RxISK Stories: Gambling on the Side Effects of Antidepressants

This piece by Daniel O’Sullivan was first posted on Crikey.com. Our interest was stimulated by a query to RxISK from Daniel who had been told by the Australian regulator (the TGA) that they only had one report of this. Looking for gambling in RxISK, gives 1 case in Australia, but 4 cases of pathological gambling – more than from all the rest of the world combined, and 8 cases of impulsive behavior. In the FDA database, there are many more reports from the US and Europe with a Proportional Reporting Ratio for impulse control disorder of 11.2 and for impulsive behavior is 10.0.  These are very strong signals.

This illustrates how RxISK can be useful for anyone interested in the effects of drugs including journalists – once RxISK reporting takes off we will be able to tie reports not just to Australia or the US but to Charlotte and Tampa, and Brisbane. It also illustrates that you cannot depend on the word of regulators – you need to research for yourself. It is not a lie that there is only one report of gambling on Efexor in Australia. It also clearly is a lie that there is only one report of gambling on Efexor in Australia or at least deeply misleading.

Betting your brains on antidepressants. Created by Billiam James

In June last year, three months into a prescription for anti-depressant drug Efexor, former financial analyst Tim Hillier left his hotel to wander the empty streets of Alice Springs in an attempt to clear his head. An hour earlier, he had wagered $80,000 — almost the entirety of his life-savings — on a first-round Wimbledon tennis match featuring Aussie hope Sam Stosur.

With Stosur faltering in the opening set, Tim knew he should be sick with panic. Instead, the fear just gnawed away at the fringes, relegated to the background by a thick, medicated haze from the Efexor intended to dull his severe obsessive compulsive disorder. “I was walking the streets just thinking ‘f-ck, have I actually placed this bet?’,” Tim said. “Have I actually wagered all this money on a single tennis match?”

“Paul”, a father of two from Adelaide, took Efexor for almost three years after being diagnosed with depression on his first visit to a psychologist. Initially hesitant at jumping head-first into the world of anti-depressants, Paul was reassured by his doctor about Efexor’s high success rate. But Paul too began to suffer crippling gambling addiction.

“It’s not a targeted drug, it doesn’t target depression specifically, it targets everything. It takes away all of your feelings, so you become a shell of a person. You’re still able to function, but you just don’t feel anything, you don’t feel any fear of consequences at all,” he said.

Paul and Tim, both in a search to understand their unexplained gambling binges, came across an online discussion thread entitled “Efexor and Gambling”. The thread, first started in 2007, reads like the rawest form of group therapy as strangers congregate to offer up accounts of reckless and compulsive behaviours acted out while being prescribed Efexor. There are tales of thousands of dollars frittered away on pokies machines, on casino floors and at the track, stories of ruined relationships and shattered careers. The common theme is an unexplained and seemingly unnatural disregard for consequences.

Jolted by the possibility of a link between his destructive behaviour and his long-term medication, Paul decided to seek more information from Efexor manufacturer, Pfizer. When he contacted the pharmaceutical giant directly, he was met with a surprising admission.

“I contacted Pfizer and I asked if they knew that Efexor could possibly cause gambling and sexual misconduct and they responded with, ‘oh yes we knew that, 0.8% of people will get that’,” he said. Pfizer informed Paul these dangers were presented as a possible side effect in the medication packaging under the umbrella term “uninhibited behaviours”.

“How am I supposed to know what an ‘uninhibited behaviour’ was?” he said. “What a cloaking of an evil thing is that? That could be me parachuting or hang gliding or running down the beach with Speedos on! How was I to know it was going to be the type of addictive behaviours that would ruin my life?”

Efexor, first introduced to the American market in 1993, is now well established as one ofAustralia’s most commonly prescribed anti-depressant medications with more than 1.2 million prescriptions serviced in Australia in the past 12 months. At low and moderate doses, it acts only on the brain’s mood control neurotransmitters, serotonin and norephinephrine. But at high doses of over 300mg a day it also effects a third neurotransmitter called dopamine, which is responsible for reward-driven behaviours and has been associated with risk-taking behaviour and addiction.

It’s this dopamine effect that can cause problems, according to world-renowned psychiatrist, psychopharmacologist and author Dr David Healy. “When Efexor is taken at high dosages it triggers a flood of dopamine and becomes what we call a ‘dopamine agonist’. This can be responsible for the types of dangerous impulsive behaviours.”

While dopamine agonist drugs, such as Pfizer’s Cabaser, have been successful in the treatment of neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, they made headlines in 2010 when hundreds of Parkinson’s sufferers filed a class action against pharmaceutical manufacturers after allegedly becoming addicted to gambling and pornography due to their medication.

A data-based research paper published on www.davidhealy.org by Dr Sarah Richards called “Dopamine Agonists for Takers” identifies the major risks associated with dopamine agonists as “uncontrollable gambling, hypersexuality, shopping, binge eating and other behaviours collectively referred to as Impulse Control Disorders (ICD)”.

