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Cognitive Dissonance, BigPharma and the Psychiatric Industry

Cognitive Dissonance, BigPharma and the Psychiatric Industry

by Gary G. Kohls, MD
June 4, 2014

In my weekly Duty to Warn column, which I have been writing for Duluth’s Reader since 2009, I have written a number of essays about issues that should be of serious concern for mental health practitioners whose practices rely on the heavy use of psychotropic drugs. Patients - and their loved ones - should also be concerned about the potential for long-term adverse effects of these brain-altering medications.

The major themes that I have dealt with in some of those essays have included: 1) the known dangers of the synthetic drugs that are commonly prescribed for often temporary emotional problems; 2) the serious, often life-threatening withdrawal symptoms that can result when these drugs are stopped or tapered down (thus indicating that the drugs were dependency-inducing/addicting); 3) information about brain nutrient therapy for brain-malnourished folks who may actually be neurologically-impaired and not simply mentally-impaired; 4) safer, non-toxic, non-drug alternative approaches to mental ill health; 5) information about the reality of combat and non-combat-induced psychological traumas (PTSD) as causative factors in mental ill health; and 6) the large variety of aspects of PTSD that have been mis-diagnosed as “mental illnesses of unknown origin”.

My writings were inspired by my clinical experiences as an independent holistic health care practitioner with over a thousand patients who had mental ill health issues over the decade before I retired in 2008. The vast majority of my patients (approaching 100%) had been victims of acute or chronic psychological, physical, sexual and/or spiritual violence (battered child syndrome, battered woman syndrome, child abuse and neglect, etc), all traumas that initiated their entry into America’s mental healthcare system, a system that has been almost totally dominated – starting in the 1960s - by the giant drug company’s very profitable, pseudo-scientific approaches, misleading advertising, and cunning 24/7 promotion of their unaffordable and often neurotoxic, dementia-inducing drugs.

I’m just one of a number of whistle-blowers world-wide who have been “crying in the wilderness”, going up against the overwhelming propaganda from the transnational megacorporations who are in the game primarily for their economic profit and for the profits of their shareholders and their highly paid lobbyists, spokespersons and spin doctors.

The Hippocratic Oath – has the Big Business of Medicine made it Obsolete?

I took the Hippocratic Oath (“first do no harm”) the day I received my medical degree, as did the honorable psychiatrist/authors Peter Breggin, Loren Mosher, Joseph Glenmullen, David Healy, Grace Jackson and a number of other courageous and altruistic whistle-blowing physicians who have regarded it as their sacred duty to warn unsuspecting others about the hidden dangers of synthetic, brain-altering and addictive psychiatric drugs that are contaminating the bodies of hundreds of millions of unsuspecting humans. These courageous psychiatrists took the oath seriously, even though they all were ostracized (because of their unwelcome truth-telling) by most of the members of their own profession. Each of these psychiatrists had their careers threatened for rocking the boat. It seemed that none of their good deeds went unpunished.

George Orwell understood the whistleblower’s dilemma well when he said: "The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.” And that is where the concept of cognitive dissonance comes in, being willfully blind or ignorant when being confronted by new truths.

Cognitive Dissonance and the Drug Industry

Several years ago, the Reader published an open letter to me from a group of threatened mental health practitioners (whom, I must add, were actually partially supportive of some of the accusations I had made against the psychopharmaceutical industry). The group unexpectedly recommended two important books that totally backed up what I had been writing about. Those books included Dr Marcia Angell’s 2004 book, The Truth About Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It, and investigative journalist Robert Whitaker’s Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs and the Astonishing Rise in Mental Illness in America ( (Interestingly, Dr Angell had been fired as Editor-in-Chief of the New England Journal of Medicine when she raised concerns about BigPharma’s influence on NEJM articles.)

I implore concerned readers to Google these authors and watch the many YouTube videos that expose the unwelcome truths about BigPharma, starting with, and then expanding from, this site: It is also suggested that readers access the vast information about alternative, potentially curative, non-drug approaches to mental healthcare at Also consider watching some of my video interviews on YouTube by typing in ‘gary kohls’ after accessing the YouTube site.

Cognitive dissonance is the psychological discomfort that most people experience when their deeply held beliefs are contradicted by new information that disproves the old beliefs. Since it is impossible for thinking persons to simultaneously hold two mutually exclusive beliefs, anxiety and confusion can result.

Denial, Ad Hominem Attacks, and Killing the Messenger

However, cognitive dissonance, especially in people that might have been brain-washed from childhood in dogmatic systems, especially close-minded, cult-like faith-based ones, often results in denial of the new facts and/or hostile responses to the bearer of the new information, which is then more easily ignored without having to consider the new truths. The hostile action against the bearer of new information often takes the form of “ad hominem attacks”.

