Politicians and experts meet at parliament to explore link between record antidepressant prescribing and disability

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Prescribed Drug Dependence is meeting on 11 May at Westminster to discuss evidence of the link between the rise in disability claimants and the record level of antidepressant prescribing.  The event is being hosted by Paul Flynn MP, co-chair of the APPG.

Robert Whitaker, the Pulitzer-shortlisted science journalist and author, will present global prescribing and disability data, as well as research which shows how long-term use of antidepressants can lead to worse outcomes for patients: “There is substantial evidence in the scientific literature that antidepressants increase the chronicity of the disorders they are used to treat, and increase the risk that a person will become disabled. The data, I believe, lead to a very disturbing conclusion: the dramatic rise in disability for depression and anxiety seen across the western world is being caused, in large part, by the very drugs which are being used to treat them.”

The meeting comes as the Department of Health releases the latest prescribing data, which shows that over 61m prescriptions for antidepressants (costing £285m) were issued in England alone in 2015, a rise of 7% on the previous year and over double the figure in 2005.[1]

Dr Joanna Moncrieff, consultant psychiatrist and senior lecturer at University College London, will also discuss the findings of her recent paper on the rise of mental health disability.[2]  Using Department of Work & Pensions data, her paper shows that the number of claimants for mental disorders rose by 103% from 1995 to 1.1 million in 2014, while claimants for other conditions fell by 35% in the same period. Two thirds of mental disorder claimants in 2014 were classified as having a depressive or anxiety disorder.

Moncrieff concludes: “The increasing use of all types of drugs for mental disorders, and especially antidepressants, in England since the 1990s does not appear to have improved the rising trends in disability claims for these conditions.  We need to have a serious rethink about current levels of prescribing as it may well be that, for various reasons, the drugs are in fact contributing to the disability burden, resulting in significant social and economic costs.”

Following the presentations, Professor Peter Kinderman, president of the British Psychological Society, will chair a panel to debate the findings. Panellists will include Professor Allan Young from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and Baroness Stroud, executive director of the Centre for Social Justice.

“It is clear that psychiatric drugs can have very significant adverse effects, especially when taken long term,” says Kinderman.  “And we have seen growing evidence of the effectiveness of evidence-based psychological therapies.  We therefore urgently need to drop the ‘disease model’ of mental health, and embrace a human-centred model, with many more social and psychological interventions and many fewer prescriptions of potentially harmful drugs.”

[1]Prescription Cost Analysis, England – 2015, HSCIC, http://www.hscic.gov.uk/catalogue/PUB20200

[2] Viola S, Moncrieff J, Claims for sickness and disability benefits owing to mental disorders in the UK, trends from 1995 to 2104, BJ Psych 2015, http://bjpo.rcpsych.org/content/2/1/18


17 Responses to Politicians and experts meet at parliament to explore link between record antidepressant prescribing and disability

  1. Barry Haslam 11/05/2016 at 9:46 am #

    Governments have known about this issue for decades and have swept the problem under the carpet in order to protect vested interests.

    In 1996 I became the 1st person in the UK to be awarded DLA by a Manchester Tribunal for brain damage caused by prescribed benzodiazepine drugs.

    Tranquillisers and antidepressants cure nothing. They store up immeasurable suffering to come, for the iatrogenic addict and ruin patients lives and careers. Alternative holistic methods and counselling are needed and not ever increasing prescribed, mind altering drugs of dependence. Which are harmful and dangerous.

    30 years after my withdrawal from benzodiazepines I still suffer daily from the following damage done by NHS prescribed drugs ( taken as prescribed by my doctors ) : brain shrinkage, fluid on the brain, narrowing of brain ventricles, neuropathic pain in right leg, chronic daily headaches, intense fatigue, breathing problems, under active thyroid, B12 deficiency and cognitive problems.

    Government Ministers,Department of Health and the NHS have to front up to the Pharmaceutical Industry, in their incessant push for super profits at the direct expense
    of the health of this Nation.

    Government have to accept responsibility and accountability for this national scandal of mass iatrogenic patient dependence, to take action to stop this debacle and put in place national dedicated withdrawal services and after care facilities for those who wish to withdraw safely.