In the same paper, Dr Richards describes the attempts by pharmaceutical manufacturers to disclose the risks related to dopamine agonists to patients as “shameful”. It’s a valid assessment, says Dr Healy.

“Pharmaceutical companies have absolutely not done enough,” he said. “They have seemingly gone out of their way to deny that such effects could be happening.

“There is a management of adverse effects that at times seems aimed at closing off all loopholes from reporting. Companies are better placed than anyone to bring hazards to light but they seem to go into denial mode instead.”

While declining to comment on a possible link between Efexor and ICDs, Pfizer’s Amy O’Hara maintains all product information provided to doctors and patients is correct. “Pfizer rigorously monitors the safety of its medicines and works with the Therapeutic Goods Administration to ensure that the product information for doctors is up to date … based upon clinical trials and post-marketing surveillance,” she said.

Dr Jon Jureidini, spokesman for the global collective of health professionals Healthy Skepticism, believes it’s this “post-marketing surveillance” that is being neglected. While figures supplied by the TGA show that only one out of 1451 registered adverse reactions relating to Efexor actually link the drug to pathological gambling, Dr Jureidini believes patients aren’t getting the full picture.

“The TGA spends a lot of its money on assessing and improving new drugs which they need to do, but they don’t spend enough proportionately on monitoring what’s in existence,” he said. “The amount of people that test the drug in the research phase is minuscule compared to the amount of people that take the drug when it has gone to market and the reality is, about half of the serious side effects don’t emerge until after the drugs have been on the market for a couple of years.

“It is frustrating that the burden is then put on individuals to monitor adverse affects of drugs instead of regulatory bodies.”

Paul is certainly frustrated. “I can almost understand it from my doctor’s point of view, they get sold all these drugs by these salesmen who give them pens and pads and showbags and probably take them off to Paris  once year when they’ve reached certain targets. They get told it’s a great drug by these reps, they don’t actually get emphasised the dangers that can happen — the type of things that happened to me,” he said.

According to Dr Jureidini, the cosy relationship between pharmaceutical companies and doctors is not fuelled by money but is more subtle. “Most doctors are honest about that and wouldn’t accept bribes,” he said, “it actually involves helping their careers along and mutually beneficial research education opportunities.

“It is [these types of relationships] that are going to lead to doctors choosing certain drugs just because they’ve got a free hand to hand [sample] when that might not be the best choice for the patient.”

Dr Michael Baigent, national clinical adviser for depression initiative beyond blue, disputes the notion of undue influence wielded by pharmaceutical manufacturers such as Pfizer.

“There are safeguards in place via the TGA and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, so there is a lot of pressure on them to be very, very open and forthcoming about any side effects,” he said. “Also, most doctors and most clinicians when they have time with the patient will go through and mention side effects that are commonly experienced, but they may not talk about side effects that affect one in 50,000 because the list is long and it can be very hard to actually go through them all.

“The expectation is that the people will actually have a look at the sheets of the information that go out with the boxes of medication.”

While Dr Baigent is supportive of the current regulatory system, he believes there is still a long way to go in the research and development of anti-depressants in Australia.

“There are two big concerns in this area in my view,” he explained. “One is that people will be prescribed the medication that might not need it. And the second one, which is just as a big a concern, is that people who will really benefit from it — and it would be lifesaving — will not receive it.”

Dr Baigent’s dual concerns are perhaps best reflected in the fortunes of two men inextricably linked by an Efexor prescription and the same fateful Google search.

Almost a year since he gradually weened himself off Efexor, Tim has yet to lay a single bet. But despite conquering his gambling demons, he remains enslaved to the OCD that has dictated most of his adult life. The ongoing search for medicinal help and a shot at normality continues.

“For me, the loss of the money is really a secondary issue. If someone said to me they could take away my OCD for $80,000, I’d do it in a heartbeat,” he said. “I often think it would be nice for once to pursue something that’s going to bring me a little bit of joy rather than just moping around and feeling shit all the time … there needs to be a point to it all at the end of the day. You need a bit of hope and something at the end of the rainbow, otherwise you can lose heart.”

The flipside of the same coin is family man Paul, who remains entrenched in his own, very different, battle for normality.

“I would never ever take an anti-depressant ever again,” he said. “To be honest I don’t think I even needed it to begin with. I was just expecting to be laid down on the couch like they do in the movies, but I came out with a prescription for one of the most powerful anti-depressant drugs there is.”

Four months since extricating himself from Efexor, Paul is still attempting pick up the pieces of a life decimated by ICDs. “You don’t fix three years of that type of behaviour in three months,” he said.

“It’s really the family side of things, its healing the wounds there that is going to be the big thing, I might not be able to keep the family together. I’ve got a wonderful wife and I’ve got to fight for that.”

Now firmly in recovery mode, all that is left to ponder is the endless parade of “what-if” scenarios.

