No Psychiatrist Needs to Use ECT


In October 2016, a reporter from the Brisbane daily newspaper, the Courier-Mail, rang me to ask for my opinions on ECT. He was writing an article and had already contacted several private hospitals who use it extensively, so he wanted some views to balance theirs. I told him that in 40 years of practice, mostly in public practice and much of it in the roughest and toughest parts of this country, I haven’t used it and don’t believe anybody needs to. I said it was dangerous as it could severely affect memory and cognition; it should not be used in children (under 16); it wasn’t based in any proven model of mental disorder and, above all, it was unnecessary. If I could manage over 15,000 consecutive, unselected public patients in a wide variety of settings, very often working completely alone, without once using it, so too could all the clever professors and suave private psychiatrists in their luxury towers in the city. The major impetus for ECT, I said, could only be financial as it wasn’t clinical. I didn’t see the article when it came out and forgot about the interview.

Six months later, I received a complaint from the local branch of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists alleging that I had “denigrated and disrespected the profession” and could have spread “anxiety, stress and fear” among patients and their relatives. There were other minor objections but I have not been permitted to see the complaint. The complainant was anonymous so they can’t be cross-examined and I do not know who is on the committee. These little quibbles aside, the opacity of the process so far is fairly consistent with the policies of the RANZCP regarding “transparency and accountability.” This article is a precis of my response to the complaint, which has been rewritten for MIA (here; all the references are in the link).

Just as background, I graduated in psychiatry in 1977 and have practiced full-time since. I’ve worked in prisons, veterans’ hospitals, general hospital units and in community clinics; in public and in private practice; in cities, small towns, and in some of the most remote parts of the English-speaking world. I’ve always worked with the unemployed and pensioners, immigrants and refugees, Aboriginal people, and the military, and have a strong interest in concurrent mental and physical conditions. At night, I write troublesome papers on the application of the philosophy of science to psychiatry. My conclusions are radical but that’s not my problem. When it comes to the theoretical status of psychiatry, I don’t defer to anybody.

The question of whether ECT is based in a formal, articulated, publicly-available, tested model of mental disorder with proven predictive power is a no-brainer: it isn’t, because there’s no such thing. Despite a busy program of disinformation, modern psychiatry doesn’t have a model of mental disorder. The different convulsive techniques developed in the 1920s and 30s were based in little more than myth, and their history is appalling. People are sometimes surprised to learn that medical students and trainees in psychiatry (residents) are not taught the history of psychiatry, but this is because it’s so bad it would probably put them off completely. Simply, if ECT were invented today, it would never be approved.

Does ECT cause brain damage? When convulsive techniques were invented in the 1920s, that was its original justification so it seems rather silly to argue that it doesn’t. It can have severe and very long-lasting effects on the memory, and there is a substantial literature on its side effects. Peter Breggin has detailed this for decades but psychiatrists who use ECT never read his work. Would broadcasting its risks in public cause “anxiety, stress and fear” among patients and their relatives? Only if they had already been told that ECT is safe, effective and has practically no side effects, that it is, as one psychiatrist enthused in the article, a “healthy alternative to medication.” If you look at how bad the drugs are, that could possibly be true, but remember that ECT isn’t the only alternative. Orthodox psychiatry maintains the narrative that ECT is essentially an emergency procedure to prevent impending suicide, but it simply isn’t true. In Norway, ECT is used only in certain centres, and there is often a waiting list of up to 8 weeks.

Am I entitled to say that ECT shouldn’t be given to children? Absolutely. That is my very firm belief, and if a psychiatrist is entitled to say that it should be given to children, then I am entitled to say the opposite, and for the same reason (it’s called ‘freedom of speech’).

Did I “disrespect and denigrate” the profession? I would have thought the profession does a pretty good job of that itself but let’s look at the facts, because facts have no emotion. We’ll start with the very simple fact that, in many parts of the world, ECT is hardly used. It is a fact that psychiatrists in Australia use ECT much more than most other countries. The US also uses a lot of ECT, roughly the same rate as Australia, but New Zealand, which is as like Australia as Massachusetts is like Connecticut, uses only about one sixth as much. Don’t forget that Australian and New Zealand psychiatrists train in and belong to one and the same specialist college. Any difference in ECT usage does not come from differences in training. I believe there is a reason for this discrepancy and we’ll come back to it.

Britain uses ECT much less than Australia: the state of Queensland (Qld, population 4.8 million) uses almost as much ECT in one year as the entire English National Health Service, which serves 53 million people. Qld uses ECT about 5,000% more than Poland, and 6250% more than Italy, where it was invented. Since the passage of the Basaglia Law, Italy has 91 centres licensed to use ECT but in 2014-15, only 14 did so. In the 20 years from 1994-2014, in the northern Italian province of Pavia (pop. 550,000), just four people received it, meaning Qld uses ECT a staggering 135,000% more than those lazy Lombards.

This raises some very serious questions about ECT usage in this country. It is difficult to obtain accurate figures because they are pooled within each state, but it appears that the great bulk of ECT is given in private hospitals. This is consistent with the pattern in the US, where the median ECT patient is an “elderly, wealthy, white woman.” This surprised me as I had expected state hospitals to use more of it to save money, but here is the crunch: in Australia, and almost certainly in the US, there are very powerful financial incentives for private psychiatrists to admit paying patients to private hospitals and give them ECT. In simple terms, they are paid more, so Smith’s “hidden hand” of capitalism trumps “clinical indications” (as Gary Greenberg said, “Who needs conspiracies when we’ve got capitalism?”).

In Brisbane, and I’m sure in every other city in this country, a psychiatrist can easily make $500 an hour or more from giving ECT. The most I can earn in my government funded private practice for using psychotherapy in place of ECT is $150 an hour. From that sum, I have to pay my office rent, staff costs, insurance and so on. This means I don’t make a lot of money, certainly less than government psychiatrists who have an easy life, and far less than all the psychiatrists who crowd into the private hospitals. Does that make me an idiot? Don’t answer.

In Qld, ECT is a $53 million a year industry. It keeps the private hospitals afloat, keeps lots of psychiatrists afloat (on their yachts) and diverts precious mental health dollars from where it is needed, e.g. support services for working class people, to wealthy people whom my figures show mostly don’t need to be in hospital anyway. In my practice, the sorts of people who are admitted to private hospitals in need of urgent ECT are managed as out-patients at approximately 1.5% of the cost of a five week admission to hospital for ECT. I suggest this is why Qld uses ECT at 600% of the rate of psychiatrists in New Zealand: psychiatry in NZ is almost exclusively a government specialty. In the land of the Kiwis, there are practically no private psychiatrists and thus no means for them to leverage their skills from $150 an hour to $500.

In two hospitals where I was appointed chief psychiatrist, ECT was in use before I arrived. It stopped for the duration of my appointments, then resumed some time after I left. In each case, the admission rate went down, the average duration of stay in hospital dropped, and the bed occupancy rate halved. I argue that it is possible to practice psychiatry without using ECT, and thereby to make very substantial savings in psychiatric practice.

In the English-speaking world, ECT is actually making a comeback. There is a reason for this, and it lies in the decades-long program of “dumbing down” psychiatry. Modern psychiatrists are taught that all mental disorder is biological in nature, but this isn’t a model of mental disorder—it’s an ideology. As a result, today’s psychiatrists aren’t taught psychotherapy, which means that when they get a complicated patient, they don’t actually know what to do. They haven’t got a model that tells them what is going on in the patient. Thus, they very quickly reach the limit of their skill set and have no option but to reach for the electrodes. A psychiatrist who says, “You need ECT” is really only saying, “I don’t know what else to do.”

I will repeat: No psychiatrist needs to use ECT. The psychiatrists who complained about my comments in the ECT article know this but, because they make a very handsome living from giving ECT to as many patients as they can, they don’t want my views broadcast. Suppressing contrary views is not science—it is charlatanry.


Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


  1. Psychiatric Times is running a series, conducting interviews, with so-called historians of psychiatry. The latest in this series is called, ECT: History of a Psychiatric Controversy. Historian Greg Eghigian interviews Jonathan Sadowsky. The wonder is how there is so little accurate history in the entire interview/article. The conclusion of this interview/article is more than modest, “downplaying the possibility of adverse effects may actually do it [the ECT industry] more harm than good”. Downplaying is putting it a little mildly. The shock docs now peddle ECT as a “safe and effective” practice. When the adverse, so-called side, effects, not to mention the so-called remedial or “healing” effects (direct results of electrical jolts surging through the brain), of ECT are identical with symptoms of traumatic brain injury, I’d call that a major twisting of the facts.

    In contrast, your MIA post takes much fewer liberties with the facts (i.e. is actually informative). Thank you for authoring this piece. I hope people are paying attention.

