Is Psychiatry to Blame for Rising Drug Dependence?

September 14, 2017
Anna Jankowska, LCPC

By Anna Jankowska, MA, CEAP, SAP, LCPC

Anna Jankowska is a mental health, addiction, and substance abuse counselor with over 17 years of experience and has specialized training and skill in working with individuals, groups and communities to improve mental health outcomes. NPI number: 1598843526

By CCI Team

We live in a world where information is easily attainable, and various sources are available to not only supply the information we are seeking, but also supply support for our views, whatever they may be.  While it would be easy to search only for sources and statistics that support our own beliefs, the challenge is being able to parse through the available information and draw our own conclusions.

Dr. Lawrence Klemenson, MD recently wrote an article for ‘Made in America', titled Psychiatry’s 12-Step Program for Producing Heroin Addicts.  His article draws parallels between society’s acceptance of Psychiatry’s “brain disease” to the 12-step program, noting that both ask those involved to “surrender power to a more “trustworthy” authority”. Klemenson’s article breaks down in a twelve-step process, how Psychiatry has played a role in under-mining the role of parenting in child-rearing, instead substituting medication.  He argues that in the process of accepting “doctors’ lies about normal childhood immaturity being a genetic “brain illness””, a generation of heroin addicts was created.

Klemenson supports his argument using statistics demonstrating a correlation between ADHD prescription and the increase of heroin overdose.  Specifically, he noted, “There was a six-fold rise in stimulant prescribing for ADHD from 1991 to 2000. The average age of initial ADHD diagnosis is 7, so it takes them 15 years to reach 22 (the average heroin user’s age).”, which he sees as an explanation for the six-fold increase of heroin overdoses between 2006 and 2015.  Does there appear to be a correlation?  At a glance, yes.  However, let’s pause to consider whether the article paints a full picture.

The topic of over prescribing medication for children is not a new one.  Former National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) director Thomas Insel wrote an article in 2014, Are Children Overmedicated?, in which he considered that exact question.  In his article, he notes that the number of children on prescription medication can appear daunting upon initial review.  As result it is easy to blame overmedication on: parents for being too busy to parent, psychiatrists for being too busy for treatment, schools for being too busy to discipline and pharmaceutical companies for being too profit driven.  To do so however, may be overlooking certain facts that counter the argument, facts such as: most prescriptions don’t come from psychiatrists, parents typically argue against medication, medication often occurs before children come into contact with schools and marketing by pharmaceutical companies in the US have gone down.

Insel brings to consideration, what if the prescriptions themselves are symptom of a larger issue?  What if children are actually experiencing psychiatric problems and there is actually an increased need for treatment rather than over treatment?  Both articles are supported by statistics of prescriptions, but the conclusions come out quite differently.  Which is the correct conclusion?

On the subject of Klemenson’s correlation between the learned helplessness of Psychiatry’s “brain illness” and the 12 Step’s surrendering of power, the correlation is there if that is the perspective taken.  However, taking this view may be too easily taking away the power of the individual to make their own decisions. Counselors are guided by five moral principles: autonomy, justice, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and fidelity, of which each are held to be an absolute truth in and of itself.  Central to this particular article is the question of autonomy, which is the principle that addresses the concept of independence. The

the essence of this principle is the allowance of an individual the freedom of choice and action (ACA, 1996).

Individuals have the ability to make decisions for themselves.  These decisions could be to continue on with learned patterns or to break the cycle.  The decisions may involve seeking professional assistance for mental issues, seeking support in the form of a 12 Step support group, or even using drugs.  As such, perhaps it’s worth considering that the issue of addiction may not be so simply explained by a handful of statistics that show a positive correlation.


American Counseling Association (ACA), 1996.  A Practitioner's Guide to Ethical Decision Making

Insel, T. (2014, June 6). Post by Former NIMH Director Thomas Insel: Are Children Overmedicated? [Web log post].

Klemenson, L. (2017, August 25). Psychiatry’s 12-Step Program for Producing Heroin Addicts.

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