Studies Finding Increased Suicide Risk from Antidepressants Less Likely to Appear in Psychiatric Journals

Publication bias contributes to misperception by doctors that antidepressants are safer, more effective than they really are, new study suggests.

by CCHR National Affairs Office

Psychiatric journals are less likely to publish studies that find antidepressants increase the risk of suicide than studies that suggest they do not, a new study reports. The publication bias contributes to a misperception by doctors that antidepressants are safer and more effective in preventing suicide than they really are, the study suggests.

Researchers at universities in Austria and Switzerland noted that the prevailing view in psychiatry is that antidepressants are effective in preventing suicide, despite studies showing no clear preventive benefit or even an increased risk of suicide from antidepressants.

To account for this misperception, researchers analyzed which of the studies reporting associations between antidepressant use and the risk of suicidal behavior were published in the journals intended for psychiatrists. Of the 27 studies available for analysis, not one study indicated a reduced risk of suicide from taking antidepressants, though the drugs may be prescribed for that purpose.

What the researchers found is that studies reporting unfavorable results (an increased risk of suicide) were less likely to be published in psychiatric journals than studies suggesting favorable results (no increased risk). They also found that lead authors with financial conflicts of interest from their ties to pharmaceutical companies published more favorable studies, and their studies were more likely to be published in psychiatric journals, than lead authors without ties to drug companies.

“This study provides evidence that research producing inconvenient results that challenge common clinical practice and discourse receive less scientific attention within academic psychiatry,” concluded lead author Martin Plöderl, PhD, a clinical psychologist at Paracelsus Medical University in Salzburg, Austria. The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, not a psychiatric journal.

The researchers included a recommendation that because fewer studies reporting unfavorable results from taking psychiatric drugs are published in psychiatric journals, doctors should look elsewhere to be fully informed about the drugs.

“Psychiatrists should be encouraged to inform themselves about potential harms of psychiatric drugs based on scientific sources outside of their field for a more balanced appraisal of the evidence,” the researchers advised.

They also warned that the increased risk of suicide from antidepressants “potentially poses a serious public health issue, given the widespread prescription of these drugs and the unsubstantiated claims [of no increased risk] within academic psychiatry.”

Antidepressant use has risen significantly over the past 15 years, and so have suicides and senseless acts of violence like mass shootings. In 2020, some 45 million Americans, or roughly one in seven, were taking antidepressants, up from 34 million in 2006. This 32% increase in users parallels the 35% increase in suicides in the U.S. over the same period. During this time, many school shootings and other acts of senseless violence were also committed by individuals taking antidepressants or in withdrawal from them. Psychiatrist Peter Breggin, M.D., describes antidepressants as neurotoxic because they harm and disrupt the functions of the brain, causing abnormal thinking and behaviors that include anxiety, irritability, hostility, aggressiveness, loss of judgment, impulsivity, and mania, which can lead to violence and suicide.

More fundamentally, a landmark 2022 study questioned the prescribing of antidepressants at all, after finding the common reason for taking them – to correct a chemical imbalance in the brain – had no scientific basis. The study investigated whether evidence supported the theory that a low level of the brain chemical serotonin causes depression.

“The serotonin theory of depression has been one of the most influential and extensively researched biological theories of the origins of depression,” the researchers wrote. “Our study shows that this view is not supported by scientific evidence. It also calls into question the basis for the use of antidepressants.”

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) continues to raise public awareness of the risks of serious side effects and withdrawal symptoms from antidepressants and other psychiatric drugs, so that consumers and their physicians can make fully informed decisions about starting or stopping the drugs.

WARNING: Anyone wishing to discontinue or change the dose of an antidepressant or other psychiatric drug is cautioned to do so only under the supervision of a physician because of potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

CCHR also recommends a complete physical examination with lab tests, nutritional and allergy screenings, and a review of all current medications to identify any physical causes of depression or other unwanted mental and behavioral symptoms, which might otherwise be misdiagnosed and incorrectly treated as a psychiatric disorder.

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One in Four Youth in US Child Welfare System Prescribed Psychiatric Drugs, Three Times the Rate for Others, Government Says

Study is latest to find that children traumatized by removal from their families and homes are prescribed powerful psychotropic drugs at high rates.

NEWS PROVIDED BY

Citizens Commission on Human Rights, National Affairs Office

WASHINGTON, DC, August 30, 2023 — A new government study has found that one in four Medicaid-enrolled children under the age of 18 in the U.S. child welfare system is prescribed one or more powerful psychotropic drugs, a rate three times higher than for other Medicaid-enrolled children. They are also prescribed multiple psychotropic drugs at a four times higher rate. The researchers conducting the study cited concern that although the safety and effectiveness of psychotropic drugs have not been clearly established for young people, the drugs are prescribed to these vulnerable youth at high rates.

Staff at the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services accessed the 2019 medical records of Medicaid-enrolled children ages 3 to 17, analyzing data from the 719,908 children who were in the child welfare system (receiving foster care, guardianship care, or adoption assistance) compared to the 31,472,608 who were not in child welfare.

The results of the study revealed that youth on Medicaid in the child welfare system were given psychotropic drugs at a rate three times higher than for other youth on Medicaid, with half of the child welfare youth prescribed two or more psychotropic drugs (polypharmacy), a rate four times higher than for other youth. The most common psychotropic drug classes prescribed were stimulants (ADHD drugs), antidepressants, and antipsychotics.

“Of youths in the child welfare group, 26.25% had been prescribed a psychotropic medication and 13.27% experienced psychotropic polypharmacy compared with 9.06% and 3.11%, respectively, of other Medicaid-enrolled youth,” according to the research results published online in JAMA Pediatrics.

The researchers observed that higher rates of psychotropic drugging for youth in the child welfare system were found at all ages, but especially for adolescents ages 12-17, among whom one in three (34%) were on psychotropic drugs, half (19%) of whom were prescribed two or more, with these rates roughly two and four times higher, respectively, than for other Medicaid youth.

