Dear Peter Hitchens: It does not follow

Peter Hitchens in an small aside in his Mail on Sunday column again linked rampage killings to antidepressants:

Tristan van der Vlis, the Dutch rampage killer who murdered six people last week, is said to have spent time in a psychiatric institution. Was he prescribed antidepressants?

The trouble with this suggested link is that it is not based on any real evidence and is compounded by lots of factors that need to be taken into account – it is not a topic that can be understood without forcing your mind to be as rational as possible. Firstly, a key study:

found an overall trend for any antidepressant treatment to reduce the risk of suicidality in people aged 25 years or above.

In the under 25s, however, there was a non-significant increased risk of suicidal thoughts or behaviour (preparatory actions for suicide or attempted or completed suicide) with antidepressant treatment. When limited to suicidal behaviour alone this increased risk became significant.

But it didn’t speculate about antidepressants leading to rampage killings. This speculation has only been made by the media and by Hitchens on several occasions, it is not based on any evidence and merely relies on the fact that some killers had been prescribed some form of antidepressant (or in this case had merely sought help from a psychiatrist).

Such links are caused by people putting to one side the most blindingly obvious variable that influences the behaviour of anyone prescribed antidepressants: they are depressed. When the media links antidepressants and suicide they seem to ignore the fact that the person was depressed and possibly suicidal before being issued with the medication. The medication may have failed to prevent that person committing suicide, but this is very different to blaming the medication for being the direct cause of suicide.

Likewise, a deeply troubled individual might be given a cocktail of drugs in order to attempt to control their behaviour, but these might fail and that person might end up killing someone or worse, killing many people in a seemingly random act of violence. Again, blaming the medication is to ignore the underlying mental illness that put them at risk of committing such an atrocity and led them to medication in the first place.

Objectively, any medication issued could be a contributing factor – we cannot know how any  individual will respond to any medication given and prescribing doctors might not be aware of other influencing factors not declared by the patient. Treating mental illness is far from an exact science because the patient is often an unreliable narrator of their own mental state and physical symptoms. It is complex, it is difficult and it is not helped by people like Hitchens believing that they’ve made some fabulously insightful link based on nothing more than their own ignorance of compounding factors – even when they are as obvious as they are here.

The truth is we will probably never uncover a satisfactory reason for why individuals commit such acts – and as the protagonists of suicide and rampage killings are usually dead at the end of the event we are reduced to speculation – but such speculation should be clearly labelled as such by all involved. However, the lack of a satisfactory reason for such behaviour should not lead to the vacuum being filled with commentators blaming medication when they have no evidence to make such a claim.

It seems to me that any act of random violence or the decision to commit suicide could be made with or without the differing influence of any medication – the medication is just one of many variables that could play a part in any action. Of course, we can’t ever know this because the protagonist is normally dead so we can’t experiment with the impacts of stopping medication to see whether they still want to commit suicide or not.

Blaming medication is lazy, simple-minded and above all ignores the myriad of complex reasons as to why people end up seeking medical help for a mental illness in the first place. Perhaps if as a society we focused more on well-being we wouldn’t need to write around 23 million prescriptions of antidepressants a year – but then I suppose that’s the kind of airy-fairy liberal wish-wash that Hitchens’ despises. After all, the Daily Mail is clear about what it thinks of depressed people:

Above all, columnists need to understand that we are not rational beings so we have to constantly force ourselves to think rationally. I am sure Mr Hitchens is aware of cum hoc and post hoc arguments as well as knowing what a non sequitur is. I can only appeal to him to re-read his columns with these arguments in his mind so he can clearly see where he is using them and why such arguments constantly undermine his writing.

17 thoughts on “Dear Peter Hitchens: It does not follow”

  1. I have seen papers make these oddly flawed links before.
    people who take anti-depressants and anti-psychotics are linked to depressed behaviour and psychotic episodes.
    Hmmmmm…..Better get Hercule Poirot on this one.

