Cognitive Dissonance, BigPharma and the Psychiatric Industry

Gary G. Kohls, MD

In my weekly Duty to Warn column, which I have been writing for the Reader since 2009, I have written a number of essays about issues that should be of serious concern for mental health practitioners whose practices rely on the heavy use of psychotropic drugs. Patients—and their loved ones—should also be concerned about the potential for long-term adverse effects from these brain-altering medications.
The major themes I have dealt with in some of those essays include 1) the known dangers of the synthetic drugs that are commonly prescribed for often temporary emotional problems; 2) the serious, often life-threatening withdrawal symptoms that can result when these drugs are stopped or tapered down (thus indicating that the drugs were dependency-inducing/addicting); 3) information about brain nutrient therapy for brain-malnourished folks who may actually be neurologically impaired and not simply mentally impaired; 4) safer, non-toxic, non-drug alternative approaches to mental ill health; 5) information about the reality of combat and non-combat-induced psychological traumas (PTSD) as causative factors in mental ill health; and 6) the large variety of aspects of PTSD that have been mis-diagnosed as “mental illnesses of unknown origin.”
My writings have been inspired by my clinical experiences as an independent holistic health care practitioner with over a thousand patients who had mental ill health issues over the decade before I retired in 2008. The vast majority of my patients (approaching 100 percent) had been victims of acute or chronic psychological, physical, sexual, or spiritual violence (battered child syndrome, battered woman syndrome, child abuse and neglect, etc.), all traumas that initiated their entry into America’s mental healthcare system, a system that has been almost totally dominated, starting in the 1960s, by the giant drug companies’ very profitable, pseudo-scientific approaches, misleading advertising, and cunning 24/7 promotion of their unaffordable and often neurotoxic, dementia-inducing drugs.
I’m just one of a number of whistleblowers worldwide who have been “crying in the wilderness,” going up against the overwhelming propaganda from the transnational megacorporations that are in the game primarily for their economic profit and for the profits of their shareholders and their highly paid lobbyists, spokespersons, and spin doctors.

The Hippocratic Oath – has the Big Business of Medicine made it Obsolete?

I took the Hippocratic Oath (“first do no harm”) the day I received my medical degree, as did the honorable psychiatrist/authors Peter Breggin, Loren Mosher, Joseph Glenmullen, David Healy, Grace Jackson, and a number of other courageous and altruistic whistleblowing physicians who have regarded it their sacred duty to warn about the hidden dangers of synthetic, brain-altering, and addictive psychiatric drugs that are contaminating the bodies of hundreds of millions of unsuspecting humans. These courageous psychiatrists took the oath seriously, even though they all were ostracized (because of their unwelcome truth-telling) by most of the members of their own profession. Each of these psychiatrists had their careers threatened for rocking the boat. It seems that none of their good deeds went unpunished.
George Orwell understood the whistleblower’s dilemma well when he said, “The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.” And that is where the concept of cognitive dissonance comes in: being willfully blind or ignorant when being confronted by new truths.

Cognitive Dissonance and the Drug Industry

Several years ago, the Reader published an open letter to me from a group of threatened mental health practitioners (who, I must add, were actually partially supportive of some of the accusations I had made against the psychopharmaceutical industry). The group unexpectedly recommended two important books that totally backed up what I had been writing about. Those books included Dr. Marcia Angell’s 2004 “The Truth About Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It” and investigative journalist Robert Whitaker’s “Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs and the Astonishing Rise in Mental Illness in America” ( (Interestingly, Dr. Angell was fired as editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine when she raised concerns about BigPharma’s influence on NEJM articles.)
I implore concerned readers to Google these authors and watch the many YouTube videos that expose the unwelcome truths about BigPharma, starting with this site: I also suggest that readers access the vast information about alternative, potentially curative, non-drug approaches to mental healthcare at Also consider watching some of my video interviews on YouTube by typing in “Gary Kohls” after accessing the YouTube site.
Cognitive dissonance is the psychological discomfort that most people experience when their deeply held beliefs are contradicted by new information that disproves the old beliefs. Since it is impossible for thinking persons to simultaneously hold two mutually exclusive beliefs, anxiety and confusion can result.

Denial, Ad Hominem Attacks and Killing the Messenger

However, cognitive dissonance, especially in people who might have been brainwashed from childhood in dogmatic systems (especially close-minded, cult-like faith-based ones), often results in denial of the new facts or hostile responses to the bearer of the new information, which is then more easily ignored without having to consider the new truths. The hostile action against the bearer of new information often takes the form of “ad hominem attacks.”
Attacking (or, figuratively speaking, “killing”) the messenger of a new unwelcome truth, rather than rationally dealing with the truth, is a commonly used tactic when the new information can’t be refuted using logic.
Ad hominem attacks have been used as a political tactic by infamous people like the fascist Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment. It seems that Goebbels’ classic ad hominem attacks are still commonly used in the notoriously slanderous and libelous name-calling from right-wing American talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and many of the talking heads on FoxNews. Ad hominem attacks expose the name-caller’s weaknesses, but the shouting does effectively distract listeners from the issue at hand until the next commercial break changes the subject.
Unfair and endlessly repeated verbal attacks against whistleblowers (including peacemakers, environmentalists, feminists, and human rights/anti-racism activists) often succeed in angering the listener-supporters of talk show host celebrities like Limbaugh (whose devotees proudly call themselves “DittoHeads”). These blinded and blinkered supporters are then distracted from hearing all sides of an important issue. Uninformed conclusions are drawn that then become rigid, unexamined doctrinal beliefs that make the believers in the propaganda ripe for refusing to believe and deal with new truths. Politics in America has been deeply polarized lately because of cognitive dissonance and anti-democracy realities like hostile mud-slinging and name-calling, which are typical of right-wing extremist groups.
But cognitive dissonance is also rampant among America’s psych drug prescribers, psych drug consumers, the corporate drug-makers, and the corporate-controlled media. Whenever these groups are confronted with the fact that the drugs they once trusted and profited from are not as safe or effective as they were previously led to believe, they go into denial. Or as Upton Sinclair once said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”
BigPharma and many of their willing and eager partners in the numerous medical industry trade groups that profit from quick-fix drug treatments (like the American Psychiatric Association and the AMA, to name only two) have done cunningly effective mass media work in discrediting potentially curative, non-drug approaches like psychotherapy, education, nutritional therapy, naturopathy, and massage therapy, all of which are regarded by BigPharma as dangerous competitors to their highly profitable drugs (whose inevitable side effects are often “treated” with additional drugs to cover up the adverse effects).
The psychiatric whistleblowers mentioned above are simply trying to achieve a tiny bit of balance to the over-represented corporate side of important issues. The reality is that they—and we—are in a fight-to-the-death David vs. Goliath situation. Tragically, in the current versions of the old Bible story, the corporate Goliaths have less than 1 percent of the population numbers but over 99 percent of the money, 99 percent of the politicians, 99 percent of the weapons, 99 percent of the advertising opportunities, and 99 percent of the press coverage. And equally importantly—since 2011’s Citizen’s United decision—Goliath might have only 5/9ths of the pro-corporate Supreme Court on its side—but that simple majority does the trick for tyrannical entities in America.

