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Psychiatric Medications Kill More Americans than Heroin

Posted January 5, 2016 in Behavioral Health, Roundtable Discussion by Kenneth Anderson 

In this well researched article, Kenneth Anderson cites numerous studies that point out the dangers of psychiatric medications.  Based on his research, he concludes the following:

"When prescribed appropriately, psychiatric medications are lifesaving, life changing wonder drugs. However, when over-prescribed or inappropriately prescribed they can lead to great harm and even death. What is needed is a major curtailment of polypharmacy, off-label prescribing, and non-specialist prescribing. The use of psychiatric drugs needs to be reduced to a mere fraction of current use rates and needs to be replaced or supplemented with appropriate psychosocial interventions which include not only therapy but such basics as housing, food security, and education. Money needs to be invested in social change rather than pill popping if we wish to create a healthy nation.

Would we say that just because insulin is good for diabetics that everyone should take it? No, that is nonsense because it would destroy a normal metabolism. Yet this is exactly the approach we are taking with psychiatric medications thanks to the misinformation that Big Pharma feeds to doctors and the general public in order to increase their sales and line their pockets"Today, we know that schizophrenia can affect how a person thinks, manages their emotions, makes decisions, and relates to other people. For many, managing the symptoms of schizophrenia requires a range of treatments along with the support of a caregiver and treatment team."

Warning:  Taking Two or More Psychiatric Medications Is Dangerous

Scientific Evidence Shows that Many Mentally Ill Patients Are at Risk of Harm, and Death 

The practice of psychiatric polypharmacy is defined as prescribing two or more medications, in the same class, to a patient being treated for mental illness. This practice has increased in recent years, even though the dangerous risks far outweigh the benefits.

Kevin Pho, MD, an American physician of internal medicine, and founder/editor, a website visited by medical professionals states this: Polypharmacy has never been, and will never be, systematically studied in controlled clinical trials. It is impossibly impractical to do studies comparing multiple drug regimen, because these would require too many cells and too big a sample size to test all the possible permutations. The result: Polypharmacy is rarely ever evidence-based, almost always a shot in the dark. 

Essentially the Food and Drug Administration, FDA, has not established the safety and effectiveness of various combinations of psychiatric medications, and therefore by its charter, has not approved it, yet permits the practice to continue. 

A recent study was conducted to determine the effects of combining medications in the treatment of schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. The results are alarming. The study, published in the Bulletin of Clinical Psychopharmacology in 2014, found that prescribing two or more psychiatric medications at once confers significant risk.

The researchers found that 38.6% of the patients were at moderate risk for increases in anticholinergic side effects, such as dry mouth, bowel obstruction, blurred vision, impaired concentration, attention deficit, and memory impairment. Nearly a quarter were at higher risk of central nervous system and respiratory depression. And nearly 60% were at higher risk of heart problems due to QT interval prolongation. Other cardiovascular, blood drug level and neurotoxicity risks were also identified.

This study supports experts and researchers agreement that the concurrent use of multiple psychiatric drugs increases the likelihood of unanticipated adverse effects, including death, and helps explain the reason why mentally ill patients, taking multiple psychiatric medications die much younger (10-20 years) than the general population. 

Unfortunately, our family experienced the deadly effects of polypharmacy, first hand. Our son, Mark, died at the young age of 46 and the cause of death, according to the autopsy, was toxicity from the medications he was taking, and prescribed by his psychiatrist. 

He was treated as an outpatient at a near-by clinic for over four years, up until the time of his death, and was prescribed a lethal mixture of five psychiatric medications, at increasing dosage levels throughout his treatment. The treating psychiatrist completely ignored the warnings of the dangerous side effects of these medications, including sudden death. 

These precautionary, physician messages were clear and succinct, warning that the medications she was prescribing separately, and in combination, could cause toxicity, dilated cardiomyopathy, heart arrhythmia, coma, and sudden death. The warnings appeared on the black box labels of the medications, and were included in special warnings issued by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). 

