psychiatrists, psychiatryIn an article in The British Medical Journal (BMJ) (July 4, 2016), editor Richard Smith highlights salient points from the recent meeting of psychiatrists and mental health experts in Leiden, the Netherlands. The meeting had convened to celebrate 50 years of the journal Geneesmiddelenbulletin that provides independent advice on prescribing. Featured speakers included Allen Frances, emeritus professor of psychiatry at Duke University and former DSM-IV chair (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th. Edition), and Peter Gøtzsche, a Danish physician, researcher, and leader of the Nordic Cochrane Center.

Gøtzsche had asserted in an article published in May that 97 percent of psychiatric drugs cause more harm than good, adding that the research base of psychiatry is unreliable and corrupted by the pharmaceutical industry, whose studies have been found to be manipulated. He adds that there is little evidence showing that psychiatric drugs, particularly antidepressants, actually work, while conversely highlighting the point that they actually make suicide more likely. 

Allen Frances (chair of the committee that produced DSM IV) conceded that 70 percent of Gøtzsche’s book is correct. Still, he added that it neglects the bigger problem of patients with serious psychiatric illness not being treated sufficiently, while many with minor problems are being over-medicated. 

The author of the article, Smith, concludes that this dissonance amidst practitioners in the industry has left Dutch psychiatrists “feeling vulnerable because there are too many of them [and] they have two treatments to offer–drugs and psychotherapy.”  He concludes, “Psychiatrists are left with drugs and anxiety about their future.”

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