Health Risks of Psychiatric Drugs
Making a decision about coming off psychiatric drugs means evaluating as best you can the risks and benefits involved, including important information missing or suppressed from most mainstream accounts. Some risks may be worth taking, some risks may not be worth taking, but all risks should be taken into consideration. Because each person is different and drug effects can vary widely, the uncertainty involved should be met with your own best judgment and observations of how your body and mind are responding. This list cannot be comprehensive, and new risks are being uncovered regularly. Check a watchdog group (like www.ahrp.org) for the latest information.
Physical Health Risks
Psychiatric drugs are toxic and can damage the body. Neuroleptic “anti-psychotics” can cause the life-threatening toxic reaction called neuroleptics malignant syndrome, as well as Parkinson’s disease-like symptoms. Regular blood level tests are required of some drugs such as lithium and Clozaril to protect against dangerous organ damage. Many drugs can lead to obesity, diabetes, sudden heart attack, kidney failure, serious blood disorder, and general physical breakdown. Other toxic effects are numerous, and include interfering with the menstrual cycle, threats to pregnancy, and life-threatening “serotonin syndrome” when anti-depressants are mixed with other drugs.
• Psychiatric drugs can injure the brain. The rate of tardive dyskinesia, a serious neurological disease that can disfigure a person with facial tics and twitching, is very high for long-term patients on neuroleptic anti-psychotic drugs, and even short-term use carries some risk. Anti-depressants can also cause brain injury. Other effects can include memory damage and cognitive impairment.
• Pharmaceutical company effectiveness and safety studies, as well as FDA regulation, are extensively corrupted and fraud is widespread. There are few long-term studies, or studies of how drugs combine together. The real extent of psychiatric drug dangers may never be accurately known. Taking psychiatric drugs is in many ways society-wide experimentation, with patients as guinea pigs.
• Combining with alcohol or other drugs can dramatically increase dangers.
• Drug effects can lower the quality of life, including impaired sexuality, depression, agitation, and overall health deterioration.
• Drug-induced body changes such as restlessness or stiffness can alienate you from others and increase isolation.
• Lithium interacts with salt and water in the body, and when these levels change, such as from exercise, heat, or diet, potency can fluctuate. Even with regular blood tests and dosage adjustments, this means people taking lithium are sometimes at risk of exposure to damaging levels.
• ADHD drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin can stunt growth in children, and present other unknown dangers to brain and physical development. Like any amphetamines, they can cause psychosis and heart problems, including sudden death.
• ADHD stimulants, sleeping aids, and benzodiazepine tranquilizers are physically addictive like street drugs, and benzodiazepenes are more addictive than heroin.
Mental Health Risks
Mental health risks are some of the least understood aspects of psychiatric medications, and can make drug decisions and the withdrawal process very complicated. Here are some things that your doctor may not have told you:
Psychiatric drugs can make psychotic symptoms worse and increase the likelihood of having psychotic symptoms. Drugs can change receptors for such neurotransmitters as dopamine, making a person “supersensitive” to becoming psychotic, as well as increasing sensitivity to emotions and experiences in general. Some people report some of their first psychotic symptoms occurred after starting to take psychiatric drugs.
• Many drugs now carry warnings about the increased risk of suicide and violent behavior.
• Many people experience negative personality changes, including not feeling themselves, feeling drugged, emotional blunting, diminished creativity, and reduced psychic/spiritual openness.
• People who take psychiatric drugs, especially anti-psychotics, are often more likely to become long-term and chronic mental patients. People in poor countries that use less medication recover much faster than in rich countries that use a lot of medication. Many people recover faster and do much better without drugs.
• Once you are on the drug, your personality and critical thinking abilities may be very changed. It might be difficult to properly evaluate the drug’s usefulness. You may need to get off the drug, but not realize it because of how the drug is affecting your thinking.
• Psychiatric drugs can interrupt and impair the mind’s natural ability to regulate and heal emotional problems. Many people report having to “re-learn” how to cope with difficult emotions when they come off psychiatric drugs.
• Some people, even experiencing the worst depths of madness, say that by going through their experiences rather than suppressing them, they emerge stronger and healthier in the end. Sometimes “going crazy” can be the doorway to personal transformation, and some people are thankful for even the most painful suffering they have been through. Drugs can obscure this possible positive side. Artists, philosophers, poets, writers and healers often attribute tremendous value to the insights gained from “negative” emotions and extreme states.
Other Drug Risks and Considerations
Understanding the coming off drugs process means taking into account many different factors you may not have considered before:
While not publicized widely by a culture dominated by pharmaceutical companies, alternative treatments, talk therapy, and even the placebo effect can often be more effective than psychiatric drugs, without the risks.
• Keeping up with taking pills every day is difficult for anyone. Missing doses of psychiatric drugs can be dangerous because of the withdrawal effects, making you vulnerable if the drug is interrupted.
• Doctors typically see patients infrequently for short visits, making it less likely to spot potentially serious adverse drug reactions.
• People with a mental disorder diagnosis frequently have difficulty getting insurance.
• Taking psychiatric drugs often means giving up control to the judgments of a doctor, who may not make the best decisions for you.
• Taking psychiatric drugs can mean being seen as mentally ill in society and starting to see yourself in that role. The stigma, discrimination, and prejudice can be devastating, and even create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Diagnostic labels cannot be stricken from the record the way criminal histories can. Studies show that trying to convince people that “mental illness is an illness like any other” is a counterproductive strategy that actually contributes to negative attitudes.
• Psychiatric drugs can convey the false view that “normal” experience is productive, happy, and well adjusted all the time, without mood shifts, bad days or suffering. This encourages a false standard of what it is to be human.
• Taking psychiatric drugs can put a passive hope in a “magic bullet” cure rather than taking personal and community responsibility for action to change.
A previous article entitled How Do Psychiatric Drugs Work? provides information... emotional distress, medication ve overwhelming