Saturday, February 06, 2016

#Drapetomania is in other forms alive and well

A #scientist by the name of Samuel A. Cartwright wrote a paper defining a mental disorder called drapetomania. The suggested treatment was that "they should be punished until they fall into that submissive state which was intended for them to occupy. They have only to be kept in that state, and treated like children to prevent and cure them from running away". The mental disorder described slaves that run away. Drapetomania is no longer believed to be a mental disorder.

In the twenty first century, professor Jonathan Metzl wrote a book called The Protest Psychosis, it describes how schizophrenia was used to define people who had notions about their civil rights. The book describes an era where the DSM-2 was the latest and greatest to define mental health.

It is all too easy to welcome the publication of Mr Metzl as an important work as has been done by leading psychological institutions. Both Mr Cartwright and the DSM-2 have already been shown to be obsolete.

What the aftermath of the DSM-2 and Mr Cartwright prove is that papers on psychiatry cannot be relied on because current approaches to psychiatry are equally problematic. A recent publication (in Dutch) provides many arguments. One of the more relevant arguments is that many of the current studies are not reproducible and what they describe are based on theoretical constructs that are not universally agreed upon.

The book argues that publications about subjects that are fashionable have a better chance of being published over publications that expose methodological weaknesses (Delespaul, Milo, Schalken, Boevink & Os, 2015 p31,32).

Given that there is enough literature to support this point of view, what does it mean for a Wikipedia where sources are a holy grail that is to be ingested without all too much salt? What sources can be relied on and why and how do we recognise official pot quackery?

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