Yesterday the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) launched an eBook entitled ‘journey through the brain
‘ – to explore ‘the science of the brain and its connection to human emotion, mental health and well-being’. Created by researchers from the Dept of Psychiatry, the book was designed to help young people and teachers ‘understand the workings of the brain through pictures and cartoons’. The Irish Times Magazine reports that the book brings us ‘up to speed with with the latest research into the mysterious workings of our little gray cells’. This latest research from the RCSI (ranked
as one of the top Universities in Europe), was designed to help us understand neuroscience and mental health – what could be better?
Much to my disgust, the book once again pushes
the unfounded chemical imbalance theory, stating ‘there is evidence for decreased levels of serotonin in the synapse of people suffering from depression’. As copies will be distributed to second level schools throughout Ireland, rather than being educational, it’s actually providing a tool for misinformation. It’s not the first time the psychiatry department has publicly expressed a belief in the now-debunked chemical imbalance myth (see Tweet here
) and it’s not the first time I have challenged it within the College. As a mature student in the RCSI, I thought I could point out this obvious, very sloppy, error and they would address and amend their mistake forthwith – alas, I’m still waiting for a response to last year’s query.
No doubt you may be wondering why I feel I’m right and the experts in RCSI Psychiatry have got it wrong? I’m open to contradiction and would be delighted to see this ‘evidence’ of low serotonin – a veritable medical revolution. However, in anticipation of debate and as previous experience had shown there was little necessity for haste, this time I took the liberty of asking the experts to confirm that the above statement is, in fact, rubbish.
psychiatrist, psychopharmacologist, scientist and author confirmed that yes, the low-serotonin theory is rubbish. He said rather than learning about neuroscience, readers will instead be ‘dupes of marketing’. His recent BMJ article
‘Serotonin and Depression’ provides greater clarity.
Peter C. Gøtzsche, physician, medical researcher, leader of the Nordic Cochrane Center and co-founder of the Cochrane collaboration – yep, rubbish (and a very harmful lie, as it keeps people on drugs they would rather stop).
Robert Whitaker, medical & science journalist and author – yep, ‘total nonsense’. He referred to a much-cited article by well-known U.S. psychiatrist, Ronald Pies (former editor of The Psychiatric Times), who opined “In the past 30 years, I don’t believe I have ever heard a knowledgeable, well-trained psychiatrist make such a preposterous claim, except perhaps to mock it”.
So there you have it; not since the days of shoulder-pads and leg-warmers has Professor Pies heard such preposterous claims, yet in 2016 the RCSI Dept of Psychiatry are still sticking to the low-serotonin mantra.
I should point out, that as a mature student, studying in the RCSI is an amazing experience. I love the camaraderie there, and the integrity of the lecturers (and students) is unquestionable. There are even a couple of perfectly nice psychiatrists. However, there is no excuse for ‘educating’ people in a ‘chemical-imbalance’ basis of depression – despite vast research, it remains unproven. Furthermore, it gives vulnerable people the impression that they have an inherent deficiency, one that only drugs can fix. This dangerous propaganda is a theory invented by industry, a very lucrative one and one that has no scientific basis whatsoever.
Recently the RCSI was given the task of defining ‘Medical Professionalism’ in order to achieve excellence in education. Entrusted into the hands of RCSI psychiatrist, Prof Kieran Murphy – a very fine document emerged. One criterion, is that medics exercise ‘evidence-based-practice’. So, with the repeated spouting of chemical imbalances and low serotonin, could it be that there is a different set of rules for the RCSI’s Dept of Psychiatry? Perhaps evidence-based-practice does not apply to this particular medical field.