Attacking (or, figuratively speaking, “killing”) the messenger of a new unwelcome truth, rather than rationally dealing with the truth, is a commonly used tactic when the new information can’t be refuted using logic.

Ad hominem attacks have been used as a political tactic by infamous people like the fascist Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment. It seems that Goebbels’ classic ad hominem attacks are still commonly utilized in the notoriously slanderous and libelous name-calling from right-wing American talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and many of the talking heads on FoxNews. Ad hominem attacks expose the name-caller’s weaknesses however, but the shouting does effectively distract listeners from the issue at hand until the next commercial break changes the subject.

Unfair and endlessly repeated verbal attacks against whistle-blowers (including peacemakers, environmentalists, feminists, human rights/anti-racism/antiwar activists, etc, etc) often succeed in angering-up the listener-supporters of talk show host celebrities like Limbaugh (whose devotees proudly call themselves “DittoHeads”). These blinded and blinkered supporters are then distracted from hearing all sides of an important issue. So uninformed conclusions are drawn that then become rigid, unexamined doctrinal beliefs that make the believers in the propaganda ripe for refusing to believe and deal with new truths. Politics in America have been deeply polarized lately because of the cognitive dissonance and such anti-democracy realities like hostile mud-slinging and name-calling – which are typical of right-wing extremist groups.

But cognitive dissonance is also rampant among America’s psych drug prescribers, psych drug consumers, the corporate drug-makers and the corporate-controlled media. Whenever these groups are confronted with the fact that the drugs they once trusted and profited from were not as safe or as effective as they had previously been led to believe, they go into denial. Or as Upton Sinclair once said: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

BigPharma and many of their willing and eager partners of the numerous medical industry trade groups that profit from quick-fix drug treatments (like the American Psychiatric Association and the AMA, to name only two) have done cunningly effective, mass media work in discrediting potentially curative, non-drug approaches like psychotherapy, education, nutritional therapy, naturopathy, massage therapy, etc, all of which are regarded by BigPharma as dangerous competitors to their highly profitable drugs (whose inevitable side effects are often “treated” with additional drugs to cover up the adverse effects).

The psychiatric whistle-blowers mentioned above are simply trying to achieve a tiny bit of balance to the over-represented corporate side of important issues. The reality is that they – and we - are in a fight-to-the-death David vs. Goliath situation. Tragically, in the current versions of the old Bible story, the corporate Goliaths have less than 1% of the population numbers but over 99% of the money, 99% of the politicians, 99% of the weapons, 99% of the advertising opportunities, and 99% of the press coverage. And equally importantly - since 2011’s Citizen’s United decision – Goliath might have only 5/9ths of the pro-corporate Supreme Court on its side – but that simple majority does the trick for tyrannical entities in America.

”Whoever pays the piper, calls the tune”

It is useful to recall the following truth that Bob Dylan wrote about, “money doesn’t talk, it screams”. And BigPharma (with its non-human megacorporate allies BigBusiness, BigPsychiatry, BigMedicine, BigMedia and BigFood) has been out-screaming, out-shouting and crowding out the skeptics of the agenda to label temporarily psychologically distressed normal people with a permanent mental illness that needs drugs for the rest of their life. The first step in this diabolical process was legalizing the previously unethical and illegal direct to consumer (DTC) advertising in 1996. (New Zealand is the only other nation in the world to have done so.) That was the year that millions of potential pill-popping “just gimme a pill doc” consumers started being inundated by the absurd prime time TV psych drug commercials that most thinking people laugh at. But, in corporate-controlled America, whoever pays the piper calls the tune, and if you don’t have the money, you don’t have a voice.

When one follows the money trail, one will then have a chance to better understand the One-Percenters that occupy the over-privileged top of American finance, banking, war profiteering, politics, corporate culture, etc.

Over 90% of the drug research in America has, for decades, been designed, funded, published and totally controlled by the pharmaceutical industry’s multinational, multibillion dollar megacorporations, in whose interest it is to ensure – by hook or by crook - that its paid researchers and statisticians will obtain results favorable enough to get the co-opted FDA to approve the drug for marketing.

The Cymbalta Suicides

Indeed, both the lab animal and human (clinical) trials have often been so corrupted that only one or two modestly positive drug trials are reportable while the trials that showed negative outcomes were shelved, never to see the light of day. In some cases, trials with serious negative results were still submitted to the FDA – such as the infamous Cymbalta “antidepressant” human trials that resulted in 5 completed suicides [in subjects that had been screened-out if they had any suicidal tendencies]. Those 5 suicides did not deter the FDA from granting Eli Lilly & Company marketing approval to the drug that was intended to replace Prozac when the patent to that block-buster drug expired. FDA scientists are not immune to cognitive dissonance when their job security is at stake.

