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Chemical lobotomies.

"The medications I'm on are as follows: Sinequan (an anti-depressant), Navane (an anti-hallucinogen), and Akineton (an anti-parkinsonian agent). The Sinequan I take in two different dosages. I take 25 milligrams at noon and 50 milligrams at the hour of sleep. I take 12 milligrams of Navane three times a day. With each dose, I also take two milligrams of the Akineton... Over the years, I have had a lot of different medications given to me. I took Stelazine and had a severe dystonic, extrapyramidal effect, and so could not take it any more. Likewise, Haldol, Trilafon and most phenothiazines. I tried Mellaril, but developed a severe rhinitis from it and so had to be taken off it. Likewise Taractan, Piperacetazine. Serax was tried, but it made me so depressed I couldn't function and cried constantly. For five years I was on massive dosages of chlorpromazine. It did nothing to my hallucinations. In fact, I hallucinated 24 hours a day so violently that I constantly crashed into walls and I couldn't see because I was having so many visual hallucinations. After five years on this drug, I developed severe parkinsonian crises and had to be taken off this drug completely.

"From two anti-parkinsonian agents -- Cogentin and Artane -- I got partially paralyzed eye muscles. This took six weeks to cure. I was told by the eye doctor that if I ever ingested these two drugs again, I would be permanently blinded for the rest of my life. Well, I believe that's it as far as drugs go...."

These excerpts are from a letter my cousin Hope wrote to me on November 4, 1974, shortly after she was subjected to psychosurgery in Boston. Hope died from an overdose in October 1988. I blame psychiatry for her death.

There are hundreds of thousands of Canadians and millions of Americans and Europeans who have been drugged to death -- if not physically, then spiritually. Their deaths are tragic and unnecessary.

I'd like to think this article may help save a few lives but I'm no longer naive or idealistic. My purposes in writing this are more modest and practical: to expose some psychiatric myths and lies about 'medication,' to make the general public more aware of the many serious risks of psychiatric drugs, and to highlight drug-related inmate deaths and their cover-ups.

I'm not a doctor (certainly not a shrink), and no drug expert. However, I am a psychiatric survivor and have seen all too many people, including friends and relatives, become zombies after months or years of 'medication.' I've also done some library research into various psychiatric drugs during the last few years. So, I feel I have some qualifications for speaking out against these chemical lobotomies. I'm not the first and I won't be the last.

Nobody really knows how many Canadians or Americans are currently prescribed 'tranquilizer,' 'antidepressant,' or both. If your guess is five million Canadians and fifty million Americans, you're probably not too far off the mark. In this article, I want to focus on the neuroleptics (euphemistically called 'anti-psychotics' or 'major tranquilizers') and antidepressants, mainly because they're more dangerous and damaging than the 'minor tranquilizers' such as Valium.

These drugs don't tranquilize or combat depression -- they control, immobilize, poison and sometimes kill people. Dr. Peter Breggin, a prominent dissident psychiatrist and critic in the USA, aptly terms these drugs 'neurotoxins.' Both types of drugs cause a host of very serious and/or permanent disabilities, including brain damage, all of which are deceit-fully called 'side effects.' Of course, psychiatrists or family doctors generally don't tell you about these risks before they start the 'treatment,' so you really can't give 'informed consent' to, or refuse, psychiatric drugs. This is especially the case in psychiatric institutions and prisons where you're forced or blackmailed into 'co-operating with the treatment,' and not warned about tardive dyskinesia or other forms of brain damage. That's another good reason for this article -- a warning.

