TONY EASTLEY: A New Zealand academic has stirred up a controversy by suggesting in his just published book that schizophrenia is not an illness.
Dr John Read, the director of Clinical Psychology at Auckland University, says the anxieties or delusions of sufferers are actually caused by past traumas such as sexual abuse.
And he says drug companies are taking advantage, by pushing the idea that schizophrenia is an illness that must be treated with medication.
Dr John Read is in Melbourne for the launch of his book Models of Madness. He spoke to Ben Knight.
BEN KNIGHT: John Read says schizophrenia is nothing but a name – a name for a wide range of behaviours that don't come under any other heading. And by being given a name, schizophrenia then gets the status of being an illness, and therefore, a new seam for drug companies to mine.
JOHN READ: They're doing it with depression, which used to be called sadness, now it's depressive disorder. They're doing it with people who worry excessively, now it's anxiety disorder, and the list goes on and on.
And this is very actively promulgated – this idea that excessive feelings or not feeling enough or sleeping too much, or sleeping not enough – are illnesses and disorders. It's in their interests, the pharmaceutical industry, to promulgate that sort of idea on the public. Why wouldn't they? It sells their products.
BEN KNIGHT: And he says that less than a third of patients will ever get any benefit from drug treatment.
JOHN READ: In any other area of medicine, the cost benefit analysis would be such that these drugs would probably be used only as an absolute last resort, when everything else has been tried.
But that isn't the case at the moment. If you get a diagnosis of schizophrenia, you're almost a hundred per cent guaranteed to be put on medication, and perhaps be offered someone to talk to at some point, and it should be the other way around.
BEN KNIGHT: John Read's co-authors include the Clinical Director of Psychiatry at the University of California in San Diego, and the Professor of Experimental Psychiatry at Manchester University. In fact, there are 25 academic contributors to the book from around the world.
But there are plenty of others in the field who, while they agree that drugs are not the only treatment, say John Read's views are outdated and extreme.
Patrick McGorry is Professor of Psychiatry at Melbourne University.
PATRICK MCGORRY: Well, this was an idea that was around back in the 1960's. There was tremendous confusion as to what the nature of schizophrenia was, and there was a whole anti-psychiatry movement which was partly reacting to the kind of abuses that were happening in psychiatry in those days, and also a fundamental philosophical idea. I think that's very clearly been resolved through two decades of research of various kinds.
BEN KNIGHT: And he rejects the idea that drugs are being used only to make money for their manufacturers.
But Dr John Read says medicating patients is not solving their problems.
JOHN READ: We have this overly medicalised view where if you hear voices, or you think the CIA is out to get you, then you immediately apply this scientific sounding word "schizophrenia" and think you know what's going on, whereas in fact you know nothing.
You have to trace back, with the person, where the voices started, what the voices are saying. Very often, the voice is the voice of someone who has done something quite horrendous to that person in the past, such as child abuse or rape.
And trying to suppress those voices chemically is not a helpful thing to do when the person needs an opportunity to talk with somebody about what has happened to them and what those voices mean.
TONY EASTLEY: Dr John Read, the Professor of Clinical Psychology at Auckland University, speaking in Melbourne there to our reporter, Ben Knight.
Source: Rethinking Schizophrenia
From a reviewer: "I work with people diagnosed schizophrenic and intensely dislike the hopelessness engendered by this label and by the medical model treatment of these individuals. I also feel frustrated at the way medication is accepted as the key intervention for this condition despite its poor record at bringing about recovery.
Expect to feel very uncomfortable as you read the extensive research that deconstructs what you have been taught (and come to accept as true) about the biological basis for schizophrenia and its reliance on the use of medication. The book also offers thoroughly researched alternative theoretical frameworks and treatments that have been shown to be effective in bringing relief to those experiencing psychosis.
I highly recommend this book for those prepared to consider more than just the medical model framework and those who want more treatment options than can be provided by medication alone.
Source: Models of Madness
Schizophrenia, Psychosis, Recovery, The Recovery Based Model, Hope for Schizophrenia Sufferers