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By Bev MacPhee
March 30, 2015
NEW JERSEY –With the age of retirement upon me, and the new freedom I have to fulfill a dream of a freelance investigative reporter, I find I am very much interested in the advancements and new developments concerning the human body. One thing in particular I found while researching on my computer from my New Jersey home, was a statement in the July 11th edition of “Psychiatric Times” [the official publication of the American Psychiatric Association (APA)]by APA Director Ronald Pies, about how the chemical imbalance of the brain theory of mental illness is “…urban legend – never a theory seriously propounded by well-informed psychiatrists.” The statement dumbfounded me as every advertisement on psychiatric drugs I have ever seen promotes that their drugs work by correcting a chemical imbalance and because the FDA is required to stop fraudulent advertising of drugs.

With that thought in mind, I decided to do a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the highest authority I knew, the United States Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for any evidence they had on file showing :
“1. That a chemical imbalance of the brain causes mental illness;
2. What a proper balance of brain chemicals and/or neurotransmitter levels would be; and
3. What neurotransmitter levels such as in serotonin or dopamine would cause a person to have different biological mental illnesses such as depression, bi-polar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and schizophrenia.”

I thought that they would send me a quick answer to what must be a very common question but instead of answering it, SAMHSA referred my FOIA request to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

I found it exciting and unusual that this major societal answer to such an important question about life, from the world’s two highest mental health authorities, would soon be delivered to a retired grandmother in New Jersey . It is this promotion of chemical imbalance and neurotransmitter-correcting drugs that is why people take them, why the drugs are supposed to work at all and why people, including children, the elderly in nursing homes, mentally disturbed persons, prisoners and many other individuals are ordered by judges and other authorities that they must take them. The advertising is so prevalent that the chemical imbalance theory has become pop culture. But, is it true?

NIMH’s FOIA department sent my questions to the NIMH public relations people who sent me an answer, sort of. Their December 16, 2014 answer gave me a link to PubMed which basically contains most all medical studies on all subjects from all time periods, along with links to various blogs on the subject by NIMH Director Tom Insel. There was no direct answer except for direction on where to research.

I decided that the PubMed link would be too far-reaching to be considered an answer to my questions so I started researching the data by Director Insel as the official NIMH/SAMHSA answers on the subject. There was a lot of information, mostly written in medical terminology and on related subjects such as the psychiatric diagnostic manual, the ineffectiveness of psychiatric drugs and how “they do not work on most people.”

You can follow this line of research that I was given with research to the NIMH website, Dr. Thomas Insel’s blogs on antidepressants and schizophrenia treatment, his articleand this web page, Insel and his blogpost. The only reason that I am giving you all these different data sources in such a disjointed manner is that it is how I received them from NIMH instead of simply getting an official answer.

As I went through all this data, I realized that NIMH’s stance was that their research from improved neuroimaging equipment showed that different types of behavior, like anxiety or depression, seemed to come from different sections of the brain, as opposed to the current neurotransmitter theories and that with more answers, maybe 20-30 years in the future, we may find the sources of mental illness so that cures can be created.

On January 16th, 2015, after doing this research of the links that NIMH sent me, I asked NIMH to confirm, in layman terms, my new understanding of NIMH’s view on the cause of mental illness which was:

“Mental health scientists previously believed that the mental illnesses of depression and schizophrenia were caused by a chemical imbalance of the brain that was caused by an overall lack of serotonin or increase in dopamine. Great advances in neuroimaging that has now allowed us to see much more deeply into the brain shows that these and other mental illnesses are connected to deeper disorders within the neural systems of various parts of the brain and not by an altered amount of neurotransmitters which makes us closer to fully understanding the diseases and to finding mental illness cures.”

Instead of getting a simple confirmation or slight alteration in message with a little public relations spin from NIMH as I expected, I was referred to two more links January 27th to further research which were a video

Since I realized that NIMH’s public relations department was seemingly fearful of even telling a New Jersey grandmother that the mental health emperor has no clothes regarding real science behind the reason for mental illness or how drugs work, I decided to research further into these two links and they were very revealing. If you check yourself, you will find that NIMH sees many possibilities for the different mental disorders and that they certainly do not come from neurotransmitter levels such as too much dopamine or too little serotonin as we constantly and fraudulently see advertised.

So, Food and Drug Administration, please do your job by banning these fraudulent and misleading psychiatric drug ads that have a large percentage of our population hooked on drugs. When researching several psychiatric drug ads, they all generally stated that although they don’t know exactly how their drugs work, experts believe that they are correcting a chemical imbalance of the brain and neurotransmitter levels that cause mental illness. That is obviously misleading as our highest official mental health authority, National Institute of Mental Health, is giving other reasons for mental illness and also states that these mental health drugs do not help most people and never cure anyone. US citizens are counting on the FDA to be truthful with those of us, who have put their trust in them for so long, to protect us from fraudulent marketing and unworkable drugs. The FDA certainly should not be complicit in covering up the truth.

If any government official or media representative would like the exact email exchange of documents with SAMHSA and NIMH, feel free to email me at


Here is Some Additional Research Proving that Mental Disorders Are Not Caused by a Chemical Imbalance of the Brain:



…[T]he “chemical imbalance” image has been vigorously promoted by some pharmaceutical companies, often to the detriment of our patients’ understanding. In truth, the “chemical imbalance” notion was always a kind of urban legend- – never a theory seriously propounded by well-informed psychiatrists.

Psychiatric Times, Psychiatry’s New Brain-Mind and the Legend of the “Chemical Imbalance”July 11, 2011 by Ronald Pies, former President of the American Psychiatric Association.

