Calif. Jury Rejects “Zoloft Defense”

Kermit Cole
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The jury in Anthony Orban’s California trial for rape – which Orban argued was the result of a ‘psychotic break’ caused by his recent resumption of Zoloft – has found Orban guilty. The jury will now have to determine whether Orban was ‘sane’ at the time of the attack.

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected]

7 COMMENTS

  1. I have really mixed feelings about all of this. I have great respect for Dr. Breggin and all, and I’m certainly against the SSRIs. It kind of reminds me of what Sandusky’s lawyer may try to do in his trial where they may pull some mumbo jumbo hocus pocos diagnosis from an obscure corner of the DSM to save him if the trial goes against them and it looks as if he may get convicted of the 52 cases of sexual abuse of kids. I’ve been around quite a few people on SSRIs and have never observed this kind of behavior from anyone. Just because I’ve never seen it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

    I would like to hear what others think about this. I wish Anonmymous would log on and share some ideas.

  2. I trust Dr. Breggin’s call on this case.

    After reading many of his books and works through the years, I have to say that IMO, Dr. Breggin has been consistent in two areas:

    1) Freedom
    2) Personal Responsibility

    And not always in that order, by the way…

    A person is responsible for their behavior, at all times.
    And although it may seem to be a double-standard to blame behavior on a drug, I would say it depends on whether that drug altered a person’s mind to the extent that they were no longer themselves.

    I am NOT for justifying behavior based upon pscyhiatric diagnosis, but I am OPEN to the fact that psychiatric drugs can impair a person to such an extent that the person is acting in an altered state of mind… one that was INDUCED by the mind-altering psychiatric drug.

    This is a good site for anyone who wants to read more on this subject –

    http://www.woodymatters.com/

    I would not want to be in the position of Dr. Breggin to make the call, but I trust what he had to say on the subject.

    Duane

  3. It does sound suspicious, in that he had not engaged in this kind of behavior previously, and in that his behavior was quite blatant and erratic, as if he had no concerns about being observed or caught. There is no question that Zoloft can interfere with someone’s ability to empathize with others, and in some situations, can create frank manic episodes. Combine this with drinking, and it seems very conceivable that this could happen. I do have to say, though, that he is culpable for drinking while using Zoloft, as it does tell you not to do that on the label, as far as I understand.

    —– Steve

  4. I’ve been highly critical of psychiatry for well over a quarter of a century; but, I don’t consider myself ‘antipsychiatry’; for, during this time, there have been a handful of psychiatrists whose writings I’ve come to admire.

    Has there ever been – in all these years – even one psychiatrist whose professional views I came to agree with, entirely??? No. But, I do greatly value certain, specific written works, by certain psychiatrists. (For one example, of such a work: a copy of psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl’s, outstanding little book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” now lays next to my computer keyboard; this is a brilliant piece of writing.)

    Amongst the first psychiatrists whose written works I came to admire, is R.D. Laing (another example of a psychiatrist who could, at times, write brilliantly).

    Laing was the first psychiatrist I ever read extensively.

    One particular book of his, “The Politics of Experience” (1967), made an huge impact on my thinking. I was just a couple of years old, when it was published; roughly a dozen years later, I pulled it from a shelf, of my parents’ books and began reading. Immediately, his words resonated; there was, in the pages, of that little book, the ring of deeply profound truth.

    (It spoke well to many who were – as was I – coming-of-age during the height of the Cold War; for, it spoke of the madness of our era – the utter insanity that had the two “Superpowers” ostensibly deterring a nuclear attack, by keeping tens of thousands of nuclear warheads on ‘hair-trigger’ alert and pointed at ‘The Other’.)

    Years later, I’d read a later work by Laing, wherein he explained, that: supposedly, he’d never had any problem at all, in discerning so-called “psychotic” individuals from others. To me, that particular conveyance seemed to contradict everything I’d first learned, of Laing’s views.

    (I’d offer the exact quote by Laing, which contained that sentiment – if only I knew where I’d read it; but, off-hand, I don’t recall where I did.)

    In truth, Laing may not have been contradicting himself entirely; but, at that point, I realized I’d overestimated his wisdom; he was not the ‘perfect sage shrink’ I’d first imagined he was; and, though he continued, thereafter, to occupy a special place in my heart, he was no longer really a hero anymore.