    Enough is enough.

    Barry Haslam. Ex Chair of Oldham Tranx.

    • Elly 12/05/2016 at 11:15 pm #

      ”Governments have known about this issue for decades and have swept the problem under the carpet in order to protect vested interests.”

      The sales of antidepressants are still rising in the UK, and all over the world. If the Government is going to end up paying out millions for Disability cheques, wouldn’t it just make sense to ban antidepressants now.

  2. Barney Holmes 11/05/2016 at 12:22 pm #

    Will this be filmed or be on BBC Parliament ?

  3. Enrique Bonail 11/05/2016 at 2:20 pm #

    I sympathise with Barry Haslam, I know how he feels from our personal bitter experience. Psychiatric drugs have ruined and blighted our lives for 16 years. Just as we were ready to start enjoying early retirement at the turn of the century, my wife had neuropsychiatric symptoms from an endocrine low thyroid dysfunction. The condition is very well described in the endocrinology textbooks and very curable or manageable. But …. she was then hijacked by psychiatrists and experimented with new and existing drugs. Without informed consent or permission, she has basically taken every known psychiatric drug in existence causing serious health issues and worsening psychiatric symptoms, she became entangled in a revolving door situation where medication changes were motivated by the gross disabilities appearing and not by a judicious search for improvement, she was officially disabled a few years ago after being transformed into a dehumanised zombie and can´t function anymore as a human being. This January she had a life threatening setback caused by drug poisoning particularly lithium and seroquel requiring casualty admission, she had stopped eating and drinking, was talking constantly, not amenable to any external stimulus and was detained for six months to force experiments with new medications, a detention not motivated to stop a danger to herself as steps were in place for minimum nutrition and monitoring, thus contrary to the MHA 1983. Lithium was withdrawn upon advice by the registrars but another medication was promptly started, the prescribing being relentless. I am at my wits end at being powerless to end the experimentation, I can´t take my wife to another hospital or clinic in the state she is and we are trapped. She has now developed a cardiac syndrome being investigated. Endocrinologists and neurologists have stated over the years she has been taking too many drugs, these are incisive but cooperative mild criticisms addressed to their psychiatric colleagues because they can see the problem first hand in their own consulting rooms with referrals.
    Psychiatry has a place in modern medicine, but the results speak loudly of a pseudo-science shooting in the dark and it needs to be exposed fully and reformed to end the unnecessary suffering and premature deaths in the name of medical research and useless experiments that have no solid biomedical foundation. We need to back up the brave professionals and scientists that are sticking their heads out of the parapet and the emerging organizations such as CEP, MindFreedom, etc. that support them and fly the flag for the truth and for those who have been wilfully damaged.

    Our government faces a difficult problem: it has dragged its feet for ages on the core issue, it is not willing to do anything because tackling this serious medical and social scourge would have devastating socioeconomic consequences affecting all the actors and institutions and to boot that would also imply threatening a very large industry in the UK contributing 33% of our GNP and the whole idea is regarded in Downing Street as political and fiscal suicide. Human life and medical care should be well above profit and balance sheets. In a nutshell drastic reform with drastic results, and Parliament and those in power should do well to remember that we did not develop into what we are today by appeasing mafia groups, warmongers and dictators but crushing them or forcing them to the table with valour and courage. The plague is spread worldwide but our government has the opportunity to lead with courage to stop the rot …. how many more purposeful wilful deaths and disabled people do they need before they take action? Do we wait until the disability burden becomes unsustainable and overtakes the fiscal and economic advantages? Ar we willing to become a sigificantly disabled nation?

    Bent individuals and organizations are not known for reforming from within, thus reform must be forced upon psychiatric practice. Forget about huge pharma fines, they only create fake fixes (like the US government corporate governance agreements forced on pharma companies caught on the hop misleading and fiddling trial figures) fake fixes maintain the status quo until the next fine. Imposing very strict legal criteria and the threat of long jail terms is very fitting for a system that is rotten to the core, and the message is loud and clear for Parliament and Downing Street: the whole country and especially those at the receiving end of this tragic catastrophe demand REFORM and today is already too late.

    Enough is enough ….