  2. Here we go again. The attack is made because of who I am, not because of a thoughtful assessment of what I have, very cautiously, said.

    I asked (as I have repeatedly asked) a question. It is my asking of the question that hs enraged my critic. Why? How can asking a question possibly be wrong especially in a journalist? I have urged that there should be a proper investigation into this matter. I have come to no conclusions except that we need to know more. How can that be wrong? Why should there be an investigation? Because a significant number of those involved in rampage killings are known to have been taking antidepressant or other psychotropic medication before their crimes, and it seems at least possible in several others. I might add that at least one SSRI antidepressant has been clearly linked with strong suicidal tendencies in young people and is no longer prescribed to them( and that most rampage killers are young). It is also the case that we know very little about the operation of antidepressants.

    Most reports of these events are not interested in this element, and do not make any efforts to establish if it is present or not. Even despite this general lack of media interest, it is often possible from their reports to see that some sort of medication has quite possibly been taken by the culprit. Hence the need for further investigation. Investigations, especilaly involving the very powerful and economically important drug companies, do not happen unless there is strong pressure for them. Who will pay? Who will grant them the powers to require testimony and disclosure?

    I am told that these people are also all ‘depressed’ before they commit their crimes. This, though true, is circular. If someone somewhere had not classified them as such, they would not be taking these pills. But many otehrs are ‘deprssed’, and do not kill themselve sor others. Presumably there are many people beyond the reach of modern meidcine who might also be so classified if they met a doctor, but are not taking these pills. Are rampage killings as common in parts of the world where antidepressants are unknown or at least rare? How many rampage killings are committed by people who were not in any way affected by psychtropic drugs, legal or illegal? It would be interesting to know.

    But there is, so far as I know, no objective measurement of this state of being ‘depressed’. Whereas there is an objective measurement of someone’s ingestion of powerful psychotropic drugs.

    And I think it true to say these rampage killings are quite a recent phenomenon, certainly in the numbers in which we now experience them. They occur not just in the USA(where guns are more readily available) , but in Britain, Germany and the Netherlands (where gun laws are extremely strict), and in Finland, whos egun laws I know nothing about.

    So what is the variable? Once again, this is a reasonable question, and if it were asked by a person you liked, in a newspaper you approved of, you would accept this. I won’t name him here, but I have in fact received communications from a left-wing Labour MP urging me (despite our difefrences on other matters) to continue this line of questioning, as he shares my worries. So should you.

    1. @ Peter Hitchens terribly sorry for the slow response, I’ve been away.

      I’m not quite sure you should be referring to yourself as a ‘journalist’ in the traditional sense. You are a columnist, paid to give a personal opinion, not a journalist paid to provide reliable / insightful / truthful journalism. Hence why you can write things like this about passive smoking:

      No, I never believed the stories about second-hand smoke, and still don’t.

      Cigarettes stink and spoil the atmosphere, and anyone who smokes them near others who are eating is inconsiderate and rude. But I think the evidence that they give cancer to anyone apart from the people actually smoking them is very thin indeed.

      Or things like this about universities:

      We seem to accept without question that it is a good thing that the young should go through this dubious experience. Worse, employers seem to have fallen completely for the idea that a university degree is essential – when it is often a handicap.

      For many people, college is a corrupting, demoralising experience. They imagine they are independent when they are in fact parasites, living off their parents or off others and these days often doomed to return home with a sense of grievance and no job…

      if they are being taught an arts subject, they will find that their courses are crammed with anti-Christian, anti-Western, anti-traditional material. Proper literature is despised and ‘deconstructed’.

      Our enviable national history is likewise questioned, though nothing good is put in its place. Even if they are study­ing something serious, their whole lives will be dominated by assumptions of political correctness, down to notices in the bars warning against ‘homophobia’ and other thought crimes.

      Or this about burglary:

      Of course I’d like to think that I would give a terrible thrashing to any burglar who broke in to my home. But I would be crazy to do so. It would be me who ended up in prison. In any case, what makes me think I’d come off best in a fight with some gaunt, rangy dope-smoker?

