Chanting the Chantix Mantra

Recently there has been a gross increase in the TV ad campaign for Chantix, promoting this deadly drug for smoking cessation.

We’ve written about Chantix before, but we thought a repeat was in order due to this massive ad campaign.

In 2008 the Federal Aviation Administration banned Chantix for pilots and air traffic controllers, and reissued that decision in 2013.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) slapped a “Black Box” warning on Chantix (varenicline tartrate, made by Pfizer) in 2009 after receiving thousands of reports linking the drug to mental health issues, including suicidal thoughts, hostility and agitation.

In 2015, the FDA expanded the warning to note that the drug had also been linked to reduced alcohol tolerance leading to seizures.

However, in 2016 the FDA removed the Black Box warning, after heavy lobbying from Pfizer claiming that additional data showed that the benefits of Chantix outweighed its adverse side effects (oh, and since its sales had significantly dropped.)

But the adverse side effects did not go away; only the Black Box warning went away. One study found that Chantix had more cases of suicidal thoughts, self-harm, and homicidal thoughts than any other drug, by a more than three-fold margin. Pfizer’s prescribing information still warns about new or worsening mental health problems such as changes in behavior or thinking, aggression, hostility, agitation, depressed mood, or suicidal thoughts or actions while taking or after stopping Chantix.

We suspect that the recent spate of TV ads is related to the removal of the Black Box warning and the prior drop in sales. Also, the price of Chantix more than doubled between 2013 and 2018. In 2013, Pfizer paid out $273 million to settle a majority of the 2,700 state and federal lawsuits that had been filed over adverse side effects. Now the company is trying to grow the market with clinical studies for smokers age 12 to 19.

What is Chantix?

Chantix is a psychiatric drug — a benzodiazepine-based anti-anxiety drug, also called a minor tranquilizer or sedative hypnotic. Daily use of therapeutic doses of benzodiazepines are associated with physical dependence, and addiction can occur after 14 days of regular use. Typical consequences of withdrawal are anxiety, depression, sweating, cramps, nausea, psychotic reactions and seizures. There is also a “rebound effect” where the individual experiences even worse symptoms than they started with as a result of chemical dependency.

The exact mechanism of action of benzodiazepines is not known, but they affect neurotransmitters in the brain and suppress the activity of nerves, under the unproven theory that excessive activity of nerves may be the cause of anxiety. Chantix was developed to specifically affect nicotinic receptors in the brain, under the theory that this would reduce nicotine craving and block the rewarding effects of smoking. Messing with neurotransmitters in the brain is playing Russian Roulette with your mind.

Benzodiazepines are metabolized by cytochrome P450 enzymes, so a genetic lack of these enzymes can cause a buildup of harmful toxins and increase the severity of adverse side effects.

Psychiatric “best practices” consider that smoking is an addiction and recommend that psychiatrists assess tobacco use at every patient visit, since tobacco addiction is covered in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) as a “mental illness” under eight separate items, and disorders related to inhalant use have 33 entries. Smoking is not a mental illness and addiction cannot be fixed with psychiatric drugs.

The psychiatric industry considers that smoking cessation therapies are their territory, however this drug masks the real cause of problems in life and debilitates the individual, thus denying one the opportunity for real recovery and hope for the future. Treating substance abuse with drugs is a major policy blunder; contact your state and federal representatives and let them know you disapprove of this trend.

Recognize that the real problem is that psychiatrists fraudulently diagnose life’s problems as an “illness”, and stigmatize unwanted behavior like smoking as a “disease.” Psychiatry’s stigmatizing labels, programs and treatments are harmful junk science; their diagnoses of “mental disorders” are a hoax — unscientific, fraudulent and harmful. All psychiatric treatments, not just psychiatric drugs, are dangerous.

The Psychiatric Scientific Double Standard

When it comes to psychiatric scientific research, there is a double standard that favors what makes money and disavows what does not make money. When we say “double standard” we mean some rule or principle which is unfairly applied in different ways to different groups or situations, or that favors one group or situation over another. The actual principle in question here is called “evidence-based science.”

Many scientists, particularly those in the psychiatric-pharmaceutical industry, mouth that they favor “evidence-based science” when in fact they favor what can make the most money regardless of the evidence.

A recent Scientific American editorial (“The WHO Takes a Reckless Step“, April, 2019) denigrates Traditional Chinese Medicine because it is purportedly not “evidence-based.”