“High rates of psychotropic prescription are concerning because of the limited safety and efficacy data for individuals younger than 18 years,” wrote lead author Laura F. Radel, MPP, noting also that there are “safety concerns and uncertainties about these medications’ long-term effects on brain development and metabolic adverse effects.”

Another recent study found a high rate of psychotropic prescribing for foster children. The analysis of medical records for foster children in a region of Texas found that 35% of these youth were prescribed one or more psychotropic drugs, a rate four times the rate for non-foster children (8%).

hese studies come at a time of renewed scrutiny over the disproportionate prescribing of psychotropic drugs to children and teens in the foster care system. Psychotropic drugs expose these young people to the risk of having to deal with the disruption in their lives while also contending with drug side effects. Some of the most serious adverse effects are significant weight gain, diabetes, uncontrollable restlessness (akathisia), uncontrollable muscle movements (tardive dyskinesia), heart problems, mania, violence, and suicidal thoughts and actions.

A 2015 investigation in five states by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) found “serious quality-of-care concerns in the treatment of children with psychotropic medications” in 67% of the Medicaid claims it reviewed. It found hundreds of children were prescribed five or more psychotropic drugs without any scientific evidence to support the regimen, or were prescribed drugs in doses higher than approved maximum levels. Children under the age of 1 were also prescribed psychotropic drugs, which the OIG said “have no established use for mental health conditions in infants and could result in serious adverse effects.” The OIG report faulted states for their insufficient oversight of psychotropic prescriptions for foster children.

A subsequent OIG investigation in 2018 found that one in three foster children (34%) were prescribed psychiatric drugs without the treatment plans or follow-up that the states are required to provide. The OIG report recommended more federal involvement to improve compliance and strengthen state requirements to “help protect children who are at risk for inappropriate treatment and inappropriate prescribing practices.”

The newly released studies show that the overdrugging of foster children and other children in the U.S. child welfare system continues. The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) urgently calls on state and federal governments to act to protect children in the child welfare system from the ongoing overprescribing of psychotropic drugs and the serious physical and mental health risks the drugs pose for these children.

WARNING: Anyone wishing to discontinue or change the dose of a psychiatric drug is cautioned to do so only under the supervision of a physician because of potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights was co-founded in 1969 by members of the Church of Scientology and the late psychiatrist and humanitarian Thomas Szasz, M.D., recognized by many academics as modern psychiatry’s most authoritative critic, to eradicate abuses and restore human rights and dignity to the field of mental health. CCHR has been instrumental in obtaining 228 laws against psychiatric abuse and violations of human rights worldwide.

The CCHR National Affairs Office in Washington, DC, has advocated for mental health rights and protections at the state and federal level. The CCHR traveling exhibit, which has toured 441 major cities worldwide and educated over 800,000 people on the history to the present day of abusive and racist psychiatric practices, has been displayed at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Annual Legislative Conference in Washington, DC, and at other locations.

Anne Goedeke
Citizens Commission on Human Rights, National Affairs Office

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Use of Antidepressants During Pregnancy May Alter Brain Development of Offspring, New Study Indicates

Women taking antidepressants who are, or are planning to become, pregnant can discuss these risks with their physicians.

NEWS PROVIDED BY

Citizens Commission on Human Rights, National Affairs Office

WASHINGTON, DC, September 7, 2023 — A new study indicates that expectant mothers’ use of antidepressants during pregnancy may negatively affect the brain development of their children, adding to the medical literature that has linked selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants during pregnancy to negative outcomes in offspring. SSRIs are the most frequently prescribed antidepressant for maternal depression.

Using brain imaging, researchers in the Netherlands measured the impact on the brain volume of 3,198 children whose mothers took SSRI antidepressants before or during pregnancy. The brain imaging was performed three times between the children’s ages of 7 to 15 and was compared to brain imaging of a control group of children whose mothers did not take antidepressants.

The results, reported in JAMA Psychiatry, indicated that, “compared with nonexposed controls, children prenatally exposed to SSRIs had less cerebral gray matter…which persisted up to 15 years of age,” the final age at which brain imaging was done in this study. Gray matter in the brain plays a significant role in mental functions, memory, emotions and movement. In the children exposed to SSRIs prenatally, negative effects were also observed in other brain tissues and brain structures the researchers had selected for examination. These effects did not last beyond early adolescence.

Previous research has linked SSRI antidepressants to many adverse effects during pregnancy and after birth.

SSRIs taken during the embryonic stage of development in pregnancy increases the risk of certain birth defects.  Expectant mothers using SSRIs incur an increased risk of miscarriage, premature birth, and their newborns being admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit.

Tapering and discontinuation of SSRIs before and during the early phase of pregnancy was advised by researchers who studied the withdrawal symptoms experienced by newborns. The symptoms of neonatal withdrawal syndrome include hypoglycemia, tremors, rapid breathing, and respiratory distress in newborns.

SSRI-exposed infants were found to have more impaired neurological functioning over the month following birth than non-exposed infants, including significantly poorer quality of movement, more signs of central nervous system stress, and lower self-regulation.

Taking SSRIs during pregnancy increases the risk of speech/language problems in offspring and has been linked to developmental delays.  

More fundamentally, a landmark 2022 study questioned the prescribing of antidepressants at all, after finding the common reason for taking them – to correct a chemical imbalance in the brain – had no scientific basis. The study investigated whether evidence supported the theory that a low level of the brain chemical serotonin causes depression.

“The serotonin theory of depression has been one of the most influential and extensively researched biological theories of the origins of depression,” the researchers wrote. “Our study shows that this view is not supported by scientific evidence. It also calls into question the basis for the use of antidepressants.”

Women taking antidepressants who are, or are planning to become, pregnant are encouraged to discuss these risks with their physicians.