      I long ago decided that the only wise thing to do would be to make the thief a cup of tea and ask him to sign a release form confirming that I had not harmed him in any way. I advise all my readers to do the same.

      The solution to the problem does not lie in our having the freedom to bash burglars.

      Though we ought to have that freedom as a matter of course, it would be more use as a deterrent than in practice.

      The solution lies in a political change at the top – the expulsion from government of the socialists and liberals who have taken over all three major parties and driven justice from our country.

      This liberal elite do not believe that burglary is wrong, so they won’t punish burglars properly. They think burglars steal because they are deprived, or because they were abused as children, or because they cannot get ‘treatment’ for their disgusting criminal drug habits. So many of our leaders now are unrepentant illegal drug-takers themselves that they shouldn’t be trusted near the making of laws.

      Being a journalist requires slightly more than passing off your own rather twisted worldview as fact. This ‘attack’ you accuse me of is no more than pointing out some rather obvious flaws in your line of questioning. For example, before being prescribed anti-depressants people must consult with a doctor, should we now be suspicious of doctors as well? Or what about those who have been counselled, are they more likely to go on a killing spree? It seems to me that your argument is that because anti-depressants are a drug they have a more fundamental impact on someone’s actions than their own interactions with the world – i.e. they would not go on a killing spree or commit suicide without taking anti-depressants. I argued that this was a flawed argument because vast amounts of people take anti-depressants without doing either precisely because each individual person is coping with very different problems in different ways with different support groups / networks or none at all.

      In your comment you state:

      there is, so far as I know, no objective measurement of this state of being ‘depressed’. Whereas there is an objective measurement of someone’s ingestion of powerful psychotropic drugs.

      Are you suggesting that anti-depressants are ‘powerful psychotropic drugs’?

      I have already covered the drug that was linked to suicide in young people and has stopped being prescribed to certain age groups, but this does not support any link between anti-depressants and violence.

      I’m not saying there is no link, of course, nobody really knows, however, to refer to such drugs as: ‘so-called ‘anti-depressants’’ seems to me typically tabloid and far removed from journalism. You wrote a while back:

      How many suicides have been prescribed these ill-researched and unpredictable pills, also possibly linked with rampage killings? Both Yvonne Brown and her son Ben, who threw themselves to dreadful deaths from the Humber Bridge within weeks of each other, had been prescribed with ‘anti-depressants’.

      Which is a great example of the fallacious arguments I was referring to, understand this:

      Depressed people commit suicide. This is irrespective of whether they have been prescribed anti-depressants. In very simple terms: suicide is a symptom of depression, it is not neccesarily a consequence of being prescribed a drug.
      How many people have been given the drug and not committed suicide? After all, on a separate comment thread on this website you backtracked over claims that the evidence for second-hand smoke being harmful was ‘very thin indeed’ by claiming that what you meant was that whilst the evidence was solid, the health impacts of passive smoking was not much to worry about. So, in this case, are you suggesting that anti-depressants cause enough of a negative health impact for you to be concerned?
      And finally, your example of ‘Yvonne Brown and her son Ben, who threw themselves to dreadful deaths from the Humber Bridge within weeks of each other’ is again ignoring the obvious thought that the second suicide might have been intimately linked to the first, rather than ‘so-called anti-depressants’? Again, you’re ignoring the variables like a columnist, not considering them like a journalist.

      Whilst your engagement is admirable, I do not consider yourself a journalist and I need only point to your columns which are heavy on outlandish opinion and short on reasoned arguments or facts. Here’s a clue: if you blame everything on the ‘left’ or the ‘liberal elite’ you’re not a journalist, you’re either Melanie Phillips, Richard Littlejohn, James Delingpole or you.

