Peter R. Breggin, MD, has been called "The Conscience of Psychiatry" for his many decades of successful efforts to reform the mental health field. His scientific and educational work has provided the foundation for modern criticism of psychiatric drugs and ECT, and leads the way in promoting more caring and effective therapies. He has authored dozens of scientific articles and more than twenty books including the bestseller Talking Back to Prozac (1994, with Ginger Breggin), Medication Madness: The Role of Psychiatric Drugs in Cases of Violence, Suicide and Crime (2008), and Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal: A Guide for Prescribers, Therapists, Patients and Their Families (2013). In 2010 he testified before Congress about psychiatric-drug induced violence and suicide in the military.

     Dr. Breggin acts as a medical expert in criminal, malpractice and product liability suits, often involving adverse drug effects such as suicide, violence, brain injury, death, and tardive dyskinesia. A review of Dr. Breggin's forensic work can be found at Legal Cases. He began testifying in the early 1970s and has been qualified in court 85 times or more since 1987.

      Dr. Breggin is a Harvard-trained psychiatrist and former full-time consultant at NIMH. Dr. Breggin's private practice is in Ithaca, New York where he treats adults, couples, and families with children. He has a subspecialty in clinical psychopharmacology, including adverse drug effects and psychiatric drug withdrawal.

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    See Dr. Breggin's new
    ECT Resources Center
    with more than 125 annotated scientific articles, glossary of searchable terms and a brochure for patients and families.


     
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    RECENT FDA DECISION HIGHLIGHTS ETHICAL ISSUES
    IN DRUG RESEARCH ON CHILDREN

     by Peter R. Breggin, M.D.

     April 21, 1998

     

    The FDA has put the interests of drug companies and the psychiatric research establishment ahead of those of America's children. It is time for the public and concerned professionals to take a stand against unethical pharmacological research on children.

     

    The April 22, 1998 issue of the New York Post carries a story of utmost importance for the future of America's children: The FDA has given permission to certain facilities to use the banned diet drug fenfluramine for experimental research on children. The object of the research is to identify biochemical markers and potential treatments for violence. This is an aspect of the notorious violence initiative which we opposed and wrote about in The War Against Children. The FDA's decision has been discovered amid mounting controversy over ongoing experiments on children in New York City involving fenfluramine.

     

    The following comments are intended as an elaboration on a prior March 3, 1998 press release and background paper from the Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology concerning fenfluramine studies conducted on children in New York City. Our criticisms have suddenly become even more important in light of the FDA's determination to condone and to legitimize further such research.

     

     The Dangers of Fenfluramine

     

    The children in the ongoing New York City studies were exposed to fenfluramine, a drug used for weight control that was banned by the FDA in 1997 for causing heart valve defects. However, the controversy concerning these adverse effects extended back years in time before the experiments on children. The drug was already known to be dangerous.

     

    In addition to heart valve dangers, fenfluramine is neurotoxic, causing the death of brain cells in animals at therapeutic dose levels. Fenfluramine is a drug closely related to Ritalin (methylphenidate) and to Dexedrine and Adderall (amphetamines). Animal research shows that it overstimulates and then kills serotonergic brain cells. As early as 1989, controversy was generated surrounding fenfluramine's documented severe neurotoxicity (Barnes, DM. Neurotoxicity creates regulatory dilemma. Science 243:29-30, 1989).

     

    Basic Ethical and Scientific Issues

     

     These studies exemplify several dangerous trends in modern psychiatry, including Hi Tech Child Abuse and Racism.

     

     First, these NIMH-funded studies at Columbia and Queens College exemplify the growing trend to abuse and suppress children in the name of psychiatric research, technology, and treatment. In a nation where millions of children are being behaviorally controlled and subdued by means of psychiatric drugs such as Ritalin, Dexedrine and Adderall, it is inevitable that our most vulnerable groups of children will be subjected to especially abusive drug experiments.

     

    Second, these NIMH-funded studies exemplify psychiatric and medical racism at its worst. These doctors have been willing to use poor black and Hispanic children to conduct medical experiments that they could not have conducted on more affluent white children. These doctors have taken advantage of these vulnerable children and their families in order to further their own research interests and careers.

     

    Third, while no drug company money is known to be involved in these studies, the drug companies, including Novartis (the maker of Ritalin) and Eli Lilly (the maker of Prozac) have been trying to expand their market among children. This marketing decision to push more drugs on children is at the heart of the research community's growing focus on drugs for children. Fenfluramine studies that examine serotonin as a possible factor in violence are especially important to drug companies such as Eli Lilly who making drugs like Prozac which affect serotonin.