“I honestly believe I just needed a pep talk, I needed to be told to “do a bit of exercise, change your diet, drop the beer, get on with life”. That would have been so much cheaper and easier in the long run.

“And I think that if Pfizer’s aim wasn’t just to get Efexor to the marketplace as quick as possible and they had of invested another half a billion dollars,” he considered ruefully, “they could have come out with a perfect drug.”

[Details of this article also appeared on ABC News]


Illustration: Betting your brains on antidepressants, 2012 © Billiam James


  1. Healy uses the confected psych label (aren’t they all), “impulse control disorder”, to describe the gambler who bet and lost. If he’d won, his “impulses” wouldn’t be labeled “out of order”.

    RxRisk is just a website where anyone can say whatever they want happened to them, and claim to be whoever they want. Hell, anyone could be manipulating the site. It’s hardly a sworn affidavit is it?

    Healy says we can’t trust government regulators, and he’s right. Why can we trust a website frequented by people who’d like to blame drugs for their decisions?

    And are electroshock survivors allowed to post their adverse effects on his site? or is that banned?

    Healy is heaven sent, for anyone who wants to hitch their own flight from personal responsibility to a semi-renegade psychiatrist. Drugs are bad, “cause” unwanted risk taking “allegedly”, electroshock good. Safe as can be.

    He’s even resorted to psychiatry’s tactic of using colorful images and photos to appeal to the deep thinkers out there.

    A guy given to “uninhibited” habitual/repetitive behaviors with an OCD label, takes a drug and continues to do “uninhibited” things, and Healy gets to blame the drug.

    Because Healy’s a pharmacologist who understands the human condition so much that he thinks electroshock is a valid thing to do to the brain if you’re sad, that seizures are good for brain, any and all bad things that happen in the modern world (which incidentally happens to be populated by millions of people constantly starting, stopping, and staying on psychiatric drugs), it’s all “caused by” the drugs.

    Gamble too much in Vegas on aged scotch, that’s you’re own fault. Gamble too much on SSRIs, and you’re a “victim” who deserves to be a plaintiff in a class action. And class actions need paid experts.

    This article is “up there”, with when Healy flat out blamed psych drugs for the Colorado massacre within hours of the shooting happening.

    It’s bizarro land.

    If someone blames electroshock for disinhibition, he shoots them down, as seen in the below pro-electroshock article he wrote:


    ,but he gets to blame drugs for disinhibition, and all the evidence he needs to provide is a story some guy on the internet filled out on a form on his website.

    I think this stinks to high heaven.

    This is no humanistic therapist here, you’ll find no human reasons for behaviors, and at the drop of a hat, if a massacre hits the news, he’s ready to roll out his shtick.

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    • Actually alcohol control is a heated subject.

      High levels of alcohol consumption is associated with domestic violence, sexual assault, and other forms of criminality as well as health consequences.

      I’ve researched this recently as my step-mother has been in hospital with alcoholic hepetitis.

      Australian Aboriginal communities that take a community approach to alocohol and limit it’s supply flourish. Seeing dangerous psychoactive drugs as a community problem and not individual responsibility is something all societies to to some degree. Alcohol manufacturers and drug companies like us to think of the problems that arrise as individual problems as that makes it less likely that the drugs and the alcohol will be regulated.

      So your comparison to someone who drinks and loses money at a casino is apt – though I see it as a reason to regulate alcohol and gambling where as you see it differently.

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  2. Thought.

    Let’s say a drug blaming psychiatrist had become “internationally respected” during alcohol prohibition. An exemption to alcohol prohibition was a doctor prescribing alcohol as a medicine. So despite recreational drinking being not legally sanctioned, “medical alcohol” was fine.

    Then some people on this medical alcohol punch somebody in the face, or drive drunk.

    The drug blaming psychiatrist gets all sorts of reports sent to him in the mail, after calling for submissions, one submission he gets is from “Ken”, a man who gambled his life savings while drunk. He wants to warn everybody about the effects of this dangerous drug.

    The drug blaming psychiatrist gets paid the big bucks to stand up in court and be an expert witness and sue the breweries and distillers.

    The drug blaming psychiatrist did his PhD on the effects of alcohol on the brain. He’s the expert. And if he stands up in court and says the man who drove drunk was “caused to” by the alcohol, well then that’s that, the matter is finished. Because when a drug dis-inhibits somebody, THAT IS THE WHOLE STORY, BE ALL AND END ALL. And you’d better believe it, because the expert says. Nobody in the history of man ever had a drunken bar fight that had any human factors such as jilted love, jealousy, anger, nobody ever drove drunk home because of reckless indifference for human life or convenience or to save money on a cab. Nope, when a drug disinhibits, the drug belongs in the dock, not any other human factor at all.

    No, the story, be all, and end all, of all unwanted human behavior of those who happen to be on a drug, SHALL BE written by the psychopharmacologist, and anybody who talks about the elephants in the room are unscientific.

    The elephants in the room of David Healy’s simple drug blaming shtick?

