Antipsychotic drugs are drugs that treat psychosis, a medical term that means that you might suffer from hallucinations, hearing or seeing things, or have delusions, having ideas of beliefs that are not shared by other people around you. These ‘psychotic’ symptoms can be experienced as part of mental health conditions like schizophrenia, personality disorder and bipolar disorder. However, antipsychotic drugs are also used for conditions such as dementia.
Antipsychotic drugs are the main response of the conventional medical establishment for the treatment of mental illness. Roger Whittaker, in his book “Anatomy of an Epidemic” (2010), described these as "powerful psychotropic, mind-altering drugs"
"Aside from the immediate risk of death, another serious and widespread problem caused by these drugs is excessive weight gain and metabolic problems like diabetes. The effect varies by drug, but children typically gain TWICE as much weight in the first six months on these drugs as they should through normal growth, adding an average of two to three inches to their waistline. A lot of this is abdominal fat, which also increases their risk of diabetes and heart disease".
Antipsychotic drugs come in many different and confusing names. These include Acepromazine (Plegicil), Amisulpride (Solian), Amoxapine (Asendin), Aripiprazole (Abilify), Asenapine (Saphris, Sycrest), Benperidol (Anguil, Benguil, Frenactil, Glianimon), Blonanserin (Lonasen), Bromperidol (Bromodol, Impromen), Carpipramine (Defekton, Prazinil), Clocapramine (Clofekton, Padrasen), Chlorpromazine (Largactil, Thorazine), Chlorprothixene (Cloxan, Taractan, Truxal), Clopenthixol (Sordinol), Clotiapine (Entumine, Etomine, Etumine), Clozapine (Clozaril), (Haldol), Cyamemazine (Tercian), Dixyrazine (Esucos), Droperidol (Droleptan, Inapsine), Fluphenazine (Modecate, Permitil, Prolixin), Flupentixol (Depixol, Fluanxol), Fluspirilene (Imap), Haloperidol (Haldol, Serenace), Haloperidol (Haldol, Serenace), Iloperidone (Fanapt, Fanapta, Zomaril), Levomepromazine (Levinan, Levoprome, Nozinan), Loxapine (Adasuve, Loxitane), Lurasidone (Latuda), Mesoridazine (Lidanil, Serentil), Melperone (Buronil, Buronon, Eunerpan, Melpax, Neuril), Molindone (Moban), Moperone (Luvatren), Mosapramine (Cremin), Nemonapride (Emilace), Olanzapine (Zyprexa), Paliperidone (Invega), Penfluridol (Semap), Perazine (Peragal, Perazin, Pernazinum, Taxilan), Pericyazine (Neulactil, Neuleptil), Perospirone (Lullan), Pimozide (Orap), Perphenazine (Trilafon), Pimozide (Orap), Pipamperone (Dipiperon, Piperonil), Pipotiazine (Lonseren, Piportil), Prochlorperazine (Compazine), Promazine (Prozine, Sparine), Promethazine (Avomine, Phenergan), Prothipendyl (Dominal), Quetiapine (Seroquel), Remoxipride (Roxiam), Risperidone (Risperdal), Sertindole (Serdolect, Serlect), Sulpiride (Dolmatil, Meresa), Sultopride (Barnetil, Topral), Thioproperazine (Majeptil), Thioridazine (Aldazine, Mellaril, Melleril), Timiperone (Celmanil, Tolopelon), Tiotixene (Navane, Thixit), Trifluoperazine (Stelazine), Triflupromazine (Vesprin), Veralipride (Agreal), Trimipramine (Surmontil), Ziprasidone (Geodon, Zeldox), Zuclopenthixol (Acuphase, Cisordinol, Clopixol), Zotepine (Lodopin, Losizopilon, Nipolept, Setous) and, in the interests of obfuscation, no doubt many more!
The History of the Drug
There are two issues about antipsychotic drugs. The first are the drugs themselves, and the harm they are known to do to human health. The second is the enormous rise in the number of people who are being diagnosed with ‘mental illness’, and thus, allegedly, requiring these drugs. These two factors, together, make antipsychotic drugs some of the most controversial of all drugs.
Whittaker, for instance, says that since 1987, the percentage of the US population receiving federal disability payments for mental illness has more than doubled. And that among children under the age of 18, the percentage has grown by a factor of 35.
