Sunday, February 27, 2005

Psychologist on role of parents' surviving Holocaust in aetiology of children's stealing

From the Edmonton Sun, Friday 25 February 2005

Excuses don't cut it
TONY BLAIS, COURT BUREAU

A prominent Jewish spokesman who defrauded an Edmonton non-profit organization says she was depressed because her parents were Holocaust survivors. Shoshana Szlachter, the western regional director of the Edmonton-based Jewish human rights group B'Nai Brith, yesterday pleaded guilty to one count of fraud over $5,000.
Court heard she defrauded the Alberta Underwater Council of nearly $8,000 between Jan. 1, 1999, and Oct. 31, 2002, while she was working as their executive director.
Provincial court Judge David Tilley gave Szlachter, 54, a suspended sentence and placed her on 12 months of probation. If she breaches the probation, she could be jailed.
Defence lawyer Simon Renouf said Szlachter was "under a great deal of emotional and financial pressure" at the time because child-support payments coming from her former husband were reduced because he had a stroke.
Renouf also cited a written report from Szlachter's psychologist in which it says she suffered depression as a result of her parents being survivors of the Holocaust.
That doesn't sit well with Tom Davies, the president of the Alberta Underwater Council, the governing body for underwater sporting activities in Alberta.
"That's pretty hard to eat for me," said Davies yesterday. "That to me is a real cop-out," he said.
"I find it hard to believe that she would blame her crime on being the child of Holocaust survivors."
Davies said the theft caused the volunteer organization a lot of hardship, including making them unable to fund the 2002 underwater hockey world championship in Calgary.
The council has also launched a civil lawsuit against Szlachter, alleging she actually stole closer to $40,000...

Saturday, February 26, 2005

ADHD in the UK

From The Spectator today:
In official circles, including the Department of Health, the existence of ADHD as a physical medical condition is now accepted as a fact. ‘No evidence exists to suggest that ADHD is caused by anything other than neurobiological malfunctioning,’ claims Dr Nikos Myttas, consultant child psychiatrist at the Finchley Memorial hospital. Yet a glance at the symptoms for ADHD as listed in the latest edition of the Diagnostic Systems Manual — the psychiatrists’ bible for analysing disorders — points to an almost laughable vagueness. Most of these symptoms could apply to almost any child who is not a swot or teacher’s pet. So the ADHD sufferer is said to ‘dislike or avoid tasks that involve sustained mental effort such as homework’. He also ‘doesn’t appear to listen when told something’, can be ‘forgetful’, has ‘trouble waiting his turn’, makes ‘careless errors in schoolwork’, ‘talks excessively’, ‘loses materials needed for activities’ and ‘inappropriately runs or climbs’.

What the Diagnostic Manual appears to be describing is the average British school pupil....

Yet in the name of the so-called disease, tens of thousands of children are now being given heavy doses of government-sanctioned drugs which could cause lasting damage to their brains.

Full article is here.

Hat tip: Ralph Raico

“Anti-Psychologism in Economics: Wittgenstein and Mises”

Roderick Long’s paper “Anti-Psychologism in Economics: Wittgenstein and Mises” has been published in the The Review of Austrian Economics and is available online. I commend it to anyone interested in Thomas Szasz’s work.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Corruption at the FDA

One practical argument against government’s having the power to approve medicines for sale is that it lulls consumers into a false sense of security, which is worse than no sense of security at all. It’s easy for people, most of whom do not read critical writings, to believe that government personnel are a disinterested parties in any process to determine which drugs may be marketed and which may not. In a fully free market, people would tend to be more skeptical, and there would be a better-developed market for independent information. At least people could not naively lean on the government as though it were a civics-book public-interest agency.

Today’s New York Times has a timely reminder, if one were needed, that the regulatory process is hopelessly corrupt. According to the Times, about a third of the panel of advisers who voted on whether the COX-2 pain medicines Vioxx, Celebrex, and Bextra should be permitted on the market had worked recently for the manufacturers of the drugs. The point is not that the Food and Drug Administration shouldn’t permit the drugs on the market. The point is that the government should have nothing to say about it.

Study Clears Opioids

From Reuters (February 23): “Opioid therapy can provide significant pain relief for patients with chronic back pain due to non-cancerous disorders of the spine and is unlikely to lead to the development of tolerance or addiction, according to Minnesota-based investigators. . . .

“The authors conclude that, ‘doubts or concerns about opioid efficacy, toxicity, tolerance, and abuse or addiction should not be used to justify the withholding of opioids from patients who have pain related to defined spinal diseases.’

