Neuroleptics and Tardive Dyskinesia in Children

There’s an interesting February 11, 2014, article on Peter Breggin’s website:  $1.5 Million Award in Child Tardive Dyskinesia MalpracticeThanks to Mad in America for the link.

Here’s the opening paragraph:

“On February 11, 2014 a Chicago jury awarded $1.5 million to an autistic child who developed a severe case of tardive dyskinesia and tardive akathisia while being treated by psychiatrists with Risperdal and then Zyprexa between 2002 and 2007. The drug-induced disorder was diagnosed when he was fifteen years old and by then had become disabling and irreversible.”

Tardive dyskinesia is a movement disorder characterized by repetitive, involuntary movements, including:  grimacing, tongue movements, chewing, lip smacking, puckering of the lips, purposeless limb and body movements, etc…  The movements are sometimes described as Parkinsonian-like.

Tardive akathisia involves feelings of inner restlessness that can range from a mild sense of inner discomfort to an almost unbearable feeling of generalized tension. Victims of this condition can seldom sit still.  They usually pace a great deal, sometimes for hours on end, and even when they sit or lie down, their limbs are in more or less constant motion.

Apparently the individual in Dr. Breggin’s paper was diagnosed with autism as a child and was prescribed SSRI’s before the age of seven.  The SSRI’s caused some deterioration in the child’s behavior and mental condition, to combat which his first psychiatrist prescribed Risperdal (risperidone).  Subsequently a second psychiatrist added Zyprexa (olanzapine) to the cocktail.  Both Risperdal and Zyprexa are neuroleptics (euphemistically known in psychiatric circles as antipsychotics), and are known to cause tardive dyskinesia.

On the face of it, one would think that this would be a big story.  One can picture the headline:  “Psychiatrists Destroy Child’s Brain.”  But in fact, the only references to this case that I’ve been able to find are the present article on Peter Breggin’s site, and links to Dr. Breggin’s article on Mad in America and Carl Elliott’s blog (Fear and Loathing in Bioethics).  Pharma’s stranglehold on the media is as effective as a government security blackout.

The truly tragic aspect of all this is that the neurotoxic effects of SSRI’s and neuroleptics are well known.  It’s not like the thalidomide tragedy of the early 1960’s, in which the teratogenic effects weren’t known until it was too late.  At which point, incidentally, the drug was taken off the market.

In the case of neuroleptics, or major tranquilizers as they used to be called, the link to tardive dyskinesia has been known for decades.  In fact, Jean Delay and Pierre Deniker, French psychiatrists who are generally “credited” with introducing neuroleptics into psychiatry in the early 1950’s, promoted the notion that the dyskinesic effect was linked to the putative therapeutic effect.  For this reason, they routinely raised the dose until this produced noticeable dyskinesia.

As the second generation neuroleptics became available, it was widely touted by pharma and by psychiatrists that these new drugs would not cause tardive dyskinesia.  That claim is now discredited.  The second generation neuroleptics do cause tardive dyskinesia, though perhaps at a slower rate than the earlier drugs. [CATIE Study]

The incidence of tardive dyskinesia among people who take neuroleptics is high.  The risk generally increases with higher doses and longer duration.  Psychiatrists justify this neurotoxification on the grounds of the “benefit” outweighing the risk, but it is truly difficult to imagine what benefit the individual in this case derived from these drugs that would outweigh his present plight.

Another argument that psychiatrists use in this area is that through careful observation, they can spot tardive dyskinesia in its very early stages, and by stopping the drug at that point, can arrest the problem.  The argument is specious, however, on two grounds.  Firstly, although the drugs cause this problem, they also mask its manifestation.  By the time the problem is sufficiently pronounced to break through the masking effect, it has already reached an advanced stage.  Secondly, the tardive dyskinesia is not only a disabling and disfiguring movement disorder, it is also an indication of more generalized neurological damage.  Here’s a quote from Joseph Glenmullen’s book Prozac Backlash (2000):

“We still do not fully understand how tics reflecting permanent brain damage develop with major tranquilizers.  But when one looks at the symptoms, the best model to explain them is that the appearance of noticeable tics is merely the final stage in a process of slow, progressive damage.” (p 57) [Emphasis added]

For readers who are not familiar with tardive dyskinesia, there are videos herehere, and here.  If you do a Google search, you can find others.

In my experience, there is a widespread belief among the general public that tardive dyskinesia is a “symptom” of the condition known as schizophrenia.  Almost everybody over the age of 40 who has been “diagnosed” as “schizophrenic” has been prescribed neuroleptics, and most of these people have tardive dyskinesia, so it’s not surprising that the public is confused.  Tardive dyskinesia is extraordinarily disfiguring and disabling, and serves to confirm the popular view – avidly promoted by psychiatrists – that “schizophrenia” is a progressive brain disease.  This is even more the case in that, as the victims of this neurotoxic assault continue to ingest these drugs, their presentation becomes steadily more disfiguring and more stigmatizing – “confirming” that “schizophrenia” is a progressive condition.

Organized psychiatry routinely claims that it is working hard to reduce the stigma associated with “mental illness,” and they castigate us “mental illness deniers” for allegedly increasing this stigma.  If psychiatry were seriously interested in destigmatizing these individuals, they would take some of the money that they are currently using to promote their profession, and use it to tell the public the truth:  that tardive dyskinesia is caused by psychoactive drugs!; that tardive dyskinesia is caused by psychiatrists and is entirely preventable.  But apparently the APA feel that they have better things to do with their money.