This Dr Mercola article, for instance, looks at an increased diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder in th USA - an increase of 40 times over the last 10 years.
This MedPage article looks specifically at the link between anti-psychotic medication and diabetes in children. Indeed, much of the increased use of anti-psychotic drugs in recent years has been for the 'treatment' of children and young people.
Yet it is accepted that children and young people are more vulnerable to the side effects of antipsychotic drugs! A Channel 4 television programme undertook a survey that exposed that as many as 15,000 children and young people under 18 were prescribed antipsychotics drugs in 2010. However, this figure included only doctor prescriptions, and excluded hospital prescriptions, so the real figure was probably considerably hight
This Child Health Safety article outlines how these harmful, mind-altering drugs have been given to children, some of them less than a year old.
In a study published in the journal of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, January 2010, it was found that the number of children, aged 2-5, being given antipsychotics had doubled “in recent years”.
And although this drugging (of children and adults) is going on around the world there is little evidence that antipsychotic drugs do any good. The British Medical Journal (BMJ) published a “Review on the current use of antipsychotic drugs in children and adolescents” and it stated there was 'no information about the efficacy or safety of anti-pyschotics in your people'.
So much for 'evidence-based medicine!
Yet perhaps it is older people who have suffered most from anti-psychotic drugs. Much attention has been paid to this problem in recent times, even within conventional medical circles, as these drugs are known to kill. And in particular, they kill older people. This article, in the GP magazine ‘Pulse’ makes it clear that GPs are, or at least should be, aware that anti-psychotic drugs cause death in older people.
A large analysis of older patients in nursing homes, published in the British Medical Journal, looked at 75,500 new users of antipsychotics aged 65 years or older. Over five years it found haloperidol had doubled the risk of mortality compared with the most commonly used antipsychotic, risperidone. The researchers concluded that "the use of haloperido (an anti-psychotic) to this vulnerable population cannot be justified, because of the excess harm”. Perhaps they should also have said that risperidone also cannot be justified - but they didn’t.
This Natural Health article states that antipsychotic drugs were killing as many as 1,800 dementia patients every year.
"...... it was confirmed by the team that the use of antipsychotics by dementia patients is responsible for a surge in drug-related deaths, presumably as a result of negative side effects both internally to the body, and externally in the form of altered behavior. The findings also confirmed previous ones that identified an uptick in at least 1,800 additional deaths a year as a result of dementia patients taking antipsychotic drugs.
Accordingly, in November 2011 doctors were warned that they required PCT permission to prescribe anti-psychotics to older people with dementia - or face jail if they prescribed without permission.
This stark message to doctors was repeated again in the GP magazine, Pulse, in February 2012. Why? Apparently because the original message had been ignored! This was confirmed in a further article, in March 2012, stating that: "... a Pulse investigation revealed that PCTs were failing to implement a major NHS programme seen by ministers as key to their campaign to cut the use of drugs".
So, it would seem that even if government issues a direct instruction, and makes serious threats to doctors, the Conventional Medical Establishment is so hooked on giving us drugs regardless of the limited evidence for their efficacy, and despite the extensive evidence that anti-psychotic drugs are dangerous, it steadfastly refuses to do so.
So how much trust can anyone place on a medical system that does this?
Known side-effects (DIEs)
So just how dangerous are anti-psychotic drugs? The brain is certainly our most sensitive organ we have, and in terms of who we are, as individuals, it the most important. Yet there is little that the conventional medical establishment will refuse to tamper with!
The idea that pharmaceutical drugs do more harm than good to those who take them is not a new one. Robert Whittaker in his book, "Anatomy of an Epidemic”, published in 2010, comes to just this conclusion. He contends that as recently as the 1950’s the four major mental disorders, depression, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, often manifested as ‘episodic’ or ‘self limiting’ events, and that most people simply got better over time. Severe, chronic mental illness was viewed as relatively rare. Now, with the emergence of antipsychotic drugs people with ‘mental health’ problems can be on drugs for many years, if not a lifetime.
The side effects of Antipsychotics drugs are numerous and severe. They are well summarised in the Mind.org website, and this synopsis is largely based on this.