      Oh, and one final point about this:

      I am told that these people are also all ‘depressed’ before they commit their crimes. This, though true, is circular. If someone somewhere had not classified them as such, they would not be taking these pills. But many otehrs are ‘deprssed’, and do not kill themselve sor others

      And many of those people who do not kill themselves or others are taking anti-depressants – so what point are you trying to make? What do you suggest we do instead of classifying people with depression? Should we never consider someone as depressed until they have killed themselves or others – then we can tick a form to confirm that yes, that individual was definitely depressed? Should we stop prescribing all anti-depressants and just sit back to see if the occasional person stills commits suicide or a rampage without such drugs?

  3. Peter Hitchens is accused of several logical fallacies and it is implied he is not thinking rationally. All this is apparently based on his one question about whether a killer was prescribed antidepressants. As far as I am aware, all Mr Hitchens has ever done is suggest that the potential link between antidepressants and certain behaviour ought to be investigated. What is so wrong with that? Perhaps the reason these arguments are “not based on any real evidence” is because evidence one way or the other is pretty much non-existent.

    This article also claims that the kind of links made by Hitchens have “only been made by the media”. A study we are told is “key” (but which is not identified) is used to demonstrate that there has supposedly been no speculation (apart from by the media) linking antidepressants to rampage killings.

    I wonder if the author of this piece has read a paper called ‘Antidepressants and Violence: Problems at the Interface of Medicine and Law’ (David Healy, Andrew Herxheimer, David B. Menkes) which can be found on the PLoS website. It specifically mentions Joseph Wesbecker (responsible for the Standard Gravure shooting) and says that “Both clinical trial and pharmacovigilance data point to possible links between these drugs and violent behaviours.” It also says that the “association of antidepressant treatment with aggression and violence…calls for more clinical trial and epidemiological data to be made available and for good clinical descriptions of the adverse outcomes of treatment.” It concludes that the “issues highlighted by these cases need urgent examination”.

    Clearly this does not prove that a connection between violence and antidepressants exists, it only mentions “possible links”. It does, however, suggest your claim that this “speculation has only been made by the media and by Hitchens” is not quite accurate.

    Also, I’m sure you are aware that Peter Hitchens has written in far more detail about his concerns in the past, so why choose to argue with a mere two sentences? Perhaps it would prove a little more difficult to dismiss his opinion when his reasoning is actually explained.

    And where in his two sentences are the “cum hoc” or “post hoc” arguments? Where are the “non-sequiturs”?

    1. @ Thomas

      As pointed out in the post, his argument is essentially that because such people embarked on a rampage killing only after taking anti-depressants it is OK to suggest – in a wink-wink, nudge-nudge way – that rampage killings are caused by anti-depressants. It is post hoc argument, it is a non-sequitur because it does not follow that taking such drugs leads to such an incident. This is clear in as much as millions of prescriptions for anti-depressants are written each year without suicide or rampage killings taking place. This seems to suggest that the reasons for such things are rather more complex – which is what my post was pointing out.

  4. I am always reminded of the scene in Lives and loves of a she devil where she stands up to the ban on peanut butter by stories like this.The foolish are easily fooled

  5. It’s ridiculous isn’t it. We could equally argue that if there is a causal relationship, antidepressants have prevented more massacres than they have provoked, but of course it’s difficult to quantify things that haven’t happened.

  6. Presumably, if our heroic crusader against left-wing tyranny can provide a huge number of studies that do demonstrate a casual link between anti-depressants and spree killings, and studies, moreover, that haven’t been paid for by pharmaceutical companies, Uponnothing can just decide the evidence is ‘thin’ and ignore it.

  7. I think an important point being missed here is the fact that Mr Hitchens is supposed to be a journalist.

    Wouldn’t his time be better spent finding out if anti-depressants had any relevance to this horror instead of lazily throwing it out to the audience, as if asking the question is proof enough.

    Who does he think he is, Richard Littlejohn?

  8. Well, is the author going to reply to any of the critical comments made of this post? Does he accept them? Or does he reject them?

