The dark side of psychiatric drugs

 

USA Today Magazine

Thorazine, Haldol, and other medication prescribed by psychiatrists can destroy the lives of people who take them.

VIRTUALLY ALL persons who go to psychiatrists are put on one or more drugs. However, psychiatric drugs, which are unpredictable and extremely deadly, do not cure anything, and instead destroy the life of the person who takes them.

The most dangerous of these are major tranquilizers, also known as neuroleptic (nerve-seizing) drugs or anti-psychotics. Of the more than two dozen in this class, introduced in the mid 1950s, the most commonly used are Haldol (haloperidol), Compazine (prochlorperazine), Thorazine (chlorpromazine), Navane (thiothixene), Prolixin (fluphenazine), Mellaril (thioridazine), and Trilafon (perphenazine).

Their purpose is to create "maximum behavioral disruption"--a goal clearly reflected in 1950 tests conducted with rats on Thorazine. Through chemicals, psychiatrists sought to sabotage thought processes and thereby deny the person control of his own body.

At the time the major tranquilizers were introduced, the lobotomy was touted highly and widely used by psychiatrists. With the procedure, the shredded brain was damaged forever, generating objections from family and friends of the patient.

The major tranquilizers were able to create a zombie state, identical to that seen after a lobotomy, in a person whose brain remained intact. For this reason, Thorazine became known as a "chemical lobotomy."

"[On Thorazine] my thoughts spun and never got too far. My hands were rubber and I could hardly hold a fork," said one patient who had been put on the drug by a psychiatrist. "After six weeks . . . I felt like my mind had been put through a meat grinder. No longer could I think clearly; no longer could I speak articulately; no longer could I act confidently."

Another stated that, after a week on Haldol, "I was unable to speak. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't say anything out loud and spoke only with the greatest difficulty.... It was as if my whole body was succumbing to a lethal poison."

The horrifying mental upheaval and devastation this lobotomizing effect causes was precisely what appealed to psychiatrists. These chemicals would enable people to be warehoused with the least "inconvenience" to psychiatrists and staffs of psychiatric institutions.

Today, these drugs are being used against the elderly in enormous quantities to straitjacket them chemically. By 1985, the National Disease and Therapeutic Index reported that, while adults 60 years and older made up 11 % of the population, they used more than one- third of all antipsychotic drugs. A study of 2,000 pharmacies in 1986 showed that 60.5% of prescriptions for nursing home residents over 65 years of age were for major tranquilizers and 17.1 % for minor versions.

A Harvard Medical School study of 55 Boston-area rest homes published in the Jan. 26, 1989, issue of The New England Journal of Medicine reported that 55% of the 1,201 nursing home residents it surveyed took at least one psychiatric drug with 39% being given anti-psychotics.

These are not prescribed to "treat" any condition. They are administered solely to turn the patient into a zombie incapable of complaining or presenting problems to staff Concerning their use on the elderly, Jerome Avorn, director of the program for the Analysis of Clinical Strategies at Harvard, pointed out, "Drugs do work. They do quiet them down. So does a lead pipe to the head."

Larry Hodge, administrator at the Life Care Center in Tennessee, described the impact on the elderly of these drugs: "Too often they were so zonked out during their meals that their heads were in the mashed potatoes."

Wilda Henry told The Arizona Republic that her 83-year-old mother became "a vegetable" five weeks after taking Haldol. This powerful mind-altering chemical, which the Soviet Union used for years to control dissidents, left her mother babbling, drooling, shaking, and unable to control her bowel functions.

Anise Debose of Washington, D.C., said her 76-year-old father entered a nursing home active, laughing, and talking. Four days later, after taking Mellaril and four other drugs, "He was restrained to a chair as rigid as a board when I saw him. His head was thrown back and his mouth was limply hanging down. Both eyes were closed. The impression all of us had was that he was dead."

In 1989, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Aging reported that, while those over 60 years of age make up 17% of the population, they accounted for more than half the fatalities resulting from drug reactions. Acording to the American Hospital Association, of the 10,800,000 elderly admitted to hospitals each year, 1,900,000 are due to drug reactions. Four percent of those cases, an estimated 76,000 elderly a year, die. This annual death rate far exceeds the 58,021 Americans who lost their lives during the Vietnam War. An average of more than 200 elderly Americans die each day from drug reactions.

"People don't just die of old age," Theodore Leiff, professor of gerontology, Eastern Virginia University School of Medicine, points out. "Their deaths are caused by something." As case after case demonstrates, they are being killed behind the locked doors of nursing homes by lazy, incompetent, or criminal psychiatric staffs who use deadly drugs to quash complaints before they ever are voiced.

Creating insanity

These chemicals, capable of throwing the minds of users into chaos, have a long and well-documented history of creating insanity in persons who take them. In 1956, two years after the introduction of Thorazine, researchers reported that the drug caused psychosis, hallucinations, and increased anxiety. They speculated that this drug-induced insanity arose from the chemically straitjacketing effect of the drug.

In 1961, researchers reported the case of a 27-year-old man who was given Thorazine, after which he "complained of 'feeling like an empty shell, floating around in the air,'" and said that he heard voices coming "from two small men standing on his chest." The researchers concluded that Thorazine was the cause of the man's "toxic psychosis."

