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The Dark Side of Psychiatric Drugs

May 1, 1994 | USA TODAY Thorazine, Haldol, and other medication prescribed by psychiatrists can destroy the lives of people who take them.

VIRTUALLY ALL persons who go to psychiatrists are put on one or more drugs. However, psychiatric drugs, which are unpredictable and extremely deadly, do not cure anything, and instead destroy the life of the person who takes them.

The most dangerous of these are major tranquilizers, also known as neuroleptic (nerve-seizing) drugs or anti-psychotics. Of the more than two dozen in this class, introduced in the mid 1950s, the most commonly used are Haldol (haloperidol), Compazine (prochlorperazine), Thorazine (chlorpromazine), Navane (thiothixene), Prolixin (fluphenazine), Mellaril (thioridazine), and Trilafon (perphenazine).

Their purpose is to create "maximum behavioral disruption"--a goal clearly reflected in 1950 tests conducted with rats on Thorazine. Through chemicals, psychiatrists sought to sabotage thought processes and thereby deny the person control of his own body.

At the time the major tranquilizers were introduced, the lobotomy was touted highly and widely used by psychiatrists. With the procedure, the shredded brain was damaged forever, generating objections from family and friends of the patient.

The major tranquilizers were able to create a zombie state, identical to that seen after a lobotomy, in a person whose brain remained intact. For this reason, Thorazine became known as a "chemical lobotomy."

"[On Thorazine] my thoughts spun and never got too far. My hands were rubber and I could hardly hold a fork," said one patient who had been put on the drug by a psychiatrist. "After six weeks. I felt like my mind had been put through a meat grinder. No longer could I think clearly; no longer could I speak articulately; no longer could I act confidently."

Another stated that, after a week on Haldol, "I was unable to speak. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't say anything out loud and spoke only with the greatest difficulty. It was as if my whole body was succumbing to a lethal poison."

The horrifying mental upheaval and devastation this lobotomizing effect causes was precisely what appealed to psychiatrists. These chemicals would enable people to be warehoused with the least "inconvenience" to psychiatrists and staffs of psychiatric institutions.

Today, these drugs are being used against the elderly in enormous quantities to straitjacket them chemically. By 1985, the National Disease and Therapeutic Index reported that, while adults 60 years and older made up 11% of the population, they used more than one- third of all antipsychotic drugs. A study of 2,000 pharmacies in 1986 showed that 60.5% of prescriptions for nursing home residents over 65 years of age were for major tranquilizers and 17.1% for minor versions.

A Harvard Medical School study of 55 Boston-area rest homes published in the Jan. 26, 1989, issue of The New England Journal of Medicine reported that 55% of the 1,201 nursing home residents it surveyed took at least one psychiatric drug with 39% being given anti-psychotics.

These are not prescribed to "treat" any condition. They are administered solely to turn the patient into a zombie incapable of complaining or presenting problems to staff Concerning their use on the elderly, Jerome Avorn, director of the program for the Analysis of Clinical Strategies at Harvard, pointed out, "Drugs do work. They do quiet them down. So does a lead pipe to the head."

Larry Hodge, administrator at the Life Care Center in Tennessee, described the impact on the elderly of these drugs: "Too often they were so zonked out during their meals that their heads were in the mashed potatoes."

Wilda Henry told The Arizona Republic that her 83-year-old mother became "a vegetable" five weeks after taking Haldol. This powerful mind-altering chemical, which the Soviet Union used for years to control dissidents, left her mother babbling, drooling, shaking, and unable to control her bowel functions.

Anise Debose of Washington, D.C., said her 76-year-old father entered a nursing home active, laughing, and talking. Four days later, after taking Mellaril and four other drugs, "He was restrained to a chair as rigid as a board when I saw him. His head was thrown back and his mouth was limply hanging down. Both eyes were closed. The impression all of us had was that he was dead."

In 1989, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Aging reported that, while those over 60 years of age make up 17% of the population, they accounted for more than half the fatalities resulting from drug reactions. Acording to the American Hospital Association, of the 10,800,000 elderly admitted to hospitals each year, 1,900,000 are due to drug reactions. Four percent of those cases, an estimated 76,000 elderly a year, die. This annual death rate far exceeds the 58,021 Americans who lost their lives during the Vietnam War. An average of more than 200 elderly Americans die each day from drug reactions.

