I want to make one cautionary note here: If while reading this you decide that you or someone you love who is currently taking antidepressants should stop, PLEASE DONOT just stop on your own! You need medical assistance in stopping these medications. The most dangerous times are when first starting these medications, when changing doses either up or down, and when stopping them.
I have reviewed several of Dr. Breggin's books in the past and recommend them all. However, this is the most complete so far. It is also the most alarming. We are a society that is all too willing to be drugged by our doctors. We dutifully take whatever is prescribed for us without much thought. What we fail to realize is that the information our doctors have on these drugs comes from the drug companies themselves. The doctors don't have time to research all the drugs on the market, but drug company representatives come to the doctor's office, feed them, give them gifts and 'inform' them of the wonders of their company's products. Sadly, you can't trust the drug company to be up front with your doctor about the possible harmful effects of their products.
You need to be your own advocate. Research, check, be skeptical, be cautious, be informed, know the risks.
I want to quote from the book. I have quoted a lot, but trust me it doesn't even scratch the surface. I would recommend every person read this book.
Nothing like this book has ever before been written. I have evaluated hundreds of cases of drug-induced mental and emotional disturbances, some in my clinical practice as a psychiatrist treating patients, some as a consultant to patients injured by drugs, and many in my role as a medical expert in criminal liability suits against drug companies. The stories in this book are about children and adults who have been emotionally injured and sometimes driven mad by psychiatric medications, many committing horrific crimes. Psychiatric drugs can and do transform the lives of otherwise well-meaning, ethical people, sometimes causing them to act in ways they ordinarily find reprehensible.
Although I have studied and written about these adverse drug effects for several decades, only in the last year have I grasped and described the unifying concept of the spellbinding effects of psychiatric drugs. Many people who take the drugs become desperately depressed and suicidal, violently aggressive, or wildly out of control without realizing that their medication is causing them to think, to feel, and to act in unusual and otherwise abhorrent ways. (page 1)
-When taking SSRI antidepressants such as Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, and Celexa - and more commonly during withdrawal from the drugs - individuals frequently cite indescribable mental and physical pain inside their heads as their greatest source of unendurable distress. Because most of these antidepressants are relatively short acting, more than half the drug is eliminated from the body in less than a day, so that people can go into withdrawal between doses. Harry's painful feelings inside his head could have resulted from direct toxic-drug effects, from interdose withdrawal effects, or from a combination of both.
Typically, the pain is both physical and emotional, making the individual feel tortured from the inside out. Sometimes the unbearable sensations are compared to "shocks" and "electricity" or to "impulses," often localized inside the head but sometimes spreading throughout the body. Two days after one of my patients began tapering off her last small dose of Paxil, she endured several days of throbbing headaches like "knives stabbing into my brain," as well as dizziness and depression with fits of inexplicable, uncontrollable weeping.
When patients attempt to describe the "weird feelings" caused by antidepressants, frustration often sets in. There is no adequate vocabulary to communicate the bizarre internal experience. Unsympathetic or uninformed physicians often fail to realize that the prescribed medication is causing this torture. Instead, the doctors blame the patient's "craziness" and increase the dose of the offending agent, too often with tragic consequences. Or, the misinformed doctors attribute the mental deterioration to an "unmasking" of the patient's supposedly underlying mental illness, and then add yet another mind-altering drug to the treatment regimen. (page 14) [Emphases added]
Some of these bizarre sensations meet the diagnostic criteria for akathisia, a drug-induced neurological disorder that is known to drive people to suicide and violence, and to madness. Akathisia means the inability to sit still and the syndrome is usually but not always associated with a compulsive need to move about in a futile attempt to stop the torment. Several people observed that Harry was agitated and restless in the days before he assaulted the policeman. Because the Paxil had caused such obvious agitation and maniclike behavior in Harry, in my initial evaluation and report I did not focus on this more subtle clinical syndrome - but his case nonetheless provides an example. (page 15)
The official American Psychiatric Associations' Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM-IV), is the diagnostic bible of psychiatry. It discusses akathisia at length in both of the two most recent editions (1994 and 2000). This conservative, establishment textbook specifically warns, "Akathisia may be associated with dysphoria, irritability, aggression, or suicide attempts." Dysphoria is painful emotions; irritability is overreacting with anger or hostility; aggression and suicide speak for themselves.