Yet Scientific American promotes psychiatry and psychiatric drugs, when it knows that every psychiatric drug on the market has somewhere in its fine print a statement to the effect that “we don’t know how it works,” while the FDA approves these drugs based on so-called “evidence.”

Here are some representative quotes:

  • The fine print for Rexulti (brexpiprazole, an antipsychotic) says, “the exact way REXULTI works is unknown”.
  • The fine print for Latuda (lurasidone, an antipsychotic) says, “It’s not known exactly how LATUDA works, and the precise way antipsychotics work is also unknown”.
  • The fine print for Xanax (alprazolam, a benzodiazepine anti-anxiety drug) says, “Their exact mechanism of action is unknown”.

So much for evidence-based practice! The actual evidence is, they don’t have a clue how these drugs are supposed to work — it’s all conjecture!

As we continue to examine the actual evidence, we come up against the adverse reactions, or side effects, of these drugs. This is hard evidence, not conjecture.

What is a Side Effect?

Side effects (also called “adverse reactions”) are the body’s natural response to having a chemical disrupt its normal functioning.

One could also say that there are no drug side effects, these adverse reactions are actually the drug’s real effects; some of these effects just happen to be unwanted.

The FDA takes the adverse side effect of suicide seriously by placing a Black Box Warning on certain psychiatric drugs. For example, the FDA says that “Antidepressants increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior (suicidality) in children and adolescents with MDD [Major Depressive Disorder] and other psychiatric disorders.”

What about those who say psychotropic drugs really did make them feel better? Psychotropic drugs may relieve the pressure that an underlying physical problem could be causing but they do not treat, correct or cure any physical disease or condition. This relief may have the person thinking he is better but the relief is not evidence that a psychiatric disorder exists. Ask an illicit drug user whether he feels better when snorting cocaine or smoking dope and he’ll believe that he is, even while the drugs are actually damaging him. Some drugs that are prescribed to treat depression can have a “damping down” effect. They suppress the physical feelings associated with “depression” but they are not alleviating the condition or targeting what is causing it.

Once the drug has worn off, the original problem remains. As a solution or cure to life’s problems, psychotropic drugs do not work.

For the first time the side effects of psychiatric drugs that have been reported to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by doctors, pharmacists, other health care providers and consumers have been decrypted from the FDA’s MedWatch reporting system and been made available to the public in an easy to search psychiatric drug side effects database and search engine. This database is provided as a free public service by the mental health watchdog, Citizens Commission on Human Rights International (CCHR).

1 in 4 Elderly Americans Hooked on Xanax

One in four older Americans who use prescribed benzodiazepine drugs such as Xanax (generic alprazolam) for sleep issues, anxiety and depression end up becoming addicted, according to a recent study.

The study, published 10 September 2018 in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that for every 10 additional days of prescribed drugs, the patient’s risk for long-term usage nearly doubled over the next year.
[doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.2413]

This abusive assault on the elderly is the result of psychiatry maneuvering itself into an authoritative position over aged care. From there, psychiatry has broadly perpetrated the tragic but lucrative hoax that aging is a mental disorder requiring extensive and expensive psychiatric services.

Long-term benzodiazepine users are more likely to develop anxiety or have sleep problems, the very things the drug was supposed to treat. The FDA recommends reporting adverse psychiatric drug reactions to the MedWatch program. It could be dangerous to immediately cease taking psychiatric drugs because of potential significant withdrawal side effects. No one should stop taking any psychiatric drug without the advice and assistance of a competent medical doctor.

The exact mechanism of action of benzodiazepines is not known, but they play Russian Roulette with neurotransmitters in the brain.

Daily use of benzodiazepines has always been associated with physical dependence. Addiction can occur after just 14 days of regular use. Withdrawal and addiction to benzodiazepines can be as traumatic as with heroin.

The typical consequences of withdrawal are anxiety, depression, sweating, cramps, nausea, psychotic reactions and seizures. There is also a “rebound effect” where the individual experiences even worse symptoms than they started with as a result of this chemical dependency.

Xanax is particularly obnoxious. After a patient stops taking Xanax, it takes the brain six to eighteen months to recover. Extreme anger, hostile behavior, violence and suicide are potential side effects.

Once they are taking the drug and have side effects they can be diagnosed with a fraudulent mental illness called “Sedative-, hypnotic-, or anxiolytic-induced anxiety disorder” and prescribed additional psychiatric drugs for the side effects. [Anxiolytic just means anti-anxiety drug.]

Then, once they are addicted and try to withdraw from the drug, they can be diagnosed with a fraudulent mental illness called “Sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic withdrawal” and prescribed additional psychiatric drugs for the withdrawal symptoms.