Neuroleptics

The word 'neuroleptic' literally means 'nerve-seizing' -- a very apt term. Neuroleptic drugs such as chlorpromazine (Thorazine or Largactil are common brand names), Stelazine, Mellaril, and Modecate (Prolixin in the USA) are among the most powerful and dangerous prescription drugs used in psychiatry. In calling these drugs 'neurotoxins,' US psychiatrist/researcher Peter Breggin points out that these drugs block the production of dopamine--a necessary chemical in the brain responsible for transmitting nerve impulses. The reason which the biological psychiatrists give for this blockage is that 'schizophrenics' and other 'psychotics' supposedly produce too much dopamine. There is no credible, scientific evidence for this 'overproduction,' but there is massive evidence of parkinsonism or symptoms of Parkinson's Disease, a direct effect (not 'side effect') of the neuroleptics. In fact, parkinsonism is a neurological disorder caused by insufficient dopamine.

What's happening here is very scary. People with a normal amount of dopamine are becoming dopamine-deficient, and seriously ill with parkinsonism as a result of the 'treatment.' That's why their hands and other parts of their bodies shake so frequently and uncontrollably; that's why their faces look so blank or zombie-like.

The neuroleptics (also called phenothiazines) debilitate and immobilize people for years. Their effects are so dramatic and disfiguring that people taking these drugs, even at moderate or 'therapeutic' dosages, look and act weird, zombie-like or out of control -- some stereotypical behavior we've erroneously labelled 'mentally ill' or 'psychotic.'

Like lobotomies, these drugs are used to enforce compliance with hospital or social rules, to control the 'uncontrollable' or 'unmanageable' on the wards by making people docile and indifferent to their surroudings. At a recent inquest into the beating death of an elderly inmate in an Ontario boarding home, a former social worker actually testified that "the residents [were] drugged into mute compliance."

Psychiatrist Heinz Lehmann, who first introduced chlorpromazine to Canada in the early 1950s, was honest enough to describe this drug as a "pharmacological substitute for lobotomy." Unfortunately, this damning insight didn't stop Lehmann and othe psychiatrists in Canada and the USA from pushing and misrepresenting these mind-crushers as 'medication' or 'chemotherapy' for all kinds of 'mental illness' and for millions of vulnerable people -- women, children, the elderly, the poor and unemployed, and people of colour.

Almost as unethical, the psychiatrists call the common damage or serious medical complications caused by these drugs 'side effects,' as if all this is accidental or unintentional. Consider the lobotomy-like 'side effects' shown in the sidebar (page 16) which, in fact, are intentional and directly caused by the neuropleptics; all are listed in that Canadian drug bible titled Compendium of Pharmaceuticals and Specialties (published every year by the Canadian Pharmaceutical Association).

Tardive Dyskinesia

Epidemic

Tardive dyskinesia (TD) is a common, grotesque and tragic disease caused by the phenothiazine drugs, the family of neuroleptics most frequently prescribed. Its presence always indicates brain damage. TD is a serious and permanent neurological disorder. It has been accurately and graphically described in these terms:

"It is marked by abnormal, rhythmical, involuntary muscle movements: most often of the mouth, tongue, face, and jaw ... This condition can result in

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problems sitting, walking, breathing, talking, and chewing ... TD muscle movements usually last 5-8 seconds, are repetitive and rhythmical, and often make the person look strange and spastic ... Mouth movements ... can involve sucking, smacking and puckering of the lips, puffing of the cheeks (blowing), and chewing motions ... Facial tics and grimacing are commonplace. Speech can become garbled ... A grunting type of breathing pattern, at times quite loud, can also develop. There can be twisting or jerking of the head and sometimes of the entire body. Uncontrolled finger movements, foot-tapping, and other unusual movements are frequently observed ... The damage may also involve problems of lowered intellectual functioning, apathy, indifference, and dementia (senility)."

TD can appear as early as two or three months following the start of 'medication,' but more often develops after one or two years of continuous drug treatment. A cruel irony is that drugs mask the symptoms of TD, so that a definite diagnosis can only be made during withdrawal -- when the dosage of the drug(s) has been greatly reduced or completely stopped.