  2. It is good that you are vocally against the use of ECT. So congratulations on that. And yes not giving it is important but not remotely enough. I think that the problem is far more extensive them not having other tools. What my research reveals about the average psychiatrist is that they actually don’t use ECT themselves, have some sense of the harm it causes, but unlike you, do not have the honesty to actually critique ECT. Indeed, about 6 months ago, a Toronto psychiatrist was consulted by one of his patients about ECT because here niece had decided to have ECT herself and the “treatment” was scheduled to begin in one day’s time. The psychiatrist in a panic called me up and asked if I could speak with the family–because she had asked him his opinion on ECT–and he didn’t dare give it. While it is good that he reached out, imagine not answering your patient because you are worried about being penalized by the profession for doing to. If you will excuse my saying so, speaking of gutlessness! This guy was past retirement age and at this point had little to lose–and nonetheless, he ducked the question. Yes I know that there is a price to pay for going against the profession by saying ECT is harmful, but if every psychiatrist who knows that it is highly problematic and arguably unacceptable would only admit to what they know, we might have gotten rid of this appalling “treatment” decades ago! As for interns, as Breggin and I have been both wrote, moreover, they are made to get their hands dirty early on by being forced to give ECT, thereby rendering them complicit.

    • Gutlessness indeed. So if the majority, say 70%? Don’t give ECT and are probably bright enough to know it is causing brain damage, why are they silenced and intimidated by the minority? Are they in charge of their own professional body? Don’t they vote on this kind of stuff?? There is safety in numbers. If hundreds voice disapproval are they all going to be censured, penalized, fired? Isn’t there someone who doesn’t give a flying F*** what they think like Niall McLaren here and willing to lobby the membership and slay ECT?? Why not?
      How many clearly out anti- ECT doctors are there speaking up? Like 10 worldwide?? What is wrong with this picture?
      I wonder how much open support Mclaren is getting from his colleagues for his plain talk and ethical stance on ECT…,

  3. ECT is legalized torture. It causes brain damage. It destroys all possibility of full recovery and a return to the patient’s intact premorbid state.
    Causing repetitive brain injuries and triggering devastating grand mal seizures is criminal. It does not meet the requirement “first do no harm”.
    Three weeks ago in Colorado, a beautiful, talented, and loving mother of a two year old child committed suicide in despair over the severe cognitive damages and memory impairments she suffered as a result of ECT administered for postpartum issues exacerbated by toxic drugging.
    ECT has never been proven to prevent suicide; rather it increases the risk greatly.

    Why are there not more psychiatrists with a conscience and a sense of decency banding together to ensure the end of this lunatic assault on the mind and soul?? They have to know the truth. Why aren’t they acting on this knowledge?

    I cringe each time I see the confused and brain damaged Kitty Dukakis speaking about “safe and effective” ECT.
    A month ago a debate raged on Twitter with Challenges to Richard Bentall’s tweet that there was no evidence base for the use of ECT. Bernard Carroll and Dr. Fulli and a few other ECT administering “doctors” proceeded to rabidly defend the practice
    with justifications including “positive” “studies” by people like R. Weiner, who worked for MECTA and helped design the machines of torture. It was chilling to see their cognitive dissonance and denial of the extensive documented harms caused by ECT.

    And, who is not appalled by the fact that someone as accomplished and respected as David Healy devastatingly continues to advocate for the use of ECT, stubbornly refusing to look at the science and the extensive anecdotal accounts of damage while accepting the stories of psychiatric drug harms and exposing the truth about pharma’s lies and misrepresentations about their toxins.

    Why, after all the horror stories, after Marilyn Rice, Linda Andre, Peggy Salters, Evelyn Scogins, Dorothy Dundas, Mary Maddock, Barb Cody, Wendy Funk, Jonathan Cott have shared their stories, has this lunatic monster bogus “procedure” not been banned? Why have Peter Breggin’s books and the research papers of Bentall and Read and even the negative findings of Sackheim in his 2007 study been ignored by psychiatry?

    Why haven’t medical specialties like neurology joined together to see ECT is banned worldwide, not just in Slovakia and Luxembourg?

    ECT continues because of the pro-ECT lobby and the propaganda churned out by those who benefit financially from its continuation. The doctors who “use” ECT are amongst the most unethical and dangerous people seemingly providing mental health care.
    Anyone in doubt about the extensive harms caused by ECT needs to join the facebook group “Brain Damaging Therapeutics” where each day they will read the most heartbreaking stories of “ECT survivors” trying to build a life while devastated by trauma, brain damage, physical injuries, loss of careers, and personal relationships.

    ECT is evil. It is electrical lobotomy resulting from repetitive TBIs….

  4. Given that ECT is “safe and effective” what was the beneficial outcome for Garth Daniels, given 91 for no good reason when the procedure was opposed by himself and his family?
    Did it improve his life, end his suffering?? How much brain injury did the arrogant shrinks cause this man in their clearly ignorant, uneducated approach to his treating his “problems”? How is this poor guy today? Back in hospital??? Traumatized and suffering memory loss and brain damage? Never heard about him again…

    And poor Elsie Tindle, given ECT for disruptive behavior springing from loneliness and improper care, given ECT without proper protocols, died of status epilepticus and lack of oxygen to the brain after 3 treatments.
    Are these big fat examples of malpractice just swept under the rug?? How many more crippling injuries and deaths do we never hear of?

  5. The illustrator for my book has schizophrenia, for which he has been receiving ECT every month for going on two years. I tried to tell him this was very bad for his brain but his mother wants him to do it, and he is irrationally attached to his mother at the age of 27. He confided to me many things, one of which that he was afraid every time they put him to sleep for the procedure.

    He hasn’t answered his phone or email in over a year, whereas before we use to talk all the time. When my book was published, he drifted away and I don’t have his physical address where he lives with his mother. I have tried to find him but I only find other people with the same last name.

    So many people are being lost to ECT like this. I feel like I could have done more, tried harder.

  6. Thanks for inspiring article Niall. And the one you linked to is even better. Gob of snot – is that the patient or the psychiatrist? Just a slight quibble: I think it is a little premature to talk about a “comeback” in England, where ECT use has been declining for at least four decades. Maybe the decline is levelling off but early days yet. The odd thing about ECT use in England, compared to for example US, is that nearly half of ECT patients don’t consent to it.

    • Bramble, can you please cite your source for half of all shock in the U.S. is by force? I have not been able to find any solid data on the population of involuntarily shocked people in the U.S. It seems shrouded in secrecy and I would like to distribute this data to other activists. Thanks.

      • That is England where it is nearly half. In the US it is much lower. I think in Texas (one of the few states where statistics are available) it is only a very few people who are treated without their consent. Although of course you can wonder about how valid the consent of the majority is.

        • There is no such thing as informed consent to ECT. None of the watered down consent forms list brain damage and decades of memory loss as effects. Patients are often influenced by the comforting lies of the staff and many are much too distressed and drug impaired to consent to something so dangerous. In addition, each ECT/TBI puts the patient into a more brain injured state so they are incapable of judging their impairments and putting a halt to the barbaric assaults.
          “Consent” to ECT therefore does not exist…oh, and some consent bc they hope they will die on the table- something they don’t express to their torturers…

  7. Dr. McLaren,

    Thanks for writing this. I am going to send a copy of your article to the resident psychiatrist of the private hospital where my daughter was admitted over five years ago. That doctor wanted to shock her out of catatonia. Our daughter audibly said “no” to the Director of Medical Ethics who sat by her bedside and patiently interviewed her. She has a long recovery road ahead of her after years of toxic drugging but thankfully, she didn’t get permanent brain damage from shock.

  8. “People are sometimes surprised to learn that medical students and trainees in psychiatry (residents) are not taught the history of psychiatry, but this is because it’s so bad it would probably put them off completely…”

    Is the true history of psychiatry taught anywhere except in the books of Szasz, Breggin, Whitaker, and Burstow (to name a few)? Shorter has his fictional history, and there are a variety of other fake histories and primers on psychiatry. But the true history of psychiatry is not common knowledge. If the true history of psychiatry were common knowledge, psychiatry would be abolished. No one in their right mind would study psychiatry if they knew that psychiatry is, as Szasz so clearly showed, the science of lies.

    “At night, I write troublesome papers on the application of the philosophy of science to psychiatry.”

    In other words, you write science fiction? With all due respect any accurate philosophy of science would demonstrate that there is nothing remotely scientific about psychiatry. The truth is that psychiatry is, and has always been, the science of lies. The very word “psychiatry” reveals its erroneous and nefarious nature. “The medical treatment of the soul”? How is such a thing even possible unless psychiatrists have somehow made a scientific discovery concerning the human soul. Of course it is great to oppose psychiatric mendacity and fraudulence from within. Szasz and Breggin have done a wonderful job in that regard, and anyone who can build upon their work may do some good.

    “When it comes to the theoretical status of psychiatry, I don’t defer to anybody.”

    What is the theoretical status of psychiatry? Does it really have a theoretical status? Why? The theoretical truth about psychiatry is that it is a pseudo-scientific justification for abuse, torture, drugging, shocking, involuntary incarceration… in short, it is a pseudo-scientific justification for slavery and oppression. But I would certainly welcome a civil debate about what constitutes the “theory” of psychiatry, especially from a psychiatrist.

