“The ethical use of Psychotropic drugs is perhaps the single most important aspect of Psychiatric care that requires urgent attention” ~ Dr Phil Thomas
I watched the movie All that Heaven Allows with Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman (1955). There is a line in it where Jane Wyman goes to the doctor after the break up of a relationship and he says “Do you expect me to give you a prescription to cure life?”. While there are some tranquilizers that can help people short term, there is no prescription that will cure life’s emotional problems, some of which may have stemmed from trauma in a person’s past that was not properly dealt with at the time. Or more recent distress.
There has to be a better way than drugging people into oblivion or disabling a person’s cognitive abilities as part of “treatment”. There are many parts of the world that do not rely on these drugs. According to research by medical journalist Robert Whitaker some of these countries have better overall outcomes .
Medication can actually intensify or magnify mental health problems for some of us. I personally found that some tranquilizers can help short term, but long term these drugs held me back. While a person may need some tranquilizers if in acute distress or ‘psychosis’ (a loss of touch with ‘reality’), what they really need is someone to listen with empathy non-judgmentally, to try to understand what’s happened and set them on the right path.
Adverse effects of Prescribed Psychotropic substances
Prescribed psychotropic substances can have very damaging effects, especially when used long term. In 2005, a study funded by Eli Lilly, the maker of Zyprexa / Olanzapine, found that long term exposure to this major tranquilizer causes shrinkage of the brain, “significant reduction in brain volume that affects both gray and white matter”. I first learned this from honest Psychiatrists Dr Peter Breggin and Dr Joanna Moncrieff. I was put on it at what I now consider too high a dosage (10mg) long term in 2008. I did not have informed consent about this powerful but potentially damaging drug ! There are no words to describe my shock and feeling of being let down by the medical profession on this ! The damage is there and can be felt in subtle ways. I have to remind myself to be patient and hope that neuroplasticity will help, which is the brains ability to repair some damage and injury.
When it came to the large cocktail of drugs I was on, including Olanzapine, no doctor seemed to notice the weight gain or care about that. I’m not sure if they would notice if I struggled to fit in the door. Due to adverse effects e.g. rapid weight gain and sometimes diabetes there are law suits in the US . According to Robert Whitaker in Anatomy of an Epidemic 20 people died in the trial for Zyprexa (Olanzapine), a scandal in itself.
Withdrawal from prescribed psychoactive substances
It is necessary to to be cautious with Psychiatric medication. It’s easier to get on them than to get off and easier to prescribe than deprescribe.
While some people may want to stay on these drugs for life, those who would like to come off prescribed drugs should be supported & given alternatives. Stopping psychoactive drugs needs to be carefully and safely managed. Some prescribers need more up to date information on correct withdrawal methods. Supporters and family need truthful information and advice about the withdrawal process. It is important to prepare well for withdrawal in terms of talking therapy, exercise, nutrition, getting enough sleep and overall holistic work on health.
Relapse on discontinuation of psychoactive drugs can be a form of drug withdrawal state . In the current biomedical system, any relapse will usually be seen as a sign of “illness” as opposed to the process of withdrawal.
When I was coming off the drugs I got NO support or correct advice. In the first 2 years I was prone to relapse, as my brain/body readjusted. I did keep some Olanzapine 5 mg on standby during that time. I am now drug free and ‘Psychosis free’ since December 2012. Sleep is an important part of the healing journey and something I struggle with since the overuse of these mind altering drugs. I never get a full nights sleep and continue to work on that. My circadian clock seems to be out of sync since these mind altering drugs.
It is very difficult to have a proper recovery in a system that revolves around the biomedical model of telling people they will be on drugs for life and calling them “non-compliant” if they try to go down an alternative route. You are basically left to your own devices in what can be a very difficult process. Coming off these drugs will usually be severely frowned upon.
Sometimes people are taken off the drugs too fast, leading to failure, but this can also take away Hope of ever becoming drug free. Withdrawal and drug reduction has to be done very slowly, under the supervision of an expert who has the most up to date honest psychopharmacological information on the withdrawal process. I’ve added a section at the very end of this blog entitled Resources to help withdraw from prescribed Psychoactive drugs.
