March 25, 2008

More reasons not to take psychiatric drugs

By Dr. Peter Breggin

It’s now well known that the newer antidepressants like Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft and Celexa cause suicidal thoughts and behavior, and can worsen depression. Psychiatric drugs sustained another blow when the FDA recently declared that yet another group of these chemical agents causes the very problems that the drugs are supposed to treat. This time the culprits are antiepileptic drugs—medications used to control seizures. Because they cause sedation, these drugs are commonly used in psychiatry as “mood stabilizers.” As a result of an orchestrated psychiatric campaign to diagnose children with “bipolar disorder,” increasing numbers of children are being given these drugs.

The new FDA warning was issued on January 31, 2008 and includes several drugs commonly prescribed to children and adults for mood control, such as carbamazapine (brand names Tegretol, Equetro), gabapentin (Neurontin), lamotrigine (Lamictal), topiramate (Topamax), and valproate (Depakote). All of these chemical agents are prescribed for varying psychiatric purposes, including the treatment of anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder.

After evaluating 199 controlled clinical trials, the FDA found that patients taking the anti-seizure drugs were twice as likely to feel suicidal or to act suicidal, and even to kill themselves, compared to similar patients taking a placebo or sugar pill.

The FDA also warned, “Symptoms such as anxiety, agitation, hostility, mania and hypomania may be precursors to emerging suicidality.” This is the same point I began making in 1991 concerning Prozac and its knock offs—that drug-induced over-stimulation can lead to suicidality. Notice that the FDA also mentions the risk of drug-induced “hostility.” That can lead to violence as well as suicide.

The federal agency told professionals to “Be aware of the possibility of the emergence or worsening of depression, suicidality, or any unusual changes in behavior.” When prescribed to people who already feel emotionally overwhelmed, these so-called mood stabilizers can worsen their emotional state and cause them to act even more irrationally.

The FDA advises telling patients and their families, “Pay close attention to any day-to-day changes in mood, behavior and actions. These changes can happen very quickly so it is important to be mindful of any sudden differences.” But distressed and drugged patients are rarely able to “pay close attention” to changes in their emotions and behavior. As I describe in Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry (2008), the spellbinding effects of psychiatric drugs make individuals unaware of how their drugs are worsening their condition. Patients who are made crazy by their medications are likely to blame their mental changes on their “mental illness” or on stresses in their lives. Time and again, I have evaluated patients who have been driven mad by psychiatric drugs without realizing that the medications were having any negative impact on them.

In the FDA studies, suicidal thoughts and behavior began within one week of starting the drug and continued to surface throughout the treatment period that extended over 24 weeks for some patients. Children as young as five were included in the analysis and all ages were at risk of becoming suicidal.

Some of the patients in the clinical trials were being treated for psychiatric disorders, but the negative impact of the drugs was not restricted to them. The epileptic patients suffered from more than twice as much drug-induced suicidality as the psychiatric patients.

The lesson? Psychoactive drugs, including many psychiatric drugs, disrupt the function of the brain and mind. As a treatment for people suffering from emotional problems, all psychoactive drugs are more likely to do harm than good. As I document in detail with hundreds of scientific references in my recent new edition of Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry (2008), psychiatric medications work precisely by causing brain dysfunction. It’s very difficult to show that these drugs help people but relatively easy to show that they frequently cause harm.

Some individuals who take psychiatric drugs experience relief as a result of the placebo effect—the hope engendered by taking a drug that’s supposed to help with emotional problems. Some also obtain relief as a result of drug-induced emotional anesthesia or blunting, or even temporary euphoria, but the overall result is a reduction in awareness, sensitivity and other higher human functions. When all studies are reviewed—not just the ones the drug companies choose to publish—antidepressants perform no better than a sugar pill. Meanwhile, all psychiatric drugs cause medication spellbinding—deceiving people into believing they are doing better when in reality they are impaired.

Will the risk of life-threatening dangers caused by psychiatric drugs discourage doctors from prescribing them? Probably not. Organized psychiatry and individual practitioners are wedded to drugs as the solution, and often the only solution, to emotional problems. They know no other solutions but they do have the backing of the multi-billion dollar drug industry.

Any significant curtailment in the prescription of psychiatric drugs will have to come as a result of actions taken outside the medical profession and outside the pharmaceutical industry. Ultimately, it’s up to individuals to decide that there are better ways of overcoming emotional problems than impairing their brain and mind with drugs.

Originally published on The Huffington Post