LETTER:Medication and mental illness

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From Dr Philip Thomas

Sir: Majorie Wallace's zeal for the use of medication in serious mental illness (Letters, 13 June) would appear to be based either in a misunderstanding or, worse, a misrepresentation of the facts concerning the use of these drugs.

A biological cause for schizophrenia, the condition for which major tranquillisers are widely prescribed, has yet to be convincingly demonstrated. While there is evidence that these drugs do help to control the symptoms of schizophrenia, there is also evidence that 25 to 50 per cent of people so diagnosed, fail to respond to major tranquillisers. Even when these drugs are effective, their side-effects are distressing and socially stigmatising. There have even been reports of sudden death in some people taking very high doses of these drugs.

The real issue in the acrimony between Mind and Sane is nothing to do with internecine rivalry for shrinking funds between charities competing for funds for a politically unpopular group, the mentally ill. The bitterness arises because the two groups represent diametrically opposed schools of thought concerning the nature of serious mental illness. Should people suffering from schizophrenia be treated with medication to dissipate symptoms, control behaviour and placate society? Or should we adopt psychological and social approaches that leads the individual to an understanding of his or her experience?

This is a debate about values. Everyone has a stake in this. How would you like to be treated if you developed schizophrenia?

Yours faithfully,




14 June