The Three Most Important Facts About Psychiatric Drugs

Peter Breggin, MD
49
11583

A few days ago, psychologist and educator Michael Corrigan was a guest on my radio show and he brought up some questions about how to communicate with people about psychiatric drugs. Specifically, he asked, “What are the three most important things for anyone to know about psychiatric drugs?” Here is my answer:

Psychiatric drugs are neurotoxins. They poison the brain, injuring brain cells and causing severe biochemical imbalances and potential biological chaos. Because drug companies design them to cross the blood brain barrier and to impair specific neurotransmitter systems, every psychiatric drug is a potent neurotoxin. They cannot “fix” biochemical imbalances because there are no biochemical imbalances in the brains of troubled, suffering people; and more specifically because they are tailored in the lab to disrupt brain function and not to fix it. As neurotoxins, they are bad for the brain with the first dose. They can cause tragic harm, such as suicide and violence early in treatment, and tend to cause brain damage and apathy after longer exposure.

Psychiatric drugs “work” by harming your brain and mind (the brain-disabling principle). Like any form of brain injury, some psychiatric drugs can cause temporary highs; but all cause emotional blunting and loss of touch with oneself and others. They make people care less about their own lives and the lives others. They cause these effects by infiltrating the entire brain, diminishing the overall function, including in the super-sensitive basal ganglia, limbic system, temporal lobe and frontal lobe.

Psychiatric drugs will hide their harmful effects from you (medication spellbinding). Most people who use alcohol, marijuana, cocaine or narcotics are the last to know how much they are being harmed or harming others while “under the influence.” Some people insist these neurotoxins are helpful when the main long-term effect consists of diminished awareness, sensitivity or feeling. The same is especially true of psychiatric drugs, because drug companies tailor them to target and disrupt major neurotransmitter systems like dopamine and serotonin. People taking psychiatric drugs often underestimate the harm and overestimate any good effects. This is “medication spellbinding.”

These three principles of neuropharmacology—neurotoxicity, brain-disabling effects, and medication spellbinding—are the starting point for understanding how psychiatric drugs actually affect the brain and mind, and why to avoid them, whenever possible.

To worsen the problem of exposure to psychiatric drugs, all of them can cause withdrawal symptoms. Some are frankly addictive, like the stimulants given to children for “ADHD” and the tranquilizers given for anxiety and insomnia in adults. Other drugs that do not create cravings, such as the antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs, can cause so much emotional havoc and suffering during withdrawal, that people suffer greatly when trying to stop taking them. Reducing or stopping psychiatric drugs outside a hospital should be done cautiously and carefully with experienced clinical supervision and a good support system.

Many studies confirm that psychiatric drugs do more harm than good and should simply be avoided. What can people turn to other than psychiatric drugs?

Research also shows that many non-drug approaches are effective, including psychotherapy, as well as improving overall health through positive beliefs, exercise and nutrition. It is in your best interest to find a therapist or counselor who treats you as someone to be treasured and empowered.

49 COMMENTS

  1. Great article as usual Dr. Breggin. Thank you, and well done. These three basic facts about psychotropic drugs are facts that everyone should understand. The problem of medication spellbinding is one that many people can’t comprehend, even though it should be obvious and simple.

    I think, however, that the phrase “psychiatric drugs do more harm than good” needs to be retired. It’s a bit misleading because it suggests that drugs might be able to do some good. It is clear to those who understand the history of psychiatry that psychotropic (not just ‘psychiatric’) drugs were designed to cause harm in the first place. Furthermore, it is clear that these toxic chemicals were designed to cause harm even though the victims of drugging would consider the drugs to be “medication” with some “therapeutic” value. Your book Toxic Psychiatry makes it abundantly clear that these drugs are dangerous, and your book Medication Madness outlines some of those dangers.

    Of course, I am more skeptical than you are about “psychotherapy” because I don’t get paid to talk to people and to try to help them. Of course people need others with whom to converse and to share their burdens, and certainly there are many people who benefit from positive interactions with caring people (even though these positive interactions used to be the domain of family and friends).

