Over a twenty year span, starting when Prozac came on the market in 1987, the number of people on government disability due to mental illness went from 1.25 million to more than 4 million today. There has been a 35-fold increase in the number of children disabled by mental illness who receive federal disability payments, rising from 16,200 in 1987, to 561,569 in 2007.
These statistics come from a new book titled, "Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness, in America," by award winning journalist, Robert Whitaker, who also authored "Mad in America."
For the book, Whitaker reviewed 50 years of outcomes in the medical literature, for adults with schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, and bipolar illness, and the childhood disorders of ADHD, depression and juvenile bipolar disorder, to see whether medications had altered the long-term course of the disorders and whether drugs could bring on new or more severe psychiatric symptoms.
His intent was to assess whether this paradigm of care increased the risk that a person would become chronically ill, or ill with disabling symptoms, he reports in his "Mad in America" blog, on the Psychology Today website.
"Although we, as a society, believe that psychiatric medications have "revolutionized" the treatment of mental illness, the disability numbers suggest a very different possibility," he wrote in the April 28, 2010, Huffington Post.
On April 29, 2010, Alternet published an interview with Whitaker by Dr Bruce Levine, with the headline question of, "Are Prozac and Other Psychiatric Drugs Causing the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America?"
The "literature is remarkably consistent in the story it tells," Whitaker told Levine. "Although psychiatric medications may be effective over the short term, they increase the likelihood that a person will become chronically ill over the long term."