At times, I think that I must seem like a dog with a bone, and that I just can’t let this one particular subject—the long-term effects of psychiatric drugs—go. I wrote about this in Anatomy of an Epidemic, and since then I have given many talks and written many blogs on the topic, and more recently, I engaged in a back-and-forth of sorts with Ronald Pies and Allen Frances about this. But I do think it is important that the relevant science is known, and with that thought in mind, I decided to write a paper that, in as succinct a manner as possible, would make the “case against antipsychotics.”
A new study published this month in the journal Neuron identifies the mechanism by which antipsychotic drugs can induce parkinsonism, a condition involving movement abnormalities. The researchers found that antipsychotics block D2 dopamine receptors in a part of the brain called the striatum, specifically acting on interneurons in this area, leading to problems with movement.
Fierce Pharma reports: "Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) is fighting more than 1,500 legal claims that its antipsychotic Risperdal triggered breast development in boys, and the company has landed on the wrong side of a jury verdict in several of them so far. The same thing happened Friday in a Philadelphia court. The difference, this time, is that the jury smacked J&J with a $70 million damages award--many times larger than previous awards in similar cases." More →
A Philadelphia court found that Janssen Pharmaceuticals had illegally marketed its drug Risperdal to children, and that the drug had caused a teenage boy to grow breasts. The jury imposed a $70 million verdict against Janssen, the largest verdict of its kind so far. "The jury got angry at these people; they don't take responsibility," said Stephen Sheller, one of the boy's lawyers.
The annual meeting of the UK’s Royal College of Psychiatrists is in full swing at the moment in London. The conference will again not be debating important new findings about antipsychotic drug treatment. Two years ago the conference organising committee rejected a suggestion to discuss this issue. This year I proposed a similar symposium. The proposal was rejected again. I am extremely concerned that the Royal College conference organising committee do not appear to be aware of the importance of this issue.
It is common for “as required” or PRN (Pro re nata) medications to be prescribed during inpatient mental health visits. The most likely drugs prescribed “as needed” include benzodiazepines, antipsychotics, and sleeping pills. A newly updated Cochrane review finds, however, that “there is no good evidence” for this practice.
The assertion that the so-called antidepressants are being over-prescribed implies that there is a correct and appropriate level of prescribing and that depression is a chronic illness (just like diabetes). It has been an integral part of psychiatry’s message that although depression might have been triggered by an external event, it is essentially an illness residing within the person’s neurochemistry. The issue is not whether people should or shouldn’t take pills. The issue is psychiatry pushing these dangerous serotonin-disruptive chemicals on people, under the pretense that they have an illness.
Psychiatry would long since have gone the way of phrenology and mesmerism but for the financial support it receives from the pharmaceutical industry. But the truth has a way of trickling out. Here are five recent stories that buck the psychiatry-friendly stance that has characterized the mainstream media for at least the past 50 years.
New data reveals that the majority of care homes in British Columbia, Canada are giving out prescriptions for antidepressants and antipsychotics without a diagnosis. According to a report by the Times Colonist, “there are a whopping 54 homes in which 40 percent of the residents are taking antipsychotics without a diagnosis.”
A dilemma for all of us who are struggling to broaden our understanding of human distress beyond simplistic, pessimistic, bio-genetic ideology, and to improve our mental health services accordingly, is whether or not to soften our criticisms of psychiatry in the hope of reaching those psychiatrists whose minds are not totally closed. But doing so rests on the assumption that change can come from within the profession. For the last few decades examples of that are few and far between.
Vermont Governor Shumlin recently suggested a change to state law that would accelerate the process under which a person could be forced to take antipsychotic drugs against her will. The House Human Services Committee reviewed this proposal and I was asked to testify. What follows are my comments.
A pathbreaking new study out of Finland suggests that early intervention programs for youth experiencing psychotic-like symptoms may see the greatest improvement when treatment works within the home rather than in a hospital setting. The research, to be published in next month’s issue of Psychiatry Research, found greater improvement in functioning, depression, and hopelessness among teens in a new need-adapted Family and Community oriented Integrative Treatment Model (FCTM) program.