Neuromuscular side effects
Antipsychotics interfere with the brain chemical dopamine, which is important in controlling movement. This is more common with older antipsychotics, and much less likely with the newer drugs. Some of the side effects include:
• loss of movement
• muscle spasms.
Some side effects resemble Parkinson’s disease, which is caused by the loss of dopamine:
• Muscles become stiff and weak, so that your face may lose its animation, and you find fine movement difficult.
• You may develop a slow tremor (shaking), especially in your hands.
• Your fingers may move as if you were rolling a pill.
• When walking, you may lean forward, take small steps, and find it difficult to start and stop.
• Your mouth may hang open and you may find you are dribbling.
Loss of movement
You may find it difficult to move, and your muscles may feel very weak. This may make people think you are depressed.
You may feel intensely restless and unable to sit still. This is more than just a physical restlessness and can make you feel emotionally tense and uneasy, as well.
You may rock from foot to foot, shuffle your legs, cross or swing your legs repeatedly, or continuously pace up and down.
These are acute muscle contractions that are uncontrolled and may be painful. They particularly affect young men. If the problem affects the muscles of your voice box (larynx), you may find it difficult to speak normally (dysphonia). This can make you very self-conscious and may make it hard for people to understand you.
If the muscle spasms affect the muscles that control your eye movements (oculogyric crisis), it makes the eyes turn suddenly, so that you can’t control where you look. This is both very unpleasant and may be dangerous e.g. if it happens while you are crossing the road, or pouring hot water. It can also be very disconcerting for people around you.
It perhaps should be noted that the solution offered by the Mind.org website (an organisation deeply committed to the use of drugs for the treatment of mental health) is to take drugs used in Parkinson’s disease, a prime example of disease, caused by pharmaceutical drugs, and treated with other drugs which have equally dangerous side effects.
Many antipsychotics cause seizures (fits) in some people, and should be used with caution if you have had seizures before.
Sexual side effects
Prolactin is the hormone which causes the breasts to produce milk, so levels of prolactin are normally low, except in women who are pregnant or breast-feeding. However, many antipsychotic drugs cause levels of prolactin to rise. Abnormally high levels are related to some very common sexual side effects for both women and men:
• Breast development and the production of breast milk. This can affect men as well as women
• A drop in sexual desire can make both men and women less easily aroused. Some drugs can interfere with erection and affect ejaculation.
• A persistent erection of the penis without sexual arousal (priapism). This is rare, but if it occurs you should treat it as an emergency and seek medical advice, because it may cause serious harm to the penis.
• Spontaneous ejaculation.
• Loss of menstrual cycle, vaginal dryness, unwanted hair and acne may occur in women.
• The changes to your sex hormones may cause osteoporosis, which means your bones become weaker and more likely to break. This is a serious risk for both men and women.
Some of the newer antipsychotics have less effect on prolactin and produce fewer of these problems. Women who change from an older to a newer antipsychotic should bear in mind that this may cause prolactin levels to drop back down. This may cause your periods to return and you might need to think about contraception.
Effects on the heart
Many antipsychotics have effects on the heart rhythm, which in some cases, linked to high doses and to people being on more than one antipsychotic at the same time, have caused sudden death. People on high doses of antipsychotics should be given an ECG before treatment starts and every one to three months, while the dose remains high. Whatever your dose, if you have unexplained blackouts, you should have your heart rhythm monitored. Some antipsychotics also cause your heart to beat faster than usual, and palpitations.
Antimuscarinic (also called anticholinergic) side effects
This is a medical name for a set of side effects caused by changes in the levels of the chemical messenger acetylcholine, which has important effects all over the body. These effects are more common with the older drugs. They include:
• dry mouth which can cause tooth decay
• blurred vision
• feeling sick
• difficulty passing water
• rapid heartbeat
• constipation which may be severe enough to be life-threatening if not treated
• low blood pressure. This is especially risky in older and frail people, when it may contribute to falls; hot baths increase the risk.
Sleepiness is a common side effect with antipsychotics.
Various antipsychotics may be responsible for different eye disorders. These include blurred vision and difficulty reading; a build up of granular deposits in the cornea and lens (which doesn’t usually affect sight); degeneration of the retina (the light-sensitive part of the eye) that restricts vision and may be serious; an oculogyric crisis and glaucoma (increased pressure inside the eye). Any antipsychotic can cause narrow-angle glaucoma, which is a medical emergency. You should not take some of the older antipsychotics if you have had glaucoma (see The different types of antipsychotics).
