You can’t talk of modern psychiatry without talking about psychiatric medication, which has become the cornerstone of the practice over the decades. The problem with psychiatric drugs, however, is that they do more harm than good to the brain and withdrawal can be a real challenge if you’ve already started taking them. Many psychiatrists wouldn’t let you know that, though, as you will learn from Dr. Timothy J. Hayes’ guest for this episode. Known as “The Conscience of Psychiatry,” Dr. Peter Breggin has been fighting psychiatry’s reliance on neurotoxic drugs, as well as other ethically questionable practices like lobotomy and electroshock therapy, advocating for therapies that focus more on care, love and empathy. He has authored dozens of scientific articles and more than twenty books, including medical books and a number of bestsellers. He shares the meat of some of these works in this conversation, together with his overall opinion of the psychiatric profession as it stands today.
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Why Psychiatric Drugs Are Killing Your Brain And How To Get Out Of The Bind With Dr. Peter Breggin
Dr. Peter Breggin, MD is a Harvard-trained Psychiatrist and former Consultant at the National Institutes of Mental Health, who has been called “The Conscience of Psychiatry.” He has many decades of successful efforts to reform the mental health field. His work provides the foundation for modern criticism of psychiatric diagnoses and drugs and leads the way in promoting more caring and effective therapies. His research and educational projects have brought about major changes in FDA approval, full prescribing information, and in labels for dozens of antipsychotic and antidepressant drugs. He continues to educate the public and professionals about the tragic psychiatric drugging of America’s children.
Let’s dive in and tell us about how you got into what you’re doing and have your focus on this Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal, which is such a powerful and important tool for families, people and providers.
I got into this whole area when I was eighteen years old at Harvard in my freshman year. A friend said he and his brother had started this volunteer program at a state mental hospital. I’d always been interested in psychology. I never imagined being a physician. At Harvard, I ended up going out to the state hospital. It reminded me when I walked into it as my uncle describes Nazi extermination camp, he’d liberated during World War II. It was a dreadful place. Quarters of people sitting on benches and lying on the floor. Insensitive aides playing cards behind a glass window or we would come upon people being abused by the aides. The doctors were arrogant and indifferent.
I saw electroshock treatment. I ended up running the program. I became very involved in it. At one point, I went to the superintendent and I said, “We want to do a group of students about a dozen of us out of the couple of 100 that come in through Harvard and Radcliffe. Each has our own patient.” He thought this was outrageous. We set up a program that we call the Case Aide Program. It ended up that instead of hurting the patients like the Psychoanalytic Institute of Boston warned the hospital that we would hurt the patients. These poor backward souls who never saw a therapist let alone a psychoanalyst. We ended up getting 13 out of 15 of them out of the hospital.
That convinced me right away that what people needed was human services. Even though I didn’t know a lot about love in my own life, I knew that love was somehow real. I talked about love and care. It was there. It was also obvious to me that even though I was very successful, I was very vulnerable. I felt like them, but for the grace of God, “Go, I.” I promoted this program. I ended up working with Harvard professors. We got a write-up in a very important, last psychosocial document ever put out by the National Institute of Mental Health. We were cited a couple of times and got a lot of publicity.
That induced me to become a psychiatrist. I had no idea that in 1954 and ‘58 when I was working in these hospitals was a time of advancement in psychiatry compared to where we’d be now. At that time, there was social psychiatry, community psychiatry, psychoanalysts with all their flaws, and cult-like view of themselves. There were these different alternatives going on around psychiatry and even within it. By the time I graduated and as a full-fledged psychiatrist and went on to National Institute of Mental Health and national student, all the psychosocial had been purged.
I could see in 1968, when I left the National Institute of Mental Health, that there was no place for a psychologically, socially, ethically-oriented psychiatrist in psychiatry that I was not going to be the youngest president of the American Psychiatric Association. I was going to be outside the establishment to a great extent. I went into private practice and was enjoying that. I was thriving and I discovered that lobotomy was coming back in 1972. I said, “This can’t happen again.” I saw lobotomized patients at Harvard and also, I visited Boston State during my college days when I was active as a volunteer leader. I knew this was an atrocity. I’d even read lobotomy books or Walter Friedman’s book back in college. I decided that somebody was going to have to stand up and say no.
