Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Celebrity Patient's Backing Turns Sour for Drug Company

The Wall Street Journal has published a revealing story about one of the seamier sides of the drug industry's marketing campaigns: paying patients to offer testimonials about their drugs. Despite side effects one man had to continue because the money way so good. He is now writing a book about his experience. Here's the Video.

I note in the video that they show the complete original testimonial, which sort of defeats the purpose of the original news story. Way to go WSJ!

(the embedded player is a little funky, you might have to pause and push play an extra time or to to get past the intro)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Bitterness To Be Classified As a Mental Illness

Some psychiatrists are trying to get excessive bitterness identified as a mental illness named post-traumatic embitterment disorder. Of course this has some people who live perfect little lives, and always get what they want, questioning the new classification. The so called "disorder" is modeled after post-traumatic stress disorder because it too is a response to a trauma that endures. "They feel the world has treated them unfairly. It's one step more complex than anger. They're angry plus helpless," says Dr. Michael Linden, the psychiatrist who put a name to how the world works. Reported in the LA Times, via Slashdot

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

US soldier who shot five troops was 'broken' by counsellors

As seen in the Telegraph

Army Sgt. John M. Russell, 44, has been charged with murder and aggravated assault in the Baghdad shootings, which his father said took place about six weeks before the end of his third tour of duty in Iraq.

Wilburn Russell, 73, alleged his son had been treated poorly at the stress centre and had e-mailed his wife calling two recent days the worst in his life.

"I hate what that boy did," said Mr Russell, speaking in front of the two-story suburban home his son is buying with his wife. "He thought it was justified. That's never a solution."

Excerpts of his military record, obtained by The Associated Press, show Sgt. Russell previously did two one-year tours of duty in Iraq, one starting in April 2003 and another beginning November 2005. The stress of repeat and extended tours is considered a main contributor to mental health problems among troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

His father said the soldier, an electronics technician, was at the stress centre to transition out of active duty. He said his son was undergoing stressful mental tests that he didn't understand were merely tests, "so they broke him."

"John has forfeited his life. Apparently, he said (to his wife), 'My life is over. To hell with it. I'm going to get even with 'em,"' he said.

"He lived for the military," Mr Russell said. "We're sorry for the families, too. It shouldn't have happened."

The soldier's son, John M. Russell II, said that he has communicated with his father by e-mail regularly. In the last message he received from him, April 25, his father sounded normal and planned to be back in Texas to visit in July.

"He's not a violent person," he said. "He's just a loving, caring guy.

He doesn't like to see anyone get hurt. For this to happen, it had to be something going on that the Army's not telling us about."
Related Articles

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Why people should be concerned with the impending revision of the DSM

An excellent but long post from the fine folks at, with only a portion quoted below

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) has been called the "bible of mental illness" because it lists and defines all of the "official" psychiatric diagnoses according to the American Psychiatric Association. The DSM is in the early stages of undergoing its 5th major revision; each previous revision has seen the total number of mental disorders recognized (some might say invented) by the APA greatly increase. Last year, trans activists were particularly concerned to learn that Ken Zucker and Ray Blanchard had been named to play critical lead roles in determining the language of the DSM sections focusing on gender and sexuality, especially given that these researchers are well known for forwarding theories and therapies that are especially pathologizing and stigmatizing to gender-variant people.

Blanchard has recently presented some of his suggestions to revise the "Paraphilia" section of the DSM. In the past, this section has generally received little attention from feminists, as it has been primarily limited to several sexual crimes (e.g., pedophilia, frotteurism and exhibitionism) and a handful of other generally consensual but unnecessarily stigmatized sexual acts (such as fetishism and BDSM) that are considered "atypical" by sex researchers. However, there are two aspects of the proposed Paraphilia section revision that should be of great concern to feminists, as well as anyone else who is interested in gender and sexual equality.

Expanding "Paraphilia"

First, Blanchard is proposing a significant expansion of the DSM's definition of "paraphilia" to include:

"any intense and persistent sexual interest other than sexual interest in genital stimulation or preparatory fondling with phenotypically normal, consenting adult human partners."

The first concern here is the term "phenotypically normal" (meaning "normal" with regards to observable anatomical or behavioral traits). Thus, according to this definition, attraction to any person deemed by sex researchers to be "abnormal" or "atypical" could conceivably be diagnosed as paraphilic. So, do you happen to be attracted to, or in a relationship with, someone who is differently-abled or differently-sized? Or someone who is gender-variant in some way? Well congratulations, you may now be diagnosed with a paraphilia!


Blanchard and other like-minded sex researchers have coined words like Gynandromorphophilia (attraction to trans women), Andromimetophilia (attraction to trans men), Abasiophilia (attraction to people who are physically disabled), Acrotomophilia (attraction to amputees), Gerontophilia (attraction to elderly people), Fat Fetishism (attraction to fat people), etc., and have forwarded them in the medical literature to denote the presumed "paraphilic" nature of such attractions.

This tendency reinforces the cultural belief that young, thin, able-bodied cisgender women and men are the only legitimate objects of sexual desire, and that you must be mentally disordered in some way if you are attracted to someone who falls outside of this ideal. It's bad enough that such cultural norms exist in the first place, but to codify them in the DSM is a truly terrifying prospect.