Psychiatry: Chemical imbalances are mythical
“Chemical imbalances” are to psychiatry what “the missing link” is to evolution.
There is no scientific proof that chemical imbalances even exist, must less that they cause mental illness. Drugs don’t fix chemical imbalances in the brain, they create them.

“As one of our colleagues recently said, “Biochemical imbalances are the only diseases spread by word of mouth.”” ( Your Drug May Be Your Problem, Peter Breggin, David Cohen, 2007 AD, p 24)


Wayne Goodman, Chair of the US Food and Drug Administration Psychopharmacological Advisory Committee, who has described the serotonergic theory of depression as a “useful metaphor” for understanding depression, though not one that he uses with his own psychiatric patients.


The fatal flaws of “chemical imbalance” theory

As Elliot Valenstein Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of psychology and neuroscience at Michigan University, points out in his seminal book Blaming the Brain, “Contrary to what is often claimed, no biochemical, anatomical or functional signs have been found that reliably distinguish the brains of mental patients.” (p. 125)

In his book, Valenstein clearly and systematically dismantles the chemical imbalance theory:

1. Reducing levels of norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine does not actually produce depression in humans, even though it appeared to do so in animals.

2. The theory cannot explain why there are drugs that alleviate depression despite the fact that they have little or no effect on either serotonin or norepinephrine.

1. Drugs that raise serotonin and norepinephrine levels, such as amphetamine and cocaine, do not alleviate depression.

2. No one has explained why it takes a relatively long time before antidepressant drugs produce any elevation of mood. Antidepressants produce their maximum elevation of serotonin and norepinephrine in only a day or two, but it often takes several weeks before any improvement in mood occurs.

3. Although some depressed patients have low levels of serotonin and norepinephrine, the majority do not. Estimates vary, but a reasonable average from several studies indicates that only about 25 percent of depressed patients actually have low levels of these metabolites.

4. Some depressed patients actually have abnormally high levels of serotonin and norepinephrine, and some patients with no history of depression at all have low levels of these amines.

5. Although there have been claims that depression may be caused by excessive levels of monoamine oxydase (the enzyme that breaks down serotonin and norepinephrine), this is only true in some depressed patients and not in others.

6. Antidepressants produce a number of different effects other than increasing norepinephrine and serotonin activity that have not been accounted for when considering their activity on depression.

Another problem is that it is not now possible to measure serotonin and norepinephrine in the brains of patients. Estimates of brain neurotransmitters can only be inferred by measuring the biogenic amine breakdown products (metabolites) in the urine and cerebrospinal fluid. The assumption underlying this measurement is that the level of biogenic amine metabolites in the urine and cerebrospinal fluid reflects the amount of neurotransmitters in the brain. However, less than one-half of the serotonin and norepinephrine metabolites in the urine or cerebrospinal fluid come from the brain. The other half come from various organs in the body. Thus, there are serious problems with what is actually being measured.

Finally, there is not a single peer-reviewed article that can be accurately cited to support claims of serotonin deficiency in any mental disorder, while there are many articles that present counterevidence. Furthermore, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) does not list serotonin as the cause of any mental disorder. The American Psychiatric Press Textbook of Clinical Psychiatryaddresses serotonin deficiency as an unconfirmed hypothesis, stating “Additional experience has not confirmed the monoamine depletion hypothesis” ( Lacasse & Leo, 2005). See below link


Even as the retreat is occurring, it is truly amazing that millions and millions of people, in one of the richest countries in the world, with education institutions to die for, and unlimited research resources , could be fooled into thinking they have depression and a “chemical imbalance” because they have low levels of serotonin. As a matter of fact, starting in the 1990s—this was the case, despite research findings that levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin were unrelated to depression. How was it then that the American people, in particular, could be so duped? “Enter effective television commercials for antidepressents, portraying depression as caused by this “chemical imbalance”, and stating that antidepressants such as Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, and other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), were the cure.”


During the past three years the global pharmaceutical industry has significantly decreased its investment in new treatments for depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other psychiatric disorders.1 Some large companies, such as GlaxoSmithKline, have closed their psychiatric laboratories entirely. Others, such as Pfizer, have markedly decreased the size of their research programs. Yet others, such as AstraZeneca, have brought their internal research to a close and are experimenting with external collaborations on a smaller scale.

Psychiatric Drug Development: Diagnosing a Crisis


“ A serotonin deficiency for depression has not been found.” Psychiatrist John Glenmullen, clinical instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School in Prozac Backlash ( 2000).


“ I spent the first several years of my career doing full time research on brain serotonin metabolism, but I never saw any convincing evidence that any psychiatric disorder, including depression, results from a deficiency of brain serotonin. In fact we cannot measure brain serotonin levels in human beings so there is no way to test this theory. Some neuroscientists would question whether the theory is even viable, since the brain does not function in this way, as a hydraulic system.” Stanford psychiatrist David Burns, winner of the A.E. Bennett Award given for the Society for Biological Psychiatry , for his research on serotonin metabolism, when asked about the scientific status of the serotonin theory in 2003.


“Indeed no abnormality of serotonin in depression has ever been demonstrated.” Psychiatrist David Healy, former secretary for the British Association for Psychopharmacology and historian of the SSRI’s, Let Them Eat Prozac. (2004).

“We have hunted for big simple neurochemical explanations for psychiatric disorders and have not found them.” Psychiatrist Kenneth Kendler the coeditor-in-chief of Psychological Medicine, in a 2005 review article.