World Health Organization Calls Involuntary Electroshock Treatment a Human Rights Abuse

New guidance from World Health Organization and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also calls for laws banning electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for children.

NEWS PROVIDED BY

Citizens Commission on Human Rights, National Affairs Office

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) have jointly issued new guidance that opposes the use of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT, or electroshock) on individuals who have not given their free and fully informed consent for the procedure. It also calls for the procedure to be prohibited for children. The new advisory is part of entities’ continuing advocacy for replacing coercive mental treatments with human rights-based mental health services.

Concerning electroshock, the new report, “Mental health, human rights and legislation: guidance and practice,” issued October 12, says “significant controversy surrounds the use of ECT and its associated risks,” noting that the procedure is now banned in Luxembourg and Slovenia and is declining in use in still other countries.

Electroconvulsive therapy is a procedure that sends a strong electrical current through brain tissue, causing convulsions, in an attempt to improve depression or other mental health conditions. It is not known how ECT is supposed to work. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has never required ECT treatment to be proven safe or effective.

For countries allowing it, including the United States, the WHO-OHCHR guidance says that ”ECT must only be administered with the written or documented, free and informed consent of the person concerned.” For the consent to be fully informed, WHO-OHCHR advises that “people being offered ECT should also be made aware of all its risks and potential short- and long-term harmful effects, such as memory loss and brain damage.”

Nonconsensual ECT may be considered a human rights abuse, according to the WHO-OHCHR publication. “International human rights standards clarify that ECT without consent violates the right to physical and mental integrity and may constitute torture and ill-treatment.”

The guidance opposes any use of ECT on children and calls for laws to be enacted to ban it: “ECT is not recommended for children, and this should be prohibited through legislation.” In the United States, reports filed at the state level on the use of ECT indicate that some children 5 years of age and younger are given electroshock.

According to the 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.”

“The minimisation of risks is not uncommon in ECT practice and research,” wrote professor of psychology John Read, Ph.D., after he and colleagues conducted three audits of patient information pamphlets about ECT. They found that pertinent information was omitted, including the lack of evidence of long-term benefits, the fact that it is not known how ECT is supposed to work, and that similar rates of effectiveness were achieved by people receiving sham (placebo) treatment. There is also no proof of any brain dysfunctions that ECT could correct, according to Read.

The 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.

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.

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Failure – The New Psychiatric Success

There is a whole psychological / psychiatric area of interest which we will call “The Embrace Failure” field.

The premise is that one should embrace failure to learn from it.

Unfortunately, this is the exact opposite of what one should be doing. It is typical of psychiatry and psychology that they emphasize what will make a person worse instead of better. This technique keeps a person as a patient in the mental health industry, instead of actually curing them so they return fully sane and functioning well into society.

In this universe whatever is validated becomes more prominent, more important, and more solid. This stems from the natural law that anything which a person believes is important is solid or big. The more important a person believes something to be, the more solid he is liable to make it.

Thus the psychiatric practice of putting one’s attention onto one’s failures grants those failures importance and solidity, causing them to hang around instead of vanish.

It is certainly OK to effectively address failures with workable techniques to take responsibility for them. However, the fact is that the psychiatric and psychological practice of embracing failures is not workable, grants them importance, and makes them more solid, instead of actually taking responsibility for them.

The correct practice is to bit by bit increase one’s Knowledge, Responsibility and Control over an area of life, ignoring the losses and making the wins firm, to discover more power and command of life.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights not only exposes human rights violations in the field of mental health, but actively works alongside individuals and groups the world over to bring about much needed reform. You can help by increasing your Knowledge about the psychiatric abuse of human rights, taking some Responsibility for carrying on this vital work, and thus bringing about more Control over psychiatric fraud and abuse. Here are a few things you can do:

1. Distribute CCHR documentary videos and publications.
2. Teach your associates the truth about the dangers of psychiatric drugs.
3. Report any psychiatric mental health abuse.
4. Participate online by joining our social media sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter).

5. Encourage your associates to subscribe to this newsletter.
6. Monitor and report on mental health legislation in your state legislature.
7. Donate to your local CCHR Chapter.

Let us know your area of interest and we will show you how to get started.

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World Health Organization Calls for End to Abusive Mental Health Practices It Says Are All Too Common

Report cites evidence indicates that involuntary mental health treatment is ineffective and can worsen an individual’s condition.

NEWS PROVIDED BY

Citizens Commission on Human Rights, National Affairs Office

WASHINGTON, DC, October 10, 2023 — In a joint call to action for World Mental Health Day, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) issued new guidance on ending human rights abuses and involuntary treatment in mental health services worldwide.

“Human rights abuses and coercive practices in mental health care, supported by existing legislation and policies, are still far too common,” their news release stated. “Involuntary hospitalization and treatment, unsanitary living conditions, and physical, psychological, and emotional abuse characterize many mental health services across the world.”

