Psychiatric Drugs Increase Suicide. CAMPP’s Film “Prescripticide” Exposes the Harms

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Media outlets have reported a multitude of violent acts and suicides over the past few decades, especially those of sensational mass shootings and famous celebrities choosing to end their own lives. But those are just the tip of the iceberg, and far more instances go unreported under the surface.

While there are many causal factors that contribute to violence and suicide, one of the most respected texts on forensic psychological evaluations points out that substance use increases the risk of both. Psychiatric drugs are mind-altering substances and are chemically indistinguishable from illicit and recreational drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, LSD, and alcohol. In fact, some of the latter are being widely used (marijuana) or researched (LSD, ketamine, ecstasy) for psychiatric purposes. Even though many report positive results from psychiatric drugs, there is still a sizable number at increased risk of violence and suicide because of them.

Even the drug companies’ own pre-marketing clinical trial research attests to this danger. Based on it, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned the public about 34 psychiatric drugs that can lead to worsening emotional, cognitive, and behavioral outcomes associated with violence and suicide (e.g., anxiety, agitation, depression, insomnia, confusion, malaise, akathisia). Thirteen of those drugs have received the “Black Box” warning for suicide.

This is especially worrisome since drug companies have a track record of hiding and underreporting negative and harmful information, so one wonders if the actual danger is worse than reported.

I’ll repeat that this evidence concerning the potentially harmful effects of psychiatric drugs comes directly from the drug companies who manufacture and test them. But, despite this acknowledged danger, prescriptions for psychiatric drugs have been rising ever since their market debut in the 1950s, with the recent COVID-19 pandemic making matters even worse. Unfortunately, the great majority of people prescribed psychiatric drugs are not fully informed about these problems, and so they cannot truly consent to their use.

The orthodox mental health system downplays this problem. First, it is said that all prescribed drugs have “side effects,” (a marketing term used to soften the seriousness of the experiences) but they are the inevitable price we pay for the benefits of life saving pharmacological treatment and without them matters would be far worse. The risk-benefit ratio is allegedly in favor of using the drugs.

But what is the benefit? Psychiatric drugs are used essentially to either sedate or excite central nervous system activity. So psychiatric drugs only work temporarily, just like illicit and recreational drugs, and then only to mask the problem. Notwithstanding the anecdotal examples when people claim the drug is a lifesaver, there is no true defect that the drug corrects as there is with drugs such as Novolin for diabetes and Synthroid for hypothyroidism. Despite decades of research on mental disorder, no such defect has been discovered.

Psychiatric drugs are used more like how Aspirin is used for a headache or how Valium was prescribed to subdue disaffected housewives in the 1960s. The drugs can soothe mental turmoil, but only temporarily, and so they must be consumed daily, and many times for several years, just to keep the masking effect ongoing. This puts the person at risk of chronic dependency on the drug, alteration of brain chemistry and structure, and serious withdrawal symptoms when the drug is stopped. Plus, they never address the fundamental problems in the person’s life that are causing the mental turmoil.

Also, many of the harmful effects of these drugs are seen as targets of treatment themselves; treatment that typically consists of just more psychiatric drugs with their own adverse effects, leading to the dangerous and scientifically uncharted territory of polypharmacy.

Second, the orthodox apologists claim these effects are rare. While this might be true of one effect, the probability of experiencing at least one of multiple effects is mathematically higher. Additionally, some effects are relatively common. For instance, 33% of people taking Prozac experience insomnia and more than 10% experience anxiety. Other less common effects of Prozac (affecting between 1 and 10% of those taking it) are: difficulty concentrating, sensory disturbances, agitation, emotional instability, hostility, and abnormal thinking. Many other psychiatric drugs have similar risks for these kinds of effects.

Given that about 1 out of 6 adults in the U.S. is taking a psychiatric drug, and if we conservatively use a 5% risk factor, more than 2 million adults would be experiencing at least one of these effects that can trigger violent and suicidal acts. And this is only for adults. What of our adolescents and children who are routinely prescribed psychiatric drugs? The above mentioned 13 “Black Box” suicide warnings are for children and adolescents taking psychiatric drugs. This is not a trivial matter.

