THE “CHEMICAL IMBALANCE” MYTH

Patients have been diagnosed with ‘chemical imbalances’, despite the fact that no test exists to support such a claim, and that there is no real conception of what a correct chemical balance would look like.– David Kaiser, “Commentary: Against Biologic Psychiatry,” Psychiatric Times, December 1996.

“In medicine, strict criteria exist for calling a condition a disease. In addition to a predictable cluster of symptoms, the cause of the symptoms or some understanding of their physiology must be established. … Psychiatry is unique among medical specialties in that… We do not yet have proof either of the cause or the physiology for any psychiatric diagnosis. … In recent decades, we have had no shortage of alleged biochemical imbalances for psychiatric conditions. Diligent though these attempts have been, not one has been proven. Quite the contrary. In every instance where such an imbalance was thought to have been found, it was later proven false. … No claim of a gene for a psychiatric condition has stood the test of time, in spite of popular misinformation.” – Joseph Glenmullen, M.D., clinical instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, in his book Prozac Backlash (Simon & Schuster, New York, 2000), pages 192-193, page 196, and page 198

There is no scientific evidence proving that a chemical imbalance in the brain is responsible for the symptoms attributed to ADHD, or that ADHD is a “brain-based disease,” yet this is repeatedly claimed as fact by psychiatrists. In 1998, a U.S. National Institutes of Health Conference of the world’s leading ADHD experts, was forced to conclude that there is no data confirming it as a brain dysfunction“. – Kelly Patricia O’Meara, “Doping Kids,” Insight, June 28, 1999.

Although each of the SSRI manufacturers admit they do not know how their respective drugs work, each claim that they help to correct a chemical imbalance of the brain. The assumption for each of these drugs is that if a person is depressed (each and every depressed person), they have a reduced number of neurotransmitters in the brain called serotonin. As one well-known psychiatrist put it: “[SSRIs] are not correcting a biochemical imbalance, these drugs create severe imbalances in the brain. … The idea that human suffering, psychological suffering, is biochemical is strictly a promotional campaign, perhaps the most successful in the history of the world, created by the drug companies. We do not even have a technology, a scientific technology, for measuring what happens inside the brain … it is literally a fabrication.

The next time you see a Zoloft, Prozac, or Paxil commercial, watch carefully. You will see that, when the drug company explains that depression is a serious medical illness caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, it will be prefaced with the word “may” i.e., “depression may be caused by a biochemical imbalance in the brain.” They must preface this statement with “may” because this theory has not been scientifically established. This unproven theory has been propagated by the pharmaceutical industry in order to sell psychotropic (mind-altering) drugs.

In May 2003, GlaxoSmithKline (“GSK”), the maker of Paxil, an antidepressant in the same class as Zoloft, announced in Ireland (The Irish Times, Saturday May 10, 2003) that it was withdrawing claims contained in Paxil (called Seroxat in Ireland and the UK) brochures that the drug worked by normalizing the levels of serotonin. GSK was forced to acknowledge that the link between depression and serotonin levels is unproven and that its claims “were not consistent with the scientific literature.”

If your doctor tells you that these drugs will correct an imbalance in your brain chemicals, please realize that more than likely your doctor got this from drug company representatives as part of the drug companies’ marketing activities. There is no scientific evidence to support such a statement. Just because you are depressed does not mean that there is something wrong with your brain chemicals.– Zoloft side effects web site

The fact of the matter is that there is no such thing as a “chemical imbalance” diagnosed by psychiatrists; this was a market-place concept invented in 60’s put forth at a Congressional hearing in 1970 and ever since, the stuff of a “big lie”…”chemical imbalances” for which to prescribe and sell “chemical balancers” …pills. What’s more the FDA is a full partner in this. They know all drugs as foreign compounds are poisons who’s benefits are to be carefully weighed against the risks of the disease to be treated. They at the FDA know there are no diseases/physical risk in the psychiatry risk vs. benefit analysis and yet, along with the psychopharm cartel they push the fraudulent notion of psychiatric “disease”/”chemical imbalance.”