I had no idea that instead of being the youngest president of the American Psychiatric Association, I’d probably be the youngest person that they ever put a target on his back and said, “We’ve got to stop and get him.” That began a career. I put a few years into stopping this atrocity and succeeded in shutting it down in the Western world, even in Japan and some of the projects in India, only the most arrogant remained at Harvard and Brown and they’re petering out now. I found out there was a lot of racism behind psychosurgery in the ‘60s. Harvard professors were getting funding on the grounds that there was something wrong with the brains of urban rioters that is African-American leaders like Rap Brown.
That was ridiculous to me. There were also some surgeries being done at an African-American segregated institution in Jackson, Mississippi. I stopped those. I shut down the Harvard program and I was now a reformer and people began to say, “What about shock treatment? What about drugs?” I started to look and learn more. The shock treatment turns out to be nothing but a closed head lobotomy with electricity. It’s very traumatic to the brain. I looked at the phenothiazines and the other antipsychotic drugs, which are more correct. They called neuroleptics, which was their original designation because that infers that they are neurotoxic.Psychiatric drugs are not medicines. They are neurotoxins. Click To Tweet
I went back and began to realize that these drugs are neurotoxins, they’re not medications. They’re brain disabling and I began to write about that. I was on the cutting edge of research in the field of psychiatric drugs. In the early 1990s, I was approached after they invited everybody they could find. I was apparently the only psychiatrist with courage. Maybe they had some others, but they chose me to be the single scientist for all the combined lawsuits against Eli Lilly for Prozac, which numbered at 150 or so. A federal court approved me and I became the first person to look inside a drug company on psychiatric drugs in any depth. I was appalled.
The clinical trials were a sham. They were manipulated. They were much too short. There was a collaboration between the FDA and Eli Lilly to make sure that the trials got approved. Even when they were done illegitimately by also medicating patients with sedatives to calm them down after they got overstimulated by Prozac. Right in the trials, they were breaking the rules, trying to do something with this cocaine-like drug, which they were realizing at the FDA and many amphetamine-like effects on people. I learned more than I ever dreamed about how bad clinical trials are. They’re called the gold standard by the drug companies because they bring in all the gold. They’re not science. They’re always heavily manipulated and controlled.
I’ve spent my career writing twenty or more books going way back to some early novels that dealt with the subject because that’s what I plan to be before became and reform as a novelist. I’ve been promoting more caring human service alternatives and criticizing the psychiatric drugs, electroshock, and lobotomy for many decades. Bert Karon, who was a wonderful professor of psychology, who’s gone now, dubbed me the “Conscience of Psychiatry” and let me put that on one of my books. That’s something I look back now at my age with great pride. I’m a living testimonial that if they don’t kill you, it’s quite a wonderful thing to be a reformer if you survive it. It’s very dangerous.
One of the benefits of you’re staying the course and being a reformer is this book, Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal: The Guide for Prescribers, Therapists, Patients, and Their Families. I’d love to spend some time talking about this because as a clinician, myself, seeing many people who come into my office on 2, 3, 4 and more medications, I’m not necessarily anti-medication. My thought is, “If you’re on a medication and it’s working, why do you need to see a therapist? If you’re on five medications and they’re helping, why do you need a therapist?” It’s difficult to get off of many of these, that’s why I’m thrilled to be looking into your book, Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal because I have a whole host of families I deal with, who don’t know how to help their loved one get off of it and a whole series of medical doctors and psychiatrists I deal with who don’t know. Tell us what brought you to this book and what it offers us?
