Anti-vivisection and Anti-psychiatry

Anti-vivisection and Anti-psychiatry


For my presentation entitled Anti-vivisection
and Anti-psychiatry I will focus on the connections and opportunities
for allyship between the anti-vivisection and anti-psychiatry movements.
To begin with I will put forth the position that the use of
other than human animals in research as well as symptom-based diagnoses
and treatment in psychiatry are all unreliable. From there
I will touch on incarceration and some of the many abuses
faced by both psychiatrized people and other than human animals used in
research, drawing on the similarities between some of those abuses,
detailing the torture of other than human animals used in psychiatric
related testing; which some consider to be the cruelest experiments,
and providing examples of how relying on those experiments is harmful
to psychiatrized people. I will conclude with an analysis of
suggestions for moving beyond these practices through the further
development and funding of alternatives, suggesting actions we can all
take, and a call for allyship. Before I begin I feel it is important to note
that nothing I say should be taken as medical advice, I do however
encourage people to do their own research and come to their own conclusions.
There have been many books written on all of these topics
individually and this is merely an introduction for connecting these
issues which I hope to expand upon later. Also although my focus here is on psychiatry
I am not interested in upholding the usual distinction between it
and other medical models. I recognize that the medical model of disability
is usually oppressive and harmful, psychiatry is just my experience
and where I have the most knowledge. So if anything I say reinforces
that distinction in anyway please let me know. First I ask, is testing on other than human
animals reliable? Well, according to Dr. Francis S Collins,
who is the director of the National Institutes of Health “the use of
animal models for therapeutic development and target validation
is time consuming, costly, and may not accurately predict efficacy
in humans.”1 Despite this the NIH; who are partially funded by
taxpayers, contributes billions of dollars every year towards projects
involving testing on other than human animals. I would argue that what Dr. Collins admitted
is greatly understated, given that according to a 2012 article in
New Scientist by geneticist Kathy Archibald and pharmacologist Robert
Coleman “a recent study in Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology shows
that animal tests missed 81 per cent of the serious side effects of
43 drugs that went on to harm patients.”2 and the New England Anti-Vivisection
Society states “The FDA reports that 92 percent of drugs
approved for testing in humans fail to receive approval for human
use. This failure rate has increased from 86 percent in 1985, in spite
of all the “advances and refinements” intended to make animal tests
more accurate.”3 The fact is species differ too greatly from
one another for the tests to be reliable. For example even though chimps
are our closest animal relation with DNA almost identical to our
own the New England Anti-Vivisection Society says that “more
than 80 HIV vaccines that have proven safe and efficacious in chimpanzees
(as well as other nonhuman primates), all have failed to protect
or prove safe in humans in nearly 200 human clinical trials, with
one actually increasing a human’s chance of HIV infection.”3 These studies also fail to take into account
the conditions these other than human animals live in and the effects
that may have on results. Our living conditions differ greatly
from theirs, with only a few exceptions approaching any sort of similarity,
one of which I would argue is incarceration in psychiatric
facilities or what the system calls “involuntary commitment”
but before that can happen, the person is usually given a diagnoses. Which brings me to the next part of my presentation
is psychiatry reliable? Those who are diagnosed are often told of
a chemical imbalance in their brain, which medication corrects, but
there is no test given that shows this and these diagnoses are completely
symptom based, which is unreliable. The former American Psychiatric
Association President Loren R. Mosher admitted to this
in his resignation letter when he said “The issue is what do the categories
tell us? Do they in fact accurately represent the person with
a problem? They don’t, and can’t, because there are no external validating
criteria for psychiatric diagnoses. There is neither a
blood test nor specific anatomic lesions for any major psychiatric
disorder. So, where are we? APA as an organization has implicitly (sometimes
explicitly as well) bought into a theoretical hoax. Is psychiatry
a hoax — as practiced today? Unfortunately, the answer is mostly
yes.”4 Now, these categories he speaks of are those
in the DSM or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,
which is where psychiatric diagnoses come from. Since there are no external
criteria, what gets included within each new edition of the DSM
is determined by debate among a task force. In a presentation Dr.
