Tag Archives: Natasha Tracy

Belief Systems, Mad in America and Anti-Psychiatry

By Marvin Ross

I keep reading comments from people wondering how anyone could possibly support Donald J Trump. Fact checking his statements demonstrates how wrong he is on much of what he says. And then there are the numerous comparisons of statements that he makes that contradict each other.

Not so surprising, sadly enough, when we look at the people who believe what Robert Whitaker and the anti-psychiatry movement believe.

Put simply, Whitaker and the Mad in America anti-psychiatry folks are adamant that anti-psychotic medication for schizophrenia makes people sick and shortens their lives. Research fails to support these contentions but they persist and the data is ignored. The two latest studies provide overwhelming evidence that anti-psychotics help – but more on that in a moment.

The late Dr William M. Glazer of Yale writing in Psychiatric Times four years ago had this to say of Whitaker:

Should we accept the analysis of a journalist who (1) to my knowledge, has not treated a patient or implemented a study and (2) reaches conclusions that run counter to well-established practice guidelines? Whitaker’s ideological viewpoint, which is implied throughout the book, is that our guidelines are inaccurate and driven by industry and our own need for income—that we are dishonest brokers. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Criticisms of Whitaker have been done by many eminent psychiatrists but my favourite is by blogger Natasha Tracy in Healthyplace.com. Natasha explained why she refused to even read his book with these words:

Sure, he cites studies, he just contraindicates what the study actually proves. And nothing ticks me off more than this because people believe him just because there is a linked study – no one ever bothers to check that the study says whatever Whitaker says it does.

Except, of course, the people who do – the doctors. You know, the people who went to medical school for over a decade. You know, the people actually qualified to understand what all the fancy numbers mean. You know, those people.

And I, for one, rely a lot on what doctors make of medical data and they are the ones most able to refute Whitaker’s claims.

As for the contention by Whitaker and his minions that anti-psychotics make people sick, let’s look at two recent studies.

In 2013, the highly respected British Medical Journal, The Lancet, published a German meta-analysis on the efficacy and side effect profile of all anti-psychotics. The results are summarized simply in a blog by Dr Gerhard Gründer with a link to the original study.

The meta-analysis combined 212 studies with a total of 43,049 patients. All of the anti-psychotics produced improvements that were statistically better than placebo. The best agent was clozapine.

The most recent study was conducted in the Province of Quebec and published in July and was based on real world evaluations of all people prescribed with anti-psychotics for schizophrenia between January 1998 and December 2005. The cohort consisted of 18 869 patients. Outcome measures consisted of mental health event (suicide, hospitalization or emergency visit for mental disorders) and physical health event (death other than suicide, hospitalization or emergency visit for physical disorders).

The researchers pointed out that data from randomized control trials are often limited in terms of generalizability thus real world studies like this one are much more realistic. What they found was that taking anti-psychotics reduced the risk of having either a mental or a physical problem compared to those who discontinued taking them. The only anti-psychotic that performed poorly was quetiapine (seroquel) while clozapine had the best results.

The other criticism from the anti-psychiatry bunch is that taking anti-psychotics results in premature death for people with schizophrenia. Studies have shown that people with schizophrenia do die years earlier than others but the reasons are not well understood.  One hypothesis that I mention in my book Schizophrenia Medicine’s Mystery Society’s Shame is discrimination by health care practitioners. Studies show that people with schizophrenia often do not get adequate basic medical care and treatment.

Researchers in Sweden conducted a real world analysis of 21,492 patients with schizophrenia. Subjects were followed up from 2006 through 2010. Data on drug use and outcomes was obtained from national registers.

What was found was that Antipsychotics and antidepressants were associated with a significant reduction in mortality compared with no use. The opposite of what the anti-psychiatry crowd claim. However, there was a clear dose-response curve for benzodiazepine exposure and mortality. More benzos, greater mortality. Note that benzodiazepine drugs are not anti-psychotic medications. They provide short term relief from anxiety, but they are addictive when used over a long period. Which means with long term use people develop tolerance and then crave more. And if they stop them they experience serious withdrawal symptoms. They are never prescribed alone to treat psychosis.

Psychotropic medications prescribed properly to those who need it, are beneficial despite what you may hear from some journalists and a vocal minority.