The real problem is that psychiatrists fraudulently diagnose life’s problems as an “illness”, and stigmatize unwanted behavior as  “diseases.” Psychiatry’s stigmatizing labels, programs and treatments are harmful junk science; their diagnoses of “mental disorders” are a hoax – unscientific, fraudulent and harmful.

CCHR recommends that everyone watch the video documentary “Making A Killing – The Untold Story of Psychotropic Drugging“. Containing more than 175 interviews with lawyers, mental health experts, the families of psychiatric abuse victims and the survivors themselves, this riveting documentary rips the mask off psychotropic drugging and exposes a brutal but well-entrenched money-making machine. The facts are hard to believe, but fatal to ignore. Watch the video online here.

Tranq Your Dog

Paraphrasing a Lewis Carroll poem —

Speak roughly to your little dog.
And beat him when he seizes.
He only does it to annoy,
Because he knows it teases.

Imepitoin, sold under the brand name Pexion from Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica Inc. of St. Joseph, Missouri, is an anticonvulsant used in veterinary medicine to treat epilepsy in dogs. It was originally developed to treat epilepsy in humans, but clinical trials were terminated upon findings of unfavorable metabolic differences between smokers and non-smokers.

Anticonvulsants are also increasingly being used in the treatment of so-called bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder, since many seem to act as mood stabilizers.

Pexion is similar to Valium and other benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety drugs or minor tranquilizers), acting as a low affinity partial agonist of the benzodiazepine receptor, which means that it acts in the brain similar to a benzodiazepine. It is very unusual for any dog with epilepsy to become completely seizure free even after they have begun taking this drug.

The theory is that the drug suppresses electrical activity in the brain.

On December 4, 2018, the U.S. FDA approved Pexion to treat anxiety in dogs freaked out by noises. In other words, it’s a tranquilizer for dogs.

Dog owners are cautioned to carefully monitor its use, since a side effect can be a change in the dog’s level of aggression. Well guess what, a side effect of these kinds of drugs in humans is also aggressive behavior. Some tranquilizer!

The FDA urges pet owners and veterinarians to report side effects.

It used to be only psychiatrists who prescribed tranquilizers; then family doctors became common prescribers; and now veterinarians have entered the psychiatric industry, ready to psychoanalyze your dog and prescribe a tranq.

Daily use of benzodiazepines in humans is associated with physical dependence. The withdrawal from drugs like these is more prolonged and often more difficult than withdrawal from heroin. Although dogs have not so far shown addiction to Pexion, physical dependence is a known side effect of other antiepileptic drugs in dogs.

The point we want to make is that the psychiatric industry makes a concerted effort to create new patient classes for their coercive and abusive treatments, and in this case that includes pets. We wrote about Prozac for pets way back in 2011, so this trend is continuing.

A primary care physician or family practitioner who refuses to prescribe a psychiatric drug can be accused of being unethical, or even charged and jailed for “criminal medical negligence” because they are not applying the current “standard of care.” Soon your veterinarian may find themselves criminally liable for not prescribing tranquilizers for your pet.

For more information, download and read the CCHR booklet, “Psychiatric Hoax – The Subversion of Medicine – Report and recommendations on psychiatry’s destructive impact on health care.

High Anxiety

We recently watched the classic Mel Brooks movie “High Anxiety.” Besides the fact that it is absolutely hilarious, and relentlessly parodies psychiatry and psychiatrists, it also leads into a discussion of anxiety as popularized by psychiatry and psychology.

The American Psychological Association says, “Anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure. People with anxiety disorders usually have recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns. They may avoid certain situations out of worry. They may also have physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, dizziness or a rapid heartbeat.”

The American Psychiatric Association says, “Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress … Anxiety disorders differ from normal feelings of nervousness or anxiousness, and involve excessive fear or anxiety.” But they go further and list many different types of anxiety disorders. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) lists no fewer than 54 disorders using the word “anxiety,” plus a number of other disorders with different names but which may still be considered as a type of anxiety disorder.

Psychiatrist Dr. Richard H. Thorndyke, played by Mel Brooks in the movie, suffers from “high anxiety,” manifested as vertigo ostensibly from a fear of heights, which in the DSM would be a “Specific phobia.”

