Evaluate the Biomedical Model of Abnormality

There are many different viewpoints as to the causes of abnormality, some psychological in nature, some not. One such standpoint is that of the biomedical model of abnormality which treats mental illness and abnormality like a disease in many ways. The biomedical model has many facets, 4 of which are explained below. The `germ` aetiology section of the biomedical model stated that germs/bacteria and physical infection are the main causes of abnormal behaviour or mental ill health. An example of this is syphilis, which attacks the central nervous system and as a result affects behaviour.

Another section of the biomedical model is the genetics as aetiology for mental illness section. This perspective sees inherent genetic factors as being the cause of mental ill health or abnormal behaviour. A prime example of such ill behaviour s schizophrenia which some claim is attributed to predisposed genetic factors. Thirdly is the biochemical aetiological approach, which links fluctuations in the brains chemical balance as being a cause of abnormality. Another example for schizophrenia, which a biochemical causal perspective states is caused by excess dopamine in the brain.

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Finally is the neuroanatomical perspective which states the cause of abnormality as being related to disorders in the anatomy of the brain. This stance is often taken when trying to explain psychopathological patients and their behaviour. The biomedical model is well renowned for advocating, therefore, the killing of germs, the restoration of the brains chemical balance and the halting of mental degradation. This, with relevance to this essay is done with treatments which either involve drugs or are exclusive in their use of drugs as a form of treatment.

Also, due to the fact that the biomedical model sees mental illness as having a physical/biological cause, drugs are often used as antibiotics would b used to treat a bodily infection such as athlete’s foot. What follows are examples of how drugs are used as part of the biomedical model in treating different types of mental ill health. With particular relevance to schizophrenia, schizophrenic would have previously have been sent to what was in the 1950`s referred to as a snake pit, a mental hospital where severely mentally ill patients would go for residential, live in treatment.

However, people who were schizophrenics were in luck in 1952 because French neurologist Professor Jean Daley announces and subsequently uses the then new drug Chloroprozamine in the treatment of schizophrenia. The results of this new drug are immediate and impressive. Schizophrenic patients have far fewer mood fluctuations and hallucinations. This system wide improvement in the treatment of schizophrenia meant that many who were previously confined to mental institutions were no longer confined.

In the instance of Cloroprozamine, (in treating schizophrenia), the positive points of using drug treatment are that previously, many patients without the introduction and treatment of antipsychotic drugs, were hallucinating, mutely catatonic and often unreachable. With this drug there was massive improvement, often with the termination of hallucinations and a gradual realisation of the real world. Also, as a result of successful treatment, more hospital beds became available, meaning more ill people could be treated.

Also the drug treatment was a relatively cheap alternative to housing and treating the mentally ill over a long period of time. However, with particular relevance to the drug chloroprozamine, side effects were often noticeable and severe and included things such as irregular heartbeat, uncontrollable fidgeting, low blood pressure and an inability to move ones face. The worse side effect of these drugs was tardive dyskenesia, brought about because th drug destroys some unknown part of the brain which controls movement, causing an uncontrollable sucking and smacking of the lips which was a permanent side effect.

Also, with a lot of drugs, to maintain the better state of mental health the patient would have to continue maintaining treatment. This continuation of treatment had been shown by an ACNP-FDA task force (et al) to increase the chance of developing tardive dyskinesia. Schizophrenia is partly related to the genetic aetiology section of the biomedical model, indicating what some say is a genetic cause. This would imply that drugs would never be a permanent treatment. Relating to the biomedical models treatment using drugs, (for mental illness), depression is often combated using antidepressants.

An antidepressant called Prozac, (Fluoscetine), is used and widely prescribed for less severe depression; combating depression by inhibiting the uptake of serotonine in the brain, alleviating depression temporarily as a result. Tricyclic antidepressants are used for more severe depressions and block the uptake of norrepinephrine, (NE), as a result of this NE being available the patient becomes less depressed. An average of 63 and 75 percent of previously depressed patients showed significant clinical improvement (Beck 1973).

