If you have been or are a psychology major, or you’re thinking about becoming one, you’re probably familiar with (or will become familiar with very quickly) people riding your major off as humanities, soft-science, and asking you “bro, you gunna be my counselor now?” There’s a reason psychology isn’t taken seriously, and part of it is the narrative psychology professionals have created and perpetrated. Let me explain.
Having been this major for a while now, I see two very distinct branches of psychology: the humanities side that dominates the media and is what everyone thinks of when you say you’re majoring in psychology, and the science side, which rarely ever makes the media unless the research hasn’t been peer reviewed and the researcher is money hungry.
Earlier in the year, I wrote a series called “Is Psychology a Science?” which you can read the first of at this link. We concluded there is a lot of science and that the problem is it isn’t being taken seriously, or it’s purposefully being subverted.
At work, I’ve spoken with plenty of people who have been prescribed Gabapentin for anxiety or depression or as a PRN (as needed) medication. After a panic attack which I mistook for an allergic reaction to a medication, I ended up in Urgent Care and was prescribed Gabapentin “to make it through the weekend” because it’s “really great for anxiety.” I picked up the prescription (with insurance, it only cost eighty one cents, kind of how Percocet only cost me one dollar, and no, I don’t have high tier insurance) and got straight to work.
Gabapentin is FDA approved for treating Seizures and Postherapetic neuralgia (nerve pain, particularly after Shingles). It is often prescribed off-label for anxiety (usually social phobia, GAD, panic attacks, and generally worry), depression, insomnia, neuropathic pain related to fibromyalgia, regular pain, just pain, migraines, any headaches that could probably go away with aspirin or time, as a replacement for benzodiazepines (Ativan, e.t.c), as a replacement for opioids (oxycodone, e.t.c), alcohol withdrawal, benzodiazepine withdrawal, alcohol treatment (reduce drinking or sustain abstinence), bipolar disorder, any mood disorder, any perported mood dysfunction, restless leg syndrome. It can be taken as needed or daily. It belongs to its own class of drugs: the gapapentinoids. Another drug you may recognize from commercials that belongs to the gabapentoid class is Pregabalin, a.k.a Lyrica.
Anyone remember Lyrica commercials? God. Disturbing shit. I don’t watch television anymore, only streaming services, so I haven’t seen a pharmaceutical ad in a while. I don’t miss it.
I didn’t take the Gabapentin because research told me what the doctor didn’t, or couldn’t: there is no robust evidence supporting Gabapentin for any of the off-label prescriptions above. My first indication of this came from a Vice article, which I was hesitant to read because, well, it’s Vice. So I took their investigative journalism with a grain of salt and used it to guide my database research. Here’s what I learned:
Well, the same rhetoric permeates the clinical psychology department of the world as well. That is, psychologists are more likely to trust the word of their colleague than to go read a primary research source themselves, scrutinize the methods, results, and read the confounding variables. Human beings are naturally trusting, and that is a beautiful thing. It gets us into a lot of trouble though–most likely a colleague hasn’t read the primary research either, and is simply going off what their colleague told them.
Believe it or not, this is a research topic in psychology.
I came across this analysis in my searches this morning. In summary, the researchers did a qualitative analysis of different psychologists in private practice, and their attitudes toward things like empirically supported treatments. What did they find?
The analysis is much longer than what I’ve listed here, and gets deep into some real topics anyone considering going into clinical or counseling psychology should pay attention to. The message to take away here is that attitudes and beliefs are driving how we are being treated both in the psychological world and the medical field. Physicians fall prey to the “word-of-mouth” about drugs in the same way psychologists fall prey to the “word-of-mouth” about treatments. This is why I write these articles: it’s up to the consumers to play an active role in what they are putting into their body, how, and why. It’s also up to the consumers to be informed in treatments, ideas, and beliefs.
Otherwise, you’re giving your life up to someone who may not know what they’re talking about any better than you do.
Lastly, let’s get something straight: I’m thankful for every medical professional I’ve ever come in contact with, because they’ve all taught me something for better or for worse. I’m thankful for the front-line workers who have spent the last 8 or 9 months using insanely inventive strategies to try and keep their worse Covid patients alive. Doctors are reading researched evidence because the links to research are suddenly in the media, and researchers are putting out what works and what doesn’t, as they should always be. This scramble to beat Covid has stirred probably the most ethical (and probably also the most unethical) research that’s been done in a while.
It suddenly makes sense to do things right when your life is at stake.
The point is, stay informed, stay healthy, and read.
Agree or disagree? Leave it in the comments below, or find me here:
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