Medications for everything from depression and anxiety to ADHD and insomnia are being prescribed in alarming numbers across the country, but the “cure” is often worse than the original problem. Medication Madness is a fascinating, frightening, and dramatic look at the role that psychiatric medications have played in fifty cases of suicide, murder, and other violent, criminal, and bizarre behaviors.
As a psychiatrist who believes in holding people responsible for their conduct, the weight of scientific evidence and years of clinical experience eventually convinced Dr. Breggin that psychiatric drugs frequently cause individuals to lose their judgment and their ability to control their emotions and actions. Medication Madness raises and examines the issues surrounding personal responsibility when behavior seems driven by drug-induced adverse reactions and intoxication.
Dr. Breggin personally evaluated the cases in the book in his role as a treating psychiatrist, consultant or medical expert. He interviewed survivors and witnesses, and reviewed extensive medical, occupational, educational and police records. The great majority of individuals lived exemplary lives and committed no criminal or bizarre actions prior to taking the psychiatric medications.
Medication Madness reads like a medical thriller, true crime story, and courtroom drama; but it is firmly based in the latest scientific research and dozens of case studies. The lives of the children and adults in these stories, as well as the lives of their families and their victims, were thrown into turmoil and sometimes destroyed by the unanticipated effects of psychiatric drugs. In some cases our entire society was transformed by the tragic outcomes.
Many categories of psychiatric drugs can cause potentially horrendous reactions.
Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta, Xanax, lithium, Zyprexa and other psychiatric medications may spellbind patients into believing they are improved when too often they are becoming worse. Psychiatric drugs drive some people into psychosis, mania, depression, suicide, agitation, compulsive violence and loss of self-control without the individuals realizing that their medications have deformed their way of thinking and feeling.
This book documents how the FDA, the medical establishment and the pharmaceutical industry have over-sold the value of psychiatric drugs. It serves as a cautionary tale about our reliance on potentially dangerous psychoactive chemicals to relieve our emotional problems and provides a positive approach to taking personal charge of our lives.
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Peter R. Breggin, M.D., is a psychiatrist and expert in clinical psychopharmacology. He has been in private practice for four decades and has written dozens of scientific articles and more than twenty books, including Toxic Psychiatry, Talking Back to Prozac, and Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry. He has served as a medical expert in many criminal and civil cases, including product-liability suits against the manufacturers of such psychiatric drugs as Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Xanax, Ritalin, Risperdal and Zyprexa. Over the past twenty-five years, many of Dr. Breggin's initially controversial observations on the harmfulness of psychiatric drugs to the brain and mind have been confirmed by the FDA and by other scientists.
Harvard-trained and a former full-time consultant at NIMH, Dr. Breggin founded the International Center for the Study of Psychiatry (ICSPP.org) and is on the editorial boards of several scientific journals. He has taught at numerous universities including Johns Hopkins and George Mason and is a Life Member of the American Psychiatric Association.
