Psychiatric Medication Use Associated with Triple the Risk of Stroke

Rob Wipond
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Common psychiatric medications double the risk of heart attack and triple the risk of stroke, according to research presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress and reported in the Vancouver Sun. Another study reported that mental health patients often receive poor medical care and general health recommendations from their treatment providers, contributing further to their heart problems.

“While evidence linking some antipsychotic medications to weight gain, diabetes and heart disease has grown in recent decades, this is the first time it has been documented nationally,” reported the Sun about the research led by a PhD student working with University of British Columbia and the Toronto Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, using data from the Canadian Community Health Survey by Statistics Canada.

Many psychiatric medications “change the way fats and sugars are broken down in the body leading to high cholesterol or diabetes, which are both contributing causes to heart disease and stroke,” reported the Sun.

High rates of smoking among people taking psychiatric medications, unhealthy eating and physical inactivity exacerbate the problems. Another recent study in Vancouver, the Sun reported, “concluded patients with schizophrenia who develop heart disease rarely receive adequate followup treatment.”

“Fifteen years ago, this wasn’t even considered part of treatment. Now care has to include discussion of metabolic syndrome,” a co-author of that study told the Sun. “All patients should be on an exercise program because that has been shown to have positive impact … Exercise can help reverse the (side) effects of the medication.”

Some psychiatric drugs triple the risk of stroke: study (Vancouver Sun, October 27, 2014)

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Rob Wipond
Rob Wipond is a Victoria, British Columbia-based freelance journalist who has been writing on mental health issues for fifteen years. His research has particularly focused on the interfaces between psychiatry, the justice system, and civil rights. His articles have been nominated for three Canadian National Magazine Awards, six Western Magazine Awards, and four Jack Webster Awards for journalism. He can be contacted through his website.

16 COMMENTS

  1. Which could very well explain increased dementia risk, which is also associated with these drugs which some claim may be linked to micro-strokes…
    “All patients should be on an exercise program because that has been shown to have positive impact … Exercise can help reverse the (side) effects of the medication.”
    How about take them of the drugs first? It’s blaming the victim again: “High rates of smoking among people taking psychiatric medications, unhealthy eating and physical inactivity exacerbate the problems.” Yeah, I wonder where this “lifestyle” comes from? I felt like binge eating every time on Zyprexa and the side effects of these drugs prevent you from wanting to even get off the couch, not to mention cook for yourself or do sports. Plus there is no evidence that exercise will prevent the effect of the drugs anyway. Not that I’m advocating against the exercise, but taking people of that toxic s**t could help more.

  2. B, in addition to your excellent point about the issue of exercise and “blaming the victim”, even if patients on psych meds were to exercise, it is my understanding that they mess up the metabolism so bad, that it would be an extreme exercise in frustration. By the way, this offends me even more than denying the side effects of a med (which is pretty bad) when you advise a patient to do something that is impossible to do because of the adverse results from the med.

    “”Another study reported that mental health patients often receive poor medical care and general health recommendations from their treatment providers, contributing further to their heart problems.””

    I want to say, “No sh-t Sherlock.” As one who will never disclose my past psych med history to any doctor come h-ll or high water because of cr-p like this, here is what happens for you researchers who seem to have trouble grasping to me what is an obvious concept.

    When you disclose psych med history, most doctors no longer consider you to be a reliable reporter of your condition and everything is now seen through the lens of the alleged “MI” label. So much for reducing stigma.

    Anyway, any report of a condition that can possibly linked to psych issues in any will be done so because of this stigma. H-ck, I wouldn’t be surprised if doctors found a way to link in grown toenails to schizophrenia.

    Yup, taking someone off of the drug is the best solution but then there is reality. A big fat sigh!

  3. I become incensed when foster kids I work with blimp up on antipsychotics, and then the doctors put them on a diet! I’m beginning to see a few being put on antidiabetic drugs, which is at least more of an acknowledgment that there is a problem, but once again, we get one drug to address the side effects of another drug given to address the side effects of a third drug, etc. Good for pharmaceutical company profits, but it doesn’t do much for the poor client!

    —- Steve

  4. Referring to neuroleptics as dopamine blockers, as another recent article suggested be done, is not going to alleviate the problem. If it were any other population of people, the alarm would have been sounded eons ago. Now they’re saying, given metabolic syndrome, you need to complement psychiatric drugs with exercise. Elsewhere I read an article about how drug research and development needs to take place that we might develop drugs with different properties. 2x risk for cardiac arrest, and 3x risk for stroke? There’s no telling what averse health effects any spanking new pharmaceutical drug, that worked differently, might possess. These drugs are killing people. It’s the kind of discussion that needs to be taking place everywhere, but that you find virtually nowhere. I mean maybe there’s a hint of a discussion here or there, but practice is all drug, drug, drug, and so, so much for that. The problem remains, how do we get this discussion out to the public where it belongs. We know the stats, death at an age on average 25 years younger than the rest of the population. This 25 years younger stat translates into a lot of stroke and heart attack. Here’s another article confirming what we already know. If you think drug research and development is the answer, you must have a blind spot as to where drug research and development has lead us. Eugenics has evolved into nugenics, and we have found a new way of throwing our throw away people into the graveyard. Alright. Anybody got any plans to do anything a tad less wasteful?

  5. Attrition by premature mortality and suicide has rarely been more then a source of lamentation in the mental health system. Where treatment, services and supports are putatively predicated on the Principles of Recovery and the Domains of Wellness too many consumers will not live long enough to see either.