Let me begin by addressing your reluctance to say you are an anti-drug. The only rational position there is that neurotoxins are not good for the brain and they can’t possibly cure anybody of a disorder that’s psychosocial and origins. They couldn’t cure anybody of a biochemical imbalance. If they existed, they don’t exist in the brains of patients until the first drug, then they have multiple biochemical imbalances. The first to consider is the irony that there are no known genetic or biochemical causes of anything we call psychiatric disorder. It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about so-called bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. No one will ever debate me on that or try to stop me from talking.
That’s the first principle that I want to address in terms of being called an anti-drug. The second one is that all psychiatric drugs are neurotoxins. You don’t want to take them. They harm your brain. There are no long-term benefits from any psychiatric drug. They can’t even barely do long-term studies because they’re so damaging to people. They don’t want the results. No biochemical imbalances and no drugs that help people. They are neurotoxins. People think they’re helping because they are blunted in their emotions. It’s the edge that is taken off.
If you give a neurotoxin of almost any kind, it doesn’t have to be called a psychiatric drug. It can be anything. It can be small doses of any poison. One of the first things going to happen is the frontal lobes of the brain are going to not function as well. You won’t feel as much suffering. You make it some horrible side effect, which your doctor will then say, “It will go away soon or it’s your mind and your symptoms are getting worse for some unknown reason. Since we started the drug, maybe we unmasked your symptoms,” or some craziness that my colleagues will create.
The fact of the matter is that all these drugs can do is either to do your emotions generally if they are doing is specific harms that will cause euphoria. Very often patients go from one antidepressant to another, because for a few weeks or days, they became euphoric on them so they keep looking. It’s also how people get into cocaine. They get a euphoria. They keep raising the doses of cocaine, but you can’t do that with psychiatric drugs. It will kill you. They don’t get into that particular process and they are also suppressive.
There’s a lot of space for a psychologist to say, “We’re not doing this anymore.” I have a paper out called Rational Principles of Psychopharmacology and that’s in a contemporary psychology journal and you can get it on my website, Breggin.com. I’m hoping that psychologists will take a stand and they’re going to start saying to patients, “Read this book.” They put it on not a medical doctor, but that’s ridiculous. We don’t have to be medical doctors like I am to criticize medical procedures. That’s an old thing from the middle ages. We had these craft guilds to keep other people shut up all the time.
We tell people to read Breggin’s book, Peter Garrett’s case notebook and Bob Whitaker’s books. If a psychologist reads one of those books, Bob Whitaker is a journalist. I always called him a scientist. He knows more than the psychiatrist. Let alone the pediatrician or the nurse practitioner or the physician’s assistant prescribing for your patient. I don’t know of any lawsuits against psychologists for giving honest opinions and directing people to read about psych drugs or the lawsuits are against the prescribers.
I may be getting too old for this, but I volunteered to defend any psychologist, who in good faith simply gives proper information about the drugs, like the full prescribing information and say, “Let’s read the full prescribing information together and we’ll talk about what it says.” The full prescribing information the drug company advocates will lie to you and say, “The reason that’s in there is we’re covering it ourselves.” The drug companies fight to put the adverse effects in there. They’d like sinusitis in and things like that put in to distract you, but they do not want things like severe headache, anxiety, hallucinations, and delusions. They don’t want to go into the details in the antidepressants of how people deteriorate on these drugs, how they develop an activation syndrome that includes anxiety, insomnia, aggressivity and mania. That’s all in there.
They don’t want people knowing that the antipsychotic drugs cause tardive dyskinesia, which is abnormal movements and is very deep disabling and even life-threatening. If you go through the standard information with your patients as a psychologist, you’re on firm ground. I can’t guarantee you won’t be sued or you won’t get injured, but I’ve not seen a single case. The whole threat goes back to a hospital that caved in back in the 1980s when they were threatened because they didn’t give drugs to a patient. There was not even a malpractice lawsuit, they caved in. It’s all about fear and threat.
That’s all they can keep the psychiatric system alive. To write a book about Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal, why am I still the only psychiatrist to have written a book like that? There were some short works, articles here and there by one other psychiatrist on benzodiazepines and that’s it. The answer is that psychiatrists are simply at this point shills and salespersons for the drug companies. That’s all they do, all they know. You’re guaranteed to get the drug if you go to a psychiatrist.