The United Nations-affiliated entities advise a complete overhaul of mental health systems by U.N. member countries, including the United States. “Our ambition must be to transform mental health services, not just in their reach, but in their underlying values, so that they are truly responsive to the needs and dignity of the individual.”

The WHO/OHCHR guidance points out the harm of non-consensual mental health treatment by worsening an individual’s condition. “A growing body of evidence sets out how coercive practices negatively impact physical and mental health, often compounding a person’s existing condition while alienating them from their support systems,” the report says.

In earlier guidance, issued in 2021, WHO stated that its opposition to involuntary mental health treatment extends to those experiencing acute mental distress. The report noted that individuals in mental health crisis “are at a heightened risk of their human rights being violated, including through forced admissions and treatment…. These practices have been shown to be harmful to people’s mental, emotional and physical health, sometimes leading to death.”

Recent research has indicated not only that forced hospitalization for mental health treatment did not benefit patients’ mental health condition or reduce their risk of suicide, but also increased the likelihood they would attempt suicide after release.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) has been a global leader in the fight to eliminate coercive and abusive mental health practices, including involuntary detention, seclusion, restraints, forced drugging, and electroshock.

CCHR has long pushed for widespread adoption of a Mental Health Declaration of Human Rights, which lays 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’s co-founder, the late professor of psychiatry and humanitarian Thomas Szasz, M.D., advocated an end to nonconsensual 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 Citizens Commission on Human Rights 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 hundreds of 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 major cities worldwide and educated 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.

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Antipsychotics Overprescribed to Seniors with Dementia in Home Health Care, Despite Serious Risks, Study Indicates

Antipsychotic use by elderly with dementia was also linked to worse outcomes in performing their activities of daily living after home health care ended.

NEWS PROVIDED BY

Citizens Commission on Human Rights, National Affairs Office

A new clinical study has found evidence that powerful antipsychotic drugs are overly prescribed to older persons with dementia who receive home health care, despite the serious risk to the elderly of pneumonia, stroke, and heart failure from the drugs. The study also linked antipsychotic use by seniors with dementia to worse outcomes in the performance of their activities of daily living after home health care ended, as compared to those who had not taken the drugs.

Researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York reviewed the medical records of 6,684 adults aged 65 and older who received home health care and found that those with Alzheimer’s or other dementias were more than twice as likely to be prescribed antipsychotics (17%) as those without dementia (7%). Seniors with behavioral problems associated with their dementia were more than five times as likely to be given antipsychotic drugs, apparently an off-label use of the drugs to sedate patients with agitation or aggression related to their dementia.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned about this use of antipsychotic drugs in the elderly because of the increased risk of death. “Controlled trials have revealed increased mortality resulting from this use, primarily resulting from deaths due to cardiovascular events and infectious disease,” the FDA says. “These products [antipsychotics] now bear a boxed warning noting the risks of using them to treat elderly patients with dementia.” A boxed warning is the FDA’s most serious type of warning.

The new study also found that after the home health care ended, elderly patients with dementia who had taken antipsychotics had less improvement in their functioning in activities of daily living than those who had not taken the drugs.

“[Home health care] patients living with [Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias] were more likely to use antipsychotics and to experience worse functional outcomes when using antipsychotics,” wrote lead author JinJiao Wang, PhD, RN, at the Elaine Hubbard Center for Nursing Research on Aging at the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York.

Wang and colleagues recommended increased efforts to improve patients’ access to, and caregivers’ awareness of, non-drug approaches for managing behavioral problems from dementia. The study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Earlier this year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced an investigation into whether elderly residents of nursing homes are being falsely reported as having schizophrenia so they can be inappropriately sedated with antipsychotic drugs.

A report last year by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Inspector General disclosed that from 2015 through 2019, the number of nursing home residents reported as having schizophrenia nearly tripled (194%).

“No nursing home resident should be improperly diagnosed with schizophrenia or given an inappropriate antipsychotic,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra earlier this year.

The new scrutiny by CMS into the prescribing of antipsychotics to the elderly is a welcome step towards ensuring quality care in a safe environment for this vulnerable population.

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

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ADHD Drugs Do Not Enhance Performance, Worsen Cognitive Ability in Some People, Study Indicates

High potential for abuse and overdose of prescription stimulants prompts U.S. Food and Drug Administration to research alternative treatments.

by CCHR National Affairs Office

Prescription stimulants commonly prescribed for behavior labeled attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are promoted as performance-enhancing drugs, but new research indicates that these “smart drugs” do not improve cognitive ability and can actually worsen cognitive function in some people. The results suggest that stimulant drugs do not actually make the users smarter.

Researchers from Australia and the U.K. set out to determine whether psychostimulants result in higher performance in the kind of problem-solving required in everyday life.  Study participants were scored after being given four minutes to fill a backpack by choosing among items with differing weights and values, so that the value of the items they fit in the backpack was maximized. The 40 participants, aged 18 to 35, were administered one of three psychostimulant drugs or a placebo before tackling the backpack problem twice on four occasions a week apart.

