By Dr. Mercola
Thanks to aggressive marketing techniques, pharmaceutical companies are raking in profits from atypical antipsychotic medications – drugs originally approved for mental illnesses that are as serious as they are rare.
It's no surprise then that a major portion of the sales of these types of "hard-core" psychiatric drugs come from off-label uses. Drugs such as Seroquel, Zyprexa, Risperdal and Abilify are now increasingly prescribed by psychiatrists and primary-care doctors to treat conditions they were never intended or approved for, such as:
- Attention-deficit disorder (ADD)
- Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Behavioral problems, and
Illegal Marketing Largely Responsible for Skyrocketing Misuse of Dangerous Antipsychotics in Children
Most of the atypical antipsychotics were approved in the 1990's, at which time they were reserved for a very small minority of serious mental illnesses; primarily schizophrenia and bipolar disorder – diseases afflicting an estimated three percent of Americans. More recently, some atypical antipsychotics have also been approved for the treatment of severe depression. Shockingly, children as young as 18 months are now receiving antipsychotic drugs, despite the fact that the diseases they're designed to treat rarely develop before adolescence.
Drug makers are increasingly getting caught in the act of illegal marketing of this class of drugs:
- In July, GlaxoSmithKline was found guilty of the largest health fraud in US history, and was fined $3 billion after pleading guilty to three counts of criminal misdemeanor and other civil liabilities relating to a number of different drugs, including Paxil and Wellbutrin
- In June, Johnson & Johnson agreed to pay $2.2 billion for illegally marketing its drug Risperdal
- In 2009 Eli Lilly was fined $1.4 billion for the illegal marketing of its antipsychotic drug Zyprexa
- Bristol Myers Squibb was fined $515 million in 2007 to settle charges of illegal marketing of Abilify to child psychiatrists
- Pfizer paid $301 million for illegal marketing of its drug Geodon, and
- AstraZeneca has paid out $520 million to settle illegal marketing charges of Seroquel
In each of these cases, the drug manufacturers were targeting children, despite the fact that none of the drugs in question were approved for use in that age group. To understand how effective these illegal marketing schemes are, consider that sales of antipsychotic drugs to children have increased eight-fold since 1993. Sales to teens have quintupled, while adult sales doubled in the same time frame. In 2008 alone, an estimated $6 billion was spent on off-label antipsychotics in the US, of which $5.4 billion was for uses based on uncertain evidence!
According to the featured article in Time:1
"There is much evidence that the vast increases in atypical antipsychotic prescribing in recent decades were fueled by the aggressive marketing tactics of drug companies. In recent years, every major manufacturer of atypical antipsychotics has been involved in the illegal marketing of the drugs (while doctors can prescribe drugs off label, it is against the law for drug makers to market them for off-label uses), each ultimately paying hundreds of millions to billions of dollars in fines for their sales and marketing tactics. The settlements with the U.S. government were among the largest in history."
"Trends Signal Need to Re-Evaluate Clinical Practice Patterns"
A recently published study2 found that nearly two-thirds of all antipsychotic drugs prescribed to children between 2005 and 2009 were for the treatment of ADHD and other disruptive behavior disorders. In teens, 34 percent of all antipsychotic prescriptions were for these conditions. These are astounding statistics when you consider the fact that there's virtually no data supporting the use of these kinds of drugs in children, or for those conditions. The authors seem to agree, concluding:
"In light of known safety concerns and uncertainty over long term risks and benefits, these trends may signal a need to re-evaluate clinical practice patterns."
According to Time:
"'As the actual evidence base that would support [such off-label prescriptions of antipsychotics] is scant to non-existent, and the evidence of permeating undue influence of pharma on prescribing practices in psychiatry is abundant, one is led to the conclusion that this is another example of irrational prescribing that can be traced to both the overt and tacit influence of [drug companies] on practitioners,' says Dr. Bruce Perry, a senior fellow at the ChildTrauma Academy...