    But the root cause of the problem is not psychotropic drugs or even psychotherapy. The root cause of the problem is that psychiatry continues to perpetuate the myth of mental illness, and this myth is so engrained in our culture that very few people have thought through it carefully. If more people understood the true history of psychiatry and the myth of mental illness, psychiatry would sooner be abolished, and along with it, the psychotropic drugs would be eliminated. This may be the work of many generations, but the sooner psychiatry is abolished, and the sooner psychotropic drugs are eliminated, the sooner human beings will flourish and find health and happiness.

    • Agree with everything you have said. I do wonder, though, what happens when a person takes a drug and suddenly is seeing things, hearing voices, becomes paranoid, deeply anxious, depressed (eg. Taking accutane, Chantix, any anti depressant). Is the person then “mentally ill”? And what is to be done if the drugs have created permanent changes in the brain?? What if weaning off the drugs does not restore the person to their stable state??

      • The person is then brain-damaged.
        They may indeed never be the same again.
        But the brain is very resilient and if stroke survivors can recover use of paralyzed limbs, certainly psychiatric survivors can recover use of their brain cells.
        Achieving a measure of recovery from iatrogenic brain injury will probably in all cases entail a complete severance from all psychiatry. In other words, keep away from doctors. They will tell you that a) the brain-damage is “really the disease coming back” and b) you need the pills for life to prevent relapse.
        The truth is what Dr. Breggin writes: This is the time to turn to other methods. A support system; nutrition and exercise; a new focus on life looking for meaning and purpose rather than happiness (my input, not Dr. Breggin’s).

  2. Excellent article, filled good with important information. One point to ponder: Szasz also wrote a less well-known, less appreciated book, The Myth of Psychotherapy. I agree w/ Slaying the Dragon and others that the “talking treatments” are dangerous, too.

    People need people. I do not think anyone “needs” counseling or therapy or psych drugs. I find it interesting that in 21st century America, everybody (and their mama) is in some sort of “treatment,” psychological jargon has entered everyday conversation, and we’re dealing with mass incarceration, high suicide rates, family and social disintegration, and Mental Health, Inc. has chosen to respond to this by expanding the DSM, creating more and more counselors and therapists, and screaming about the need for more public funds for “treatment.”

    As a Christian, I’m especially concerned about the unholy alliance between much of Christendom and Mental Health, Inc. Here locally, a mainline church hosts monthly NAMI meetings, in the church building itself.

    I do hope more people will be able to walk away from –all– of Mental Health, Inc., and share their stories with others before they enter “the system.”

    • I want to write a book called “Shut Up and Take Your Prozac! The Real Reason Churches are Embracing Psychiatry.” And, as you can guess, the reason they are is not Christian love.

      Some of the meanest, cruelest bigots I know attend pro-psychiatry churches. And they’re deluded into thinking they’re dripping with compassion when the exact opposite is true.

      If NAMI holds meetings at a church I refuse to join or donate to any parachurch groups they support. Why don’t they invite street dealers to hold parties in the church basement?

      Someone needs to ask Rick Warren, “Since Psychiatry couldn’t keep Matt from killing himself, why do you think it will save others?” Sounds like Saddleback hands out Zoloft, Prozac, and Abilify in place of communion wafers. The god they really worship.

      Most “Christians” are practicing materialists and don’t really believe in God, angels or souls. The atheist Szasz was more religious than they.

    • I consider one of the most frightening things on the horizon today to be Rick and Kay Warren’s “Hope For Mental Health” ministry, and their seeming alliance with UC Irving and its new “Integrative Psychiatry” 8 story building, and then Rick Warren’s “Celebrating Recovery Program”, and how that is pitched at captive audiences, literally, state prisons.

  3. I have a mental illness…I have been helped by a psychiatrist…I have been helped by a psychologist…I have been helped by a minister…I have been helped by a friend….I have been helped by dr breggin…I have survived this awful world…I have been helped by mad in America….but I am not willing to take everything down…

    • It might be helpful to define what you mean when you say “I have a mental illness.”

      I am with you that people can help each other, and I was very fortunate to have an excellent therapist who actually helped me sort out what was going on in my muddled head. However, it appears to me the term “mental illness” has been co-opted by the Forces of Evil and is used not to help, but to demean and blame those who don’t “adjust” to our weird Western capitalistic society. While most psychiatrists are most likely not intending to do harm, most are massively misinformed by their leaders, and many of those leaders ARE in fact quite aware of what is happening and are more concerned for their financial welfare and power than they are for your welfare or mine.