WARNING: Anyone wishing to discontinue or change the dose of an antidepressant or other psychiatric drug is cautioned to do so only under the supervision of a physician because of potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) continues to raise public awareness of the risks of serious side effects and withdrawal symptoms from antidepressants and other psychiatric drugs, so that consumers and their physicians can make fully informed decisions about starting or stopping the drugs.

CCHR also recommends a complete physical examination with lab tests, nutritional and allergy screenings, and a review of all current medications to identify any physical causes of depression or other unwanted mental and behavioral symptoms, which might otherwise be misdiagnosed and incorrectly treated as a psychiatric disorder.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights was co-founded in 1969 by members of the Church of Scientology and the late psychiatrist and humanitarian Thomas Szasz, M.D., recognized by many academics as modern psychiatry’s most authoritative critic, to eradicate abuses and restore human rights and dignity to the field of mental health. CCHR has been instrumental in obtaining 228 laws against psychiatric abuse and violations of human rights worldwide.

The CCHR National Affairs Office in Washington, DC, has advocated for mental health rights and protections at the state and federal level. The CCHR traveling exhibit, which has toured hundreds of major cities worldwide to educate people on the history to the present day of abusive and racist psychiatric practices, has been displayed at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Annual Legislative Conference in Washington, DC, and at other locations.

Anne Goedeke
Citizens Commission on Human Rights, National Affairs Office

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Foster Children Prescribed Psychiatric Drugs At Four Times the Rate of Non-Foster Children, New Study Finds

Previous government recommendations for improved oversight of psychotropics in foster care have not resolved the overdrugging problem.

NEWS PROVIDED BY

Citizens Commission on Human Rights, National Affairs Office

WASHINGTON, DC, August 24, 2023 — Despite government recommendations over more than a decade for more oversight of the psychotropic drugs given to foster children, a new study reveals that the powerful, mind-altering drugs are still disproportionately prescribed to these children as compared to non-foster youth.

Researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, reviewed the Medicaid prescription claims of 397,340 children ages 1 to 18 to investigate the rates of psychotropic drug prescriptions for foster children as compared to youth not in foster care. Psychotropic drugs include antidepressants, antipsychotics, stimulants (ADHD drugs), antianxiety drugs, and mood stabilizers.

They found that foster children were prescribed at least one psychotropic drug at four times the rate (35%) of non-foster children (8%).

“Across all age groups, children in foster care on Medicaid were prescribed psychotropic medications disproportionately more than their non-foster peers on Medicaid,” concluded lead author Rachael J. Keefe, MD, MPH, FAAP, a pediatrician and associate professor of pediatrics-public health, writing in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology.

The study comes at a time of renewed scrutiny of the amount of psychotropic drugs administered to children in the foster care system. These are children already traumatized by being removed from their homes, where they may have been abused or neglected. Giving them psychotropic drugs exposes them to the risk of having to also deal with drug side effects, some of the most serious of which are significant weight gain, uncontrollable restlessness (akathisia), uncontrollable muscle movements (tardive dyskinesia), heart problems, mania, violence, and suicidal thoughts and actions.

In April, a federal judge in Texas said he was appalled at “the massive amount of drugs that are given to these [foster] children” in psychiatric residential treatment facilities and expressed concern for the children’s safety. The judge was responding to a report on visits to 14 facilities housing foster children, which also showed a lack of proper monitoring of children taking the drugs.

Earlier this year, a federal class-action lawsuit was filed by several disability and civil rights organizations against the Maryland Department of Human Services and its Social Services Administration, alleging that up to 34% of Maryland foster children are prescribed psychotropic drugs, with over half of them prescribed more than one drug. The suit suggests that the drugs are being used on some children as a form of chemical restraint, according to a media report.

More than a decade ago, after an analysis of psychotropic drug use by Medicaid children in five states, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report in 2011 finding that foster children were prescribed psychotropic drugs at double to quadruple the rate of non-foster children. The GAO further found that hundreds of children were taking five or more psychotropic drugs, and thousands were prescribed doses higher than maximum levels recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The GAO recommended government guidance be provided to increase oversight and protections for these children.

A seminal series of articles in 2014 in the San Jose Mercury News brought national attention to the problem again, detailing the high rate of psychotropic prescriptions continuing for children in the California foster care system.

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) investigated claims for antipsychotics, a large class of psychotropic drugs, paid for by Medicaid, the health provider for most foster children. Its 2015 report included findings of too many drugs or wrong doses being prescribed and poor monitoring of the children taking the drugs. The OIG recommended enhanced government oversight and reviews of psychotropics prescribed to children.

The OIG issued another report three years later, revealing that one in three children in foster care receiving psychotropic drugs did not receive required treatment planning or medication monitoring. The OIG again recommended better government oversight of psychotropic prescriptions.

Now, the new Texas study shows that the overdrugging of foster children is still occurring. Government recommendations for improved oversight to date have not resolved the problem.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights urgently calls on state and federal governments to act to protect foster children from the massive overprescribing of psychotropic drugs and the physical and mental health risks the drugs carry.

WARNING: Anyone wishing to discontinue or change the dose of a psychiatric drug is cautioned to do so only under the supervision of a physician because of potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) continues to raise public awareness of the risks of serious side effects and withdrawal symptoms from antidepressants and other psychiatric drugs, so that consumers and their physicians can make fully informed decisions about starting or stopping the drugs. CCHR supports safe and science-based non-drug approaches to mental health.

CCHR also recommends a complete physical examination with lab tests, nutritional and allergy screenings, and a review of all current medications to identify any physical causes of depression or other unwanted mental and behavioral symptoms, which might otherwise be misdiagnosed and incorrectly treated as a psychiatric disorder.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights was co-founded in 1969 by members of the Church of Scientology and the late psychiatrist and humanitarian Thomas Szasz, M.D., recognized by many academics as modern psychiatry’s most authoritative critic, to eradicate abuses and restore human rights and dignity to the field of mental health. CCHR has been instrumental in obtaining 228 laws against psychiatric abuse and violations of human rights worldwide.