"People don't just die of old age," Theodore Leiff, professor of gerontology, Eastern Virginia University School of Medicine, points out. "Their deaths are caused by something." As case after case demonstrates, they are being killed behind the locked doors of nursing homes by lazy, incompetent, or criminal psychiatric staffs who use deadly drugs to quash complaints before they ever are voiced.

Creating insanity

These chemicals, capable of throwing the minds of users into chaos, have a long and well-documented history of creating insanity in persons who take them. In 1956, two years after the introduction of Thorazine, researchers reported that the drug caused psychosis, hallucinations, and increased anxiety. They speculated that this drug-induced insanity arose from the chemically straitjacketing effect of the drug.

In 1961, researchers reported the case of a 27-year-old man who was given Thorazine, after which he "complained of 'feeling like an empty shell, floating around in the air,'" and said that he heard voices coming "from two small men standing on his chest." The researchers concluded that Thorazine was the cause of the man's "toxic psychosis."

Yet another paper, published in The American Journal of Psychiatry in 1964, found that major tranquilizers can "produce an acute psychotic reaction in an individual not previously psychotic." A 1975 paper described a negative effect called akathisia, a drug-induced inability to sit still comfortably.

Researcher Theodore Van Putten reported that nearly half of the 110 persons in the study had experienced akathisia. "[One woman] started to bang her head against the wall three days after an injection of [a major tranquilizer]. Her only utterance was: 'I just want to get rid of this whole body."' A woman who had been given these drugs for five days experienced "an upsurge in hallucinations, screaming, even more bizarre thinking, aggressive and also self-destructive outbursts, and agitated pacing or dancing." A third woman stated that, while on the tranquilizer, she felt hostile and hated everybody, and heard voices taunting her. Others complained of an "abject fear or terror" that was difficult for them to explain.

Such drug-induced symptoms are far worse than any underlying problems a person might have. Even more damning is the evidence that the damage caused by these drugs can be permanent.

Many types of psychiatric drugs, including the major tranquilizers, can cause lasting, grotesquely disfiguring nerve damage known as tardive dyskinesia or tardive dystonia. The muscles of the face and body contort and spasm involuntarily, drawing the face into hideous scowls and grimaces and twisting the body into bizarre contortions. These horrifying effects occur in more than 20% of persons "treated" with major tranquilizers and currently affect 400,000-1,000,000 Americans.

Psychiatrists theorize that these drugs damage the muscle-control portion of the brain in a way that makes it permanently "supersensitive" to messages passing down nerve pathways into the brain. The result is that this portion of the brain becomes permanently deranged. While the precise location of this brain damage is not known with certainty, there is no question that it exists. It is clearly visible in the faces of its tragic victims.

In the same way that major tranquilizers can throw the muscle-control portion of the brain into chaos, they also can make the thought-control area of the brain supersensitive, driving the person permanently insane. A 1980 study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry described 10 patients who suffered from this condition, which has been labeled "supersensitivity psychosis."

In the first stage, the individual becomes psychotic for a few days immediately after he or she stops taking the drugs. In the second, the insanity that emerges upon withdrawal from the psychiatric drug is persistent and may be irreversible. In the third stage, the psychosis is evident even while the patient is taking the psychiatric drugs. The study notes that, when this stage is reached, "in most cases" the person is doomed to be insane for life. This condition has created thousands of tortured victims, permanently destroyed, cast out of mental institutions to forage in garbage cans while wrestling with inner terrors implanted in their minds by psychiatric drugs.

There also is evidence that these psychiatric drugs can cause people to become violent. A Canadian research team that studied the effects of psychiatric drugs on prisoners found that "violent, aggressive incidents occurred significantly more frequently in inmates who were on psychotropic [psychiatric or mind-altering] medication than when these inmates were not...." Inmates on major tranquilizers were shown to be more than twice as violent as they were when not taking psychiatric drugs. The researchers attributed the marked increase in violence to akathisia.