    A young medical student doesn’t become a biological psychiatrist or psychopharmacologist if they believe life’s problems should be solved by rearranging lives and thoughts and providing wise counsel. A person becomes a biological psychiatrist because they believe life’s problems should be solved by rearranging the human brain. A person puts electroshock electrodes up to a person’s skull, because they believe with a fanatical zeal that the unhappy person has a real medical disease.

    No young person who took SSRIs and killed themselves did so, because, or in any way related to, the fact that they were placed in front of one of these biological psychiatrists, and led to believe they had no free will, and led to believe they were the victim of a disease.

    No young person ever went home and strung up a belt and hanged themselves because they were told their despair and life’s problems were completely beyond their control, and that they were at the mercy of a disordered brain.

    No biological psychiatrist would ever give a kid this idea. And when they kill themselves, it IS, ABSOLUTELY caused by the drugs (or the “disease”, take your pick), not the hopelessness and narrative of biopsychiatric lies implanted into the kid’s mind by a biological psychiatrist.

    Biological psychiatrists, and the lies they tell innocent people about the nature of their distress, are responsible for more suicides and more wasted human potential, than the entire supply on hand in all the drug company factories in the world of psychiatric drugs.

    It is the learned helplessness and completely unjustified biological view of human distress, that is the most serious “adverse effect” of placing any trust in a biological psychiatrist.

    Kid number 1, for example, gets taken by his mother to a biological psychiatrist. The biological psychiatrist tells him that he has a brain disease, and implicit in this is that he’s at the complete mercy of a)this brain disease, and b)medical technology and expertise. The kid goes home with the idea that what he is feeling about his life and the world, is not legitimate and understandable in human terms, but the twisted random disease products of a defective brain. The attendant stigma of hundreds of years of vilifying those with psychiatric labels is heaped upon him, and he also swallows a psychiatric drug for a few days, before killing himself.

    Kid 2.

    Kid 2, is a distressed kid too. He’s had lots of problems in his life too. He’s never taken to a biological psychiatrist, never told these things. He’s nonetheless a very distressed kid. He gets drunk, (disinhibited), and drives his car into a tree and kills himself.

    Kid 2 is considered a messed up kid who while drunk or high, ended it all who “should have got the help he needed”.

    And Kid 1, becomes a poster boy case in point for the drug blamers, who blame the SSRI to the complete and contemptuous exclusion of all the other ideas this sick and evil profession put in the poor kid’s head.

    It’s ridiculous to pour poison and household electricity into your brain. And it’s ridiculous to even consider for a moment that the complex human problems to be seen in all the human lives around you, can be solved by going to med school and becoming an expert on brain altering poisons. It’s ridiculous to think someone who has spent their life peering at statistics about these poisons, accepting cash for being an expert witness against the poisons, who runs a website where people complain about the poisons, who still prescribes some of the poisons, who still prescribes electricity induced seizures, is the savior he’s made out to be. It’s just ridiculous.

    The fact this world even seems to need the “credibility” of a pro-electroshock biopsychiatrist, to tell you these drugs are poisons, is just sick in itself.

    What is the world supposed to do? Only send their kids to be lied to and told their brains are diseased by a future psychiatry that has “safe” drugs that were put through Healy’s preferred drug trials and approval processes?

    How is that going to remove the cancer that is lying to kids, from this earth?

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    • I do not think alcohol or any psychoactive drug is the whole story. People act in patterned ways. But it is still true that easy acces to cheap alcohol means increases in domestic violence etc. So on a societal level it is true and if someone has a tendency to be violent when drunk it is probably advisable for them not to drink.

      These are some of the basis for calls for a minimum price on alcohol.

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      • The thing about alcohol is that we know what it does and how it affects us and its been around for thousands of years.

        Psychiatric drugs are a different story, and the most vulnerable are forced to take these drugs against their will. If their reaction is suicidal, they will eventually kill themselves.

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  3. Efexor is one nasty drug. I won’t claim that it made me go out and do wild and crazy things, but I sure was one drugged up zombie when taking 350mg a day. I believe it helped contribute to my destruction of a 39 year friendship. I’m not saying that it made me do it, but it certainly made the destruction easier since I didn’t give a damn about anything. It was like, so sad too bad I don’t care about this relationship anymore. I just kind of floated through life, not caring, not worrying, not feeling; I became a cipher and didn’t care. No one should be on 350mg of anything! That was a dose large enough to kill a horse and it never really “worked” and because of this the doctor would raise the dose from month to month. I should have put a stop to it sooner than I did but I didn’t care. Now I know better.

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    • ” I’m not saying that it made me do it, but it certainly made the destruction easier since I didn’t give a damn about anything.”

      The key.

      Drugs make destructive decisions easier.

      Drugs have an impact, for sure.

      The Norway shooter knew this, and used drugs to enhance his ability to carry out his mission.


      The problem, is there are psychiatrists in the world willing to feed their families with money earned, standing up UNDER OATH, and blaming drugs for suicides and homicides.