Do mainstream medical journal editors (with the exception of Dr Angell) suffer from cognitive dissonance, or are they simply in bed with the corporations that fund their magazines? It is no secret that most mainstream medical and psychiatric journals are heavily subsidized by multinational drug companies and medical device makers. Many of these journals have an embarrassingly large amount of drug advertising in them but, at the same time, these same journals allow essentially no space for researchers who have important contradictory reports or warnings to report. Submissions of unwelcome negative animal lab research or human clinical reports that go up against BigPharma’s claims are typically rejected.

The same conflicts of interest are on display at most major medical conventions and conferences. These “educational” conferences are heavily subsidized by BigPharma. Most thinking physicians are embarrassed by or appalled at the large numbers of pharmaceutical companies, with free trinkets and food to attract visitors to their tables in order to pitch their latest unaffordable brain-altering drug, most of which have not been tested for long-term safety or effectiveness prior to marketing.

I have observed that medical meetings that are dependent on pharmaceutical company support do not invite presenters who present information about non-drug alternatives that go up against drug and medical industry dogma. Whistle-blowers are not welcome at such medical conventions. Truth-tellers rain on BigPharma’s parade and thus are excluded. The pipers who are calling the pro-drug tune fear the negative impacts to their profitability if alternative approaches – especially if they are potentially curative - are allowed a voice.

Whatever happened to fully informed consent?

I was taught in my medical school training at the University of Minnesota that before prescribing a medication, the physician was ethically and medico-legally obliged to fully inform the patient about the potential hazards of the drug, surgical procedure or other treatment prescribed. Then the patient was to be given an opportunity to refuse or accept the prescription or procedure recommended. Consent to surgical procedures was to be signed and the signature witnessed. Alternatives to the suggested treatment program were also to be offered.

Unfortunately, and often tragically, a physician’s obtaining fully informed consent before prescribing a drug no longer seems to be the standard of care in the Big Business of modern medicine, where high productivity, high clinic patient turnover and high income-generation is the norm, often short-changing thoroughness and quality time spent fully informing and listening to the concerns of the patient. Stopping to fully discuss the potential dangers of medications is often replaced by the handing out of computer-generated items and a signature by the patient guaranteeing that they have been fully informed of the risks and now thoroughly understand the pros and cons. Corporate lawyers assure us that such short-cuts to consent hold up in court.

I came to the sobering conclusion about the waning importance of informed consent after talking to thousands of potentially curable patients in my 40 years of private practice experience. Most of the patients that came to me, especially in my holistic mental health practice, did so because they knew that they were both addicted to and simultaneously sickened by their psychiatric drugs (way too often involving combinations of two or more psych drugs, no combination of which, by the way, has ever been thoroughly tested for safety or efficacy - even in the animal labs).

Most of my patients had tried and failed to get off their drugs without having terrible withdrawal symptoms (always involving totally new symptoms that hadn’t been there prior to starting the drug, no matter what the diagnosis had been). I saw hundreds of patients in my holistic practice who were totally unaware that their drug could cause permanent tardive dyskinesia, tardive dementia, brain damage, permanent drug-induced disability, temporary or permanent sexual dysfunction, violence, suicidality, Parkinsonism, depression, mania, psychotic reactions, atrophy (shrinkage) of the brain, diabetes, obesity, insomnia, hyperlipidemia, loss of IQ points, loss of memory, etc, etc, all of which were mentioned in the PDR (Physician’s Desk Reference).

It is important to point out that the above short list of serious and even life-threatening adverse effects have been documented again and again in the medical literature (especially the medical literature that hasn’t been subsidized by the drug industry) but had not been mentioned by the prescribing physician. Most importantly, most of my patients had never been informed that they could become dependent on those substances and therefore experience withdrawal symptoms when cutting down or going off an existing drug.

Obtaining fully informed consent is a time-consuming problem for modern medical practitioners, and it always has been. But, given 1) the millions of drugs that are being prescribed today just in America (many of which are capable of crossing the blood brain barrier into the brain), 2) the 3,600 virtually unreadable fine print pages in the PDR and 3) the enormous complexities of the billions of possible combinations of two or more drugs ingested by any given patient for weeks, months or years, the problem has to be far worse now than when I was prescribing drugs decades ago (the toxic natures of which I had been kept unaware through most of my career). Knowing what I know now, I shudder to think of the harm that my choices in prescribing did to my unsuspecting patients in decades past.

Therefore, I consider it my duty to continue to warn others of such risks.

DISCLAIMER: Readers who are interested in reducing their psych drug use should consult their prescribing physician and not suddenly stop them.Stopping drugs suddenly can be more dangerous than starting them. They should consult a physician knowledgeable in neuroscience, brain nutrition and with experience in helping people safely discontinue psychiatric medications.


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