”Whoever pays the piper, calls the tune”

It is useful to recall the following truth that Bob Dylan wrote about: “Money doesn’t talk, it screams.” And BigPharma (with its non-human megacorporate allies BigBusiness, BigPsychiatry, BigMedicine, BigMedia, and BigFood) has been out-screaming, out-shouting, and crowding out the skeptics of the agenda to label temporarily psychologically distressed normal people with a  permanent mental illness that needs drugs in perpetuity. The first step in this diabolical process was legalizing the previously unethical and illegal direct to consumer (DTC) advertising in 1996. (New Zealand is the only other nation in the world to have done so.) That was the year that millions of potential pill-popping “just gimme a pill, doc” consumers started being inundated by the absurd prime-time TV psych drug commercials that most thinking people laugh at. But in corporate-controlled America, whoever pays the piper calls the tune, and if you don’t have the money, you don’t have a voice.
Following the money trail provides a better understanding of the One Percenters who occupy the over-privileged top of American finance, banking, war profiteering, politics, and corporate culture. Over 90 percent of the drug research in America has, for decades, been designed, funded, published, and totally controlled by the pharmaceutical industry’s multinational, multibillion dollar megacorporations, in whose interest it is to ensure—by hook or by crook—that its paid researchers and statisticians will obtain results favorable enough to get the co-opted FDA to approve the drug for marketing.  

The Cymbalta Suicides

Indeed, both the lab animal and human (clinical) trials have often been so corrupted that only one or two modestly positive drug trials are reportable while the trials that showed negative outcomes were shelved, never to see the light of day. In some cases, trials with serious negative results were still submitted to the FDA – such as the infamous Cymbalta “antidepressant” human trials that resulted in 5 completed suicides [in subjects that had been screened-out if they had any suicidal tendencies]. Those 5 suicides did not deter the FDA from granting Eli Lilly & Company marketing approval to the drug that was intended to replace Prozac when the patent to that block-buster drug expired. FDA scientists are not immune to cognitive dissonance when their job security is at stake.
Do mainstream medical journal editors (with the exception of Dr Angell) suffer from cognitive dissonance, or are they simply in bed with the corporations that fund their magazines? It is no secret that most mainstream medical and psychiatric journals are heavily subsidized by multinational drug companies and medical device makers. Many of these journals have an embarrassingly large amount of drug advertising in them but, at the same time, these same journals allow essentially no space for researchers who have important contradictory reports or warnings to report. Submissions of unwelcome negative animal lab research or human clinical reports that go up against BigPharma’s claims are typically rejected.
The same conflicts of interest are on display at most major medical conventions and conferences. These “educational” conferences are heavily subsidized by BigPharma. Most thinking physicians are embarrassed by or appalled at the large numbers of pharmaceutical companies, with free trinkets and food to attract visitors to their tables in order to pitch their latest unaffordable brain-altering drug, most of which have not been tested for long-term safety or effectiveness prior to marketing.
I have observed that medical meetings that are dependent on pharmaceutical company support do not invite presenters who present information about non-drug alternatives that go up against drug and medical industry dogma. Whistle-blowers are not welcome at such medical conventions. Truth-tellers rain on BigPharma’s parade and thus are excluded. The pipers who are calling the pro-drug tune fear the negative impacts to their profitability if alternative approaches – especially if they are potentially curative - are allowed a voice.
 But, given 1) the millions of drugs that are being prescribed today just in America (many of which are capable of crossing the blood brain barrier into the brain), 2) the 3,600 virtually unreadable fine print pages in the PDR and 3) the enormous complexities of the billions of possible combinations of two or more drugs ingested by any given patient for weeks, months or years, the problem has to be far worse now than when I was prescribing drugs decades ago (the toxic natures of which I had been kept unaware through most of my career). Knowing what I know now, I shudder to think of the harm that my choices in prescribing did to my unsuspecting patients in decades past.
Therefore, I consider it my duty to continue to warn others of such risks.

DISCLAIMER: Readers who are interested in reducing their psych drug use should consult their prescribing physician and not suddenly stop them. Stopping drugs suddenly can be more dangerous than starting them. They should consult a physician knowledgeable in neuroscience, brain nutrition and with experience in helping people safely discontinue psychiatric medications.