    “My conclusions are radical but that’s not my problem.”

    That is good. However, if you are still practicing psychiatry, your conclusions may not be radical enough. Knowing what you know about the history of psychiatry, I would be curious to understand why you continue to practice psychiatry. Thank you.

    • Try these:
      McLaren N 2013 Psychiatry as Ideology. Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry 15: 7-18.
      McLaren N (2016). Psychiatry as Bullshit. Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry 18: 48-57.

      I practice psychiatry because mental disorder is a real thing and people get trapped in terrible states. Every day, people get better but NOT by relying on drugs and ECT.
      I am perfectly aware that Szasz said there is no such thing as mental disorder, that people who claim to be disturbed are pretending but I disagree. See Chaps. 12-13 of:
      McLaren N 2012. The Mind-Body Problem Explained: The Biocognitive Model for Psychiatry. Ann Arbor, MI: Future Psychiatry Press. ISBN 978-1-61599-171-6

      • Yes, people do get better, many of them, every day, sometimes spontaneously, sometimes with combinations of a variety of approaches.
        You said people do not get better by relying on drugs and ECT. That I agree with, although some people have stated that one or both “saved their lives”. Both being brain damagin and neurotoxic and brain damaging, it is hard to understand how this would be the case.
        You have treated the sickest of the mentally ill. What do you perceive as working in these individual cars that include severe mania or depression or catatonia or psychosis? I know it isn’t one size fits all, but the suffering and distress seems off the scale. I don’t think just support or chatting about trauma is going to be the solution.
        Having been severely injured by shock, I hold out no hope of recovery or return to a sense of self as I was.

        • I find the environmental change and art to be the most healing. Also writing. Not talking therapy but writing. And TIME.

          They say you bring your baggage with you with regards to the geographic cure but I find a new environment very helpful with PTSD and obsessive compulsive and base functioning in general.

      • Niall, thank you for the book and article recommendations. I will check them out. What is a mental disorder? I’m sure that you treat theories of mental disorders in your articles and books, but what evidence do you have that there is such a thing as a “mental disorder”? What do you mean that it is a “real thing”? Certainly you know that there never has been, and never will be a biological marker for so-called “mental illness,” and that “mental illness,” or “mental disorder” is a metaphor. Certainly you understand that psychiatrists do not really diagnose disease, rather, they stigmatize behaviors and dispense labels in order to control and coerce. Szasz correctly demonstrated that there is no such thing as a “mental disorder” because it is not a scientific or a medical measurement that corresponds to reality. It is a myth, and a metaphor. The entire DSM is a work of fiction. Szasz’s contention was not that people “who claim to be disturbed are pretending,” but he did recognize the reality of malingering. Of course there are people who are disturbed – psychiatrists are often foremost among the disturbed – but the difference is that psychiatrists exert their power to label, drug, involuntarily incarcerate, electroshock, torture, and abuse their “patients.” I’m glad that you are different, and that you don’t do these things. There is no question that people suffer from a variety of problems in this life. There is no question that people experience affliction and symptoms of psychological and emotional anguish. But the attempt to medicalize every aspect of human suffering has produced more human suffering. In fact, psychiatry produces the very problems that it alleges to cure. You mentioned “terrible states.” Of course people get trapped in terrible states. Psychiatry does precisely that. It traps people in terrible states. The biocognitive model of psychiatry has been proven to be false time and time again, and yet psychiatry and pharmaceutical companies perpetuate the lies in order to profit from drugs and “therapy.” It is good that you are opposed to drugs and electroshock torture, but why pretend that psychiatrists fix fictitious diseases? Thanks for your response.

  9. How/why I came to have forced ECT – a dangerous practice, in ignorant and dangerous hands.
    I had taken a low-dose benzodiazepine short-term for extreme stress. I wrote this (excerpt) as an open letter to my doctors. ” I tried to withdraw from the benzo. I felt horrible. You insisted I was “depressed.” You said it was because of my traumatic childhood. My childhood was not the issue. The issue was your drugs.
    You didn’t recognize my adverse reactions to the benzodiazepine. And you didn’t recognize the withdrawal syndrome. You diagnosed me with ‘Anxiety Disorder’ and ‘Depression.’ You gave me an antidepressant. When I became agitated and developed a tremor as drug effects, you said I had ‘Major Depression with Agitation.’ When the agitation became so severe that I lost my sleep entirely, you gave me even more antidepressants. You also gave me sleeping pills.
    You said I had an ‘Adjustment Disorder’ – but the only things I wasn’t adjusting to, were your drugs. I collapsed frequently, sometimes on the street, and was twice taken by ambulance to an emergency room. You did not recognize that one of the drugs was causing my blood pressure to drop precipitously.

    When I started twitching and shaking uncontrollably, you gave me more sleeping pills – to be taken three times a day and at night. When I fell asleep during an appointment, you said I had ‘Vegetative Depression.’ When I was in constant motion, you said I had ‘Bipolar Disorder.’ You then settled on ‘ Psychotic Depression.’

    You gave me antipsychotics. I started howling like a dog. I marched in place. My body movements became chaotic. My face twitched, and my tongue darted in and out of my mouth.

    You gave me 35 different psychiatric drugs. You gave me a new drug almost every week. You said you were ‘unmasking’ mental disorders. You didn’t allow for a wash-out period between drugs. You were treating the adverse effects of pharmacy and polypharmacy with more polypharmacy. Why did I accept all those drugs? I would have done anything, agreed to anything, ingested anything to stop the horrendous agitation – it’s called akathisia.
    I couldn’t stop moving. You said it was a symptom of my mental illness. You told me I was demented. I was afraid I would kill myself. I was afraid I wouldn’t kill myself. I wrote a Living Will and a Do Not Resuscitate directive. I gave away my belongings. I wrote farewell letters. I detailed how my ashes were to be disposed. I asked my husband to shave my face – one of your drugs caused the growth of facial hair. My husband watched in helpless disbelief, horror and grief.
    I wanted to withdraw from the drugs and went to a psychiatric facility for help. You seized me and kept me there forcibly. You said I had ‘ Dissociative Identity Disorder’ and ‘Somatization Disorder.’ You said I was ‘delusional, self-absorbed, and violently agitated.’ You cold-turkeyed me off many of the drugs and wrote that I was ‘an excellent candidate for ECT.’

    I refused treatment, but you coerced my husband into signing. You told him electroshock was the last and only option. You held me for 10 weeks and treated me to 25 general anesthetics and 25 bilateral, grand mal seizures. I don’t remember much except the assembly line of gurneys on shock days. I shook from terror as I looked up at your cold, matter-of-fact faces and waited for merciful oblivion as the anesthetic hit. You kept me on the sleeping pills – three times a day, once at night and you added new drugs. You told me I would require institutionalization, medication for the rest of my life, and weekly maintenance electroshock treatments. I did not go back for maintenance ECT and I gradually tapered myself off all drugs. For years I lived with the fear that you would have me returned to your facility and committed for more electroshock. I WAS NO LONGER A HUMAN BEING. You could not have been more destructive.
    When you promise to do no harm, you should acknowledge when it happens, and share so that it does not happen again. You will never admit that you did harm and no one will ever learn from your mistakes. The oath you took was ‘to admit no harm.’ You also took ‘the oath of silence.’
    I have been drug-free for many years and see no psychiatrists. I had a ‘spontaneous recovery’ from every label I had been given when I withdrew from the pharmaceuticals. Well, not quite. When I tried to get help for the trauma I experienced at the hands of doctors, I was told what I was saying was libelous and that I had “Paranoid Ideation.”

    Doctors systematically destroyed my brain and nervous system with drugs and electroshock. I have amnesia. More than 20 years of my life are totally missing. Most of the memory of my life with my husband is gone. I also have anterograde amnesia – the loss of the ability to create new memories. I have cognitive impairments, optic nerve damage, tremors, seizures, vocal tics, diminished lung capacity, poor working memory and poor organizational skills. I function with a wall of ‘sticky note’ reminders.
    I live in terror of those who forgot they once took an oath to do no harm. However, if I met any one of you, my doctors, on the street, I would not recognize you. You stole my memory.
    Three of the dozen women incarcerated with me are dead – two from suicide, one from a post-ECT heart attack.
    ……… Doctors are too ignorant to make a proper diagnosis. No psychiatrist needs to use ECT.

  10. They did this ECT to a young woman I was in the hospital with, she just wanted to go home and go to some kids bar mitzvah and was all upset about missing it. She would say loudly “I hate this fucking hospital, I want to go home !!!” all the time. They did that ECT to her and she came back with this dazed look with this like smile stuck on her face. She was incapable of talking to us anymore. I don’t know if that wore off I had my own problems at the time.

    I write on this website all the time but don’t mention that doctor that ruined years of my life, guy was my drug dealer amphetamines and benzos Anxiety and “ADD” I kind of did it to myself I really should have knew better but that dude effed up alot of lives including shocking that young woman who wanted to go home not get ECT.

