How I have created drug addicts and psych patients: A psychiatrist nurse’s account of the system

Working as a nurse with disturbed children, guest writer Joe Kamm has a very unique perspective on how many people end up addicted to drugs. A provokative account on the system of psychiatric care that can really only come from an insider here.

minute read
By Joe Kamm

The psychiatric system: Creating addicts?

As a nurse working in a residential treatment facility, I would say that I have turned at least twenty children into drug addicts and/or lifelong psych patients. I’m not saying this because I’m proud of it; I’m saying it because it’s true. When you see a mentally ill person on the street, begging for money to buy drugs or alcohol, you might stop and wonder how their story began. Why they ended up that way. For a good portion of these people, the answer is; because of people like me.

Most of these people were born into circumstances that you can’t even imagine, nor would you ever care to. The parents are almost always addicts, criminals, or deceased. The children see violence and death and desperation from the moment they come home from the hospital. They are extremely damaged.

Now, I am of the opinion that, if a person is constantly sad or angry or delusional for no reason, he might have a chemical imbalance. However, if a person is sad, angry, or delusional because he has a very good reason for being that way, he is simply a human being responding to his environment. So this “damaged” or “emotionally disturbed” child enters the system because he can’t live at home.

This is where I come in.

Psychiatric drugs are not an option.

When a child first enters the system, most of the time, he hates drugs. He has seen the horrible things that they have done to his family and friends and wants no part of them. The child then talks with doctors who convince him that his sadness and his anger are not normal. That they are symptoms of an underlying illness that he will have to live with his entire life.

The child is skeptical; he still doesn’t buy it.

Then, something happens. He gets into a fight or has an outburst of anger. Suddenly the drugs are no longer an option. The doctor is protecting him and those around him by forcing the drugs on him. It becomes my job, as a nurse, to see to it that he takes the drugs as prescribed and to inform behavioral staff when he is non-compliant. The drugs weaken his resolve.

After taking the drugs, he thinks less about his home life. He becomes more apathetic. More docile. He gets fatter and slower but much less angry and depressed.

Then, something else happens.

A family member dies. Maybe the only family member that the child has. He starts having emotions again. The child who once hated the thought of numbing himself with drugs goes running to the doctor for more. And when those stop being effective, he asks for new drugs.

I watch the pile of meds grow larger and larger with each passing week. I watch the child become less and less animated. Instead of being angry with me for giving him the drugs, he is now angry with me when I am late passing them out.

Then, it’s time for him to be discharged.

He leaves the facility and steps into a world where he has no means of getting the drugs that he is now physically, mentally, and emotionally dependent on. If there weren’t any chemical imbalances when he began all of this, there most certainly are now. His young brain is forever altered and, worst of all, he has learned the most dangerous lesson that people like me can teach young children. That emotions are bad and can be alleviated with substances.

Street drugs help kids cope.

He turns to street drugs to stop the thoughts and emotions that are now flooding his brain. The emotions and thoughts that he was never given the opportunity to process and deal with in a healthy and productive way. He smokes. He drinks. He snorts. He shoots. He loses interest in the way he looks or whether or not he has a job or even a place to live.

Then, one day he catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror and breaks down. He knows that it’s too late. He steps back onto the sidewalk and as you walk past him he reaches out his hand hoping to get some money to support his habit.

You look the other way.


About the author: Joe Kamm is a registered nurse, recovering addict, and author of the psych-fiction ebook series Ellum which is available now on Kindle and will be available on iBooks, Nook and all other e-readers in March. He currently lives in New Jersey with his wife and son. For more info go to, “Like” his Facebook author page, or check out his updates on Goodreads and Amazon.
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.


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  1. In a treatment team meeting regarding my son, who was a patient in a psyche clinic, a clinician made the remark, “well, these drugs are not like street drugs because they don’t cause addiction.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I said, “Yes, they do.” The psychiatrist there asked me to point out on the documents which I had typed which had book titles and other resources listed there, which of the listed resources state that psychotropic meds cause addiction. It’s really too bad that psychiatrists giving and forcing our children to take their drugs don’t even know they cause addiction, more specifically dependence. My son has been forced to take these drugs for 25 years. He has fixed delusions now. They don’t go away. They started in 2007. He’s probably brain damaged by now. His life has been stolen from him. My son has been stolen from me. And the tears won’t go away.