The CCHR National Affairs Office in Washington, DC, has advocated for mental health rights and protections at the state and federal level. The CCHR traveling exhibit, which has toured 441 major cities worldwide and educated over 800,000 people on the history to the present day of abusive and racist psychiatric practices, has been displayed at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Annual Legislative Conference in Washington, DC, and at other locations.

Anne Goedeke
Citizens Commission on Human Rights, National Affairs Office

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Antidepressants Increase Risk of Suicidal Behavior in Children and Young Adults, Don’t Reduce Risk in Adults, Study Says

Other recent research has found antidepressants double the risk of suicidal thoughts and actions in adults.

NEWS PROVIDED BY

Citizens Commission on Human Rights, National Affairs Office

WASHINGTON, DC, August 17, 2023 — A new study adds fresh evidence that treatment for depression with antidepressants increases the risk of suicidal behavior, including attempted and completed suicides, in children and young adults under age 25. The findings support previous studies that have also found a greater risk of suicidal thoughts and actions in young people taking antidepressants – drugs that are prescribed to reduce that risk.

“The present study finds similar results to prior observational research – that is, consistent evidence of an increased risk of suicidality during treatment with SSRIs in children and adolescents,” wrote lead author Tyra Lagerberg, at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, and the psychiatry department at Oxford University’s Warneford Hospital in the U.K. The study was published in Neuropsychopharmacology.

Lagerberg led a team of Swedish researchers who used medical and death registry records of roughly 162,000 depressed individuals from 2006-2018 to find the risk of suicidal behavior within 12 weeks after the patients either were or were not started on selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants following a diagnosis of depression. Overall, the study revealed an increased risk of suicidal behavior among the antidepressant users.

The greatest increase in risk was to youth 6 to 17 years of age, who were three times more likely to engage in suicidal behavior, followed by 18- to 24-year-olds, whose risk was doubled.

“Our results confirm that children and adolescents under age 25 are a high-risk group, in particular children aged under 18 years,” Lagerberg concluded.

While this study did not find an increased risk of suicidal behavior from antidepressants in older patients or patients who previously attempted suicide, it did find that taking the drugs did not reduce the risk for these groups.

The research confirms the validity of the stringent, black-box warning first required in 2004 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on antidepressant packaging to alert consumers and prescribers to the increased risk of suicidal thoughts and actions for children and adolescents. The action came after drug trials indicated that youth taking antidepressants were almost twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts as those receiving placebos. The warning was expanded in 2007 to include young adults through age 24.

Critics have since complained that the warning resulted in more suicides by youngsters not treated with antidepressants. However, researchers recently re-analyzed clinical trial data and concluded that the data demonstrated an increased risk of attempted and completed suicides among youth taking antidepressants and that the FDA’s warning is clearly justified.

Other recent research has found antidepressants double the risk of suicidal thoughts and actions in adults. A re-analysis of safety summaries submitted to the FDA for approval of antidepressants found that the rate of suicide attempts in drug trials was about 2.5 times higher in adults taking antidepressants as compared to those given placebos.

Another study found that when healthy adults with no signs of depression were given antidepressants, their risk of suicidality and violence doubled.

Antidepressants may be prescribed to prevent suicides, but a recent examination of coroner inquests in which the decedents used antidepressants revealed that about half of the deaths were determined to be suicides. One in eight of the deaths involved an overdose of antidepressants.

More fundamentally, a landmark 2022 study questioned the prescribing of antidepressants at all, after finding the common reason for taking them – to correct a chemical imbalance in the brain – had no scientific basis. The study investigated whether evidence supported the theory that a low level of the brain chemical serotonin causes depression.

“The serotonin theory of depression has been one of the most influential and extensively researched biological theories of the origins of depression,” the researchers wrote. “Our study shows that this view is not supported by scientific evidence. It also calls into question the basis for the use of antidepressants.”

WARNING: Anyone wishing to discontinue or change the dose of an antidepressant or other psychiatric drug is cautioned to do so only under the supervision of a physician because of potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) continues to raise public awareness of the risks of serious side effects and withdrawal symptoms from antidepressants and other psychiatric drugs, so that consumers and their physicians can make fully informed decisions about starting or stopping the drugs. CCHR supports safe and science-based non-drug approaches to mental health.

CCHR also recommends a complete physical examination with lab tests, nutritional and allergy screenings, and a review of all current medications to identify any physical causes of depression or other unwanted mental and behavioral symptoms, which might otherwise be misdiagnosed and incorrectly treated as a psychiatric disorder.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights was co-founded in 1969 by members of the Church of Scientology and the late psychiatrist and humanitarian Thomas Szasz, M.D., recognized by many academics as modern psychiatry’s most authoritative critic, to eradicate abuses and restore human rights and dignity to the field of mental health. CCHR has been instrumental in obtaining 228 laws against psychiatric abuse and violations of human rights worldwide.

The CCHR National Affairs Office in Washington, DC, has advocated for mental health rights and protections at the state and federal level. The CCHR traveling exhibit, which has toured 441 major cities worldwide and educated over 800,000 people on the history to the present day of abusive and racist psychiatric practices, has been displayed at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Annual Legislative Conference in Washington, DC, and at other locations.

Anne Goedeke
Citizens Commission on Human Rights, National Affairs Office

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No Clear Benefit, But Serious Side Effects Common for Older People Taking Antidepressants, Study Finds

Adverse effects from taking antidepressants are more common and serious for the elderly because they have more fragile health and take more medications.

NEWS PROVIDED BY

Citizens Commission on Human Rights, National Affairs Office

WASHINGTON, DC, August 9, 2023 — A new review of recent medical literature on antidepressant use by older people with depression revealed no clear evidence of benefit, while adverse effects were found to be especially common and problematic. Alternative treatments for depression were advised.