Dr. Breggin’s views have been widely covered in the media including the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Time and Newsweek and he has been interviewed on Oprah, Larry King Live, Nightline, Hannity and Colmes, 20/20 and 60 Minutes. He lives in the Finger Lakes Region with his wife Ginger and practices psychiatry in Ithaca, New York.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Chapter 1Killing the Pain--and Almost the CopIF HARRY HENDERSON had been able to reflect on his behavior at the time, his mission would have seemed tragically and senselessly absurd--something no man in his right mind would consider carrying out. Nothing in Harry's thirty-eight years suggested that he was capable of such a horrendous act. Yet he would become an extreme example of the havoc caused by medication madness.Everything was going well with Harry's wife and family. After the catastrophe, many family and friends confirmed to me that Harry's marriage was a model for others; in his brother's words, "the best in the family." Meanwhile, it was Harry's most successful year financially. He owned a small business and expected to continue making a comfortable living. He was known for his meticulous work and his scrupulous honesty. Since he and his wife Cindy did most of the work, he had limited expenses, and he was generous to the relatives he employed.Harry was an elder of his church with considerable responsibility for administration and teaching. He and Cindy had no children; their family was the church and the community surrounding it.When Harry's mother- and father-in-law needed a place to live, he encouraged them to buy the duplex adjoining his own house, and then he went to work renovating it free of charge. His wife hadn't pushed him into it. That's the way Harry was: he saw a need and he tried to take care of it.In my many years of forensic work as a psychiatrist and medical expert, I have rarely conducted so many wholeheartedly positive face-to-face interviews and read so many laudatory testimonial letters about an individual. Somany people were eager to tell me about his good qualities, I had to meet with them as a group in Harry and Cindy's kitchen. Harry wasn't there because he was languishing in jail.Did Harry need to be in jail? Was he violence prone? As far as I could ascertain, the only time Harry ever displayed aggression was at age fifteen: A classmate called his girlfriend a "bitch" while she was standing beside him and Harry hit the boy without inflicting serious injury.Harry had to rise above an abusive childhood. His alcoholic father and beleaguered mother barely took care of him and his brothers and sisters. If Harry were the self-congratulatory sort, he could have exuded pride at being a self-made man. Instead, his childhood left him with a Lincoln-esque sadness. He had accepted these "blue" feelings as "just the way I am," and no one who knew him described him as depressed.Not viewing himself as depressed, Harry never considered seeking treatment until he happened to visit his family doctor for an annoying gastrointestinal problem. The problem eventually went away but something else happened that day in the doctor's waiting room--something that would forever change his life and the lives around him. Harry noticed a flyer about depression and its treatment. Couched as an "educational" brochure and prominently displayed in the doctor's office, it was really an advertising pamphlet for a pharmaceutical product. For the first time in his life, Harry thought, "Maybe I'm depressed."Harry was dealing with two stressors in his life: in-laws who were making excessive demands on him, and his own mother who was dying of Alzheimer's disease. In his criminal case, I wrote to the court, "It is no exaggeration to say that all of these problems were related to his sense of altruism and responsibility; none of them were selfish or self-centered in nature."Following his physical, which revealed nothing to be worried about, Harry talked briefly to the physician's assistant about feeling "blue" on and off for much of his life. Although Harry does not recall being at all suicidal or reporting such feelings to the doctor, the medical record states that he had some suicidal feelings in recent times. But never in his life had Harry experienced anything remotely like the compulsive drive toward violence that would soon overcome him.Harry walked out of the medical office with a prescription for Paxil 20 mg per day. Paxil is one of the commonly used Prozac copycats that also include Celexa, Lexapro, Luvox, and Zoloft (see table I in appendix A). All are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) that block the normal removal of the neurotransmitter serotonin from its active site in between neurons in thebrain. Among them, in my clinical experience, Paxil is the antidepressant most often implicated in acts of violence and suicide.One month later, Harry's prescription was increased to 30 mg and then 40 mg per day over a one-week period, well within the suggested dose range for treating depression. However, most negative psychiatric reactions to antidepressants occur within the routine dosages, often when the dose has been recently changed, either up or down.HARRY ON PAXILAT THE TIME, Harry's wife Cindy