One of my blogs takes the position. You can find it on my website, the Mad in America, that people should stop going to psychiatrists. It’s too dangerous because you’ll get a neurotoxin. They don’t do anything else, unless you want that to go in that direction, you should not go to a psychiatrist anymore. It’s time to tell the truth about all of this. I’ve been saying that for a while. I don’t think they want to go after me about it because they don’t want to publicize this issue.
They went after my medical license for saying on Oprah Winfrey that, “If you don’t want to take a psychiatric drug, you don’t have to start one. You can leave the doctor’s office and go find a good therapist.” They went after my medical license backed by the psychiatric association, one of their Astro Turf organizations and I won hugely. I got publicity and got published my first important book that many people have read is Toxic Psychiatry. They don’t want to stir me up, but I’m telling what the truth is. There’s a whole history of psychiatry even knowing that these drugs are neurotoxins going all the way back to the very first drug, Thorazine, which was described in their own literature to the neurotoxin. That subdued people, quieted and slowed them down. It gave them Parkinsonism so they couldn’t move or respond much.
They used to call it the Thorazine Shuffle.
You give enough of any of the new drugs, Abilify, Seroquel, Risperdal and Zyprexa. The Thorazine Shuffle comes from blocking dopamine and Parkinsonism comes from a loss of dopamine. It’s important to try if you can, to figure out a way to come off psychiatric drugs in my opinion and that should be common sense. Even if you feel it’s helped you, you don’t need to be on them for a lifetime. At least, scientifically we have no lifetime studies. Everybody has to make their own decision, read a lot of stuff about this. If you decide to come off of them and I never push anybody ever. If you decide you want to come off these drugs, the risks are too real and the benefits are too obscure, you have to do it slowly.
If you’ve been on for more than a few months and you are on multiple drugs, especially if you’re a wounded person living at home in multiple drugs, you have to come off slowly because it could be lethal to stop them suddenly because your brain has grown accustomed to them. What the brain does is fights every single drug instead of welcoming the drugs. Some guys make you think the brain is going, “I’ve always needed you.” No, the brain is going, “What is this?” It is mounting every single mechanism available in order to prevent the drug effect. If Prozac or Celexa or Zoloft or Paxil or any of these drugs are trying to increase the amount of serotonin in your brain. Your brain is fighting by multiple mechanisms against that happening. You stop the drug and you’ve got a brain that’s fighting the drug.At this point, psychiatrists are simply salespersons for the drug companies. You're guaranteed to get the drug if you go to a psychiatrist. Click To Tweet
Think of it in terms of cigarettes. Why does somebody who starts smoking have to smoke every few minutes? Because they’re going into withdrawal and the brain has been fighting the drugs so they’re more jittery than ever. You take it to suppress your jitteriness. You suppress your brain. The brain starts to fight back and every few minutes your brain is overpowering the drug, you’ve got to take the drug again or alcohol. You take them a couple of Martinis to go to sleep. You’re very likely to wake up at 4:00 or 5:00 AM as the blood level drops. Your brain is agitated and its efforts to fight the drug. The brain fights all known psychoactive substances, marijuana, and the whole bunch. It doesn’t want them. They’re not normal. They’re dreadful and drastic interferences. They all cause withdrawal problems.
How do you go through withdrawal? You do the opposite of what your psychiatrist or internist did. The reason I emphasize psychiatrists, even though most of the prescribing is done by professionals with less training in psychiatry is that we are the leaders of the pharmaceutical empire. We are their boys and girls. We are the ones who push the drugs, they’re my colleagues and they need to stop. People who go to a primary care doctor, get medication and aren’t doing well, they make a huge mistake if they think the psychiatrist knows more. The psychiatrist knows less because the psychiatrist doesn’t have the reasonable cautions of the primary care doctor or a nurse practitioner or a physician’s assistant or an internist.