  9. The Host of this site (on 2nd May) posted an interesting indictment of me.
    I can’t leave this kind of stuff unchallenged, or people might think that I accepted it, or that it was true. I’ll try to respond concisely.
    He said in his most striking comment : ‘I’m not quite sure you should be referring to yourself as a ‘journalist’ in the traditional sense. You are a columnist, paid to give a personal opinion, not a journalist paid to provide reliable / insightful / truthful journalism.’
    **I respond. I wasn’t aware that journalism was so tightly defined. If it’s writing for publication, then I have been a journalist of one kind or another since I was at school. If it’s defined as writing for publication and reward ( what Samuel Johnson called ‘scribbling on the backs of advertisements’) then I suppose it really only goes back as far as 1973. That was also when I joined the National Union of Journalists, which accepted my application and hasn’t since sought to suggest that I was no longer doing the job.

    On the broader definition, he ought to know that my column and my blog are only part of what I do, that I write other things apart from my column and my experience as a journalist goes back at least till 1972 (unless we count school and university journalism) when I did a summer stint on the ‘Socialist Worker’ as a sort of dogsbody and (very bad) occasional feature writer(these days it would be called an internship).

    Otherwise it begins with three years and a bit as an indentured apprentice reporter on the Swindon Evening Advertiser (flower shows, parish councils, trials, inquests, weddings, fires, crime, industrial and council reporting, plus detailed instruction on law and shorthand ), six months as industrial reporter for the Coventry Evening Telegraph, then a long period on the Daily Express ( when I joined it, a broadsheet selling 2.3 million a day owned by the Beaverbrook family) as (successively) education reporter, industrial reporter, labour correspondent, political reporter, deputy political editor, defence and diplomatic correspondent, Moscow Correspondent, Washington correspondent, assistant editor, comment writer and travelling foreign reporter (South Africa, Australia, Somalia, China) and finally as a weekly columnist.

    When I left the Daily Express ten years ago and came to the Mail on Sunday I returned to detailed reportage, the actual conditions inside prisons, the MMR controversy , foot and mouth disease, the development of the morning-after pill, sex quotas in the fire brigade, the treatment of illegal immigrants by the German Federal Republic, the effects of EU membership on Poland, the Muslim communities in the Pennine towns of Northern England, etc etc. During this period I was also engaged on two books ‘The Abolition of Britain’ and ‘A Brief History of Crime’, which required a considerable amount of library and archive research. (I have subsequently written two more and am at work on a fifth). I did after some time become a columnist for that paper, but have continued since then to do reportage, mostly but not entirely overseas, for which I have been awarded the Orwell Prize for journalism, and short-listed for the British Press Awards as ‘Foreign Reporter of the Year’. This work has included several reports from China, the USA and Russia, others from South Africa, Venezuela, Cuba, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Burma, the Congo, Iran, North Korea, India, Pakistan , Iraq, Bhutan, Israel, Jordan, Egypt and the Gaza Strip, not to mention France, Germany, Belarus, Ukraine, Turkey,the Czech Republic, Spain and Gibraltar.

    The suggestion that I have no special interest in, or respect for facts (‘not a journalist paid to provide reliable / insightful / truthful journalism’) is itself neither reliable, insightful, nor truthful . Not merely is it not justified by the facts. It is contradicted by them. And if I thought that his suggestion was based upon a desire to insult, rather than on plain ignorance I should be slightly annoyed. I suspect it is no more than wilful ignorance and its old friend, lazy sloppiness (as all these details of my career are easily found on the web). I do not think I could have done all these things without an interest in, and a respect for facts. Nor do I think I could have got away with distorting reality or writing lies, as the indictment appears to imply. As for being ‘insightful’, I suspect this word of meaning ‘in accordance with the opinions of this writer’, but that is not an objective measurement, so I am not concerned with it.

    Let us now move on to the second part of the indictment. The writer reproduces a number of quotations from my column . He seems to think they are self-evidently outrageous. I don’t. But this is of little importance. They are expressions of opinion, published as such under my name.