     

    Fourth, these studies reflect the growing trend to mislead parents about the dangers of psychiatric drugs. In a nation in which millions of children are being drugged with stimulants and antidepressants without their parents being told about the serious hazards, it is no surprise that the parents of poor children and racial minorities would be misled, hoodwinked, and coerced into accepting even more dangerous drug research on their children.

     

    The Columbia study is particularly offensive in regard to informed consent. The children were obtained through the Department of Probation. They are the younger brothers of boys already involved in the criminal justice system. Finding experimental subjects through the Department of Probation was in itself an invasion of privacy and a misuse of the criminal justice system. Asking the parents to subject their children to research on the face of it was very coercive. To refuse, they had to risk the enmity of legal authorities in control of their children.

     

    Fifth, the study was of no potential benefit to the children. In fact, it was demonstrated by NIMH studies published in 1989 (see below) that fenfluramine, while having serious side effects, had no therapeutic benefit whatsoever. Thus the children were given a dangerous drug of no possible benefit to them. This is unethical under standard guidelines for medical experimentation on children.

     

    Sixth, the research was highly speculative and unlikely to produce any positive result.

     

     A Dangerous New Trend

     

    This research represents a growing trend in the United States to perform outrageous research on children. The Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology first became involved in these issues in 1972 when we discovered that black children as young as age five were having psychosurgery performed on them at the University of Mississippi in Jackson in order to control "hyperactive" and "aggressive" behavior. Their brains were being implanted with electrodes that were heated up to melt areas of the brain that regulate emotion and intellect. When we first opposed these experiments, and eventually stopped them, we did so despite resistance from organized psychiatry and the research community.

     

    Twenty years later in 1992 we discovered the federal violence initiative--the federal government's agency-wide plan to go into America's inner cities to experiment on children in the hope of finding genetic and biological causes for violence. We opposed this program as racist and abusive of children. Our efforts led to the cancellation of this program. It also led the chief sponsor of the program, psychiatrist Frederick Goodwin, to resign from his post as director of NIMH and to leave a career in the government.

    The fenfluramine studies at Columbia and Queens College are part of the violence initiative. They were created under its umbrella before it was cancelled. They confirm our fears that while the public aspects of the violence initiative were withdrawn, the actual individual projects continue unabated.

     

    NIMH has a long history of supporting what we call Hi Tech Child Abuse. Between 1989 and 1994, NIMH was funding experiments with fenfluramine. In a comparison study with Ritalin, principal researcher Michael Aman was giving children doses up to 1.6 mg kg of fenfluramine per day. The children, age 5-13, were mentally retarded — another group notoriously vulnerable to medical experimentation.

     

    Yet it was already known by 1989 that fenfluramine has no positive effect on the behavior of children, even by NIMH standards. This was confirmed in a study conducted during the early 1980s and published in 1989 by NIMH's Child Psychiatry Branch (Maureen Donnelly, Judith Rapoport, et al., "Fenfluramine and Dextroamphetamine Treatment of Childhood Hyperactivity," Archives of General Psychiatry, 46:205-212, 1989).

     

    It is time for Americans to demand that psychiatric researchers stop using children as human guinea pigs.



     

    Special Topics

    Legal Cases

       

    Dr. Breggin often acts as a medical expert in criminal, malpractice and product liability suits, and since the 1970s has testified in approximately 100 trials. A list of cases since 1986 in which he has been qualified to testify can be found at the conclusion of his resume. However, most of the cases he accepts are settled before going to court.

    Read more...
     

    Therapy

     
    Blunting ourselves with drugs is not the answer to overwhelming emotions. Intense emotions should be welcomed. Emotions are the vital signs of life. We need and should want them to be strong. We also need our brains and minds to be functioning at their best, free of toxic drugs. That allows us to use our intelligence and understanding to the fullest. Thinking clearly is one of the hallmarks of taking charge of oneself instead of caving in to helplessness. 
     
    Read more...
     

    Children


    Throughout his career, Dr. Breggin has been especially concerned about the psychiatric abuse of children and the failure to provide more effective solutions through improved parenting, educational reform and community resources. As the drug companies and organized psychiatry have sought larger markets for pharmaceutical products, children have come under extensive from the psychopharmaceutical complex. The first great assault took place in the form of diagnosing children with ADHD and then medicating them with stimulant drugs. Soon millions of children were defined as mentally dysfunctional or defective and were submitted to brain-damaging psychoactive medications.

