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July 24, 2012

Stop the Presses! He’s a Schizophrenic, not a Mass Murderer!

I found myself screaming that at the TV as I watched the blank, disinterested face of James Egan Holmes while he sat in a Colorado Courtroom with his red-dyed hair listening to, but clearly not comprehending, the monotonous drone of court functionaries scheduling his next hearing at which he is expected to be charged with murder! I wondered, “has it really come to this?” Have we as a society become so confused that we've consigned nearly all of what was once Psychiatry to the Criminal Justice System? Doesn’t anyone realize that back in the Fifties, Holmes would almost certainly have been recognized as a schizophrenic long before he started spending the grant money he’d been awarded to pursue a PhD in “neuroscience” at a leading Medical School to purchase the guns and ammunition used shoot seventy-odd fellow humans in a spasm of uncomprehending rage?

Not that schizophrenia was that well understood in the Fifties. Nor is it understood any better today; rather, it's largely ignored until or unless, a schizophrenic commits a "crime;" which may help explain why our jail and prison system has expanded four-fold since 1970, even as the once huge state hospital system we built for the "mentally ill" has all but disappeared.

Telling the story of our nation's descent into Drug War Madness won't be easy; it involves far more than drugs and the vague concept of "mental illness" (for which Medicine still lacks a coherent system of classification). Among other things, it will require an understanding of America's fixation on guns and killing, a trait that has made us the most over-gunned society on Earth by a wide margin and imposes a penalty of thousands of extra deaths from homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings. Just how many is a matter of "debate" because the NRA is also one of the most powerful and dishonest lobbies on Earth.

Another critical element in the early history of drug plicy has to do with President McKinley's assassination in 1901 because it propelled Teddy Roosevelt into the White House. Among many far-reaching decisions, TR elevated a medical bureaucrat named Hamilton Wright MD to a position that allowed him to pursue his obsession legal prohibition of as the best way to prevent "addiction." Wright's concept meshed with that of Francis Burton Harrison, who helped write the deceptive Harrison act that would eventually give our federal bureaucracy the power to both define "addiction" and decree its treatment; a powers it has never relinquished and which enable the drug war to use its enormous legal, political and economic clout with such abandon.

This seems like a good place to stop for now. I hope soon to resume this narrative; in the meantime, I'm willing to predict that until very recently, James Holmes was what his record suggested, bright, albeit shy; a good student with no significant red flags in his family or behavioral background.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at July 24, 2012 04:24 PM