More Evidence That Antipsychotics Shrink the Brain

Robert Whitaker
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European researchers who reviewed 43 imaging studies of first-episode psychosis found evidence that antipsychotics cause a decrease in gray matter volumes in the brain. Seventy-five percent of the studies of patients who were receiving antipsychotics or had taken the drugs found a decrease in gray matter volumes; only 25% of studies in which most of the patients were drug naive or drug-free “reported such abnormalities.” The abnormalities, the researchers noted, “were significantly more severe in medicated patients.” They observed that antipsychotics may “reduce frontal cerebral blood flow,” and speculated that this “could be a mechanism underlying smaller brain tissue volumes.”

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27 COMMENTS

  1. It’s official then.

    The government penalty for the crime of thinking the thoughts prohibited in the DSM, is to be chemically lobotomized, to the point of forced alteration of your grey matter volumes.

    Everybody please abide by the law, and don’t dare think the prohibited thoughts. Because the brain rapists are authorized to alter your brain by force.

    Think you’re talking to God? That’s an immediate forced grey matter reduction.

    Dare to feel suicidal? Again, serious crime with a serious brain volume reduction penalty.

    Thinking the CIA is spying on you? Whoa! Don’t even go there. The government will put your brain in a sling!

    More evidence, that if you’ve raped an innocent human being’s brain with neuroleptic drugs, you’re evil.

    • I so agree with you Anonymous. I used to be inside the system as a clinical psychologist, and I used to believe what the psychiatrists told us, that the medication was needed, often for life.

      It is so catastrophic that we now see that the very medication that is seen as so essential, now destroys the brains, without having a single long term study to prove anything but deterioration.

      I am ashamed of my profession, that we psychologists have done so little to oppose the psychiatrists. And I am so outraged over the psychiatrists who continue this mass destruction of people’s brains.

      No medical treatment, even from ancient times days even come close to the damage antipsychotics do now. And to think that people now take them as augmentors for depression treatment and as mood stabilizors! The best selling medication in America, that is a prime example of mass delusion!

      Well, you will be very stable when you have no brain left! This brings a whole new meaning to the word “shrink”

      • @researcher And none of this is new. The evidence that these drugs were no good goes all the way back to the 60’s and 70’s. That’s the most damning part of Whitaker’s investigations as far as I’m concerned. The psychiatrists of the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and 00’s have absolutely no excuse for not knowing what the public is just now starting to learn.

        • Oh, and with that in mind, their ought to be criminal penalties awaiting. That really ought to be what people start fighting for. Not some change in mental health care but criminal accountability for the people who have profited by damaging peoples brains in all of these years. More people ought to be working on getting them sent to prison, not trying to finally get them to listen and start acknowledging the science.

          • Now you’re talkin’! But you could go even further and illustrate how SCIENCE never played a role. Our highly esteemed medical profession has become the business of exploiting the public for financial gain. The trust we placed in the medical profession and our government regulatory agencies has been breeched… for “their” opportunity to amass wealth. The pharmaceutical industry is the second largest in the world. Doctors are their minions and WE are their easy prey.

            Hello? Anyone sitting at the Attorney General’s desk? Pull out your job description and start serving the people who pay your salary!!!

            Criminal charges, prison terms and fines that equal restitution, or rather the redistribution of wealth that would amount to WE the people getting something we actually need from the taxes we pay. Justice. It all depends on one thing:

            We tell the truth. We do it everyday to everyone we can engage in dialogue. We stop talking about medical negligence and medical malpractice and just focus on the CRIMES.
            Breech of the public’s trust
            Fraud that caused/causes harm
            ALL for financial profit

            It is in the job description of the Attorney General– state and federal level to prosecute these cases for THE PEOPLE.

            WE are THE PEOPLE. We have to demand protection from the most affluent members of our society, at least show ourselves capable of discerning the truth of the situation.

        • I started working in a mental hospital after haveing done private practice for 12 years. Cognitive therapy worked marvels for most of my patients in private practice. The only patients who seemed to not get better were the medicated ones. In the mental hospital I saw the same trend. I started wondering if the drugs actually made them worse, and I actually thought i was getting deluded. Was I the only one who had such a heretical thought. After I left the mental hospital and started private practice again, I stumbled upon Peter Breggin’s book “Toxic Psychiatry” and all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place. I realized that most of the suicides I had witnessed had been after abrupt medication changes, that most of the bipolar patients had turned manic on antidepressants, and that many of the anxiety patients that were difficult to cure with cognitive therapy were actually suffering from akathesia.I still remember how we psychologists “bought” the psychiatrists explanation of how the SSRIs were like fertilizers for the brain. I was happy to write my notes with a Zyprexa pen, and have free lunches sponsored by Lilly. Knowing what I know now, I would have been disgusted to write anything with it.
          After my eyes were opened I have seen the typical cases where patients become very akathesic from zoloft and zyprexa, try to commit suicide, have to be restrained etc. One patient finally got so constipated from antidepressants that she had to be admitted in the gastro department. They stopped the antidepressants, and she never had to be restrain again. Another ripped of flakes of skin on her arms until we stopped her Effexor, then all the extreme anxiety symptoms went away.