    • Sarah Smith 12/05/2016 at 5:08 pm #

      I think Parliament should be more worried about Pharma ‘fines’. Big Pharma marketing in the U.S. has methodically brainwashed consumers. We are one of only two nations to still allow direct to consumer advertising and if that wasn’t enough, big Pharma ‘astro-turfs’. Remember when Trump first announced his candidacy, he used a public relations firm well known for it’s practice of hiring people to show up to rallies and protests? This led to the ‘astro turfing’ when a corporation or group of corporations pays people to get in the news by posing as grass roots activists or advocates. Well this has happened on quite a large scale in the form of National Alliance of the Mentally Ill (NAMI) in the U.S. It is the largest consumer advocacy organization for the mentally ill in the U.S. and it took an act of the Senate (Senator Grassley) to get the to expose their funding source: you guessed it. Over 60% of their funding comes directly from big Pharma ‘grants’.

      Anytime our movement for human rights in the U.S. mental health system tries to overhaul the educational outreach materials for individuals and families, put some progressive legislation together, etc. an uncanny army of psychiatric consumers who are happy with the status quo can be trotted out to share their personal success stories involving psychiatric drugging. I know one lady in the U.S. with bi-polar who received a ‘fellowship’ from Eli Lily to set up her own website and write several ‘self help’ books on how to manage bi-polar. To resist change, they can subsidize individuals.

      These consumers make agents of change in the mental health system out to be lacking in compassion. They accuse us of wanting to take away their right to take medications. They even call us ‘pill shamers’. Which is nonsense. I support people’s rights to take medication. I just want people to be fully informed before they are prescribed psychiatric medication, I want ECT banned and I want there to be more research around how to support people who are heavily drugged to taper off safely from psychiatric medications. After all, it’s easy to find doctors to put an individual ON medications but it’s harder than Heck to find doctors willing to take a patient OFF their medication. And I want doctor’s to be fully informed and I want academics and researchers to stop relying on big Pharma money for their research and their fancy capital campaigns. I want stories of adverse drug reactions to be circulated as widely in the media as advertisements for drugs and stories about people whose lives were ‘saved’ by psychiatric drugs. I want to see an end to equating people with mental illness with violence in movies and in our culture in general.

    • Michael Holmes 13/05/2016 at 7:39 am #

      Enrique Bonail,

      Have you found http://drugawareness.org/ ? Dr Tracy’s book is very good, the audio CD’s/mp3’s are even better (down the right hand column). I almost lost my life in 2006 due to these drugs but her approach bought me back after some years. I was only on one drug off and on over a 3 year period, but I know the approach has worked in much worse cases.

      • Enrique Bonail 17/05/2016 at 11:20 pm #

        Michael, many thanks for pointing me to Dr Tracy’s book and I am glad it helped you get over your problems and escape the psychiatric snare. Over the last 16 years I have read many books and articles inc. Dr Breggin’s, Grace Jackson’s, David Healy’s, Robert Whitaker’s, James Davies’s etc … and many more. To be able to go off these drugs you must have retained some insight and persistence …. our case is that these drugs have created a lobotomised zombie that for now needs 24 hour care and to complicate matters she is now illegally detained under the MHA to force more drug experiments. After our lives have been ruined, the raw option is to take my wife to Switzerland for euthanasia, but even that is fraught with problems with a lobotomised zombie of unsound mind, who until she was put on these drugs was a normal able person. This is the plight and I am at my wits end. Though I thank you I don’t think reading another book will resolve this problem. There has to be a solution, and I am trying to find it, the priority now is to get her out of the snare and try some restoration therapy in a clinical setting as the home is not the right place…. and wait and hope and pray ….

  4. Dr. Moss. 11/05/2016 at 3:21 pm #

    Antidepressants cause life threatening adverse drug reactions through a common and extremely dangerous psycholeptic drug toxicity : – AKATHISIA. This appears to be poorly understood and under-recognised by prescribers in both primary and secondary care.

    Akathisia is the subject of a current paper in: –
    The Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine by Eikelenboom, Lucire et al. 2016 doi:10 1016/j.jflm.2016.04.003

    The Relevance of Cytochrome P450 Polymorphism in Forensic Medicine and Akathisia Related Violence and Suicide.