The impact of these negative effects of psychiatric drugs make sense when considering why people act violently or resort to self-harm. Violence is the product of overwhelming pain, both physical and psychological. Think about what happens when you unexpectedly stub your toe on the coffee table or when someone publicly shames you. Anger and subsequent violence are typical responses to these forms of pain. The same kind of response can occur with the painful feelings associated with psychiatric drug effects. Moreover, remember that psychiatric drug effects repeat and persist while the drug is being consumed, and then even sometimes after it is stopped. They are not just one-time experiences like stubbing a toe or being publicly shamed.

Similarly, suicide is a reaction to an overwhelming and agonizing situation that the person believes is unwinnable while alive, and death is seen as the only solution to end the pain. Psychiatric drugs can be the sole reason for the agony, but they are more likely to exacerbate other preexisting sources of agony for which the drugs were originally prescribed.

In addition to the agonizing effects of psychiatric drugs, they can paradoxically create a sense of apathy, numbness, and lack of caring. Thus, those affected will less likely be concerned about the consequences of their behavior. I experienced this personally about 20 years ago when I was simultaneously transitioning careers and going through a marital breakup. I reached out to my doctor and was prescribed Paxil to help with the anxiety. The drug immediately took away my concern for my career, my marriage, and my children during this transition. The paradox was that while I didn’t care about those things anymore, I was very upset that I didn’t care. After a week or two of this agony, I stopped the drug – fortunately.

Violence and suicide are more likely when one is both in agony and doesn’t care about the consequences of one’s actions in response to that agony. Impulsive behavior is facilitated, and people are less likely to take a step back in the face of overwhelming pain and reconsider their actions.

The evidence is clear. Psychiatric drugs increase the chances that someone will become violent and suicidal, and they can be responsible for many of those tragedies we see in the headlines today. Given the number of people who are taking them (more than 40 million adults in the U.S.), even a very low risk can have substantial and devastating results. In many cases, the “benefits” of psychiatric drugs are not worth the price.

The International Society for Ethical Psychology and Psychiatry’s social action committee, the Coalition Against Medicalized Psychiatry and Psychology (CAMPP), has released the 12-minute film “Prescripticide.” The purpose of this informational video is to raise public awareness of this association between psychiatric drugs and violence/suicide.

CAMPP’s long term goal is to reduce the power and authority of the medical model of psychiatry and clinical psychology through a series of projects that target the model’s problematic foundation. “Prescripticide” is our first. We hope it will raise public awareness of this serious problem.

We firmly believe that educating the public, especially those who are or might become consumers of the conventional mental health system, will best expose the potential harms of that system, and weaken the undeserved power and authority of the medical model of psychiatry and clinical psychology. When the consumers of that model stop buying its harmful product, the model will go bankrupt.

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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.

30 COMMENTS

  1. And a psych or cop system are really the last humans that should be involved with people who “think” about escapes.
    There are reasons for the thoughts which force and drugs will NEVER solve, nor fix. If anything, the “treatments” add to the desperation.

    • Cognitive Dissonance

      I believe that its Medically well accepted that Psychiatric Drugs can cause Suicide and Homicide either through “Akathisia” or “Psychiatric Drug Induced Intoxication”.

      But, when it happens there seems to be a type “ELEPHANT in the Living Room” Reaction from Responsible Professionals, especially with cases of Homicide and Familicide.

      Psychiatric Drug Induced Homicide and Familicide, can usually be identified by its “Out of Character, Extreme Expression” (and the “Stopping, Starting, or Changing, of a Psychiatric Medication”).

      The Professional DENIAL (I believe) stems from the FACT that the Phenomenon is too Frightening to be Acknowledged…

      …Even though it’s Fully Accepted to Exist.