          Even with strong demonstrations like this, it is very difficult to get doctors to change their minds. They insist that these medications save lives. Cognitive dissonance prevents them from seeing their errors. They would not be able to sleep at night if they knew of all the patients they had destroyed. They have to continue believing in the medications to save their sanity!!

          • “I realized that most of the suicides I had witnessed had been after abrupt medication changes, that most of the bipolar patients had turned manic on antidepressants, and that many of the anxiety patients that were difficult to cure with cognitive therapy were actually suffering from akathesia.”

            This is the pat creation story of suicides, anxiety and “mania”, that some people believe.

            The meaning of someones thoughts during these times? The outside influences that helped them to think these thoughts, the inconvenient problem of responsibility, pushed to the side in favor of pharmacological explanations.

            It’s as if people believe the human condition was just peachy before these drugs came along.

          • Thanks for replying. It’s interesting that a young Behavioral Health Worker at the hospital where I work made some of the same observations. She said that she never witnessed psychotic behavior until after the patient got put on the toxic drugs! I saw the same thing happen while I was locked on the unit as a patient and when I casually made observations about it to staff I was told to quit trying to make trouble! I’ve come to the conclusion that many staff know what is happening and that they are actually harming people with the “treatment,” but they don’t really care.

    • I wouldn’t worry about it, anonymous. They have free will. If they choose not to be affected by the shrinkage than they wont be. It will not change their personality in any way what so ever.

      But exactly how much more evidence is it going to take for the health authorities like the NIH and NIMH to finally declare it official that these drugs cause brain damage? This is getting ridiculous. A summary of the evidence can already fill an entire book chapter. They shouldn’t be allowed to bide their time when at least a million kids are being forced to take these drugs.

      • This is an interesting point Jeff.

        What is the relationship between “brain shrinkage” and behavior? It seems to me a complicated question. Depends on where in the brain, the extent of the damage, any compensatory adaptations made by the body, etc.

        One theory might look like this: So-called anti-psychotic drugs cause brain shrinkage which in turn influence cognitive functioning (memory, recall/recognition) and behavior (speech, gait, appetite).

        I think we need more research on how damage to these areas of the brain “play themselves out” in a persons life.

        And researcher, psychologists aren’t the only profession that has become willing handmaids of psychiatry, social workers and counselors have a lot to answer for as well.

        • @David Ross, I was being sarcastic in case you didn’t know. Aside from having suffered the damage from these drugs as a child I also know my mother who suffered a closed head injury from a car accident and it does in fact change your personality. What people like anonymous refuse to acknowledge is that all aspects of ourselves belong to the brain and that their is no “I” or part of “ME” that doesn’t originate from there. When a brain is changed, the person is changed. That’s where personality comes from, right down to preferences for music and tastes for food and politics and beliefs and absolutely everything. My own experiences through child hood taught me this as every drug I was on changed my personality so much that when I came off or was switched to other drugs I felt crushed that I had nothing in common with my former me and now didn’t even know who I was. According to anonymous, it must have lost been a lapse in my free will?

          • “tastes for food and politics and beliefs and absolutely everything.”

            So democrats and republicans are “born”? Is that it?

            There is much to life that isn’t “caused” by your biology.

            Did you write this comment because you wanted to, or your brain forced you to do it?

          • The brain decides what I want, just as it does for you. If we had the brains of people who came across this site and left, we would have came across this site and left and wouldn’t be typing these comments. What don’t you understand about this? Your opinions are products of your brain. Surely your experience plays a role in your brains development, that has been plastered over the news here since this site came up. That could satisfy your desire to want in-life explanations for these things but even it relies on the brain. Not all brains will react the same to the exact same experiences, hence some people get abused in their childhood and become stronger because of it whereas others do not. At the end of the day your thoughts, feelings and behaviors rely on your brain. If your brain is changed, these things will change, even if your experiences hasn’t. It’s a fact.

          • Jeffrey C subscribes to the reductionistic and scientistic view of human experience, knowledge and behaviour. Fine, but this desperate attempt to assimilate the rest of MIA to his ossified opinions on this matter is becoming power-sappingly tedious.