Although TD was first recognized and reported in the medical literature in the mid-1960s, psychiatry greatly minimized its seriousness or covered it up until the late 1970s. In Canada, the vast majority of psychiatric inmates, I believe, have never been informed or warned about TD. For example, in Toronto psychiatrists have only started mentioning TD (not necessarily explaining it) to their patients on the neuroleptics during the last year or two at institutions such as the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry and Queen Street Mental Health Centre. However, the drug information given to inmates at the Clarke and Queen Street typically minimizes or misrepresents most risks, especially TD, despite the fact that TD has been considered a serious medical risk during the last twenty years. For example, consider this misleading blurb published in the Clark Institute's drug pamphlet titled Neuroleptics -- Information for Patients (Pharmacy Department, July 1990):

"Tardive dyskinesia is an adverse effect which has been recognized in some patients who have been treated with neuroleptics, usually for many years. This disorder describes potentially irreversible involuntary movemets of certain muscles -- usually those of the lips and tongue, and sometimes those of the hands, neck and other part of the body. Withdrawal of the neuroleptic at the first signs of tardive dyskinesia improves the chance that this adverse effect will abate with time. This has to be balanced against the risk of recurrent psychosis." (my emphasis)

In a personal communication, this is what psychiatrist Peter Breggin (currently Professor of Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University in the USA, and author of the book Psychiatric Drugs: Hazards to the Brain) wrote about TD and informed consent:

"Throughout North America, psychiatrists typically fail to meet the minimal standards of informed consent in regard to tardive dyskinesia, often failint to tell patients and families about the disorder, and rarely telling them of its frequency, potential severity, or threat to the higher mental processes. The Clarke Institute hand-out for patients and families is typical of this. Contrast it with the actual facts generated within Canada by G. Chouinard and B. Jones, psychiatrists at the Allan Memorial Institute in Montreal. These doctors have documented the existence of permanent brain damage not only in the form of uncontrollable muscular movements, but psychosis. Patients develop a drug-induced 'tardive psychosis' for which there is no known treatment. In regard to tardive dyskinesia, Chouinard has recently observed that nearly all patients on long-term treatment are afflicted with the untreatable neurological disease."

Approximately five years ago at an international mental health conference in England, it was announced that roughly twenty-five million people around the world are currently suffering from TD. Nobody challenged that figure, which is probably much higher now. In 1980, the notoriously reactionary American Psychiatric Association published its task force report on TD. One of its startling conclusions was that as many as 20 per cent to 50 per cent of people prescribed these drugs have developed or will develop TD. Another alarming conclusion was that there is no effective treatment for TD -- there still isn't.

NMS -- Neuroleptic

Malignant Syndrome

This is another horrible and frequently fatal disorder caused by the neuroleptics. In a 1986 journal article, Yale University psychiatrist J. Sternberg pointed out that most psychiatrists are ignorant of this disease and that most textbooks of psychiatry fail to mention it. Four years ago, three psychiatric researchers published a survey study which showed that at least 1.4 per cent of patients on the neuroleptics developed NMS; they added that this figure is probably an underestimate.

In the same year, Addonizio and others published another study of in-patients which put the rate of NMS at 2.4 per cent. The facts are alarming. Once a person has NMS, there's a 20 per cent to 30 per cent chance of dying, and death usually occurs within a few days to one month after the onset of the disease. Some of the symptoms include 'lead-pipe rigidity' in the neck, painful cramps, high fever and coma. Of at least 300,000 Canadians prescribed neuroleptic drugs each year (my estimate), roughly 4,500 will develop NMS, and at least 1,000 will die from it.

Antidepressants

The antidepressants are depressing enough. Their main targets are women and anyone else who has the misfortune of being labelled 'depressed,' 'manic-depressive' or 'suicidal.' Some of the better known antidepressants prescribed in Canada and the USA are Elavil, Desyrel, Sinequan, Tofranil and Nardil. Take a look at the common effects or adverse reactions shown in the sidebar (page 14). The list is by no means exhaustive.