      • “…too frightening to be acknowledged”

        I agree, they can’t admit the truth because the truth is so horrible and implicates the drug manufacturers, the drug prescribers, and the FDA as well as all the other parties that go along with it and don’t speak up (like DBT therapist who make you mark on your diary card skipping meds as a problem behavior. Like family members and assorted ‘concerned and well meaning people’ who don’t have anything better to say than, “did you take your medication today?”)
        When everyone who could be sued or charged with criminal behavior or have their license or professional status threatened…when all of those parties have retired or died, maybe then the truth will come out.

        • I know as they say, “this probably dates me,” but there is the episode in the old 60s sitcom, “Get Smart.” This episode, in a way, although it predates this common psych drug era almost like foresaw what these psych drugs really do. Maxwell Smart had been captured by KAOS, his nemesis and was released. KAOS gave him specific pills to take every four hours because under the “care” of KAOS, Smart had developed a “memory problem.” What is odd about these little pills is that as he is getting his memory back, he is reminded to take a pill and there goes his memory again. Actually, I don’t quite remember how it ends, but I think 99, his girlfriend figures it eventually. When, I came off the psych drugs, I thought about that episode of “Get Smart.” It seems so funny and it is done in a comedic manner; but, now that I think about it—that is similar to all these psych drugs—just at about the time you get the memory of who you are back, it’s time to take the pill or pills again. There is one part that was not reflected in this episode—what really happens when you come off the drug and the true terror you must endure to get the memory of who you back. Of course, that is not funny—not one bit. But, for those of us have lived through it and survived—it is very well worth it. I just wish we did not have to go through it, but, I am not quite sure if there is any other way, without taking more pills to dispel what the pills did. My body was really angry at me and would not let me do that. So, it’s unclear if that would do more harm than good. There are days that I wish I had more answers, but, I don’t. I am still only human and I still refuse to give up my being human. Thank you.

          • Rebel,
            I love the Get Smart story. It really illuminates the difficulty, the confusion and self doubt that these drugs engender. If only we all had a 99 in our lives, someone who sees what’s going on and says something. It’s unfortunate that, in my case and probably many other people’s, we’re surrounded by KAOS. The people who say:. “did you take your medication today? Maybe you need a higher dose.”

            You raise a good point too about getting off the pills. Once a person is educated that the drug they’ve been put on is most likely harming them and they make a decision to get off that drug… I will speak for myself here:. It was very difficult for me to consider a long drawn-out taper of cymbalta once I realized how harmful this drug really is. Even people who are adamantly against psych drugs for the most part advise a slow taper, but the difficulty of that — of taking smaller and smaller amounts over a period of months or years of something that you know to be poisonous — should not be discounted. It’s a really tough situation that patients get put in once they’ve been on these drugs. All the conventional wisdom like doing a slow taper, and getting the support of your prescriber or another physician…these pieces of advice don’t reflect the reality for a lot of people. Maybe I have been particularly unlucky in my interactions with doctors and other medical professionals, but I don’t remember ever having a conversation with a doctor, prescriber or therapist in which they acknowledged the dangers/harm of the drugs I’ve been prescribed and the difficulty of stopping them. I’ve also I’ve had many conversations with these people where they basically told me I was an idiot for wanting to stop the drug or that if I did stop the drug there wouldn’t be any kind of withdrawal, but also that I shouldn’t stop the drug because I needed it. They know I needed it because it had been prescribed to me, and it wouldn’t have been prescribed to me if I didn’t need it.
            I heard Kevin Federline’s lawyer make this argument the other day about Britney Spears and the conservatorship. It was so grotesque. The lawyer basically said, “well, we heard in the court testimony that Britney had been prescribed lithium, and lithium is only prescribed to people with serious mental problems, so the fact that she was prescribed lithium proves that she has serious mental problems, so maybe she should still have a conservatorship because of course she has serious mental problems because she took lithium.” This is a *lawyer* making the most ridiculously circular argument that makes no sense and is so transparently about Kevin Federline’s greed, and yet I bet plenty of people who saw that quote in the news didn’t even question the logic.

        • VERBODEN
          Defense LAWYERS representing people charged with “Out of Character Homicide and Familicide” seem to rarely raise the possibility of Psychiatric Drug Induced Fallout i.e. Akathisia – even when the circumstances strongly suggest it.