      Nobody here wants to deny that people experience mental and emotional stress and difficulties. But I lack any confidence that the psychiatric profession is genuinely engaged in trying to help minimize such stress, and in fact, the profession mainly denies that such stresses have ANYTHING AT ALL to do with why people are suffering. Hence, the distrust and in some cases the desire to dismantle psychiatry and all of its manifestations. I hope you can understand the difference.

        • If “mental illness” could be understood to mean extremely negative emotions or self-defeating thought processes and habits I wouldn’t mind the term. As it stands folks are dumb enough to believe whatever they see on TV. That “mental illness” is an honest-to-gosh brain defect.

          I believe this causes more stigma than if we referred to them as character defects, since we can always improve our behaviors.

          • I’ve come to prefer to write the phrase “mental disease” as “mental dis-ease” because the traditional way of spelling it suggests a biological cause that “must” be treated by psychotropic meds — meds that actually are responsible for converting mental dis-ease into a mental disease.

            There CAN be conditions of the brain that might make people behave in ways that can endanger others and/or themselves such as something pressing against the cerebrum.

            For example, a man had part of his head destroyed by shrapnel. The missing parts were replaced with a metal plate.

            After his time in the service was completed, he returned home to be a husband, dad, and elementary school principal. He was active in his church and was a pillar of his community.

            Unbeknownst to him, the metal plate was starting to press on his cerebrum. One day, he took a gun into his school where he killed a couple of teachers outright and, then ran into the woods and turned the gun on himself.

            In the case of this man, his actions were actually caused by something physiological going on in his brain.

            However, most mental disease can be traced back to a brain damaged by chemicals; electroshock; and/or invasive surgery that was used to try to “cure” mental dis-ease…

    • littleturtle, no one has any mental illness. There is no such thing.

      But if someone is denied social and civil standing, they are having to live without honor, and that is always extremely painful because your survival is continually being threatened.

      The only way anyone ever restores their honor is by fighting back, going upstream instead of down stream. Otherwise it’s just more pity.

      Therapy, Recovery, and Healing, all they are is teaching people to live by asking for pity. It makes the original abusers and all of the subsequent abusers the ones who are right.

    • People only grow when they face their feelings. “Healing” is not the issue, the issue is being able to face the pain and fight for justice. This is the only way anyone can restore their social and civil standing. No drugs, street or prescription, can ever help with this, nor can talk therapy.

    • Adaline, if it wasn’t for marijuana I wouldn’t have made it through my Effexor, Trazodone & Lithium c/t withdrawals. It was the ONLY thing that quieted my mind as it raged with so much homicidal thoughts & plans. It quieted my racing heart rate, the endless anxiety. It was the only thing that saved me while no one in the Medical field would help me for 5 excruciating, long months.

      • Sanderella, you may feel that way about it. But people can face excruciating physical trials, if they want to. You don’t need one drug to get off another.

        And the idea of psychological healing is a myth. People feel distress when their ability to survive is being threatened in the present. People who have had their life stories nullified, naturally feel distress, because they are considered illegitimate. So their survival is being threatened.

        You don’t ‘heal’ from historic abuses. That concept is just a way that clinicians advance their own denial systems., and shift responsibility back on to their survivor client.

        The only way to correct a negative and dangerous situation is political consciousness raising and political activism.

        Psychotherapy runs on lies, the need for this ‘healing’ is only but one of them.

        • I don’t believe that you can lecture sanderella about how people should face “excruciating physical trials” as you put it. Each person has to deal with things according to their own abilities. If sanderella says that marijuana helped with the pain of getting off the drugs than I accept that at face value. I have no right to state otherwise about another person’s experience.

          I also disagree with you that psychological healing is a myth. And even though you can’t “recover” from trauma you can certainly transcend it and move on with your life if someone helps you to give meaning to what it was that happened to you.

          I disagree that political consciousness raising and political activism is the only way to correct negative and dangerous situations.