Stephen Wiseman, in what I can only assume was an attempt to add validity
to the process, compared this to the debate around whether
or not Pluto classifies as a planet.5 I think this comparison has the
reverse effect and only reinforces how arbitrary these diagnoses are.
And he completely ignores the fact that Pluto’s classification
has little to no effect on the vast majority of people, where as criteria
for psychiatric diagnoses affects us all. In this same presentation
he states that the chemical imbalance theory told to the public
and patients has not been taught to psychiatrists in decades and there
are many examples of others in the field admitting to this being
a lie, including Kenneth Kendler who is known for pioneering research
in genetic causes within the field. He wrote “We have hunted for big,
simple neurochemical explanations for psychiatric disorders and
have not found them. We have hunted for big, simple genetic explanations
for psychiatric disorders and have not found them.”6 This lie of a chemical imbalance is said to
be helpful to patients, but a 2014 study found that when people were
told their depression was caused by a chemical imbalance it did not
reduce self blame, it made patients more pessimistic about their prognosis,
and even lowered their expectations for regulating their own
moods. It did however lead them to view medication as more credible than
psychotherapy, but I wouldn’t consider that helpful.7 Even the former director of the National Institute
of Mental Health Thomas Insel, who recently left his position
to go work for google and is trying to use current technology for further
surveillance of psychiatrized people,8 admits that “The weakness
is its lack of validity. Unlike our definitions of ischemic
heart disease, lymphoma, or AIDS, the DSM diagnoses are based on a
consensus about clusters of clinical symptoms, not any objective laboratory
measure. In the rest of medicine, this would be equivalent to creating
diagnostic systems based on the nature of chest pain or the quality
of fever. Indeed, symptom-based diagnosis, once common in other
areas of medicine, has been largely replaced in the past half century
as we have understood that symptoms alone rarely indicate the best
choice of treatment.”9 Given this lack of testing and lack of evidence
in “abnormalities” with the brain, despite it being a theory
in one way or another for over 200 years, how can treatments that are
meant to alter the brain be reliable? Many studies have shown that
placebos work just as well and in some cases better than psychiatric
medication in the short term. And others show people tend to do much
better in the long term when not on medications, for example a 15
year long study that was released in 2007 showed that “40% of patients
diagnosed with schizophrenia who were NOT on antipsychotic
drugs showed periods of recovery and better global functioning compared
to only 5% of patients taking antipsychotics” according to Accessibility
News.10 And finally another major reason why these
categories are not accurate is that they don’t consider context. They
take reactions to oppression, abuse, trauma, and other challenging
issues we all face and transform them into symptoms without taking
the root causes into consideration. At its core psychiatry is a
form of social control and one of the more subtle ways it accomplishes
this is through this de-contextualization, because it keeps those
of us who have been given a psychiatric diagnosis focused inward, believing
there is something wrong with our brains, instead of focusing
outward and recognizing the many things wrong in our society. Which includes the suffering of psychiatrized
people and other than human animals used in research.
I would argue that the psychiatric system causes suffering the instant
it diagnoses an individual by creating a false dichotomy with its
biological model, which causes stigma. A recent article by Dr.
Jonathan Abramowitz in The Behavior Therapist points to research which
supports this idea and reports that “Research on public attitudes
toward people with schizophrenia, for example, reveals that as
acceptance of the biomedical model has increased in recent decades, so
too has the desire for social distance from people with this
condition”11 After that Psychiatrized people are at risk
of being incarcerated in psychiatric facilities, while other than human
animals used in research are incarcerated in laboratories.