did not connect the changes in her husband with his starting Paxil, but in retrospect it became clear. Usually, he was very gentle and considerate, a model husband, but now he sometimes became irritable. On one occasion he shocked Cindy by gesturing obscenely at a driver who had cut him off. Again, out of character for him, Harry cried uncontrollably while visiting his ailing mother and on another occasion burst unaccountably into tears on a weekend vacation. He also showed a maniclike lack of judgment, buying worthless or extravagant items at auctions, including a car the family didn't need. Again, this was not typical behavior for Harry Henderson.Antidepressants frequently cause overstimulation of the brain and mind, ranging from insomnia and mild agitation to psychotic levels of mania. They can also drive compulsive behaviors. Harry would display all of these behaviors while taking Paxil.Harry ran out of Paxil for one day and "crashed," sleeping for two days, but he had no idea this was a drug-withdrawal reaction. His doctor had failed to warn him about that eventuality and Harry did not check other sources of drug information. Of all the side effects Harry experienced, sexual dysfunction was the only one his doctor had mentioned to him and was, therefore, the only one Harry could identify as drug-related.One friend who saw Harry several days a week at church activities noticed that Harry was "nervous and agitated," "fidgety," "forgetful," and "like a radio turned to all channels." But in general, Harry managed to keep his inner turmoil from almost everyone who knew him.Eight months after starting on Paxil, Harry's dose was again increased, this time to 60 mg per day, somewhat above the recommended maximum of 50 mg per day for depression, but well within medical practice habits. Harry's mental state drastically worsened. He felt a growing, compulsive desire to put a stop to the strange pain inside his head, one of the most agonizing anddifficult-to-describe adverse effects of the newer antidepressants like Paxil, Zoloft, Prozac, and Celexa.Harry began to think that his wife would also be better off dying, because "it wasn't right" to leave her behind to feel guilty and to suffer. Killing her and then killing himself was the morally correct thing to do. But the idea of harming her became so intolerable that he focused instead on destroying himself.These impulses came out of the blue. Harry had none of the risk factors commonly found in people who become desperately suicidal. He was not abusing drugs or alcohol; he was not elderly; he did not suffer from a debilitating physical illness; he had not experienced a severe loss, trauma, or death of a loved one; and his business and finances were sound. Although Harry may have told his doctor that he had experienced suicidal feelings in the past, he never made suicidal threats or attempts. He was feeling pressured by his in-laws to work on their house and his mother was dying of Alzheimer's but everyone who knew him agreed that Harry had been handling these stresses without displaying unusual strain. Over the years, his depressed feelings had been relatively mild and at no time debilitating.Harry began to search for a way to obtain a gun to kill himself. After failing in his attempts to purchase a pistol, he imagined finding a police officer on a bicycle. He could push over the officer's bike and seize his gun to kill himself. Harry drove around the city but could not find any cops on bikes. Besides, he felt no animosity toward the police and had donated money to the local police department. His brother-in-law was a fireman, a job that Harry associated in a positive way with the police force.Then, Harry got a new idea. It made perfect sense at the time because it would pose no risk to others. He would break into a police car to get a shotgun; that way he wouldn't have to hurt anyone else. So he began driving toward the town police station where he knew he could find parked patrol cars. He was determined to get a gun without doing any harm to a policeman.When interviewing Harry in jail, I inquired about his knowledge of guns. He had never handled one and had no idea about differences between automatic shotguns and pump guns, or what might be required to fire them. He had no idea if he could manipulate a long gun barrel into position to shoot himself. He was equally ignorant about handguns. He had no notion about safety catches. He didn't know that he would have to slide back a chamber to cock an automatic handgun. He was a man possessed with a mission; details or practical considerations didn't clutter Harry's mind. Fixated on his goal, nothing could stand in his way. Meanwhile, Harry had no idea that the drug was driving his wholly out-of-character behavior.Before turning onto the street toward the police station, Harry happened to spot a patrol car parked by the side of the road down the block. A policeman sat in the car, apparently writing a traffic ticket for a driver he had pulled over to the curb ahead of him. Now a new impulse took over Harry. He stealthily drove his car into a parking area near the police car.The policeman sat in his car with the turret lights flashing, ignorant of the fact that a man was planning to assault him most violently. Meanwhile, Harry's