  11. After checking with the Royal College of Physicians, the General Medical Council, and the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, it became evident that it is impossible to become a psychiatrist, at least in the English speaking world, without demonstrating proficiency in administering ECT. This would mean that everyone who gains the credentials of “psychiatrist” has preformed ECT on vulnerable people and is, therefore, culpable in the harm done regardless whether or not he or she continued using ECT after becoming certified.

    This would seem to be a major factor in preventing psychiatrists who acknowledge the lack of positive effects and the damage done by ECT from speaking out against it. Would you agree?

    Are there any colleges and accreditation councils in the English speaking world, or elsewhere, where a person can obtain the credentials of “psychiatrist” without demonstrating proficiency in administering ECT?

    • Interesting point. In the UK it always used to be the case that ECT was prescribed by consultants and then administered by trainee psychiatrists often with very little training or supervision – almost like an initiation. By the time they got to the position of being able to prescribe it themselves did they think well it must be harmless or otherwise they wouldn’t have let me loose on patients with no training? Perhaps nowadays they get bit more training, but I think it is rare for consultants to be involved with the actual administration of ECT.

      • Bramble’s comments are correct. As a trainee, I was told “It’s your turn to give the ECT today.” We didn’t know the patients nor why they were getting it, and it would have been impossible to qualify by refusing to do it. I don’t recall that a consultant ever attended, it was always the senior registrars (residents) who instructed but after the first day or two, there was no further supervision. That’s how it was.

        • Thank you for confirming this. I was sure I wanted to do a psychiatry residency after medical school until I read some residency programs’ websites a few days ago and realized they require using ECT in training. I just can’t bring myself to do that. I think I can have more of an impact training in family medicine and spreading the message to primary care doctors why they shouldn’t prescribe psychiatric drugs. While I am sure I’ll still face opposition from psychiatrists, at least I won’t be constantly fighting my own specialty’s professional associations as a family doctor.

    • Physiotherapists receive a good amount of training in electrical theory and safety even though they deal with a fraction of the electrical current used in ECT. While Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) could be potentially dangerous, and High Voltage Pulsed Current (HVPC) even more so, ECT would be immediately life threatening if a hand to hand connection (i.e. direct path of current through the chest cavity) were made. It is odd that psychiatrists are not given at least the same amount of training as physiotherapists regarding electrical theory and safety. Do psychiatrist know that they’d likely be killed if they close a hand to hand circuit with a live ECT machine?

      As a person professionally trained in the electrical and computer industry, it becomes obvious very quickly that psychiatrists are quite ignorant when they talk about the technical aspect ECT electronics. Simply the technical specs on the sales brochures for ECT machines should be enough to prevent the legal production of these machines.

      A case could likely be made that the accreditation of an Electrical Engineer or other technology professional who works with or develops ECT machines should be revoked by their professional association due to violations of their Code of Ethics. The following points seem most applicable in the Code of Ethics of my association:
      1. Hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public, the protection of the environment and the promotion of health and safety within the workplace;
      2. Undertake and accept responsibility for professional assignments only when qualified by training and experience;
      3. Provide an opinion on a professional subject only when it is founded upon adequate knowledge and honest conviction;
      9. Report to the appropriate agencies any hazardous, illegal or unethical professional decisions or practices by other members or others;

  12. The problem is ECT is completely unregulated. Those few who are not seriously damaged by it are able to advocate for it, but those whose lives are destroyed by it rarely have the cognitive capacity to fight for and be vocal about the depths of its destruction.

    Gratefully there are psychiatrists coming forward to denounce this barbaric treatment. At the very least, ECT needs to be completely regulated so that those few providers who know how to do the least amount of damage can establish regulatory practices (ideally including pre&post neuropsych assessments and functional MRI scans) which can move towards ensuring that those who choose to receive it will have less of a traumatic brain injury than what is currently possible (note I did not say, avoid traumatic brain injury).

    I think we need to evaluate the cost benefit analysis more thoroughly. What quality of life is available to the person after ECT? Currently there are no available rehabilitation practices for People who have experienced ECT even though it is in essense the same as a medically induced acquired traumatic brain injury.

    The interesting thing about all positive research available regarding ECT is that it was conducted by the providers of the treatment and people were evaluated immediately after ECT or within the first 2-4 months, when the person was still recovering from the administration of ECT.

    Conversely all of the research which touches on negative aspects of ECT is conducted by third-party researchers without connection to treatment decisions.

    This, by it’s very nature creates bias. How can a person answer questions about whether a treatment has worked appropriately when they know that if they say their symptoms have not improved, they can easily be subjected to further treatments.

    Additionally, because the positive research was gathered within weeks of treatment, many of the responders have not healed enough to return to work or accurately assess how ECT has impacted their life. Negative data from third-party researchers is gathered 6-18+ months after treatment–leading me to conclude the people participating have had more time to determine how their life was impacted by ECT.

    Additionally, there are no neuropsych evaluations or neurological images to establish a cognitive baseline of the person, nor is there one done after treatment to accurately understand ECT’s impact cognitive processing, memory loss or executive functioning. Any deficits which the patient experiences are ascribed to the symptoms of their illness, not side effects of the illness.

    Compounding the problem is the bizzare reality that ECT is unregulated. So we can NEVER compare what one person experiences to what another person with a different doctor, different machine, different electrode placement, different seizure duration, different seizure threshold, different spacing between treatments, etc experiences. It would be more accurate to compare apples to oranges…

    More akin to comparing apples to tomatos…they’re both classified as fruit!!

    Because there is no rehabilitation after ECT, I had to devise my own way to overcome cognitive deficits & memory loss caused by more than 100 ECT treatments. I detail my loss and the efforts I’ve tried to implement in my life in a 5 minute Ignite conference presentation.

  13. There is no benefit to be had from attempting to “regulate” the delivery of multiple acquired traumatic brain injuries. It is akin to suggesting that lobotomies should have been regulated to ensure the least brain damage occurred and that providers were proficient in seeing this was the case.

    No “doctor” anywhere should be offering brain damage in the form of ECT as a “treatment” modality. It is immoral, criminal, and does not meet the requirement of the oath to “first doing no harm”. ECT always causes harm.

    One can do pre and post MRI scans, but they generally do not pick up on the damage unless it is extreme. So how does this help? One can do the post cog testing and say “oops! Looks like this last ECT has caused considerable brain damage and memory loss and cognitive dysfunction; guess we better quit now!” The damage is still done.

    No one can ever predict what will happen to the individual
    brain when electricity is applied, so assessing risk is impossible.

    Only the most ignorant and deluded doctors on the planet, suffering from denial and cognitive dissonance, are unwilling to acknowledge that ECT causes brain damage.

    ECT does not need to be regulated. It needs to be banned. Today. By whatever executive order possible.

  14. They just don’t stop, do they. Today Bernard Carroll posted a link to what he described as a “nuanced” review on ECT written by the infamous Howard Sackheim. In it Howard calls “modern” ECT vastly underused and underutilized, spinning the story of refinements in technique and delivery. No mention of his own 2007 study finding cognitive impairments. No mention of brain damage. Just pure, unadulterated garbage and misrepresentation.

    What compels these kind of people to lie to themselves and others? What compels Jama to print garbage like this?
    Carroll includes a “naysayers beware” rejoinder on his Twitter blurb. if you have a moment feel free to tweet a comment. My own tweets were met with hostility, derision, and suggestions I needed to “get help”.

  15. An MD friend commented on his facebook page: ‘ECT causes brain damage. Bits and pieces of brain cells can be found in the CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) after ‘treatments’ . Side effects include memory loss and numerous neurological abnormalities. It’s the creation of a concussion disguised as a treatment. It is utter unscientific rubbish that should be banned. Leave it to psychiatry to promote brain damage as a mental health benefit”.

    Unfortunately it is the standard of care.
    With each of my 25 bilateral ‘treatments’ I thought I would die – either by electrocution of by lethal injection.

    I have highlights in my hair – people comment on how attractive they are – I don’t bother to explain they are in the areas where the ECT machine fried my scalp.

    • Nuland is charming and engaging, but his take on banishing his depression through electrical intervention is lacking many details. He never states what kind of ECT he had, at what seizure threshhold, at what voltage, how long his seizures lasted, or how many days apart each “treatment” was. Did he have ultra brief pulse low dose unilateral every 4 days? Was he simply give sham ECT which combined with all the attention and the doctor’s positivity, acted as a placebo? Was he coincidentally having a spontaneous recovery after years being sick? Was he simply one of that rare handful of people with a thicker skull and a more resilient brain who could survive the degree of brain damage he was given?
      He says nothing about headaches, cognitive problems, memory loss and does not warn his listeners of these common outcomes, which is irresponsible.

      I would like to see a TED talk on this topic presented by Peggy Salters or Jonathan Cott or Mary Maddock or Sue Cuneliffe or Dr.Shaul Dadi or Loretta Wilson or any of the other well known or not so well known victims of ECT whose lives were destroyed by shock in one of its sick and twisted incarnations.
      I get enraged when I so much as see Nuland’s name, as I foolishly agreed to having it after viewing his video. I had 21, Nuland had 20. It destroyed my life, my memory, my brain. I have written to TED asking that they post some sort of warning with this piece. Nope. They figure this is a great idea worth sharing.

