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The Hidden Drug Menace

A recent article I wrote (Why Good Employees Are Hard to Find) elicited quite some responses, some of them downright upset. I completely understand the upset, but cannot change the facts. Half of the US populace is on psychiatric drugs, and the vast majority of them do not need to be. But having taken these mind-altering drugs, they develop a biochemical personality that cuts them off from others, either making them wooden and unemotional; or causing great discomfort, making them into walking time-bombs who blow up from time to time (sometimes with disastrous consequences to those around them).

The hospitality industry is based, well, on the concept of hospitality, a word that comes to us from Latin hospitalitem, meaning «friendliness to guests.» It is hard to be friendly to anyone when one feels half dead, drugged, or when one is seething with upset. It is hard to be genuinely interested in the welfare of another, a basic prerequisite to good service, when one is struggling internally.

The argument that people need these drugs because they have such issues as depression, is putting the cart before the horse: whatever issues a person had before taking a psychiatric drug, they were often quite simply explained and susceptible to a) proper medical treatment (for hernias, allergies, etc.), b) proper diet and exercise, or c) counseling to get through some of life’s inevitable roadblocks emotionally, hormonally, etc. This is the regimen the National Health Service in Great Britain has ordered its doctors to follow, instead of prescribing psychiatric drugs. By not isolating and treating these real-world issues, one condemns these individuals to continued problems stemming from those issues. By also inventing a «mental illness» to account for the symptoms, and prescribing some very powerful, mind-altering drug, one merely deadens the symptoms as well as the individual. Then one does have a mental issue!

A groundswell of protest by those in the medical and even mental health professions, governing bodies, and those mistreated by such sanctioned drug addiction, gives weight to my observations and contentions. Any Internet search will uncover it, but most recently, Ms. Jeanne Lenzer added the prestigious British Medical Journal to the discussion when she stated in her June 19, 2005 article entitled Bush plans to screen US for mental illness, «President Bush established the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health in April 2002 to conduct a ‘comprehensive study of the United States mental health service delivery system.’ The commission issued its recommendations in July 2003Š and found that ‘despite their prevalence, mental disorders often go undiagnosed’ and recommended comprehensive mental health screening for ‘consumers of all ages.’Š. The commission also recommended ‘Linkage [of screening] with treatment and supports’ including ‘state-of-the-art treatments’ using ‘specific medications for specific conditions.'»

As I pointed out in my own article in the BMJ in response to Ms. Lenzer’s, «I find I have no argument with senior members of the psychiatric community when they admit to having no clue about the cause of or cure for mental illness.

«‘We do not know the causes (of psychiatric disorders). We don’t have methods of ‘curing’ these illnesses yet.’ Director of the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, Rex Cowdry, 1995.

«‘The time when psychiatrists considered that they could cure the mentally ill is gone. In the future, the mentally ill will have to learn to live with their illness.’ Norman Sartorius, president of the World Psychiatric Association, 1994.

«This is not the forum for detailing exactly why psychiatric drugging is junk science, but suffice to say, if it were not, it would obtain some positive results. Yet study after study not paid for by pharmaceutical companies pushing their own drugs, shows harmful effects and less positive outcomes than mere sugar pills.

«While we have heard plenty recently about skewed statistics during drug trials carried on by pharmaceuticals eager to rush their latest drug to market, it is telling that no statistics are kept anywhere in the world on improvements brought about in real life by psychiatric drugs. That is, except for King County, Washington (including Seattle), which is the only government organization wanting to know how well its citizen’s money is being spent and interests served. About $30 million was spent in 2000 on psychiatric drugs in King County, with the following outcomes: Of 7,831 patients, 6,949 (88.7%) showed no improvement, 597 (8%) showed some improvement, 295 (4%) regressed, and 4 (.05%) recovered. Who would take their car to a mechanic who successfully fixed one in every 2,000 vehicles that passed through his doors?

«In a nutshell, the main problems with the psychiatric theory of a chemical imbalance in the brain as the cause of behavioral disorders are that no tests exist to determine the chemical status of a person’s brain while he is living (so how could one recognize an imbalance?); and no delivery system exists to replenish any supposed ‘prozac deficiency,’ for instance, to a specific part of the brain.

