BMJ article: is the long-term use of psychiatric drugs harmful?

The BMJ today publishes an article by CEP member Professor Peter Gøtzsche, in which he claims that the long-term use of psychiatric medication is causing more harm than good.  The article is timed to co-incide with a Maudsley Debate which will be held today on the same topic.

More than half a million people aged above 65 years die from the use of psychiatric drugs every year in the Western world and the benefits would need to be “colossal” to justify these “immensely harmful” treatments, argues Gøtzsche, who is director of the Nordic Cochrane Centre, Denmark.

But benefits are “minimal”, he explains, adding that these treatments should “almost exclusively be used in acute situations”. New guidelines should support this change as well as widespread withdrawal clinics to help many patients gradually come off these medications.

Benefits have been overemphasised and harms understated, he says, because randomised controlled trials have been biased, not blinded appropriately, have not fully evaluated the effects of these drugs and deaths have gone under reported.

For example, the majority of studies have included patients already using a psychiatric drug and such patients may undergo abstinence and suffer from withdrawal symptoms. As a result, this study design exaggerates benefits and increases harms, and has even driven some patients to suicide, he explains.

Industry funded trials have under reported deaths, he adds, estimating that there have probably been 15 times more suicides among people taking antidepressants than reported by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

He calculates that deaths from three classes of drugs – antipsychotics, benzodiazepines and similar drugs, and antidepressants were responsible for 3693 deaths every year in Denmark. This number corresponds to 539,000 deaths in the United States and European Union combined.

The effects of psychiatric drugs are so small, he says, and that it would be possible to lower current use by 98%. He recommends stopping the use of all antidepressant, ADHD and dementia drugs, and prescribing only 6% of antipsychotics and benzodiazepines.

15 Responses to BMJ article: is the long-term use of psychiatric drugs harmful?

  1. chris ambrose 13/05/2015 at 8:49 am #

    It is worth noting that many of those now affected, particularly women, did not initially have any psychiatric issues but were prescribed peroxatine, or versions of, by their GP as being beneficial for symptoms of menopause or general anxiety which was quite wrong and despite the intention to limit the dose and time taken the medication is continued because it is so difficult to get off it so over the following years their brain is slowly damaged and until one day they are seriously ill.
    They are then diagnosed as having one of the DSM conditions rather than Iatrogenisis, a Prescription Medication induced illness, and treated accordingly.
    Usually by the polypharma approach. This only compounds the problem.
    Again the wrong thing to do.
    Their lives are ruined until the sufferer can get off the medication which can take years.

    • Hi 20/08/2017 at 5:11 pm #

      Exactly no problems until psychiatric drugging or/and abuses!!

      Ive heard psychiatry has gone the impossible, one step lower and is cooperating with intelligence agencies!!

      Not so crazy and more believable now!

      Sometimes just to cover up what has been done to a high profile politician!

      And it’s gets worse, it’s not crazy!!

      • Hi 20/08/2017 at 5:13 pm #

        My reference was that intelligence communities may be using psychiatry on innocent people who are forced to be honest or just target practices!

  2. Lucy 13/05/2015 at 11:03 am #

    I was given depression drugs when I wasn’t depressed, which I then became so stopped them & had a severe withdrawal reaction that was mis-diagnosed as bipolar, leading to 5 years on various powerful psychiatric agents, until I became properly informed & withdrew completely & now 5 years on still enduring protracted withdrawals, a recent mri scan confirms the science & my personal conclusions. I have ‘minor’ bi-lateral atrophy of the frontal lobes’ (brain damage)

  3. Katalin Szalay 13/05/2015 at 1:30 pm #

    I was given Xanax for anxiety for a month about 20 years ago and nobody told me that it could cause withdrawal symptoms..How much I suffered for about 3 months or so nobody seemed to know. and what happened? I was given Rivotril (!!) and was on it for 20 years!!!That is my story. It is incredibe.For withdrawal I was given a very potent drug.Now I’m in withdrawal off it- the 10th month and sometimes I suffer so much like at that time when the story began.

  4. Ruth 13/05/2015 at 5:39 pm #

    I am so happy to see this being addressed.I was prescribed antidepressants for panic attacks, I was left on them for 8 years, I stopped taking them and was dreadfully ill for many years. It’s been 10 years since I stopped taking them I still have many problems including problem with my balance and a rocking sensation. no doctor can do anything to help me .It is a terrible situation to be in , I am far worse now than I was before I started taking the pills and all the symptoms were not present with my original problem.Many thanks to all concerned for raising this issue.

    • Khalid A. 17/08/2016 at 9:58 am #

      HI ruth,

      i was given antidepressants, i got tricked into taking them for no reason. This happened to me when i was 22years old, my dad tricked me .. and it destroyed my life.. i had no health issues in my life what so ever.. and i am now 32.. i have not taken pills or anything chemical since november 2008, my life is horrible and i have so many weird problems in my head and heart… words cannot explain the pain i feel in my life and how i wish it would just end… i am seeing a natural doctor now since 3 days and hoping that i can find a way out..