“All “biological psychiatry” that claiming every negative emotion and behavior is a “disease”/”chemical imbalance” needing–requiring “treatment” is no less a pseudoscience, its imposition by government, through the schools, hardly less totalitarian than the Nazi imposition of eugenics. 17% of the nations school children on psychiatric drugs, our children consume 90% of the world supply of schedule 2 stimulants. The Zoloft ad pictures the “chemical imbalance” and its re-balancing by Zoloft, the chemical balancer. This simple little twist of science, a total, 100% lie and abrogation of informed consent is behind every psychopharm prescription.” – Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD Neurology & Child Neurology

The simple fact is that there is absolutely no reliable test that accurately distinguishes between children that are supposed to have “ADHD” and those that are not. The simplest way to counter this statement is to ask for a medical test to prove that your child has “ADHD.” Many physicians will respond to your request by saying that the test is too expensive. You must persevere and ask that your insurance company pay for those tests. You can also ask any professional to show you the article or articles in the scientific literature that proves the existence of a confirmatory physical or chemical abnormality that validates the existence of ADHD as a medical disease. The plain truth is that no such article exists. If someone gives you an article, please share and discuss it with someone who can critically analyze it.” –

“The brain does have chemicals that help cells “talk” to each other that are called neurotransmitters. However, when a professional says that one of these chemicals, usually a variety of something called Dopamine, needs some kind of correction, and that they have just the right kind of medicine to do this, you are being misled. This idea assumes that nerves only “talk” to nerves that use the same chemicals. That is absolutely positively false. It is a lie at worst, a gross oversimplification at best. It is unethical for a medical professional to state or imply otherwise.Breeding, J. The Wildest Colts Make The Best Horses. Bright Books, 1996 & Breggin, P. Talking Back To Ritalin. Common Courage Press, 1998.

Remember that no biochemical, neurological, or genetic markers have been found for attention deficit disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, compulsive alcohol and drug abuse, overeating, gambling, or any other so-called mental illness, disease, or disorder.– Bruce Levine, Ph.D. (psychologist), Commonsense Rebellion: Debunking Psychiatry, Confronting Society (Continuum, New York 2001), p. 277.

In The Broken Brain, University of Iowa psychiatry professor Nancy Andreasen, M.D., Ph.D also describes what she calls “the most widely accepted theory about the cause of depression…the `catecholamine hypothesis.'” She emphasizes that “the catecholamine hypothesis is theory rather than fact” (p. 231). She says “This hypothesis suggests that patients suffering from depression have a deficit of norepinephrine in the brain” (p. 183), norepinephrine being one of the “major catecholamine systems” in the brain (pp. 231-232). One way the catecholamine hypothesis is evaluated is by studying one of the breakdown products of norepinephrine, called MHPG, in urine. People with so-called depressive illness “tended to have lower MHPG” (p. 234). The problem with this theory, according to Dr. Andreasen, is that “not all patients with depression have low MHPG” (ibid). She accordingly concludes that this catecholamine hypothesis “has not yet explained the mechanism causing depression” (p. 184).

Another theory is that severe unhappiness (“depression”) is caused by lowered levels or abnormal use of another brain chemical, serotonin. A panel of experts assembled by the U.S. Congress Office of Technology Assessment reported in 1992 that “Prominent hypotheses concerning depression have focused on altered function of the group of neurotransmitters called monoamines (i.e., norepinephrine, epinephrine, serotonin, dopamine), particularly norepinephrine (NE) and serotonin. … studies of the NE [norepinephrine] autoreceptor in depression have found no specific evidence of an abnormality to date. Currently, no clear evidence links abnormal serotonin receptor activity in the brain to depression. … the data currently available do not provide consistent evidence either for altered neurotransmitter levels or for disruption of normal receptor activity” (The Biology of Mental Disorders, U.S. Gov’t Printing Office, 1992, pp. 82 & 84).

Even if it was shown there is some biological change or abnormality “associated” with depression, the question would remain whether this is a cause or an effect of the “depression”. At least one brain-scan study (using positron emission tomography or PET scans) found that simply asking normal people to imagine or recall a situation that would make them feel very sad resulted in significant changes in blood flow in the brain (Jose V. Pardo, M.D., Ph.D., et al., “Neural Correlates of Self-Induced Dysphoria”, American Journal of Psychiatry, May 1993, p. 713). Other research will probably confirm it is emotions that cause biological changes in the brain rather than biological changes in the brain causing emotions.