Another frightening aspect of Blanchard's proposal is that any sexual interest other than "genital stimulation or preparatory fondling" is now, by definition, a paraphilia.

In his presentation, he claimed that paraphilias should include all "erotic interests that are not focused on copulatory or precopulatory behaviors, or the equivalent behaviors in same-sex adult partners." Copulatory is defined as related to coitus or sexual intercourse (i.e., penetration sex). So, essentially, all forms of sexual arousal and expression that are not centered around penetration sex may now be considered paraphilias.

So, do you and your partner occasionally role-play or talk dirty to one another over the phone? Or engage in arousing play that is not intended to necessarily lead to "doing the deed"? Do you masturbate? Do you get a sexual charge from wearing a particularly sexy outfit or performing any act that falls outside of "genital stimulation or preparatory fondling"? Well, then congratulations, you can be diagnosed with a paraphilia!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Brain scan studies busted by statistics

As seen in New Scientist, regarding a paper published in Nature NueroScience

There is fresh evidence that the budding field of social neuroscience is producing misleading results because of statistical methods often used to analyse brain scans.

In January, Hal Pashler of the University of California, Davis, and colleagues, sparked controversy when they criticised the statistical methods used by a clutch of high-profile research teams to link brain activity to emotions. They said the teams' results could be inflated because random noise was not properly accounted for.

Now Nikolaus Kriegeskorte of the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland, and his colleagues report that of more than 100 brain-imaging papers in five top journals that they looked at, 40 per cent use similar methods (Nature Neuroscience, DOI: 10.1038/nn.2303).

Russell Poldrack of the University of California, Los Angeles, says the latest study "will drive more people to take the problem seriously".

We monitor all this with a mildly skeptical eye.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Waterboarding, Interrogations: The CIA's $1,000 a Day Specialists

As reported on ABC News

As the secrets about the CIA's interrogation techniques continue to come out, there's new information about the frequency and severity of their use, contradicting an 2007 ABC News report, and a new focus on two private contractors who were apparently directing the brutal sessions that President Obama calls torture.

According to current and former government officials, the CIA's secret waterboarding program was designed and assured to be safe by two well-paid psychologists now working out of an unmarked office building in Spokane, Washington.

Bruce Jessen and Jim Mitchell, former military officers, together founded Mitchell Jessen and Associates.

Both men declined to speak to ABC News citing non-disclosure agreements with the CIA. But sources say Jessen and Mitchell together designed and implemented the CIA's interrogation program.

Click here to see Jessen refusing to talk to ABC News.

"It's clear that these psychologists had an important role in developing what became the CIA's torture program," said Jameel Jaffer, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union.

Click here to see Mitchell refusing to talk to ABC News.

Former U.S. officials say the two men were essentially the architects of the CIA's 10-step interrogation plan that culminated in waterboarding.

Associates say the two made good money doing it, boasting of being paid a $1,000 a day by the CIA to oversee the use of the techniques on top al Qaeda suspects at CIA secret sites.

"The whole intense interrogation concept that we hear about, is essentially their concepts," according to Col. Steven Kleinman, an Air Force interrogator.

Both Mitchell and Jessen were previously involved in the U.S. military program to train pilots how to survive behind enemy lines and resist brutal tactics if captured.

Mitchell and Jessen Lacked Experience in Actual Interrogations

But it turns out neither Mitchell nor Jessen had any experience in conducting actual interrogations before the CIA hired them.

"They went to two individuals who had no interrogation experience," said Col. Kleinman. "They are not interrogators."

The new documents show the CIA later came to learn that the two psychologists' waterboarding "expertise" was probably "misrepresented" and thus, there was no reason to believe it was "medically safe" or effective. The waterboarding used on al Qaeda detainees was far more intense than the brief sessions used on U.S. military personnel in the training classes.

"The use of these tactics tends to increase resistance on the part of the detainee to cooperating with us. So they have the exact opposite effect of what you want," said Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich).

The new memos also show waterboarding was used "with far greater frequency than initially indicated" to even those in the CIA.

Abu Zubaydah was water boarded at least 83 times and Khalid Sheikh Mohamed at least 183 times.

Former CIA Officer John Kiriakou Says Waterboarding is Torture

That contradicts what former CIA officer John Kiriakou, who led the Zubaydah capture team, told ABC News in 2007 when he first revealed publicly that waterboarding had been used.

He said then, based on top secret reports he had access to, that Zubaydah had only been water boarded once and then freely talked.

Kiriakou now says he too was stunned to learn how often Zubaydah was waterboarded, in what Kiriakou says was clearly torture.

"When I spoke to ABC News in December 2007 I was aware of Abu Zubaydah being waterboarded on one occasion," said Kiriakou. "It was after this one occasion that he revealed information related to a planned terrorist attack. As I said in the original interview, my information was second-hand. I never participated in the use of enhanced techniques on Abu Zubaydah or on any other prisoner, nor did I witness the use of such techniques."

A federal judge in New York is currently considering whether or not to make public the written logs of the interrogation sessions.

The tapes were destroyed by the CIA, but the written logs still exist, although the CIA is fighting their release.

A CIA spokesperson declined to comment for this report, except to note that the agency's terrorist interrogation program was guided by legal opinions from the Department of Justice.