  5. k k 24/11/2015 at 12:40 am #

    I was on many different types of psychiatric drugs for the past 28 years, sometimes 2 – 3 different ones at a time. I was initially a fairly happy person when I was first perscribed Prozac in the late 1980’s. I’ve survived attempts to end my life, one of which I was left in a coma for over a week and hospitilized for a month. After many years of psychiatric medication, therapy, doctors, symptoms of TD, etc. I started using the internet to study different studies on the side effects of these articles. My doctor and I literally had words over my finding. He told me that he had never seen any such reports and thought that I was probably just stressed and imagining things. This past summer I left the system. I still have problems and wonder daily – WHAT did all that really do to me? I don’t think I’ll ever know the truth – but I know it’s not good!!!

  6. paula medinger 12/05/2016 at 10:24 am #

    Prolonged stressors in family situations can cause mental illnesses and often it is removal from these situations that are a better answer than drugs. People who live for years with conflicts or even great differences in personality/character experience a kind of ongoing exasperation that can lead to anxiety and depression. The idea that one MUST live with these stressors because it is “family” may be better to “leave” their family for their own health and integrity.

  7. BC Frederick 07/12/2016 at 9:39 pm #

    I took various antidepressants and antipsychotics for 25 years and was rewarded with: panic attacks, autoimmune disease, diabetes, clinical depression (and not just the blues for which I was treated) and, because the gods weren’t through with me . . CIRRHOSIS!!!! Never drank, never did drugs, no fatty liver disease, no STDs. The doctors deny any link to the meds, of course. My first doctor started me off with Nardil (yes, NARDIL–why beat around the bush when you can begin with the WMD?) for social anxiety back in 1989, Within 3 months I experienced panic attacks for the first time in my life (and I kept having them for more than a decade after getting off the stuff and going through a vicious circle of other meds), erectile dysfunction (and have since never able to achieve a spontaneous erection), palpitations and arrhythmia, and an overall feeling of poor health. And then after 13 years on low dosages of Paxil and Zyprexa I ended up with Stage 4 liver disease. The biopsy report states the cause as autoimmune hepatitis mediated by drugs/medications.

    I blame myself entirely. I know what kind of BS the pharmaceutical industry is up to and I will never forgive myself for being so gullible. It’s difficult though, once the doctors have their claws in you and you are suffering from a years-long string of side effects.

    Unless you are hearing voices telling you to walk through Fort Apache with a boom box blaring Vanilla Ice, do NOT take psychiatric medications for any reason. Most people who are “depressed” are not clinically depressed and can be helped in a much less invasive manner.

    Best of luck to all of you.

  8. Sharon 28/10/2017 at 11:26 am #

    What really gets me is the fact that the psychiatrist I saw put me on medication the first time he saw me. “I want you to take a tablet….for me.” were his exact words. Makes me wonder now whether he was acccepting kickbacks from the drug companies. Would that have been possible in 1994? After all, he did say he wanted me to take it for him. Mellerill was the name. The first one. Followed by zyprexa, risperdal and another of which I can’t recall the name, but which made my periods stop. Every doubt I attempted to express was dismissed “There’s no harm in missing periods”. That con merchant. AND he had the audacity to diagnose me as psychotic. The sad thing is, my mother believed him, backed him up. I don’t expect doctors or health care professionals to give a damn about people, but parents are supposed to care about their children. Instead they want them “fixed.” I can’t believe I am saying this, but parents who permit doctors to prescribe potentially dangerous antipsychotics to their child or children should lose custody of them. Because you can’t just blindly give someone a potentially dangerous drug and see what happens. Trust these doctors as much as you would a celebrity
    seen in print and television ads endorsing
    a product. They get to do that. As do doctors who prescribe prescription drugs.

  9. Sharon 28/10/2017 at 11:28 am #

    Sorry. Meant to put the word “paid” between they and do.

  10. Lucile DeNucci 30/12/2017 at 7:03 pm #

    I have been on so many different psyciatric medications. This has been going on for 38 years. I have 2 antidepressents, an antipsychotic, a mood stabalizer an anti convulsant and trazadone for sleep. I have always been on this many medications.I’m now 60 years old.How will these medications effect me?


  1. 13th May 2015: Two important Council for Evidence-based Psychiatry (CEP) notifications today. - Recover Your Mental Health - 13/05/2015

    […] In the first of these notifications, according to Dr. Peter Gotzsche, the substances commonly known as “antidepressants”, in addition to ADHD and dementia drugs,  should not be used at all, and that only 6% of current levels of antipsychotics and tranquillisers should be prescribed – […]

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    […] CEPUK (council for evidence-based psychiatry) 13 May 2015: BMJ article: is the long-term use of psychiatric drugs harmful? […]

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