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They don’t want you to conclude that shrinking brains is a bad thing

According to a news article today, it’s going to be a lot harder for anyone to deny what some of us have been saying for quite a while:  that antipsychotic medications frequently result in shrinkage of the brain.  The study, in the Archives of General Psychiatry, found that over seven years ” More antipsychotic drug treatment, including duration and intensity, was linked to greater declines in brain volume. Severity of disease, alcohol and illegal drug use had no effect.”

Despite this seeming damming evidence, the lead researcher didn’t want to come off as critical of the medications, no doubt because he knows where most of the research money comes from, so he was careful to caution everyone not to “jump to the conclusion” that this was “bad.” 

Well, when they find evidence that suggests that “schizophrenia” makes a brain shrink, they somehow never imagine that it might NOT be bad.  But here they found that severity of “disease” seemed to cause no shrinkage, and the medications did, and yet we shouldn’t “jump to the conclusion” that it is bad.  I can almost see the spin the drug salespeople will be putting on this a few weeks from now “Well actually you see we are now thinking that the drugs only shrink the unbalanced part of the brain, so the overall result is good!”

I hope this leads to a lot more pressure for non-drug alternative approaches.  And for programs to help people who have been dependent on these drugs to try carefully phasing them out in safe ways, with good support.

5 comments… add one
  • Thanks for your insighful comments! I agree that the researcher’s bias was appalling – continuing to advocate for indiscriminate drug use despite the evidence. I actually wrote a little bit about it this morning here. I linked to your comments, as well. Hope you don’t mind! 🙂

  • The iatrogenic brain atrophy studies are cited in the 1992 edition of Dr Peter Breggin’s book Toxic Psychiatry.

    So why have two decades passed with virtual radio silence on this horrific subject?

    Back in the early 90s, I highlighted my concerns about the brain shrinkage studies to my then psychiatrist . At the time, he was forcibly drugging me with huge doses of Haldol, which incidentally left me with permanent neurological damage.

    When I mentioned my source for those atrophy studies, the doctor rose from his chair and literally screamed at me that “Breggin is evil” !

    To his credit, the shrink didn’t deny the findings in the studies, nor did he doubt my complaints of the lobotomizing effect of his Haldol.

    In fact, he said that he was glad there were anti-psychotics drugs to chemically lobotomize schizophrenics. “Be thankful”, he said, “for without the discovery of anti-psychotics, I would have had to lobotomize you with psycho-surgery.”

    True story!

    He’s now a Fellow in the Royal College of Psychiatrists!

    • Hi Jam,

      Your story is truly horrifying, but also not too surprising.

      Breggin saw studies of brain atrophy is people diagnosed with schizophrenia and taking medications as evidence of medications causing atrophy, but most psychiatrists conveniently interpreted the studies to mean that “schizophrenia” caused brain atrophy. Then came studies that showed that monkeys given antipsychotics had brain shrinkage, but the psychiatrists who were aware of them conveniently decided that this effect must just take place in monkeys (and there is evidence that it is worse in monkeys, but not that humans are immune.) Now we have studies that show that the shrinkage seems to correspond pretty directly with quantity of antipsychotic and not “severity of symptoms” in humans, so room for deniability is running out.

      That’s why they are shifting to the argument your psychiatrist seemed to use years ago – that the shrinkage is good for you, that you need it. But the public may not be ready to accept this – we can hope!

  • It’s amazing that psychiatry survives. Peter Breggin is one of the few advocates who gets in right. He has been called the “Conscience of Psychiatry” but doesn’t attract a mainstream following.

    I spoke with a young lady last week who has been in the system for 25 years. She was in the emergency psychiatry department and indicated that she is prescribed 18 pills per day, has had ECT, has lost her memories as a consequence, and relented that it was better than the alternative presented to her which was psychosurgery.

    Who the hell is advocating for these people? We’re failing miserably. Big Pharma continues to win and most psychiatrists are either too stupid or too corrupt to uphold their hypocratic oath.

  • Thank you for sharing!

    Like Ron said, I’m not really suprised this happened. I do not think we should lose complete trust in drug companies and doctors, but I do think that patients should also do some research on their own.

    As for natural treatment, I think it might be a worth some research.