    He tells me that: ‘Being a journalist requires slightly more than passing off your own rather twisted worldview as fact.’

    I respond **Well, no doubt it does so (see above). Nor do I ‘pass off’ my opinion as fact. This accusation is laughable. I think it is conventionally understood that where an opinionated article appears under someone’s name in large type (and a picture of that person) that the words beneath are not a news report or a factual survey, but….wait for it…. the opinions of said person. In my case these opinions are richly supported by facts gained through my own research, reporting and direct personal experience, not to mention much confirmatory correspondence from my readers. But the giveaway here is the use of the phrase ‘rather twisted’. That is his opinion. It is not a fact, as he, hilariously under the circumstances, appears to think it is Some people may agree with it. Some may not. But it could never be a fact, even though the author of this indictment presents it as if it were one.

    Having got that off his chest, he then turns to the issue under discussion, my desire for a proper inquiry into the prescription of ‘antidepressant’ drugs.

    He says he is ‘pointing out some rather obvious flaws in your line of questioning. For example, before being prescribed anti-depressants people must consult with a doctor, should we now be suspicious of doctors as well?’

    **Well, I don’t know about ‘suspicious’, but we surely shouldn’t treat them as infallible. They are, like all human beings, subject to pressure and blandishments. perhaps he should acquaint himself with the group known as ‘No Free Lunch’, which criticises the often rather close relationship between some doctors and the drug companies. Indeed, if it were anyone other than me saying so, I am sure he would accept that this was the case. This assault is motivated, as before, not by a desire for rectitude but by a personal hostility to me and a general hostility to conservative newspapers.
    I’d also point out that doctors have in the past been gravely wrong about major medical issues. They defended bloodletting until surprisingly late and were furiously hostile to those who objected. Many of them enthusiastically embraced the horrific practice of pre-frontal lobotomy. The medical manuals of even 50 years ago would now be regarded as actively dangerous, so mistaken are they about so many things about which we now know more or have changed our minds . And if he’s never been given a dud prescription, and knows nobody who’s been misdiagnosed, even for a disease with known objective symptoms, then lucky him.

    He says : ‘What an odd approach’. As if its oddness is self-evident .

    **I simply don’t agree. I think it perfectly sensible approach, indeed the only wise one.And so would he, if it weren’t my position.

    He asks : Or what about those who have been counselled, are they more likely to go on a killing spree?
    **I have no idea at all. If we looked into the matter properly, as I urge, we might know.

    He says :’ It seems to me that your argument is that because anti-depressants are a drug they have a more fundamental impact on someone’s actions than their own interactions with the world – i.e. they would not go on a killing spree or commit suicide without taking anti-depressants.’

    **I reply: It may ‘seem’ so to him as much as he likes. But I have not said this. All I have said, and all I will continue to say, is that a considerable number of the culprits of rampage killings have taken, or appear to have taken, or may have taken, ‘antidepressant’ drugs. Further, there appear to be more rampage killings than there used to be. Further, I cannot identify another variable, common in all these cases in many countries, which explains this increase. Gun laws, frequently cited as the cause, particularly don’t explain it, as it has happened where those laws are very loose, as well as where they are very restricted. In this case, it seems to me to be necessary to have a properly constituted inquiry, or inquiries in each national jurisdiction, with the power of subpoena and disclosure, and with scientific experts on hand, into whether this connection is signficant. I cannot see what is wrong with this. If he is so keen on respect for facts, could he please stick to attacking me for what I have actually said, rather than for what he imagines I might think?

    He continues : ‘I argued that this was a flawed argument because vast amounts of people take anti-depressants without doing either precisely because each individual person is coping with very different problems in different ways with different support groups / networks or none at all.’

