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Nash was Drug Free

Ian Goddard igoddard at erols.mom
Tue Mar 19 00:51:33 EST 2002


  USA Today - March 4, 2002 Page 13A

  Mind drugs may hinder recovery

  By Robert Whitaker

  The movie A Beautiful Mind, nominated for 
  eight Academy Awards, has brought welcome 
  attention to the fact that people can and 
  do recover from schizophrenia, a severely 
  disabling disorder that affects about one 
  in 100 Americans. Unfortunately, the film
  fabricates a critical detail of John Nash's 
  recovery and in so doing, obscures a 
  question that should concern us all: Do the
  medications we use to treat schizophrenia 
  promote long-term recovery -- or hinder it?

  In the movie, Nash -- just before he receives 
  a Nobel Prize -- speaks of taking ''newer 
  medications.'' The National Alliance for 
  the Mentally Ill has praised the film's 
  director, Ron Howard, for showing the 
  ''vital role of medication'' in Nash's 
  recovery. But as Sylvia Nasar notes in her 
  biography of Nash, on which the movie is 
  loosely based, this brilliant mathematician
  stopped taking anti-psychotic drugs in 1970 
  and slowly recovered over two decades. Nasar 
  concluded that Nash's refusal to take drugs 
  ''may have been fortunate'' because their 
  deleterious effects ''would have made his 
  gentle re-entry into the world of mathematics
  a near impossibility.''

  His is just one of many such cases. Most 
  Americans are unaware that the World Health 
  Organization (WHO) has repeatedly found that 
  long-term schizophrenia outcomes are much 
  worse in the USA and other ''developed''
  countries than in poor ones such as India 
  and Nigeria, where relatively few patients 
  are on anti-psychotic medications. In 
  ''undeveloped'' countries, nearly two-thirds 
  of schizophrenia patients are doing fairly
  well five years after initial diagnosis;
  about 40% have basically recovered. But
  in the USA and other developed countries, 
  most patients become chronically ill. The 
  outcome differences are so marked that WHO
  concluded that living in a developed country 
  is a ''strong predictor'' that a patient 
  never will fully recover.

  Myth of medication

  There is more. In 1987, psychologist
  Courtenay Harding reported that a third
  of chronic schizophrenia patients released 
  from Vermont State Hospital in the late 
  1950s completely recovered. Everyone in 
  this ''best-outcomes'' group shared one 
  common factor: All had weaned themselves 
  from anti-psychotic medications. The 
  notion that schizophrenics must spend a 
  lifetime on these drugs, she concluded, 
  is a ''myth.''

  In 1994, Harvard Medical School researchers 
  found that outcomes for U.S. schizophrenia 
  patients had worsened during the past 20 
  years and were now no better than they 
  were 100 years earlier, when therapy 
  involved plunking patients into bathtubs 
  for hours. And in 1998, University of
  Pennsylvania investigators reported
  that standard anti-psychotic medications 
  cause a specific area of the brain to 
  become abnormally enlarged and that this 
  drug-induced enlargement is associated 
  with a worsening of symptoms.

  Comprehensive care succeeds

  All of this has led a few European
  physicians to explore non-drug
  alternatives. In Finland, doctors treat
  newly diagnosed schizophrenia patients
  with comprehensive care: counseling,
  social-support services and the
  selective use of anti-psychotic
  medications. Some patients do better on
  low doses of medication, and some
  without it. And they report great
  results: A majority of patients remain
  free of psychotic symptoms for extended
  periods and hold down jobs.

  John Nash's recovery from schizophrenia
  is a moving story. But we are not well
  served when the movie fibs about the
  anti-psychotic drugs' role in his
  recovery. If anything, his story should
  inspire us to reconsider
  anti-psychotics' long-term efficacy
  with an honest, open mind. That would
  be a first step toward reforming our
  care -- and if there is one thing we
  can conclude from the WHO studies, it
  is that reform is vitally needed.
  Perhaps then we could even hope that
  schizophrenia outcomes in this country
  would improve to the point that they
  were equal to those in poor countries
  such as India and Nigeria.

  Robert Whitaker is the author of Mad in
  America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and
  the Enduring Mistreatment of the
  Mentally Ill.


 "To lengthen thy life, lessen thy meals." Ben Franklin



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