  2. BTW, otherwise, thank you for saying it as it is! I spoke about this in a talk I gave at the annual meeting of the Danish psych nurses’ association a couple of years ago. I have to admit, I was flabbergasted by the response: 95% of the nurses present sat and were avidly nodding in agreement with me. I looked around in disbelief and said: “So, you’re telling me you know this, and you’re not doing anything about it? You’re just going along with the labelling and drugging of people and keep silent??…” They all dropped their heads, intensely studying their footwear…

  3. “Now, I am of the opinion that, if a person is constantly sad or angry or delusional for no reason, he might have a chemical imbalance.” Working in the field, it is my experience that, yes, more often than not people do have a very good, for themselves and others obvious, reason to be constantly sad or angry or for resorting to survival strategies that then get called “delusions” or “hallucinations”, etc. Sometimes though, the very good reason isn’t that obvious, neither to the person herself nor others. Nevertheless, I haven’t yet met one single person labeled with a “mental illness” or addiction, where no very good reason for their so-labeled response to their environment could be found. Just because the dysfunctionality they were surrounded by from the moment they came home from the hospital — or even before — isn’t obvious, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. And unless a chemical imbalance can be proved to be actually present, beyond doubt, in each and every individual case, nobody has the right to deem another person “chemically imbalanced”, just because they’re unable to recognise the less obvious, but nevertheless very good reason for the other to be continuously sad or angry or for resorting to survival strategies that then get called “delusions” or “hallucinations”, etc., or substance abuse for that sake. “We are effectively destroying ourselves by violence masquerading as love,” as R.D. Laing said. Just because abuse is inflicted “for your own good” it doesn’t mean it’s not abuse.

  4. Thank you, Joe. It would be great if other professionals would come forward and speak the Truth about their participation in the psychiatric-psychological protocol of drugging and labeling children and youth with a ‘psychic tattoo’….never goes away and creates hopelessness, despair, foggy mind and suicides. Only wish our social workers in these sick care systems and networks would stand up for our clients and not allow these abusive and killer treatments. Our integrative and holistic health practices are based on science and improve the quality of lives health and relationships.

  5. @the author of the article: “Now, I am of the opinion that, if a person is constantly sad or angry or delusional for no reason, he might have a chemical imbalance. However, if a person is sad, angry, or delusional because he has a very good reason for being that way, he is simply a human being responding to his environment.” Well YOU YOURSELF just delineated the way someone IS given psych drugs! “chemical imbalance’—that is an old old theory.. Never been anything but Never been proven by any test of any kind whatsoever. Ir’a what psychiatrists (through Biological Psychiatry) used and still do to some degree (though now it’s been largely replaced by the ‘synapse malfunction’ theories) to dole out drugs to ‘fix’ people with. Such a stance simply leaves it up to guess who, Psychiatry, to decide whether a person has or doesn’t have a ‘reason’ to be sad, angry, or delusional’, all on a subjective opinion basis You just left the door wide open for them. They don’t engage in ‘talk therapy’ (too time intensive to be financially profitable), they drug. You need to educate yourself about Psychiatry a lot more. No tests exist to prove anyone has a ‘chemical imbalance’, no proven etiology (causes) of any ‘mental disorder’, no tests that can show definitively that someone has any ‘mental disorder’, and doesn’t even have a formal medical model for ‘mental disorder’

  6. Thanks so much for your honest message – the public needs to understand how the “helping” systems they fund hurt people. But I would just take issue with your statement about your “opinion that, if a person is constantly sad or angry or delusional for no reason, he might have a chemical imbalance.” In fact, even psychiatry admits there is no such thing as a “chemical imbalance,” that this is just a metaphor they use to get people to take their drugs. In fact, research shows that 95%+ of people with psychiatric labels are survivors of chidhood abuse and other trauma.

  7. There is also a whole book that covers how the drugs are creating disability, especially in children who once prescribed a drug go on to become permanently disabled adults. The book basically exposes the medical model fraud but it doesn’t take it quite far enough as it doesn’t precisely call for an all out ban. The book is called “Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America”.

    Drugs origins: Traced back to big oil and oil re-fining methods. Basically the first major tranquilizers and psychic energizers were refinement byproducts of petroleum, finding a use in medicine when they found they worked as chemical lobotomies. Then the whole medical model of there being a chemical imbalance was created to sell and market the drug, but it’s been proven to not exist. There is no chemical imbalance, and it’s a complete fraud to cover up the harm the drugs cause to people.