During their incarceration both have harmful chemicals forced upon them,
for psychiatrized people this is referred to as involuntary treatment
by the psychiatric system. This may include them being observed
while taking a pill as well as a mouth check to ensure they have
swallowed or an injection. While other than human animals are intentionally
poisoned with chemicals that may later be branded as those
medications in order to test their toxicity. Given that these studies on other than human
animals are unreliable, I believe their suffering and death is completely
unnecessary. Not only that, but relying on these studies also puts
those in the human trials at great risk, which for psychiatric drugs
obviously includes psychiatrized people. A recent example is
the death of Augustine “Leo” Liu, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia
and part of a clinical trial for Risperdal. The jury ruled that the company
that makes the drug, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals,
and his psychiatrist who the family alleges convinced him to enter
the study for the all too common finder’s fee, were responsible for
his death. 12 Since drug manufactures within capitalism
are like any other business they push to have their products on the market
as soon as possible, which is often before the long term effects
in human trials are known, putting everyone who is prescribed these drugs
at risk. One example is an 18 year study by Nancy Coover Andreasen,
an American neuroscientist and neuropsychiatrist, who admitted that “Another
thing we’ve discovered is that the more drugs you’ve
been given, the more brain tissue you lose.” the drugs here are anti-psychotic
medication commonly given to people diagnosed with schizophrenia
and bi polar. They also found that “The prefrontal cortex
doesn’t get the input it needs and is being shut down by drugs. That
reduces the psychotic symptoms. It also causes the prefrontal cortex
to slowly atrophy.”13 To reiterate, these are drugs that the psychiatric
system claims fixes something that is wrong with the brain, for
which there is no evidence, but in actuality these drugs cause
parts of the brain to atrophy. This is quite literally a chemical
lobotomy. And within the same article she also admits “The reason
I sat on these findings for a couple of years was that I just wanted to
be absolutely sure it was true. My biggest fear is that people who need
the drugs will stop taking them.” I would argue that the truth
should always be told and if it is going to lead people to stop taking
medication, then we need better support to help those people gradually
and safely come off of it whenever possible. Also I think this statement
speaks volumes to the level of secrecy that surrounds psychiatry.
These drugs even caused a whole new condition, known as Tardive
Dyskinesia, which results in involuntary repetitive body movements
and according to Current Psychiatry there are no FDA approved
drugs for treating it.14 It’s not just anti-psychotic medication
either, anti-depressants have been linked to inducing apathy, worsening
depression and increasing a person’s risk of suicide. All psychiatric
drugs have very harmful side effects and even the intended effects are
harmful, with many of the drugs actually worsening the condition they
are supposed to treat as the brain tries to balance out the changes
these drugs cause. For a detailed description of this process check
out Bonnie Burtow’s book “Psychiatry and the Business of Madness” Traces of all these drugs also end up in our
water and according to a study done in Sweden on Oxazepam, typically
prescribed for anxiety, the current levels of this drug found in the
water dramatically changed the behaviour of fish making perch
less and even anti social which put them at a greater risk for predator
attacks.15 Issues like this could lead to population depletion and
upset the balance of affected ecosystems. Along with being used to test toxicity in
new medications other than human animals also suffer in many ways for
so called advancements in the mental health field. According to the
New England Anti-Vivisection Society “Animals are subjected
to food, water, and sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation or
overload, long-term physical restraint, social isolation, maternal separation,
electric shocks, limb amputation, and brain damage and manipulation
through the use of electrodes surgically implanted into the brain.” “To study behaviors and experiences, psychology
research typically requires animals to be conscious and aware,
and as such may be considered the cruelest of animal experiments
due to the high degree of pain and suffering involved. Animals can
remain in distress for a long length of time, since they are often
subjected to invasive procedures that they then must recover from
in order for their behaviors and experiences to be studied in
relation to the resulting “injury.”16 In these quotes we find even more similarities
between the treatment of these other than human animals and psychiatrized
people. For example, a 2011 report in Ontario Canada where
I am from found that restraints were used for 1 in 4 psychiatric
patients and that “Since reporting of control interventions is not
required, the findings likely represent a conservative estimate”
and “The researchers believe rates of control interventions likely do not
vary much across the country.”17. Restraining of psychiatrized
people Includes; being strapped down to a bed, being physically held
down by other people, fast acting medications to sedate the person,
and seclusion or confinement in a room. The last example also
being comparable to the social isolation other than human animals
experience. The very act of incarceration in a psychiatric facility, with
very limited and in some cases no visitation rights for family and
friends, I believe is also comparable to social isolation as well as
maternal separation. And finally, the use of electrodes on the
brain in other than human animals is definitely comparable to shock
treatment, which the psychiatric system now calls Electroconvulsive
Therapy or ECT, used on psychiatrized people. Yes they still do this.