      • I’m so scared now. I am 64. When I first was involuntarily committed for feeling out of control they wanted to do ECT I would not let them. Since then others have tried to convince me. They showed me the video. But I still said no. I continued to go downhill. I wonder if I should have had it. God help us. Neuland seemed to recover completely. Remarried and got his career back and was very lucid on the video.

        • The video is an anecdote. It’s one story about one person. We should never make decisions based solely on personal anecdotes. We should look at hard data gathered from many people over time. And the data says that people exposed to electric shocks to their brains have brain damage, lose important memories, sometimes feel despairing and hopeless, and lose whatever “benefits” they gain within days or weeks of the “treatment.” I would never use ECT even if I thought I had no other options.

          What else have you tried before?

          — Steve

          • Hi Steve

            Mine is a long story. In short?
            As an adolescent I was diagnosed as pseudoneurotic schizophrenic. Which was none sense I see now though it turned me into a neurotic victim. I was just a very sensitive kid who had a complicated disturbed family situation was bullied by neighbors and where I was labeled the sick one and was given every drug in the book at that time including all the antidepressants and mellaril navane culminating in haldol. When that didn’t work I went to an Orthomolecular Psychiatrist who also considered me schizophrenic and put me on massive doses of vitamins which did not work. As I got older I had symptom free periods without meds where I accomplished much I became a workaholic and some happy times but When things got very stressful especially in relationships I would freak out and at those times believe something was wrong with me. In the past I have tried CBT DBT IOP rational emotive therapy biofeedback many if not all the newer meds. I have been hospitalized several times and given lots of meds and was literally tortured by other patients. I’m exhausted and have become paranoid. I have to accept some responsibility for where I am based on bad decisions too and acting like a helpless victim and pushing away all my wonderful friends out of shame who tried incessantly to help me and rescue me but in the back of my mind I guess I never could shake my early experiences. I am scared to death now of anything having to do with Psychiatry or Psychology police or ambulances. I don’t feel like I have much hope.

          • Well, your fear seems rational to me. I’m sorry no form of therapy has seemed helpful, either. It sounds from your story that your early life experiences lie at the core of your distress most likely. There is no drug for that.

            Two things you didn’t mention that some people have found helpful: 1) support groups of people who have had similar past experiences, and 2) mindfulness/meditation. Now I know the latter has been commodified and mutated so as to remove any spiritual significance, and I know that some support groups have been coopted by the authorities and are no longer worth going. But if you find something through a YWCA or a women’s program, you can probably find a support group for survivors of childhood abuse, and there are plenty of genuine meditation practitioners out there who have no association with the so-called “mental health” system. I’ve personally used meditation practices to handle high-anxiety situations with lots of success. Of course, nothing works for everyone, and you have to find your own path, but both of those I’ve seen work for many people.

            I’m so sorry you’ve gone through such horrors! It sounds like almost every authority figure you’ve ever known has betrayed you. I hope you are able to find some comfort and support from others like you, because your suffering is by no means unusual, though your particular experiences may be unique. It’s a crappy world sometimes, and we have to be careful whom we trust, but there ARE trustable people out there. Just not a lot in the places we’re told to look.

            —- Steve

        • There is always hope. Orthomolecular psychiatry does not use massive doses of vitamins – or it should not. Abram Hoffer MD used the absolute minimum required. Are you aware of EFT – emotional freedom techniques to deal with childhood issues? What is your diet like? Gluten, dairy and sugar-free? Omega 3s? B3? B12? multi Bs, zinc, magnesium, vitamin C, selenium? People who are nutrient depleted do worse with ECT. Here’s something to consider and Ketogenic gluten-free diet.

          • Amnesia

            Thank you. I’m sorry to hear of your experience. I too have now been struggling with Benzos. I took them Klonopin for over 20 yrs never abusing them and feeling like they were my lifeline. I tried various methods including a residential one where they called me an addict was with hard core addicts and took me off quickly and I freaked out I also tried to discontinue including a very very slow taper per Ashton with a doctor but have not been able to stop them for more than 2 weeks. I ran into a pdoc who told me in his experience there are some who need to be on them for life. The dose I always took is now ineffective and just makes me feel tired for about 1 hour. Yet I am terrified of discontinuing and try to take less as absolutely needed. Yes I have tried EFT and variations of it several times when I was doing better. My experience with Orthomolecular back then was with very hi doses of vitamins. I also have had an extensive homeopathic work up and treatment. Currently my diet is very poor as I am living in a retirement home because I had my own home but was unable to take care of myself and the home and the food they serve at the retirement home is barely edible yet costs 1000’s of dollars and I don’t eat much since the other residents scare me since many have serious behavioral and physical problems and are at least 20 yrs older than I am and many are more functional than I. I also now have extreme agoraphobia and although I have a car I don’t drive. I never lost hope in the past but I am now. My life was my work but I no longer work and am on SS disability which itself I find makes me ashamed. Enough. Good luck to you.

        • Hemingway took his own life after having shock treatments because they took away his ability to write. I guess in his mind there was no use living if he couldn’t do what he did best. So much for shock treatment being a great “therapy”. At least it didn’t help him any.

        • What happened to you? He seems very coherent on the video. Remarried and got his career back. When I was in the hospital I was scared to death and they kept pushing it on me and showed me the video but I refused. I also met a person who had it and she said it saved her life. She is happily married and employed. To this day I keep thinking I should have had it. I’m not sure I could be worse than I am. God help me.

          • I know a few ppl who had ECT, some of them said it worked. all of them seemed to suffer cognitive and memory side effects.
            Those side effects are probably not a risk, but a certainty.

            I wouldn’t do it, you said u were happy and working at times. It might happen again, why risk it?

        • I was given two sets of ECT seven months apart by a lunatic who used bilaterals. I lost 15-20 years of memories, lost 27 iq points, lost my teaching career, lost my personality, lost my ability to make new memories. Have been deeply suicidal ever since. As this article stated, ECT causes brain damage. The tiny number of people who survive does not make up for the thousands who are destroyed and kill themselves bc of ECT. Do not believe the lies.

          • I was never depressed. I had a bad reaction to benzo withdrawal. ECT was forcibly given. I lost 20-25 years of memories. God knows what my IQ is now. I have become almost inarticulate. Absolutely terrified of doctors. My husband almost died from the guilt of having signed the form after being told it was my last and only hope. In Bonnie Burstow’s latest blog BizOMadness she writes about the eradication of memory, the terror instilled, the profound interference with the ability to navigate life. I’d like to see a special Mad in America ‘blog’ where brain-damaged ECT survivors tell their stories.
            It’s a necessity.

        • Helpstillneeded, Your situation sounds appalling.

          For myself, I had eight right-unilateral ULP ECT sessions in 2014. They were discontinued when I became hypomanic. I lost a full year of memories, had extreme mood swings during the three weeks of ECT, and became severely depressed within weeks of cessation. It was a complete waste of time that did nothing but damage and left me more depressed after than I was before.

  16. I read the article written by Tania Gergel wherein she describes her positive experience of ECT. She states that it was a miracle treatment. So we read miracle stories. And we read horror stories, about ECT.

    It reminds me of prozac. Prozac has helped a lot of people. A former Governor of my state used prozac while he was in office. But prozac gave me systemic lupus erythematosus; a horrible disease with a “cure” that is even worse.

    So I always come back to: Why don’t they have a TEST for people, like an allergy test, to weed out the people who will have a bad response ?? Can such a thing be done for pills ?? Can such a thing be done for ECT ?? So then they can say, Oh, you are not a candidate for this medication/procedure.

    Am I in la la land ??

    • Allergy can be developed, that’s why you’re supposed to test some skin creams on a small area every time u use them. They do allergy tests on other meds. I think amnesia is wrong and u can’t really weed out ppl. There’s always talk about how they’ll do it in the future, but I think that’s just talk. I think it’s just some kind of a PR thing. Like the talk about how psychiatry is the verge on a scientific break through that’s been going on for decades .

          • Someone, I’m not advocating for psychiatric drug testing, I’m sorry you took that away from what I wrote. I was simply replying to your assertion that genetic testing was useless or overhyped when that is very much not the case. I pointed out the side effects of the SSRIs only as an example because my reaction to the SSRIs (and to another drug I didn’t name which is not a psychiatric drug but is used off label for such) are what was used as justification for my being supposedly severely mentally ill. As for whether I should have used the side effects as a reason to go off, let me explain that every single person in my life from friends, family, doctors, and support personnel battered me over the head with the “you’re severely mentally ill” nonsense. Until I went to college, I’d had a very spotty education which included two months of sixth grade, two days of seventh grade, and two months of eight grade. With what knowledge do you think I was supposed to use to magically divine that bad side effects meant I shouldn’t take a drug? Ill educated people are pharma’s biggest target. The only thing that has saved me in my life is my intelligence and my ability to continue learning new information despite my early $h|tty education. Even then, most of what was left of my support system fell through the floor when I went off meds. So you can just say I should have gone off the meds but you have no clue what I’ve been through or where I’ve come from and your words are meaningless and laughable. Had I had some medical information right there on paper saying I couldn’t metabolize the drugs I was being given, I might have been able to get off them sooner.

