I applaud the New York Times for publishing Drowned in a Stream of Prescriptions, by Alan Schwarz, on the front page of the Sunday Times, Feb. 2, 2013.
It is a painful and horrifying story. There can be no consolation for his poor parents. The article is very well written and captures the insensitivity, uncaring and destructiveness of my fellow psychiatrists in a straightforward and understated manner that is effectively and appropriately chilling.
Sadly, the story of Richard Fee is not unique. Amphetamine abuse is commonplace and standard practice in our schools and on our streets. And amphetamine psychosis should not be minimized because it doesn’t happen with every user. In point of fact during my residency in the 1970’s, mental hospitals were filled with amphetamine psychoses. Why? Because the sixties and seventies were an earlier period of prevalent amphetamine use (like today). Those psychoses were particularly frightening and violent and especially intractable because of the fierce drug dependence. I’ve seen Richard Fee before, many times.
This article itself even honors the idea that there are legitimate uses for amphetamines. Amphetamines are now such a part of acceptable psychiatric practice, that it actually seems extremist to suggest that they are not only inappropriate, but destructive. We’re talking about speed here. Speed has always been a bad drug. ‘Speed kills’. Contemporary psychiatry has fallen under the sway of biological psychiatry, where patients no longer receive proper care. It views the cause of human suffering to be the brain itself, and not the person. And the prescribed treatments for its phantom brain diseases are psychoactive drugs. The cure for human struggle has been reduced to a pill, as if pharmaceuticals address the agency of human suffering. This has resulted in a destructive psychiatric drug epidemic, with psychiatric drug sales topping $70 billion a year.
Richard Fee’s story should be a morality tale for our times. It is the tip of an iceberg about something that is very wrong. Amphetamines have a sorry history. It’s claim to fame was its first serious use by the Nazi’s for the Blitzkrieg and the bombing of Britain. Amphetamines were big in the seventies and eighties, when they were passed off as an antidepressant, as a diet drug, and of course college kids used them to stay up all night to study etc. They were principally used to get high with devastating results and devasting dependence. Eventually, amphetamines were discredited, and they seemed to disappear from view. But as often happens with drugs, amnesia set in. Psychiatry invented a phantom disease ADHD, and guess what was its treatment of choice? You guessed it. Amphetamines are back. We are drugging a generation of our children with amphetamines. And now that its being promoted that adults have phantom ADHD too. There’s a whole new market for amphetamines. We’re being told that adults should be taking speed too.
Here’s the list of amphetamines:
atomoxetine (Strattera );
dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine and Dextrostat);
methamphetamine (Desoxyn, Methedrin), street names: crystal, meth, ice, speed, glass, chalk, crank; and methylenedioxymethamphetamine – street names Ecstasy, MDMA, E, or X.
There are going to be many more Richard Fees. There already are. In a society that is so conscious of the dangers of drugs. How is that we are promoting the use of speed, and it’s being seen as a really good thing?
Robert A Berezin, MD