     


    Read more...
     

    ECT

     

    See Dr. Breggin's new
    ECT Resources Center
    with more than 125 annotated scientific articles, glossary of searchable terms and a brochure for patients and families.

     

    ECT (electroconvulsive treatment) damages the brain and mind. In many cases, it results in huge permanent gaps in memory for important life events, educational background, and professional skills. The individual may even lose his or her identity. Even when much less harm is done, individuals continue to suffer from ongoing cognitive difficulties with learning and remembering new things, and with unwanted changes in their personalities. Dr. Breggin has now created a free ECT Recourses Center that includes (1) a brochure for patients, families, and advocates, (2) introductory scientific articles that cover the field of ECT-induced harm to the brain and mind, and (3) more than 125 articles about ECT with search terms such as "brain damage," "memory loss," "women," and "abuse." The ECT Resources Center will help introduce newcomers to the field and provide research materials for advanced researchers as well.

     

    The most detailed recent publication about the harm associated with ECT is found in a chapter in Dr. Breggin’s book, Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry: Drugs, Electroshock and the Psychopharmaceutical Complex, Second Edition (2008).

     

    Dr. Breggin was the medical expert in the first and only electroshock malpractice suit won by the injured patient. He was also the expert in a recent malpractice suit against an ECT doctor that resulted in a settlement of more than $1 million.

     
    The acronym ECT stands for "ElectroConvulsive Therapy" (also called EST, for ElectroShock Therapy)  a psychiatric treatment in which electricity is applied to the head and passed through the brain to produce a grand mal or major convulsion. The seizure brought about by the electric stimulus closely resembles, but is more rigorous or strenuous than that found in idiopathic epilepsy or in epilepsy following a wide variety of insults to the brain.
     
    Patients given ECT are administered an electric current of sufficient intensity and duration to produce an acute organic brain syndrome, characterized by the classic symptoms of disorientation to time, place, and person; mental deterioration in all intellectual spheres such as abstract reasoning, judgment, and insight; emotional lability with extremes of apathy or euphoria; and overall childlike helplessness.

    Read more...
     

    Psychosurgery

     
    Psychosurgery is the destruction of normal brain tissue for the purpose of treating psychiatric disorders or for the control of emotions and behavior.  It does not include operations, such as those for Parkinson's disease or epilepsy, where an identifiable physical abnormality in the brain is causing a known physical disorder.  
     
    Lobotomy and other psychosurgeries merit special attention because, as the prototype of brain-damaging therapeutics, they can shed light on the clinical effects of other brain-disabling treatments such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and major tranquilizers. Despite the paucity of active practitioners and advocates of psychosurgery, many psychiatric authorities have condoned this treatment precisely because the principles that find their extreme expression in lobotomy and other forms of psychosurgery also find more subtle expression in all the major somatic treatments in psychiatry.
     
    Read more...
     

    Racism & Social Control


    The widespread diagnosing of children is a subtle form of social control that suppresses children rather than providing them with what they need to fulfill their basic needs in the home, school and family.  For more information about social control and youngsters see the Children's section under Special Topics and Children's section under Scientific Papers, and well as several of Dr. Breggin's books, especially Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry (1998).  Dr. Breggin's blogs often address current children's issues.

     
    In Toxic Psychiatry (1991) Dr. Breggin addresses the psychiatric oppression of women.

    See Dr. Breggin's astonishing speech on Totalitarian Psychiatry & the Nazi Holocaust.

    Both Peter Breggin and Ginger Breggin have worked extensively to stop racist psychiatric programs of social control, especially those aimed at subuding inner city children. These successful reform projects are described in detail in their book, The War Against Children of Color (1998).   The following article is based on the book and presents a summary of their efforts. 

     
    Read more...
     

     

    WARNING!

    Most psychiatric drugs can cause withdrawal reactions, sometimes including life-threatening emotional and physical withdrawal problems. In short, it is not only dangerous to start taking psychiatric drugs, it can also be dangerous to stop them. Withdrawal from psychiatric drugs should be done carefully under experienced clinical supervision. Methods for safely withdrawing from psychiatric drugs are discussed in Dr. Breggin's new book, Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal: A Guide for Prescribers, Therapists, Patients, and Their Families.