            Additionally, my position on the usefulness of genetic testing for drugs remains unchanged. A lot of people are told they need a certain drug, be it for high blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol, seizures, or depression, and when they experience side effects – subtle or emergency – they are told it’s normal and expected and they have to put up with them because they need the drug. Psychiatric drugs are not the only drugs where doctors play Russian roulette and essentially guess until they get a combo that works for the patient. The role of CYP enzymes is well known and not in question, except by those who don’t want to see their drugs become unprofitable.


          • kindedrspirit-
            If I wasn’t clear, I’m sorry. I’m not blaming you for not going off the drugs, I’m blaming your doctor.
            The problem with psychiatry are bad doctors like yours, who insists on bad meds that don’t work. It won’t change much if the bad doctors would use bad psychiatric med gene tests.

            The genetic tests for psychiatric drugs are very much useless. As far as I know, the only studies proving their effectiveness were funded by the companies that sell them. Yet amnesia keeps insisting they are useful, and that they would have prevented every murder and suicide that ever happened.

            I disagree, in fact there’s good chance they could bring about more deaths.
            No one know if the adverse effects are the result of bad metabolism, and I’m not even sure if they test the drug metabolism. Most of those companies don’t advertise what they test and how, they don’t even tell the doctors.
            And many believe that the therapeutic effect comes from the adverse effects by enhancing the placebo effect.

            Other medical fields are not like psychiatry, the doctors usually know something about the pathology and the about the meds. So the information might actually be useful to them.
            Psychiatric genetic med tests are as ineffective and baseless as psychiatric meds and as anything else in psychiatry.
            Here’s another link about those tests:

        • I’ve heard about those things, I know there are that companies sell tests like that. I doubt the little information about “how our bodies process and use drugs” u get from the test is that helpful and can really determine if you can tolerate the drug.

          The link is a site of a company that sells those test so obviously the link is PR. It seem their main claim is that they can help your doctor determine the right treatment. That help is pretty limited, the doctor would still have to use trial and error.
          It’s probably not relevant to allergic reactions. It might be helpful if you have something like G6PD deficiency.

          “These new DNA tests are based on small studies by the companies who manufacture them, opening the possibility of conflict of interest, according to Daley. And there is little oversight for consumer safety because, for now, they do not require Food and Drug Administration approval.”

          Seems like these tests are not that different than the psychiatric drugs themselves, they are all touted as a miracle safe and effective treatment.

          • Here’s one from CAMH – likely Canada’s major psychiatric facility.


            The tests are still fairly expensive and for sure drug companies would not like to see them used – fewer customers.

            Look up David Carmichael – and paxil – David would have spent the rest of his life in jail had it not been for genetic information.

            People get so freaked out by the word ‘genetic’. Wouldn’t it be helpful to know which drug would have the best result for you – or would you prefer trail and error?

          • If you want to knOw genetic information like CYP450 status (of which there are multiple variants you can be a carrier of) or other CYP genes that effect drug metabolism, its far cheaper and easier to have your genome analyzed by a company like 23andMe ($199.00) and then use Promethease (4.99) to analyze your results. I should not take SSRIs, for example. And I have some weird CYP variants that effect other drugs and foods I like through impaired methylation processes. It was useful info but I would not go to a branded medical company for the tests. Too expensive. Not enough additional useful info that I could tell.

          • Additionally, if you have it done through a medical channel using insurance that info is now in your medical record and can be used against you for insurance coverage (life and health) and other nefarious purposes. If you go through 23andMe, you can opt out of sharing your data with researchers or anyone else and keep it completely private. You can even use a fake name, they don’t check.

          • I don’t see anyone freaked out by the word genetic, maybe you are freaked out cause I’ve said you’re wrong.
            It would be helpful to know which drug would have the best results for you. Unfortunately, “psychiatric DNA Testing” doesn’t seem to do it, not for John R. Brown and many others. They are also not useful in predicting allergic reactions.

          • Hey someone, while I agree that buying into specific medical company’s psychiatric genetic testing is overblown, knowing your CYP variants is extraordinarily useful in predicting which drugs will make you ill. You’re right that it can’t say which ones will definitely work, but it will give you useful information for which drugs to avoid, as it did for amnesia and her husband. This idea is not new as you can see from the citation below from 1988. The only thing that is new is the ability to affordably test individual patients for their genetic carrier status to determine whether or not they will be able to metabolize certain drugs.


          • You know, I really wish I’d had the testing done a long time ago. I am a poor metabolized of certain drugs. All my doctor did was blood levels. My blood level was always low despite being on a high dose, so she increased my dose, leading to unnecessary side effects – including severe light sensitivity and symptoms similar to Multiple Sclerosis. Had I had the genetic testing and realized I didn’t possess the enzymes necessary to metabolize the drug, I could have gone off it or tried something else. As it stands, I still have not healed from years of taking this drug and believe at this point that I have permanent optic nerve damage. Genetic testing is not folly, but you’d better believe that when more than 50% of drugs go through a certain metabolic channel and there is evidence that an enormous number of people lack the ability to properly metabolize them, that the media companies – who receive billions in advertising dollars from pharma – are going to be pressured to downplay the significance of genetic testing. Same with the researchers who should be independent but in fact receive most funding at this point directly from pharma. If you want to believe the naysayers, fine, but I follow the money. And the chemistry is not that hard to understand either.

          • kindredspirit, I don’t think those tests are useful for psychiatric meds, since no one know how these work or if they work at all.
            I’m not even sure useful information like CYP variants is helpful, cause “making you ill” might be a big part of the psychiatric drugs therapeutic effect. Preventing it might decrease placebo effects and make the treatment less effective.
            I know the idea is not new, I seriously doubt how well it applies to psychiatry.

            Your story is actually a pretty good example.
            “Had I had the genetic testing and realized I didn’t possess the enzymes necessary to metabolize the drug, I could have gone off it or tried something else.”
            You could (and probably should) have gone off it without the test. Ppl shouldn’t stay for years on drugs that cause serious side effects like that. It doesn’t matter what a test says- and that’s true especially for psychiatric drugs.
            It’s seems like a story about a bad doctor, not about a miracle gene test.
            These psychiatric gene tests would probably create even more stories like that, as psychiatrists would insist a drug is working and continue the damaging treatment just because a test says it’s effective.

          • Yesterday a woman in Georgia who had apparently been depressed over the death of her father stabbed her husband and four children to death. One daughter is still alive. The are reports of her behavior being bizarre and of her having hallucinations. Hopefully we will soon hear about the drug(s) prescribed for her. Wouldn’t it have been useful if she had had genetic pre-screening for her ability to tolerate the drug(s)?

          • Truth: Of course drugs are not the ideal solution to grief (or perhaps the insomnia often associated with grief). But the first thing that doctors do, is offer drugs. And that is not going to change any time soon. Two of my friends lost their sons to medical malfeasance and one lost a daughter – first thing their doctors did was offer them drugs – they didn’t accept. Some grief support groups are financed by drug companies. Tolerate = is the drug going to make you crazy/violent/suicidal!?

          • Maybe the woman in Georgia did do one of those tests and that’s why she was prescribed those drugs. Wouldn’t it have been useful if she hadn’t had this useless unproven genetic test?

        • Kindredspirit – I did use 23andme for starters and then based on info found followed up with some specific testing – as a result my husband is off all heart meds – they were killing him and doctors in their ignorance kept adding more and more – and now they are wondering why he is no longer a candidate for all the surgical interventions they deemed necessary. Psych drugs use similar pathways.

          • Makes sense. 23andMe’s major downside is that it isn’t a whole genome sequencing, which is still very expensive – in the $2-3K range. And they’re legally only allowed to tell you certain information about your results. This is why I followed up with Promethease analysis.

          • Re: woman stabbing her family. Wouldn’t it have been more useful to simply not prescribe drugs for someone grieving a loss??
            Check if one can “tolerate” a drug? To what does this tolerance refer?
            If anti-FEP are barely better than placebo, why not talk therapy, love, sleep, support???

        • But I’m not advocating for psychiatric med tests as I’ve said several times. I’m advocating for knowing your CYP status. Regardless of whether the doctors know the mechanism of action, if the doctor doesn’t know your genetic status and ability to metabolize the drugs they prescribe, they are still taking chances with your health. In fact, a large majority of people do not possess the enzyme function to metabolize the majority of drugs on the market. Additionally, a lot of medications designed for medical issues are prescribed off label for psychiatric use. Think of the anticonvulsants and blood pressure medications. The medication my psychiatrist made me sick with (one of many actually) was not a psychiatric medication and knowing my CYP status would have been useful. I get that you’ve read that psychiatric genetic tests are worthless. I don’t get why you’re throwing the baby out with the bath water on knowing whether or not you can metabolize the vast majority of other drugs you might be prescribed based on that small amount of information.