The psychiatrist is full of arrogance. They’ll give you five drugs, which are very rare. Do I see in malpractices? Do I see non-psychiatrists doing? They’ll rarely have lawsuits involving this. They rarely give you an antipsychotic drug when you don’t have any psychotic symptoms whatsoever of any kind. More and more, they’ve been convinced by a psychiatrist to give Abilify to help the antidepressant that is to flatten you even more. There isn’t going to be better informed. You’re going to be worse off with most psychiatrists. They’re unwilling to even consider drug withdrawal because that shows they’re the emperors with no clothes. That withdrawal’s terrible process has to be done slowly with knowledge.
I don’t want to turn people away from reading my book, which is important, but I also have a good chapter on withdrawal in an inexpensive book called Medication Madness. It’s all about how the drugs harm people. It’s paperback. It’s less expensive. If you can afford the medical book, get it, please. If you can’t get the chapter in Medication Madness, then read that. The most fundamental principle of Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal is that it has to be based on your subjective experience of withdrawal. It is not about the doctor’s program. It’s not about 10% per month or per week or per day. It’s certainly not your psychiatrist formula which is, “We’ll have it now and I’ll see you in a week.”
The way I start withdrawals is I figure out which is the best drug to come off. That’s complicated, but often it’s the most recent drug because that’s often the easiest or it could be the most dangerous drug, which usually is the anti-psychotic or it could be the drug that’s freaking you out, which could be the antidepressant. It could be your addiction drug, which is the benzo. It’s a complicated conversation about which drug is first. For that, I wish people would read the main book, Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal.
Once you’ve decided, what I do unless we’re dealing with an emergency such as the person is developing tardive dyskinesia or the person’s getting manic on the antidepressants or some other emergency. I say, “What’s the smallest dose you could take of this drug?” I might look up because I’ll never remember, “What is the smallest pill make or the smallest capsule make?” I figure out with the patient, whether that’s something we can break up. You can break up a pill that is not long-acting. Once you get into long-acting forms, you should talk to your pharmacist and get it straight. Let’s suppose it’s a Xanax tablet or a Prozac tablet and not a long-acting.
Even if it’s a capsule, if it’s short-acting, you need to check with your pharmacist, but you can generally open them up and take out a few grains. I say, “Let’s have a success. Let’s start and take a small amount.” The reason is to peep off of your current dose. If you’re taking three pills, let’s take a small amount off one. Let’s go slow. I want you to know that it can be done because most people are put off by the way their doctor has them do a rather abrupt withdrawal and they get upset and go back on. I want you to have success. I go from there. As the therapist psychiatrist, I’m always being a therapist. I have given up trying to be the supervising psychiatrist and the therapist handles it. It’s one package for me.
I do the therapy and withdrawal. I’m usually seeing the person once a week, occasionally, we’ll go to twice a week. I want the person to have this experience and to call me in a week as it’s going, “Can we go much faster?” I always want to say, “Don’t rush.” I want to be the guy who never says, “Why don’t you go fast?” Unless it’s an emergency, I’ll say, “Let’s take it easy.” As a result, with uncomplicated cases, by which I mean an individual who is autonomous, has a job or is raising kids, doing well in their lives, not dependent on their parents and everybody could talk very much.
One or two exceptions a few years ago with people had trouble getting off the last tiny bits of Xanax or the last tiny bits of antidepressants and stayed on them. I haven’t had that happen in a while, but you see how much it’s about the patient. It’s not, “A great doctor.” No. It’s good solid patients who are motivated, responsible and independent going slow. They’ll find a way to work with you to get off the meds. I have failed to do much for people who are on five drugs, living at home and smoking dope, for example. One of what I thought was the worst failures, I got him off 1 out of 5 drugs or something. Years later, somebody said, “So-and-so praises you. They have much less taking their drugs.” That person did something and made some improvements. You can influence people that you don’t know.
