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- Chinese Medicine and Mental Illness
In a very well written book, author Robert Whitaker notes that since the advent of second generation psychiatric drugs like prozac in 1987, the number of Americans with mental illness has not only not declined; as one would think they should with drugs that are actually improving or helping to reverse mental illness; but rather the number has continued to increase dramatically (Anatomy of an Epidemic, Crown Publishing, New York 2010). Mr. Whitaker further illustrates that between the years 1987 and 2007 the number of Americans that were mentally ill enough to be receiving Social disability checks from the government had in fact nearly doubled from a little over 2 million to 4 million.
Even though statistics are showing conclusively that medications alone are not helping to reduce incidence of mental illness, prescriptions for such medications are on the rise, and more and more, also being prescribed for an ever widening variety of conditions. According to a Washington Post Article from March 12, 2012, physicians are now beginning to prescribe atypical antipsychotic medications like, Zyprexa, Seroquel and Abilify for conditions which they have not been approved for including insomnia, anxiety, attention-deficit disorder, dementia and behavioral problems in toddlers (http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-03-12/national/35448725_1_atypical-antipsychotics-psychotropic-drugs-abilify.
The same article goes on to note that that anti-psychotic prescriptions for conditions that were considered “off label” doubled between 1995 and 2008, from 4.4 million to 9 million. These statistics are clear indications that our current medication based approach to mental illness needs some revision. Medications alone are not an all encompassing answer to mental illness and writing prescriptions for such medications without due diligence in attempting to help a patient with more natural, less invasive means could not be considered best practice. Why wouldn’t a therapist or physician first attempt to help people with more natural means like behavioral therapy, dietary therapy, exercise or how about one of the world’s oldest and most tried therapies for all types of physical and mental imbalance: Traditional Chinese Medicine?
Writing prescriptions for “problems of living” is fast, it’s easy and there is plenty of financial incentive to utilize them, but is that really the best direction for the treatment of mental illness and the future of healthcare in America? This is the first in a 5 part series in which we will continue to explore the topic of America’s rise in incidence of mental illness and the role that Chinese Medicine could play in helping find more natural solutions for mental illness.
Terry M. Chen, Licensed Acupuncturist
Open Sky Acupuncture, Acupuncture Eugene Oregon
Open Sky Acupuncture
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