          The most scientific explanation is left missing.

  2. I watched the video and, of course, agree completely with with the premise and I recognize the dire need to get this information to reach the general public in any way possible. I also understand the legal necessity for a disclaimer, but it’s very painful to hear the suggestion over and over again not to stop prescription psychiatric drugs without the support of a prescriber. I have never had a prescriber in my 35 years I spent as a psych patient who either acknowledged that I had good reason to want to get off the drugs or acknowledged that I would probably go through a withdrawal syndrome. The last drug that I got off, cymbalta… The withdrawal was a living hell. Worse than any of the other drugs that I got off of and I have been on dozens of antidepressants, antipsychotics mood stabilizers, benzodiazepines and amphetamines. The last contact I had with the medical profession was a video appointment with a rheumatologist. When I told her that I had taken myself off cymbalta and gave her the reasons for it, she told me that I had made a mistake:. That cymbalta is a safe and effective drug, that she’s never had a patient who had problems with cymbalta as I described. I pointed out to her that there have been class action lawsuits against the makers of cymbalta because there is no warning when doctors prescribe this drug of what patients will go through if and when they tried to get off of it. She told me she never heard of a class action lawsuit against the makers of cymbalta. She didn’t say that she would look into it. She just said she had never heard of anything like that. Wouldn’t it be nice if we lived in a world where you could go to your prescriber and be honest with them about why you want to get off the drug they prescribed and then get support from them around it. As far as any experience I have ever had with this healthcare System, that’s just a fairy tale.

      • Steve,
        Right, exactly. But I think in her mind, she still hadn’t ever heard anything like that…from a credible source. Only from a crazy, disgruntled malcontent of a patient. So it didn’t count. I would put $100 on that after that conversation she didn’t bother to Google it to see if maybe I actually knew what the hell I was talking about.

        These conversations with treatment providers and representatives of the system have always left me with feelings of profound shame even when I know that I’m correct and that I have a right to speak up for myself. I know that what I am saying is experienced as transgressive by them, as an affront, an accusation…no matter how much I apply my DBT-taught “interpersonal effectiveness skills.”. (I was always being pushed in DBT to use my GIVE skills, which is an acronym for be Gentle, act Interested, Validate the other person, and use an Easy Manner. I’m starting to see DBT more and more as a cult that presents itself as a therapy).
        I think the attitude is, who am I to try to educate them? Who am I to think I know more about these medications they’re prescribing then they do? Even though I am the one that’s been ingesting them, I’m the one that went through the withdrawal. That kind of education and first-hand experience doesn’t count in their minds.
        At this point I’m pretty much cut off from the option of seeking medical Care unless it’s some dire life or death situation. I’m never going to get anything but more of the same from doctors in the system. They will continue to call me crazy, paranoid, non-compliant, lacking judgment etc etc. The fact that I am 55 now and I’m already in extremely bad shape physically makes it a terrifying situation.

          • Yes, complete hypocrites. Unless they’re just also brainwashed and bathed in their confirmation bias that they don’t even understand that what they’re saying is pure b*******.
            I remember when they would teach those interpersonal effectiveness skills which were all about, what is your goal? What are you trying to achieve from this interaction? And every time I tried this with treatment providers and try to get them to hear me, believe me, give me credit that I wasn’t a complete idiot… I can’t remember a single time that it worked except for one instance where a DBT clinician said he would consider agreeing to something if I would do a ‘dear man” to him about it. So I did the stupid dear man and then he did the thing I was asking for but it was all staged. It was completely artificial. That was the only time it ever worked. And then their built-in answer is, if you did the dear man exactly as you were supposed to and you still didn’t achieve your goal, even if it was in an instance of dire need, they would shrug and say “oh well. The environment was too strong.”. Which basically means that whoever you had the interaction with had more power than you (and they had probably made up their mind before the interaction even started), which was the case of every interaction I ever had with a treatment provider.