The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that, four days after a patient started taking Haldol, "he became uncontrollably agitated, could not sit still, and paced for several hours." After complaining of "a jumpy feeling inside, and violent urges to assault anyone near him," the man attacked and tried to kill his dog. The researcher noted the irony that the chemical could cause violence, "a behavior the drug was meant to alleviate."

Killers on psychiatric drugs

Another article published in the American Journal of Forensic Psychiatry described five cases of extreme acts of physical violence caused by Haldol. In the first, a 23-year-old male with a history of developing severe symptoms of akathisia after being given Haldol was injected with the drug in the admissions room of a psychiatric unit.

After the injection, the man escaped, ran to a park, disrobed, and tried to rape a woman. "When pulled off by the husband, he proceeded down the street, broke down the front door of a house where an 81-yearold lady was sleeping. He severely beat her with his fists, 'to a pulp,' by his own description, following which he found knives and stabbed her repeatedly, resulting in her death." He then ran into another woman who was with her child and "repeatedly stabbed the woman in front of the child, where upon he moved on to he next person he encountered, a woman whom he severely assaulted and stabbed to the extent that an eye was lost and an opening into the anus was created resulting in major surgery."

The report describes four other cases of violence attributed to akathisia caused by Haldol. One was a suicide. Another was a suicide attempt in which a man stabbed himself repeatedly and later remarked that "he could never even feel the knife when stabbing himself." The third was a man who beat his mother to death with a hammer.

In the fourth case, a man "had been receiving Haldol as an outpatient for approximately four months and described how progressively his head was rushing, that he felt speeded up, that he was in great pain in his head and had an impulse to stab someone to try to get rid of the pain. He went to the nearby grocery store he frequented on a regular basis and impulsively and repeatedly stabbed the grocer whom he had known for some time."

Many similar acts of violence have been linked with these psychiatric drugs. One example is the 1989 case of David Peterson, who walked out of a mental institution in Middletown, Conn., bought a hunting knife, and then stabbed a nine-year-old girl 34 times, killing her. Peterson said he killed the girl to get back at his psychiatrist for not changing the drug he was being given, a major tranquilizer, that was causing him "pain."

In 1987, Kathleen Gannon, of Tempe, Ariz., stabbed her mother to death with garden shears and beat her-father to death with the butt of a rifle. According to a source who examined her, Gannon believed that, when her parents were dead, "she would then somehow become a normal person." The day before Gannon murdered her parents, she was injected with a major tranquilizer and given a prescription for the same drug in pill form.

In 1988, Charles Knowles killed two Detroit police officers before he was shot to death in a siege of his apartment. Knowles had been subjected to psychiatric drugs, including Haldol, and other procedures over a period of 19 years. His family and friends described him as not a violent person, and Michigan State Mental Health Director Thomas Watkins confirmed that Knowles had "no real history of acts of violence" prior to his psychiatric treatment.

Minor tranquilizers, or anti-anxiety agents--the most widely used class of psychiatric drugs--also have been shown to create violence. Included in this category are Xanax, Halcion, Valium, Ativan, Restoril, Tranxene, Librium, Miltown, Equanil, Atarax, Vistaril, and Dalmane.

The Canadian team that researched the connection between aggression and psychiatric drugs in a prison population stated that, of all classes, "anti-anxiety agents appeared to be most implicated, with 3.6 times as many acts of aggression occurring when inmates were on these drugs. " They maintained: "Considering that certainly not all aggressive personalities are in prison, that frustrations also abound in society and that diazepam [Valium] is the most prescribed drug in the U.S. with chlordiazepoxide [Librium] third, the implications of the combination of anti-anxiety agents and aggressiveness are astounding."

In 1970, a textbook on the side effects of psychiatric drugs already had pointed out their potential for violence. "Indeed, even acts of violence such as murder and suicide have been attributed to the rage reactions induced by chlordiazepoxide and diazepa." On March 30,1981, 11 years after this was published and six years after the Canadian study, John Hinckley, Jr., attempted to assassinate Pres. Ronald Reagan in the midst of a Valium-induced rage.

Since the Canadian study was published, Valium has been replaced by Xanax, another minor tranquilizer, as the most widely prescribed psychiatric drug. Yet, Xanax is as deadly, if not more so, than Valium.

