Rants & Essays

The Cult's War On Psychiatry

By Thomas M. Burton

L. Ron Hubbard long harbored a profound hatred for psychiatrists. Still waging war on psychiatry, a Scientology-founded group called the Citizen's Commission on Human Rights has targeted Prozac, the nation's top-selling anti-depressant. The group is calling it a "killer drug" that drives people to murder or suicide. Campaign tactics include press releases, talk show appearances and lobbying with Congress and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban Prozac.

To the dismay of some doctors and the drug's manufacturer, Eli Lilly and Co., the campaign has had some success. Prozac's share of the anti-depressant market has slipped to 20 percent from a high of nearly 25 percent.

Like all anti-depressants, Prozac does have side effects, including nervousness and sleeplessness. But Lilly says it has no evidence that the drug can turn patients either murderous or suicidal. Neither does the FDA, which last August rejected Scientologists' call to ban the drug. Furthermore, Prozac has been known to dramatically relieve depression and improve the lives of patients. "For many," says Dr. Fredwick K. Goodwin of the Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration, "Prozac has truly been a miracle, the first medication to rescue them from the living hell we call depression."

Yet at the St. Vincent Stress Center in Indianapolis, severely depressed patients were frightened enough by one Scientology official's remarks on television to stop taking the medication. They deteriorated rapidly. "I have people ending up in the hospital," says Dr. Paul Riley, the medical director. "I'm very angry about this. Somebody's going to end up dead from coming off Prozac."