The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine


EPISODE # 243

Sally Satel on Addiction, the Opioid Crisis, Deaths of Despair, and How Psychiatry Has Gone Woke

Dr. Sally Satel is a visiting professor of psychiatry at Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a lecturer at Yale University School of Medicine, and a practicing psychiatrist. She holds an MD from Brown University and completed her residency in psychiatry at Yale University. Satel is the author of PC, MD: How Political Correctness is Corrupting Medicine, Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience (with Scott Lillienfeld), and One Nation Under Therapy: How the Helping Culture Is Eroding Self-Reliance (with Christina Hoff Sommers). Dr. Satel lives in Washington, DC.

Shermer and Satel discuss:

  • how political correctness has corrupted medicine,
  • how wokeness and social justice activism has corrupted psychiatry,
  • What is social justice and who is really practicing it?
  • medical models of mental illness,
  • why mental illness is so hard to treat,
  • medical models of addiction: where they succeed, where they fail,
  • how addictions are treated,
  • Can one be addicted to porn?
  • Can one be addicted to social media?
  • The opioid crisis: who is responsible?
  • deaths of despair and why they happen,
  • why some people are able to break free from their addictions while others are not,
  • free will and determinism in the context of addictions: degrees of freedom?
  • organ transplant markets.

For additional background please read Dr. Satel’s article on what has happened to psychiatry and how it went woke.

Satel and Shermer discuss in particular these passages from her article:

American Medical Association’s Advancing Health Equity: A Guide to Language, Narrative, and Concepts. The guide condemns several “dominant narratives” in medicine. One is the “narrative of individualism,” and its misbegotten corollary, the notion that health is a personal responsibility. A more “equitable narrative,” the guide instructs, would “expose the political roots underlying apparently ‘natural’ economic arrangements, such as property rights, market conditions, gentrification, oligopolies and low wage rates.”

One form of correction that the AMA recommends is “equity explicit” language. Instead of “individuals,” doctors should say “survivors”; instead of “marginalized communities,” they should say, “groups that are struggling against economic marginalization.” We must also be clear that “people are not vulnerable, they are made vulnerable.” Accordingly, we should replace the statement, “Low-income people have the highest level of coronary artery disease,” with “People underpaid and forced into poverty as a result of banking policies, real estate developers gentrifying neighborhoods, and corporations weakening the power of labor movements, among others, have the highest level of coronary artery disease.”

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This episode was released on January 22, 2022.

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