In general, if you’re on multiple drugs and you’re dependent, you need a lot of help to come on. Probably, family therapy working with whoever you are dependent upon. You need some real support. I’m terrible at the group. I get very confused by all the people. One person loves me and the other person is jealous. It’s complex. I like to build loving relationships, caring, responsible relationships with individuals, couples and families. I find that it’s easy for me to do. On the 1st and 2nd day, I’m getting along well with whoever I’m working with. I don’t think I could do that with a group of eight people. Somebody might have different skills than me and they can do that.
Wherever possible the person should be dealing with somebody in addition to the therapist, who’s monitoring them, and there’s almost like a solid general principle. We never attribute withdrawal problems to withdrawal. There’s something about us humans, maybe that we have many stresses and many things that could aggravate us. We always think it’s something else. We forget. It doesn’t matter whether you’re coming off prednisone, which has a lot of withdrawal with potential psychological stuff. It doesn’t matter whether you’re like me and you find out that you’re irritable the morning after you take a Benadryl.
I’ve had allergies since I was a kid. I’ll take a Benadryl and get up in the morning. I like to be super loving all the time in my marriage. I believe that people can do that and bring that out in each other. It took me the 3rd or 4th that I had the Benadryl that I would admit to the connections. When I say we, I mean we. People don’t tend to attribute either drug adverse effects or drug withdrawal effects. They will sometimes. None of us can get it straight and they’ll stop a drug, for example. I am the only researcher I know that’s ever defined this.
When I do my scientific articles, Intoxication Anosognosia, or Medication Spellbinding. You’ll find that in Medication Madness and in my Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal book. You’ll also find it in my heavy-duty medical book called Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry. I tried to write in a lot of different ways for people, including blogs. We don’t recognize it. There’s a similar phenomenon of people who get electroshock. The doctors always say, “They’re exaggerating the memory defects.” People with injuries minimize their injuries. It’s called denial and it’s psychological, but it’s also anosognosia. It seems to be built into the human fabric, into the brain. You see it all the time. The patients don’t exaggerate their losses. They don’t want to deal with them. They minimize them and they can even get silly about it sometimes.
You were saying that it’s important for the person to be working with somebody other than the person who’s helping them come off the medication.
I’m in Ithaca. I have students from Cornell and Ithaca College and TC3. I advised them that if they don’t want to get much involved with their parents about it, a roommate or a boyfriend or a girlfriend who they talk to every day, somebody you’ve talked to every day if you’re not living with anybody. Sometimes I have that person talk to me on the phone or come in so that they’re aware of what’s going on. If they have a real partner, I’ll say, “Why don’t you invite your partner to come in every time,” because I’ll help you strengthen that relationship and partnership. My specialty is partnerships and love. I’ll help you strengthen that partnership while we get some better observation and some help at home.
There are courses you can take of mine. Go to my website at Breggin.com and surf Download and you see my courses. I do them through another website, a friend of mine, Dr. Pam Popper, who’s a nutritionist. She did about 25 hours of filming and two of the results were a large course on psychiatric drug withdrawal, which is expensive practitioners, family members and other people who were not professional, some take it. I even show up for two nights. It’s all interactive. There are a lot of videos and things you can watch and books to read. There’s also a short course for consumers on Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal. That’s something that you might want to do. A few $100 is a marginal profit for Dr. Pam and for me because I wanted to make that available to people. We’ve got a lot of different resources. I don’t even keep track of them anymore.
In looking at your website and there are many books. I’m glad to hear you talk about that shorter course that might be there for consumers and the bigger course, which we might be able to entice some professionals to engage in that work beyond reading your book on how to withdraw from psychiatric medications.