The English word “anxiety” itself means, among other definitions, “apprehensive uneasiness, worry, or nervousness typically over an impending or anticipated ill, or something with an uncertain outcome.” [Latin anxietas, from anxius, from angere “to choke”]

Psychiatrists and psychologists attempt to give it a “medical” definition, which is necessary in order to prescribe drugs for it. One medical dictionary says this, “Anxiety disorder: A chronic condition characterized by an excessive and persistent sense of apprehension, with physical symptoms such as sweating, palpitations, and feelings of stress. Treatments include the comfort offered by understanding the condition, avoiding or desensitizing exacerbating situations, and medications.” Google says this, “a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks.”

The relationship of anxiety to stress should be self-evident. You might like to review what we have written previously about stress.

Anxiety, like stress, is not a mental illness, and cannot be fixed with a drug. It can only be fixed by finding and eliminating the causes of the condition. For example, many doctors and nutritionists are finding that anxiety attack symptoms can be the result of food allergies. There are many other potential causes. We recommend a full, searching clinical examination by a competent non-psychiatric doctor, to find out if there are any undiagnosed and untreated actual medical conditions.

There is an international nonprofit organization called “Anxiety and Depression Association of America”, whose purpose is the prevention, treatment, and cure of anxiety and other “co-occurring  disorders.” Naturally they claim, falsely, that anxiety disorders have a biological basis, giving them a reason to prescribe drugs. The National Institute of Mental Health says, “Anxiety disorders are generally treated with psychotherapy, medication, or both.”

If you were thinking of an anti-anxiety drug, be warned that these can cause hallucinations, delusional thinking, confusion, aggression, violence, hostility, agitation, irritability, depression and suicidal thinking. They are also some of the most difficult drugs to withdraw from.

Anxiety is an emotion, and is really a conflict, or the restimulation of a conflict, or something containing indecision or uncertainty. It is exemplified by a conflict between something supporting survival and something opposing survival. It is rooted in an inability to assign the correct cause to something, which itself is rooted in an inability to observe. As we said, the cure is not a drug, but in finding out the correct cause.

Be Well.

The Manufactured Crisis of Prescription Drug Prices

“Manufactured Crisis – How Devastating Drug Price Increases Are Harming America’s Seniors”

This report was prepared in 2018 by the U.S. Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee Minority Office as requested by Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri.

It examines the history of rising drug prices between 2012 and 2017 for the twenty brand-name drugs most commonly prescribed for seniors.

Drugs were identified using data from Medicare Part D, and average prices were statistically calculated to come up with annual weighted average wholesale acquisition costs.

Of the twenty drugs in the report, two are used off-label for psychiatric purposes:
§ Lyrica (pregabalin), approved for controlling epileptic seizures and neuropathic pain, is also used off-label as an anti-anxiety drug; it carries a warning that it may cause suicidal thoughts or actions.

§ Synthroid (levothyroxine), a synthetic thyroid hormone approved for hypothyroidism, is also used off-label as an antidepressant, although a specific, causally significant hormonal deficiency has not been identified for depression; it has potential side effects of hair loss, mental and mood changes such as depression, easily broken bones, heart problems, and seizures.

A Lyrica prescription rose in average cost between 2012 and 2017 from $264 to $600 (a 127% increase), while the number of prescriptions rose from 9.1 million to 10.3 million (a 14% increase).

A Synthroid prescription rose in average cost between 2012 and 2017 from $96 to $153 (a 60% increase), while the number of prescriptions dropped from 23.0 million to 18.4 million (a 20% drop).

The report concludes, “Soaring pharmaceutical drug prices remain a critical concern for patients and policymakers alike. Over the last decade, these significant price increases have emerged as a dominant driver of U.S. health care costs.”

Frankly, we do not have a particular bone to pick about the cost of prescription drugs; what does concern us more is the off-label use of medical drugs for fraudulent psychiatric conditions, and the seriousness of their potential side effects. If this concerns you as well, please let Senator McCaskill know your thoughts about this.

We recommend informed consent for any treatment plan. Protect yourself, your family and friends, with full informed consent. Courts have determined that informed consent for people who receive prescriptions for psychotropic (mood-altering) drugs must include the doctor providing information about possible side effects and benefits, ways to treat side effects, and risks of other conditions, as well as information about alternative treatments.

Las Vegas in the Sights

Stephen Paddock massacred country music fans at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas the night of October 1, 2017 leaving 59 people dead (including Paddock) and 527 injured at last count.

He was prescribed an anti-anxiety drug in June that can lead to violent behavior, as reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal on October 3rd.