The psychiatrist never monitored his heart with an ECG or EKG; and never checked for signs and symptoms of known side effects, even though there were published recommendations to do so. And inexplicably, the psychiatrist never warned him, or us, about these dangerous warning signs, including FDA published warnings.

Mark lived at home with us, and suffered schizoaffective disorder. He was a wonderful person and a great son; he was the perfect patient. He never smoked, drank alcohol, took street drugs.  He made all his appointments and took his medications, following his psychiatrist's instructions, almost to the letter, and yet he died. 

Many patients and caregivers, like us, are unaware of the dangerous side effects of mixing two or more psychiatric medications. Being informed and aware is important in guarding against the dangerous side effects of psychiatric polypharmacy.  However, no one should attempt to withdrawal from psychiatric drugs (Antidepressants, Antipsychotics, Anti-anxiety drugs and ADHD drugs) without a doctor's supervision.

Instead, patients and care givers should discuss the issue of polypharmacy with the treating psychiatrist. Together, they should ensure that periodic health exams are scheduled and completed, such as heart monitoring, drug concentration measurements, levier enzyme testing and other appropriate tests when multiple medications with known, dangerous side effects are being prescribed. 

Also, when someone has a mental health condition, support from the family can make a big difference, according to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI). They can help with therapy, ask important questions about treatment/medications, and insure the patient is receiving proper physical health monitoring. 

And lastly, if there is any doubt about the effectiveness of treatment, it is a good idea to get a second opinion. Many university hospitals, like Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, offer such opinions through comprehensive evaluations, either as an outpatient or inpatient. Most psychiatrists welcome a second opinion.  If your physician does not, you should search for another one. 

The practice of psychiatric polypharmacy has proven to be a threat to the health and safety of the mentally ill, and has been ignored for too long. It is now time for patients, and their care givers, to become more involved to guard against the dangers of this practice.

Early Intervention Is Key:

Magnetic SeizureTherapySafe and Effective for Treatment-Resistant Schizophrenia 

What Are Some of the Symptoms of Schizophrenia?

The symptoms of schizophrenia vary and may be disruptive or, in some cases, hard to notice. Just as there isn't a single lab or brain imaging test for schizophrenia, a single symptom can't be used to diagnose this condition. That's why healthcare providers must look at a number of signs and symptoms before making a diagnosis, including:

Positive symptoms
The positive symptoms of schizophrenia are associated with "losing touch" with reality. These symptoms may include:

Seeing, hearing, or even feeling things that no one else can
Beliefs in something even after it's proven to be false
Disorganized thinking, such as trouble organizing thoughts or connecting them logically
Involuntary movements or the lack of movement altogether
Negative symptoms
Negative symptoms may mean a disruption in normal everyday emotions and behaviors. These symptoms can sometimes be mistaken for depression or other conditions and may include:

Behavior where the person's face or voice does not move or show emotion
A lack of feeling pleasure in everyday life
An inability to take part in or to stick with planned activities
Talking only a little, even when asked to talk
Associated symptoms
These symptoms may be subtle compared to the positive symptoms mentioned above. They may include:

Difficulty with memory or paying attention
Difficulty understanding information to make decisions
Smiling or laughing for no appropriate reason
Depressed mood (loss of interest)
Lack of interest in food (refusing to eat)
Disturbed sleeping patterns
What is Bipolar Disorder?

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder, formerly called manic depression, is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression).

When you become depressed, you may feel sad or hopeless and lose interest or pleasure in most activities. When your mood shifts to mania or hypomania (less extreme than mania), you may feel euphoric, full of energy or unusually irritable. These mood swings can affect sleep, energy, activity, judgment, behavior and the ability to think clearly.

Episodes of mood swings may occur rarely or multiple times a year. While most people will experience some emotional symptoms between episodes, some may not experience any.

Although bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition, you can manage your mood swings and other symptoms by following a treatment plan. In most cases, bipolar disorder is treated with medications and psychological counseling (psychotherapy).

There are several types of bipolar and related disorders. They may include mania or hypomania and depression. Symptoms can cause unpredictable changes in mood and behavior, resulting in significant distress and difficulty in life.