Notice that most of these effects are strikingly similar to those listed for the neuroleptics. In fact, the antidepressants are even more dangerous and crippling than the neuroleptics. As Breggin and other psychiatric researchers have shown, the primary purpose of both the neuroleptics and the antidepressants is to block the production of neurotansmitters, and as a result inhibit normal brain functioning. Since the antidepressants mainly disturb the brain's higher regions, they more seriously affect the intellect, our ability to think and reason -- one good reason for the spaced-out-zombie look.

Organic brain syndrome, another form of brain damage, is a direct and serious effect of the antidepressants. As early as 1971 it was known that this neurological disorder, also called dementia, is a direct result of the toxicity inherent in the antidepressants. In other words, it's poisoning of the brain. The psychological manifestations are extreme confusion, illogical thoughts, disorientation, and delirium. In one study carried out at Yale University in the USA, which involved reviewing 150 medical charts of patients subjected to routine dosages of antidepressants, it was discovered that 13 per cent of the total sample and 35 per cent of

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those over 40 years of age experienced acute organic brain syndrome.

Lithium

For roughly twenty years now, lithium has been the antidepressant or 'mood stabilizer' most frequently prescribed for people labelled 'manic-depressive' or 'manic.' Psychiatrists and other doctors generally prescribe the drug as lifelong 'medication,' administering 'maintenance doses' to their patients and threatening them with repeated hospitalization if they stop taking or try to withdraw from the drug.

Lithium is actually a mineral, and the body has only a trace amount. Lithium is inherently toxic; the 'therapeutic dosage' is so close to the dosage considered poisonous that severe toxicity can easily develop. This is why patients on lithium have their blood checked regularly for lithium poisoning, especially during the first few months. Dr. David Richman, an outspoken critic of psychiatric drugs, writes: "Some people become lithium toxic even though blood tests indicate a 'therapeutic' lithium level ... Failure to deal with lithium poisoning within two or three days can lead to convulsions, coma, permanent brain damage, and death." Again, very few, if any, inmates are informed of these serious risks.

Deadly new drugs: Prozac

and Clozapine

Prozac (generic name fluoxitine) is being hyped/pushed in the USA and Canada as the new antidepressant wonder drug. Eli Lilly, the drug manufacturer, is spending millions advertising it; Newsweek labels Prozac a 'breakthrough.' The drug is so new it still isn't listed in the Compendium of Pharmaceuticals and Specialties -- the Canadian doctors' drug bible.

According to a letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the drug has been known to induce suicidal behaviour. Another alarming side effect is its ability to cause life-threatening allergic reactions. That's what happened to a psychiatric survivor three weeks after her psychiatrist prescribed the drug for her. At first she suffered various disabling effects such as dry mouth, taste perception changes, sweating, increased appetite, anxiety, abnormal dreams, then a severe case of hives, fainting and finally a life-threatening allergic reaction. A doctor at the Addiction Research Foundation stopped the reaction by giving her an antihistamine. No doctor, including her psychiatrist, warned her about allergic reactions and other 'side effects' of Prozac.

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Clozapine, a neuroleptic drug marketed by Sandoz under the name Clozaril, has been billed as a wonder drug in the treatment of schizophrenia, manic depression and tardive dyskinesia. This latter condition is caused by neuroleptic drugs.

Sandoz was forced to remove clozapine from the market in 1975, following a number of deaths in Finland from agranulocytosis (white blood-cell depletion leading to infection). Because this lethal side effect affects one to two per cent of people taking the drug, clozapine was approved for use in the US only if its use includes weekly blood monitoring, a procedure which can cost up to $9,000 a year.

Clozapine has been shown to cause seizures, hyperthemia and neuroleptic malignant syndrome. A 1977 study of the drug suggests linkages with damage to the brain's limbic system and prefrontal cortex, leading to a permanent mental dysfunction called tardive psychosis.

Psychopolypharmacy

In psychiatric institutions, boarding homes and nursing homes, the vast majority of people are prescribed at least two drugs simultaneously, often four or five. Because the dosages and drug combinations are endless and because of unknown or unpredictable drug interactions, the drug risks are greatly increased. This common medical-psychiatric practice is very common, dangerous and unethical. Nevertheless, it continues with the approval of the medical establishment, and of course the inmates are not informed about the increased risks of polypharmacy.

