July 22, 2010

Oh Come On SAMHSA: Let Bob Speak

I'll have some news on my work on this site below, but let me first weigh in on something far more important.

Last evening, I learned through MindFreedom that Robert Whitaker, the Polk Award-winning journalist and author of the recent "Anatomy of an Epidemic," had had an invitation to be keynote speaker at the annual "Alternatives" conference withdrawn. The conference is funded by HHS' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and apparently someone at the agency freaked when they learned that Whitaker, an authority on mental health issues and a tough critic of the bio-psychiatry mainstream, was set to speak. He's been quite critical of federal agencies (so have I). Whitaker tells MindFreedom:

"MFI: What is it that you write about in Anatomy of an Epidemic that is so threatening?"

"WHITAKER: The story told to the public by the NIMH and by academic
psychiatry is that psychiatric medications have greatly improved the
lives of those diagnosed with psychiatric illnesses. Yet, even as our
society has embraced the use of psychiatric medications during the
past two decades, the number of people receiving government disability
due to mental illness has more than tripled, from 1.25 million people
to more than 4 million people.

"So you can see, in that data, that something may be wrong with that
story of progress. And then, if you look at how psychiatric
medications affect the long-term course of psychiatric disorders, you
find -- in the scientific literature -- consistent evidence that they
increase the likelihood that a person will become chronically ill. I
know this is startling, particularly since we do know that some people
do well on the medications long term, but that evidence, in terms of
how the medications affect long-term outcomes in the aggregate, shows
up time and again in the scientific literature."

Certainly, there's a fair amount of overlap between what Whitaker argues in his new book and what I've argued on this site for years. But it doesn't matter if I agree with him or respect him as a colleague (and that he was very respectful of someone whose case I've written about for years), he was invited to speak and should be allowed to do so. SAMHSA should re-invite him before it winds up with yolk all over its collective face. The irony that the conference is called "Alternatives" should not be lost on any of us, although you've got to wonder exactly whose alternatives are to be touted.

If you have any thoughts you'd like to share with SAMHSA's director Pam
Hyde, then fire them off to her at Pam.Hyde@SAMHSA.hhs.gov.

For myself, I had hoped to be back at it on here this week. But I am simply torn up too much from a tough six-month initiative campaign to write with much clarity. I have severe tendinitis in my left elbow and much pain in both of my shoulders. All in the cause of what's now a two-year fight to legalize marijuana in Washington State. In the process, I established a Facebook page with 9,200 fans (a larger base than several well-known, longstanding drug reform groups) and a very active website for the campaign (I did many other things as well; some well, some not so well). Both of which bode well for Sensible Washington as we prepare to launch a new legalization initiative in January 2011.

My hope is that my body will be sufficiently healed by next week to return to regular postings.

Posted by Philip Dawdy at 12:03 AM | Comments (2) StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Digg it reddit

July 15, 2010

In Fact, I Am Alive

I know it's been four months since I last posted--and I'd never planned on being away so long--but I am on my way to coming back to this site. It'll likely be next week before I am back up to speed as I am trying to work six months of 90-hour weeks (no, I'm not exaggerating) out of my body. Suffice to say that running an all-volunteer initiative campaign in signature gathering phase is very tough work. The short story is the I-1068 campaign faced just about every obstacle you could imagine and some I never would've guessed at until they happened and we came up short on signatures. The main impediment was the weather: It was a very wet May and June (June was at 200 percent of normal rainfall) this year and that makes it extremely difficult to turn out volunteers to collect signatures. The initiatives that will qualify for this November's ballot in Washington State all relied upon paid signature gatherers. Some initiative backers will spend close to $1 million just on signature gathering. I-1068 spent around $40,000.

Sensible Washington--the group I co-founded earlier this year--is already hatching plans to take another run next year at signature gathering for what I call "Son of I-1068." So the next six months or so ought to be interesting as we ramp up for that. And pray for better weather. And more money.

I've appreciated the many kind sentiments that have come my way the last few months, especially this yesterday from PsychCentral's John Grohol.

It's interesting to be coming back just as the Avandia saga comes to a head and just as GlaxoSmithKline takes a $2.3 billion charge to settle various legal cases connected to Avandia and Paxil. Same as it ever was.

Posted by Philip Dawdy at 02:11 PM | Comments (5) StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Digg it reddit

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