      • amnesia is not wrong – amnesia is an empath and has super psychic abilities – you can indeed weed out people and the tests are already available but costly – there is nothing wrong with people – we all have genetic glitches – psych drugs are almost lethal to many

        • $200 23andme – when I had it done for myself and my husband it cost $100.

          ‘someone’ should just shut up – not at all well-informed – no need to share ignorance and try to prevent people from having genetic testing and avoiding what is harmful to them.

          That said – your genes are not your destiny – they do get triggered, though.

          • “That said – your genes are not your destiny – they do get triggered, though.”

            Yes and no, while most genes do interact with the environment in ways epigeneticists are only beginning to understand, some genes are in fact, your destiny. This is especially true when it comes to genes that regulate enzymatic activity and cell metabolism. If you have variants that cause impaired regulation, you will most likely experience less positive effect, and possibly a greater number of side effects of certain drugs. Being a homzygote of a gene that causes metabolic impairment will mean you don’t make certain enzymes at all. The current Baby Charlie case in the UK is a good example of the type of disability that can result from inheriting two impaired genes – being homozygous. In his case, the impaired genes effect cell metabolism. So, genes can very much be your destiny if you are homzygotic for genes that influence metabolism and methylation. Other examples of genes that are fine if you’re only a carrier, but screwed if you have two copies would include diseases like Tay-Sachs that runs in the Ashkenazi Jewish community, and Sickle Cell Anemia is certain African communities.

          • You should educate yourself about the difference between allergies ans enzyme deficiency, clearly you know nothing about it.
            Being rude and throwing a tantrum is not very convincing. Try to control yourself, we are trying to have a civilized discussion here. Your immature reactions are only degrading yourself.

          • Someone, there is a school of thought currently emerging that enzyme deficiency – particularly the digestive enzymes – leads to leaky gut syndrome, and that that is responsible for a great number of autoimmune diseases and allergies. The two are not unrelated. Being rude in return is not helpful.

  17. They do exist – look up CYP450 – look up Yolande Lucire MD. Look up David Carmichael who killed his son while on Paxil. I had to learn all about genetic glitches and saved my husband’s life when I found he couldn’t metabolize any of the heart meds he was given. With ECT tests can be done to see if people can tolerate/metabolize the drugs given prior to the induced seizures. You are not at all in la la land. I’m not quite ready to write about this but people who can see the human energy field can see the damage from pharmaceuticals- the field becomes porous – ECT then makes it even more porous – full of holes. A lot depends on the energy field – people react in different ways. Do you think pharmacos would like people to know the huge percentage who cannot metabolize their drugs. Right now the tests are fairly expensive – but soon they won’t be.

  18. Steve

    Thank you for your suggestions. BTW I am a male. Back when I tried Orthomolecular psych I learned TM. It was never very helpful then or now. I have been in many many support groups though they have mainly been based on a biological model. NAMI, DBSA, etc. Though at one time I was also in Emotions Annonymous. The bottom line is that These did help somewhat I always returned to my destructive way of thinking of relating to myself relationships and the world. I have had many many kind and supportive friends who believed in me but I just could not seem to believe in myself. As they matured and saw I did not accept their love and caring they moved on with their own lives as I remained in crisis. Thank you for your suggestions.

    • Helpstillneeded,

      I’m sorry for all the pain you are in. And I’m sorry your friends moved on. Sadly our culture teaches us to despise ‘needy’ people who won’t ‘accept our love and care’ on OUR terms. It takes a lot to help someone unlearn all the destructive thinking patterns. Unfortunately most people simply aren’t willing or able to invest the time, though it does require some intentionality to it that many people simply don’t grasp.

      On my blog, for those who lack the people in their lives to help them heal, my best suggestion is to try a larger pet (i.e. cat or dog) if your living circumstances are such that you can have one. There is even a program in which dogs are being trained to help trauma victims, though the numbers being trained are not nearly sufficient for the need that is present. I just bought my wife/my girls a kitten and it is helping the one girl heal and shift her self-perspective in ways that not even I am able to do for her. We also ride a tandem bike and the better we become the more self-confident the various girls become, again helping to shift their inner-narrative. Healing can come from many things as well as people. Finding a hobby in which you can learn to excel may be another way to help you shift that inner narrative.

      • Sam

        Thank you for your response. I can’t really blame the people or even very good non psychiatrists therapists who tried to help me. They were extremely persistent and tolerant over periods of years and a few put up with behavior that was just not acceptable for anyone to endure. I have a cat but feel no love for it and feel it is more a burden. She is a wonderful loving animal. I am now remembering things my father said to me when I was young such as “You will never know what love is”. I seem to have many of his statements engrained in me. I am glad you have found peace and some healing. I realize I bought into and believed many lies but as an male adult of 65 now and always am also responsible for avoiding the responsibilities that all humans need to address that I did not. Besides some very abusive people in my life I realize I also had many many caring people too. I was an extremely avid dancer but gave it up when I could not avoid seeing my ex at dances. After a while you can’t keep blaming others and need to grow up and learn what it means to care for yourself and your and others needs. I realize I kept turning to what were magic pills to substitute for a balanced disciplined life.

        • Helpstillneeded,
          it’s not about blame. Unfortunately the human mind gets trained by the events it experiences and then it becomes VERY hard for any of us to retrain it to new ways of thinking, but it is possible (neural plasticity). The fact that you pulled up one of your father’s lies is evident of that. One of the girls in my wife’s system had similar lies from her abuser and so I helped her thru those lies in a number of ways. It wasn’t a one-time, ‘that isn’t true, I love you!’ kind of thing, but something I addressed multiple ways both in word and deed and I still wear a necklace charm around my neck of a saying that she and I developed to counter the lie of her abuser: I choose you. We belong together.

          Anyway, again, it’s not about blaming you for all your failures: if there’s anyone to blame in my wife’s life it would be her parents and her first abuser, but my wife needed my consistent help to get her thru that early childhood ‘brain training’ so that she could move on to healthier thinking. We are at the end of year 9 in this journey of 24/7 undoing the thought patterns that were ‘engrained’, as you say, into her. It’s not quick. It’s not easy. But it is possible.
          Take care,

          • Sam

            I understand. But I can’t help but blame myself since I now realize I was aware that I was doing things I knew were wrong. Your wife is very very lucky to have you and The fact that you did not leave so I can also understand the extreme difficulty of your situation. I had a woman friend who was always there for me like that who did help me through tough times in the past over many years when I was suffering but She has MS never complains and is not well and though I helped her at times I became more and more frantic and needy as my life fell apart. Even with her disability she would try all kinds of things to help me. She has always been extremely positive even as she has lost more and more function. It literally breaks my heart that I can’t be there for her or be doing research to help her. She won’t let me come to see her anymore because I scare her too much. I had an extreme panic attack the last time I was there and thought I would die in 30 mins and she rushed me to the ER where I calmed down all of a sudden with a shot of Valium but I think over the years it took its toll on her. No matter what she did she could not comfort me and I think it caused her too much pain to see the transformation in me. I have also called her at all hours in desperation because I also thought I was dying or couldn’t do simple things in my house or find something etc. She and I seldom talk now because I am so distressed and desperate and don’t want to upset her. I also feel ashamed that that despite her declining health she has told me she loves life helps others and always has hope when I don’t. I did the same to a male friend who I had helped in the past who was a kind and gentle soul who is a Quaker and his now wife who actually had me live with them for awhile as she moved in with him and witnessed their loving relationship (the complete opposite of any relationship I ever had) and I did nothing as they shuttled me from one psychiatrist therapist to another and they lived an extremely active and productive life while I stayed in their home pretended to read self help books and he believed in Eclhardt Tolle and calmly espoused his teachings and had me watch his videos over and over again which only made me feel more and more guilty that I was letting my ego and pain body was destroying me. The final $325 an hr psychiatrist told me I was an angry person didn’t need drugs and that I needed to find a job and move back to my home. After working my whole life as a professional I have not worked for many yrs now and am on disability. Which brings me more shame. Another told me It was not healthy to be in earshot of them having sex. Even after moving back home this friend kept calling but it seemed the more he and others wanted to help the more resentful and angry I became as he told me all the positive things in his life and how well he has been coping with difficulties. And that I should just keep trying different things. There is a lot more and the bottom line is that we all need people but I am now afraid and jealous of people and just hide. Again I realize the torment you must go through and yet you have not abandoned your wife or your life.

          • Helpstillneeded,

            I’m sorry your ‘extreme panic attack’ overwhelmed your friend: they can feel overwhelming. I remember one of my wife’s. It began to suck me into her panic. Fortunately, I was able to recenter myself while I had her in my arms, and then my calm was able to ‘overwhelm’ her panic. But I remember the fear that her panic attack created in me until I got control of it for both of us.