    • I am a bit aghast at the lack of curiosity, or intellectual reach, displayed by so many who have an academic background. It is certainly not in the tradition of classic intellectualism. Though there has always been, perhaps, a sort of exclusivity or “we’re smarter than you” slant in the academic world.

      Academically trained people who still want their information spoon fed to them will of course only get the information that the person holding the spoon wants them to have. We expect this among the general public, but college-educated people seem just as weak on this point, if not worse!

      If this is the legacy of the modern university, then that institution has failed us. I have held this view for at least 40 years. Though occasionally a shining light walks out of college, most graduates seem to be anything but shining to me. And lo and behold! We see yet again the telltale fingerprints of psychology and its dogmas.

      • Jiddu Krishnamurti talks about how when someone thinks they know the answer or labels something they are now in a cognitive trap where they are hindered from learning anything new about the topic. This occurs in professionals where they think that since they went to school they know the answers and are smarter than everyone else. They’ve had their ego inflated and therefore don’t recognize the answers were taught by people with conflicts of interest.
        They’ve put too much of their ego and selfs into selling their product and to admit it was all a fraud is something most lack the courage to do. Especially when doing so will result in retaliation from their profession.

    • Hi KateL
      I agree with you as to the awfulness of coming off Cymbalta having been put on it by a rheumatologist –
      I was put on Paxil (Seroxat) and can attest to the awful effects that had – i was never suicidal before I was put on this drug but I became suicidal on it. However I was taken off it cold turkey and it wasn’t as bad as what I went through with Cymbalta.
      As Chuck writes, these drugs just sedate or excite and sometimes do both. The one thing that they don’t do is teach you how to confront your issues. You put your brain on automatic pilot when you go on these drugs; you think you can allow them to ‘take over’ your anxiety, terror, stress, loneliness, despair and soothe those feelings away but it’s at a terrible cost. You hand over the controls of your little plane to a Kamikaze pilot; no one knows until after the fact how these drugs will interact with your biochemistry and if they mess you up you’ve nothing but a pile of shrinks in air traffic control who haven’t a clue and don’t really care what the Kamikaze pilot does to your plane – if you crash/die/get suicidal/get worse – there’s no equivalent of an air craft investigation by the psychiatric profession. Any class actions against the drug are taken by the patients – never the psychiatrists.

      I wonder if the link will ever be made between the taking of psychotropic drugs and violent acts resulting in death of the person taking them or people close to them as Fiachra noted above that are currently being judged as entirely due to the person’s pre-existing mental illness or an out of character ‘extreme state’.

      • Wow, the kamikaze metaphor is so apt. And, yes, the fact that it gets blamed on a pre-existing mental illness makes it that much worse. The drugs are doing all this damage that no one can see and somehow it’s the patient’s job to prove what the drug is doing while the patient is severely compromised from the drug with everyone standing around them telling them it’s their mental illness…it’s enough to drive anyone crazy.

    • Well Katel, we know that even if they knew, it would not make a difference. The ONLY time anything changes is if they know that those who matter, found out the sham.
      If it looks like their practice is in danger, you would see an about face about as far away from their original positions as can be.
      Their truth is simply what they can get away with. Period. We should never even ask for science, because they can easily fool politicians. It is pretty obvious now.

      Such sheisters, the lot of them.

  3. I didn’t watch the video, but the article seem to pack a lot of negative information linking the psych drugs to violence and other side effects. A lot was left out of this article. And, as far as the side effects reported, I would say they are highly underreported. This article does make a case against the drugs, but will anyone listen. Several things stood out to me in this article: these psych drugs are “mind-altering” drugs is one thing. Of course, the psychiatrists and Big Pharma will undoubtedly deny this. The second thing that struck me was the idea which is tied in to the “mind-altering” effect of the drug is that the effects of the drugs are only temporary forcing the “patient” to continue taking the drug to get the effect. This, to me is further indictment that the psychiatrist and Big Pharma are really just garden variety drug pushers of whom the only thing keeping them from that street drug pusher are degrees and a false legitimacy. And of course a false legitimacy leads to a false authority. Still, since the public has been brainwashed that these drugs are the answers to their problems, it is definitely an uphill battle to convince them otherwise. I don’t think it is impossible; but at present, it something that needs our creativity, imagination, experience, intelligence, and wisdom to come up with a plan that will convince them. But I’ll be honest, it’s Saturday night and I haven’t got a clue. Thank you.

