“Psychiatric Drugs are More Dangerous than You Ever Imagined” is the newest video in my series Simple Truths about Psychiatry. It provides a simple, direct and inescapable warning about this epidemic of harm induced by psychiatric drugs. The video sounds a necessary alarm about this growing tragedy, involving millions of people and their families, who never foresaw the disabling results of taking psychiatric drugs and giving them to their children.
Our main reason for beginning an awareness month is the need for recognition-- a yearning to make the word “iatrogenic” and its corresponding language available to our community, and to the greater public as a household name. We don’t have the luxury of raising money for research, racing for the cure, or ribbons. For that we would have to be on the map. Why is it that something this pervasive gets so little traction?
There is mounting evidence that benzodiazepines are causing Alzheimer's Disease. I cannot imagine any genuine medical specialty ignoring or downplaying information of this sort. But psychiatry, with the perennial defensiveness of those with something to hide, promotes the idea that they are safe when used for short periods, knowing full well that a huge percentage of users become "hooked" after a week or two, and stay on the drugs indefinitely.
One of the main arguments for continuing drug treatment for depression, psychosis and bipolar disorder is that you will get worse from stopping the drugs, especially if they are stopped abruptly. These are findings from mainstream psychiatry. However, if we combine this information with the methodology of the randomized controlled trial, we may see that these drug trials do not show efficacy of drugs, and may not be usable to show safety. The positive side to this is that the trials may actually demonstrate the healing power of our own minds.
If a person in mid-life is feeling anxious, or depressed, or can't sleep? No problem. No need to figure out the source of these concerns. No need to work towards solutions in the old time-honored way of our ancestors. Today, psychiatrists have pills. Pop a benzo! And by the way, you'll have a 40% increased risk of Alzheimer's Disease in your late sixties.
To those who are still suffering, it gets better. Indeed, I do not consider myself ill anymore. I consider myself HEALING, which is a vibrant state of movement and change. My limitations do not mean that I am sick. Learning to make boundaries for my well-being has been one of the healthiest things I’ve learned to do. Deeply respecting the needs of this body/temple is one of the most wonderful achievements of WELLNESS.
It is rare to get involved in a dialogue over psychiatry without sooner or later someone defending the use of such “treatments” as ECT “as long as they are consented to,” with the term “informed consent” periodically employed. Herein lies the context for this piece. The issue that I want to probe, to be clear, is not whether force should be used—for of course it shouldn’t—but the thorny issue of consent itself—what exactly constitutes consent and what other issues besides consent are critical to factor in when considering what it is and is not legitimate for a “medical” professional to offer.
The other day I talked to a friend who I hadn’t seen for quite a while. She told me that she had been prescribed Seroquel for sleep problems about a year ago. But when she started to read about it a couple months ago she got really nervous that it was causing her long term health complications and she stopped taking it - cold turkey - without tapering. I wondered about our conversation afterwards and thought about the countless amount of people who don’t tolerate their psychiatric meds and quit cold turkey.
On Monday April 14th, an important new study from Harrington et al was published in the journal Pediatrics (the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.) The study was designed to examine prenatal use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and the risk of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and other developmental delays (DDs). Nine hundred sixty-six mother child pairs were studied and the researchers found that in boys, the association between maternal SSRI use in the first trimester and autism was very strong (OR 3.22). The association between third-trimester maternal SSRI use and developmental delay was even stronger, with an odds ratio of 4.98.
An important new research paper was published this week on the topic of antidepressant use during pregnancy and preterm birth. The issue is a crucial one as preterm birth (i.e. birth at less than 37 weeks gestational age) is one of the most challenging problems facing the obstetrical community today. Rates of preterm birth have been increasing over the past two decades. Babies born early have increased risks of morbidity and mortality. At the same time, rates of antidepressant use during pregnancy have increased dramatically.
When the benzodiazepines were first introduced, it was widely claimed, both by psychiatrists and by pharma, that they were non-addictive. This claim was subsequently abandoned in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and the addictive potential of these products is now recognized and generally accepted.
Part of what has scared me straight about ever starting a patient on an antidepressant (or antipsychotic or mood stabilizer) again is bearing witness to the incredible havoc that medication discontinuation can wreak. I am half way through the first e-course of its kind (on withdrawing from psych meds), and it has been incredibly well-received. There are so many people out there, disenfranchised by psychiatry, skeptical of its promises, and who want a better way, a more thoughtful assessment of them as whole persons. We seem to be onto something here, so let’s keep the dialogue flowing, keep our eyes wide open, and reform what psychiatry means, one patient at a time.