That course has a weekly live portion to it. There’s a young psychiatrist whom I’m very fond of who does that course at night for me. She does that very quietly and does a beautiful job. It runs like a seminar. I come on toward the end for a couple of nights. It’s intense. You will know more about Peter Breggin than you ever imagined, but also about psychiatry than you imagined. You’ll know what to do with drug withdrawal. You take that course, there won’t be a psychiatrist in a country or in the world, other than maybe 2 or 3, who will know as much about withdrawing from the drugs or about their arms. That’s not a great achievement because psychiatrists are dumbed down in their training. I do think that you become more stupid as you become a psychiatrist now because you don’t know how to talk to a non-drugged person.You become more stupid as you become a psychiatrist now because you don't know how to talk to a non-drugged person. Click To Tweet
I’ve talked to some young psychiatrists about this. You may never get to see a psychotic person who hasn’t already been drugged so you have no idea what it’s like. How do you get to see a psychotic person if you’re a psychiatrist? You either get a young psychiatrist. They either get into the hospital because they were wildly out of control and heavily drugged in the ER, which is less common or you get to see them because some practitioners loaded them up and they’re out of their minds. The psychiatrist has given up or the practitioner or the GP or the family and brought them in.
You don’t, as a young psychiatrist, work in a clinic where you’re going to see new un-drugged patients. Your whole career is thinking that schizophrenia, bipolar, all these things are people who are a little slow, can’t engage you with all their might and aren’t ripping all over with energy. They’re not necessarily going to be able to be calmed down in an hour when you engage them because the drugs don’t let them connect well enough. They don’t know that you can sit with somebody who has never seen a therapist before, who’s hallucinating and who maybe is 18 or 17 years old. They’re home from school because they had a breakdown.
You can sit with them and within fifteen minutes, you notice they’re not hallucinating anymore because they’re having their first honest conversation with anybody about alternative states, losing control over your mind and experiencing all of these things. Some of which are exciting, but most of which are terrifying, humiliating and make you want to hide. I will be very honest with patients in the first session about my own experiences. I won’t be honest on the air because that’s private, but I’ll talk to them about my own vulnerabilities. If they’re desperately suicidal, I will tell them that I’ve been there and, “If you don’t do it, you could end up having the wonderful life I have. If you do it, you leave a trail of misery.” Be honest. Have a good honest conversation. I’ll tell them, “This is not lifelong. You don’t have to be this way all your life.”
Maybe their parents will be there. I’ll invite the parents if the patient wants me to in the first session. I’ll make a judgment too about whether it’s safe, whether the parents are too upset and angry or disturbed, but I’ll bring in the parents as soon as I can and say, “I know you’re worried that I’m going to try to explain why your daughter got this way, but I’m not going to that. I don’t want to go there. If you sometimes want to come in private therapy with somebody, I’m going to help you starting now, have a more loving communication with your daughter.”
Maybe the patient will go, “Yeah, right.” I’ll say, “Jenny, give this a chance. This is new. Your parents at least were upset enough about you to bring you here instead of to a mental hospital. Let’s start anew and let’s see what we can do. Whether or not your parents cause your problems, whether or not they have played a role in them, I know if we can have a more loving relationship with you and your parents, it’s going to be a miracle for you. I know that. There is no question about it because I’ve seen it again and again. Let’s give this a try.” This is an honest conversation. I don’t know where else you’re going to get it. From an MD, may be a good psychologist or a coach you’ll get it from. I don’t think so because they’d be afraid to take that much responsibility but this is it.
It’s good conversation, good connectivity, trying to understand things and not blaming parents to the parents because what good is that? Start out talking about what we can do new. Maybe if the patient wants to go there and most people do, look at what happens between them and their parents or hurts them or did hurt them. If necessary, break with parents. Some people do that. It’s not like I’m protecting the parents. It’s like I’m trying to say, “Can we love one another?”
As you were saying, the resource that parents can be if you can re-establish or establish maybe even for the first time, a loving relationship is the most healing thing that anybody will encounter.