    The authors observe: –
    “The combination of fluctuating restlessness, suicidality, aggression and toxic hallucinations are pathognomic of akathisia”.
    “We cannot find any other diagnosis in the medical taxonomy that combines suicidal and aggressive thoughts with medication, nor any other that recedes when the culprit drug is taken away”.

    This genomic sequencing study identifies vulnerability to akathisia due to impaired ability to metabolise anti-depressants. Hence these drugs cause, rather than prevent suicide violence and on occasion, homicide.

    SSRI induced AKATHISIA may present with overwhelming agitation combined with extreme and bizarre, out-of-character behavioural and psychological changes, rather than restlessness. This presentation is vulnerable to misdiagnosis as a major psychiatric illness.
    Clearly such diagnostic error is a catastrophe for the patient, as removal of the toxic psychiatric medication is required, not additional exposure to further akathisia inducing antidepressants and antipsychotics.

    • Elly 12/05/2016 at 11:29 pm #

      I had severe akathisia on 4 or 5 occasions while on Seroxat. One time it was so bad, I almost jumped out a third floor window. Although I knew what I was doing, I felt like I was in some crazy liquid dream, and in reality had absolutely no control over what I was doing. Akathisia must be the nearest thing to an ayahuasca trip gone very wrong. I was never so out of my mind in my life. I got away from the window and overdosed instead. Coma for two days. Came round and was seen talking to my suitcase as if it was a person. Never in my life did I experience any form of psychosis except while under the effects of Seroxat. Robin Williams a well-respected actor committed suicide while on Mirtazapine. Andreas Lubit, an intelligent person, enough to be able to get a pilot’s licence, committed suicide while on Mirtazapine. The film director Tony Scott, brother to Ridley Scott, committed suicide while on Mirtazapine. What well-respected Hollywood stars want to be remembered for as being ”cowards”, I ask. If akathisia overwhelmed their minds and bodies while on Mirtazapine, which I suspect it did, I can totally understand why they murdered and/killed themselves.

  5. Sandra Villarreal 11/05/2016 at 5:34 pm #

    It’s unfortunate that in the U.S. patient care and safety are overlooked, deemed ‘unimportant’. We drug our children the most than any country on earth. Something we should be very ashamed of but is overlooked after repeated exposure to so much TV advertisements (pure propaganda) by Big Pharma. This is human genocide and it’s happening right before our very own eyes.

    Only in America is it legal to destroy, maim and murder so many individuals for profit while our Government takes part. Between the autism rates caused by the vaccines and side effects, adverse events, and the mentally torturous withdrawal symptoms of psychiatric drugs, I believe we are actually in the midst of a Holocaust and it’s happening right under our noses.

    After being a misdiagnosed psychiatric test subject and heavily drugged for 35 horrific years (finally drug free), and researching and learning the history of psychiatry that Big Pharma literally owns and controls our governments, our media, and runs our world far beyond leads right to the Holocaust in Germany. Some of the very same pharmaceutical companies who funded the German Holocaust are the very same pharma companies drugging us today. Only, today, there are so many more companies now taking part. So I feel so blessed to know how everyone involved with CEP and beyond (madinamerica), Peter Gotzsche, Dr. Breggin, Paula J. Caplan, ect is educating the public about this deadly epidemic plaguing our planet today. And Hurray for all of us psychiatric drug survivors who share our personal stories of survival to give strength and hope to others, because sadly, we are rarely believed by our doctors. There is strength in numbers.

