New Research Finds Antipsychotic Drugs Do More Harm Than Good

by Bruce Boyers

A new, in-depth research paper entitled The Case Against Antipsychotics makes use of an extensive battery of research and statistics to make a case against antipsychotic medication that can leave no doubt as to its harmfulness. More importantly, it also leaves no doubt as to antipsychotics’ lack of effectiveness in the treatment of psychosis.

The research cited in the paper encompasses a 60-year period. The paper was authored by award-winning medical journalist Robert Whitaker and published by non-profit group Mad in America Foundation.

Prior to Antipsychotic Medication Introduction

According to common psychiatric reasoning, people diagnosed with schizophrenia were, prior to the advent of the first antipsychotic drug in 1955, destined to become chronically ill and be confined to mental hospitals.

Actual facts and figures cited in the paper completely contradicts this reasoning. A majority of patients hospitalized for a first episode of schizophrenia from 1945 to 1955 recovered and could be discharged within 12 months. Two-thirds of such patients could be found living normal lives five years after initial hospitalization—at a time when there was no disability system for financial support for people not able to work. Only a third of these former patients would become chronically ill, unable to function outside a mental hospital.

After Antipsychotic Medication Introductionpillmill

The National Institute of Mental Health conducted a study of antipsychotics in 1961, after the drugs had been in use 6 years. In the trial, 270 patients were given common antipsychotic medications for the time, while 74 were given placebos. At the end of six weeks, the drug-treated patients were reported to have had a greater reduction of psychotic symptoms—evidence of the drugs’ short-term effectiveness.

However, placebo patients also improved during this time. And checking back on patients after having been discharged for 1 year, it was discovered that patients who received placebo treatment were less likely to be hospitalized than those who were given the drugs.

Because of these findings, a separate study was conducted in the late 1960s to discover if psychotic treatment outcomes had improved since the arrival and application of antipsychotic drug therapy. This study found that 45% of the psychotic patients treated without the use of antipsychotic drugs in 1947 at Boston Psychopathic Hospital did not relapse over the next five years, and that 76% were successfully living normal lives at the end of that same period. Jump up to 1967, and we find that only 31% of the patients treated at the same hospital with antipsychotic drugs remained relapse-free for five years, and as a group they were much more dependent on welfare and other such forms of support.

Into Modern Times

In the late 1970s, another long-term study was begun. Anxiety symptoms for the medicated and non-medicated patients were the same at two years. But over the next two-and-a-half years, anxiety symptoms noticeably dropped back in the un-medicated group, and worsened in the medicated patients. This difference remained the same throughout the remainder of the study.

There were other consistent differences as well. Over the 20-year span of the study, non-medicated people were found to have better cognitive function. At the 10 and 15-year follow up, medicated patients were more likely to be psychotic. Patients stable on medication had fairly high subsequent relapse rates, whereas none of the non-medicated patients who were stable at 7.5 years relapsed in the next 7.5 years.

Unassailable Conclusion

Studies following these all the way into the current decade, cited in the paper, returned virtually the same results.

In conclusion, the paper makes a very clear case that antipsychotics, on the whole, worsen long-term outcomes. Drugs may provide a short-term effect, but once patients are on the medications there is an increased risk of relapse, for some period of time, when discontinuing the medication. There is also a long line of research showing that treatment may increase a person’s biological vulnerability to psychosis, and impair functioning over the long-term.

Citizen’s Commission on Human Rights has been documenting the dangerous effects of psychiatric medications since 1969.

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