Yearly explosion in prescribing of anti-depressants
An article in the Sunday Business Post (SBP) by Susan Mitchell in February 2018 investigated our growing dependence on prescribed painkillers and psychoactive substances. “From anti-depressants to sedatives, from painkillers to sleeping pills, the use of prescription medication is spiraling” . Some of the headlines in this edition of the SBP include “We are definitely overprescribing. We’ve all seen what has happened in America, so we can’t be complacent. The figures are fairly stark”.
“In 2016, €25 million was spent on the drug (Lyrica / Pregabalin neuropathic pain drug) for medical card holders – up from €5 million in 2006” (1086% increase). “The number of prescriptions for the SSRI (antidepressant) Lexapro soared from 190,109 to 631,000 – a 232 % increase” (2006 to 2016). Sertraline prescriptions are up 252%. And Venlafaxine (Effexor) prescriptions up 107%. These are shocking increases in drug use.
The money used on the over prescription of painkillers and Psychotropic drugs could be redirected to a more humane system. But that would require a major shift in thinking from the current biomedical based model to a system that is based more on a Psycho-social and holistic approach to healing. For example, the Power Threat Meaning Framework describes an “alternative to Psychiatric classification in relation to emotional distress and troubled or troubling behaviour” . One of the lead authors, clinical Psychologist Dr Lucy Johnstone, came to Dublin in May 2018 to talk about this approach, thanks to the Youth mental health charity Jigsaw. While I have been disillusioned with the approach to mental health in Ireland for the last decade, I see some glimmers of hope that we might be moving out of the dark ages when it comes to helping distressed human beings.
Do doctors give out antidepressants too easily?
In April 2013 The Right Hook (George Hook’s show on Newstalk) discussed an article in the Irish Examiner which saw journalism student Niamh Drohan approach seven GPs telling them she was suffering from stress and anxiety problems from her final year in college . All of the GPs diagnosed her with a mild form of depression. All doctors prescribed her with anti depressants! She said some of the doctors failed to inform her about appropriate dosage of tablets to take.
As someone who has been damaged by these drugs I am in shock at what I heard on The Right Hook. A doctor went on the show and claimed that these drugs are not addictive and far more seriously she claimed on two occasions during the interview that anti-depressants are safe as overdose levels. Her exact words were “Not even dangerous at high levels at overdose”. Nothing could be further from the truth.
A number of years ago, in a documentary on suicide, I heard a doctor say that if someone takes an overdose of such medication they can end up alive and brain damaged. Knowing that should discourage people from taking an overdose.
In Ireland in 2009 there was the very tragic Shane Clancy case, which involved an overdose of the drug Citalopram. The tragedy happened 17 days after starting the anti-depressant SSRI drug Citalopram. Thankfully Shane Clancy’s mother Leonie Fennell and Psychiatrist and Psychopharmacologist Prof David Healy got to speak on the show shortly after that. I had complained to Newstalk about the original interview with a celebrity doctor which gave incorrect and potentially damaging information on the safety of overdose levels and let Leonie Fennell know about this reckless interview.
Evidence Based Medicine (EBM)
I’ve included a presentation by Prof David Healy . 6 minutes into the presentation you will see that the negative trials on SSRIs anti-depressants have been hidden. Not forgetting ghost written articles.
Evidence Based Medicine is broken is an article from the British Medical Journal (2014) written by Scottish GP Des Spence  ~
“Now doctors can prescribe a pill for every ill. The billion prescriptions a year in England in 2012, up 66% in one decade, do not reflect a true increased burden of illness nor an ageing population, just polypharmacy supposedly based on evidence… How many people care that the research pond is polluted with fraud, sham diagnosis, short term data, poor regulation, surrogate ends, questionnaires that can’t be validated, and statistically significant but clinically irrelevant outcomes? Medical experts who should be providing oversight are on the take…the current incarnation of EBM (Evidence Based Medicine) is corrupted, let down by academics and regulators alike. What do we do? We must first recognise that we have a problem.”
Quote from Psychiatrist Dr Allen Frances (chair of the taskforce that wrote the DSM-IV) “It’s been many years since I have trusted anything I read in a medical or psychiatric journal. There is an enterprise-wide positive bias; findings never seem to replicate; benefits are hyped; harms are hidden… In 1962, it took a year or two from the time of a drug’s launch to recognize its major hazards. It now takes decades” .