According to a 1984 study, "Extreme anger and hostile behavior emerged from eight of the first 80 patients we treated with alprazolam [Xanax]. The responses consisted of physical assaults by two patients, behavior potentially dangerous to others by two more, and verbal outbursts by the remaining four." A woman who had no history of violence before taking Xanax "erupted with screams on the fourth day of alprazolam treatment, and held a steak knive to her mother's throat for a few minutes."

James Wilson had been taking Xanax before he entered the Oakland Elementary School in Greenwood, S.C., on Sept. 26, 1988. He shot and killed two eight-year-old girls and wounded seven other children and two teachers.

Another widely prescribed category of psychiatric drugs consists of antidepressants, the most common being Prozac, Pamelor, Elavil, Tofranil, Adapin, Sinequan, and Desyrel. Of these, the largest sub-group is the tricyclics, so named because three circular rings are present in their molecular structure.

In 1986, a study linked increased hostility with Elavil. The researchers noted that persons on the drug "appeared progressively more hostile, irritable, and behaviorally impulsive. The increase in demanding behavior and assaultive acts was statistically significant." A year later, the same researchers found that those patients taking Elavil "were behaviorally more demanding, made more suicidal threats, and were more often physically assaultive toward others."

Nevertheless, psychiatrists prescribe these dangerous mind-altering drugs to children for "mental disorders" such as wetting the bed, overactivity, or even being late to school. Youngsters who are given these chemicals often become hysterical, defiant, belligerent, or hostile.

At the 1989 murder trial of Stanley Jurgevich in Steamboat Springs, Colo., a medical expert testified that "aggressiveness, assaultiveness, and agitation" generated by the tricyclic antidepressant Sinequan had played a significant role in the crime. In a 1988 Massachusetts case, Robert Lee Harvey slit his six-year-old son's throat and stabbed him to death, then started stabbing himself. Harvey had a psychiatric history extending back 14 years and had been undergoing treatment shortly before the killing. According to police, antidepressant drugs were found at the scene.

"Wonder drug" causes violence

Over the years, many new psychiatric drugs have been promoted by psychiatrists and pharmaceutical companies as "wonder drugs," only to turn out to be highly destructive. Besides Valium and Xanax, the antidepressant Prozac has been found to create intense, violent, suicidal thoughts.

A study published in September, 1989, revealed that Prozac can generate akathisia in as many as 25% of those who take it. Two other papers subsequently confirmed the connection between Prozac and suicidal thoughts and actions.

When Prozac user Joseph Wesbecker gunned down 20 of his former co- workers in Louisville, Ky., in 1989, killing eight and then himself, he was exhibiting akathisia-like symptoms, including restlessness and pacing. Three days prior, his psychiatrist had described him as exhibiting an "increased level of agitation and anger." The psychiatrist wrote in his patient record, "Plan--Discontinue Prozac which may be cause."

There have been many other cases of persons committing suicide, sometimes coupled with murder, while on Prozac. In 1991, for instance, former San Diego, Calif, deputy sheriff Hank Adams shot his wife and himself to death in front of his 17-year-old daughter. Adams, who was taking Prozac, had no history of violence.

Some persons who nearly have killed themselves or slain others while on Prozac have described becoming progressively more hostile and aggressive after starting on the drug, a clear symptom of akathisia. In these cases, when Prozac was discontinued, these seemingly inexplicable feelings of aggression disappeared.

In 1990, New York secretary Rhonda Hala filed a $150,000,000 lawsuit against Prozac manufacturer Eli Lilly, charging that the drug had driven her to mutilate herself with razor-sharp objects more than 150 times and to attempt suicide six times. Hala stated that, after she came off the drug, her obsessive impulses to harm herself disappeared.

In Scotland, Duncan Murchison, who had no prior history of violence, threatened to murder his girlfriend while on a rampage precipitated by his use of Prozac. During the six months he was on the drug, Murchison became progressively more hostile and aggressive--symptoms that disappeared after he stopped taking Prozac. While he was on the drug, Murchison twice attempted to commit suicide.

Since its introduction onto the market in January, 1988, the drug has compiled the following record:

It accumulated more adverse reaction reports filed with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration within the first three and a half years than any other drug in the 22-year history of the FDA's adverse drug reaction reporting system.