The review was conducted to provide an overview of studies from the past decade of the benefit and harms of treatment of older persons with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants. The studies under review comprised depressed patients aged 55 and older who were taking SSRI antidepressants in comparison to control groups receiving placebos.

As reported in Mental Health Science, the evidence indicated that antidepressants have little, if any, benefit over placebos in this age group. There was even less evidence of depression remission.

“The evidence of the benefits of antidepressants in the elderly was weak and alternative treatments are advised,” wrote study author Michael Hvidberg, Ph.D., of the psychology department at the University of York in the U.K.

In the U.S., 15.6 million Americans aged 60 and older are prescribed antidepressants –
that’s one of every five (19%), with one in four (24%) of them women.

Adverse effects from taking the drugs are common and more serious among the elderly because they have more fragile health, deal with more medical issues, and take more medications. “Treatment with antidepressants may lead to more [adverse events] due to polypharmacy and age-related physiological changes,” Hvidberg writes, advising other treatment instead of the drugs.

Side effects of taking antidepressants include weight gain, nausea, insomnia, agitation, emotional blunting, sexual dysfunction, and even deepening depression. Psychiatrist Peter Breggin, M.D., describes antidepressants as neurotoxic because they harm and disrupt the functions of the brain and can cause abnormal thinking and behaviors, including anxiety, aggressiveness, loss of judgment, impulsivity, and mania, which can lead to violence and suicide.

Discontinuing antidepressants can bring on withdrawal symptoms, including electric shock-like sensations (“brain zaps” and “body zaps”), muscle spasms and tremors, hallucinations, confusion, irritability, and mania. One study found that more than half (56%) of people attempting to come off antidepressants experience withdrawal symptoms, with nearly half (46%) of them describing those symptoms as severe.

The new study’s finding of no clear benefit to patients from antidepressants is consistent with the results of a 2022 study, which found no clinically significant difference in measures of depression symptoms between adults treated with antidepressants and those taking placebos, whether over a shorter or longer time frame and regardless of the depression severity of the study participants.

Because the drugs have no strong evidence of benefit to patients, but carry the risks of significant side effects, researchers in another recent study advised primary care physicians not to prescribe antidepressants to depressed patients initially, but instead to recommend alternative approaches for treatment.  Similar guidance was issued in 2021 by the London-based National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, the organization that develops standards for health care practices in England.

One alternative approach to depression that has been repeatedly validated as effective in research studies is exercise. The results of one new study found that even exercise below levels of physical activity commonly recommended in health guidelines resulted in significant antidepressant benefits for older adults.

More fundamentally, a landmark 2022 study questioned the prescribing of antidepressants at all, after finding the common reason for taking them – to correct a chemical imbalance in the brain – had no scientific basis.  The study investigated whether evidence supported the theory that a low level of the brain chemical serotonin causes depression.

“The serotonin theory of depression has been one of the most influential and extensively researched biological theories of the origins of depression,” the researchers wrote. “Our study shows that this view is not supported by scientific evidence. It also calls into question the basis for the use of antidepressants.”

WARNING: Anyone wishing to discontinue or change the dose of an antidepressant or other psychiatric drug is cautioned to do so only under the supervision of a physician because of potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) continues to raise public awareness of the risks of serious side effects and withdrawal symptoms from antidepressants and other psychiatric drugs, so that consumers and their physicians can make fully informed decisions about starting or stopping the drugs.

CCHR also recommends a complete physical examination with lab tests, nutritional and allergy screenings, and a review of all current medications to identify any physical causes of depression or other unwanted mental and behavioral symptoms, which might otherwise be misdiagnosed and incorrectly treated as a psychiatric disorder.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights was co-founded in 1969 by members of the Church of Scientology and the late psychiatrist and humanitarian Thomas Szasz, M.D., recognized by many academics as modern psychiatry’s most authoritative critic, to eradicate abuses and restore human rights and dignity to the field of mental health. CCHR has been instrumental in obtaining 228 laws against psychiatric abuse and violations of human rights worldwide.

The CCHR National Affairs Office in Washington, DC, has advocated for mental health rights and protections at the state and federal level. The CCHR traveling exhibit, which has toured 441 major cities worldwide and educated over 800,000 people on the history to the present day of abusive and racist psychiatric practices, has been displayed at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Annual Legislative Conference in Washington, DC, and at other locations.

Anne Goedeke
Citizens Commission on Human Rights, National Affairs Office

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Electroshock’s Serious Risks, Ineffectiveness Not Adequately Disclosed to Patients, Audit of Information Pamphlets Finds

Patients are not given enough information about the drawbacks of electroshock to give true informed consent for the procedure, researcher says.

NEWS PROVIDED BY

Citizens Commission on Human Rights, National Affairs Office

WASHINGTON, DC, August 3, 2023 — While a million people – mostly women and the elderly, but even young children – receive electroconvulsive therapy (ECT, or “electroshock”) each year, patients are not being given enough information about the serious risks and lack of effectiveness of the procedure to give true informed consent to receive it, according to professor of psychology John Read, Ph.D.

Writing in Psychology Today, Read reports on three audits of patient information leaflets about ECT in the U.K., which he conducted with colleagues over the past two years. They found that pertinent information about risks were omitted, such as the cardiovascular risks, the risk of death, the lack of evidence of long-term benefits, and the fact that it is not known how ECT is supposed to work. There is not even proof of any brain dysfunctions that ECT, by running strong electrical currents through brain tissue, could correct.

In some information pamphlets, the risk of memory loss was minimized, or effectiveness was asserted without mentioning that similar rates of recovery were achieved by people receiving sham (placebo) treatment.

“The minimisation of risks is not uncommon in ECT practice and research,” writes Read.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), electroshock can cause brain damage, cognitive impairment, permanent memory loss, prolonged or persistent seizures, worsening psychiatric symptoms, cardiovascular complications (including heart attacks), breathing complications and death.