“The difference between the effect of a placebo and the effect of an antidepressant is minimal for most people” Harvard Professor, Irving Kirsch
“The placebo effect is a genuine therapeutic mind-body effect. It can be triggered by a range of different phenomena in medicine and healthcare. The branding, the expensiveness, the colouration of pills, the number of times you have to take them per day, even experiencing side effects to medication can increase the placebo effect …
Kirsch and his colleagues discovered that antidepressants are not more effective than placebos for mild to moderate depression. They did find some research that antidepressants outperformed placebos for individuals with severe depression (in these cases, there is a small but clinically significant difference)”, article by Charlotte Blease .
DSM (Diagnostic and Statistics Manual)
Mental health is an area where there are powerful vested interests. The pharmaceutical industry is a multi billion dollar industry. This has a major impact on the approach taken in treating people & the fact that the biomedical model is still dominant.
DSM stands for Diagnostic and Statistics manual and is now at revision 5. When you have 69 % of the DSM-5 taskforce with financial links to the pharmaceutical industry this leads to vast amounts of over diagnosis and over prescribing of drugs. These drugs can delay recovery and cause disability leading to a huge burden on the social welfare system. This burden could be reduced with more ethical prescribing and more honesty about the drugs.
The biomedical model may be the dominate approach being used but it is the one that costs the individual and society a lot more in the long run. It is possible to get people through recovery and back to being a productive member of their community faster. This is not always possible if the person is on high doses of strong tranquilizers which can affect their ability to function e.g. in a work environment.
It would help if the Psychiatrists read the advice in the DSM when a person is on anti-depressants before saddling them with a heavy label and pumping them with a cocktail of drugs long term!
DSM-IV-TR (2000) ~ fourth edition, text revision
“emphasizes that a diagnosis of Mania or Bipolar Disorder should not be made when the hypomania or mania first appears while the individual is taking a medication that can cause these symptoms” Dr Peter Breggin .
Conflicts of Interest
“Doctors, consultants and other medical practitioners will be obliged to declare gifts or donations from pharmaceutical and healthcare companies under new legislation introduced in the Dáil” .
“THE PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY made payments worth €6.8 million to Irish doctors and €10.7 million to Irish healthcare institutions in 2015″ .
“The HSE wants pharmaceutical companies to name those in receipt of payments for travel, sponsorship, medical education, grants and other activities” .
It’s frustrating to attend a public lecture in 2013 in a top medical college in Ireland and listen to a mainstream Psychiatrist speak without declaring his conflicts of interest at the start. It can potentially result in the public been misinformed about the serious risks that go with certain drugs. That’s also relevant when doctors / Psychiatrists go to the High Court with their “expert” advice which influences the judge.
In academic research its important to know who funded the research and if there was any pharmaceutical company linked to it.
GP training in mental health
“Medical knowledge should be open to public scrutiny” Dr Terry Lynch
“Most GPs in Ireland do not have specific training in mental health. In the sample of GPs questioned in the SWAHB survey, 68% indicated they had no specific training in mental health; the remaining 32% had training consisting of between three and nine months’ clinical placement and/or during their hospital rotation” ‘Vision for Change’ policy document, pg 67 .
That is a staggering statistic. Hopefully it has improved since this document was written, but I personally feel that GPs should have more training in mental health. That is where a lot of emotional issues are dealt with. A prescription for pills rarely solves anything long term and can sometimes cause more harm than good. While doctors can be supportive, they work under time pressure in busy surgeries. Inadequate training can lead to damage to the patient and long term trauma.
The Power of the Sub-conscious mind
I have learned a lot about the power of the sub-conscious mind from a book by Dr Joseph Murphy . “Whatever you impress upon your subconscious mind is expressed … as conditions, experiences, and events. Therefore, you should carefully watch all ideas and thoughts entertained in your conscious mind”. “You can interfere with the normal rhythm of your heart, lungs, and other organs by worry, anxiety and fear. Feed your sub-conscious with thoughts of harmony, health and peace and all the functions of your body will become normal again”.