            He doesn’t see people, only meaty, pulsating receptacles for brains that, according to his theory (recast and redefined as fact), exist in an experiential and cultural vacuum, denying one of the essential constituents of what it is to be human, namely, the interplay between man and the phenomenal world.

            “That’s where personality comes from, right down to preferences for music and tastes for food and politics and beliefs and absolutely everything.”

            What can one say in the face of such invincible ignorance? Maybe Jeffrey has spent his life in a cardboard box or something, I don’t know.

            He says “absolutely everything”. So let’s get this straight; I speak with a welsh accent, not by virtue of a kind cultural osmosis or because I have been inculcated upon by the culture in which I have developed? I don’t care how dogmatic you are in your delivery, some of us are never going to convert to that way of thinking.

            In another of his comments, he almost surreptitiously sneaks in a concession as if it in no way contradicted what he had been peremptorily asserting in his other comments when he concedes that “experience plays a role in your brain’s development”, which is irreconcilable to the monocausal theory of human behaviour, opinions, aesthetic predilections etc., that he asserts elsewhere as if it were a truth imparted to him through divine revelation.

            As for the point about opinions, a man will most likely become a Hindu in India not because the belief is encoded into his brain but because of man’s susceptibility to the beliefs and opinions of the society in which he is reared, and from his indivdual experiences that inspire his thought in a certain direction and that engenders sympathy towards certain thinkers and streams of thought, as well as because he doesn’t want to espouse any beliefs that might interfere with his basic interests, amongst other things.

            Does the brain play a role in this? Of course, but his opinions are not innate, they are merely passively assimilated in the most, reason and judgement only playing a role in the few relatively independent thinkers who are not as preoccupied with the admission into and approbation of the herd.

          • Although what you say about psychoactive drugs influencing experience is true to a large degree, even then it is contingent upon the cultural, immediate environmental and interpersonal context to some degree as well.

            I am confident, even with all the experiential baggage I have accumulated from taking many different drugs, that differences in brain functioning occasioned by the consumption of a psychoactive agent, for example, don’t compel us to perform a complicated criminal and most importantly learnt criminal and non-criminal behaviours, even when the drug creates a strong stimulus for action (such as akathisia); just like I’m confident that even in situations that do not necessarily conduce to the exercise of self-restraint, man can resist his impulses through deliberation and training.

            Complex, criminal, learnt behaviours aren’t autonomic. The so-called behaviours (I say ‘so-called’ because the following are more like neurological reflexes) that result from brain disease and damage, such as the seizures of an epileptic and or the dyskinesias of someone with TD, do not prove, for example, that a person who robs a bank, does so because his brain compelled it, a preponderant misconception in my opinion used to buttress neurodeterminist theory.

            We don’t learn to have seizures; we simply have them. Nor do we learn to have dyskinesias; we simply have them. We do learn to perform complex actions, something acquired through interaction with the phenomenal world.

      • “I wouldn’t worry about it, anonymous. They have free will. If they choose not to be affected by the shrinkage than they wont be. It will not change their personality in any way what so ever. ”

        Nice try. I never said neuroleptics don’t harm the brain. Sure, with a long time on these you will be as very impaired human being.

        Too impaired to teach yourself how to make bombs and train with guns and ammo in the desert for four months.

        The neuroleptics are multitudes of times more toxic than the SSRIs.

        And you know all those brain damaged long term alcoholics and meth heads? They account for the vast majority of heavily premeditated shooting sprees, not.

        Hey these drugs sound pretty toxic. Glad I got them out of my system ASAP.

        I

          • Are you saying that the “wet brain”, decided to write the “intelligent” books?

            He decided to write them.

            Christopher Hitchens was a neocon warmonger with a flair for prose, nothing more.

            He could have planned much more than a massacre, he helped to cheer-lead a nation into an unjustified war.

            And I don’t blame the distilleries, vineyards, or breweries for his behavior.

            What is so compelling to you about letting the Colorado killer off the hook?

            Great, whatever, “personality” change. SO WHAT?

            People’s personalities change in relation to life events too.

            It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t treat people as responsible actors.

            “personality” is just a vague catch-all word for somebody subjective opinion generally of what someone thinks and does.

            Why do you even bother arguing? Everything’s just brains, and science is amoral.

            Where do you think ethics came from?

            Just “developed”? you don’t the culture we live in and the thousands of years of traditions are just as, if not more important than wild speculations about your alleged “brain state”?