compulsion had completely seized him. In his own words he had "tunnel vision." He felt mesmerized: "All I could see was the red lights flashing like I was zonked out. All I could think was I can't stand this anymore--I got to do this."Harry sat waiting in his car with the engine idling until the policeman began to open the door to his cruiser. Perhaps fifteen or twenty feet separated them. The moment the man's feet hit the pavement, Harry went into action. Keeping his left foot pressed on the brake for an instant, he pumped down hard on the gas pedal to rev up the engine. As the policeman turned wide-eyed in his direction, Harry burned rubber and drove his car into the officer, knocking him flat to the ground, and bashing in the side of his patrol car.Next, Harry backed his car off of the prostrate man, leaped out, and heard the officer calling out, "He's trying to kill me." Harry bent over and tried to reassure him, "I just want your gun. I just want your gun." He wanted the cop to know that he wished him no harm.Harry's memory is mostly blank for the next minute or two. He remembers someone restraining his arm as he tried to grapple for the officer's gun. He heard someone saying, "Oh, he's going for his gun." He envisioned getting the gun, pushing it into his own body, and pulling the trigger. He next remembers someone holding him down. Two men had intervened to drag him off the policeman.The policeman was badly injured. He was cut, bruised, and shocked. One of his legs was broken. But with the help of good Samaritans, he fought off the crazed stranger who was trying to grab his gun from his holster.During this horrendously violent assault on the officer, Harry--a man known for his gentle, caring nature--had given no thought to the harm he was inflicting on another human being. "I wasn't thinking about anything but dying. I obviously didn't think about consequences for anyone else." He had no plan for escaping or he wouldn't have run his own car into the cruiser. He felt compelled to end his life on the spot, then and there, at any cost.After the assault was over, Harry failed to grasp the enormity of what he had done, nearly crippling or killing an innocent person, an officer of the lawwhose position he ordinarily held in respect. Later, after the Paxil effects began to wear off, Harry grew dismayed and remorseful. He became Harry Henderson again--and yet his life would never be the same. The man who had suffered from excessive feelings of responsibility for others throughout most of his life now had something really dreadful to feel guilty about. He entered into a period of deep depression.Unexpectedly, the policeman Harry had assaulted came to Harry's legal rescue. After reading my detailed scientific evaluation of Paxil's capacity to cause compulsive, violent suicide, and my clinical analysis of Harry's particular case, the policeman decided that Harry was the victim of medication madness and should be dealt with leniently.In mid-2002, when Harry Henderson drove his car into the policeman, there was hardly another psychiatrist in America who would have taken his case. Nearly all were in denial, and most remain in denial, about the capacity of antidepressants to drive people over the edge. Even today, after the FDA has acknowledged that the newer antidepressants like Paxil and Prozac cause suicidality, there are only very few psychiatrists with the combination of expertise and determination required to take a stand in court against powerful drug-company interests. If I hadn't intervened in Harry Henderson's case, he might have spent much of the rest of his life in jail. Instead, my analysis of his case led the prosecution and the judge, as well as the injured policeman, to rethink their attitudes regarding their originally tough stance toward Harry. He was allowed to plead to a lesser charge that resulted in his release from jail after a relatively short stay.Several months after the resolution of his case, Harry drove a considerable distance with his wife to see me to get help in dealing with the emotional aftermath of what had happened to him. The law had forgiven him more readily than he could forgive himself. With additional help from a local counselor and from his wife, it took Harry more than a year to begin his recovery from disabling guilt over what he had done. I am hopeful that some day he will feel fully recovered from the emotional aftereffects of his bout with medication madness, but it will take time.SPELLBOUND BY PAXILMEDICATION SPELLBINDING occurs along a continuum from mild to severe, and Harry was driven into extreme madness. His reactions on Paxil displayed all four aspects of spellbinding by medication:· His mental condition deteriorated without his appreciating it.· He had no idea that his psychiatric drug had anything to do with what was happening to him.· Although he was getting worse, he at times thought he was doing better than ever, especially when he became euphoric and went on spending sprees.· Ultimately, he developed compulsive, destructive behaviors that took over and ruined his life.DID HARRY "GET AWAY WITH IT?"HARRY HIMSELF FOUND it hard to believe that a drug could have made him do such terrible t...
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