November 9, 2019
The first “anti-depressant,” “anti-anxiety,” and “anti-psychotic” medications were developed for treating tuberculosis, malaria, and intestinal disorders, and were not believed to counteract any underlying causal processes leading to mental disorders. They were accidentally discovered to have some side effects that appeared to reduce some of the emotional symptoms of patients with depression, anxiety, or psychoses. No brain disorders, chemical imbalances, or pathological medical conditions were first discovered to be the underlying causes of mental problems. It was openly acknowledged by these early scientists that these medications only had beneficial side effects that might reduce the symptoms of mental problems. Soon, however, reporters began to call them “antipsychotics,” “antidepressants,” and “antianxiety” medications which implied that they are antidotes for the underlying mental disorders, in the same way as antibiotics were found to kill specific disease-causing bacteria. The following quotes reflect the history of the chemical-imbalance theory and quotes from prominent researchers about the lack of empirical evidence for any chemical imbalances that cause mental disorders.
1) In 1965 the American researcher Joseph Schildkraut published a paper that hypothesized that depression was caused by low serotonin levels in the brains of depressed individuals (J. Schildkraut, “The catecholamine hypothesis of affective disorders,” American Journal of Psychiatry 122 (1965): 509-22).
2) In 1967 the Dutch scientist Jacques Van Rossum hypothesized that schizophrenia was caused by an excess of dopamine in the brains of schizophrenics. These dual theories became the two pillars of “biological psychiatry” that took over the psychiatric profession and led to extensive research for the next three decades to try to validate these theories of chemical imbalances (A. Baumeister, “Historical development of the dopamine hypothesis of schizophrenia,” Journal of the History of the Neurosciences 11 (202): 265-77).
3) In 1967, one out of three American adults was taking a psychiatric medication (J. Swazey, Chlorpromazine in Psychiatry (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1974, 4).
4) The chemical imbalance theory was accepted as fact for three decades and taught in medical schools. It was quickly adopted by pharmaceutical companies as a marketing tool to sell their pills by assuring potential customers that they should not be stigmatized by taking these pills because they were simply correcting chemical imbalances. Customers were informed that their mental disorders were diseases that need to be treated with medications to correct “chemical imbalances” in the same way that diabetics need to take insulin to correct their glucose levels (R. Whitaker, 2010, Analysis of an Epidemic, p. 316).
5) In 1969, Malcolm Bowers at Yale University examined the cerebrospinal fluid of eight depressed patient for serotonin metabolites and failed to find a “statistically significant deficit.” 6) Researchers at McGill University also failed to find any statistical difference in serotonin metabolites in 1971, between depressed patients and normal controls (Whitaker, R., Anatomy of an Epidemic, p. 321).
7) Then in 1974, Bowers conducted another study and found that depressed patients had perfectly normal serotonin metabolite levels (M. Bowers, Cerebrospinal fluid 5-hydroxyindolacetic acid and homovanillic acid in psychiatric patients,” International Journal of Neuropharmacology 8 (1969): 255-62)
8) Two other researchers at the university of Pennsylvania, found in 1974 that administering the herbal drug reserpine to patients, which was believed to cause depression, only increased depressive levels in 6% of the clients. They concluded, “The literature reviewed here strongly suggests that the depletion of brain norepeinephrine dopamine or serotonin is in itself not sufficient to account for the development of the clinical syndrome of depression” (J. Mendels, “Brain biogenic amine depletion and mood,” Archives of General Psychiatry 30 (1974): 447-51).
9) In 1975, Marie Asberg and some colleagues at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm examined 68 depressed clients and found that twenty of them had low serotonin levels and had suicidal thoughts. This led them to conclude that the depression was caused by low serotonin levels. However, when her data is reexamined it can be seen that 29 per cent of her “depressed” clients had low serotonin levels, 47 per cent had average serotonin levels, and 24 per cent had high serotonin levels (M. Ashberg, Science 191 (1976): 478-80; M. Asberg, “5-HIAA in the cerebrospinal fluid,” Archives of General Psychiatry 33 (1976): 1193-97.) ). Thus, Asberg’s study actually demonstrated that depression was found in clients regardless of their serotonin levels.
10) In 1984, NIMH researchers studied the serotonin theory of depression again and found the same as previous researchers had found, that depression was found in clients regardless of their serotonin levels. They concluded, “Elevations or decrements in the functioning of serotonergic systems per se are not likely to be associated with depression” (J. Maas, “Pretreatment neurotransmitter metabolite levels and response to tricyclic antidepressant drugs,” American Journal of Psychiatry 141 (1984): 1159-71.)
11) Prozac was so successfully marketed from 1988 to 1992 that it became the first billion dollar medication sold by Eli Lilly, by advertising it as a way to correct low serotonin levels, and in 1996 they introduce Zyprexa to the market, and it became a billion-dollar drug in 1998 (Whitaker, R., Anatomy of an Epidemic, p. 321).
12) Stanford psychiatrist, David Burns wrote in 2003 “I never saw any convincing evidence that any psychiatric disorder, including depression, results from a deficiency of brain serotonin” (J. Lacasse, “Serotonin and depression: a disconnect between the advertisements and the scientific literature,” PloS Medicine 2 (2005): 1211-16).
13) Colin Ross, an associate professor of psychiatry at Southwest Medical Center in Dallas, wrote in his 1995 book, Pseudoscience in Biological Psychiatry, “There is no scientific evidence whatsoever that clinical depression is due to any kind of biological deficit state”(C. Ross, Pseudoscience in Biological Psyciatry (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1995), 111.)
