The Tranquilizer Dilemma
These drugs were introduced to world psychiatry early in the 1950's by Dr. H. Laborit, a surgeon in France, because he wanted a lytic cocktail, a substance that reduced the pre-surgical anxiety of his patients. He learned about the antihistamines shortly after they were first synthesized in 1947 by an Italian Nobel Laureate chemist. One of these, chlorpromazine (thorazine in the US) had extraordinary properties of relaxing patients without putting them into a deep sleep. Tested on psychiatric patients, it dramatically decreased the intensity and frequency of psychotic symptoms. In one early therapeutic trial in a mental hospital in the US, the ward noise level was used as the measure of response. Within a few weeks of placing the patients on this drug there was a remarkable decrease in noise level.
Psychiatrists were very impressed and a world-wide feeling of overconfidence developed that at last we had the solution to schizophrenia. There were serious side effects such as tardive dyskinesia which for a long time were ignored and even denied, but eventually accepted, since every medical student knows that if a drug has no side effects it is not a drug, that is, it has no activity. We put up with the side effects. The side effects of electro-convulsive therapy and insulin coma were much worse. The beneficial effect of chlorpromazine and other drugs which followed pretty rapidly out-balanced the toxic side effects.
But not everyone agreed that we had a panacea. Orthomolecular psychiatrists were more impressed with the slow but gradual and sure response to megavitamin therapy which did not cause the same side effects, was remarkably free of them in fact. Meyer Gross, an eminent psychiatrist in England, sald that the drugs changed one psychosis into another. He was very prescient.
The combination of this rapid, apparently curative effect of the drugs, with the constant push by the drug companies, quickly brought these drugs to the foreground until today, they are considered the only treatment for schizophrenia and other psychoses. The drug companies excelled at competing with each other and producing ever more new drugs. Each one came with the usual fanfare that they were more effective and less toxic. One can expect them to come along at a rate of several each year. Currently we have a half dozen of the latest drugs again supposedly much more effective and much less toxic. I have not been convinced these are true from my experience with these drugs over the past four years. The side effects are somewhat different. Olanzapine, one of the most recent, very often causes major weight gain.
Recently a young schizophrenic woman came to see me. She had been on thioridazine and doing quite well. I added the orthomolecular program and she began to improve. However the psychiatrist she had been seeing regularly, started a study on olanzapine and persuaded her to switch to 15 milligrams daily. He made her promise that she would not stop the medication for two years. According...
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