The New ECT – Vagus Nerve Stimulation

The New ECT – Vagus Nerve Stimulation

An electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) device is used for treating psychiatric disturbances by inducing in the patient a major seizure by applying a brief intense electrical current to the patient’s head, also called shock treatment.

About 100,000 people are being given ECT each year in the U.S. ECT has long been known to cause serious harm to patients, including extremely severe and permanent memory loss, inability to learn and remember new events, depression, suicide, cardiovascular complications, prolonged and dangerous seizures and even death. An ECT session costs between $1,000 and $2,000 and is usually given between 6 to 12 times to an individual over several weeks; an ECT machine sells for about $15,000.

In January, 2011 the Neurological Devices Advisory Panel of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended that ECT machines remain classified as high-risk devices (Class III for the most dangerous medical devices, also called “premarket approval”.) The panel recommended that the companies which manufacture ECT devices be required to prove that ECT is both effective and safe in order to remain in use, with the exception of catatonia for which a less stringent classification was recommended. No effective date has yet been established for ECT machine manufacturers to provide this proof, so the machines are still very much in use.

To confuse the issue, psychiatrists also call this “cranial electrotherapy stimulation,” which uses less electrical current than an ECT machine but is supposed to be something new and different.

To offset the potential loss of income if ECT machines are banned, new methods of psychiatric income are being devised. Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) is one such.

The vagus (Latin for “wandering”) nerve stretches from the head, through the neck and chest, to the abdomen. Besides connecting to the various organs in the body (heart, lungs, stomach, intestines, etc.), it conveys sensory information about the state of the body’s organs to the central nervous system. This means that the vagus nerve is responsible for such varied tasks as heart rate, intestinal contractions, sweating, keeping the larynx open for breathing, and so on.

VNS produces short bursts of electricity directed into the brain via the vagus nerve. The energy comes from a battery, about the size of a silver dollar, which is surgically implanted under the skin, usually on the chest. Leads are threaded under the skin and attached to the vagus nerve. The device is programmed to deliver these small electrical bursts every few minutes. The mechanism by which this is supposed to work is not entirely understood; it’s just a theory, and the patient is the research guinea pig.

Health care costs are being driven out of control by litigation, malpractice suits, fraud, and the coercive use of psychiatric drugs and other psychiatric methods. Decades of psychiatric monopoly over mental health has only lead to upwardly spiraling mental illness statistics and continuously escalating funding demands.

The many critical challenges facing societies today reflect the vital need to strengthen individuals through workable, viable and humanitarian alternatives to harmful psychiatric options. For more information, download and read the CCHR booklet The Real Crisis in Mental Health Today – Report and recommendations on the lack of science and results within the mental health industry.

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