This heavily relied-upon diagnostic authority further warns that akathisia can lead to "worsening of psychotic symptoms or behavioral dyscontrol." Behavioral dyscontrol means loss of impulse control. Almost the entire description applies to Harry Henderson, as well as to many other cases in Medical Madness.
After describing the horrific symptoms of akathisia, the diagnostic manual makes a key observation: that the newer SSRI antidepressants can cause akathisia with all its associated adverse effects.
You might assume that such a dreadful and potentially deadly adverse drug reaction must be relatively rare. To the contrary, we have known for nearly two decades that akathisia is commonly associated with the newer antidepressants, like Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft, and Celexa. The watershed year was 1989, when investigators reported five cases of akathisia caused by Prozac. They reviewed the scientific literature, found rates of 9.7 to 25 percent for Prozac-induced akathisia, and concluded that Prozac "and perhaps other antidepressant drugs as well, may produce the side effect of akathisia fairly frequently." In 1990, the Public Citizen Health Research Group followed up with an estimated rate of 15 to 25 percent for Prozac-induced akathisia. While studies of SSRI-induced akathisia vary greatly in the frequency with which this disorder is observed, the weight of evidence confirms that it is common. (pages 15-16)
Medical spellbinding describes how drugs mask or hide their harmful mental and emotional effects from the people who are taking them. Under the influence of drugs, many people feel better when in reality they are doing worse. Some become desperately depressed or violently aggressive without realizing that their medication is causing it.
Every psychiatric drug impairs the brain function and can, therefore, cause spellbinding. (page 18) [Emphases added]
Medical spellbinding in technical language is intoxication anosognosia - the inability when intoxicated by drugs to recognize the mental and emotional impairment caused by the intoxication. Medication madness is an extreme expression of medical spellbinding, leading people to behave in ways that they would otherwise reject as hazardous or wrong. Some feel falsely empowered as they compulsively pursue bizarre, dangerous, and even violent actions. Others feel overwhelmed and inexorably compelled toward despair and suicide. Typically, these victims of spellbinding are acting in ways that would ordinarily terrify and appall them. Throughout, they remain unaware that they are drug impaired and display little or no awareness of the disastrous consequences that lie in store for themselves and others. (page 19) [Emphases added]
Hardly anyone thinks of antibiotics as potentially dangerous psychoactive drug but many of them are. Pennsylvania attorney Derek Braslow told me about the case of a thirty-nine-year-old police officer with no history of mental disturbances who became psychotic while taking Levaquin for a cold. Within days of starting the drug he became paranoid and manic, and entered his neighbor's home where he held three children hostage at gunpoint while under the delusional belief that they were involved in gang activity. Thinking he was doing the right thing, the deluded policeman even called the police to report what was going on. The otherwise upstanding citizen had become the victim of antibiotic-induced psychosis with paranoid and manic features. As a result, he was sent to jail and he lost his career in law enforcement.
Levaquin is a member of the quinolones family of antibiotics, a group that is known to cause severe emotional reactions. The WARNINGS section of the label of Levaquin, as reprinted in the 2008 Physicians' Desk Reference (PDR), states that convulsions, increased pressure in the brain, and toxic psychosis have been reported in patients taking these antibiotics. It more specifically warns about "central nervous system stimulation which may lead to tremors, restlessness, anxiety, lightheadedness, confusion, hallucinations, paranoia, depression, nightmares, insomnia, and rarely, suicidal thoughts and acts. These reactions may occur following the first does." That little string of words reflects untold numbers of nightmarish personal experiences. These reactions are consistent with the overstimulation of the brain and the mind that appear in many of our cases of medication madness.
If something as seemingly innocuous as an antibiotic can cause spellbinding medication madness, how much are psychiatric drugs more likely to cause similar emotional disasters that are even more frequent and more intensive? (page 22-23)
The acne treatment Accutane (isotretinoin) contains a strong warning about its capacity to cause suicide and other psychiatric disturbances. Directly under the WARNINGS headline, the FDA-approved label reads.