Weight gain is a very common side effect with many antipsychotics, including most of the newer ones, and causes a lot of distress. It is linked to increased appetite and decreased activity, but is mainly caused by changes in metabolism - by the way your body uses food and converts it to energy or stores it as fat. This means that dieting may not make much difference, although it will certainly help if you eat healthily. You may put on a lot of weight, and this may increase your risk of developing diabetes, and other physical health problems.
Some side effects may be referred to as ‘metabolic syndrome’. The main symptoms are:
• weight gain and obesity
• high blood sugar and diabetes
• high blood pressure
• high cholesterol.
These put people at risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. The risk is increased if you drink sugary fizzy drinks and eat a lot of fatty, sugary foods. Metabolic syndrome is thought to cause a two- to three-fold increase in the risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
A number of blood disorders are linked to antipsychotics. The most serious is agranulocytosis, a serious blood disorder, which involves the loss of one type of white blood cell. It means that you are more likely to catch infections and less able to fight them, and some people have died because of this. It’s very rare with the older antipsychotics, and is mainly associated with clozapine. If you are getting sore throats, or mouth ulcers, a fever or chills, these may be signs that your immune system is not working as well as it should, and you should see your doctor.
Blood clotting disorders also occur with many antipsychotics. These include deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary thrombosis (blood clot in the lung) which may be life-threatening.
There are various skin problems that may occur. If you get a rash, you should go to the doctor straight away.
• Any allergic rashes usually occur within the first two months of starting treatment and disappear when the drug is stopped.
• Some types of skin may develop a blue-grey discolouration.
• Your skin may become more sensitive to sunlight, especially at high doses, so you should protect yourself from the sun.
Neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS)
This is a neurological complication that is thought to occur in about 1 in 100 of hospital patients taking antipsychotic drugs. It can be very dangerous if it’s not detected and treated, but the symptoms can also cause it to be mistaken for an infection. Although the criteria for making the diagnosis are not clear, in 11% of those with NMS it may be fatal. The symptoms are:
• sweating or fever, with a high temperature
• tremor, rigidity or loss of movement
• difficulty speaking and swallowing
• changes in consciousness, from lethargy and confusion to stupor or coma
• rapid heartbeat, very rapid breathing and changes in blood pressure.
Blood tests show abnormal results. NMS develops rapidly over 24 to 72 hours, and rigidity and a high temperature are usually the first symptoms to appear.
Tardive dyskinesia (TD)
TD is a disorder which causes abnormal, uncontrollable, disfiguring, and embarrassing movements. These usually start in the face and mouth, as involuntary tongue movements, twitching in your face, and slight grimacing. The problem can spread to the rest of the body, with writhing movements in the limbs, muscle spasms, tremors and tics.
Other physical effects
• Liver disorders and jaundice are sometimes linked to using these drugs.
• You may have problems with regulating body temperature. It may be too high or too low, both of which may make you feel a little unwell.
• Bed-wetting may occur, especially with newer antipsychotics.
Antipsychotics can sometimes make you more excited, agitated and aggressive. They can also make you feel depressed. Some may have an antidepressant effect, although the available information about this is contradictory. Some drugs make you feel emotionally uneasy and restless, or give you bizarre dreams and disturb your sleep. They can make you feel out of touch with reality and more withdrawn socially, like being in a very familiar environment like a group of friends or family but feeling very detached from them, and 'alone in a crowd'.
Sometimes, you get new psychotic symptoms while you are taking antipsychotics or after you have taken them for long periods of time. The drugs act by blocking dopamine receptors in the brain, and if you have taken the drugs for a long time, the brain responds by creating new receptors to replace those that are blocked. Existing receptors may also become super-sensitive to dopamine. This is called tardive psychosis, meaning psychosis that is a delayed effect. This means that you need to take higher doses to maintain the antipsychotic effects.
The possibility of tardive psychosis is one reason why antipsychotics should be withdrawn gradually - especially if you have been taking them for a long time - giving the brain time to readjust. In other words, antipsychotic drug have serious withdrawal symptoms.