    **This would not affect the matter. If an inquiry were to show a connection, then it would be up to the authorities to move on into further inquiries as to the reason for the connection, if proven, and the measures that needed to be taken to reduce this risk. Let us not run before we can walk. I personally would like a wider inquiry into the way in which these drugs affect their users, as I am not convinced they are beneficial, (though once again, please note that what I seek is more knowledge, and more specific knowledge, a goal which it is hard for any open-minded person to disdain) but for the moment let us concentrate on the matter in hand.

    He goes on : ‘In your comment you state: ‘there is, so far as I know, no objective measurement of this state of being ‘depressed’. Whereas there is an objective measurement of someone’s ingestion of powerful psychotropic drugs. ‘

    I should have thought this was rather an important point. If we seek to know the real nature of something, then an ounce of objectively measurable absolute fact is worth a ton of psychobabble and subjective opinion.

    But rather than addressing it, he poses the following question with the triumphant air of a courtroom wizard nailing me to the witness box: ‘Are you suggesting that anti-depressants are ‘powerful psychotropic drugs’?’

    **Well, yes, I am rather. The definition of psychotropic being ‘drugs that affect a person’s mental state’. If they didn’t do that, then how could they be called ‘antidepressants’?

    I have dealt with his circular argument about suicide. I am sorry that he does not seem to have noticed my response, but refer him to it and urge him to take another look at it.

    He also seems to assume that the fact that he disagrees with me about the possible reasons for an unexplained event does not mean that his explanation is any more valid than mine.

    He asks : ‘How many people have been given the drug and not committed suicide?’
    I reply : **An interesting question, to which I should like to know the answer, along with the answer to the matching question: ‘How many people have taken this drug and *have* committed suicide?’

    In the case of Yvonne and Ben Brown, of course the second suicide was linked to the first. The question is whether either would have taken place if the person involved was not taking ‘antidepressants’ . But here again the scientific mind asks :’How many relatives of suicide victims themselves commit suicide? Has this relationship altered in any way in recent years?’ I should also wish to know the correlations between actual suicides and persons prescribed ‘antidepressants’, and would wish to know how many suicides were taking antidepressants at the time of their suicides, in a series going back over as many years as possible. Once again, a proper inquiry would be the only way of seeing if there is any such correlation. And if there were, of seeing that it was further investigated.

    Why is this person so hostile to factual inquiry?

    I’ll also make a brief response to this remark from our host :’And many of those people who do not kill themselves or others are taking anti-depressants – so what point are you trying to make?’

    I am not ‘trying to make’ any point. I am suggesting that there is good reason to worry , and asking for the authorities, the only people with the power to obtain disclosure, to investigate the matter. We have very little idea of the operation of ‘antidepressants’ on the human brain and body.

    He asks ‘What do you suggest we do instead of classifying people with depression? Should we never consider someone as depressed until they have killed themselves or others ‘

    I reply :** This is a ridiculous and unserious question. Tests on SSRIs have shown that placebos often work just as well as SSRIs. Many doctors favour cognitive behavioural therapy, others urge exercise, for patients who report themselves as ‘depressed’, over untested drugs. I am, I think rationally, suspicious of powerful objective chemical doses being given to people whose ills have no clear objective diagnosis. What is ‘depression’ exactly? Where is it objectively defined, in such a way that we know for certain that someone is or is not ‘depressed’? Yet the drugs prescribed for it are objective as all get out, even if we don’t know how they work. Which we don’t.

    As to his question: ‘Should we stop prescribing all anti-depressants and just sit back to see if the occasional person still commits suicide or a rampage without such drugs?’

    **No. We should inquire properly into the matter and see what would be the wisest course. But thanks to the concrete-headed, prejudiced opposition of people such as himself, plus powerful vested interests, no such inquiry is currently planned. If my fears turn out to be justified, how much ruin and misery will be laid rightly at the door of those who opposed this sensible step -ruin and misery that would have been avoidable had we acted sooner? If I am wrong, what will have been lost? He does not have the monopoly of emotional argument here, nor anything like it.