          • Stephen Gilbert, thank you for advocating on my behalf. I didn’t say marijuana helped me ‘get off’ my Effexor, Trazodone & Lithium. I said it helped me get through the excruciating mental & physical symptoms of those cold-turkey withdrawals. They induced such a level of irritability, anger, rage & homicidal ideations and planning, I must add, that I welcomed it. It also relieved my physical symptoms as well (extreme suffering). Thank you for your comment. It was very well taken. And no, I would never recommend anyone get off their psych meds ‘cold-turkey’, but my mental health-care workers had a habit of telling me that after decades taking them, it was ‘just fine’ to do when we all know, it isn’t. So thank you, again for your comment.

      • sanderella

        I believe that marijuana has the ability to help people deal with a multitude of things caused by trauma and the problems caused by psychiatry and the drug companies.

        I watched a former roommate begin dealing with severe sexual abuse that he experienced beginning at the age of five years old by using marijuana. It seemed to help smother the ego so that he could look at the trauma and its perpetrators in an objective manner rather then from the stand point of fear. By looking at it objectively he was able to explore ways of dealing with it in positive ways that allowed him to free himself from the effects of trauma. Interestingly, the greatest help he received for his trauma work came from using LSD. This might not work for anyone else, but it certainly worked for him and gave him the strength and courage to meet his trauma issues head on rather than running away from them.

        Thank you for sharing.

        • @sanderella

          I understood what you meant about the drugs and the marijuana. I also don’t advocate for cold turkey since that usually ends up in withdrawal, which is then interpreted by psychiatrists as “relapse of the person’s severe mental illness”. And that usually leads to a nice little trip to the little state “hospital” where I work.

          Thanks for your response.

  4. Creative Minds: Designing Personalized Clinical Trials
    Posted on December 14, 2017 by Dr. Francis Collins

    It might have been 25 years ago, but Karina Davidson remembers that day like yesterday. She was an intern in clinical psychology, and two concerned parents walked into the hospital with their troubled, seven-year-old son. The boy was severely underweight at just 37 pounds and had been acting out violently toward himself and others. It seemed as though Ritalin, a drug commonly prescribed for Attention Deficit Disorder, might help. But would it? – And isn’t this the most insane idea you’ve ever heard to treat a malnourished child. Instead of a more holistic, humane approach they’re first choice is to delve right into drugging this poor boy. This madness never seems to end.

      • They might as well go down to visit the neighborhood drug dealer on the corner and buy some speed. It’s exactly the same thing. I never have understood how they can justify giving what is essentially speed to a kid while stating that it’s a medication. I’ve tried to talk with some of my friends whose kids or grandkids are on this stuff and they become very uncomfortable and don’t want to discuss it at all. They don’t seem to want to hear that they’re giving their kids and grandkids a drug that harms them. One of them gave me an exasperated look and asked what I expected them to do and I said “get your kid off the damned stuff, for the love of God”. We’ve never talked again since that discussion four years ago. And I suspect that this person’s child is still on the damned speed masquerading as a medicine!

    • The kid sounds like he was being abused. Not necessarily by his parents, but happy kids don’t act that way and aren’t severely underweight.

      I would have asked the parents if someone–a teacher or babysitter or creepy uncle–could be harming the child. Get the kid away from his abuser! And get him to see a nutritionist, since he’s obviously malnourished.

      Therapy might help, if it was better than the canned crap they give at Community Mental Illness Centers. (Say, the kind Peter Breggin gives.)

  5. Sanderella and Stephen G., feelindiscouraged, et all, your comments are appreciated. After the ‘Great Depression’ and economic crash of late I lost my health insurance and finally fulfulled the wish diagnosed with bipolar and schizo-affective disorders in 1978 hallucinations and a hellish struggle through life — finally detoxed off Lithium & Buproprion (and as needed sonata abilify and others and after having reactions to so many others, neuroleptics (neurotoxins all of them)), and even with the ‘low doses’ for 19 years withdrawl was an absolute nightmare and detoxing took several YEARS. Cold turkey. No healthcare at all. It came in waves and I would become a raving lunatic, manic as a banshee, then go into depressions. I was extremely lucky to have a man that took care and hung in there with me through this mayhem. I believe I may always be recovering. I am more stable now than ever.