Deaths

"Death is an unacceptable side effect."

Thousands and thousands of psychiatric inmates and former inmates have died as a result of psychiatric treatment, especially from the neuroleptics and antidepressants. Psychiatrists and their apologists prefer to call these iatrogenic or treatment-caused deaths and less serious medical complications 'side effects.' In journal articles and at psychiatric conferences, suicide by overdose is typically perceived as a symptom of the dead inmate's 'mental illness.' The psychiatrists who overprescribe or overdose their patients and the drug manufacturers who push their poisons are rarely if ever blamed or held accountable for these preventable tragedies.

In Ontario and probably Canada as a whole, it's almost impossible to get reliable statistics and other information about causes of death in psychiatric facilities. One good reason is that provincial health ministries don't bother publishing this crucial information. During the last fifteen years, if not longer, the annual 'mental health' report of the Ontario Ministry of Health has never included cause of death information for any psychiatric hospital or psychiatric ward. However, the Ministry routinely publishes cause of death for all other health facilities. A most curious omission and inconsistency. It looks as if the Ministry has something to hide.

In the United States, drug deaths are somewhat easier to document. According to one national study carried out by the National Institute of Drug Abuse for the year 1976-77, there were "5,800 drug-related deaths in hospital emergency rooms for 16 of the more widely used psychiatric drugs." The psychiatric drugs involved in these deaths were broken down as follows: "major tranquilizers -- Mellaril (200), Thorazine (100); minor tranquilizers -- Valium (900), Librium (200), Equanil and Miltown (200); antidepressants -- Elavil (700), Adapin and Sinequan (200)." At the same time, there are no state or national death statistics published for psychiatric institutions -- at least none I'm aware of -- so we still don't know how many inmates have died in which institutions from which causes.

Nevertheless, at least one physician in the USA did careful autopsy studies on many psychiatric inmates in New York state a few years ago. His name is Dr. Frederick T. Zugibe, Chief Coroner of Rockland County in New York and Professor of Forensic Medicine at Columbia University Medical School.

In the late 1970s, Zugibe and a number of other pathologists independently and systematically examined the corpses of 203 inmates from two psychiatric hospitals, and found that at least 30 per cent died as a result of aspiring or drowning in their own vomit while taking prescribed tranquilizers or neuroleptics. Further, they pinpointed the chief reason for these tranquilizer-related deaths as suppression of the gag reflex. The drugs had deadened the nerves and shut down the gag reflex, so inmates couldn't cough up undigested food particles which got stuck in their lungs. What a horrible way to die!

This 'side effect' of the neuroleptics is barely mentioned in the Canadian Compendium of Pharmaceuticals and Specialties and Physicians' Desk Reference, but it's almost never mentioned as a serious risk to patients or inmates prescribed these drugs. To date, there is still no such autopsy study conducted or published in Canada. There should be. By the way, Dr. Zugibe almost lost his medical licence after he courageously defended these alarming autopsy findings and publicly criticized psychiatric drugging in the media.

Although the Ontario government's Ministry of Health still refuses to publish cause of death statistics for any psychiatric facility, it does publish death totals by type of institution. (Names of all psychiatric facilities are deliberately omitted.) During 1987-88 (the last year for which death totals are available), 302 inmates died in Ontario's psychiatric warehouses ('psychiatric hospitals,' 'psychiatric units of general hospitals,' and 'other psychiatric facilities'). Two hundred forty-seven, or 82 per cent, of these deaths occurred in the ten provincial psychiatric hospitals such as Queen Street, Penetang/Oak Ridge and Hamilton Psychiatric. We don't know how or why these 302 inmates died, because the Ministry doesn't want us to know. My educated guess is that at least one-third of these institutional deaths were directly related to or caused by the neuroleptics and therefore preventable. I challenge the Ministry or any hospital or government official to prove me wrong. (Dr. Zugibe, where are you?)