  8. The problem the children have is called the medical model where everything in his brain and thus his life is called a disease. They classify it as disease because it allows them to then treat the condiyion as one even though it is not, allowing prescription of deadly brain damaging drugs. There is no scientific validity to how the drugs work or in what the problem is in the person as there are no such things as chemical imbalances. It has been proven the drugs have an effect not because something is fixed but instead because things can’t work in the brain. This is called major tranquikization as pathways between nerves are blocked 80-100% erasing memories, preventing nerve site activation, damaging all nerve impulses from memory to emotion to senses to learning. The brain shrinks from the loss of neurons and damage 4-10% .. The person develops encephalopathy and nerve damage, to which a person cannot recover from. Bipolar, psychosis, and treatment resisive depression and anxiety and irretability are created and recovery prevented. Antidepressants similarly knock out major pathways and chemical controls in the brain, dysregulating nerve function enough to prevent emotions and create apathy and numbness… People become uncontrolled walking and talking zombies of their former selves having their body trek on with only part of itself alive and well and working. This causes mood destabilization and hallucinations that cannot be cured. Then more drugs are required to control the damaged brain and people get permanent akathisia and cannot stop seeking drugs. Their ability to even remember how to live normally is completely erased and stabilization is impossible.

    In fact many groups are against drugging and find psychiatry to be a fraud of looting people and making money off false patented manufactured treatments that kill. Got white papers on it and affidavits from major doctors and I got support groups and alternatives listed on my website:

    Mindfreedom international is the best group. They got a provider list, too. Mad In America is a good blog covering the coersive/abusive mental health system, with doctors blogging about it and writing articles. CCHR is also good for legal help. Basically when looking for help and treatment seek a PhD or PsyD psychologist who does psychodynamic therapy/psychotherapy. Art therapy. Exposure therapy. Emdr.. Exercise and physical therapy. Leisure therapy. Chiropractic.. Massage.. Balance board.. Whole body vibration.. Hot/cold/steam room/yoga therapy. Do it yourself too, do it every day for your physical health and well being.

    Schizophrenia cures itself 40% of cases but only 5% of antipsychotic users get better and non drug users are healthier than drug users. The drugs also cause death 25 years sooner on average .. So do yourself a favor and avoid pharmaceuticals .. (These drugs and more backing it up on my previous site. Got video documentaries to back it up, too.) United Nations and World Health Organization call for a ban, too… As a ‘hidden human rights emergency’.

  9. Thanks for writing this, Joe. I still often have traumatic flashbacks to the many years I lost to these “residential treatment” centers as a child. I firmly believe that the reason that I struggle so much with depression, anxiety and related psychosis as an adult now is that I was completely over-medicated, with medications constantly changing, while I was still developing. I started my first SSRI at 12 years old. Over the years I have literally been prescribed just about every single psychotropic medication for just about every possible diagnosis, in so many different combinations. In the end, as an adult, I am unable to function independently, unable to work, unable to maintain real relationships and, worst of all, the meds hardly help anymore. I have severe problems with my memory and overall cognitive functioning in addition to the constant and very painful emotional ones. And I’m still incredibly young. Friends often ask where I am or what is wrong or if I’m mad with them because I don’t communicate – the truth is I’m so psychologically loose sometimes that I’m scared to be around people who like the person that they know as me, the main fear being that I will say or do something so bizarre that it scares them, which has happened many times. Top that off with a therapist who was having a nervous breakdown and forcing it on to me in every single session, and you can probably see why I felt like self-medicating was the only safe solution. I know that you were just doing your job, the same as the doctors who worked with me, but I guess I can’t help but feel that there must be some sort of special hell for people who abuse children this way. And it is absolutely abuse, not in a metaphorical way or anything, it is just straight up chemical abuse. Still to this day the smell of the Fabuloso they cleaned those places with is almost enough to send me into crying fits. The worst part of it all is, I know I did much better in the end than many of the other kids I was grouped with, mostly in that I’m just still alive and not in jail. I don’t know that I ever really needed drugs – what I needed was support, compassion, understanding, structure and guidance. I received none of these things, and was instead handed a cup full of pills twice a day. Like I said, special hell.

  10. Good perspective. You identified a problem but interested in thoughts, based on your experience ,
    what would you do differently? Not just in the treatment but also what can society do differently to
    MAYBE prevent these children from getting into the system?

  11. Thanks, guys. It is very sad and extremely disappointing that we haven’t found a better way to help this population of kids. I do not claim to have the answer to the problem, but I do know, without a doubt, that drugs are not the solution. They deserve better. Also, I wanted to mention that there are places out there that focus on therapy and only use drugs in extreme situations. If you know a child that is going into the residential treatment system, it is worth the extra time it takes to seek them out.

  12. I agree, Nicky. I find Joe’s description so compelling because it’s based in experience. It makes my heart hurt to think that perhaps mainstream psychiatry isn’t the right option for these children.

  13. I enjoyed your perspective on how society treats and views mental health and illness (based on your experience). Society is quick to turn the other way. We need more people like you to make others aware of how health care prefers to handle mental health/illness.

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