Perry testified for the state of Texas in a case that resulted in a $158 million settlement with Johnson and Johnson in January to resolve claims that it fraudulently marketed Risperdal and swindled the state's Medicaid program. One aspect of the case involved misleading claims about the drug's effectiveness for behavior disorders in children."
The Hidden Cause of Psychiatric Disorders Almost No One Considers
American children are the most medicated children in the world. For example, they get three times more prescriptions for antidepressants and stimulants, and up to double the amount of antipsychotic drugs than kids from Germany and the Netherlands.
How can we, as a society, continue to allow corporate profits to come before lives, and even before children's lives?
It's just not right. I don't even advocate giving children cough syrup, Tylenol or antibiotics, as these alone can be harmful. But when you're talking about powerful psychotropic, mind-altering drugs that in no way shape or form even begin to address the underlying cause of the disease. You're entering an entirely different ballgame with these dangerous drugs. Unfortunately, psychiatric conditions are primarily believed to be the result of chemical dysfunction in your brain, or in some cases hereditary and therefore out of your control. Many fail to realize that:
- Your lifestyle can override genetic predispositions, and
- Your lifestyle can be a major underlying cause of that chemical imbalance or dysfunction.
If you or your child is suffering from an emotional or mental challenge, please seek help, but do so from someone who does not regard psychotropic drugs as a first line of defense. It will be very helpful if you first optimize your or your child's diet and lifestyle as this will significantly improve the likelihood of any successful natural intervention.
The Importance of Probiotics for Mental Health
An important factor to address is gut health. It's important to realize that children are now increasingly BORN with damaged gut flora – courtesy of less than ideal lifestyle choices by the child's mother. Many aspects of our modern lifestyle contribute to destroying your all-important gut flora, including:
Antibiotics; both from prescription antibiotics, and from consuming antibiotic-laden foods like non-organic meat, chicken, and milk from cows raised in Confined Animal Feeding Operations Processed foods. Not only are processed foods void of "live" beneficial bacteria to begin with, the high sugar and grain content serve as fuel for the growth of pathogenic anaerobic bacteria, fungi, and yeast, which competitively inhibit your good bacteria Genetically engineered foods and agricultural chemicals Aspartame, which inactivates digestive enzymes and alters gut barrier function, has been found to destroy up to 50 percent of your beneficial gut flora Chlorinated and/or fluoridated water Oral contraceptives (birth control pills)
In a very real sense, you have two brains: one inside your skull and one in your gut. While they may seem very different, these two organs are actually created out of the same type of tissue. During fetal development, one part turns into your central nervous system while the other develops into your enteric nervous system. Your vagus nerve – the tenth cranial nerve that runs from your brain stem down to your abdomen – connects these two organs together.
Your gut actually produces about 90 percent of the neurotransmitter serotonin – thought to play an important role in many psychiatric conditions, in addition to having a beneficial influence on your mood in general – than your brain does, so optimizing your child's gut flora may indeed have tremendous benefit for his or her psychological health.
Behavioral problems in children – including what might appear to be serious mental disorders – are very frequently related to improper diet, emotional upset and exposure to toxins.
Increasingly, scientific evidence shows that nourishing your gut flora with the beneficial bacteria found in traditionally fermented foods (or a probiotic supplement) is extremely important for proper brain function, and that includes psychological well-being and mood control. The reason I am more fond of using fermented foods as a source of beneficial bacteria is leverage. A small serving of fermented vegetables can provide you with more than 100 times the amount you would get from a typical dose of a probiotics supplement. You can get trillions of bacteria instead of billions, and consuming a variety of fermented foods will provide you with a much wider variety of probiotics strains as well.
Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride has successfully demonstrated the power and effectiveness of this theory. In her Cambridge, England clinic, she treats children and adults with a range of conditions, including autism, neurological disorders, psychiatric disorders, immune disorders, and digestive problems using the GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) Nutritional Program, which she developed.