      Some psychiatrists even write articles on Mad in America blaming drugs for the Colorado massacre.

      A psychiatrist in a courtroom, is a recipe for disaster.

      In the psychiatry religion, the brain Gods visit upon mankind plagues of misfortune only because of the fabled “brain diseases” and the fabled “catch-all drug inhibition”.

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  4. Brain blaming (where they can’t explain the alleged brain disease) of unwanted behaviors is the raison d’être of biological psychiatry.

    Drug blaming (where they can’t explain the alleged complete snuffing out of free will) of unwanted behaviors is the raison d’être of semi-critical pro-electroshock psychiatrists who claim to be part of the reform movement.

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    • Anonymous,

      I have yet to read anything by Dr. David Healy that supports your accusing him of a ” claim to be part of the reform movement”. your rants eventually come down this outrageous character aspersion, yet you never admit that Dr. Healy has not identified himself as part of any ‘movement’. He is the most formidable leader in the fight against irresponsible administration of potentially fatal brain disabling drugs.

      I post comments on this site and am frequently attacked by you because I work on a locked psychiatric unit. I, like Dr. Healy, am not a member of your ‘movement’, I am a professional who has not abandoned *patients* or my responsibility for the truth of a very damaging *medical* speciality, psychiatry. I am not a psychiatric survivor by your definition, but have sustained damage from harm as some one who began to work in ‘psychiatry’ with the intention of using my professional credentials as a means to be where people were suffering. I have had to develop many other qualities in order to remain where i am not wanted by the majority of the psychiatrists I meet. My commitment is to the *patients* and in my community, my commitment is to prevent people from becoming psychiatric *patients*. Dr. Healy’s work has been the MOST valuable means for changing minds and opening eyes. Dr. Healy’s work is the most relevant criticism of bio-psychiatry’s *magic bullet* approach to the complaints of mental and emotional anguish that bring people in contact with psychiatrists. (or lead their family/friends into seeking psychiatry for a troubled loved one)( Any one who is predisposed to dumping their family members and friends into the hands of anyone who will relieve them of the burden is not seeking any NEW info!)

      There is no doubt in my mind that you have no use for or need of Dr. Healy’s or even my perceptions or ideas regarding what needs to change or needs to be widely known about biomedical psychiatry. However, it seems that many who have joined the movement you claim to be part of, do need some of the what me and my mental health professional colleagues are willing to share, as factual grounds for establishing the harm done by psych drugs. To me, you are stepping outside of the ranks of comrades fighting the good fight for a good cause when you attack those of us who are contributing to your success.

      Purest that you are, receiving accolades from many respect worthy sources right here on MIA, you occasionally spin off into fantasy land, where the reality of what IS true and valid interferes with the ideals you have of a better world for us all. In YOUR better world, Dr. Healy and I ( and others in the field) do not exist. We have, in your opinion, nothing humanistically valuable to contribute.

      I have been focusing at work on changing a very nasty dynamic. It is this: An anonymous psychiatrist has decided to label a new patient with the necessary diagnosis to permit him/her to move for court commitment in order to administer drugs the *new* patient is refusing. Thus, the view of the *new* patient occurs with a filter that identifies behaviors according to a set criteria to establish the diagnosis. No one who is actually spending time with the new patient dares assess him/her through a lens of objectivity or a need to have the new patient explain himself/herself. Agenda established- critical thinking and human understanding are set aside…. I am , as I said working to change this scenario — in real time— on duty later today in fact…

      Meanwhile, I read another of your *attacks* of Dr. Healy— What comes to mind is the same dynamic I see on my unit. Here you are, with all noble intentions… and probably totally adverse to realizing that you share in common a trait that is inherent within psychiatry— building a case for *dehumanizing* a human being. For it isn’t realistic to expect anyone to be capable of forcing drugs on a fellow suffering human being…SO, crucial to identify the person as a *patient*… some other category, sub species, sub human–right? Anyone can employ of this dynamic. It is most often used to identify an enemy and open the way for destruction of the enemy. How many tragic stories are based upon erroneous perceptions of the enemy?

      On my unit the enemy is a label, a diagnosis with carefully crafted horrible implications for self and other. On this blog, you identify the enemy as Dr. Healy… and me, if you read my response to you. Is there any difference in the amount of ignorance that is needed to label a human being one does not actually know? Is there anything similar in the methods used to dehumanize those one does not like?

      Your IDEAL world can only be created when each of us takes stock of our own tendency to talk and act without reason; to want to destroy what we fear and despise— acting on an impulse that is stronger than the motivation to deal with the truth that all human beings are valuable and worthy of respect– RESPECT in the sense of seeking to know them before labeling and condemning them!

      Come to work with me sometime, Anonymous… or spend a day or two with Dr. Healy! Get out from behind your keyboard and computer screen and exercise your human right to investigate your theories!


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      • Hi Sinead – I’m going to but into your conversation with Anonymous, hope this is OK.