Records from the Nevada Prescription Monitoring Program show Paddock was prescribed 50 10-milligram diazepam tablets by Henderson physician Dr. Steven Winkler on June 21. Diazepam, or Valium, is a highly addictive Benzodiazepine known to cause aggressive behavior and suicide. Chronic use or abuse of psychiatric drugs such as diazepam can also trigger psychotic experiences.

Side effects (also called “adverse reactions”) are the body’s natural response to having a chemical disrupt its normal functioning. One could also say that there are no drug side effects, these adverse reactions are actually the drug’s real effects; some of these effects just happen to be unwanted, such as the violence and suicide observed with psychiatric anti-anxiety drugs. While not everyone on psychotropic drugs commits suicide or uncontrolled acts of violence, the effects of the many other side effects, including withdrawal from these addictive drugs, can be horrendous.

For example, between 2004-2008 there were reports submitted to the FDA’s MedWatch program which included 4,895 suicides, 3,908 cases of aggression, 309 homicides and 6,945 cases of diabetes from people taking psychiatric drugs. These numbers reflect only a small percentage of the actual side effects occurring in the consumer market, as the FDA has admitted that only 1-10% of side effects are ever reported to the FDA.

Reporting of adverse reactions to psychiatric drugs by doctors, pharmacists, other health care providers and consumers once those drugs are out in the consumer market, is fundamental to drug safety monitoring. Yet these reports have been frequently ignored or dismissed as “anecdotal” by the FDA even when serious side effects number in the thousands.

For more information about how psychiatric drugs can cause violence and suicide, go here: http://cchrstl.org/sideeffects.shtml.

Chris Cornell, Another Failed Product of Psychiatric Drugs

Chris Cornell, a musician who committed suicide May 18, was apparently taking Ativan, a psychotropic drug which has known side effects of violence and suicide.

“…Cornell was a recovering addict with a prescription for the anti-anxiety medication Ativan and that he may have taken a bigger than recommended dosage.”

Ativan (generic lorazepam) is a highly addictive benzodiazepine anti-anxiety drug, and is known to cause violence and suicide either during use or after withdrawal. A typical dose is 1 to 3 milligrams orally 2 to 3 times per day, typically costing around $10 per 1 milligram tablet. It takes about two hours to feel the drug’s full effects, and it typically takes 10 to 20 hours for the drug to leave a person’s system.

Lorazepam as Ativan was first introduced in the U.S. by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals in 1977. Many of the so-called “beneficial effects” of the drug are considered “adverse effects” when they occur unwanted, such as its sedative effect, muscle relaxant effect, and amnesiac effect. These side effects are dose-dependent, meaning they get more pronounced the higher the dose. Other significant side effects are confusion, hostility, aggression, agitation, and suicidal behavior. Physical addiction characterized by withdrawal symptoms occurs in about one-third of individuals who are treated for longer than four weeks, although withdrawal symptoms can occur after taking therapeutic doses of Ativan for as little as one week. If treatment is continued longer than four to six months, tolerance develops and the dosage must be increased to get the same effects.

Signs of overdose can include confusion, hostility, aggression, suicidal behavior, drowsiness, hypnotic state, coma, cardiovascular depression, respiratory depression, and death. 810 drugs, and alcohol, are known to interact with lorazepam. Taking larger amounts of Ativan than prescribed, taking the drug more often than prescribed and taking the drug for longer than prescribed are considered abuse. Most commonly, overdoses occur when Ativan is taken in combination with alcohol or other drugs. Fifty thousand people went to the emergency room in 2011 due to lorazepam complications. Twenty-seven million prescriptions for lorazepam were written in 2011.

While this drug is used to treat anxiety, it doesn’t really do anything for the anxiety itself; it is primarily taken for its sedative side effect. The “side effects” are really the actual drug effects.

This great musician, and many other artists who committed suicide while taking psychiatric drugs, were offered “help” that was only betrayal. This psychiatric assault on artists of every genre has only increased, as the psychiatric industry peddles its array of deadly addictive psychotropic drugs for profit only. Click here for more information about psychiatry harming artists and ruining creativity.

Election Anxiety

anxiety: A sense of apprehension, uneasiness, or fear often over an impending or anticipated ill — from Latin anxius “troubled, uneasy”.

The mental health (aka psychiatric) community is all over this, warning Americans about election stress deteriorating into depression and salivating over the number of anti-depressant prescriptions they can write.

Many people are not only convinced that the environment is dangerous, but that it is steadily growing more so. For many, it’s more of a challenge than they feel up to. An “environmental challenge” exists in an area filled with irrationality. While we thrive on a challenge, we can also be overwhelmed by a challenge to which we cannot respond.