Bipolar I disorder. You've had at least one manic episode that may be preceded or followed by hypomanic or major depressive episodes. In some cases, mania may trigger a break from reality (psychosis).
Bipolar II disorder. You've had at least one major depressive episode and at least one hypomanic episode, but you've never had a manic episode.
Cyclothymic disorder. You've had at least two years — or one year in children and teenagers — of many periods of hypomania symptoms and periods of depressive symptoms (though less severe than major depression).
Other types. These include, for example, bipolar and related disorders induced by certain drugs or alcohol or due to a medical condition, such as Cushing's disease, multiple sclerosis or stroke.
Bipolar II disorder is not a milder form of bipolar I disorder, but a separate diagnosis. While the manic episodes of bipolar I disorder can be severe and dangerous, individuals with bipolar II disorder can be depressed for longer periods, which can cause significant impairment.

Although bipolar disorder can occur at any age, typically it's diagnosed in the teenage years or early 20s. Symptoms can vary from person to person, and symptoms may vary over time.

Mania and hypomania
Mania and hypomania are two distinct types of episodes, but they have the same symptoms. Mania is more severe than hypomania and causes more noticeable problems at work, school and social activities, as well as relationship difficulties. Mania may also trigger a break from reality (psychosis) and require hospitalization.

Both a manic and a hypomanic episode include three or more of these symptoms:

Abnormally upbeat, jumpy or wired
Increased activity, energy or agitation
Exaggerated sense of well-being and self-confidence (euphoria)
Decreased need for sleep
Unusual talkativeness
Racing thoughts
Poor decision-making — for example, going on buying sprees, taking sexual risks or making foolish investments
Major depressive episode
A major depressive episode includes symptoms that are severe enough to cause noticeable difficulty in day-to-day activities, such as work, school, social activities or relationships. An episode includes five or more of these symptoms:

Depressed mood, such as feeling sad, empty, hopeless or tearful (in children and teens, depressed mood can appear as irritability)
Marked loss of interest or feeling no pleasure in all — or almost all — activities
Significant weight loss when not dieting, weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite (in children, failure to gain weight as expected can be a sign of depression)
Either insomnia or sleeping too much
Either restlessness or slowed behavior
Fatigue or loss of energy
Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
Decreased ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness
Thinking about, planning or attempting suicide
Other features of bipolar disorder
Signs and symptoms of bipolar I and bipolar II disorders may include other features, such as anxious distress, melancholy, psychosis or others. The timing of symptoms may include diagnostic labels such as mixed or rapid cycling. In addition, bipolar symptoms may occur during pregnancy or change with the seasons.

Symptoms in children and teens
Symptoms of bipolar disorder can be difficult to identify in children and teens. It's often hard to tell whether these are normal ups and downs, the results of stress or trauma, or signs of a mental health problem other than bipolar disorder.

Children and teens may have distinct major depressive or manic or hypomanic episodes, but the pattern can vary from that of adults with bipolar disorder. And moods can rapidly shift during episodes. Some children may have periods without mood symptoms between episodes.

The most prominent signs of bipolar disorder in children and teenagers may include severe mood swings that are different from their usual mood swings.

Despite the mood extremes, people with bipolar disorder often don't recognize how much their emotional instability disrupts their lives and the lives of their loved ones and don't get the treatment they need.

And if you're like some people with bipolar disorder, you may enjoy the feelings of euphoria and cycles of being more productive. However, this euphoria is always followed by an emotional crash that can leave you depressed, worn out — and perhaps in financial, legal or relationship trouble.

If you have any symptoms of depression or mania, see your doctor or mental health professional. Bipolar disorder doesn't get better on its own. Getting treatment from a mental health professional with experience in bipolar disorder can help you get your symptoms under control.

When to get emergency help
Suicidal thoughts and behavior are common among people with bipolar disorder. If you have thoughts of hurting yourself, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately, go to an emergency room, or confide in a trusted relative or friend. Or call a suicide hotline number — in the United States, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).

If you have a loved one who is in danger of suicide or has made a suicide attempt, make sure someone stays with that person. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Or, if you think you can do so safely, take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room.