        Firstly I’m thinking that David Healy doesn’t need anyone to stand up for him. Then there is your ‘new patient’ and I’m wondering if there is any independent advocacy available for them? Independent as in not an NHS worker or social worker. This could be very useful for them.

        I do think it’s good that you are doing what you can to stand up for the patient’s rights in the locked ward where you work. That can’t be easy, being part of a system that coerces and makes people conform. And that includes the workers. Who I think are constrained by the system also.

        As an activist I’m challenging the system and trying to bring about change. Where I live locally this is slowly coming about. But it has required a continual and consistent focusing and refocusing on the task in hand. Through writing and meeting with folk. Who are the handmaidens of the system. And who might say they are all for improvements but don’t really like the change they bring. People get comfortable in systems that are oppressive by not thinking about the oppressed, or that’s how I see it.

        Good that you are trying to bring about change in your own corner of the system. All the best with that.

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        • Hi Chrys,

          Whenever I comment on Dr. Healy’s credentials and vital role within the medical community’s struggle to regain professional ethics and standards as our foundation, I am thinking more of the integrity of MIA than in “standing up” for Dr. Healy. Amongst those who are the best informed of our most urgent- current medical care crisis, his reputation speaks for itself.

          The abyss within the psychiatric acute care setting is multi layered and seems intimidating at best to anyone whose heart is in the right place. Within the system the best approach really is to influence the environment closest at hand. It has to be acknowledged and confronted, the degree to which psychiatry operates ‘outside’ of a wider regulating system and appears to be it’s own expert controlled system. This is why ‘outside’ advocacy appeals can be a one time event that turns out to be the last action of a valuable employee! YES! this is wrong, maybe even evil, BUT it is reality. It is extremely tricky to overturn or even challenge the ‘word’ of a psychiatrist!

          From my perspective, not much that is criticized or beaten into the ground by the most ‘moral’ reformers. like Anonymous, makes a dent in the root cause of the real issues patients face on locked units. This is largely due to the pervasive belief in the ‘lies’ of biomedical psychiatry. I contend that it has to be doctor’s themselves who call for accountability and adherence to standards. Any MD can challenge the issues in psychiatry with much more influence and persuasive power than any of us. Again, that is where Dr. Healy deserves the most credit. He is appealing to the medical community and directly to consumers of their ‘business’ with simple basic- life threatening facts.

          I want to throw out another insight I’ve been developing of late. It seems to me that those who work in the*trenches* have the best vantage point from which to understand WHY we cannot just END this scourge by getting rid of psychiatrists and locked units. We see the most troubling results of blind faith in bogus science— family members, patient’s themselves and every so-called human service system we’ve got. THEY drive the psychiatry machine… and have presented themselves as a steady reliable market for the abuses that accompany *treatment*!

          There is a saying, “Those who are most moral are usually the farthest from the situation being condemned”. Yes, I know that psychiatric survivors have inside stories. Your stories are the compelling evidence of the harm being done, but some of your assessments and recommendations reflect a knowledge deficit that is simply about the ‘other side’ of the story. Quick to condemn all ‘participants’ in the system with knee-jerk proficiency, you discount the morality of those who have not jumped ship and abandoned the ‘people’ who get caught in the system that ‘we’ did not create. You lack some of the info that explains how hard it is to change ‘minds’ of patients, families, systems workers… much less, psychiatrists. You fail to appreciate that being moral is is a test amidst harsh reality, not just a platform one can adopt from a distance!

          My corner of the system? It is the linchpin, the epicenter, the arena where the ‘ugly’ truths of the inhumanity of our society (not just psychiatrists! & their loyal nurses) is the most apparent. My corner is where the greatest atrocities of human rights violations occur… My moral code demands that I negotiate the best, most human treatment for everyone I meet— and that I never forget that IF I should take a moral high ground stand and split— there will just be one less caring person there to greet the ‘inmates’.

          Sorry for my ‘edge’… only got a nap today—- worked an evening-night shift double and was awake over 24 hours before my nap. I don’t lament getting beat up by ‘colleagues’ for doing what is right at work, as there I can just continue to demonstrate the rewards of doing what is right— but here on MIA, I have to consider that for the most part, I will be vilified, or patronized… and… some days I have less tolerance for that… or perhaps just more drive to try and set the record straight!


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      • http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-peter-breggin/electroshock-treatment_b_1273359.html

        It’s Peter Breggin who called Healy the stealth ECT psychiatrist in the reform movement. His words, not mine.

        “Come to work with me sometime, Anonymous… ”

        I wouldn’t dream of ever earning a single dollar in a building innocent people are locked up in. I’ve involuntary seen enough of such places, that for others are mere “workplaces”. I’ve acknowledged in previous comments that I acknowledge you seem to have good intentions, but I’ve also made clear my moral stance on my opinion of those who make a living with an access code, swipe card, or key, in hand, regardless of their good intentions.

