(PSYCHIATRIC TIMES) --
By Ronald Pies, MD
Dr Pies is professor of psychiatry at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, and clinical professor of psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. He is also Editor in Chief of Psychiatric Times.
You have read the blogs and seen the placards a dozen times: doctors prescribe too many “drugs” for too many patients. Psychiatrists, in particular, are popular targets of politically motivated language that seeks to conflate the words “medication” and “drug”—thereby tapping into the public’s understandable fears concerning “drug abuse” and its need to carry out a “War on Drugs.” Misleading radio ads promise “drug-free” treatment of panic disorder (certainly possible, but not always achievable) and the Internet bristles with the phrase, “psychiatric drugging.” (My Google search pulled up 9310 results.) And, all too predictably, any physician who argues that psychotropic medication is often an effective and lifesaving intervention is hustled off to the perp line of “drug-company shills.”
All this will not surprise students of language, history, and philosophy. Those who control language are well positioned to control thought and behavior. If government officials can persuade the public that killing innocent civilians is merely “collateral damage,” they have gone a long way toward justifying the carpet-bombing of a village. If the forces of antipsychiatry—and they are alive and well—can persuade the public that psychiatry is “drugging” people, they have gone a long way toward marginalizing and discrediting the profession. To understand how powerful the words “drug” and “drugging” are, imagine the feckless campaign that would be waged if the perennial protesters in front of the American Psychiatric Association’s Annual Meeting carried signs that read, “Psychiatrists: Stop Medicating Your Patients!”
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