FDA Panel Rejects “Aversive Therapy” Shock Devices


Psychiatric News reports that a US FDA advisory panel will recommend that the agency prohibit the growing use of “electrical stimulation devices” (ESDs) for “aversive therapy” on psychiatric patients. However, the agency “has yet to make a final ruling on whether to ban ESDs from the U.S. market.”

According to Psychiatric News, ESD devices “consist of a battery, an electric-pulse generator, electrodes that are attached to the skin on the trunk or extremities, and either a built-in accelerometer or a radio-controlled actuator to deliver the pulse. The devices are approved to be used at voltage ranges between 150 volts and 200 volts from 0.5 seconds to 12 seconds shock duration; they are typically used in individuals who have severe autism or development disabilities or who have repeatedly injured themselves or others through behaviors such as eye gouging, skin pinching, hair pulling, or banging their head against hard surfaces.”

A majority of the members of the FDA Neurological Devices Panel agreed that ESD devices have little clinical evidence to support their use and pose ‚Äúan unreasonable and substantial risk of illness or injury‚ÄĚ to patients, reports Psychiatric News. Though the FDA has not ordered the devices removed from the US medical market, the panel also suggested new clinical trials involving the use of ESDs would be unethical.

FDA Panel Says No to Aversive-Therapy Devices (Psychiatric News, September 05, 2014. DOI: 10.1176/appi.pn.2014.9a7)


  1. “they are typically used in individuals who have severe autism or development disabilities or who have repeatedly injured themselves or others through behaviors such as eye gouging, skin pinching, hair pulling, or banging their head against hard surfaces.”

    These are the kinds of statements that make people favour these devices. I have seen this ‘treatment’ used as a threat to an old woman who was simply cranky and would not drink her juice. The old woman had obviously received this ‘treatment’ before, and the anxiety with which she swallowed that juice would have been comical if she had not been pathetic and the situation dehumanizing.

    My full break with psychiatry came when I realized the medical group as a whole was willing to lie bold-faced and officially about the people in their ‘care.’ Previous to that, I had thought that, in any real moment of decision, I would have a say. In fact, at the moment when I tried to have this say in a crisis, psychiatrists became afraid that they would be culpable for any treatment ‘slip-ups.’ I was simply relegated to ‘madwoman.’ Psychiatrists are not unaware of what they are doing and are just one step away from coverup mode at any given moment.

    Report comment

    • Yeah because the best answer to someone harming him/herself if to beat the sh*t out of this person. Because when someone else does it to you it’s somehow better. These people are either hopelessly stupid or they’re psychopathic.

      Report comment

  2. Of course they do. I’m surprised they didn’t do it sooner. With the relatively amazing results that the Judge Rotenberg Center gets, I’m sure it was about to become a major threat to profits for their pharma overloards.

    At least little electric shocks don’t cause brain damage and movement disorders, among so many other problems. Shame on all of you people who thought to ban this “torture” device while knowing full well that the only thing viewed as an alternative to these people are FORCED NEUROLEPTIC DRUGGING OF CHILDREN!

    I hope the Rotenberg Center continues to fight, for the sake of protecting childrens brains and not forcing them to have to grow up like me, a movement disordered freak on SSI who lives in his parents attic. I’d trade my childhood for some electric shocks any day!

    Report comment

    • Great, because one form of torture is better than the other. That’s as true an alternative as “take your pill” or you’re going to commit suicide or become a murder. How about there are better choices. I don’t like drugs but treating kids or anyone like dogs (btw, I’d not do that to my dog either) is disgusting.
      Fear conditioning is the preferred tool of psychopaths because that’s all they know about human nature.

      Report comment

    • The fact that the judge rotenberg center even exists in 2014 and we need to have this discussion is unbelievable. The JRC violates human rights daily by torturing their “students”. The UN has said that the JRC’s use of electric shocks is torture. I am not defending neuroleptics at all, I myself have suffered the detrimental and long-term effects of neuroleptics, and I don’t think there is any excuse for forced drugging of children OR for electric shocks. I suggest JeffreyC read an article on the website of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network called “‚ÄúPrisoners of the Apparatus‚ÄĚ: The Judge Rotenberg Center” that describes how the JRC treats it “students”.

      Report comment

    • As someone who has been outspokenly opposed to the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) (especially as it is located in my own State, and kept open by those in power here long after most states have condemned and outlawed the practice), I find this comment quite alarming. How ANYONE who knows the details of JRC’s practices and extraordinary history of abuse and torture (summarized perfectly in the ‚ÄúPrisoners of the Apparatus‚ÄĚ article recommended by gemini22) can support their practices is beyond me.

      I agree entirely with Jeffrey that forced neuroleptic drugging of children is a tremendous scandal, and I can certainly empathize with his experience (having endured neuroleptics myself). But sending very painful currents of electricity through people’s bodies is torture also. Don’t believe JRC’s claims of “amazing success.”

      This is the place where:

      – A young woman, non-verbal, sufferred a perforated appendix. Her very clear expressions of pain were ignored and she was “treated” with pinches, noxious odors, etc. for a week before she died of the illness.
      – Any behaviors deemed as leading up to a “negative” behavior are shocked (i.e., if someone slaps their face, then raising their hands is shocked).
      – The staff continues to insist that skin shocks only cause a temporary “sting” and possibly some skin discoloration; yet, stories (and pictures) abound of bloody open wounds, skin coming off, and the smell of burning flesh.
      – A minimally-trained staff, usually young people, is given the godlike power to administer shocks whenever they see fit.
      – The school spends millions of dollars per year on lawyers, and sends lobbyists to DC to oppose legislation to prevent abuse at schools.

      Even if one agreed somehow with the outdated practice of “aversive conditioning” (which has been proved ineffective), the school’s long history of corruption, coverups, abuse/injury/death reports, and outright lies are easily enough to warrant shutting it down.

      I agree with B and Gemini22’s comments entirely; torture of ALL kinds must end.

      Report comment