Even psychiatrist Max Fink, considered “the grandfather of American ECT,” admitted that “the principal complications of ECT are death, brain damage, memory impairment and spontaneous seizures.”

ECT shoots up to 460 volts of electricity through brain tissue to induce a grand mal seizure that can last up to 30 minutes. A grand mal seizure is the most serious type of seizure, the kind usually caused by epilepsy. Emergency room doctors treat a grand mal seizure as a medical emergency. Psychiatrists performing the procedure call it “therapy.”

Read disputes any claim that electroshock is “highly effective,” writing that no proof of that exists.

“There have…been no placebo-controlled studies of ECT for depression since 1985, and all 11 studies prior to that date were very small, severely flawed and conducted on adults,” he pointed out in previous commentary, published in Brain and Behavior. “There have been no placebo-controlled studies on children or adolescents.” Despite that fact, statistics on electroshock usage in the U.S. for 2019 reveals ECT was administered to children 5 years of age or younger in at least four of 27 states reporting ECT use to Medicaid.

What’s more, there is no lasting benefit  to patients after a course of electroshock. “No studies have found any evidence that ECT is better than placebo beyond the end of treatment,” Read wrote for the MadInAmerica website.

Even the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires ECT machines to have signs next to them stating, “The long-term safety and effectiveness of ECT treatment has not been demonstrated,” Read observed.

Read reports he was recently an expert witness in a trial in which the jury found that Somatics, a manufacturer of machines for administering ECT, failed to adequately warn about the risks associated with its device. In settling a prior lawsuit, the company had already added the risk of “permanent memory loss and brain damage” to the list of adverse effects it is disclosing about its machine.

The failure of the ECT to reduce the risk of death by suicide is the finding of other recent research. One study found that the odds of patients committing suicide in the year after receiving ECT were not statistically different from the odds of those who did not receive it.

Another study revealed that patients are 44 times more likely to die from suicide in the two years following ECT treatment than those who did not get the procedure and twice as likely to die from any cause.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) advocates a total ban on ECT and continues to raise public awareness about the brain damage it causes. More than 133,000 people have signed the CCHR online petition to ban ECT.

CCHR recommends a complete physical examination with lab tests, nutritional and allergy screenings, and a review of all current medications to identify any physical causes of depression or other unwanted mental or behavioral symptoms, which might otherwise be misdiagnosed as a psychiatric disorder and incorrectly treated.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights was co-founded in 1969 by members of the Church of Scientology and the late psychiatrist and humanitarian Thomas Szasz, M.D., recognized by many academics as modern psychiatry’s most authoritative critic, to eradicate abuses and restore human rights and dignity to the field of mental health. CCHR has been instrumental in obtaining 228 laws against psychiatric abuse and violations of human rights worldwide.

The CCHR National Affairs Office in Washington, DC, has advocated for mental health rights and protections at the state and federal level. The CCHR traveling exhibit, which has toured 441 major cities worldwide and educated over 800,000 people on the history to the present day of abusive and racist psychiatric practices, has been displayed at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Annual Legislative Conference in Washington, DC, and at other locations.

Anne Goedeke
Citizens Commission on Human Rights, National Affairs Office

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Half of Depressed, Anxious Teens Recover Without Mental Health Treatment, Study Finds

Research indicates the resilience of adolescents is effective and can avoid the ineffectiveness, harms and costs of pharmacological and psychological treatments.

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Citizens Commission on Human Rights, National Affairs Office

WASHINGTON, DC, July 26, 2023 — A systematic review and meta-analysis on adolescents experiencing depression and/or anxiety reveals that half of them recovered on their own, without any mental health treatment.  Researchers say the result indicates that strengthening young people’s own resilience is key to their long-term mental health.

Noting that experiencing mental distress is common in the transition from adolescence to adulthood, a team of researchers reviewed previous studies to find the recovery rate of depressed and/or anxious adolescents who dealt with their teen angst without psychiatric drugs, psychotherapy, or other specific mental health treatment.  They found that within one year, half of depressed and/or anxious teens had recovered on their own.

“The findings suggest that after 1 year, about 54% of young people with symptoms of anxiety and/or depression recover without any specific mental health treatment,” according to the study’s lead author, Anna Roach, a PhD candidate at Queen Mary University of London.  Due to certain limitations of the study, the researchers suggest that the true rate of recovery is likely even higher. 

This result is an indication of teens’ ability to adapt and adjust to difficulties in life, “a sign of resilience, with young people bouncing back from their experience of distress,” the researchers wrote, reporting in the online peer-reviewed British medical journal, BMJ Open.

The high rate of recovery without involvement in the mental health system challenges the growing number of programs set up to screen and refer depressed or anxious teens to mental health practitioners for further evaluation and treatment.  As the researchers put it, “the question arises as to whether [teenagers] should routinely be considered for specialised treatments or whether one should wait with such decisions for a year, by which time about 54% are likely to have recovered without treatment.”

Instead of channeling young people into the mental health system, the study calls for new approaches to mental health care, noting also that psychiatric drugs and psychotherapy are both largely ineffective and costly.

Research on safe and effective alternative mental health treatment already exists.  For example, a 2023 study found that exercise is as effective in reducing symptoms of depression as antidepressant drugs or psychotherapy, regardless of the type or intensity of the exercise or whether done in a group or not.  Similarly, a 2020 study found exercise is effective in significantly reducing the symptoms of anxiety.

Many young people already avoid mental health treatment.  A recent study found that one in three depressed young adults preferred self-reliance instead of getting mental health treatment.  One in four cited concerns about being involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility or having to take psychiatric drugs, while one in seven did not think mental health treatment would help them.

The most widely prescribed psychiatric drugs in the U.S. are antidepressants.  A recent study, published in World Psychiatry, advises doctors not to prescribe antidepressants as first-line treatment for most depressed patients because the benefit of the drugs is so small that it may not be clinically significant, and the drugs carry the risk of significant side effects.  Instead, the researchers suggest prescribing non-drug approaches first for the patients.

