in which the public found out that Milltown was more dangerous and addictive than methamphetamine or cocaine.
But psychiatry had arrived as a real medical profession, prescribing real medicine. Valium was known as “momma’s little helper” and prescribed to stressed-out housewives to the tune of 2.3 billion tablets sold in 1978 (when the U.S. population was just 222 million.) The next miracle drug was prozac, and as soon as it hit the market, instantly the number of depression diagnoses skyrocketed. Prior to the invention of SSRI drugs, it was estimated that 100 out of every one million people were diagnosed with depression. Since SSRI drugs, the numbers now indicate that 100,000 out of every one million have depression – a one-thousand fold increase!
They receive a patent on their drug for 17 years, which allows them to charge monopoly prices. Once that patent expires, a new breakthrough is created. This happened in the 1990s as Paxil was created to treat bipolar, which followed with thousands more diagnosed with bipolar disorder. In the DSM-3, about one-tenth of one percent of people had bipolar disorder. Now that number has jumped to 10-percent? Are there this many more people getting sick, or is it just a great marketing campaign?
Then the lie that they perpetuate is that these disorders are incurable, meaning you will have to take this pill for the rest of your life. They create customers for life — the goal of every marketer.
Coinciding with the pharmaceutical boom was the creation of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM). In 1952, the first DSM was published in a 130-page packet which included 112 disorders. These were not based on science, but rather voted in on a mail-in ballot that was sent to 10-percent of American Psychiatric Association (AMA) members.
By 1994, the fourth edition of the DSM was published in an 860-page book with 374 diagnoses. In 42 years, we had tripled the number of diagnoses? And they weren’t being discovered, they were simply being created and voted in at psychiatry conventions. And with each new diagnosis, another medication could be prescribed.
To show how fraudulent the system is, homosexuality was listed in the first two versions of the DSM, with “treatments” including (but not limited to) drugs and electroconvulsive (shock) “therapy”. It wasn’t until 1980 that it was removed in the third edition of the DSM, not because science discovered homosexuality was not a mental disorder, but because of political pressure to remove it.
Further, the DSM-V was released in 2013 with 19 of the 27 planners of the committee having significant financial ties to pharmaceutical companies. It is estimated that 450 million people are diagnosed with mental disorder – for perspective, there are about 320 million people in the United States. And the criteria for the diagnosis are so subjective that any person could be diagnosed with any disorder at anytime.
For example: The 1972 Rosenham Experiment demonstrated this when eight volunteers were presented to an institution stating they heard voices in their head claiming to only hear the words “empty,” “hollow,” or “thud.” All eight were committed. Once they were admitted, they abandoned all their symptoms but would not be released. They were all diagnosed with schizophrenia and were only released after they admitted they were mentally ill and in remission. The psychiatry industry was furious and another hospital told Rosenham to send patients to their hospital and they claimed they would be able to spot the actors. Of the next 193 patients, that hospital turned away 41 clients and suspected another 42 as impostors. The problem was that Rosenham had not sent anyone.
Another experiment by the BBC in England had a reality TV show in which the most prominent psychiatrists had one week of examining clients and were to guess what their past diagnosis. After one week, they guessed wrong on three of the five participants! The best psychiatrists were wrong 60-percent of the time when given a week to diagnosis a client, how can they do so in a one hour evaluation?
Then, just like any other business, the money-focused industry is always seeking the next way to expand their enterprise and profits. They look for new markets and find it in the elderly and the children. At first, we were told that no one under 18 can be diagnosed with bipolar disorder only to later have five and six-year-olds receiving this diagnosis, and in some cases as young as two-years-old diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and medicated accordingly.
Today, more than one million children are diagnosed with bipolar disorder in America. That is more than the number diagnosed with diabetes and autism combined. The sickness continues as they expand to the most vulnerable markets possible, foster children. It is estimated that nine out of 10 children in foster care have a mental health diagnosis to begin with, and with that usually comes a prescription.
Which leads back to the question, are we really doing the right thing with this over-medication? The United States holds only five percent of the world’s population, but we consume over 80-percent of the world’s pharmaceutical drugs. Are we really that sick? Or is it the drug companies that are the sick ones?
All of this keeps the lower rings of society down. The rules have been created this way to favor those in power. And all of this has to do with the love, infatuation, and addiction to money and wealth. We are knowingly killing people for the benefit of a few. This is the real mental illness, that we allow this to continue.
The Corruption of Psychiatric Sales
Let me explain the famous Paxil 329 Study to emphasize the sickness of those in power. Martin Keller ran this study and tested 100 children on the drug and stated that it went well. There were 22 co-authors of this study of important psychiatrists. The FDA granted their blessing on the faulty study and within the next year more than 55 million were on Paxil.
However, seven of those in the study were hospitalized and another 11 had serious side effects. Keller admitted no fault and did not count those in the study and labeled them as non-compliant or that they had “dropped out.” He settled out of court for $2.5 million dollars – less than what Paxil generates in sales in one hour. In the same year, Paxil $3.1 billion in sales.
How do they get away with this? Why doesn’t someone sue the pharmaceutical companies for falsely marketing their product?