That even goes for older people. If you’re 50 and you can establish for the first time a loving relationship with your 70-year-old mother or father, it’s going to have a very good effect on you too. I’ll give you a wonderful anecdote, which is, I’ve always been close to Ginger’s mother. She was the only one I ever went out with. Practically, the mothers like me, they always thought I was too intense to this and that. A few years ago, my mother was having a lot of trouble with other family members that are living far away. I looked at Ginger and I said, “I’d like to ask your mom to come live with us.” She said, “Yes.” I asked mom to come live with us. I thought, “It’d be great to have a son-in-law in the house.” She said, “I can’t. I have two big dogs.” I said, “My wife is down two Yorkies. The only way I’m ever going to have a big dog is if you come here.” I have healed at age 82 to 84 some of my wounds from my parents because her mother loves me and I love her. People, we keep healing and it’s wonderful.
You were saying that you’re not going to get a conversation like that from a lot of people, maybe they’re afraid of the legal complications or implications. That’s why I appreciate your book on how to make this withdrawal. Here’s this outside reference that you provide. Dr. Breggin is going to be my resource. I’m going to let him take all the heat because he’s an actual medical doctor psychiatrist. He has said, “Here’s a book on how to withdraw from psychiatric medications. It’s a guide, not just for the patient, but for clinicians and family members.” I’m thrilled that you’ve done this work and have been a reformer as you have for as long as you have. I look forward to making this available and letting people know. I’ve spent some time on your website. I didn’t know about the courses that you mentioned. I’m glad to know about that. I would love to have the opportunity to do a longer talk in the not too distant future.
I’ll be happy to come back, Tim.
Thank you so much. It’s a privilege talking to you.
I’m very devoted to psychologists being empowered.
I appreciate all you’ve done for us and a lot of the patients and families. Thank you. Take care.
Dr. Peter Breggin, MD is a Harvard trained psychiatrist and former consultant at the National Institutes of Mental Health, who has been called “The Conscience of Psychiatry” for his many decades of successful efforts to reform the mental health field. His work provides the foundation for modern criticism of psychiatric diagnoses and drugs and leads the way in promoting more caring and effective therapies. He has authored dozens of scientific articles and more than twenty books, including medical books and the bestsellers titled Toxic Psychiatry, Talking Back to Prozac, Medication Madness: The Role of Psychiatric Drugs In Cases Of Violence, Suicide And Crime, Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal: A Guide For Prescribers Therapists, Patients And Their Families and Guilt, Shame And Anxiety: Understanding And Overcoming Negative Emotions.
- Dr. Peter Breggin, MD
- Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal: The Guide for Prescribers, Therapists, Patients and Their Families
- Rational Principles of Psychopharmacology
- Toxic Psychiatry
- Medication Madness
- Intoxication Anosognosia – Article
- Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry
- Talking Back to Prozac
- Guilt, Shame and Anxiety: Understanding and Overcoming Negative Emotions
About Peter Breggin, MD
Peter R. Breggin MD is a Harvard-trained psychiatrist and former Consultant at NIMH who has been called “The Conscience of Psychiatry” for his many decades of successful efforts to reform the mental health field. His work provides the foundation for modern criticism of psychiatric diagnoses and drugs, and leads the way in promoting more caring and effective therapies. His research and educational projects have brought about major changes in the FDA-approved Full Prescribing Information or labels for dozens of antipsychotic and antidepressant drugs. He continues to education the public and professions about the tragic psychiatric drugging of America’s children.
Dr. Breggin has taught at many universities and has a private practice of psychiatry in Ithaca, New York.
Dr. Breggin has authored dozens of scientific articles and more than twenty books, including medical books and the bestsellers Toxic Psychiatry and Talking Back to Prozac. Two more recent books are Medication Madness: The Role of Psychiatric Drugs in Cases of Violence, Suicide and Crime and Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal: A Guide for Prescribers, Therapists, Patients and their Families. His most recent book is Guilt, Shame and Anxiety: Understanding and Overcoming Negative Emotions.
As a medical-legal expert, Dr. Breggin has unprecedented and unique knowledge about how the pharmaceutical industry too often commits fraud in researching and marketing psychiatric drugs. He has testified many times in malpractice, product liability and criminal cases, often in relation to adverse drug effects and more occasionally electroshock and psychosurgery. A list of his trial testimony since 1985 is contained in the last section of his Resume.
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