            You are not a blight to those around you. No one asks for trauma or overwhelming fears. Unfortunately, most people aren’t taught how to help someone through the trauma or fears: I certainly wasn’t. And so those in need and those who try to help both end up getting sucked into the vortex, and the experts can’t help because their protocols keep them detached nor CAN they help, even if they knew how, because so much of this happens outside the office where they aren’t or can’t be.

            I’m sorry for the place you are currently in

            ‘yet you haven’t abandoned your wife or your life…’ She’s my one and only. I’ve never been with anyone else. And after lots of journaling, staying true to myself means finding a win/win solution for both of us… which means helping her heal.

  19. Thanks for your perspective. I’ve never really heard it before. At 65 I don’t really know where / how to turn to help myself. I’m not a kid anymore. I’m basically in servere survival mode on many fronts now in a very deep hole where I have been many times before and I barely “muscled” my way through. Society does not look kindly on a frightened dependent male especially one who at times was very very functional productive and helpful to others and then does a 360 and seems to turn into an angry helpless self destructive dependent child hiding from responsibility and reality. Many many others (I know a few) grow up with far worse abuse and/or loss disability during their life than myself and go on to be mature productive responsible loving adults to themselves and others.

    • HSN,

      I was on my blog and tried but failed to find that link of the dogs that are being trained specifically to help people in your situation. They become attuned to a person’s mental distress. I will keep looking and see if I can find the program.

      It’s not about who had the ‘worst’ experience. Our lives are a conglomeration of all kinds of experiences and relationships which shape and form each of us and help or hinder our ability to cope in life. So much of our ability to cope does hinge on our attachment relationships which is kind of a cruel reality in our Western society that neurotically values independence and self-sufficiency and so it despises people in your situation and creates a vicious circle of punishing those who need help the most: the more help a person needs the more we punish them for being ‘needy’. It’s not right! But I don’t know how we change an entire culture’s foundation, sigh…
      edit: found it!

      • Sam

        Thank you again for your different perspective. Yes I guess I do feel punished and I now do see that in the amalgam of my life it did have many many good people and good times but nonetheless also had more and more consistent negative experiences with relationships/attachments that were double binds (think Sophie’s Choice or Dead Poets Society) and created a perfect storm as I got older and sought more and more help instead of fighting against certain “helpers” situations and standing up for myself. I have been told not to come back to groups because I was too negative even though I barely dragged myself to the group and sometimes was the only one there. I was also told by a therapist that I was a whiner. My long term psychiatrist (20 years) told me he couldn’t see me anymore because he had too many administrative duties but his website said he was taking new patients. When I was hospitalized he was my roommates psychiatrist and he ignored me. I was by nature an extremely sensitive caring introverted inquisitive intelligent male who never did drugs or got in trouble but even in elementary school was told I asked too many questions so I stopped for a long time and was told by my sister that she wished she had a sister and who lived across the street from bullies and at times was afraid to go outside. I was also bullied in elementary school. My first real love seduced me on our first date. I did not really want that but I was a male how could I refuse? then went on to reject me when she found out from someone else that I was a “depressive” based on some test I took. She went on to date and marry someone I knew and because it was in school I saw them together all the time. So I buried myself in work. I actually saw her on a TED talk talking about how to turn adversity into opportunity. None of the negative seemed to matter when things were going what I thought were well. As I think I realize there are many many more broken and unresolved attachments that I have tried to surpress that just accumulated and must have affected me. I feel beaten up now even by myself and am now exhausted and just want to rest but can’t. Thank you for the dog link and caring in spite of your situation. I had a younger woman friend who struggled a lot because of abusive parents and spent much of her youth in an institution turned out to be d.i.d and has an assistance dog. She has a loving partner friends a job as a therapist and caring children. These all mitigate against the negative. I do have a cat but ignore and now push away her acts of love. She use to purr all the time but now she lies in the corner and sighs. I wouldn’t be able to take care of a dog emotionally, physically or now financially. Goodbye for now.

          • As much as I understand your concern for the cat, right now, I’m not sure it’s the biggest concern as HSN seems to be barely holding on and insisting he get rid of his only living companionship might not be for the best.

        • Hey HSN, You should make a conscious effort to be more interactive with your cat. Even if you don’t feel an immediate reward or don’t think it’s helping. There are numerous studies showing that petting a cat helps with depressive symptoms. It may take a while so you may have to think of it as exercise – something you do for long term benefit even if the immediate feeling isn’t fun. Try it as an experiment for a while. It’ll be good for you and kitty. Hang in there!

  20. Hi Niall
    great article – AND there is no sign of you slowing down or backing off which in australia is usually what happens- so good on you for your tenacity.
    I’m just suprised AHPRA have not come after you for something as you are a thorn in the side of the system.
    My best friend in the UK has had multiple well over 50 shocks of ECT’, heart failure as a result and drug induced diabetes and osteoporosis and is over 200 Kg in weight.
    Tragic to see her – someone should be charged for what they have done to her following post natal depression 25 years ago while her husband had cancer and her baby was born disabled,(not suprising she was depressed )
    It is torture pure and simple- we were student nurses 35 years ago and witenssed long ECT lists in the UK at the Midland nerve hospital. We both said “we will never let anyone do that to us ” the naivety of youth!
    Anyway Niall keep up the good work it will be a very sad day when you are no longer around as there will be no voice in the wilderness then, no defender for the helpless ones.

    • Logged in just to confirm the over use of ECT in the Midland Nerve (which, oddly, had a “cool” “hip” “mild tweaks for the mind” kinda vibe at the time) more than 45 years ago alongside some form of insulin shock therapy that looked potentially homicidal even to 13 year old me (I was outside the usual age profile for the unit due to intellectual giftedness and premature development syndrome).

      I escaped ECT until Warwick Mental Hospital two years later when my excellent memory had caught out a social worker once too often (I never had any symptoms of depression and was never claimed to have) I was lucky, it only scrambled my memory of the previous month a lot and the previous few weeks a little bit. An odd thing…these treatment were dished out across the West Midlands region in rigid (totally OCD) multiples of 6, if you missed one you had it at the end…I missed one with flu, they left it at 5. This was performed on my 15 year old signature alone (I was too scared I’d never be let out to withhold it) this was legal, but only barely.

  21. Several of the entries here have absolutely nothing to do with the article regarding ECT. They are off on a complete tangent.

    Interesting to note that not one ECT administering psychiatrist has crawled out of the woodwork to defend this ludicrous, braindamaging assault on the delicate brain.

    I simply cannot wrap my mind around the fact that people like Gergel survive all the EcT given and continue to get more…

  22. Truth there is no such thing as off tangent on this site so not sure what your problem is….
    We ramble all over the shop back and forth which is the joy of the site go with the flow there is room for all views and the fluidity is what keeps it interesting!!

    • In ‘truth’s’ defense, I think he/she was being satirical, I think. But yes we need to be careful when using satire because HSN took it seriously. Typically when I see people use satire on forums like this they will put (satire) in their comment to alert their readers since it can be hard to understand otherwise.

  23. So question. You have the genetic drug testing. It says you can “metabolize” the drug with no toxic build up in your body/liver. How does that translate to proof it won’t make you psychotic, suicidal, manic, akathisic, delusional as it acts on your brain?? Does it just screen out for deadly, for rash, metabolic effects???

    • I’m done addressing this in terms of genetic drug testing. And in terms of psychiatric drugs. Did you know you can have a psychotic response to statin drugs like Lipitor and Crestor? These are among the most prescribed and most profitable drugs in the world. There has been a push in the last several years to dramatically increase the number of people taking them. Have you heard of antibiotic-related delirium common to drugs like Cipro, Levaquin and Flagyl? The deadly rash you speak of is Stevens-Johnson Syndrome – a known reaction to drugs as wide ranging as Lamictal (an anticonvulsant) to Tylenol/Paracetamol.

      To my knowledge, simply being able to metabolize a drug won’t tell you definitively whether you will have an allergic reaction or severe side effect. However, knowing whether you’re able to metabolize a drug will give you valuable information *before* risking taking a drug that you definitely shouldn’t take. It would absolutely prevent a number of severe drug reactions. Would it prevent them all? No. And no one here arguing for the merit of such testing has made any claim whatsoever that knowing your CYP status would prevent all reactions. Again, baby meet bath water.

  24. Years ago as a psychology undergrad, I took kind of an interest in ECT and did some reading on it. Everything I was able to get hold of at the time in the psychology dept seemed to refer to it as ‘effective’ and ‘safe’. Fast forward 25 years, I am hospitalised. Suicidal. They offer me ECT. I accept, thinking it was safe. It never made any difference to my depression but my memory is nowhere near as accurate as it was. I have to write everything down now. I was never like this before ECT. I wish I had never done it. I feel damaged, and there’s no way now to get the lost faculties back.

    • That totally sucks! I have never understood how anyone can justify inducing a seizure in another person as a way of “helping” them. It makes no sense whatsoever, and it is hardly surprising that memory loss and other cognitive impairment is a result. If someone has a seizure, we consider it an emergency situation and dangerous to the person. Inducing seizures is not “treatment!”