Tuesday 12 November 2013

Utah, antidepressant prescription and suicide rates - brainwashing in action


Supposedly, the US (predominantly Mormon) state of Utah has the highest rates of 'antidepressant' prescriptions per capita, and also the highest rate of suicides, among US States.

I can't track down the original studies to check these claims  - but 'everybody' believes this, so let's assume they are correct.

What all this is supposed to reveal, according to the brainwashing media interpretations, is that behind a facade of cheerful efficiency Mormons are 'really' miserable.


What the data actually reveals is that:

1. Per capita 'antidepressant' prescription has nothing to do with need - in particular nothing to do with 'depression'.

(Not least because the most used so-called 'antidepressants' - i.e. the SSRI groups such as Prozac - are not antidepressants; and are demonstrably ineffective against real (endogenous) depression. They are actually emotion-stabilizing/ serenic agents - when they work.)


2. So-called 'antidepressants' of the SSRI-type cause suicides.

This is not news, it has been known since the drugs were trialled, and has been public knowledge for more than two decades, and 'black box' suicide warnings now appear on the drug information inserts.



Therefore, the proper interpretation of the Utah numbers is that

1. The Utah population is prescribed a lot of antidepressant drugs which they don't need and are bad for them - presumably because it is profitable to do so - and plausibly because the Mormon population are so health-careful, and have been deceived into believing that antidepressants are necessary for their health.

2. This massive over-prescription of 'antidepressants' is causing a vast epidemic of suicides in Utah - this is consistent with the well-known pattern that SSRIs on average cause suicide, rather than prevent it.

(Because that is what a mass of research has been telling us for the past generation).


So, brainwashing in action and effective on a massive scale!

The facts are widely known, and as solidly-established as medical science ever gets; but nobody is joining the dots!

That is how mass media indoctrination (manipulated by Big Pharma) works - the relevant facts are clear and widely available and the implications are in-your-face; but spin focuses public discourse on irrelevant facts and fake explanations.

The scandalous situation that the Utah population are victims of mass medication-caused suicide is converted, at a stroke, into just another anti-Mormon sneer and snigger.



For access to the mass of evidence on this topic - you can word search and browse http://davidhealy.org/.



dearieme said...

"'everybody' believes this, so let's assume they are correct." Come now; I do hope that there was an element of sarcasm in that remark.

dearieme said...

Is it possible that Mormon doctors, then, are prone to over-prescribing?

Bruce Charlton said...

@d"Is it possible that Mormon doctors, then, are prone to over-prescribing?"

That would need to be looked at - extra demand for prescription could be on either or both sides.

It is the false hype that SSRIs help make many or most people more effective and efficient - and I would not be surprised if Mormons (so busy, so organized) were more sensitive to regarding themselves as sub-optimally effective, more likely to look for help to improve their perceived inefficiencies, and therefore were more vulnerable to falling for this marketing ploy/ misconception.

Bruce Charlton said...

@d ""'everybody' believes this, so let's assume they are correct." Come now; I do hope that there was an element of sarcasm in that remark."

Not really sarcasm - more that I don't have the time at present to do the digging necessary to establish whether these beliefs are based on what I would regard as solid evidence - but in principle, between state prescribing and suicide stats are pretty strightforward to collect and interpret (at least by comparison with many other social indices).

Bruce Charlton said...

@D - My point here is that IF the facts are as 'everybody' believes, THEN the straightforward interpretation is that the Utah population are victims of mass medication-caused suicide.

What is genuinely fascinating is that we have reached a state when shocking facts can be, as it were, placed side by side in the full light of mass media publicity; yet nobody (apparently) notices the obvious implications.

I suppse we are all corrupted into clever-sillies now - so the blindingly-obvious inference is always regarded as dumb or evil: hence necessarily wrong.

Kevin Nowell said...

This is an interesting post. It is clear to me that you are right and that the high rate of suicide amongst Mormons is largely caused by the high rate of SSRI use.

In another conversation someone pointed out that the use of SSRIs amongst Mormons might be partially explained by their proscription against alcohol. Many people self-medicate their depression with alcohol; and, since that option is unavailable to Mormons, they are more likely to go to a medical authority for depression and get prescribed something much more harmful than alcohol or even some "recreational" narcotics.

Bruce Charlton said...

@KN - Glad you agree.

I don't believe that alcohol is an effective antidepressant - although in low doses it is an effective anti-anxiety agent (quite similar in effect to benzodiazepines such as Valium). It may be more likely to be anxiety that leads to a demand for SSRI prescriptions, because SSRIs are effective anti-anxiety agents (but NOT effective antidepressants)

Nicotine does have psychostimulant properties, and in that respect is more of an antidepressant - and so does caffeine.

So if there is a lack-of-self-medication-for-depression thing going-on among Mormons, I would think it related to one of these.

Bookslinger said...

More factoids that are commonly left out of the discussion:

1. the Mountain West has a higher rate of suicide (among both Mormon and non-Mormon) than the rest of the US.

2. the Mormon rate of suicide is comparable to the non-Mormon rate of suicide in the Mountain West. Or stated another way, the Utah rate of suicide is only very slightly greater than the other Mountain West states. The difference between the Mountain West states and other states is much greater.