    Having been abused since birth, I am employing a therapist to help me with PTSD, she is working with me using EMDR, eye movement deprocessing and reprogramming. http://www.emdr.com/ It is a technique that they use to try to help veterans with PTSD. It is very simple and effective. And yes, in addition, talk therapy helps me. I would never be a blowhard and put anyone down for using their critical thinking, and trying to get benefit from ‘help.’ If you can afford it I recommend Acupuncture, homeopathy, herbalism, massage, exercise, yoga, tai chi, gardening and lots of fresh air in the woods. If you are lucky enough to be blessed with animals in your life than all the better, they can be life savers.

    Besides the whole issue of being buffalo’d in to the mental health trap, if one is not upset at what is happening to humanity, to the planet, then there is something deeply wrong with them. Endless war that enriches elite/corp/government. Nuclear nightmare for example out of Fukushima just the tip of the iceberg. Vampiritic industries that feed off/sicken/kill humans and destroy the environment to enrich themselves, vicious military, plastics, Petro-Chemical, big pharma, the list goes on, flouride in the municipal waters. Monsanto, GMOs, destruction of DNA. Weather warfar and geoengineering poisoning us, the air, the land. Forced vaccinations, rising autism. If you are not upset and sick at what is happening, something is wrong with you! Fear of losing our jobs if we say anything?? Agenda 21 – we must all at least WAKE UP to everything that is happening to us, and care for each other, because we are all one. Take care.

    • Adaline, beautifully said. And I sure am sorry for your suffering too. I had full medical insurance, was heavily involved with Mental Health/ACT Team there. I saw my workers once if not twice a week, yet while enduring my withdrawals I was not believed. In fact, I was directly blamed for my endless suffering (withdrawal symptoms) where I not only become angry, I was outraged. And when I researched the entire Psychiatric madness Industry, that lead me down other rabbit holes. If what I didn’t learn from Psychiatry & psychiatric drugs didn’t open my eyes and mind, the rest of what you mentioned surely did. We are under attack literally from every direction. There is no way anyone can convince me there isn’t a de-population agenda on the table. God Bless you Adaline. All we have is each other. We’d have to be delusional to actually believe our government or President is going to help us. They are not.

  6. How many psychiatric patients have been told the information in this document when coming off your Klonopin? Not a one of my psychiatrist’s have ever breathed a word of it to me. Instead, they said that after more than a decade on Klonopin, it’s ‘just fine’ to abruptly stop taking it. (http://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov) on July 28, 2015. Query: Records containing the term 1622 61 3 1 – HSDB
    NAME: CLONAZEPAM RN: 1622-61-3
    OVERVIEW:
    HUMAN TOXICITY EXCERPTS: Antiepileptic drugs (AEDs), including Klonopin, increase the risk of suicidal thoughts or behavior in patients taking these drugs for any indication. The abrupt withdrawal of Klonopin, particularly in those patients on long-term, high-dose therapy, may precipitate status epilepticus.
    Therefore, when discontinuing Klonopin, gradual withdrawal is essential. Adverse GI effects of clonazepam include constipation, diarrhea, encopresis, gastritis, increased or decreased appetite, weight gain or loss, dyspepsia, nausea, coated tongue, dry mouth, abnormal thirst, and sore gums.[American Society of Health-System Pharmacists 2012; Drug Information 2012. Bethesda, MD. 2012, p. 2258] **PEER REVIEWED**

    Adverse neurologic effects of clonazepam include abnormal eye movements, aphonia choreiform movements, coma, diplopia, dysarthria, dysdiadochokinesis, glassy-eyed appearance, headache, hemiparesis,
    nystagmus, respiratory depression, slurred speech, tremor, dizziness, and vertigo. Clonazepam may also cause confusion, mental depression, forgetfulness, hallucinations, hysteria, increased libido, insomnia,
    psychosis, or suicidal tendencies. Muscle weakness and pains may also occur.[American Society of Health-System Pharmacists 2012; Drug Information 2012. Bethesda, MD. 2012, p. 2258] **PEER REVIEWED**