    That is because of my having become so acutely aware the Cold War threat, of nuclear warfare; it left me permanently unable to believe, that anyone can draw a clear line between ‘psychosis’ and ‘absence of psychosis’; so, my opinion of any psychiatrist’s intelligence will invariably be lowered, to the extent that I find s/he insists s/he can confidently know who supposedly “is” versus who supposedly “is not” assuredly “psychotic” (or, if one prefers to avoid using the term, “psychotic,” one might refer instead to the question of: “who supposedly ‘is’ or ‘is not’ ‘pathologically’ deluded”).

    (I won’t deny that some people can be quite deluded; I just feel it’s highly presumptuous and arrogant to consider oneself fully capable of drawing a perfectly discerning line between who is or is not.)

    Simultaneous to my early readings of Laing, there was my learning of the views of Thomas Szasz – a very different sort of personality from Laing; early on, in his career, Szasz came to criticize Laing (in ways, quite sharply); Szasz felt Laing was trying to tear down psychiatry only to rebuild it in his own way, according to his own preferences. (Szasz would not hope for reformations of psychiatry.)

    Szasz has long been a favorite psychiatrist-writer of mine; though, his writing can be tedious at times; and, I don’t always agree with him.

    I have very high regard for Peter Breggin, too; ever since he first published his book, Toxic Psychiatry (in 1991) and then, “Beyond Conflict” (1992), he’s been, to my mind, a hero. (And, his wife, Ginger, I now consider to be a supportive social media friend; so, I pray she’ll forgive me for what I’m going to say, henceforward, in this comment.)

    In an L.A. Times article regarding the above mentioned “Zoloft Defense” that was posted online two days ago and which was featured here on the MiA site (June 12), one can read the following two, very brief paragraphs:

    /// Breggin said he believed Orban suffered a psychotic break from reality shortly before the kidnapping and was in an unconscious state of delirium, void of control or memory, during the attack.

    “I don’t even think he knows he’s tormenting her,” Breggin testified. “He would not under any circumstances behave like this if he was not driven over the edge by the drugs.” ///

    For those who might wish to read the full article, here’s the link: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-rape-zoloft-20120613,0,7399763.story

    I have known for quite some time, that Dr. Breggin has been testifying as an ‘expert witness’ in various cases concerning the effects of so-called “antidepressants” – but have, almost entirely, willfully ignored this aspect of his work.

    I’m actually somewhat ashamed to admit, that: I’ve willfully ignored this aspect of Dr. Breggin’s work because I have not cared to allow myself to discover, that Dr. Breggin might be, in ways, potentially, working quite at odds, with my own deepest values.

    You see, I have long been highly skeptical of the “insanity defense.”

    (Such a defense suggests, that: due to a presumed ‘psychiatric condition,’ a defendant supposedly could not possibly have known ‘right’ from ‘wrong’ at the moment of committing the criminal offense s/he has committed).

    Now, having read the above mentioned, June 12, L.A. Times article, which details bits of Anthony Orban’s defense, I find myself feeling that – in this case, at least – Dr. Breggin was in error.

    Indeed, if just those two brief paragraphs (only three sentences in sum, which I copied from the L.A. Times and pasted above) are accurately reported facts, then I feel I must conclude, that: Dr. Breggin has overstepped the bounds of good sense, in this case. Much as I am no fan of psychopharmacology, when he – or anyone else – comes to blaming psychopharmocology for such heinous criminal behavior as this man (Orban) apparently committed, I can’t help but find myself objecting. Indeed, I am feeling disillusioned.

    My one-time hero (Dr. Breggin) is suddenly no longer a hero to me.

    If the L.A. Times reporting of his testimony, in this case, is accurate, then that won’t change.

    But, he will always remain someone whose work outside of criminal law courts I highly respect.

    I am relieved to know that the jury rejected the “Zoloft Defense” and that the prosecutors won this case.

    Hopefully, the guilty verdict will stand.

    (PS – Note: Until now, I was posting here on MiA with the user name, “Jonah”; but, in the past couple days, MiA login has not worked for me; I tried sending a message, to get help with this, but I received no response, so I re-registered under this “BeyondLabeling” name, which you now see atop this comment.)