Accutane may cause depression, psychosis and, rarely, suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, suicide, and aggressive and/or violent behaviors. (page 232)
As illustrations of the overall brain-disabling principle, the apathy or euphoria created by antidepressants is misinterpreted as an improvement in depression - the blunting of all emotions and self-awareness caused by antipsychotic drugs is seen as an improvement in the psychosis; and the generalized sedation and suppression of brain function caused by antianxiety drugs is viewed as a treatment for anxiety. In reality, no specific improvements have occurred in the underlying depression, psychosis, or anxiety. Instead, the brain has been partially disabled, artificially changing the individual's mood and rendering the patients less able to feel, to perceive, or express their underlying mental condition or outlook.
Psychoactive drugs, including psychiatric medications, not only impair the individual's ability to perceive their adverse effects but also impair the individual's ability to perceive his or her emotional problems. Under the influence of psychiatric drugs, the individual lacks awareness of both drug-induced mental dysfunction and his or her psychological problems. This dual impact is one of the main reasons why people persist in taking psychoactive agents, including prescription psychiatric drugs. In an extreme example, during routine electroshock "treatment," the individual often dutifully submits to continued shocks over a period of many days while the trauma to the brain produces so much brain dysfunction that the befuddled victim has no idea what has happened to him.
Do psychiatric drugs ever "help" people? As I describe in scientific detail in Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry (2008), this depends on how brain-disabling effects are perceived by the patient, the patient's family, and the doctor. For example, sometimes the patient will feel helped by the drug-induced emotional anesthesia or euphoria. The doctor and the family may also see this as an improvement. At other times, the patient may resent the mind-numbing effects of a drug, but the doctor and the family may feel relieved to have the patient "under control." But drugs cannot provide genuine help in improving brain function or in enhancing mental function; they always impair the activities of the brain and mind. (pages 27-28) [Emphases added]
Medication spellbinding is a biological effect that promotes drug taking by disguising the harmful effect of the drug , as well as by masking the individual's underlying psychological or real-life problems. But medication spellbinding is by no means the only reason why people persist in taking drugs that do more harm than good. Especially in regard to psychiatric drugs, patients take them because they have faith in "science" and faith in their doctors. They may get some relief from emotional anesthesia caused by the blunting effects of many drugs, or they may get a brief mood elevation from drug-induced euphoria. The mood-elevating effects are almost always short-lived but they encourage the individual to keep hoping that one or another drug will finally provide sustained relief from suffering.
Many people receive a placebo effect, especially early in their first treatment. In studies comparing placebo and antidepressants, the placebos tend to do almost as well in relieving depression in six- to eight-week-long trials. If the placebo produces side effects such as dry mouth or blurred vision, mimicking a potent medicine, the placebo becomes as effective as an antidepressant. A very important review examined all the controlled clinical trials submitted to the FDA for the approval of the newer antidepressants. When all the studies were evaluated, it turned out the antidepressants were no more effective than the sugar pill. Put simply, there is little evidence that antidepressants work, other than as placebos.
Increasingly, social and family pressure is brought upon patients to take prescribed drugs. Patients can be forced by the courts to take medications as a condition of staying out of jail. In many states, if a mental patient refuses to take medication, he can be involuntarily committed as an outpatient. Mental-health workers can actually invade the individual's home to force long-acting injections of highly toxic drugs into his or her body. These oppressive laws are highly favored by the American Psychiatric Association and by groups that lobby on behalf of the psychiatric authorities such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). (page 32) [Emphases added]
-While different people will react in different ways to the same psychiatric drug, one fact remains incontrovertible: In double-blind controlled clinical trials where patients and observers are kept in the dark about who is getting a psychiatric drug and who is getting an inactive sugar pill, individuals receiving the psychiatric drug will experience more frequent and intense emotional and behavioral disturbances than the same or similar individuals given a sugar pill. Even when these drugs are given to "normal volunteers," they will experience the same kinds of adverse emotional reactions as patients with psychiatric diagnoses. Put simply, psychiatric drugs are proven to cause bizarre, unwanted, and dangerous mental states. (page 33)
Finally, in 2001, in a Wyoming case, attorney Andy Vickery of Houston, Texas, went to trial against GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in a Paxil product-liability lawsuit in which I was not involved. Sixty-year-old Donald Schell suffered from an episode of depression but had never before been violent or suicidal. After taking only two doses of Paxil, Donald went on a murderous rampage, killing his wife, his daughter, and his granddaughter before killing himself. The judge found sufficient scientific basis for permitting expert testimony implicating Paxil in murder and suicide, and the jury returned a 6.4-million-dollar verdict against GlaxoSmithKline. Because the drug companies have avoided going to court in the vast majority of cases, including all of mine since 1994, Vickery's case remains the first and only victory in an antidepressant product-liability trial.
