Dr. Craig

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There’s an intuitive appeal to Dr. David Craig’s conservative approach to prescription drugs.

Her Majesty’s Penitentiary on Forest Road in St. John’s. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

We live in a world where corporations relentlessly promote better living through pharmaceuticals.

Despite growing naturopathic trends, most of us willingly tailor our lives with any variety of medications. We pop pills to sleep or to wake up, to mask achy joints or smooth out rough edges.

As a psychiatrist, Dr. Craig believes we should dial it all back. And he may well have a point.

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‘What I’m doing has to be done’

‘We all have the right to a second opinion’

In a paper published last month in the Canadian Journal of Addiction, he claims to have achieved much more positive, long-lasting results by weaning patients off unnecessary drugs.

This is admirable.

There’s only one problem.

His subjects are inmates.

They’re not willing participants in a clinical trial. They aren’t given a choice to seek a second opinion. They have no options.

“They are captive to Dr. Craig’s views, which fall within acceptable professional opinion, but which are by his own admission unusual in their level of conservativeness,” lawyer and mental health advocate Mark Gruchy said Wednesday.

Any way you look at it, there are echoes here of an era long since past in which prisoners were seen as ideal guinea pigs for unconventional experiments. They were all housed together, they had no choice in the matter, and their rights and overall welfare were not high on the public’s radar.

Craig’s journal article raises a number of other questions, too.

First, the use of antidepressants for situational depression is widely accepted in the medical community. Simply because one’s depressive state is caused by external stressors rather than a chemical imbalance is not necessarily reason enough to halt drug treatment.

Second, it hardly falls under Craig’s mandate to keep drug costs down at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary. His only concern should be the proper and professional treatment of his patients.

Neither is the illicit trade of prescription drugs between inmates his responsibility. That falls on prison security.

Finally, it is disappointing the results of Craig’s research are, by his own admission, primarily anecdotal.

He says he received high praise from prison officials and staff, that inmates were more alert and less violent.

“Unfortunately,” he writes, “data to confirm and measure the extent of these reported improvements were not gathered.”

Craig may have valuable insight to offer, and his findings will be closely watched by others in the field.

But does the end justify the means?

That’s not so clear.

Organizations: Canadian Journal

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Recent comments

  • Stephen  Redgrave
    Stephen Redgrave
    January 12, 2016 - 14:39

    Dr Craig has nothing to offer except his own theories and wishes. His methods were shot down by Supreme Court Justice Diamond, only two years ago--when a prisoner was given full rights to the 'meds' he was on before Craig jumped in the ring.

    • Most likely wrong diagnosis!
      January 13, 2016 - 10:21

      Stephen everyone including Doctors and Legal Representatives were on the same wavelength and that is the reason everyone who entered a Doctor's inner sanctum who was sad was diagnosed as having mental illness and was put on psychotic drug. That is the very reason most people became addicted to psychotic drugs in the first place. Now we have tens of thousands of people in our province who think they are mentally ill and are unable to do anything about it because we don't have enough resource in the name of psychiatrists to treat them and tell them most likely their illness is sadness and most people experience it from time to time.

  • Eric
    January 08, 2016 - 18:52

    EDfromRED I don't know if Dr. Craig is any more Brilliant or Knowledgable than any other Doctor, but I do know the MOVE he made was staring every other Doctior in face and was calling out to be executed and the MOVE is BRILLIANT! Any Doctor who was NOT smart enough to see the destruction to our society caused by the Psychiatric Drugs that are doled out for common sadness, a malaise that strikes almost everyone, if not indeed, everyone in society from time to time, but over the years got lazily mis-diagnosed, by Doctors or was it diagnosed by the Pharmaceutical Industry, as a Mental illness? If the Doctors were not astute enough to see the everyday malaise as common sadness and didn't execute the MOVE that Dr.`Craig made probably is NOT fit to be a Doctor. I personally think that there isn't a person in the World who doesn't experience sadness, PLEASE DON'T CALL IT MENTAL ILLNESS, some days during any year of his/her lives. Are Doctors only too willing to lazily treat everyone he/she sees during the year for Mental illness? Come on you folks who think every episode of sadness should be treated with Psychiatric drugs. Dr. Craig you are with the Times and the Times dictate that in most cases Psychiatric Drugs only cause far bigger problems and should not be doled out like candy!

  • I. WannaBe Jungian
    January 08, 2016 - 16:06

    No scripts needed... that's what the exercise yard is for. Adrenaline... no better (or cheaper) treatment for anxiety, depression or arsehole-ism.

  • .
    January 08, 2016 - 12:32

    Interview them both, together. The editorial approach asks the comment section to do the work. Why not let journalists get the story for us? Gruchy and Craig are professional experts begging better coverage than this postulation platform of group editorial.

  • Cell 121
    January 08, 2016 - 12:06

    Doctor Craig is right. He has a hard thankless job. The inmates should be grateful to have him there.

  • andi
    January 08, 2016 - 07:35

    This article is correct, the inmates do not have the choice of second opinion or requesting transfer to another psychiatrist. Though this is actually very similar to what people experience in the 'normal' system in our province. It is very rare for another psychiatrist to take on a patient if they are already being followed by a psychiatrist and they typically do not like to go against the first's recommendations. I know point blank of individuals who have been refused access to a second opinion in the provincial system, even when ethically indicated. On another note, there has been no mention that I have noticed indicating how many psychologists are in HMP. These professionals would be the ones the inmates aka patients , would be able to directly report to related to if the med changes are effective or not based on assessment scores, verbal reports etc. I would like to know as a NL citizen if we have enough of them in the prison sustems as this would be part of the whole "rehabilitation" process.

  • Dolf
    January 08, 2016 - 07:25

    One situation not mentioned in the Dr. Craig controversy are the bonuses offered doctors for prescribing a particular company's drugs. Those sudden trips to the sunny south or Las Vegas are more than likely compliments of the big drug companies. I'd say that's a good reason many of his peers are NOT onboard his reasoning and treatments.

    • Tim
      January 08, 2016 - 08:59

      Can you back up your statement that physicians are receiving payola? I didn't think so.

    • jerome
      January 08, 2016 - 12:31

      Tim, a friend of mind use to work for a pharmaceutical company and what Dolf is saying is true, plus there were lots of samples pushed on the doctors to give to their patients with little in the way of follow up.

    • Dolf
      January 08, 2016 - 13:55

      Tim, where have you been for the last 50 or so years?

    • DRUGS ARE A CONCERN FOR EVERYONE!
      January 10, 2016 - 20:54

      Good question Dolf, it's a fact. Just ask the question on the Internet and You will find that some physicians get hefty paybacks for prescribing certain drugs.