    The most frequent adverse effects of clonazepam are sedation or drowsiness, ataxia or hypotonia, and behavioral disturbances (principally in children) including aggressiveness, irritability, agitation, and hyperkinesis. Abrupt withdrawal of clonazepam following prolonged administration has resulted in severe withdrawal symptoms including seizures, psychosis, hallucinations, behavioral disturbances, tremors, abdominal and muscle cramps, vomiting, sweating, irritability, restlessness, sleeplessness, and hand tremors. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants and benzodiazepines (BZ) are frequently used to manage maternal depression during pregnancy. Such prenatal SSRI exposure may lead to a neonatal discontinuation syndrome [severe withdrawal symptoms]. (It’s unconscionable to me how doctors can deliberately do this to children. What I discovered was when I brought these horrifying side effects, adverse events to my GP, psychiatrists or mental health-care workers, I was not listened to or believed. They further blamed me for my demise and prescribed yet more pills.)

  7. Dr Breggin, I appreciate your work. But can you be more clear on the use of cannabis in regard to drug use ? I myself am on medicinal cannabis for Lyme disease and many people are healing from all types of illness with medicinal cannabis. I was labeled with a psychiatric illness when I had Lyme disease. I am now on a herbal protocol that is healing me along with medicinal cannabis at low dosages. I did not choose to use medicinal cannabis in an illegal state to get high or escape from reality. In fact, just the opposite, it is healing my memory my damaged brain from the long term 20 year use of benzodiazepines. I am remembering events from childhood long forgotten. It is helping my mood, helping the PTSD I got from doctors misdiagnosing me for years. I am a RN BSN and I don’t appreciate you referring to marijuana as in the same class of drugs as cocaine although the federal government has still got it listed inappropriately. That will soon change in this country. You can abuse sugar, cigarettes which many do, caffeine, and even alcohol in moderation has been proven beneficial to your health in moderate amounts. You are still looking at marijuana and putting it right up there with drug abuse. That is what is wrong in this country. I support Mad in America. I am anti traditional psychiatry but I think you need to rethink how you word and term the use of marijuana in your posts. Many mentally ill patients have found great relief with medicinal cannabis all over the world. I have talked to thousands on line and on Facebook forums, many using it do detox off opioids, benzodiazepines, and mind altering psychiatric drugs. Please think about that. Thank you Jackie

  8. Why do you call the “brain-disabling” argument to still reason that these patients can’t see the consequences of their actions (otherwise they would stop using the drugs), when instead it is the craving and depencence problems that surely play a role in why these people don’t stop using their drugs when it so obviously hurts them.

    It sounds like an argument of a psychiatrist that concludes that a addict or psychiatric patients is not able to formulate his/her will and can’t oversee the conseqences of their actions, while every addict know the consequences of not taking the drugs (craving, sickness, back to real life with all it’s problem, etc.)

    Patients do know they get sick from psychiatric drugs and when then tell their practitioners that they don’t want the pill because they are poison, they get the diagnose of delussion thinking and cannot judge the consquences of not wanting to be treated.

    Maybe it should not be the question if patients can oversee the consquences of not wanting to be treated with poisonous substances, but the question why psychiatrist can’t oversee the consequences of their actions that they inflict on other people.

    • RE “why psychiatrist can’t oversee the consequences of their actions”
      The psychiatrist believes themselves a HERO, saving the patient from the future. The psychiatrist also gets paid money.

      RE”don’t want the pill because they are poison” The patient has to be smart enough to lie, which the drugs may prevent the ability to do so.
      Rosenhan said the only thing he could say was ” i am sick and getting better”, as it was what his captors/jailers wanted to hear.
      ____________
      The SECOND non-existent impostor experiment

      For this experiment, Rosenhan used a well-known research and teaching hospital, whose staff had heard of the results of the initial study but claimed that similar errors could not be made at their institution.

      Rosenhan arranged with them that during a three month period, one or more pseudopatients would attempt to gain admission and the staff would rate every incoming patient as to the likelihood they were an impostor.

      Out of 193 patients, 41 were considered to be impostors and a further 42 were considered suspect. In reality, Rosenhan had sent no pseudopatients and all patients suspected as impostors by the hospital staff were ordinary patients.