Her GAPS theory – which is fully explained in her excellent book, Gut and Psychology Syndrome – is an elegant description of how such conditions can develop as a direct result of gastrointestinal toxicity.
Pathogenic microbes can damage the integrity of your gut wall, and once your beneficial gut flora has been crowded out by pathogenic microbes inside your digestive tract, toxins and microbes can reach your bloodstream. And once they're in your bloodstream, they can reach your brain... Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) may manifest as symptoms that can fit the diagnosis of a wide range of conditions and syndromes, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, ADD/ADHD, dyslexia and dyspraxia.
Total Video Length: 1:13:21
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Could a B Vitamin be the Answer for Some Psychosis?
The book Niacin: The Real Story, co-authored by Dr. Andrew Saul and Abram Hoffer M.D., Ph.D., who has published over 600 reports and articles as well as 30 books, describes the psychiatric benefits of niacin. Dr. Hoffer died in 2009 at the age of 91, but he successfully treated many thousands of patients with high dose niacin for psychotic disorders. His work includes some very compelling evidence to support treating most psychotic disorders as a vitamin B3 deficiency.
Considering the fact that niacin is very inexpensive and has virtually no dangerous side effects, it would certainly be worth consideration for anyone who has a family member with this mental health challenge. I would also highly recommend picking up this $12 book at Amazon and learning more about its use.
Correcting Behavioral Problems Without Drugs
Here are a few additional guidelines to help you address underlying toxins in your child, without, or at least BEFORE, you agree to any kind of drug therapy:
- Severely limit or eliminate fructose from your child's diet as sugar/fructose has been linked to mental health problems such as depression and schizophrenia.
- Avoid giving your child ANY processed foods, especially those containing artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. This includes lunch meats and hot dogs, which are common food staples in many households.
- Replace soft drinks, fruit juices, and pasteurized milk with pure water. This is HUGE since high fructose corn syrup is a primary source of calories in children.
- Make sure your child is getting large regular doses of healthy bacteria, either with high quality fermented organic foods and/or high quality probiotic supplements.
- Give your child plenty of high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fats like krill oil. Also, make sure to balance your child's intake of omega-3 and omega-6 fats, by simultaneously limiting their intake of vegetable oils.
- Include as many whole organic foods as possible in your child's diet, both to reduce chemical exposure and increase nutrient content of each meal.
- Also reduce or eliminate grains from your child's diet. Yes, even healthy organic whole grains can cause problems as they too break down into sugars.
Additionally, whole wheat in particular contains high amounts of wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), which can have adverse effects on mental health due to its neurotoxic actions. Wheat also inhibits production of serotonin, the largest concentration of which can, again, be found in your intestines, not your brain. Try eliminating them first for 1-2 weeks and see if you don't notice a radical and amazing improvement in your child's behavior.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners of all kinds.
- Make sure your child gets plenty of exercise and outdoor playtime.
- Get them out into the sun to help maintain optimal vitamin D levels. Scientists are now beginning to realize vitamin D is involved in maintaining the health of your brain, as they've recently discovered vitamin D receptors in the brain, spinal cord, and central nervous system. There's even evidence indicating vitamin D improves your brain's detoxification process. For children and pregnant women, getting enough vitamin D is especially crucial, as it may play a major role in protecting infants from autism.
If natural sun exposure is not feasible, for whatever reason, you can use either a safe tanning bed or an oral vitamin D3 supplement. For more details on how to safely optimize your and your child's vitamin D levels, please see this previous article.
- Give your child a way to address his or her emotions. Even children can benefit from the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), which you or an EFT practitioner can teach them to use.
- Prevent exposure to toxic metals and chemical by replacing personal care products, detergents and household cleaners with all natural varieties. Metals like aluminum, cadmium, lead and mercury are commonly found in thousands of different food products, household products, personal products and untold numbers of industrial products and chemicals. The presence of toxic metals in your child's body is highly significant for they are capable of causing serious health problems by interfering with normal biological functioning. The health effects range from minor physical ailments to chronic diseases, and altered mood and behavior.