«But this doesn’t discourage psychiatrists from misdiagnosing tens of millions of people as having these ‘diseases.’ Or pharmaceutical companies from making psychiatric drugs to treat these made-up diseases.»

If the British medical community has tumbled to what is going on with over-prescription of pharmaceutical drugs, why have we heard so little about the government’s plans to medicate the other half of US citizens not already on psychiatric drugs? Perhaps because, as the American Psychiatric Association boasts on its web site, «The BMJ story [by Ms. Lenzer quoted above] has gained some traction in derivative reports on the Internet, though mainstream media have not touched the story, in part thanks to APA’s work, for which the administration is appreciative.» Interestingly enough, Ms. Lenzer’s article was the most downloaded article in the history of the BMJ. It manifestly struck a nerve with a public wary of doctors and politicians whose pockets are lined with drug company money. But for the majority of people in the United States who do not visit the BMJ’s august web site, the APA made sure the story did not reach them.

So to return to the hospitality profession in particular, we hear that good personnel are hard to find. Certainly, there are many very competent individuals in the industry who are wonderfully hospitable, but they are the ones who keep the guests wowed, and the ship afloat and off the rocks. Their job is made much harder by the mistakes made by people who are not quite tracking with the rest of us and by the upsets they cause by their attitude, lack of awareness and caring. If you find yourself dealing with employees like this, then realize there is a hitherto hidden influence at work: such employees may well be legal drug addicts. We don’t allow street drugs in the work place, so why do we allow psychotropic drugs that are classified as Schedule II drugs (same as cocaine) by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency?

So how does one handle this situation and move on? Are such employees dead losses? Absolutely not: If they recognize they are in trouble and want help, then all they have to do is see a competent medical doctor or alternative health practitioner who is not sold on the marketing campaigns by the pharmaceutical companies, for a full and searching physical exam. They may need to fix some physical condition or allergy, change their diet (from junk food high in sugars, synthetic sugars such as the killer aspartame, and empty calories, to nutritious and proteinaceous foods), possibly start some exercise regimen, or have some counseling from a competent and caring individual. They can also do a detoxification program that will remove the residues of the psychiatric drugs so they do not keep releasing into the their blood stream long after the individual ceases taking them.

In the meantime, what does HR do in a hotel environment? First off, research this whole subject for yourself. Otherwise you’ll just think the author full of something unmentionable and will continue to miss this important dynamic in your organization. You may also want to consider the impact such psychiatric programs and agendas are having on health care coverage as the cost of health care spirals out of control. It was not so long ago (2001, pushed heavily by pharmaceuticals and psychiatrists) that the Mental Health Parity Act tried to compel businesses to cover mental health insurance (i.e. psychiatric drugs) to the same dollar amount as physical illnesses. Now we have TeenScreen, designed to screen and put the 50 million children in this country on psychiatric drugs as the first step of the President’s Orwellian-named New Freedom Commission on Mental Health in drugging all Americans. Once you realize there is a clear and present danger, I am sure you have enough understanding of HR issues to work out how to proceed in your organization.

Sorry if this is all new and bad news to you, and even more so if anyone finds it upsetting: but the truth is that nothing will work short of the truth in the long run. Good luck.

This article also appeared in the December issues of Hotelexecutive.com and 4Hoteliers.com

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Why Good Employees Are Hard To Find

I believe we have a crisis in the hospitality industry–a dwindling pool of service-oriented individuals–which is making it difficult for HR and management to provide the level of guest service required at high-end properties. Obvious causes, such as low wage scales, could be identified at first blush, but an unlikely source has emerged recently as the real culprit: the marketing and selling of worry to well Americans who are sold psychiatric drugs to resolve that cleverly crafted worry. Half the US population is on these drugs now. The relevance being that the side effects of these drugs include woodenness and disassociation at the less dramatic end, through frustration and anger outbursts, to suicide and murder at the extreme end-none of which are particularly conducive to guest satisfaction.