  4. I’m glad there are ethical psychologists on this planet, Chuck. Since in my neck of the woods, the unethical psychologists are handing out “conservatorship” contracts, under disingenuous guises, in the hopes of covering up prior psychological/psychiatric malpractice.

  5. This message needs to get out as often and as widely as possible. I’m glad to see others working on this.

    I am concerned, however, that so many people will think: “but these drugs are my only option. I use them or I suffer even worse.” People are so used to taking drugs for everything.

    So we must also do what we can to forward the message that drugs are not the way to solve most problems, particularly psychological ones, as preachy as that may sound to people. Then, we need to come up with the other ways.

  6. Yes, I would say CBT, DBT, and any of these therapy things with “letters/initials” are both corrupt and are cults and only do harm rather than good. Yes, sadly, colleges and universities no longer teach people to think and they do value creativity. But, in a way our colleges and universities only mirror our mass media who are very afraid to ask the right questions that will truly get us the answers we need. And, yes, these psych drugs do cause violent thoughts and actions towards self and others. I would dare suggest that the problem with the gun violence in our country is not the guns nor the mental health issues, except the latter as related to the psych drugs available and probably in not only our bodies, but air, water, soil, etc. These psych drugs are basically “synthetic.” We have really no idea what they do the body and the brain, except the few things they sort of allow to be known. What we know of the brain damage has been through anecdotal stories and a few brave “researchers and clinicians, etc. Is it possible that when these drugs are taken by the patient, there may be some sort of “shedding thing” going on that might affect some of the more vulnerable who may be around them, as in work, school, or even in the home. I don’t know. And l.e. cox is right, it is sad that psychology, especially academic psychology seems to care less. Thank you.

    • I agree, there are many cult-like things about some of these therapies, particularly DBT. I believe that there are many DBT therapists who actually mean well, but the problem is that they are blind to all the highly problematic aspects of the treatment they’re peddling. Charismatic leader? Check. Its own little language with a bunch of acronyms? Check. And just like in cults, if anyone questions the hierarchy or tries to call them out for not following their own precious rules, it is turned into a problem with the person posing the question.
      I watch the documentary on that NXIVM cult and it did very much remind me of DBT.

  7. I wish someone would do a documentary about people who have gotten off psych drugs or people who had ECT or TMS and they were disabled and they’re off the drugs and they’re not seeing a psychiatrist anymore AND they’re not okay. And there’s no one to go to. There are no resources. You can’t in my experience go to a doctor and say, well I would like some palliative care or I would like some help to improve the quality of my life but I am not up to jumping through hoops or going on endless referral appointments, I’m not up to getting a colonoscopy pap smear or mammogram or whatever else is on the agenda. And I definitely don’t want to talk about seeing a psychiatrist or getting on some medication. I am slowly being driven over the edge because there is nowhere to go and no one who works in the system believe me. I have already had it suggested to me once this week that I belong in a psych ward. I was also sent an email with the link to NAMI, the message, “here’s a great resource that you should look into.”. They just want to put more labels on me like say that I have complex needs because it’s not enough that they call me permanently disabled and severely mentally ill. I don’t see what’s so complex about my needs. I need someone to believe me and help me figure out how to survive the rest of my life.

    • If you have access to the internet, keep looking around on it. I’m told it is inappropriate for me to suggest the specific groups that I favor on this blog, but search for people who just want to help other people and see if you can find a person or group who you might feel comfortable with. It probably won’t be part of the “mental health” system. That system seems to be quite broken at this point.

  8. I think most people don’t realize that it is mentally unhealthy to even ever see a shrink. The very act of being “assessed” as a human, should make all of us barf.

    So if you really want anything that looks like health, stay far away. I mean look around. Anyway, each to his own, find out the hard way just how much more mentally OR physicallyu healthy you will get.

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