        My critique of the article is a “rant” according to you, but your very, very long comment, which adresses NOTHING of the substance of THIS Healy article, is not a “rant”, meanwhile in recent months here, comments were getting completely deleted forthwith, when they didn’t have any direct relevance to the article at hand.

        If you don’t like my critique of Healy’s article, tell me why I should be all for him completely blaming gambling and cinema massacres and so on on drugs?

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        • OH! Anonymous, how you pass the buck:

          >>It’s Peter Breggin who called Healy the stealth ECT psychiatrist in the reform movement. His words, not mine.<<

          BUT is is YOU who is driven to insert Dr. Breggin's opinion to support the character aspersions you are dying to throw at Dr. Healy.

          You certainly don't have to believe anything… much less the evidence for the claims made by Dr. Healy and people who have suffered taking these drugs. You don't have to give a hoot about the implications of the beliefs of others who aren't sitting in the ivory tower you live in. You can continue to degrade and insult parents and significant others who KNOW how these drugs effected a loved one they LOST. You can even digress to criticizing my use of CAPS and *** or """" or whatever… but you aren't changing either the truth of the matter or the root of the problem with psychiatry.

          If you want to call what you do on this blog, "reform" movement strategy— weeding out the phonies and the wanna-be's from the stout hearted like yourself, please soldier on!

          Am I off topic? Well, what is the only topic YOU want to introduce for discussion on Dr. Healy's blog? I think you holler, 'off topic violation' to protect yourself from being challenged. I simply don't think that providing the background science and evidence on a blog that has been consistently about both is anything but ridiculous. You aren't seeking to learn anything 'new'. You already know it all — or at least enough to attack with off the wall assumptions of why anyone would go into the psychopharmacology field.

          No, you indicate that you are cool with attacking from your personal bias perspective. If you wanted to learn why you are cited (by me) as, wrong, you would have to engage in rigorous study and learn to learn from everyone.

          I won't hold my breath… but anything is possible!


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    • I can’t afford the time and the labor to be consistently repeating myself. Drugs don’t “make” anyone do anything. Liquor doesn’t “make” anyone do anything. At best they CONTRIBUTE to a state of mind/circumstance where a person does something.

      What remains to be seen, and what is very very surprising to me, is something I wasn’t aware of, just how much, and to what large extreme degree, people are so eager to blame drugs, and how simplistic and unsophisticated scientifically and intellectually their reasoning on this issue is.

      It always, always, boils down to just take your word for it, just listen to this anecdote, just listen to this or that speculation.

      Drug blaming is the flip side of the coin of simplistic brain blaming. I am more conviced of this with every passing day.

      In brain blaming, we see only the unwanted and horrible thoughts and behaviors conveniently blamed on the drugs, (precise mechanism not explained), and brain blaming we see the same.

      If you think a guy going online after gambling losses to rxisk.org and complaining is credible science. I cannot help you.

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      • Who is credible, Anonymous? Psychiatric survivor recovery stories are testimonies to the voices of the ‘patients’ that were completely ignored. No, they didn’t have adverse effects from meds, just new symptoms of worsening disorders! Are THEY credible?

        So, you say;

        >>If you think a guy going online after gambling losses to rxisk.org and complaining is credible science. I cannot help you<<

        Do you mean to imply that you have a the grasp of science that will actually help people? I don't know how your attitude differs from the pharmaceutical companies who decided which data to publish, based upon their spin on the science that would help doctors and patients decide to use/prescribe/buy their drugs. What you seem to have in common with the drug pushers is an ability to demean and intimidate those who have experienced an adverse drug reaction that doesn't support your agenda.

        I don't see your agenda as superior because it is not about financial gain. I see it as just as low and base as any agenda that negates the validity of the voices of 'the people'. How many 'reformers' are lining up behind you to ridicule Rxisk.org?

        I hope I am too busy working or taking care of my family with the money I earn working within the system to read how tough it is for 'your movement' to make any real progress… or that I am able to restrain myself from suggesting you stop shooting yourselves in the foot!

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        • Healy’s the one making sure his online drug blaming website anyone can write any story on, is couched in his science/medical authority, not me.

          I’m still waiting for the “Science” on why this guy allegedly gambled on a sporting event and lost because of drugs. I don’t see any science all I see is a story submitted to rxisk.org

          You call me ‘low’ and ‘base’, great. I’m still waiting for you to respond to the article at hand, with anything that isn’t just indignation that I question your hero Healy.

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          • >>I’m still waiting for the “Science” on why this guy allegedly gambled on a sporting event and lost because of drugs. I don’t see any science all I see is a story submitted to rxisk.org<<


            The story is a personal one. The scientific critique is consistent with what is known about Effexor. THAT'S MY RESPONSE TO THE ARTICLE AT AHND.

            Your disbelief is just a symptom of your grandiose perceptions of your own authority on any aspect of psychiatry. Your lens and your filter is your own personal "story" that pervades every post you make on this blog. In keeping with your own standards for dismissal of 'a personal story' and ' claim to scientific authority' , your critique of Dr. Healy's web site is just another of your 'anti-psychiatry' manifestos.