How did GlaxoSmithKline react to the jury verdict? Did the company remove Paxil from the market? GSK didn't blink. It didn't even put a warning in its label and instead went on with business as usual, selling more and more Paxil to the public, while quietly settling additional cases as they came along. More recently, as we'll see, GSK felt compelled to issue a "Dear Healthcare Provider" letter warning that Paxil causes suicidality in children and adults. Yet, in a recent deposition in which I was testifying against GSK in a Paxil suicide case, company lawyers continued to spin their way out of admitting what the company itself had declared in the letter.
Meanwhile, the FDA continued to lag behind and to this day the most powerful psychiatric and pharmaceutical interest groups continue to reject the reality of antidepressant-induced violence and suicide. (pages 38-39)
On March 22, 2004, about six weeks after the first public hearing, the agency [FDA] issued a Public Health Advisory on "Cautions for the Use of Antidepressants in Adults and Children." In its accompanying press release, the agency declared that it is "known" that antidepressants are associated with "anxiety, agitation, panic attacks, insomnia, irritability, hostility, impulsivity, akathisia (severe restlessness), hypomania, and mania." (page 43)
To compound the problem, these drugs can cause severe withdrawal problems, including a variety of neurological symptoms, agitation, and a worsening of depression. A substantial portion of my psychiatric practice involves working with patients who suffered frightening and sometimes agonizing withdrawal symptoms before coming to me for help in stopping the drugs. Sometimes, these withdrawal symptoms persist for months or even years after stopping antidepressants.
It bears repeating that antidepressants are dangerous to start taking and dangerous to stop taking, as well as ineffective. The best advice is to stay away from them. In forty years of psychiatric practice, I have never started a patient on an antidepressant, although I do prescribe them during the withdrawal process or if the patient is unable to go through withdrawal. Although good fortune undoubtedly plays a role as well, I believe my refusal to start patients on these drugs has contributed to my success in never having a suicide in my practice. (page 54) [Emphases added]
Individuals suffering from medication-induced mania are always profoundly spellbound. They have no idea that the drug is causing them problems, they typically feel better than ever, and they commonly take humiliating, dangerous, and even violent actions that would otherwise have appalled them. Drug-induced mania is the ultimate expression of medication spellbinding and medication madness. (page 72)
If you have a biochemical imbalance in your brain, the odds are overwhelming that your doctor put it there with a psychiatric drug. In fact, these are the only known biochemical imbalances in the brains of psychiatric patients - the biochemical imbalances caused by drug treatments and electroshock.
Psychiatric drugs don't correct biochemical imbalances - they cause them. Even the American Psychiatric Publishing's adamantly pro-drug Textbook of Psychiatry admits that antidepressant-induced biochemical imbalances may be the cause of increased suicidality produced by these drugs.
Psychiatric drugs are developed precisely with the aim of causing biochemical imbalances in the normal brain. The first step is to find a chemical agent, such as Prozac, that induces some kind of biochemical malfunction in the brain of an experimental animal, usually a rat. Prozac, for example, blocks the normal removal of serotonin from its active place in the synapse or cleft between brain cells. This floods the area with excess serotonin, creating a decidedly abnormal biochemical imbalance. Eli Lilly, the manufacturer of Prozac, screened many drugs before it found one that would cause this imbalance in the brain.
Probably, drug manufacturers would rather discover and market drugs that do correct biochemical imbalances but this cannot be done because no biochemical imbalances have been identified in the brains of patients with diagnoses such as anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. Therefore, the drug companies are limited to giving toxins to rats until they find ones that disrupt the rat's normally functioning brain, causing biochemical imbalances. Then they try to argue that this particular intervention has beneficial effects. (pages 269-270)