    (Note, though I will not enter into this argument again, I must state for the record that I have never accepted that the evidence for the alleged dangers of second-hand smoke is ‘solid’. I continue to regard it as laughably thin)

  10. Bloody hell, Peter. Get over yourself. Whatever you did before, you now write reactionary, opinion-based stuff for a reactionary, opinion-based tabloid. Your stablemates are Melanie Phillips, James Slack and Richard Littlejohn – a paranoid, insular shrieker, a man who fiddles statistics to promote racial tension and a man who’s talents begin and end with cack-handed 1970s sitcom spoofs and wheelie bins.

    A lot of your opinions aren’t shared by many or backed up by facts (the latter possibly being the reason for the former). Massive, lengthy comments don’t change that. If you want to be taken seriously, stop taking the Mail’s tainted shilling, stop framing every disagreement with you as an “ad hominem” attack so you can dismiss it without consideration, and stop cherry picking information as support for your positions.

  11. If that’s Mr Hitchens being concise I’d hate to be stuck in a lift with him when he’s banging on about the queues in his local post office.

  12. How foolish people actually are, pathetically with little, or no intellect, within a subject that claims ‘evidence’, for reasoning.
    Evidence is there to see when, former ‘brain disorders’ did not exist until over medicating became rife,
    Evidence is provided! With those once mild mannered unhappy, being a statistical thousands upon thousands of psychotitic behaviours arising from the ‘medicated’ (chemical toxic synthetic substances that are basically half LSD, partial worms dna…).
    Evidence is provided on petitions to Wyeth/glaxo etc, by 40.000 global, unfortunates, ‘medicated patients’ stating adverse effects have or are causing absolute hell, destroying families etc.
    The ‘evidence’ from trials is known to be misleading, what with several subjects having dropped out due to serious adverse reactions, the short term trials do not nearly, compare to prescribing in primary care, medicating to point of so many dysfunctions both mental & physical, causes a prescribers, idiocy, arrogance or both? To invent new ‘diseases’, keep over medicating, call it SAD/GAD/Bipolar, and piteously such as, underlying factor, unknown genetic, ‘previously unforseen problem’. At the end of the day, the once mild and unhappy situational circumstances have become, manic, violent and further disturbingly, depressed. Any one who has the audacity to stamp feet to claim the brain merdicating worth? Needs reminding, 1. No proof of chemical imbalance, the admittance to global lie!
    2. Science does not even claim they work, nor how?, but! only how it is ‘believed to’.
    3. The issuing black box warnings (albeit 20plus years too late), not only are indicating suicide potential at young adults, initially under 18s, then under 25s, does actually say, Quote,. ‘high potential suicidal tendancy for the child and young adults and ‘older people’, all patients on this drug and similar, should be monitored for change in personality and clinical worsening’ unQuote (note. Older people, note, all patients, if meant ‘elderly’?, it would be as says for the elderly elsewhere, note clinical worsening, vague but clear enough).
    4. Prescribing guidelines, long term … Upto 2yrs. A 6month continuation after initial therapeutic signs, (for mild depression i was medicated ten damn years!, formally a outgoing laid back person, i became violent, lost all emotions to even a lack in understanding, as to why my family were suposed to mean anything to me.)
    5. It is known ghost writers do peer review,
    6. Since year 2002, patient info leaflets have been altered 3 times adding upto 20 further effects each time, (do the math). its proven these drugs are no better than a placebo, they are far, far worse and toxic though, over 30.000 mhra reports of adverse reactions (costly, requiring additional methods of treatment). Several hundreds of deaths linking singular ssri/snri medications alone, thousands of thousands

  13. The last time Peter Hitchens got in a tizz about the medical profession it was during the MMR debacle, which he pushed as intently as anyone else involved, reducing uptake of a perfectly safe and valuable vaccine.

  14. On anti-depressants or not, I still feel a compelling urge to beat Peter Hitchens around the head with a copy of his superior siblings book “God Is Not Great”… only such activity will relieve my depressive state of mind for the good of mankind because, quite clearly, I’m a potential psychopath in Peter’s eyes.

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