“This study, they add, ‘provides clinical evidence to support and protect physicians treating patients with chronic musculoskeletal diseases, who may be reluctant to prescribe opioids because of possible sanctions from regulatory agencies.’”

Source credited: Arthritis and Rheumatism, January 2005. The full news article is here.

Hat tip: Frank B. Fisher

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Rights for Animals and Some Humans in Europe

In the Netherlands, politicians from both left and right support a motion to expand our constitution with a bill of rights for animals. The German constitution already contains a clause about animal welfare, they say.

Of course, animals can’t have human rights, but do humans have human rights in Europe? That depends which humans are meant. Article 5.1 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) states:

Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be deprived of his liberty save in the following cases … (e) the lawful detention of persons for the prevention of the spreading of infectious diseases, of persons of unsound mind, alcoholics or drug addicts, or vagrants.

Article 8.2 of the same convention states:

There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right [to respect for a person's private and family life, home and correspondence] except such as is ... necessary ... for the protection of health or morals ...
Perhaps animal “rights” will soon be better protected than humans’?

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

No Pets, Unless You're Mentally Ill

David Beito over at Liberty and Power brings attention to this story:
ROYAL OAK, Mich. (AP) — A federal grand jury awarded more than $300,000 to a mentally ill woman whose apartment complex refused to let her have a dog.

The verdict in favor of Joyce Grad, who suffers from severe bipolar disorder, acknowledges the role of pets in improving the quality of life for the mentally ill.

Read it in full here.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Mad or Gonzo?

From the Guardian’s leader “Hunter S. Thompson: A libertarian legacy”, acknowledging the suicide of the "gonzo journalist":

“Thompson shot from the hip both literally and metaphorically and he was often portrayed as a drug-crazed eccentric. His warning signs on the road to his home of ‘guns in constant use’ and his furious rants in print and in interviews led to him being labelled by his enemies and detractors as ‘mad.’ But there was at the heart of his journalism a visceral hatred of bullies and crooks and hypocrites, the very people he felt had taken over the government of his beloved country. In his Devil's Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce, who could perhaps be seen as the grandfather of ‘gonzo’ journalism, defined ‘mad’ as ‘affected with a high degree of intellectual independence’.”

Hat tip: Chris I. Pettit.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Category-Mistake

According to the philosopher Gilbert Ryle in The Concept of Mind, one commits a category-mistake when one "represents . . . facts . . . as if they belonged to one logical type or category (or range of types or categories), when they actually belong to another."

A case in point is in today's New York Times Magazine, in the article "The Therapeutic Mind Scan" by Paul Raeburn, who laments that most psychiatrists diagnose mental illnesses without examining their patients' brains, but reports hopefully on one exception, Daniel G. Amen, who uses single photon emission computed tomography to scan the brains of his patients. Raeburn is the author of Acquainted With the Night, which the Times says is "a memoir of raising children who have depression and bipolar disorder."

He writes:

"If scanners could uncover the signs of distinct mental illnesses in the soft folds of the brain, the way X-rays can reveal a tumor, and monitor treatment effectiveness, they would revolutionize psychiatry."

Fumento on Mental Illness

From an interview with science writer Michael Fumento on RightWingNews.com:

John Hawkins: Is there any junk science that you believe conservatives in particular tend to go in for?

Michael Fumento: I've written recently about the conservative aversion to the diagnosis of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and I've also found myself defending anti-depressants. Conservatives who haven't been exposed to these diseases in some way tend to have a tremendous prejudice against drugs that treat them because they think the drugs are overriding human nature. Actually, that's exactly what they are doing but on a personal level and in a good way. It's natural for a broken bone to heal wrong; it's unnatural to set it and pin it in place until it heals. This prejudice is all quite strange really, because conservatives are by their nature anti-Freudian. They knew way back when that this guy was essentially a dirty old man who thought everything was rooted in one's feelings towards one's mother. The medicines have replaced Freud and yet still conservatives resist the medicines. But I think as we refine our ability to show mental disease with MRIs and other imaging devices that more and more conservatives will realize that mental illness is as much a disease as cancer or congestive heart failure.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Professor Threatens Student with Psychotherapy

A 17-year-old Kuwaiti Muslim attending Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, California, ran afoul of his professor in Introduction to American Government and Politics when, contrary to the professor’s instructions, he wrote an essay defending the U.S. Constitution. The professor refused to grade the paper, but summoned him to the office.