14) In the psychiatric textbook, Essential Psychopharmacology, the authors informed medical students “there is no clear and convincing evidence that monoamine deficiency accounts for depression; that is, there is no ‘real’ monoamine deficit.”
15) In 1967 a Dutch scientist by the name of Jacques Van Rossum postulated that schizophrenia was caused by overstimulation of dopamine receptors (Whitaker, R., Anatomy of an Epidemic, p. 321) and that “anti-psychotic” medications corrected a chemical imbalance in the brain, due to excessive dopamine.
16) Malcolm Bowers announced in 1975 that he had found the dopamine levels of unmedicated schizophrenics were normal. He wrote, “Our findings do not furnish neurochemical evidence for an overarousal in these patients emanating from a midbrain dopamine system” (M. Bowers, “Central dopamine turnover in schizophrenic syndromes,” Archives of General Psychiatry 31 (1975): 50-54).
17) In 1975 Robert Post, a researcher with NIMH reported that an examination of twenty unmedicated schizophrenics revealed no significant differences between the schizophrenics and controls in their dopamine levels (R. Post, “Cerebrspinal fluid amine metabolites in acute schizophrenia,” Archives of General Psychiatry 32 (1975): 1063-68.).
18) In 1982, UCLA researcher John Haracz reviewed the research and concluded, “These findings do not support the presence of elevated dopamine turnover in the brains of [unmedicated] schizophrenics” (J. Haracz, “The dopamine hypothesis: an overview of studies with schizophrenic patients,” Schizophrenia Bulletin 8 (1982): 438-58).
19) By 1990 the chemical-imbalance theory of schizophrenia had been discredited and this was observed by many leading researchers. Researcher Pierre Deniker wrote in 1990, “The dopaminergic theory of schizophrenia retains little credibility for psychiatrists” (P. Denniker, “The neuroleptics: a historical survey,” Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavice 82, suppl. 358 (1990): 83-87).
20) In 1994 a well-known psychiatrist at Long Island Jewish Medical Center by the name of John Kane expressed the same view that there was “no good evidence for any perturbation of the dopamine function in schizophrenia” (J. Kane, “Towards more effective antipsychotic treatment,” British Journal of Psychiatry 165, suppl. 25 (1994): 22-31).
21) NIMH director Steve Hyman confirmed these same sentiments in his 2002 book, Molecular Neuropharmacology, writing “There is no compelling evidence that a lesion in the dopamine system is a primary cause of schizophrenia” (E. Nestler and S. Hyman, Molecular Neuropharmacology (New York: McGraw Hill, 2002), 392).
22) In his 2002 book, The Creation of Psychopharmacology, David Healy analyzed the motivation of psychiatrists who were so eager to accept the chemical-imbalance theory of mental disorders. He wrote that it was embraced by psychiatrists because it “set the stage: for them to become real doctors” (D. Healy, The Creation of Psychopharmacology (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, (2002), 217). The motivation of the pharmaceutical industry for promoting the chemical-imbalance theory of mental disorders, of course, is the huge profits they gain from using this “theory” to sell their medications to the public.
23) Former director of NIMH, Steve Hyman, wrote in 1996 that antipsychotics, antidepressants, and other psychiatric drugs “create perturbations in neurotransmitter functions” (Initiation and adaptation: A paradigm for understanding psychotropic drug action,” American Journal of Psychiatry 153 (1996): 151-61). He described the way that the brain attempts to compensate for the introduction of disruptive chemicals in the brain and concluded that after a few weeks of taking a psychiatric medication the individual’s brain functions in a way that is “qualitatively as well as quantitatively different from the normal state.” In other words, psychiatric medications do not correct a chemical imbalance, but instead create a chemical imbalance and cause our brains to act abnormally.
24) In 2011, eminent psychiatrist Ronald Pies, Editor-in-Chief of Psychiatric Times, ridiculed the concept of “biochemical imbalances” stating, “In the past 30 years, I don’t believe I have ever heard a knowledgeable, well-trained psychiatrist make such a presposterous claim, except perhaps to mock” (Pies, R. (2011, July11). Psychiatry’s new brain-mind and legend of the “chemical imbalance.” Psychiatric Times).
25) Harvard-trained psychiatrist and author Peter Breggin wrote, in his 2008 book “Medication Madness,” “Psychiatric drugs don’t correct biochemical imbalances—they cause them. Even the American Psychiatric Publishing’s adamantly pro-drug Textbook of Psychiatry admits that antidepressant-induced biochemical imbalances may be the cause of the increased suicidality produced by these drugs.”
26) In the Textbook of Clinical Psychiatry (2003, p. 1476), after reviewing the evidence accumulated over more than four decades of pursuing the evidence for a chemical-imbalance theory of psychiatric disorders, the textbook authors conclude, “Additional experience has not confirmed the monoamine depletion hypothesis” (the chemical-imbalance theory).
27) In his 2008 book (p. 271), Medication Madness, Harvard-trained psychiatrist Peter Breggin wrote the following comments about the biochemical theory of depression: “I first began shredding the biochemical theory of depression in 1991 in Toxic Psychiatry. I pointed out the absurdity of attributing a complex human phenomenon like depression to any specific or even several neurotransmitters when there are two hundred or more interacting with one another and with myriad other brain mechanism—some known and most undiscovered—that facilitate chemical and electrical communication inside the brain.”
28) In his 2013 book (p. 32-33), Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal, psychiatrist Peter Breggin wrote, “It is important to reemphasize that there are no known physiological or biochemical imbalances in the brains of people suffering from psychiatric disorders. That is why there are no laboratory tests for psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia; there are no known abnormalities to detect. Instead of correcting biochemical imbalances, the drugs cause biochemical imbalances.”