    • Heidi 18/05/2016 at 8:06 am #

      I keep looking for a “Like” button to all of these replies. I too was severely damaged by antidepressants and was smart enough to realize that the medications were going to kill me. I started taking antidepressants in 2011. Within 2 years, I had been on 7 different medications and was getting progressively worse. I was completely dangerous on the road to and from work and was unable to complete even the simplest of tasks by the end of it. I was fired from my position in management on 4/1/13. I went CT off what was left of the drugs I was on because I’d already been very quickly withdrawn from most of the medications as I was being increased on Lamictal. Suffice to say, within 7 months I chose another antidepressant because I was so severely suicidal. That was my LAST mistake. It took me down another rabbit hole for another 17 months before getting clear of that last one. Today, it’s been over a year since my last dose and I am still suffering frequent insomnia, akathisia, suicidal ideation, tinnitus, severe fatigue, hair trigger rage, major depression, and often anxiety. But yet I am preparing for my hearing with Social Security disability and will likely lose according to my lawyer because I am refusing treatment. I can’t find a single doctor who will stand by me in this fight. They all look at me like I’m crazy and they write me off. I often think about suicide and who I should take down with me. Ely Lilly was at the top of my list. But maybe it should be the damn FDA. Then I realized, if I die, I can’t tell my story and no one will tell it for me! So I fight onward. Strength in numbers is right! Because on our own, the brutal attacks we receive are enough to push us over that last damn edge!

      So my heart goes out to everyone here. No one should have to live this way. Continue to speak out! We can save lives!

  6. Sarah Smith 11/05/2016 at 6:59 pm #

    Dr. Moncrieff and Mr Whitaker have given our family hope. Our daughter, after being involuntarily treated in the US mental health system for seven years has only gotten worse. With one adverse reaction to psychotropic drugs after another, every negative behavior she displays is regarded as ‘proof’of her illness and her debilitating side effects are ignored. She is living proof that the disease model for treating trauma and despair is devoid of merit and is practiced without restraint or regard for people’s rights. Psychiatry has no theoretical model;it is a branch of medicine that bases it’s ‘treatment’ on speculation and routinely ignores the Hippocratic oath to ‘first do harm’. If you benefit from psychiatric treatment you belong to the lucky minority.The vast majority of family members with whom I engage relate how their loved ones have been deeply harmed by psychiatry. Finally, because of the internet and courageous champions such as Whitaker and Moncrieff, we family members are able to share information, discern between the reality we see in front of us every day v.s the big Pharma propoganda, and support our loved ones through dangerous waters to more meaningful ways of dealing with distress and extreme states. With champions who are willing to fight to expose the data that already exists, we have a fighting chance to organize for change and get real help for our loved ones, starting with the creation of choices and alternatives in the MH system.

  7. Elly 12/05/2016 at 11:42 pm #

    Was on Seroxat for 15 years. While it ”worked” to make me nothing but high, violent and aggressive for a while, it eventually crashed my entire central nervous system and sympathetic nervous system. I now have chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic APATHY, and permanent sexual dysfunction. I can no longer enter in an REM sleep state and haven’t had one single dream in 6 years. My life is in the gutter. Being on Disability cheques is the most degrading and humiliating thing that has ever happened to me because it’s for iatrogenic illnesss. I tell people how I’ve ended up, and I get the ”it’s just a returned depression” line. I’ve never felt so violated and so wronged in my life. I am not a shadow of the person I one was. Chronic fatigue and chronic apathy haev me holed up in my flat 24/7. I’ve ended up just like Syd Barrett. Antidepressants target the serotonergic system just as LSD does. Too much and it’s goodbye LIFE. Seroxat is a legal ”drug” though. I trusted GSK with my life because they promised their ”drug” would heal me, not harm me. I’ve never done illegal drugs in my life. The legal ones got me.

  8. N 13/05/2016 at 2:47 am #

    I think the term used on Dr David Healys website sums it up……Pharmaceutical rape.

    Rape involves a bodily violation. Something is put into your body that causes harm, something that you didn’t consent to, something that if you had known about you might have made a different choice.

    Pharmaceutical rape involves trusting and having that trust violated.

    As with physical rape, the victims are everywhere, walking among us unrecognized. Many may not even know they are victims of rape.

    Pharmaceutical rape involves suffering physical, emotional, mental, social, and spiritual damage at the hands of those holding power who deny any wrongdoing and remain free to do the same to others.

    Pharmaceutical rape myths


    1. The FDA protects the public

    2. Drug safety is assured through hard science

    3. Serious adverse events are extremely rare

    4. Development of drug dependence or addiction is unrelated to accepted prescribing protocols.

    5. Adverse events are always recognized by doctors and a connection to the drug is normally made.

    Maybe if we had stricter prescribing guidelines for these devils tic tacs instead of unecsesary use such as situation anxiety, depression, pain. (Wouldn’t surprise me if they have prescribed one for a stubbed toe) then less people would b harmed.