Monoamine Oxidase, (MAO), inhibitors inhibit the enzyme MAO and prevent the breakdown of NE, making more NE available and causing the patient to become less depressed as a result of quantities of NE, (a neurotransmitter), becoming available. However, anti depressants have many side effects as well as good points. For one they do actually alleviate depression but this effect is only a short term one, the depression, (or whatever is causing it), will still reoccur for the most part when the medication ceases. Also, particularly with relevance to MAO inhibitors, the side effects may be toxic and/or lethal.

MAO inhibitors can have lethal side effects if taken with food and drinks such as cheese and alcohol or if taken when one has high blood pressure. Prozac too has been found by Beaumont (1990) and Henry (1992) to cause nausea, nervousness and insomnia in some patients. Also, in 1992, Teicher et al found it to cause a reoccupation with suicide. Generally drug therapies have in common the fact that depression reoccurrence rates are high once the drug treatment is stopped; the drug may have to be taken indefinitely to prevent reoccurrence into/of depression.

Also, with relevance to the comparative field of psychotherapy, drug treatment and psychotherapy reveal an equal effect for the treatment of severe depression, (Munoz, Hallon, McGrath et al 1994). The final example in this essay of how drugs are used as treatment for abnormality and mental illness is with regard to minor tranquillisers. Minor tranquillisers were first used in the mid 1950`s and by far the most famous is Vallium, ( diazepam).

Minor tranquillisers are useful in dealing with neurotic disorders where anxiety and sleeplessness are the main symptoms, alleviating the symptoms on a temporary basis and as a result alleviating the depression. However, like all drug therapies, minor tranquillisers have their negative points and criticisms. One such negative consequence of minor tranquillisers is that they are addictive and also that you need to take more and more in order to prevent relapses into depression. Also, (and the same is true with nearly all existing drug treatments), the real problem does not go away.

Tranquillisers only help a person to deal with the sleeplessness and anxiety but does not provide a permanent cure. In this way it is relevant to highlight the biological example of the common cold. Remedies only alleviate the symptoms, they don’t/cant provide a cure. Finally are the side effects associated with treatment with minor tranquillisers which, although not as severe as the side effects of some other drug remedies such as chloroprozamine and the possible side effect of tardive dyskenesia, are still apparent and take the form of skin rashes, drowsiness, low blood pressure etcetera.

In general, the use of drug treatment in treating abnormality and mental ill health is positive in the ways that it can be effectively used in the treatment of specific disorders, (such as chloroprozamine for schizophrenia). Drugs are also very cheap to produce and be mass-produced and distributed to a greater/wider population, (this saves hospital bed), in the case of schizophrenia and chloroprozamine the drug was so effective as to alleviate the patient’s prior need for hospitalisation.

Also due to the relatively cheap price of pharmaceutical drugs, the extra money produced for the pharmaceutical sector of business could have the obvious advantage of providing more money to research into new treatments, advancing progress in the areas of both psychology and medicine in the process. However, the most prominent general argument against drug therapy is the fact that rarely is the cure permanent. The drug(s) used can also have unwanted and unpleasant side effects, (tardive dyskinesia being a major one).

Also, from a speculative sociological and economic stance, the addictiveness and the continuing need for drug treatment could possibly invoke pharmaceutical companies to either extortionately raise prices due to the need for the product or , if a better drug is found which cures the condition rather than only treating the symptoms of the condition, then the pharmaceutical companies may either delay the new drugs release or not release it at all due to the fact that they would have a steady income from the sales of the present drug which was available.

The above is purely speculative and hypothetical but nevertheless raises ethical questions. Also, on an ethical note, it should be noted that if a doctor is aware of a drug having severe side effects but the patient pays for the drug, (or is in desperate need of the drug as part of their treatment), the ethical decision is very often not an easy one.

In summary, the use of drugs via the ideas and views expressed by the biomedical model is not easy to categorise/judge as either totally wrong or totally correct. It should be the case that a patient is not given the treatment without some prior knowledge, (on the part of the doctor and the patient), as to the negative elements such as the temporary status of the treatment and the possible side effects.