Bernheim “was one of the first to explain how a physician’s suggestion to the patient took effect because of the force of the subconscious mind”. I was initially told by a doctor that I would need to be on the “anti-depressant” Citalopram for the rest of my life due to anxiety and panic attacks. When this drug triggered off mania/psychosis I was then taken off this drug ‘cold turkey’ by someone in the mental health system and saddled with the label Manic Depression / Bipolar.
The medical profession had broken my spirit and had me on a cocktail of very powerful, sedating drugs. Due to their training in the biomedical model, when I had no energy and didn’t want to get out of bed until 2 or 3 pm I had been sub-consciously conditioned into believing I had a serious brain disease / illness so I put the lethargy and lack of motivation etc down to “my illness”. Also when I went into a three month high in 2010 I assumed this was “my illness”. Luckily, through some miraculous intervention I managed to get past this and eventually started to realise that it was the drugs that were fueling the extreme lows and lethargy and also the highs, as well as the psychosis. Becoming aware of this was a major turning point in my healing journey.
One day I went to see my doctor and had stopped Lithium briefly due to a physical medical issue. The Psychiatrist had advised this. I also refused to move to 200 mg of Seroquel as I felt that I became angry on it. When I told the doctor this he called me “non-compliant” and wrote a letter to the Psychiatrist to this effect ! The same doctor is the only one that wrote anything positive about me in my notes so I thank him for that part. One of these days soon I will have a burning ceremony for the same biomedical based, fictional notes which I accessed under Freedom of Information. I don’t recommend accessing your notes unless you have a good support network around you as doing so can be traumatic.
In 2011 I had managed to get off the drugs but because I didn’t have good advice or support from those around me, including doctors, I would have come off the drugs too fast. So I went to a GP to ask for some of the medication. He said, in a disapproving tone, “These drugs are not made for a’la carte people like you!”. That particular day was a major turning point and I can thank him now for his sarcastic but valuable one liner. That was the day I knew I wanted to get off these drugs for sure. I was going to show him that I can do this. At the same time, without support from doctors and family, it has been a bumpy ride.
I have to remember that the massive amount of prescribed tranquilizers I was put on for over 3 years, while it appeared to be the correct treatment from a DSM / Psychiatric point of view, was in fact a cunning way of not admitting that anti-depressants were the cause of my serious symptoms initially. It was in effect a cover up. But a very elaborate one, that will be difficult for the public to understand, due to the brainwashing that goes on in the field of mental health. But the majority of doctors are also brainwashed due to the influence the pharma industry has over medical schools and perks they receive.
So for those of us saddled with heavy labels my way towards healing involved blood, sweat and tears to break free from the flawed biomedical approach. I feel I am coming out the other side, but it’s taken a decade of my life! With the help of some great people and also through connecting to other Psychiatric survivors. I could still be living the “illness” and “disorder” model of mental health but decided to break free from that. Even though I have self-sabotaged throughout the years and tried to numb out some of the feelings, I perservered, while dealing with a lot of emotional distress.
“It is foolish to believe in sickness or in anything that will hurt or harm you. Believe in perfect health, prosperity, peace, wealth and divine guidance” Dr Joseph Murphy (PhD as opposed to MD).
 Anatomy of an Epidemic by Robert Whitaker, 2010 ~
 “The Influence of Chronic Exposure to Antipsychotic Medications”, 2005 ~ http://www.nature.com/npp/journal/v30/n9/full/1300710a.html
 Lilly Settles With 18,000 Over Zyprexa / Olanzapine ~
 Psychiatry in Context : Experience, Meaning & Communities by Dr Philip Thomas, 2015 ~
 Hooked: Ireland’s hidden addiction to prescription drugs
Sunday Business Post, Susan Mitchell, Feb 2018 ~
 The Power Threat Meaning Framework overview ~ Lead authors Dr Lucy Johnstone (clinical Psychologist) and Prof Mary Boyle, 2018
Also video presentation on PTM Framework ~
 “Depressing truth about treating depression in the young” Niamh Drohan ~
 A talk by Prof David Healy at Cardiff University (Nov 2012)
“Time to abandon evidence based medicine?” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3YB59EKMKw
 Evidence based medicine is broken, GP Des Spence, 2014 ~
 The Crisis of Confidence in Medical Research, Dr Allen Frances, 2015 ~
 “Research on the placebo effect is a bitter pill for pharmaceutical firms to swallow” Dr Charlotte Blease, 2015
 Suicidality, violence and mania caused by SSRIs: A review and analysis ~
 Bill will require doctors to declare gifts from pharma firms
Healthcare companies gave €30 million to hospitals, medical staff in 2016, says Minister ~
 Pharmaceutical industry paid Irish doctors €3.7 million for “undisclosed” reasons in 2015
 “The HSE wants pharmaceutical companies to name those in receipt of payments for travel, sponsorship, medical education, grants and other activities”
 Vision for Change (Report of the expert group on Mental Health Policy), 2006 ~
 The Power of Your Subconscious Mind, Dr Joseph Murphy, 2011 (Originally published 1963).
