Why This Doctor Is Taking Prescription Drugs to Task (Video)

Cohen tells Outlier: "They’ve never found any imbalance associated with any psychiatric diagnosis, except after you take medication"

By Amy Spencer
January 8, 2020

Are too many patients overdiagnosed and overmedicated? David Cohen, Ph.D., a professor in the Luskin School of Public Health at UCLA, thinks so and he blames the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 3rd Edition (DSM-III), the massive tome used by healthcare professionals to diagnose mental disorders.

In an interview with Outlier, Cohen said “you have psychiatry before the DSM-III and psychiatry after the DSM-III and it’s really like, ‘before the 10 commandments and after the 10 commandments.’” It changed everything and not in a good way. 

 In the past, psychoanalysts would thoroughly treat a patient before arriving at a diagnosis, but after a 20-year assault on the profession as a kind of quackery or pseudoscience, Cohen explained, the field sought to remedicalize itself for legitimacy, which resulted in medically pigeonholing patients before analysis.

According to Cohen, grouping people within distinct classifications would allow researchers to do “biochemical studies and study what distinguishes them from other groups inside their body from other people who don’t have the diagnosis.

“We’ll find the biomarkers. We’ll find the brain dysfunction. We’ll find a chemical imbalance,’” he emphasized. The problem with this approach? “They’ve never found any imbalance associated with any psychiatric diagnosis, except after you take medication,” Dr. Cohen explained, chillingly pointing out that all five major classes of therapeutic drugs have been shown to atrophy the brain, particularly antipsychotics.  

“No one really wants you to know because someone is benefiting from their existence,” he told Outlier, noting that the American Psychiatric Association, which created and publishes the DSM, reaps the hefty financial reward of the millions of copies it sells, and the $620 billion pharmaceutical industry isn’t going to rally for your protection against the drugs it manufactures anytime soon.  

And practitioners who see the deleterious effects the current system has on the American people’s well-being and want to challenge the establishment are prevented from doing so, Cohen says. “Their practice is constrained by the fact that they must give a diagnosis to get reimbursed by the insurance companies.”

Watch Outlier’s interview with Cohen to see why he thinks we ought to maintain a level of skepticism toward the medicalization of our psychologies and pursue an independent investigation into the pharmaceuticals we’re prescribed. 


About the Writer:
Amy Spencer is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has written cover stories for ParadeMen’s JournalNew York magazine and Glamour and has written three books about happiness and optimism, including Bright Side Up recommended by O, the Oprah Magazine.

Outlier Disclaimer

This site is for educational purposes and not a substitute for professional medical care by a doctor or otherwise qualified medical professional. The information provided by Outlier Magazine is on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services.

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