  6. It’s not even predicated on “principle of recovery.” In the early 1990s the APA did a Task Force report on tardive dyskinesia. They finally bluntly acknowledged it caused TD in most long term users but they said “schizophrenia” was such a dreadful disease and the risk of decompensation without “meds” so high that patients had to learn to live with TD. Now we know this is bs, that the neuroleptics
    reduce chances of recovery and over time increase chances of hospitalization. But it doesn’t matter. The party line is psychotics have to live with diabetes, amputation, heart attacks etc because the “psychoses” are such dreadful diseases. In fact in violation of constitutional prohibition
    against cruel and unusual punishment, ” non-compliant” patients will be forced to ingest these poisons. Hail to Moloch!
    Seth Farber,Ph.D.

    • Great post Seth.

      As one who is concerned about metabolic issues even though fortunately, I don’t have full blow diabetes, the thought that this condition could occur because someone was forced to take a drug that shows no beneficial effects boggles my mind. Yes, I do consider this cruel and unusual punishment.

  7. And if these toxic drugs aren’t giving you heart attacks or strokes, or both, they’re causing the very problem that they supposedly take care of!!!!! These toxic drugs have changed an experience that was once episodic into something that is chronic. Go figure. And nobody in the general public gives a fat damn.

    I’ve watched medical doctors quit listening to a good friend of mine when he has to go to the ER and they find out he has a history in the system. The minute they find out he has a history, no matter what is going on physically with him, it all becomes a psychiatric issue and they can’t get him out of the ER fast enough, with the recommendation that he call his psychiatrist! It is infuriating.

    • Hi Stephen,

      Is there any way your friend could meet with someone as high up as possible at the hospital to express concern about what has happened to him? And maybe say something like this (in a nice way of course) that the hospital doesn’t want to be responsible for misdiagnosing someone due to the bias of a physician.

      I know this is easy for me to say since this hasn’t happened to me but I just feel that when this occurs, we need to start speaking up and let hospital VIPs know that this is not acceptable and it is better they address this now vs. when a patient dies from this negligence.

      AA

      • “hospital doesn’t want to be responsible for misdiagnosing someone due to the bias of a physician”
        Buahahaha…
        I did exactly that and I brought some pretty damning evidence of what they did wrong. All I got was a threat that THEY will sue me for questioning their professional qualifications. They never get punished in this system so they have no reason to be afraid.

      • The very minute that they find out he’s got a “history” no one will meet with us for any reason. It doesn’t matter how high you try to go. I’ve tried. The best I could do was light up the doctors that actually treated him so poorly. They were appalled that anyone would even consider castigating them for any reason. They were so self-righteous it hurt.

        Frankly, I’m sick of all doctors, not juts the people who call themselves doctors because they’re psychiatrists. I took myself to a small clinic where you’re charged according to a sliding scale (because I don’t have the thousands of dollars nor the big insurance to put up with the larger places) and I accept the offer of help from an advanced nurse practitioner. She treats me with respect and dignity and actually does a very good job of treating my physical ailments. Of course, she can’t refer me because I don’t have the money to pay specialists, who charge an arm and a leg for ten minutes of their oh-s0-precious time. I like her and refuse to go to any doctor of any kind at this point. The days of people being doctored because the doctors really wanted to help people find healing are done and gone, the good ol’ days.

        The number one thing driving all medical care these days is the mighty dollar, plain and simple. People are looked upon as a commodity and a source of income. Let’s face it, when you spend three hours waiting for a doctor and you had an appointment, and she or he runs in and won’t even look you in the eye and spends ten minutes making some bs diagnosis means that you’re no better than a piece of meat that’s a source of income so that they can live in their gated communities, drive the gas guzzling SUV’s, and send their dear uppity children to private schools.

        Call me bitter if you will but I’m old enough to remember the days that the doctor came to our house when I was a child and ill, carrying his black doctor’s bag. He even gave you shots right there at home. Those were the days before big business got its fingers into the medical world and ruined the practice of real healing and helping people. Truly, all hail Moloch!

        I live one block from a university medical center teaching hospital. My neighbors are almost all medical students. It’s unbelievable how unfriendly and uppity so many of them seem to be. When you pass them on the sidewalk and wish them good morning they look at you as if you’re some kind of piece of trash or refuse and they walk on without even saying a word. Many of them are daughters and sons of doctors and lawyers. I can’t even imagine what kind of bedside manner they’re going to have when they finish their education and begin supposedly taking care of patients. I have contact with many recent psychiatric graduates in the state hospital where I work. They are arrogant and puffed up with their own self-importance. But this is the malady that has infected all the specialists of medicine these days.

        • I am so sorry to hear that about your friend, Stephen. Disgraceful.

          Totally agree with you about doctors. What is sad is when people have great experiences as I did with my cardiologist, we’re so shocked because that is so uncommon when actually that is the treatment we should always receive.

          Everyone wants to blame the state of medical care on insurance and I can’t totally argue with that. But somehow, this cardiologist who I am sure deals with those issue, doesn’t let that affect her care of patients. Hopefully, I will never have any serious issues that need her attention but if I do, there is no doubt in my mind that I will be in good hands.

        • “They were so self-righteous it hurt.”
          Same impression about the people I’ve talked to. The ober-woman there started talking to me about all the letters she gets from grateful patients like it makes any difference to all these they’ve abused (me included). And the moment I started to press her (like on the side effects of benzos and how is it possible that her so professional staff missed an almost complete anterograde amnesia for 5 straight days) she goes all defensive and “I’m gonna sue you for this”. If these people aren’t “delusional” then they’re plain evil.