The researchers found that the stimulant drugs increased motivation and increased the time and effort needed to find a solution, but the steps taken in finding a solution became more random. Because participants were more erratic in their efforts when on the drugs, “a disturbing performance reversal” was observed, the researchers said, in which participants who scored above average when administered a placebo fell below average when given a stimulant drug. Ultimately, the drug-taking resulted in a significant decrease in the value of the items the participants placed in their backpacks.

“While drugs increase persistence, they appear to reduce the quality of effort,” concluded lead author Elizabeth Bowman, PhD, at the University of Melbourne, Australia. The study was published in the journal Science Advances.

The results of this study echo the findings of research last year that found no improvement in academic performance from taking prescription stimulants. “Although it has been believed for decades that medication effects on academic seatwork productivity and classroom behavior would translate into improved learning of new academic material, we found no such translation,” the researchers wrote in their published report on the study.

Prescriptions for stimulant drugs are near record highs in the U.S., having increased by 45% from 2012 to 2021, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Stimulant-type drugs prescribed for so-called ADHD include Ritalin, Concerta, Adderall and Vyvanse.

In a letter addressed to the American public in August, the FDA advised that “stimulants are controlled substances with a high potential for abuse, which can lead to addiction and overdose.” The FDA recently required updated warnings in the prescribing information for stimulant drugs “to clearly inform patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals of these risks.”

The FDA’s letter also references “widespread misuse” of stimulants. According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 1.8 million teens ages 12-17 and 4.3 million young adults ages 18-25 reported taking stimulant drugs in the past year. Among those users, 430,000 teens (24%, or one in four teen users) and 1.95 million young adults (45%, or nearly half of young adult users) reported misuse of their prescription stimulants.

Statistics from the National Poison Data System from January 2018 to September 2020 show that the number of cases of self-harm (including suicide attempts) using stimulants averaged 213 a month for teenagers aged 13-19 and 71 a month for young adults aged 20-29.

Overdose deaths from stimulant drugs have risen sharply in recent years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that in 2021, nearly 33,000 people died from an overdose involving psychostimulants, which was a 37% increase from the previous year. Psychostimulants include both prescription drugs, like ADHD drugs, and illegal drugs, such as methamphetamine and ecstasy. Over 30% of all drug overdose deaths in 2021 involved psychostimulants. This increase is occurring in the context of a national overdose crisis, in which stimulants are increasingly involved, according to the CDC.

In response to the misuse, self-harm, and overdose problems with prescription stimulants, the FDA awarded a grant to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to research and reconsider the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD. The research is expected to be used in developing alternatives to prescription stimulants as treatment. “FDA has already taken steps to support the development of alternative treatment options,” its letter to the American public said.

Additionally, the FDA and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a joint press release earlier this year, warning the public that online pharmacies were illegally selling the stimulant Adderall without a prescription and that the drugs “may be counterfeit, contaminated, expired or otherwise harmful.”

Serious side effects of stimulant drugs requiring emergency treatment include fast heart rate, fast breathing, increased blood pressure, restlessness, tremors, loss of coordination, nausea and vomiting, aggressive behavior, panic, confusion, and hallucinations. Stimulants are also linked to stunted growth in children.

Some 9.6 million Americans are prescribed stimulant drugs for behavior that is far too easily labeled ADHD. The late psychologist Keith Conners conducted the first formal trials on the now-widely prescribed ADHD stimulant methylphenidate, commonly sold under the brand names Ritalin and Concerta. He later realized that ADHD diagnoses were out of control and called ADHD misdiagnoses “a national disaster of dangerous proportions.”

One in three Americans taking ADHD drugs is under the age of 18, but concerns have been raised over prescribing stimulants to children after recent research has shown the drugs may do more harm than good.

A recent study found no convincing evidence of any long-term benefit to children from treatment with stimulant drugs for behavior labeled ADHD.  Another study found that a diagnosis of ADHD does not lead to any improvement in teens’ quality of life compared to teens not diagnosed with ADHD, but is associated with lower self-esteem, worse social behavior, and a significantly increased risk of self-harm. The negative outcomes were greatest in those adolescents who were diagnosed with ADHD earliest (6-7 years of age).

The ADHD drug methylphenidate has been linked to depression in children and teens. In one study, children started on methylphenidate were 18 times more likely to experience depression than before starting, and when the drug was discontinued, the higher risk dropped back to starting levels.  In another study, children who were first prescribed methylphenidate between the ages of 6 and 8 and continued to take the drugs had a 50% higher risk of being prescribed antidepressants for depression during their teen years.

The National Affairs Office of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights urges the FDA to take stronger action to protect Americans, and especially children and teens, from the risks of abuse, addiction, overdose, and other serious harms now linked to prescription stimulants.

CCHR continues to raise public awareness of the serious side effects and withdrawal symptoms from psychostimulants and other psychiatric drugs, as well as the research questioning the effectiveness of the drugs, so 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 ADHD drug or any other psychiatric drug is cautioned to do so only under the supervision of a physician because of potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

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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.

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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.

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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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