The issue has been increasingly in the media, lead by British doctors who have forbidden first children and now adults from taking «antidepressants.» Court cases and media have at the same time exposed inadequate testing and altered results to hide bad outcomes. Even the FDA, long beholden to the interests of the pharmaceutical lobby, is begrudgingly following suit in the US, hence those black box warning labels appearing on many psychiatric prescriptions. Suicides are the main worry, but the many heinous crimes hitting the airwaves over the last decade (mothers butchering their children, children shooting or torturing their parents or other children, to name just a few) have added to the list of outcomes when people take these drugs. A book just released, Selling Sickness: How the World’s Pharmaceutical Companies Are Turning Us All Into Patients (Ray Moynihan and Alan Cassels) and the recently released movie based on John le Carre’s fictionalized book, The Constant Gardner, both point to a motivational shift by pharmaceutical companies: away from curing sickness to making vast amounts of money; the main strategy being to bring drugs to market by pathologizing life’s normal fluctuations and the creation of «lifestyle medicines.» Premenstrual tension, for instance, is now a «mental illness» called «premenstrual dysphoric disorder» requiring a psychiatric drug to «manage» (not cure) it.

Instead of relying on evidence to determine a disease and assess the risk / benefit of a medical intervention, doctors are prescribing drugs based on corporate sponsored «public awareness» campaigns that create «illness.» If this seems just fine, then might I suggest re-reading the preceding sentence? We have marketing and PR departments, and executive boards salivating over the bottom line, inventing diseases and then persuading people they have them.

As described by Vera Hassner Sharav of Alliance for Human Research Protection, «The selling of sickness and the birth of a blockbuster drug follows a familiar pattern: the marketing division of a pharmaceutical company identifies a wedge condition, and a set of symptoms or «risk factors»; the company hires a PR firm to come up with a «disease» name, either something catchy (e.g., SAD) or something connoting a serious biochemical deficiency; the company either develops a drug, or recycles an existing one for this new condition; and begins massive marketing to physicians and the public. An advisory panel of experts defines the «disease» broadly enough to include as many previously healthy people as possible, and issues guesstimates about the prevalence of the «disease»; the media pick up the story, suggesting that the ‘new’ disease is greatly «under-diagnosed and poses severe health hazards if left untreated; the stage is set for the birth of the next blockbuster.»

The roots of this travesty can be found in sentiments such as those expressed three decades ago by Merck’s chief executive, Henry Gadsden, who wanted to expand his market by making drugs for healthy people, not just sick people.

It is necessary to grasp the reality of this trend in order to understand a previously unrecognized undercurrent that HRs have been hitting up against in finding and keeping good staff.

We have been hearing the complaint «Good employees are hard to find» for a few centuries now, but now it just might be true. While running a workshop on service for a large group of employees at a four-star facility recently, I was fascinated to see a full 50% of them had no interest whatsoever in the subject, one of them even settling down to read a newspaper during the presentation. Their attitude and lack of caring was evident in the lackluster service they offered guests (hence the workshop being arranged by an anxious management), and was also a source of upset for those staff who did care to care and who did derive new insights from the workshop.

The problem is that there is no way for consultants, HR, or management to reach and inspire these people until they are taken off their drugs and the drug residues detoxed from their system (there are ways to do this). Until then, they will continue to manifest a «bio-chemical personality», the antithesis of service.

If the US Armed Forces do not accept recruits who have taken psychiatric drugs, then there may be a lesson to be learned here in our industry. The Defense Department has learned from experience that such citizens do not make reliable and effective personnel or teammates.

Maybe the hospitality industry could benefit from examining this factor (the drugging of its personnel pool) in trying to create a team of service-minded personnel who actually do care for guests, and care to service them well. Maybe the paucity of service-oriented individuals is not just the result of genes or some such wild theory, but an artificial condition created by morally bankrupt individuals and out-of-control corporations. In other words, maybe we can do something about it.

This article also appeared in the September 2005 issue of 4Hoteliers.com and Hotelexecutive.com