The student, Ahmad Al-Qloushi, writes: “He told me, ‘Your views are irrational.’ He called me naïve for believing in the greatness of this country, and told me 'America is not God's gift to the world.’ [Emphasis in original.] Then he upped the stakes and said ‘You need regular psychotherapy.’ Apparently, if you are an Arab Muslim who loves America you must be deranged. Professor Woolcock went as far as to threaten me by stating that he would visit the Dean of International Admissions (who has the power to take away student visas) to make sure I received regular psychological treatment.” (Emphasis added.)

The full article is at here.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Quine's "Quiddities" and the Insanity Defence

Sometimes one finds rare confirmation in unexpected places. W. V. Quine, in "Quiddities: An Intermittently Philosophical Dictionary" (1987), writes (under the entry on "Free Will"):

"The rightly but insufficiently maligned insanity plea, as a defense in criminal courts, is predicated on ill health of the offender's decison-making faculties. The theory would seem to be that healthy faculties make decisions spontaneously and hence with full responsibility, while diseased ones are the pawns of outside forces. It is a hard line to draw, and the more so when one appreciates that all our actions subtend causal chains from far away and long ago. The plea has no evident place in the rationale of punishment as we have been picturing it, and a persuasive justification of it is not easy to conceive."

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Washington Post Scrutinizes Children's Bipolar Diagnosis

"There is no test for bipolar illness, which is believed to result from a poorly understood interplay between genetics and environment. Although the disease runs in families, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), most children with one bipolar parent won't develop the illness. Their risk is about 10 to 15 percent compared with 1 percent among the general population....

"Proponents of early intervention say that aggressive treatment can limit the damage of untreated mental illness.

"As a result, some preschoolers barely out of diapers are being treated for bipolar disorder with powerful drugs, few of which have been tested in children.

"But some experts say the surge in diagnoses is a dangerous fad -- one critic called it 'psychiatry's flavor of the month' -- a decision too often based on skimpy evidence, cursory evaluations and incorrect assumptions about genetic risk."

The full Washington Post article is here

Monday, February 14, 2005

The Government's War on Pain Sufferers

My new article discussing how the government’s war on drug users harms chronic pain sufferers is posted on The Future of Freedom website here.

Is Love a Form of Mental Illness?

“The language of Valentine's Day cards and love songs—‘crazy for you,’ ‘madly in love,’ et cetera—may reveal an important truth. Sometimes, love looks like a mental disorder, says British clinical psychologist Frank Tallis. . . . The author of ‘Love Sick: Love as a Mental Illness,’ Mr. Tallis has a private practice in London, where he says he often has patients who are suffering mentally because of love. ‘Some people are referred to me because of an admission to depression or anxiety disorder, but in fact, once we'd explored issues around their problems, it was clear they were just in love.’ . . .

“Not everyone in love is in need of psychiatric care, Mr. Tallis cautions. . . .

“‘It's part of the human condition, but it's certainly a potentially destabilizing experience, more than we recognize socially. Perhaps in modern times, we've underestimated its significance, in terms of its power to destabilize people emotionally.’”

Underestimated its significance in terms of its power to destabilize people emotionally? Has he ever listened to popular song lyrics?

Read the full Washington Times story here.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Rip up draft mental health bill and start again, says BMA

The proposed changes to mental health legislation in Great Britain must be rather horrific if even the doctors object to them on the grounds that they violate human rights. It makes one wonder just what the British government's agenda is.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Faith in Freedom Reviewed

Thomas Szasz's Faith in Freedom has been reviewed in The Mises Review. Read it here.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Hush! Don't Say That!

From the Guardian, February 4:

"Campaigners condemned the publication yesterday of research which suggests that heroin can be taken over a long period without destroying people's lives.

"Researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University identified 126 long-term heroin users in the city who were not experiencing the health and social problems normally associated with the drug. Some were in good jobs and well-educated. They included a chef, a computer analyst and a plumber....

"But Alistair Ramsay of the campaign group Scotland Against Drugs said it was not helpful that the findings were getting so much publicity.... 'The message we would want to put out is that heroin is a very dangerous drug. You don't know where you are going to end up ... they all start out believing they can manage it. The people in the study might be halfway to the stage of bottoming out. We just don't know.'

"When asked about the executive's funding of the study, Jack McConnell, Scotland's first minister, said it was important to research drug use. But he was vehement in his condemnation of heroin. 'I oppose any use of heroin. I condemn it and I want us to take a firm stand and send a very clear signal.'"

Full story here.

Hat tip: Ralph Raico.

Marijuana Study: So What?