            If a reader of your comments decides against seeking psychiatric treatment, GREAT! For those dealing with the effects of their decision, or trying to help someone who is suffering in real time, you are beyond "not helpful", you are adding insult to injury.

            Maybe you should try to edit yourself with this admonishment:

            "First, do no harm."

            By the way, there is more than adequate validation by 'people' who have taken Effexor for the disinhibiting Adverse Drug Reaction. There are many implications of this 'drug effect' that have compounded the problems the person taking Effexor was facing. The 'science' is based on the brain changes are known to to occur based upon the mechanism of action of the drug, Effexor.

            Your refusal to believe what is written in this blog post could be called 'cognitive dissonance'; or, could just be the effect of brain changes that occur when one who has been traumatized is triggered.

            BTW, I said that the attack agenda was low and base; I did not call YOU, 'low and base'…

            I can and will use the information in the article at hand for the purpose of helping those with whom I work better understand the adverse effects of Effexor and thus the 'patients' who are currently taking this drug.

            Your assumption that Dr. Healy is my hero, is good example of a 'low and base' attack agenda. You must assume that I am incapable of discerning what info has value and what does not— or what is relevant to my nursing practice and what is irrelevant. You must assume that I don't take my work seriously, or that I am not educated well enough in 'science to make any assessments of merit when I read the article at hand.

            So, you insult me, to make your point about Dr. Healy's Rxisk.org web site? You are likewise insulting everyone who is grateful that there finally is a non-discriminatory data base for the harmful effects of drugs— all of them, not just Effexor!

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  5. Thank-you for the link to the pro-ECT article by David Healy. I had just watched a u tube video of Healy condemning the lies and manipulation of Drug companies that dismiss the stories of victims of drug induced suicides while pointing to the “evidence” of the science that proves their drugs are safe. In his article, he dismisses both the science and the stories of those injured by ECT! They can’t be believed can they? Their “memory loss” and cognitive dysfunction is obviously not related to the electrical damage from shock and it’s grand mal seizures!! Darn it all, they failed to connect it to the benzos or other drugs they were taking. How do you classify this ? Denial or stupidity?? Funny how those patients had zip memory loss or denial the day before the ECT started? What is the explanation for that?? And, interestingly the people who have good things to say about ECT are telling the truth but those who speak of decades of memory loss and the decline in their cognitive abilities must be lying!! Like Linda Andre, who, inconveniently had not been on a toxic brew of drugs before or after ECT. Gee, Dave, she must be just confused or lying, hey?
    And the scientific studies showing pinpoint hemorhages in various autopsy studies of people and animals since the 1950’s? Well that can’t be believed! Failure to find “structural” brain damage?? Like what? A giant hole? So damage to neurons which can’t be shown does not exist?? Wonder what he thinks of the latest studies by Bentall and Reid or the Advances article showing patients receiving ECT need rehabilitation just like victims of traumatic brain injury?
    Oh, and he wants to dismiss the euphoria and disinhibition caused by ECT brain damage as ridiculous?? How many catatonic people has he seen transformed by ECT? Obviously that might be the only indication for its application.

    And most patients “consent”? Really? Based on the kInds of lies and misinformation that tells them that ECT is safe and effective and that it is hard to prove memory loss?? There is no such thing as “informed consent ” because the forms do not list brain damage, loss off IQ points, potential loss of years of memory, trauma, loss of identity… Informed consent is a big fat joke.
    But ECT causes new neuron sprouting; a good thing?? Well, no, being hit with a bat will cause the brain to react in the same way to the injury as to ECT.

    So what do you have to say, Dr. Healy, now in 2014 as the scientific evidence piles up and people like Loretta Wilson and Mary Maddock present their stories in Mad in America??
    Big fat liars too?? Get your head out of the sand and give it a shake. The evidence is there. A village idiot could see it. It exists in the scientific research, the literature reviews, the stories of victims.
    The tiny number of people who felt they benefited from ECT justifies the brain injury it causes in the majority?? Oh, yes, it is hard to PROVE that injury because of all those benzo addled complainers and confused liars maligning this treatment just for spite.
    The absolute ignorance and indifference that allows this human rights violation to continue
    Is beyond belief. It is electrical lobotomy that needs to be banned.
    And there is no PR machine at work promoting ECT?? Not when it rakes in all that money?? Right.

    So, I’d like an update on the good doctor’s view of this procedure 6 years after he wrote the article. Come on, I’d just love to hear more denial and obfuscation…No, you don’t have memory loss from ECT! The benzos made you forget you took benzos which gave you memory loss which did not appear till after you had ECT. The ECT just “unmasked” it, sort of like antidepressants “unmasked” that nasty bipolar rather than causing it!!
    And there is good old Eddie Shorter proclaiming Robin Williams would have been saved if he had just been given some ECT! Really? Who knew some brain injury would have been just the ticket!

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