As of June, 1992, more than 23,000 adverse reaction reports regarding Prozac had been received by the FDA. These included delirium, hallucinations, convulsions, violent hostility and aggression, psychosis, and more than 1,100 suicide attempts and a similar number of Prozac-related deaths.

In a two-year period following the first lawsuit in mid 1990, more than 100 lawsuits were filed against Eli Lilly, seeking almost $1,000,000,000 in damages by families of people who had committed suicide while on Prozac, families of those who had been murdered by persons on the drug, and individuals who had themselves been damaged while on Prozac. The Association of Trial Lawyers of America has established a special Prozac litigation section to provide information to attorneys who are approached by people harmed by the drug.

Numerous former Prozac users have argued in court that the drug pushed them to commit insane acts of murderous violence.

Published reports from researchers at Harvard Medical School, Yale University, Columbia University, the State University of New York, and the Veterans Administration have presented persuasive evidence that Prozac causes intense, violent, suicidal preoccupation. A study at the University of South Carolina had to be terminated abruptly when five subjects developed intense, violent, suicidal, and homicidal thoughts.

Documents released under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act revealed that, prior to the Wesbecker murders in 1989, the FDA had evidence of five violent Prozaclinked deaths in its files.

Pre-market tests of prozac done by Eli Lilly show at least six deaths linked to the drug.

Drug oversight authorities in Sweden and Norway have refused to authorize Eli Lilly to market Prozac in those countries, maintaining that testing was inadequate to justify approval. Both countries expressed concern at the high 20-milligram starting dose.

The Public Citizen Health Research Group, an organization founded by consumer activist Ralph Nader, has called for the FDA to require a suicide warning to be placed on Prozac.

After conducting an inquest into the suicide of an 18-year-old Prozac user, a coroner in British Columbia stated that he could not rule out the drug as the cause of the suicide and called on the Canadian government to establish a national registry to monitor all Prozac- related deaths in the country.

While the Food and Drug Administration is entrusted with the vigilant protection of Americans from dangerous drugs, an inspection of the hazardous medications it has allowed on the market shows the agency to be ineffective. This is explained in large measure by the staggering conflicts of interests the FDA has allowed into the drug oversight process. For instance, a hearing into the charges against Prozac and other psychiatric antidepressants was held in late 1991, at which the agency claimed to be unable to find any damning evidence against antidepressants.

Subsequent investigation of the panel revealed that five out of the 10 members had active financial interests with the manufacturers of antidepressants totaling more than $ 1,000,000 at the time they claimed to find no evidence against Prozac. The FDA has been accused of serving the interests of the profit-driven drug companies, not those of the American people, and allowing killer drugs to be placed on the market.

Each day, at a handsome profit, the psychiatric industry writes new prescriptions for disability, violence, suicide, and murder. The disastrous consequences are felt by all Americans.

In 1989, Emanuel Tsegaye walked into the Chevy Chase Federal Savings Bank in Bethesda, Md., and opened fire on his fellow employees with a .38-caliber revolver. After killing three women and critically wounding a male employee, he took his own life. Tsegaye had been kept on psychiatric drugs since his 1986 release from Perkins Psychiatric Institution in Jessup, Md.

Betty Hahn of Tustin, Calif, bludgeoned her mother to death with a hammer in 1988. Hahn had been given two psychiatric' drugs--the antidepressant Pamelor and the anti-anxiety agent Xanax--and apparently was withdrawing from Xanax at the time of the killing.

Mary Feurst was described by her husband, Russell, as a loving mother and spouse when she entered the mental health system. After extensive psychological and psychiatric treatment, which included antidepressant drugs, Mary said that she was planning on killing her children. She then was institutionalized and treated with more psychiatric drugs.

The psychiatrists released her in June, 1982, after what they felt was "significant recovery." They did not warn him that his wife was homicidal or caution him about the effects the drugs she was taking could have on her behavior. On July 22, 1982, Mary Feurst shot her six-year-old son in the face and back and her nine-year-old daughter in the head with a .38-caliber revolver, killing them both. "Psychiatry killed my children," Russell Feurst maintains. "Don't let that happen to you!

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