|THE VATICAN ADDRESSES ANOTHER HUGE WORLDWIDE |
Click on link below to hear Radio Vatican interview with Dr Joanna Moncrieff + DrPat Bracken
Why have psychiatric medications such as anti-depressants emerged as the first line of treatment for young people and children suffering from mental health disorders? And are this rising prescription rates justified by the clinical trial evidence? These are the main questions being debated by renowned psychiatrists and other health experts from around the world who are attending a 2-day conference in the Vatican sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Healthcare Workers.
Among the participants at the conference is Dr Joanna Moncrieff, a practicing consultant psychiatrist in London who spoke to Vatican Radio’s Susy Hodges
Asked about her reaction to the massive increase in the prescription of psychotropic drugs over the past two decades, Dr Moncrieff says she is "worried" about this trend as she believes it is "the result of a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of these drugs."
"We're prescribing mind-altering substances to people to suppress and subdue their emotions and their behaviour" and she points the finger of blame for much of this trend at the pharmaceutical industry who, she says, "have been persuading people that they need to take chemicals in order to function normally."
Although there are no overall statistics for the number of people taking psychotropic drugs, Dr Moncrieff says "the number of prescriptions of anti-depressants in the UK has risen by 400 percent since the early 1990's." In her view, it 's now become "a vicious circle" with people as a result of seeing the advertising and promotion of these medications on the internet going to their doctor and "expecting drugs" for dealing with their emotional problems and the doctors giving them these drugs. She hopes this conference in the Vatican "will give people a better understanding of what drug treatment for mental disorders really constitutes." She also hopes it will "encourage people to seek alternative ways to manage distressing emotions and distressing behaviours."
Another participant at the conference in the Vatican who spoke to Susy Hodges is Dr Pat Bracken, a psychiatrist from West Cork in Ireland.
Asked why there has been a large increase in the number of psychotropic drugs being prescribed to young people, Dr Bracken says it's a "complicated picture with no single answer" although he agrees with Dr Moncrieff that the increase in prescription rates is "massive" and says "a lot of companies (in the pharmaceutical industry) made a lot of money out of this development."
He goes on to explain how these pharmaceutical companies have helped "nurture an environment within psychiatry where drug treatments are sometimes seen as the first and sometimes as the only response to mental distress."
Dr Bracken, however, believes that it's not just "the profit motive" that has brought about this situation but it also reflects changes in our contemporary society such as the rise in secularisation. Drawing on his own family's experience, he says that in the past people's religious faith sustained them" and helped them "to overcome their problems and sufferings." He goes on to talk about how many of these psychotrophic drugs have "very serious-side effects" and advocates what he calls a "recovery approach" to help people suffering from mental disorders to use their own initiatives and their own support networks to find "their own paths" towards healing.
Listen to the extended interviews with Dr Moncrieff and Dr Bracken
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