          • No, I didn’t say that his wet brain decided to write books. Although he decided to write books, “he” is in fact a product of his brain, just as you are a product of yours. Anyway, I cant even imagine where you drew that from. You said that brain damage caused by psychiatric drugs was actually evidence of how somebody on them would be hampered if they wanted to do something like plan a killing spree, therefore it was less likely (you actually claim it’s impossible) for a drug to play a role in such a thing because if anything it would stop such a thing from happening because they’d be too dumb and dysfunctional to learn and plan things.

            My point was that people can still continue function at high levels even with high levels of brain damage. Christopher Hitchens had actually gone to the hospital in the early 2000’s to detox from alcohol and they sent him home telling him that they’d have to put him in a coma or else he’d die from grand mal seizures as a result of delirium tremens. That’s how much and for how long that guy drank for. Around a 5th and a half a day (or about 60 beers equivalent) every single day from the moment he woke up to the moment he passed out for about 40 years. Yet he could still write books all the way up to his death. Surely a person with brain damage could plan a killing spree if they wanted too, and of course “they” are nothing but a subjective experience of their brain. There is no “me” or “i” or “you” or “they” that is anything but biological. If I removed your brain from your body, “you” would quite literally be gone from the Earth.

  2. The only interesting thing about this article is that they found that the use of neuroleptics correlate with the loss of brain volume (though that was already known). Otherwise they’re just throwing claims here and there without making any coherent point. There are sentences and then between them there are references to other studies.

    But anyway, I’ve been reading about this brain atrophy caused by neuroleptics since the last spring. I think there’s plenty of evidence to think that the neuroleptic drugs do cause a significant brain shrinkage. Some of the more interesting studies are the studies with macaque monkeys and the Andreasen-Choon-etc study “Long-term antipsychotic treatment and brain volumes.”

    Some of the scientists have made a model that there’s four or so dopamine pathways in the brain. Well, independent of how many of these pathways exist, they’re all blocked by the neuroleptics. One of the pathways leads to the frontal lobes. You know, if you take a dopamine blocking neuroleptic, then it blocks the pathways to the frontal lobes. An instant lobotomy! When you take the same drug for a longer time, the areas in the brain that don’t get any input – including the frontal lobes – start to deteriorate. A secondary, more longer lasting lobotomy!

    What makes this sad situation even more … should I say perverse? … is that they tell people that the neuroleptics save from the brain damage or shrinkage. When I told my psychologist that I’m feeling like a total crap from the meds, she said that *if I don’t take them it may cause me brain damage*.

    A while ago there was some doctor in an ‘official’ schizophrenia info site (funded by a pharma company) who told to the patients that sometimes schizophrenia causes brain damage/shrinkage (or that the brain damage causes schizophrenia), but there’s some scientific evidence that the second generation neuroleptics may help with this shrinkage.

    I wrote to him an somewhat angry mail, not expecting an answer. However, I surprisingly got a mail from him where he referred me to a study where they had scanned the brains of patients on an older generation neuroleptic and a second generation neuroleptic. They found out in the study that the patients on the old generation neuroleptics had brain shrinkage, whereas the patients on their new generation neuroleptics had less of a brain shrinkage. The conclusion was that the new neuroleptics in some unknown way *prevent* the brain shrinkage … Hey scientific geniuses, here’s another interpretation: The patients on the older neuroleptics had lots of brain shrinkage because of heavy dopamine blocking and the patients on the new neuroleptic had less of brain shrinkage because the new neuroleptic blocked less of dopamine.

    Most of the schizophrenia patients are on neuroleptics. It may be that some of the negative and cognitive symptoms that are claimed to be caused by the disease are actually caused by the neuroleptic drugs. My own belief that it most certainly is so.

    Oh well, maybe life is easier when you have a drain bammage.

    • Hermes, I think I know that study that he referred you to. I’m pretty sure it was Haldol vs Zyprexa for a first episode psychosis (?) and the patients on haldol quickly showed a decrease in brain volume, but not those on zyprexa. However, if that is the study I remember, the Zyprexa group caught up entirely at the end of one or two years.

      • Jeffrey, actually, now that I checked the article he referred to, the article itself is not so bad, it quite clearly admits that possibly the shrinkage is due to Haldol or neuroleptics.

        The study’s called Antipsychotic Drug Effects on Brain Morphology in First-Episode Psychosis.

        However, after reading the actual study, it’s even more strange that he writes to his patients that the neuroleptics may *save* the brain from the brain damaging effects of schizophrenia according to the scientific studies.

        I have another similar study somewhere which downright suggests that the atypical neuroleptic seems to protect the brain from the damage of schizophrenia better than the old neuroleptic. I’ll see if I find it.