 

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On The Preventable Death of A Child – The Human Tragedy of “Alternative Medicine”

By Marvin Ross

It is a terrible tragedy and the focus of worldwide attention. Ezekiel Stephan was a 19 month old toddler whose parents are presently being tried in Lethbridge Alberta for failing to provide the necessities of life for him. Ezekiel was treated by his parents with various alternative products for what they thought was a cold and croup until he stopped breathing. He was airlifted to Calgary’s Children’s Hospital where he arrived brain dead and soon died of what was diagnosed as bacterial meningitis.

David Stephan, the father, is the son of one of the founders of Truehope – a supplement company that promotes its product, EM Power + (EMP), for psychiatric conditions and recommends that its customers go off medication. I have been writing about them for over 15 years and, along with Dr Terry Polevoy of Waterloo, ON and Ron Reinhold, a former Health Canada inspector and now private investigator in Calgary, we published an E-book called Pig Pills Inc: The Anatomy of An Academic and Alternative Health Fraud. Ron has done an excellent summary of the Truehope history on his website, Rainbow Investigations

Both David Stephan and his wife, Collet, took EMP and gave it to Ezekiel. And both parents worked at sales and marketing for Truehope.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation just obtained and made available the medical interview/history done in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit of the Calgary hospital. Aside from the history of Ezekiel’s symptoms and the emergency that precipitated his being airlifted to Calgary, is the family medical history. It is frightening in my opinion.

Collet had no prenatal care from a physician but from a family friend who is a nurse and who helped at delivery. Ezekiel had never been seen by a doctor and was never given any vaccinations. During her pregnancy and while breastfeeding, Collet took EMP. For occasional colds, Ezekiel was given olive oil leaf extract and garlic. According to testimony at the trial, the nurse did suggest that Ezekiel had meningitis and to take him to the ER. They did not but rather went to a naturopath to get some echinacea.

His medications from about 11 months on consisted of daily smoothies containing EMP, Omega 3-6-9, whey protein, FermPlus, and a digestive enzyme. The autopsy report is also available at the bottom of this article for anyone who can stomach the findings.

According to the label for EMP, pregnant and lactating women should consult a doctor before using the product and it advises that the product be kept away from children under 6. And yet seemingly Collet took the product without consulting a doctor and gave it to her child. When EMP was first used in a study at the University of Calgary, Dr Catherine Field, a nutrition researcher at the University of Alberta, told me that she did not know if this product was safe but felt that it could be used short term as long as the research subjects were monitored by a medical doctor. She further stated that it was unsafe for pregnant women or for women who might become pregnant and thus pregnant women were excluded from the study. (P 66 of Pig Pills).

I also have in my possession a freedom of information document provided by Health Canada to an investigative reporter at the Canadian Television Network (CTV) on the adverse events associated with EMP reported to Health Canada. The document is dated January 2007 and deals with “near misses” and reports of Truehope activities.

In one case, a family contacted the owner of Truehope (not named) and it was alleged the family was advised not to seek medical help from a doctor. In another case, a 50 year old woman with multiple gall stones was contacted by an unnamed owner and told to refuse surgery but to take large amounts of olive oil (which the report said is contraindicated).

Two reports to Health Canada were filed by Truehope employees but the information was redacted. In another case, a doctor reported that his pregnant patient was taking EMP and he cautioned her about it as it had an unknown safety profile. The woman checked with Truehope and was assured that it was safe although the doctor was concerned that the information she was given was inaccurate.

There was a great deal of discussion in these documents over safety in children and in pregnant and lactating women and Health Canada insisted that warnings be given about its use for those populations on the label.

Truehope, for psychiatric conditions, recommends that prescription medication be stopped. In 2012, I reported on a case in British Columbia where a man with schizophrenia replaced his psychiatric medication for EMP and became so psychotic that he murdered his father. The headline on one paper proclaimed that vitamin therapy contributed to murder. I followed up with an article asking why Health Canada allowed this agent to be sold and that question is still relevant.

For those interested in the type of advice that Truehope gives to the mentally ill over the phone, you will find these interesting. We had a doctor develop a number of hypothetical scenarios that were then checked for accuracy by a psychiatrist. Frightening is all I can say.

And undoubtedly Tony Stephan will threaten to sue me for this blog. He once threatened to sue The Scientist for an article I wrote about his company and  he has threatened me  with legal action more than once in the past. More recently, he threatened to sue mental health writer and advocate, Natasha Tracy.