According to psychiatrist Dr. Peter Breggin the estimate
for people undergoing ECT is a hundred thousand a year, which was based
on available data in 1979 and he claims there is a lot more going
on now and that the majority of patients who are subjected to
this so called treatment are elderly women because they are, or at least
are assumed to be, more vulnerable.18 According to Dr. Breggin’s site, ectresources.org
ECT “involves the application of two electrodes to the head
to pass electricity through the brain with the goal of causing an intense
seizure or convulsion. The process always damages the brain, resulting
each time in a temporary coma and often a flatlining of the
brain waves, which is a sign of impending brain death.”19 And the
side effects are “typical symptoms of severe head trauma or injury including
headache, nausea, memory loss, disorientation, confusion, impaired
judgment, loss of personality, and emotional instability. These
harmful effects worsen and some become permanent as routine treatment
progresses.”19 The site also says that “Memories of important past
experiences are commonly impaired or eradicated, including weddings,
birthdays, vacations, educational experiences, and housekeeping
or professional skills. Sense of self or identity can be demolished,
and family members often report that their loved one “was never the
same again.”19 Now for the alternatives and actions we can
take If we moved beyond psychiatry and into alternative
ways to help those in distress all the testing we do on animals
for this system would serve no purpose, but since we aren’t there
yet, some alternatives to these tests include Dr. Björn Ekwall’s
toxicity tests, which use donated human tissue to measure toxicity and
according to the New England Anti-Vivisection Society have “a
precision rate of up to 85% accuracy”20 along with this there have been
many advancements towards patient specific medication through the use
of 3D stem cell printing, which according to an article in The Scotsman
from October 2015 “the team will be able to print the cells in three
dimensions without damaging the cells’ biological functions
such as their ability to make a wide range of different cell types such
as liver, heart and brain cells.”21
There are also computer simulations and according to the National
Anti-Vivisection Society “A powerful simulation of the human brain is
being developed in what is known as the “Human Brain Project.” This
digital model of the human brain is being constructed from existing
scientific data and continually refined by new data as it is
collected. Experts on the subject believe this simulator will offer
advantages over animal models because “[Scientists] will be able to
repeat the experiment under as many different conditions as they like,
using the same model, thus ensuring a thoroughness that is not
obtainable in animals.”22 Some actions many of us can take in supporting
the advancements in these and other alternatives include writing
letters to legislators, which groups like the National Anti-Vivisection
Society can help you with. If you or a foundation you belong to
have the money you can become a sponsor of the International Foundation
for Ethical Research. If taking to the streets is more your style,
then I’d recommend checking out the No New Animal Lab campaign
and even though they are focused on the University of Washington there
are many opportunities for folks elsewhere to hold actions. There
is also the Gateway to Hell campaign focusing on ending the transport
of other than human animals to laboratories, and there website lists a
number of local groups and offers to help you start your own if there
is not one nearby. And of course look to local grassroots groups in
your area to see if they are or are willing to organizer around this issue. As for alternatives to psychiatry I want to
begin with making this very clear, I do not want to see psychiatric
medication criminalized. I support the decriminalization of all drugs
and the last thing I want is to give the state more reasons to lock
people up. Dr. Bonnie Burstow sums up the position perfectly when
she says “What we are against is the “medical” pushing and the
prescribing of pseudo-medicine on one hand, and the government
support for and legitimation of such substances and practices
on the other.”23 In a great video entitled Grounded Eutopianism,
that’s eutopianism with an “E” Dr. Burstow puts forth what I consider
to be some of the best ideas for alternatives especially because
they are all non-hierarchal.24 They involve living in a
more communal way on a large scale and working on making our societies
less distressing. Her other suggestions include multiple treatment
options and the ability for the person in distress to always choose
what’s best for them. She also recommends everyone from an early age
be taught the skills to assist someone in distress, so everyone could
take turns filling that role, instead of those skills being centralized
within a system like psychiatry. These suggestions can of course be created
within our communities’ as well, through knowledge and skill sharing
of how to help those in distress and most importantly asking individuals
in your community what they find most helpful during those times
then providing that for them when needed. People could also contact the Ministry or
Department of Education for their areas to talk about getting classes
on helping people in distress included in the public school curriculum,
preferably starting at a young age. I think we need to be careful
with this approach under the current system however, so the classes
don’t become a type of psychiatric indoctrination. If it is necessary to have some people specialize
in this area I would propose, as many others have including Dr.