A wide variety of environmental stresses can contribute to the onset of anxiety. Find something in your environment that isn’t being a threat. It will calm you down.

The answer to this anxiety and stress is, of course, direct action. Take some positive action over which you have some small measure of control — write a letter to the editor; write a letter to your local, state and federal representatives; contribute time or money to a worthwhile cause; take some self-improvement course.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the billing bible of the mental health care industry, names stress explicitly as a billable diagnosis: Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders (an entire chapter in DSM-5); including various manifestations of PTSD, acute stress disorder, adjustment disorders, and reactive attachment disorder.

Their answer, however, is not action — it is drugs. They even have a class of drugs specifically marketed for this, called anti-anxiety drugs. These drugs come with side effect; one of the side effects is more anxiety. Other side effects can be hallucinations, delusions, confusion, aggression, violence, hostility, agitation, irritability, depression, and suicidal thinking. These are also some of the most difficult drugs to withdraw from.

We would like to make it very clear that ANXIETY and STRESS ARE NOT A MENTAL ILLNESS! They are the reaction to a stressor, something over which you have no control. The answer is to find something over which you do have some measure of control, and take action on it.

One of the more common American causes of anxiety is hypoglycemia. Yes, mental anxiety is one of the symptoms of low blood sugar, which is usually caused by consuming too much sugar.

So, if you are feeling down about the election, forego that self-indulgent donut and write your congressman instead!votazac

Risky Business of Sleep Drugs

Risky Business of Sleep Drugs

After reading about the dangers of sleeping pills in the February 2016 edition of Consumer Reports magazine, we thought you might like to know something about that.

Some psychotropic drugs are prescribed as sleeping pills. Trazodone, an antidepressant, is often prescribed off label as a sleeping pill. Benzodiazepines such as Valium are also prescribed as sleeping pills. Other examples are Ambien (an anti-psychotic), Lunesta (an anti-anxiety drug), and Sonata (another anti-anxiety drug).

These have all the potential side effects we have come to associate with psychiatric drugs — including violence, suicide, addiction, and so on.

The latest sleeping pill fad, touted as “the new insomnia drug”, is Belsomra (generic “suvorexant”). It is classified as a “sedative-hypnotic” which means it is a central nervous system depressant; it alters brain chemistry by targeting a neurotransmitter called orexin.

Belsomra is manufactured by Merck, Sharpe & Dohme Corporation, and was approved by the FDA for insomnia in August of 2014.

Guess what? This drug carries the same warnings as other psychotropic drugs; it may cause memory loss, anxiety, confusion, agitation, hallucinations, depression, addiction, and thoughts of suicide — all this along with its own special side effects: inability to move or talk, sleep-walking, sleep-driving, and drowsiness lasting through the next day.

Here is what Consumer Reports has to say about Belsomra: “…people who took a 15- or 20-milligram dose of Belsomra every night for three months fell asleep just 6 minutes faster on average than those who took a placebo. And those on Belsomra slept on average only 16 minutes longer than people given a placebo. Such small improvements didn’t translate to people feeling more awake the next day, either. Instead, more people who took Belsomra reported that they felt drowsy the next day than those who took a placebo.”

“Because of the limited benefits and substantial risks of sleeping pills, Consumer Reports’ medical experts advise that sleep drugs should be used with great caution.”

“Merck spent $36 million on TV ads for its new drug Belsomra from Aug. 1 to Nov. 24, 2015, making it the second most advertised Rx drug in that time frame, according to iSpot.tv. The ads note that Belsomra is the first drug to target orexin, a chemical that plays a role in keeping people awake. But Belsomra doesn’t work much, or any, better than other sleep drugs. And because it’s new, little is known about its long-term safety.”

One take-away here is that even if a prescription drug is not advertised or prescribed for psychiatric reasons, if it messes with the brain’s neurotransmitters and has all the same side-effects as a psychiatric drug — well, you must get the picture by now.

The Consumer Reports article goes on to discuss non-drug sleep alternatives at some length; it is a good and helpful read.

When your doctor prescribes a drug, it is good practice to ask questions so you can give your full informed consent. These are some example questions you can ask:

1. What is the evidence for the diagnosis?
2. How does the treatment affect the body?
3. How does the treatment affect the mind?
4. What unwanted effects may occur?
5. Is it approved by the FDA for this condition?
6. What is known and not known about how safe it is and how well it works?
7. What are the alternatives, including the option of no treatment?
8. Does the doctor or the clinic have a financial interest in pushing the diagnosis or treatment?