A serotonin deficiency for depression has not been found. … Still, patients are often given the impression that a definitive serotonin deficiency in depression is firmly established. … The result is an undue inflation of the drug market, as well as an unfortunate downplaying of the need for psychological treatments for many patients.” Joseph Glenmullen, M.D., clinical instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, in his book Prozac Backlash (Simon & Schuster, New York, 2000), pages 197-198.– Lawrence Stevens, J.D

There is no evidence that any psychiatric or psychological disorder is caused by a biochemical imbalance. – Peter Breggin M.D., in his book Reclaiming Our Children (Persues Books, Cambridge, Mass., 2000), page 139.

First, no biological etiology has been proven for any psychiatric disorder (except Alzheimer’s disease, which has a genetic component) in spite of decades of research. … So don’t accept the myth that we can make an ‘accurate diagnosis.’ … Neither should you believe that your problems are due solely to a ‘chemical imbalance.’– Edward Drummond, M.D., Associate Medical Director at Seacoast Mental Health Center in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in his book The Complete Guide to Psychiatric Drugs (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, 2000), pages 15-16.

I am constantly amazed by how many patients who come to see me believe or want to believe that their difficulties are biologic and can be relieved by a pill. This is despite the fact that modern psychiatry has yet to convincingly prove the genetic/biologic cause of any single mental illness. However, this does not stop psychiatry from making essentially unproven claims that depression, bipolar illness, anxiety disorders, alcoholism and a host of other disorders are in fact primarily biologic and probably genetic in origin, and that it is only a matter of time until all this is proven. This kind of faith in science and progress is staggering, not to mention naive and perhaps delusional.– Dr. David Kaiser, M.D. Psychiatrist

MYTH: That depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain.

The increase in the rate of depression revealed in epidemiological studies makes it clear that depression is not a biological disease. Genes do not change that quickly. (Despite the explosion in genetic research and gene mapping, and high hopes of finding a gene for everything, no ‘depression gene’ exists because genes don’t work that way.) Over the last three decades conclusive evidence has mounted to show that the vast majority of depressions are learned, created by the way we interact with our environment. We now know that depression is not an event-driven phenomenon – it is not caused by specific events per se. The majority of people exposed to adverse life circumstances do not develop depression. The reaction of depression is caused by how individuals have learned to respond to adverse life experiences.

Further support for the environmental or learned view of depression is the evidence that depression responds well to certain kinds of psychotherapeutic intervention. Moreover, such interventions greatly reduce the rate of relapse compared to drug treatments based on the biological model. The brain is sufficiently conditionable by experiences, and reconditionable, that depressed people can be helped to adapt more effectively to the pressures and uncertainties of modern living, whatever their history. They can learn to respond to adverse life circumstances in better ways.

That there is a biological component to depression is undisputed since all our emotions are expressed in the language of biochemistry. Also, depression affects our biology by, for example, impairing our immune system. But the idea that depression is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain, so disempowering and yet so fervently promoted by drug manufacturers, is wrong. It is now clear that changes in serotonin levels in the brains of depressed people are a consequence of depression, not the cause of it. Serotonin levels fluctuate constantly and are directly correlated with the effectiveness with which we live our lives. Life enhancing experiences raise serotonin levels at least as effectively as drugs and more instantaneously and with none of the inherent risks that taking antidepressant drugs involve.– Human Givens Institute

“The claim is continually made that the drugs repair chemical imbalances in the brain. This claim is false. It is still not possible to measure the exact levels of neurotransmitters in specific synapses within the human brain. How, then, is it possible to make claims about chemical imbalances?” – Philip Owen, psychologist “Sad script for the stressed,” Daily Telegraph (Sydney, Australia) Letters to the Editor, 2 Sept. 2003.

Contrary to what is often claimed, no biochemical, anatomical, or functional signs have been found that reliably distinguish the brains of mental patients.– Elliot S. Valenstien, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Michigan, in his book Blaming the Brain: The Truth About Drugs and Mental Health (The Free Press, New York, 1998), p. 125.

…there are no external validating criteria for psychiatric diagnoses. There is neither a blood test nor specific anatomic lesions for any major psychiatric disorder. – From a letter dated December 4, 1998 by Loren R. Mosher, M.D., a psychiatrist, resigning from the American Psychiatric Association.

A disease is a condition that has a known cause and can be identified by one or another set of laboratory tests.– Miryam Ehrlich Williamson, Fibromyalgia: A Comprehensive Approach, 2000, Chapter 1.

We really do not know what causes any psychiatric illness.– Jack M. Gorman, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University, in his book The Essential Guide to Psychiatric Drugs – Third Edition (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1997), p. 314.

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