What's wrong with TMAP? Let's start with the basics: Many patients already feel the negative effects of contemporary, mainstream medicine's detached, objective approach to treatment. As if mainstream medicine were not impersonal enough, TMAP takes the complex, subjective physician-patient decisions necessitated by the nature of mental illness and pars them down into a "decision tree" approach to psychiatric treatment.
As Jordanne Graham explains in her Aug. 6, 2004 Intervention Magazine article, "If symptoms A, B and C are evident, use treatment X." Based on this algorithm-based approach to psychiatric treatment, computers could someday replace psychiatrists, as algorithms are basically the way computers process information, but hopefully that will never happen. This approach to psychiatry might work if mental illnesses were "black-and-white," but the fact is that they're not, something that the "psychiatric bible," the DSM-IV also doesn't realize. Mental illnesses manifest in many different ways, making objective, detached treatment methods not only ineffective, but also downright cruel.
Furthermore, treatment X is usually medication X. Dr. Steven P. Shon, co-director of TMAP and medical director of the Texas Department of Health and Mental Retardation explains in a 1998 interview that the first "solution" at the end of each decision tree is a psychiatric medication: "We present it as a flexible three-part process. The first part is choosing a drug strategy; there are six first-line drugs from which to choose in tailoring a drug regimen for nonpsychotic major depression, for example."
What happens when Medication number one doesn't work? Well, you choose another medication, of course, according to Dr. Shon: "The second part of the algorithm outlines tactics, guided by information on how much improvement should be expected at various stages of treatment, as measured by various scales. The algorithm gives physicians information about interactions and options for switching drugs."
The only "flexible" part of TMAP's process is deciding which drug to use; it never takes non-pharmaceutical solutions to mental illness into account, representing a major flaw in the program. Our society's high incidence of depression, for example, can largely be attributed to malnutrition and sunlight deficiency. Most of us simply aren't consuming enough B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids and essential minerals -- all of which are required for healthy brain functioning. Then, to make matters worse, our diets are high in sugary foods, soft drinks and white flour, which actually deplete our bodies of these crucial nutrients. Another characteristic and consequence of modern society is that many of us spend the majority of time indoors in poor lighting. As a result, we're not absorbing enough vitamin D-rich sunlight, and this lack of vitamin D is another root of mental illness.
Putting the entire nation on Prozac and other expensive drugs may mask the symptoms of mental illness, but it won't fix the underlying problems. These problems can be economically relieved by providing better nutrition in our nation's schools, free nutritional supplements to people living in or near poverty and more opportunities for working adults and schoolchildren to spend time outdoors. However, TMAP's algorithms simply don't include these easy, non-pharmaceutical approaches to fixing our society's widespread mental health problems.
However, Big Pharma's sticky grip on TMAP doesn't end there. In spite of Dr. Shon's earlier claims that drug companies only gave $285,000 in funding for TMAP, Austin-based investigative reporter Nanci Wilson reviewed the Texas Department of State Health Service's financial records and discovered that pharmaceutical companies gave the DSHS $1.3 million from 1997 to July 2004, of which at least $834,000 was intended for TMAP.
The "coincidence" is uncanny, but of course it really isn't a coincidence. Furthermore, according to a Jan. 20, 2004 "whistleblower" report by Allen Jones, a former Pennsylvania fraud investigator who was fired for going public with his findings, many of these expensive, "first-line treatment" drugs aren't even the most effective pharmaceuticals for treating these mental illnesses; they just simply create the most revenue for TMAP's Big Pharma sponsors.
"Drug companies marketed their newer, patented medications as safer, and more effective, than the older, generic brands. These drugs, they said, not only better treated the symptoms of mental illness, (but) they did so without the troublesome side-effects often seen with conventional medications. However, these new 'miracle' drugs did not live up to their hype. They have proven to be no better than generics. Most importantly, most of the new drugs have been found to cause serious, even fatal side effects, particularly in children. It is a statistical certainty that many lives have been lost and many others irreparably damaged."
As of Oct. 17, 2005, SAMHSA no longer supports TMAP, but the sad truth is that the TMAP approach to psychiatric treatment isn't limited to Texas, and it may even extend to the entire nation. About a dozen states, including Jones' home state of Pennsylvania, already have similar programs in place, according to Wikipedia. Furthermore, if President Bush's New Freedom Initiative succeeds, TMAP will set the standards for an entire nation screened for mental illness and treated based on pharmaceutical-focused algorithms.
Graham explains, "The panel concluded that schools are in 'key positions' to screen the 52 million students and 6 million adults who work at the schools. By doing this, the commission expects to flush out another 6 million persons not receiving treatment." However, given the fact that many of the commission's appointed staff members have also served on pharmaceutical companies' advisory boards, many concerned individuals are wondering just how expansive the screening criteria will be. And "treatment," of course, means mind-altering drugs, not nutrition.
Gleason was restrained more than 26 times and medicated with 12 different psychiatric drugs, without parental consent, and against her will. Aliah was a B and C student who got in trouble for talking back to teachers and other school officials, so imagine the consequences for the F students who are ditching school every day. Furthermore, imagine if all American schoolchildren were screened for mental illness based on definitions set by Big Pharma-influenced panels. How many students will be on legal but powerful drugs?
And so, even though SAMHSA removed its endorsement of TMAP, the battle against one nation medicated under Big Pharma is just beginning. It's up to all of us to speak out and say that we don't want the future proposed by the New Freedom Initiative to be our reality. Otherwise, it very well could be.
Blaylock, Dylan. "PRESS RELEASE: Government Drops Corrupt Mental-Illness Drug Program." Government Accountability Project. 24 Oct 2005. http://www.whistleblower.org
Graham, Jordanne. "Bush Wants to be Your Shrink." Intervention Magazine. 6 Aug 2004. http://www.interventionmag.com.
Grahl, Cindy. "Mapping the Meds: Interview with Steven P. Shon, MD, Texas Medication Algorithm Project." Behavioral Health Management. Nov/Dec 1998: 20 - 25.
Jones, Allen. Whistleblower report. Rev. 20 Jan 2004. http://psychrights.org
Levine, Bruce. "Eli Lilly, Zyprexa and the Bush Family." Z Magazine Online. May 2004. http://zmagsite.zmag.org
Pringle, Evelyn. "Bush Administration -- Money, Politics and Drugs." The Sierra Times. 11 Feb 2005. http://www.sierratimes.com
"Texas Medication Algorithm Project." Wikipedia. 3 Nov 2005. http://en.Wikipedia.org
Waters, Rob. "Medicating Aliah." Mother Jones. May/Jun 2005: 50 - 94.