Burstow25 and Robert Whitaker26 something similar to the Open Dialogue
approach from Finland. Daniel Mackler documents this approach
in his film “Open Dialogue” which is available for free online.
According to Daniel it’s “getting the best results in the developed
world for first-break psychosis”27 The basis for this approach,
according to Daniel is an open, non-hierarchal conversation that values
everyone’s voice in the treatment, especially the clients. Therapists
work together and also openly discuss their thoughts and feelings
with each other while the client is present and encouraged to add to
the conversation. And they will also include the client’s family in
these conversations if that is what the client wants. They allow people
to always have the ability to choose whether or not to have therapy,
to choose the type of therapy, and to choose where that therapy
will take place. And they allow people to end a session at anytime.
The therapy itself is less focused on finding a solution and is more
about making sure the client is heard and understood, which ends up leading
to the best solution for the client. And much like alternatives to vivisection
there are many opportunities to fund alternatives to psychiatry. One example,
which as an anti-capitalist I feel a little strange promoting
consumerism, but if you are going to order something online anyway
why not see if it is available through madeconomy.com? Which is
similar to amazon and ebay, but with all the profits going to mental health
projects that are outside the system. For actions, if you are in the greater Toronto
area of Ontario like me I’d recommend looking into the Coalition
Against Psychiatric Assault. If you are elsewhere both The Icarus Project
and Mindfreedom International provide information on chapters
and affiliates as well as offering to help folks start up their own.
Many areas also have Mad Pride groups and many campuses have Mad Student
groups, which may not always be anti-psychiatry but they often engage
in actions that can work towards that end. Finally, I think these two movements can work
together on quite a few issues. First any anti-psychiatry action,
by that I mean any action that brings us closer to ending the psychiatric
system, also brings us closer to ending the torture of the other
than human animals that are experimented on for that system. Other examples
are opposing the companies that manufacture and test psychiatric
medications on other than human animals; the major ones have offices
in many countries which would make good protest targets. Protesting
and outreach on university and college campuses that perform
vivisection and train future vivisectors in psychiatric related
programs with the hope of deterring students from these programs and
vivisection in general. Protesting meetings and events held by groups
like the American Psychiatric Association. And protesting the
development of new labs. In conclusion, given that both psychiatry
and vivisection are based on and justified by what I would call unreliable
pseudoscience. And as I have shown both are inherently oppressive
and cause incarceration and similar types of suffering. Given that both
are seen by most people as necessary and beneficial to society; because
of the lies they tell the public. Given that these industries have many
ties to each other; and that the end of psychiatry will also mean
the end of vivisection for that system. Given that the way forward, through
the further development of alternatives and the phase
out of the current systems, for both are similar. And given that there
are many opportunities for the movements opposing these industries to
work together. I think psychiatrized people, other than human animals,
and really everyone would benefit from an allyship between these
two movements.

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