    Maybe if we got rid of the chemical balance theory which is totally flawed then we might stop giving people chemical labotimies, This would also result in people not being completely incapacitated from drug withdrawal, side effects and adverse reactions requiring disability payments from the government because they can’t work.

    I’m sure these drugs may have helped some people but they should not be used long term as they were only tested on short trials and we are only finding out now the damage.

    • D 17/09/2016 at 9:06 pm #

      Well said.
      What are the long term side effects? The short term (relative to the present) effects are horrifying, I cannot fathom what 30 years down the track will hold for some, especially if their Dr’s are of the old school variety.
      A previous Dr prescribed me with a ssri for situational depression (work place harassment), and after talking them for 1.5 years I told him i didn’t think i need them anymore. I was told that “by the time you’re in your mid 40’s the chemical imbalance should resolve itself”. I was 31. Just stopped taking them, and changed my personality for years to follow (hyper aggressive compared to my usual mellow self, not a good thing when you’re 6’8 150kg bloke).
      Felt a bit like being “rewired”.
      Like I said, the true long term effects we won’t see for decades, and I think it’s going to be scary.
      Build yourself a strong support network. You know who this is, and we’re here if you need us. No hesitations. x

  9. Ruth Smith 16/05/2016 at 12:09 pm #

    I agree with all the above comments regarding the abuse of psychiatric drugs. Eleven years ago, my 23 year old daughter experienced a crisis in her life which resulted in her becoming involved with the mental health services. Whilst at home with me, she was given anti-depressants and anti-psychotics without any information about adverse effects or how they worked. Within four weeks, her mental health deteriorated and she tried to kill herself and almost died. Much later, she told me that the drugs made her feel extremely agitated but also took away her thought processes (albeit a bit delusional at the time) and she could hardly speak. The anti-psychotic felt like a gun shot in her head and she actually screamed as it took effect. The after effects of near suicide brought on more trauma for her to deal with and hospitalisation followed with more drug experimentation. Her weight increased by 70 lbs within six months and she was unable to continue working or studying. I believe that she was literally disabled by the mental health services. As her parent/carer I have had to learn an entirely new approach to life, particularly how I can be supportive and helpful without becoming exhausted from the many traumatic experiences involving my daughter and myself. Over the past eleven years I have realised that community care is practically non existent for people suffering with severe mental health problems. Family members are now expected to take the strain, mostly without support. I believe that this is a political and economic decision taken by governments of different persuasions and is a very easy target for cutbacks. It is a National disgrace and needs urgent addressing before more people are abused or die within a system which continues to persecute and demoralise people. After much personal research, I now believe that psychiatry is doing more harm than good in its present practice. Although I can see that medications can be helpful for some people, it is also clear from evidence that many people are suffering severe adverse effects, sometimes for many years. Many people are advised to take these medications for life and, in any case, it is extremely difficult to reduce or withdraw from them without the necessary medical supervision and support which is NOT available. I know from personal experience that withdrawal symptoms can be viewed as a relapse and hospitalisation can follow, adding more traumatic experiences. I would like to know why there is such a HUGE GAP of knowledge and understanding between the recent evidence from research about these toxic medications and what is happening in the front line services – by those practitioners who do not seem to be aware (or perhaps ignore) of the damage being done by the prescribing of these drugs ? Maybe this is the GAP filled by the pharmaceutical market who recognised the money to be made in the continuation of mental illness rather than helping to make people well. These corporations have not taken any oath to ‘first do no harm’ – so no problem for them ! However, I believe there is a groundswell of opinion which is growing amongst service users and carers/family members – as well as some compassionate practitioners – the evidence is becoming clearer and the moral struggle for change is gaining in momentum. We only need to combine our energies together and make a major impact for this change to happen. It has to happen because we are all human beings and this is definitely a human rights issue.


  1. “Politicians and Experts Meet at Parliament to Explore Record Antidepressant Prescribing and Disability” - Mad In America - 11/05/2016

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