Behavioral Insights Underlying Mental Health Problems: A Review of "Taking America off Drugs" by Stephen Ray Flora: Albany, New York, State University of New York Press

Article excerpt

Within the United States, the National Institute of Mental Health reports that 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder. This same institution reports that the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and Canada is mental illness. So, this translates to roughly 57 million people in the United States and Canada that are "mentally disordered." The Center for Disease Control in 2005 revealed that of the 2.4 billion prescriptions that were written, 118 million were for antidepressants! From 1985 to 1994, the number of stimulants prescribed tripled and the number of mood altering drugs doubled (Harshbarger, 2007). Is there a need to state the obvious?

The marketing practices of the pharmaceutical industry have recently been questioned, as well as its lobbying efforts (see Wyatt & Midkiff, 2007). While clearly some drug interventions are successful, these lobby efforts led to overstated biological claims followed by funding shifts, which made research funding for behavioral work extremely difficult (Wong, 2007). The drug craze in this country has reached the point along with efforts to get medication to all Americans that even the American Psychological Association seems to be pushing for prescription privileges for its members. Enter Stephen Ray Flora's (2007) exciting new book, which allows for the balance to be explored.

In Stephen Ray Flora's (2007) well crafted book Taking America Off Drugs: Why Behavio ral Therapy Is More Effective for Treating ADHD, OCD, Depression, and Other Psychological Problems, it is stated with undue certainty that America is over-prescribed medications. Dr. Flora takes a bold but necessary approach to reviewing psychosocial interventions for common "psychiatric disorders." goes in depth with his investigation on America's most preferred treatment for mental "disorders". He examines several "common disorders" and this preferred treatment and compares it to behavioral therapy. Flora does an excellent job in citing support for his claim that behavioral therapy is much more effective and has much longer lasting results with fewer side effects. With a solid selection of topics, Flora has written an excellent book to share with the lay public and local policy makers.

Flora explains most of these common "disorders" as typical everyday issues that the average American must confront. However, Americans have been deceived to believe that if they feel sad, fat, ugly, scared, and hyper (to name just a few) slightly more or less than the average person, they must be suffering from some sort of mental illness and thus must be prescribed medication. He further explains that the drug companies have been working in conjunction with our physician's to get us hooked onto these medications; for as Flora demonstrates, we cannot be removed from these medications without the symptoms returning and, when the symptoms do return, they may be worse than those symptoms that initially required the person to seek treatment. Thus, making prescription drugs very profitable and a part of ones daily routine indefinitely.

So as it goes, each chapter outlines the cause and symptoms of each disorder according to a behavioral explanation and drug therapy explanation. The available behavioral treatments that are evidence-based for effectiveness are compared to the drugs treatments on the market to target the infamous "chemical imbalance" for every disorder. In striking balance, Flora acknowledges that behavioral change can alter the chemical activity in the brain. Although the pharmacological explanation (chemical imbalance) for all disorders is hardly individualized in explaining the complex behavioral-environmental interactions that humans partake in on a daily basis and historically. This is how the behavioral/psychotherapeutic explanation and contrast of effectiveness is debated throughout the book. …