"Mountain West" would include Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona and maybe New Mexico.

Anonymous said...

I was prescribed an anti-depressant at one point, took it religiously for a while, and then quit abruptly when I realized it made zero difference.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Bookslinger - thanks for the info - does this mean you could provide a link to the suicide rates by state?

The next question is whether the other Mountain West states also have high per capita antidepressant prescription rates.

ajb said...

More info here


Bruce Charlton said...

@ajb - Thanks for the links.

Bob said...

I live in Utah. I'm certainly no fan of mindless Mormon bashing that clearly goes on in the mainstream, but I am also not a fan of Mormonism.

Mormonism is uber-Americanism plus family values, like America circa 1960 only more focused on materialism and wealth.

Mormon culture is a lot better than the culture in general, but it doesn't strike me as very Christian, just upper middle-class American.

I would imagine that the Mormon obsession with striving to succeed in business and overachieve (while not being allowed to self-medicate with caffeine, alcohol, or nicotine) is relevant here.

I'm sure the mainstream loves talking about this because they perceive Mormons as good people worthy of scorn, but I think the drug use has more to do with the materialistic aspects of Mormon culture.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Bob - " the drug use has more to do with the materialistic aspects of Mormon culture."

In principle this is a testable hypothesis - because it implies that the most spiritual Mormons (those richest in that warm and wonderful side of Mormonism of which you are not aware, perhaps because it is mostly private) should exhibit lower rates of antidepressant usage than the type of superficially religious people you describe.

Sylvie D. Rousseau said...

November 12, 2013
Greenland has the highest suicide rate in the world (108/100,000 in 2010). The second highest is the Canadian Arctic territory of Nunavut, mostly populated with Inuit natives with a high incidence of alcoholism and drug abuse (average of 71/100,000 suicides between 2000 and 2007). Among the United States, the highest rate is found in Alaska (23/100,000 in 2004). It seems the highest rates in US and Canada are consistently observed in the most inhospitable places, far North and/or desert or mountain regions. Utah’s rate is about average compared to the other US Western mountain states.

Nate said...

Great post. As both a Mormon and a physician, here is my take:

The region with the highest suicide rate in the US is the mountain west. Within that region, Utah actually has one of the lowest rates.


Religious belief is reliably associated with improved mental health in virtually all categories, but particularly in depression. I believe (and my experience shows) that Mormons are no difference in this category-their religious belief seems to make them more happy and resilient. I believe that there are actually studies to this effect. Certainly depression is plenty and unhappiness in general occur in the LDS population, though, just as they do in the general population.

As far as antidepressant use goes, usage in Utah is one of the highest (some years it is the highest use, other years another state is higher-usually Alaska, Oregon, and Maine). Usage of other medical services are also high in Utah. Mormons tend to be fairly well educated, and trusting in authority. When a problem occurs, getting good medical care would probably be seen as the right thing to do. In the US today, most doctors are quite quick to prescribe antidepressants.

Having said that, the incidence of a therapy often has little relationship to the incidence of disease. I have seen studies comparing use of C-sections, episiotomy, CABG, and other therapies with the actual incidence of disease in the area-there is little relationship. Use of psychiatric drugs and incidence of psychiatric disease is no different-it bears little relationship to the incidence of psychiatric disease.


Bruce Charlton said...

@Nate - All in all, it sounds like 'antidepressant' prescribing, and suicide rates, are both higher than they should be.

Suicide can be caused by alcohol and drugs. I would guess alcohol intake per capita (especially binge drinking) is unusually low in Utah?

With such a low risk population in terms of socio-economic status, lifestyle, religion and alcohol - suicide rates look as if they are being driven up by something - most likely excess/ inappropriate 'antidepressant' use.

This would also show up in the types of suicide - not so much overdoses but instead violent, often bizarre suicide methods and out-of-the-blue suicides (especially self-hangings in previously stable people - http://davidhealy.org/left-hanging-suicide-in-bridgend/ ) related to a state of inner turmoil (akathisia) characteristic of SSRIs and the chemically-related antipsychotics


Jochen said...

What about the simple fact that the population of Utah is mostly white, and depression is more common among whites?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Jochen - the only depression relevant to causing suicide is endogenous/ psychotic depression which is very rare. 95-99 percent of the people diagnosed with 'depression' and treated with 'antidepressants' nowadays would (40-50 plus years ago) have been called anxiety states (or perhaps 'neurotic depression') and treated with tranquillizers (such as Miltown, Librium, Valium) - and there is no significant increase in suicide rates among people with these anxiety states.

Annika said...

Has anyone considered other causes of high suicide rates in Utah? I'm q European visiting Utah for the first time and I'm astonished about the incredibly strict rules and regulations here! No wonder people don't feel comfortable and think about suicide!

Bruce Charlton said...

@Annika - You should read the comments above and the links.

BTW I know of not one scrap of evidence that strict rules and regulations (which aren't - after all- found anywhere in the modern USA by world historical standards!) would raise suicide rates! That just isn't the kind of thing that causes sucide.