As I see it this website is about filling the gaping hole in the official literature on mental health problems and their treatment. Since these problems were declared to be diseases, ‘just like any other’, academic papers present them as if they were simply technical glitches in the way the brain or mind works. They can be identified by ticking a few boxes, and easily treated by tweaking the corresponding defect with a drug or a few sessions of quick-fix therapy. What it is like to experience these problems and their treatments is nowhere to be found. Yet in post after post on this site among others, we hear about the harm produced by drugs that are prescribed for mental health problems.
David Cohen's work begins to address a paradox: medication effects are not simply chemical impacts on a biological brain, but rather the complex interactions of social factors, expectation, placebo, "nocebo," and learning. As a harm reduction approach to withdrawal emphasizes, empowerment may be the most important consideration for supporting people's wellness.
While increasing numbers of Americans are being prescribed antidepressants, the Centers for Disease Control reports that suicide rates increased 28% from 1999 to 2010. Trained professionals remain unable to predict who is at risk. Their guess is as good as chance.
In the 1950s, when the drugs we now call ‘antipsychotics’ first came along, psychiatrists recognised that they were toxic substances that happened to have the ability to suppress thoughts and emotions without simply putting people to sleep in the way the old sedatives did. The mental restriction the drugs produced was noted to be part of a general state of physical and mental inhibition that at extremes resembled Parkinson’s disease. Early psychiatrists didn’t doubt that this state of neurological suppression was potentially damaging to the brain.
If I thought that it was possible, I would have opened a string of clinics all over the country to help get people off of antidepressants. Unfortunately, the problems that sometimes occur when people try to stop an SSRI antidepressant are much more severe and long-lasting than the medical profession acknowledges, and there is no antidote to these problems. The truth is, giving people information about taking antidepressants is like giving information to people who are enroute to a casino; they go because they hear that some people win (at least for a time), but the losers are the ones who ultimately pay for it all — and the odds are not in their favor.
In the wake of the new study by Dutch researcher Lex Wunderink, it is time for psychiatry to do the right thing and acknowledge that, if it wants to do best by its patients, it must change its protocols for using antipsychotics. The current standard of care, which—in practice—involves continual use of antipsychotics for all patients diagnosed with a psychotic disorder, clearly reduces the opportunity for long-term functional recovery.
On June 12th, Psychology Today published an article entitled, "Benzo Hysteria: the Chilling Effects of the 'Addictive' label," by Ed Shorter, PhD. A dangerous and unfounded claim was made in its final paragraph, which reads as follows: "The benzos are among the safest and most effective drug classes in the history of psychopharmacology." Benzodiazepines are in fact highly addictive and many people suffer for years from protracted withdrawal syndromes that are disabling.
Anyone who has used benzodiazepines and sleeping pills knows how difficult it is to get off them (worse than heroin!) and how much time it takes to recover. Although there is a lot more helpful information on the web these days, a lot of it is based on anecdotal accounts, personal stories and theories rather than “real” evidence.
Martin Harrow and Thomas Jobe have a new article coming out in Schizophrenia Bulletin that I wish would be read by everyone in our society with an interest in “mental health.” Harrow and Jobe, who conducted the best study of long-term schizophrenia outcomes that has ever been done, do not present new data in this article, but rather discuss the central question raised by their research: Does long-term treatment of schizophrenia with antipsychotic medications facilitate recovery? Or does it hinder it?
The United States desperately needs good programs to help people withdraw from neuroleptic drugs. From all I have seen and heard, there aren’t any - none at least that can reputably claim to get good results on a fairly consistent basis. Again and again I find myself challenged to envision such a program, and in reply to the challenge I have broken down this hypothetical program into various components.
The phrase "medication tapering" is being used more and more as the preferred term for the psychiatric medication withdrawal or coming off process. Based on my years of work educating many people around coming off medications -- clients, support groups, and in workshops and trainings -- I think that term is misleading, and let me explain why.
The conventional wisdom is that antidepressant medications are effective and safe. However, the scientific literature shows that the conventional wisdom is flawed. While all prescription medications have side effects, antidepressant medications appear to do more harm than good as treatments for depression.
I quit taking Prozac using a step-down method. Started in Sept. 2011 and finally off in January 2012. I experienced severe loss of balance early on, which progressed into full-blown ataxia & parasthesia. Have had extensive blood-testing & MRIs of brain & cervical spine, all negative! I have to believe this is a result of coming off Prozac, although most sites say the withdrawal side effects don't last this long.