Other Relevant Resources
* Study 329 – where the hell is the outrage? by Dr Malcolm Kendrick ~
* Teen girl in care of HSE to continue anti-psychotic medication despite her mother’s objection ~www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/teen-girl-in-care-of-hse-to-continue-anti-psychotic-medication-despite-her-mother-s-objection-1.1370237
* ‘I was unaware of potential adverse effects to my prescribed antidepressants’ ~
* One woman’s account of suffering from Psychosis ~
* John Rengen Virapen ~ Pharma whistleblower ~ www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmnOni0xlM4
* Dr. Allen Frances on the Risks of DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistics Manual) – The Lens Report ~
* Danish doctor Peter Gøtzsche is co-founder of the respected Cochrane Collaboration.
Interview ~ www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIIQVll7DYY
* Mary Maddock: a survivor of ECT and decades of Psychiatric drugging ~
* AstraZeneca Settles Most Seroquel Suits ~
* SPECIAL REPORT: The anti-depressant generation ~
* Our €40m drug problem ~
* Recording from The International Society for Ethical Psychology & Psychiatry (ISEPP) Conference. A mother (nurse) speaks of how difficult it was for her son to come off Paxil (Seroxat).
* Yolande Lucire ~ Adverse reactions to Psychiatric drugs:
* New study concludes psychiatric drug treatments haven’t resulted in an improvement
in the long-term outcome of patients with “mood disorders”:
* Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime: How big pharma has corrupted healthcare by
Peter Gøtzsche, 2013 ~
* Deadly Psychiatry and Organised Denial by Peter Gøtzsche, 2015 ~
* DEPRESSION DELUSION: The Myth of the Brain Chemical Imbalance, 2015 ~
* The Emperor’s New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth, Irving Kirsch, 2009 ~
* “The Myth of the Chemical Cure ~ A critique of Psychiatric drug treatment” by Dr. Joanna Moncrieff ~ www.amazon.com/Mans-Search-Meaning-Viktor-Frankl/dp/080701429X
* A Straight Talking Introduction to Psychiatric Diagnosis by Lucy Johnstone
* Anna Byrne. The Anti-depressants Seroxat and Sertraline are mentioned in this article ~
* Deaths in the UK potentially of people on antidepressants ~ www.antidepaware.co.uk
* Psychiatrist / Psychopharmacologist Prof David Healy ~ www.davidhealy.org
* “A lecture by Prof David Healy from the Institute of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences at Cardiff University on the over 100 drugs that can cause violence” (2013)
* Peter Lehmann “Recovery from Psychosis and Depression by Taking Psychiatric Drugs versus Recovery by Coming off Psychiatric Drugs”
* Will Self ~ Psychiatrists: the drug pushers ~
* My review of Psychiatry in Context ~ www.goodreads.com/user/show/46943899-anne
This review was published in the Journal of Critical Psychology, Counselling and Psychotherapy (Volume 16, Number 1, March 2016)
* Youth mental health charity Jigsaw ~
Resources to help withdraw from prescribed Psychoactive drugs
* Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal A Guide for Prescribers, Therapists, Patients and their Families
* Website which aims to give you up to date information about psychiatric medication, how it functions and the withdrawal process ~
* how to stop anti-depressants ~
* Drug safety website ~
* Harm Reduction Guide to Coming Off Psychiatric Drugs ~