When I wrote Anatomy of an Epidemic, one of my foremost hopes was that it would prompt mainstream researchers to revisit the scientific literature. Was there evidence that any class of psychiatric medications—antipsychotics, antidepressants, stimulants, benzodiazepines, and so forth—provided a long-term benefit? Now epidemiologists at Columbia University and City College of New York have reported that they have done such an investigation about antipsychotics, and their bottom-line finding can be summed up in this way: Psychiatry’s “evidence base” for long-term use of these drugs does not exist.
In the third major verdict of its kind, drug giant Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay Nicholas Murray, a 21-year-old Maryland man who grew female breasts while taking the antipsychotic Risperdal. The company failed to warn doctors, patients, and regulators of the risk of abnormal breast development in young males and now faces about 5,400 lawsuits involving the drug.
New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof, relates the story of Andrew Francesco, a boy who began taking Ritalin at age five and died from complications with Seroquel when he was fifteen. His father, a former pharmaceutical industry executive, reveals the industry’s greed in his memoir “Overmedicated and Undertreated.” Now the industry is pushing for a first-amendment right to market its drugs for off-label uses.
I was a psychiatrist who participated in the Recovery After an Initial Schizophrenia Episode Early Treatment Program (RAISE ETP). Although I welcomed the positive headlines that heralded the study’s results, the reports left me with mixed feelings. What happened to render the notion that talking to people about their experiences and helping them find jobs or go back to school is something novel?
Writing on his 1 Boring Old Man blog, Dr. Mickey Nardo reflects on the media frenzy around the RAISE study and asks why the prescription data has not been released. He adds skepticism about the political motives of the potentially overblown results, which he sees as a clear push for increased mental health funding.
Yesterday, the New York Times reported that schizophrenia patients in an experimental treatment program (RAISE) who experienced better outcomes had been on lower doses of antipsychotics than normal. However, the article published in the American Journal of Psychiatry on Tuesday did not divulge any data on the varying antipsychotic drug doses in the different study groups.
The Psychiatric Advisor reports on new research from King’s College London that suggests that antipsychotics can cause serious harm to people with Parkinson’s. According to the research: “The group that was treated with antipsychotics were four times more likely to have died following three to six months of treatment than those who did not receive any antipsychotic medication, the researchers reported in the Journal of Medical Directors Association. In addition, those on antipsychotics were also more likely to experience cognitive decline, worsening of Parkinson’s symptoms, stroke, infections, and falls.”
New research published in the July issue of The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that the use of mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, antidepressants, and hypnotics during pregnancy is associated with increased health risks to the infant.
Since the mid-1990s antipsychotic medications have been increasingly prescribed for children, adolescents, and adults. The most recent report finds an increase in use for older children from 2006 to 2008. Most of the prescriptions of antipsychotics for children reported by the study were for conditions which had not been approved by the FDA (called off-label use).
Amid growing criticism about the over-prescription of psychotropic medication in foster care, Pennsylvania commissioned PolicyLab to conduct an analysis of the use of psychiatric drugs among all of the state’s Medicaid-enrolled children. The report, released in June, found that the rates of psychotropic prescriptions among youth in Medicaid and foster care are higher than previous estimates.
Antipsychotics are currently the predominant treatment for individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia, but there is an accumulating body of research that links the use of these drugs to structural abnormalities in the brain. A recent meta-analysis suggests that gray matter loss in the brain may depend on the dose and class of the antipsychotic.
Antipsychotics are being prescribed to people who may have challenging behaviors but no mental disorder, according to new research published in this month’s issue of BMJ. In people without intellectual disability, approximately 50% of prescriptions for antipsychotics are given in the absence of a diagnosis of severe mental illness. According to the new analysis, an even higher proportion (71%) of those with intellectual disabilities receive antipsychotics without such a diagnosis.
A review of 18 imaging studies finds that brain matter loss in patients diagnosed with schizophrenia is correlated with antipsychotic use, according to Psych Central. The analysis suggests that the continued use of antipsychotics is linked with progressive cortical gray matter loss.
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