"Marijuana has a long-term effect on blood flow to the brain, potentially increasing the risk of memory damage and stroke, research finds. The National Institute on Drug Abuse in Baltimore found users have faster blood flow in their brains—even after a month of not smoking. The findings suggest marijauna use narrows blood vessels, in way similar to that found in heart disease. Details of the study are published in the journal Neurology."

So reports the BBC News here. Maybe it's true; maybe the study is bunk. ("The researchers tested 54 marijuana users, who smoked between two and 350 [!] joints a week, and 18 non-smokers.") What few readers of the story will appreciate is this: the findings should have nothing to do with government policy.

Hat tip: Keith Halderman.

The War on Pain-Sufferers and Their Doctors

From the Mobile Register, February 6:

"The DEA monitors the prescription writing habits of all doctors, and those prescribing high doses of OxyContin raise a red flag. Investigators go to work: Plea bargains win testimony from former patients. Indictments are filed.

"Trial juries hear from DEA-hired doctors who say that the use of high levels of OxyContin are outside the normal practice of medicine. Doctors for the defense give contrary testimony.

"Faced with conflicting expert testimony, lay juries tend to convict....

"In March 2004, DEA administrator Karen Tandy told Congress that her drug warriors have 'been successful in addressing OxyContin diversion, as evidenced by a reduction in the rate of increase of OxyContin prescriptions being written and a leveling-off of OxyContin sales.'

"But this cockeyed measure of success makes no sense. Respected experts estimate the pain experienced by 40 percent of cancer, AIDS and terminally ill patients already goes under-treated."

The full article by Ronald Fraser is here.

Hat tip: Dr. Frank B. Fisher

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Misdirection

This AP story reports that the Vermont Teddy Bear Co. will no longer market its “Crazy For You” teddy bear because several mental-health organizations objected to the bear’s straitjacket and “commitment report.” The groups, which include the Vermont chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, found the theme insensitive and stigmatizing. As I commented before in “We Didn’t Start the Stigma, it is interesting that the "mental-health" lobby gets upset whenever someone outside its ranks accepts the stereotype started and perpetuated by the mental-health profession itself.


A statement issued by Vermont Psychiatric Survivors said, “We believe the Vermont Teddy Bear Company has come to understand the harm caused by creating an image that trivialized the pain of people with severe mental illness, and that reinforced public stereotypes regarding appropriate treatment for such individuals. Its actions to cease production are an affirmation of that understanding” (emphasis added).


But the teddy bear company did not create the image of a straitjacketed mental patient. The mental-health profession did this, first, by physically restraining and imprisoning people diagnosed with fictitious mental illnesses, then by switching to chemical restraints when they were found more effective. The profession reinforces the stereotype every time one of its members asserts that a perpetrator of a terrible crime is not responsible for his actions because he has a mental illness. Discontinuing the "Crazy For You" teddy bear will do nothing to end that stereotype.


As for trivializing pain, when has the mental-health lobby been concerned about the pain inflicted by straitjackets, civil commitment, electroshock, and psychiatric drugs? Aren't we told these are for the good of the patient?


Do those who lodged complaints against the company hope to distract us from the actual culprits? If they really wanted to end the stigma, they would know how to do it: End the "hospitalization" and drugging of people against their will. Separate psychiatry and state. Stop medicalizing what Thomas Szasz calls "problems in living."


Hat tip to Gary McGath.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Zoloft Induces Murder?

From the AP: "A teenager who shot and killed his grandparents as they slept is 'a shy, decent boy' who was led to kill by the antidepressant Zoloft, his attorney said as the boy went on trial [in Charleston, S.C.]. ...'This is a case about one drug that has taken three lives. When you hear the case, you will have the power and opportunity to give one back,' [defense attorney Andy Vickery] said. 'A shy, decent boy was acting under the influence of a mind-altering drug.' Prosecutors contend Pittman shot his grandparents because they disciplined him for fighting on a school bus. 'This is not a case about Zoloft. This is not a case about Pfizer,' prosecutor Barney Giese told the jury in opening statements. 'This is a case about Chris Pittman.'"

Details here. Hat tip to Mark Fulwiler.

One Prosecutor of the War Against the War on Drug Consumers

Radley Balko continues his assault on the government's war against drug consumers and traders with this column, "Drug War Shrinking Bill of Rights," at Foxnews.com. As Balko writes, "The drug war has been eating at the Bill of Rights since its inception." His article catalogues the many ways this is so, including the ruthless persecution/prosecution of physicians who dispense "too many" painkillers to their patients. (Don't miss his forthcoming article in the April Freeman about the government's crusade against Dr. Frank Fisher.)