Some 45 million Americans are currently taking one or more antidepressants, including 5.7 million children and young adults under the age of 25, for whom the FDA requires a warning on the drug’s prescribing information of the increased risk of suicidal thoughts and actions.

Other adverse effects of antidepressants include weight gain, nausea, insomnia, agitation, emotional blunting and sexual dysfunction.  One recent study found that half of antidepressant users experience sexual problems, which can strain their relationships and lead to a worsening of their depression.   

Doctors have no clear guidance for tapering or discontinuing antidepressants, leaving their patients at greater risk of experiencing withdrawal symptoms that for many will be severe and incapacitating. 

A recent study found that more than 56% of people who attempt to come off antidepressants experience withdrawal effects, with nearly half (46%) of them rating the symptoms as ‘severe.’”

More fundamentally, a landmark 2022 study questioned the prescribing of antidepressants at all, after finding the common reason for taking them – to correct a chemical imbalance in the brain – had no scientific basis.

“These studies all point to the desperate need for a drastic overhaul of the badly broken U.S. mental health system, which relies on the psychiatric drugs and practices that scientific research has found ineffective and harmful,” says Anne Goedeke, president of the National Affairs Office of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights.

WARNING: Anyone wishing to discontinue or change the dose of an antidepressant or other psychiatric drug is cautioned to do so only under the supervision of a physician because of potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

CCHR recommends a complete physical examination with lab tests, nutritional and allergy screenings, and a review of all current medications to identify any physical causes of depression, anxiety, or other unwanted mental and behavioral symptoms, which might otherwise be misdiagnosed and incorrectly treated as a psychiatric disorder.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights was co-founded in 1969 by members of the Church of Scientology and the late psychiatrist and humanitarian Thomas Szasz, M.D., recognized by many academics as modern psychiatry’s most authoritative critic, to eradicate abuses and restore human rights and dignity to the field of mental health.  CCHR has been instrumental in obtaining 228 laws against psychiatric abuse and violations of human rights worldwide.

The CCHR National Affairs Office in Washington, DC, has advocated for mental health rights and protections at the state and federal level.  The CCHR traveling exhibit, which has toured 441 major cities worldwide and educated over 800,000 people on the history to the present day of abusive and racist psychiatric practices, has been displayed at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Annual Legislative Conference in Washington, DC, and at other locations.

Anne Goedeke
Citizens Commission on Human Rights, National Affairs Office

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New Study Finds Troubling Mental and Physical Side Effects Are Main Reason Patients Stop Taking Antidepressants

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Citizens Commission on Human Rights, National Affairs Office

WASHINGTON, DC, July 19, 2023 — A new study investigating why patients stop taking antidepressants found the most common reason given was the adverse physical and mental side effects experienced. The findings add to prior research revealing the troubling, and even dangerous side effects of these mind-altering psychotropic drugs.

Researchers in the U.S. and U.K. analyzed 667 reviews posted on the online health forum WebMD by users of seven common selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants. The most common reason users gave for discontinuing antidepressants was the negative side effects they experienced.

Mental side effects were the adverse events most mentioned in the reviews, including apathy, anxiety, insomnia, loss of sexual drive, and suicidal ideation. These side effects were reported more often in the online posts than in the formal reporting systems set up by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.K. Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, leading the researchers to note that the online comments provide valuable, additional information for government drug regulatory agencies about the adverse effects of SSRIs.

“It is not merely feasible to collect data from online comments and reviews regarding SSRI medication changes, but…doing so can provide important supplementary information to reporting systems,” wrote lead author Su Golder, PhD, of the University of York in the U.K., reporting in JAMA Network Open.

Other top adverse events reported by SSRI users as reasons for discontinuing antidepressants were physical side effects, such as dizziness, drowsiness, headache, diarrhea, vomiting, weight gain, itchiness, excessive sweating, and sexual dysfunction.

“These results suggest that reasons for changes in SSRI use can be identified in online drug reviews and that adverse events mentioned may reflect those more salient to patients for discontinuing their medication,” according to Golder.

Though the study was intended to discover why SSRI users discontinue antidepressants so that ways to keep them on the drugs could be developed, the study provides additional evidence of the harm from the drugs that users contend with. Other recent research findings on the negative effects of antidepressants are much more disturbing.

A 2019 study indicated that the rate of attempted suicide was about 2.5 times higher in those taking antidepressants as compared to placebo. Those results were similar to a 2016 study that found antidepressants, given to healthy adult volunteers with no signs of depression, doubled their risk of suicidality and violence.

Antidepressant use has risen significantly over the past 15 years – and so have suicides and senseless acts of violence like mass shootings. In 2020, some 45 million Americans, or roughly one in seven, were taking antidepressants, up from 34 million in 2006. This 32% increase in users parallels the 35% increase in suicides in the U.S. over the same period. During the same time, many school shootings and other acts of senseless violence were committed by individuals taking antidepressants or in withdrawal from them.

A 2020 study found that half of antidepressant users experience sexual problems that can strain their relationships and lead to a worsening of their depression.  In a 2017 survey of antidepressant users, 44% of respondents reported the drugs negatively impacted their sex lives, 27% their ability to work or study, and 21% their relationships with friends or family.

For all the risk of serious side effects, recent research has found little, if any, benefit to antidepressants over placebos.  A 2022 study found no clinically significant difference in measures of depression symptoms between adults treated with antidepressants and those taking placebos, whether over a shorter or longer time frame and regardless of the depression severity of the study participants.

Another study in 2018 found that those who used antidepressants any time during the 30-year period of the study had an 81% greater chance of having more severe depression symptoms at the end of that time.