Well, they have. In 2005, big pharmaceutical companies paid out $3.1 billion in settlements. But this is just a part of their marketing campaign, they factor this money into their plan as they pharmaceuticals profited $600 billion in the same year. Plus the wolves of Wall Street invest in these drugs and pay large figures in lobbying to congress to ensure the laws favor persistently pushing more pills.
I’ve seen a woman who was stable on Prolixin for 20 years, before a psychiatrist changed her prescription under the medical rationalization of, “because I am the doctor and I know what is best.” She quickly fell apart and her symptoms resurfaced. Common sense would indicate placing her back on Prolixin, but instead she was admitted to the inpatient unit – coincidentally the unit in which this psychiatrist was responsible.
The pharmaceutical companies then send in their top “sales reps” — typically young gorgeous women dressed in tight skimpy outfits who more closely resemble exotic dancers than someone with a thorough knowledge of mental health and medication — to flirt with the doctors to sign off on using their brand of medications. That is the stark reality of pharmaceutical sales.
Gwen Olsen, a former top sales rep, explains how she was trained to minimize side effects and exaggerate benefits. It was all part of reaching a bottom line. She received a six-figure income, company car, and incredible benefits before she was 26-years-old. Olsen explains how she attended conferences in which sales reps spoke about the greatest difficulties in reaching the doctors, and would role-play and practice how to convince doctors, labeling this as a “conspiracy by planning how to persuade.”
I worked with a doctor who prescribed 70-percent of his patients with Abilify, a drug that receives about seven percent of the market nationally. His wife is a sales rep for Abilify, which means she receives a commission on his prescriptions of a drug that works no better than a placebo.
Furthermore, the sales reps have insider information on each doctor’s prescribing patterns. They know more about what each doctor prescribes, than the doctor knows themselves. On top of that, the United States is one of just two countries in the world that allow Direct to Consumer advertising on television with pharmaceuticals. This leads to patients coming into a doctor’s office and asking for a drug by name. Where is the science in this? Where is the medicine in this?
Some laws have been passed to cut-down on some of this, but they haven’t exterminated this practice completely. That is because the pharmaceutical companies lobby on both sides of the Hall in Congress to ensure that whomever is elected will continue to support this extremely powerful industry. In 2014 alone, pharmaceutical industry spent $229 million in lobbying to Democrats and Republicans ensuring the gravy train will keep rolling, despite who is in charge.
Is This Really “Health Care”?
Psychiatry has 5,000 years of corruption and inhumanity against the mentally ill. The only mentally illness today is the belief that trusting these monsters who mass medicate of the public is in our best interest.
We claim that psychiatric practices are the result of “science,” yet there is no scientific evidence to support it. If I have a broken arm, an x-ray shows me the results. If I have cancer, I can see the abnormal growth of cells or “spots” on x-rays, scans, and images. If I have bipolar, depression, PTSD, or Anorexia, it is all subjective under the professional judgment of someone who is paid by diagnosing and prescribing.
In an industry that calls itself “health care,” the care we provide still includes abuse, lies, profiteering and torture. We are not heard. We are only told what is wrong with us and that it can only be cured by an expensive pill that I will have to take for the rest of my life. And the health that they pride themselves on continues to fail, which allows for another diagnosis and another pill.
This is an industry in which the rich profit off abusing the less fortunate and we stand by and watch, because they collude with the media. It would be a conflict of their financial interests if this was reported on mainstream television, considering the majority of their advertisers are pharmaceutical companies.
We call it “treatment,” though we are treated like criminals. We call it, “health insurance,” though they can not ensure our health. And they call it, “health care,” though they provide no care for our health.
Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution
“Taking the Mask Off” is the new book by Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne. Cortland Pfeffer spent years as a patient in psychiatric hospitals, treatment centers, and jails before becoming a registered nurse and working in the same facilities. Based on his experience, this story is told from both sides of the desk. It offers a unique and valuable perspective into mental health and addiction, revealing the problems with the psychiatric industry while also providing the solution – one that brings together science, spirituality, philosophy, and personal experience.
“Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution” is available on Amazon, and Balboa Press.
Recommended articles by Cortland Pfeffer:
- Licensed to Kill: Psychiatry, Big Pharma and the State-Sanctioned Drug Cartel
- Bipolar? Or Gifted? The Modern Day Epidemic of Medicated “Madness”
- 10 Life Lessons I Learned as a Psychiatric Nurse – and Patient
- Suicide: Falling Through the Cracks of Stigma
- The Fictions Surrounding ADHD and the “Chemical Imbalance” Theory of Mental Illness
- Schizophrenia – Psychosis or Something More Profound?
- The War On Drugs: How the “Land of the Free” Became the “Home of the Slaves” for 2.3 Million Americans
- Drug Addiction: A For-Profit Epidemic
- The Other Side: The Spiritual Gift of Borderline Personality Disorder
About the author:
Cortland Pfeffer founded Taking The Mask Off in 2014 to help shine a light on the mental health industry (as well as other areas of our society that are shrouded in deceit and misinformation). Sharing insider perspectives and real life stories that have been gathered over 20 years in the field, Cortland (a pen-name) is a psychiatric Registered Nurse who was himself once a patient in psychiatric hospitals, jails, and treatment centers. He now wishes to share his experiences with others, and has recently made several public speaking appearances.