Psychiatry in America today is little more than a marketing arm for pharma.  Neuroleptics are neurotoxic drugs that, at least initially, have a controlling and dampening effect on agitated, aggressive behavior.  In the long term – and psychiatry routinely promotes them as long-term treatments – they are fraught with truly horrendous adverse potential.

Whatever might be argued about their use for consenting adults (and I recognize psychiatry’s creative understanding of the word “consent”), it’s difficult to even imagine how practitioners can foist these products onto children, whose brains are still developing.  By what kind of mental gymnastics can a psychiatrist prescribe these products to a child, and at the same time maintain even a semblance of self-esteem?

How much more destruction and how many more lawsuits is it going to take before psychiatrists recognize the obvious truth:  that you can’t help people by damaging their brains?  What is it about psychiatry that renders its adherents so narcissistically unreceptive to this patently clear reality?

In December 2012, Mark Olfson, MD, et al, published an article in the Archives of General Psychiatry.  The title is National Trends in the Office-Based Treatment of Children, Adolescents, and Adults with AntipsychoticsThe authors collected data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Surveys for the period 1993-2009, and looked for trends in antipsychotic prescribing for children, adolescents, and adults in outpatient visits.  Here are the results:

Age Increase in no. of antipsychotic prescriptions per 100 population (1993-2009)
0-13 0.24-1.83 (almost 8-fold)
14-20 0.78-3.76 (almost 5-fold)
21+ 3.25-6.18 (almost 2-fold)

 

The authors provide a breakdown of the diagnoses assigned to the children and adolescents during the antipsychotic visits.

Diagnosis Visits %
Children
(0-13)
Adolescents
(14-20)
Schrizophrenia 6.0 8.1
Bipolar 12.2 28.8
Depression 11.2 20.9
Anxiety 15.9 14.4
Dev Disorders 13.1 5.0
Disruptive Behavior Disorders 63.0 33.7
Other Dx’s 18.0 16.8

 

Percentages do not total 100, because some individuals were assigned more than one diagnosis.

As one can see, the most frequent use of these products for children of all ages, but especially for those under the age of 14, is disruptive behavior disorders.  In other words, the drugs are being used to control misbehavior.

On September 24, 2012, an article by Richard Friedman, MD, psychiatrist, appeared in the New York Times.  The article was titled A Call for Caution on Antipsychotic DrugsHere’s a quote:

“…there has been a vast expansion in the use of these second-generation antipsychotic drugs in patients of all ages, particularly young people. Until recently, these drugs were used to treat a few serious psychiatric disorders. But now, unbelievably, these powerful medications are prescribed for conditions as varied as very mild mood disorders, everyday anxiety, insomnia and even mild emotional discomfort.”

There is nothing to suggest that Dr. Friedman’s call for caution has been heeded.  In fact, according to Drugs.com, Abilify (aripiprazole), a second generation neuroleptic, was the best-selling drug in the US for all four quarters of 2013. (Q1, Q2, Q3, and Q4.)  Not just the best-selling psychiatric drug – the best selling drug, period!

Psychiatry is not something good that needs some minor corrections.  Psychiatry is something fundamentally flawed and rotten.  Organized psychiatry is so intoxicated by its own self-congratulatory rhetoric, that it has rendered itself blind to the reality – that it is destroying people’s brains.

  • Elizabeth

    I don’t understand how you were a practicing psychologist, yet you feel this way! What happened?

  • Francesca Allan

    Big, big difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist.

    I live in fear of developing TD.

  • Phil_Hickey

    Elizabeth,

    Thanks for coming in.

    I have felt this way generally since the late 60’s/early 70’s, though my ideas have developed as psychiatry has expanded its scope and its destructiveness.

    During my career, I maintained a measure of distance from psychiatrists. When I did interact with them, I usually availed of the opportunity to challenges their concepts and/or promote the idea of alternatives to drugs, or dosage reduction.

    You’ll find interesting examples of this sort of thing here and here.

    Best wishes.

  • bob paul

    The problem is parents who face this situation with their child trust that the doctor is helping the child. The pill is a quick fix. When love would be a better option.

  • Phil_Hickey

    bob,

    How true, and how tragic.

  • Cledwyn o the bulbs

    Yeah, psychiatrists seem oblivious to the paradox of treating brain diseases (not that I believe in that model) by giving people drugs that, in the case of “antipsychotics”, operate on the brain like a neurodegenerative disease and cause brain disease in many. “Here, take some of these neuroleptics for your neurodegenerative disease.” If they believe “schizophrenia” is a neurodegenerative disease, then why are they prescribing neuoleptics? It’s like are they trying to expedite the neurological deterioration of the patient. Such behaviour, if displayed by a patient, would be taken as evidence of his incompetence or “decisional incapacity”.

    As for prescribing them to children, who next? They’ll be forced drugging people’s embryos next. At first, there’ll be outrage about the ethical implications of this. Then, after custom and the law work their magic, everyone’ll be saying to the few critics, “what’s wrong with forced drugging an embryo?”.

  • Anonymous

    Cledwyn again inviting you to email me at anonymousvspsychiatry@yahoo.com hope to hear from you.

  • Francesca Allan

    I don’t think it’s about healing, exactly, so much as making schizophrenics (and others) obedient. That’s certainly true in psych hospitals. Keeping patients fat, stoned, and staring at the TV makes life a lot easier for the staff.

  • Cledwyn o the bulbs

    Sorry, I don’t even know how to use email. This is my dad’s computer. I’ll see what I can do.

  • Phil_Hickey

    Cledwyn,

    There’s no real logic to it. They believe because they believe – and, of
    course, the belief works to their advantage: endless job security; good salaries, and opportunities to earn extra money on the side from pharma.