More fundamentally, a landmark 2022 study questioned the prescribing of antidepressants at all, after finding the common reason for taking them – to correct a supposed chemical imbalance in the brain – had no scientific basis. The study investigated whether evidence supported the theory that a low level of the brain chemical serotonin causes depression.

“The serotonin theory of depression has been one of the most influential and extensively researched biological theories of the origins of depression,” the researchers wrote. “Our study shows that this view is not supported by scientific evidence. It also calls into question the basis for the use of antidepressants.”

WARNING: Anyone wishing to discontinue or change the dose of an antidepressant or other psychiatric drug is cautioned to do so only under the supervision of a physician because of potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) continues to raise public awareness of the risks of serious side effects and withdrawal symptoms from antidepressants and other psychiatric drugs, so that consumers and their physicians can make fully informed decisions about starting or stopping the drugs.

CCHR also recommends a complete physical examination with lab tests, nutritional and allergy screenings, and a review of all current medications to identify any physical causes of depression or other unwanted mental and behavioral symptoms, which might otherwise be misdiagnosed and incorrectly treated as a psychiatric disorder.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights was co-founded in 1969 by members of the Church of Scientology and the late psychiatrist and humanitarian Thomas Szasz, M.D., recognized by many academics as modern psychiatry’s most authoritative critic, to eradicate abuses and restore human rights and dignity to the field of mental health. CCHR has been instrumental in obtaining 228 laws against psychiatric abuse and violations of human rights worldwide.

The CCHR National Affairs Office in Washington, DC, has advocated for mental health rights and protections at the state and federal level. The CCHR traveling exhibit, which has toured 441 major cities worldwide and educated over 800,000 people on the history to the present day of abusive and racist psychiatric practices, has been displayed at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Annual Legislative Conference in Washington, DC, and at other locations.

Anne Goedeke
Citizens Commission on Human Rights, National Affairs Office

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Study Adds to Research Showing Involuntary Psychiatric Hospitalization Does More Harm Than Good

NEWS PROVIDED BY

Citizens Commission on Human Rights, National Affairs Office

WASHINGTON, DC, July 13, 2023 — A new study has found that involuntary hospitalization for substance abuse treatment is not effective, adding to the growing body of research finding that forced behavioral health treatment does more harm than good and raising ethical questions about the use of coercion by the psychiatrists typically in charge of the treatment.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston investigated the outcomes of 22 patients involuntarily committed for substance abuse treatment after first coming to a hospital emergency room. The result was that after release, none of the patients stayed off their alcohol and/or drugs, and all of them ended up back in the emergency room within a year because of their substance misuse.

“One year following involuntary commitment, all patients had relapsed to substance use and had at least one emergency department visit,” wrote lead author John C. Messinger. Half reverted to substance abuse within two months after the start of their involuntary treatment.

“The study adds to a growing literature recognizing the harms of involuntary commitment for substance use disorder,” the researchers concluded.

Other research has found that forced hospitalization is also ineffective and harmful for mental health treatment. A study earlier this year found no benefit to patients’ mental health condition and no lower risk of death from nonconsensual mental health treatment.

This follows a 2020 study which found that psychiatric in-patients were actually more likely to attempt suicide after release if they were admitted and treated against their will as compared to those who were not.

The harm and lack of benefit from involuntary commitment for psychiatric treatment has resulted in some people avoiding mental health treatment. The U.S. 2011-2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealed that one in four depressed young adults cited their concern over being involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility or forced to take psychiatric drugs against their will as a reason not to seek mental health treatment.

The potential of involuntary psychiatric hospitalization and treatment doing more harm than good has led some medical professionals to argue that such acts violate the Hippocratic oath of “first do no harm” and should be abolished.

Among them is the co-founder of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), the late professor of psychiatry and humanitarian Thomas Szasz, M.D., who advocated an end to forced psychiatric treatment. Considered by many scholars and academics to be psychiatry’s most authoritative critic, Dr. Szasz wrote: “Increasing numbers of persons, both in the mental health professions and in public life, have come to acknowledge that involuntary psychiatric interventions are methods of social control. On both moral and practical grounds, I advocate the abolition of all involuntary psychiatry.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) has also taken a strong position against coercive mental health practices. In a series of guidelines issued in 2021, WHO stated that nonconsensual practices are used “despite the lack of evidence that they offer any benefits, and the significant evidence that they lead to physical and psychological harm and even death.”

The guidelines further state: “People subjected to coercive practices report feelings of dehumanization, disempowerment and being disrespected. Many experience it as a form of trauma or re-traumatization leading to a worsening of their condition and increased experiences of distress.”

WHO’s call for an end to involuntary mental health treatment extends even to those experiencing acute mental distress. The guidelines note that individuals in mental health crisis “are at a heightened risk of their human rights being violated, including through forced admissions and treatment.”

WHO challenged United Nations member nations, including the United States, to ensure that their mental health services are free from coercion, including forced drugging, the use of physical and chemical restraints and seclusion, electroshock without consent, and involuntary institutionalization.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights has been a global leader in the fight against the coercive and abusive use of involuntary commitments, seclusion and restraints, psychiatric drugs, and electroshock. In 1969, CCHR issued a Mental Health Declaration of Human Rights that laid out fundamental human rights in the field of mental health to ensure the right to one’s own mind and the right to be free from forced mental health treatment.

CCHR was co-founded in 1969 by members of the Church of Scientology and Dr. Szasz to eradicate abuses and restore human rights and dignity to the field of mental health. CCHR has been instrumental in obtaining 228 laws against psychiatric abuse and violations of human rights worldwide.

The CCHR National Affairs Office in Washington, DC, has advocated for mental health rights and protections at the state and federal level. The CCHR traveling exhibit, which has toured 441 major cities worldwide and educated over 800,000 people on the history to the present day of abusive and racist psychiatric practices, has been displayed at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Annual Legislative Conference in Washington, DC, and at other locations.

Anne Goedeke
Citizens Commission on Human Rights, National Affairs Office

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