Do you know what the top-selling class of pharmaceuticals is in America today? Let me give you a hint, it’s not cholesterol lowering drugs, or heartburn inhibitors; not antihypertensives, anti-inflammatories, or antibiotics, the top selling drugs today are antipsychotic drugs.
A decade ago antipsychotic drugs were for people who were delusional and hallucinating (the schizophrenias and bipolar manias). Now they are prescribed for people with chronic anxiety, depression, attention problems, and temper tantrums, who are invariably also taking other medications. More than half a million kids take antipsychotic drugs. In the U.S., nearly 1 child in 10 is diagnosed with ADHD, a 25% rise in the last 10 years. Fully 25% of nursing home residents use them (NYT, 10/3/10); in spite of the fact that we know these drugs can be fatal to older people, and have no idea about the long-term effects on children.

Antipsychotic medication generates revenues of about $16 billion annually. Every major pharmaceutical company that manufactures antipsychotic’s, aggressively markets these drugs as supplements to existing treatments for people suffering from diverse conditions like chronic pain and impulsive behaviors.

It is my strong belief that we psychiatrists are prescribing too many drugs for too many non-existent diseases. This is the result of a business relationship between pharmaceutical manufacturers and the psychiatric establishment (from psychiatrists to medical schools). They both are colluding in defining unacceptable behaviors as mental illnesses, for which medications can be prescribed. In the last 10 years alone, we have expanded the diagnosis of bipolar disease more than 40 fold. 25% of all Americans are now labeled as mentally ill with diagnoses ranging from anxiety, stress, self-control problems, and mood disorders.

We must stop supporting this cultural myth that if you’re feeling or behaving anything other than wonderfully in every moment, that you could be suffering from a disease.There is no pill that eliminates all of life’s discomforts. Find alternatives to drugs to face what’s bugging you. Talk to people you like and respect, do some new things, and find out what your problems have to teach you, and then move on. We are manufacturing mental illnesses, prescribing too many drugs, and turning into a prescription drug addicted zombie nation.