“The Scale of the Scandal”: Tony Scott’s Suicide Quite Possibly Due to Antidepressant

As pointed out by dearime, the columnist Peter Hitchens recently made the following comment in The Mail on Sunday:

When I read in August that the talented Hollywood film director Tony Scott had killed himself without any apparent good reason, I was fairly sure that pretty soon we would find that the poor man had been taking ‘antidepressants’. Well, a preliminary autopsy has found ‘therapeutic’ levels of an ‘antidepressant’ in his system. I take no pleasure in being right, but as the scale of this scandal has become clear to me, I have learned to look out for the words ‘antidepressant’ or ‘being treated for depression’ in almost any case of suicide and violent, bizarre behavior. And I generally find it. The science behind these pills is extremely dubious. Their risks are only just beginning to emerge. It is time for an inquiry.

Tony Scott Suicide Remains a Mystery After Autopsy,” wrote a Vanity Fair editor. The autopsy found that he had been taking the antidepressant Remeron, whose known side effects include suicide. SSRI’s, of which Remeron is an example, cause suicidal thinking in people who are not depressed.

The psychiatrist David Healy was the first to emphasize this point. In 2000, after he began this research, he was offered a job at the University of Toronto. In a very unusual move, the job offer was rescinded. Apparently psychiatry professors at the University of Toronto realized that Healy’s research made the psychiatric drug industry look bad.

I don’t think it’s wrong to sell drugs that improve this or that condition (e.g., depression), even if the improvement is slight. I do think it’s wrong to make false claims to induce people to buy the drugs. In the case of depression, the false claim is that depression is due to a “chemical imbalance.” No chemical difference has ever been shown between people who later become depressed and people who don’t later become depressed. This claim, repeated endlessly, makes it harder to do research into what causes depression. If you figured out what caused depression, you could treat it and prevent it much better. This false claim does enormous damage. It delays by many years discovery of effective treatment and prevention of depression, a disease from which hundreds of millions of people now suffer.

This happens in dozens of areas of medicine. Dermatologists say “acne is caused by bacteria“. Most doctors appear to believe “ulcers are caused by bacteria”. Ear nose and throat surgeons claim that part of the immune system (the tonsils) causes illness. The “scale of the scandal” — medical school professors either (a) don’t understand causality or (b) deceive the rest of us — is great.

10 Replies to ““The Scale of the Scandal”: Tony Scott’s Suicide Quite Possibly Due to Antidepressant”

  1. Unfortunately, many — if not most — medical doctors have become nothing much except a massive sales force for drug companies.

    Because I refuse to take any drugs, I have had many unpleasant conversations with doctors, and I change doctors frequently.

    One time, on a first visit with a new doctor, I began by telling her that I refuse to take drugs.

    She looked genuinely puzzled, and more than a little angry, as she demanded to know, “Then why are you here?”

    Good question. Why do I go to doctors, anyway? Mostly, because they are the gatekeepers who can order lab tests for blood work and urinalysis, but all I want is the lab results, so I can do my own research. I don’t want their opinions about the lab results, and I sure don’t want any of their drugs.

  2. Indeed, the scandal is great! In the meantime, one must question all medical advice and only do what seems to be in your best interests!!

  3. @ Jim who said: “Why do I go to doctors, anyway? Mostly, because they are the gatekeepers who can order lab tests for blood work and urinalysis, but all I want is the lab results, so I can do my own research.”

    Jim, you don’t have to go to a physician any more to get tests from the very same labs that you would use when you have your own doctor’s Rx. See for example: http://www.directlabs.com/Home/tabid/36/language/en-US/Default.aspx

    The following from their website describes succinctly how it works:
    “DirectLabs is the leader in direct access laboratory testing. We offer a wide variety of important health and wellness blood chemistry tests directly to you online at extremely discounted prices. Confidential results are available online in as little as 24 hours for most tests. DirectLabs offers our customers private and secure online accounts called “MyDLS” where you will access your orders, print your lab requisition, and retrieve your results.”

    I don’t necessarily recommend this or any other source — there are any number of them that you could find and use after a simple Google search.


  4. Seth, this critque is absolutely dead on. I’m sure the modus operandi of so many medical practitioners today is the reason why they are losing creditability among a growing number of intelligent individuals who have been able to inform themselves using excellent sites like yours, and others that are readily available on the Internet. (Of course some due diligence is always required and it’s necessary for one to have his/her “bullshit meter” turned on much of the time as well. Also while in the doctor’s office, I might add) 🙂

    Eventually, this will bring about dramatic, positive change in the medical system. Unfortunately, it’s not happening as fast as it needs to.


  5. I wanted to do a research project on a possible link between SSRI use and a certain type of crime – the kind where an apparently normal person with no criminal history flips out without warning and kills or maims someone. I had noticed in the news, and by following trials, that often they would report that the accused had been taking anti-depressants and, more often than not, that they had been self-adjusting the dose (usually taking more than usual because they weren’t feeling right). I found these cases so interesting because they did not fit the usual criteria of murderous behaviour (poverty, violent background, bad family life, criminal connections) – they were usually educated, normal people that just one day lost it in the most dramatic manner. I was basically told that the university would definitely not support such a project, the reasoning being that there was no previous research suggesting such a link. Secretly I think they were envisaging being sued for 10 million dollars by an enormous pharmaceutical company.

    Seth: What a strange reason for turning down a research project: Because it’s original. A horrifying story.

  6. I think the phrase “chemical imbalance” is used more to explain to laypeople what’s going on than as an actual scientific analysis. I’m not going to say that there isn’t much more to be learned about SSRIs, but in my case at least they’ve helped me a great deal.

  7. @Sara

    You may very well be on to something important. Maybe you’re already aware of some of the writing about this issue, but thought I would link to the following which might be of interest:

    Acts of Senseless Violence: Police data may I.D. psychiatric drug use in violent crimes

    The mental health watchdog Citizens Commission on Human Rights announces the latest article by journalist Kelly Patricia O’Meara, who uncovers how police may already be obtaining information on psychiatric drug use by those committing violent crimes, yet be unaware of the vital relevance of this information. [there is more info accessible at the link.]

    There seems to be a fair amount of material available on the topic that some others have been thinking and writing about. The apparently timorous response you got from the “university” points out that in certain situations it’s probably only through government auspices (or maybe some independent private foundations) that potentially controversial research like this can be pursued without threat or corrupting influences.

    I hope you can find another way to pursue your research.


  8. I was taught over 40 years ago, that anyone taking an anti-depressant was at risk of suicide as they improved. The logic was that the physically apathy of depression improved ahead of the mental aspects – particularly the belief that you would never get better. This resulted in people who now had the energy to commit suicide (which they had not had before) but still had the unhappiness. To attempt suicide was logical.

    If true, this means that any antidepressant is problematic.

    Seth: I think there is a lot of truth to this. But I wonder if it is the whole problem with SSRIs. David Healy found that an SSRI, when given to non-depressed persons, caused “dark thoughts” — thoughts of suicide and violence.

  9. @Wb thanks for that. I certainly haven’t given up on the idea. I think once I get past Masters level, I might have more luck. For a thesis, they generally like a bit of background research so that there is a good chance of getting a significant finding. Also the funding tends to revolve around certain areas that the professors are already researching and murderous SSRI users is not one of those. As well, I could already see problems with ethics: getting accurate info from psychs on what these people were taking (privacy act!) and, well, there just aren’t that many people that go crazy in this way. Even if every single one of them was taking SSRI’s, it would only be a drop in the bucket of total people taking them and therefore, not really indicative of anything.

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