God or Zoloft

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by Rivka Levy
From the time that Abraham our forefather first walked the earth around 3,000 years ago, Jews have been challenging mankind to recognize God’s hand in their lives, and to accept the reality that there is far more to human beings than just their body and biology. People are also souls, and the soul is down here with a spiritual mission to do.
That was the essence of Abraham’s message three millennia ago – and it’s still very much part of the modern Jewish mission today, to keep reminding the world that there is a spiritual dimension to the world, and to people, and that God is real and exists.
It’s hard to think of an arena of modern life that needs that message more in 2016 than the field of psychiatry and ‘psychopharmacology’. For the last 100 years, modern medicine has been charging headlong down a path where biology is all there is, God is out of the picture, and everything can be boiled down to chemical equations and surgical interventions.
Perhaps it’s uncomfortable to admit, but modern medicine is effectively ‘God-less’, and modern psychiatry is arguably the most ‘God-less’ discipline of them all, even turning the existential challenges and difficulties that have long been accepted as belonging to the soul’s domain into body-based theories about ‘chemical imbalances’.
But the Jewish view of mental illnesses has always been that they are spiritual problems, not physical ones, and that the real solutions are to be found in the spiritual realm, not in Pfizer’s laboratories.
At this point, we normally hit some objections:
“But mental illnesses have been proved to be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain!”
“But psychiatric drugs work!”
“But doctors and psychiatrists would never prescribe a course of treatment if it didn’t actually work, and wasn’t in the patient’s best interests!”
Let’s take these points one by one: Firstly, the infamous chemical imbalance. Again, this is hard to accept for many people, but after 30 years of scientific research in the field, no evidence has ever been found to support the chemical imbalance theory of mental illness.
According to Edward Drummond, M.D., Associate Medical Director at Seacoast Mental Health Center in Portsmouth, New Hampshire: “No biological etiology [cause] has been proven for any psychiatric disorder…in spite of decades of research.…So don’t accept the myth that we can make an ‘accurate diagnosis’.…Neither should you believe that your problems are due solely to a ‘chemical imbalance.’” And he’s by no means the only reputable scientist out there who’s publicly saying this. So why are prescriptions for psychiatric drugs continuing to shoot through the roof?
Over to point number two: ‘But the drugs work!’
In his book Anatomy of an Epidemic, investigative journalist Robert Whitaker spent a couple of years trawling through all of the scientific studies that measured the efficacy of mood-altering drugs like Thorazine, Lithium, SSRIs, and benzodiazepines over the long term. Time and again, he found the following pattern:
  • Many of the drugs appeared to work in the very short-term, providing some immediate relief to patients.
  • Over the long-term, the outcomes for patients maintained on drugs (both in terms of mental health, physical health and economic independence and quality of life) became increasingly worse than the outcomes for their ‘drug-free’ peers.
  • Use of the drugs fundamentally (and in many cases, permanently) changed the way the brain functions, causing a ‘pathology’, where the brain ceased functioning in a normal, healthy way.
  • The drug-induced change in the brain’s chemistry meant that as soon as the patient came off the drug, they would experience some severe and violent side-effects, which were normally chalked up as being due to a ‘relapse’ in their mental illness, as opposed to iatrogenically-induced withdrawal symptoms from the drugs.
And that’s not all: Whitaker also found that long-term users of psychiatric medications could expect to have between 15-20 years knocked off their life expectancy, due to the drugs’ many physical ‘side effects’.
Which brings us neatly to our last point: ‘But doctors and psychiatrists would never prescribe drugs if they didn’t work, and only harmed their patients!”
A little while back, the Nutrition Institute of America published a fully-referenced report called ‘Death by Medicine’, which found that conventional medicine (i.e., taking drugs as prescribed, and following medical advice) was the leading cause of death in the US, causing an average of 783,936 deaths, compared to 699,697 people who died from heart disease, and 553,251 who died from cancer, over the same period.
And remember, this report is dealing with medications and treatment approaches for physical illnesses, which have far more scientific validity than psychiatric drugs – yet doing what the doctor ordered still carried some very high risks of death and permanent impairment.
The bottom line is this: doctors and psychiatrists have egos, just like everyone else. They want to be ‘successful’, which leads them to focus on getting patients well, fast, in the short-term. That’s one of the reasons why the ‘quick fix’ offered by drugs is so appealing. It takes a big person indeed to spend a decade in med school learning to be a psychiatrist, only to admit to their poor patient that they actually don’t have the first clue what’s really causing their mental health issues, or how to genuinely help them.
Lastly, the pharmaceutical companies have spent many millions of dollars ‘educating’ doctors and psychiatrists about the benefits of their products, and the bottom line is that advertising works.
More than 100 years ago Karl Marx, the founder of Communism, mockingly referred to religion as the ‘opium of the masses’. In some ways, psychiatric medications are proving his point: if God isn’t the drug of choice, then some other ‘opium-substitute’ has to be found instead. And Prozac, Ritalin and Zyprexa et al appear to be fitting the bill nicely.
Rivka Levy’s latest book, ‘Talk to God and Fix Your Health: The Real Reasons Why We Get Sick and How to Stay Healthy’ is out on January 31, published by the Matronita Press. Visit her at:
Do you agree? Is mental illness a primarily physical problem or a spiritual one? Please comment below to share.
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