Inquests

During one eighteen-month period in 1980-81, three young psychiatric inmates died unnatural and sudden deaths in Toronto's notorious hellhole called Queen Street Mental Health Centre. They were: Aldo Alviani (19), Patricia Ellerton (37), and Norman Davis (27). All three had been prescribed heavy doses of neuroleptic drugs shortly before their deaths. Nevertheless, no Queen Street psychiatrist or any other staff was criticized during the inquest or in the establishment media.

The inquest into the death of Aldo Alviani was a maddening charade. Alviani was only 19 when he died on June 23, 1980, only two days after his final admission to Queen Street. Judged 'violent' or 'hard to control' by mental health staff, Alviani was strapped to a stretcher with 75 milligrams of Thorazine already in his body during his admission, and quickly and forcibly subjected to massive overdoses of Haldol and high doses of other neuroleptics during the next 18 hours. Hospital records presented during the inquest clearly show that 295 milligrams of Haldol, as well as 200 milligrams of Nozinan, were administered to Alviani in 18 hours, including 120 milligrams of Haldol in one three-and-a-half hour period during which the psychiatric staff administered 15 milligrams every 30 minutes! Since 30 milligrams of Haldol administered in a 24-hour period is generally considered a very high dose, it is safe to conclude that the Queen Street staff overdosed Alviani on Haldol by a factor of 10! Nevertheless, the Coroner's Jury concluded that the real cause of his death was "therapeutic misadventure" -- in other words, a medical accident. Some accident! Of course, no psychiatrist or doctor was blamed.

Still, two good things happened as a result of the publicity surrounding this inquest. The Toronto Star published strong editorials calling for a public investigation into the 'mental health' system, which still hasn't happened. Also, the inquest sparked the establishment of a new consumer advocacy group called C.O.P.S. (Coalition on Psychiatric Services), which monitored the next two inquests, and which completed a study (unpublished) which documented forced drugging and the conspicuous lack of 'informed consent' among virtually all inmates.

Patricia Ellerton was a young 37 when she died on August 2, 1981 in Queen Street. At the inquest held in January 1982 the Coroner's Jury ruled that the cause of death was an "apparent overdose of levomepromazine," more commonly known as Nozinan, another dangerous neuroleptic. At the inquest, some psychiatric staff in the hospital and a policeman tried to blame Ellerton for overdosing on Nozinan, which she supposedly got be prostituting herself to get more drugs (according to some staff). There was no evidence that Ellerton had done this. The toxicologist also reported that ten times the normal amount of Nozinan was found in Ellerton's blood, and it was also disclosed that before the police came to search Ellerton's room, the ward nurses quickly stripped and cleaned it of all vials of pills. A cover-up attempt? Obstruction of justice? Once again, no Queen Street psychiatrists or nurses were criticized for their prescribing habits. At the end, C.O.P.S. issued a press release asserting that the psychiatric care at Queen Street was 'unchanged or deteriorating' since the Alviani inquest over a year earlier.

Penny Rosenbaum was only 23 when she died on July 30, 1983 on a Queen Street ward. Her father, who was with Penny when she died, insists his daughter was dead before Queen Street transferred her body to Toronto Western Hospital where she was officially pronounced dead. At the Coroner's inquest, the Coroner's Jury ruled the cause of death was "inhalation of stomach fluid, due to fecal impaction...." In other words, Penny died in her own shit. During the inquest, medical testimony revealed that Penny was prescribed both Haldol and Cogentin (an anti-parkinsonian drug). Doctors disagreed over whether Penny was constipated and had no bowel movement weeks before she died. The fact that constipation is a common 'side effect' of Haldol and Thorazine was never mentioned; nor was the fact that suppression of the gag reflex is a common 'side effect' of the phenotiazine-neuroleptics. However, it was revealed that no Queen Street doctor gave Penny a medical examination during her last admission, and that no staff bothered to monitor the drugs' 'side effects.' As predicted, the jury's recommendations were a cop-out. No medical or psychiatric staff was criticized for possible negligence. One recommendation urged Queen Street to "conduct an official internal inquiry."