Yet another paper, published in The American Journal of Psychiatry in 1964, found that major tranquilizers can "produce an acute psychotic reaction in an individual not previously psychotic." A 1975 paper described a negative effect called akathisia, a drug-induced inability to sit still comfortably.

Researcher Theodore Van Putten reported that nearly half of the 110 persons in the study had experienced akathisia. "[One woman] started to bang her head against the wall three days after an injection of [a major tranquilizer]. Her only utterance was: 'I just want to get rid of this whole body."' A woman who had been given these drugs for five days experienced "an upsurge in hallucinations, screaming, even more bizarre thinking, aggressive and also self-destructive outbursts, and agitated pacing or dancing." A third woman stated that, while on the tranquilizer, she felt hostile and hated everybody, and heard voices taunting her. Others complained of an "abject fear or terror" that was difficult for them to explain.

Such drug-induced symptoms are far worse than any underlying problems a person might have. Even more damning is the evidence that the damage caused by these drugs can be permanent.

Many types of psychiatric drugs, including the major tranquilizers, can cause lasting, grotesquely disfiguring nerve damage known as tardive dyskinesia or tardive dystonia. The muscles of the face and body contort and spasm involuntarily, drawing the face into hideous scowls and grimaces and twisting the body into bizarre contortions. These horrifying effects occur in more than 20% of persons "treated" with major tranquilizers and currently affect 400,000-1,000,000 Americans.

Psychiatrists theorize that these drugs damage the muscle-control portion of the brain in a way that makes it permanently "supersensitive" to messages passing down nerve pathways into the brain. The result is that this portion of the brain becomes permanently deranged. While the precise location of this brain damage is not known with certainty, there is no question that it exists. It is clearly visible in the faces of its tragic victims.

In the same way that major tranquilizers can throw the muscle-control portion of the brain into chaos, they also can make the thought-control area of the brain supersensitive, driving the person permanently insane. A 1980 study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry described 10 patients who suffered from this condition, which has been labeled "supersensitivity psychosis."

In the first stage, the individual becomes psychotic for a few days immediately after he or she stops taking the drugs. In the second, the insanity that emerges upon withdrawal from the psychiatric drug is persistent and may be irreversible. In the third stage, the psychosis is evident even while the patient is taking the psychiatric drugs. The study notes that, when this stage is reached, "in most cases" the person is doomed to be insane for life. This condition has created thousands of tortured victims, permanently destroyed, cast out of mental institutions to forage in garbage cans while wrestling with inner terrors implanted in their minds by psychiatric drugs.

There also is evidence that these psychiatric drugs can cause people to become violent. A Canadian research team that studied the effects of psychiatric drugs on prisoners found that "violent, aggressive incidents occurred significantly more frequently in inmates who were on psychotropic [psychiatric or mind-altering] medication than when these inmates were not...." Inmates on major tranquilizers were shown to be more than twice as violent as they were when not taking psychiatric drugs. The researchers attributed the marked increase in violence to akathisia.

The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that, four days after a patient started taking Haldol, "he became uncontrollably agitated, could not sit still, and paced for several hours." After complaining of "a jumpy feeling inside, and violent urges to assault anyone near him," the man attacked and tried to kill his dog. The researcher noted the irony that the chemical could cause violence, "a behavior the drug was meant to alleviate."

Killers on psychiatric drugs

Another article published in the American Journal of Forensic Psychiatry described five cases of extreme acts of physical violence caused by Haldol. In the first, a 23-year-old male with a history of developing severe symptoms of akathisia after being given Haldol was injected with the drug in the admissions room of a psychiatric unit.

After the injection, the man escaped, ran to a park, disrobed, and tried to rape a woman. "When pulled off by the husband, he proceeded down the street, broke down the front door of a house where an 81-yearold lady was sleeping. He severely beat her with his fists, 'to a pulp,' by his own description, following which he found knives and stabbed her repeatedly, resulting in her death." He then ran into another woman who was with her child and "repeatedly stabbed the woman in front of the child, where upon he moved on to he next person he encountered, a woman whom he severely assaulted and stabbed to the extent that an eye was lost and an opening into the anus was created resulting in major surgery."

The report describes four other cases of violence attributed to akathisia caused by Haldol. One was a suicide. Another was a suicide attempt in which a man stabbed himself repeatedly and later remarked that "he could never even feel the knife when stabbing himself." The third was a man who beat his mother to death with a hammer.

In the fourth case, a man "had been receiving Haldol as an outpatient for approximately four months and described how progressively his head was rushing, that he felt speeded up, that he was in great pain in his head and had an impulse to stab someone to try to get rid of the pain. He went to the nearby grocery store he frequented on a regular basis and impulsively and repeatedly stabbed the grocer whom he had known for some time."

Many similar acts of violence have been linked with these psychiatric drugs. One example is the 1989 case of David Peterson, who walked out of a mental institution in Middletown, Conn., bought a hunting knife, and then stabbed a nine-year-old girl 34 times, killing her. Peterson said he killed the girl to get back at his psychiatrist for not changing the drug he was being given, a major tranquilizer, that was causing him "pain."

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