Right -- don't worry about a conflict of interest.

Norman Davis was only 27 when he also died at Queen Street on December 6, 1981. Queen Street staff or the administration quickly arranged to have his body transferred to Toronto Western Hospital where he was officially pronounced dead, despite the fact he had died in Queen Street. At the inquest, the Coroner's Jury ruled the cause of death was 'cardiac arrest.' For some reason, the Queen Street psychiatrists prescribed a lot of paraldehyde to Davis, as well as Nozinan and Valium. During the post mortem examination, 42 mg of paraldehyde was found in Davis' blood, a near-fatal dose. The pathologist concluded in his report that this amount of blood paraldehyde was "approaching ... the lethal range" and "[t]he combined effects of the paraldehyde, acetaldehyde, levomepromazine, diazepam and nordiazepam ... could prove fatal" (my emphasis).

As one or two doctors testified, paraldehyde should never have been give to Davis--it had been seriously discredited many years ago as a treatment for alcoholism and god knows what else. Also, the paraldehyde in the bottle used was turning dangerously yellow. Did the jury recommend abolition of paraldehyde at Queen Street and other hospitals? Of course not; that's too radical. Most of their recommendations focussed on in-house safety measures such as removing old unmarked vials of paraldehyde and other drugs.

The tragic death of 45-year-old John Dimun on September 4, 1986 was another defeat for those of us still struggling to restrict, if not abolish, psychiatric drugs. Like many other homeless psychiatric survivors, Dimun had died poor in a filthy and crowded boarding house in Parkdale. The Coroner's Jury ruled his death was caused by bronchopneumonia, which a St. Joseph doctor had failed to diagnose. Before his death, Dimun was also permanently stigmatized as 'mentally ill' and 'mentally retarded.' A psychiatrist had also prescribed Modecate, one of the most powerful and dangerous of all the psychiatric drugs. The drug could have contributed to Dimun's death, but the jury, coroner and virtually all medical witnesses quickly dismissed or minimized its relevance. But researcher-reporter Ryan Scott did not. This is what she wrote in her brilliant analysis of the inquest published in Phoenix Rising (Vol. 6, No. 4, 1987):

"[T]he coroner did not want to hear about Modecate...[M]ore than two months before his death ... Dimun went to St. Joseph's Health Centre, complaining that something was stuck in his throat. An x-ray showed an obstruction in his lungs. Dr. Steve Blitzer noted ... that Dimun had no gag reflex. During his testimony, Blitzer explained that the gag reflex serves to prevent food, saliva or vomit from getting into the lungs. Once in the lungs, any of these culd set up the conditions for a severe lung infection.

"Suppression of the gag reflex is a known side effect of Modecate. Pneumonia is a common cause of death among people taking phenothiazines such as Modecate.

"Frederick Zubige, a coroner in New York state who investigated and wrote about sudden death of psychiatric patients on phenothiazines, has noted that "Our cases involving ... pneumonia in which there are no complaints of the usual symptoms associated with the condition may also be explained on the basis that the perception of pain is altered by tranquilizers ... they retard the process of interpretation of pain ... [I]f tranquilizers are administered, this response may be suppressed."

Before his death, Dimun rarely, if ever, complained of pain in his lungs or chest while he was on Modecate. Lawyer Carla McKague, representing People First (a self-help/advocacy organization for the developmentally handicapped), tried but failed to raise the Modecate issue during the inquest.

Public health hazard

Psychiatric drugs should be considered a serious threat to everybody's health. In fact, they're a very serious public health hazard. That's the message which R.A.P. (Resistance Against Psychiatry), a new political action/antipsychiatry group in Toronto, delivered last May in its brief to the Toronto Board of Health. It's titled Psychiatric Drugs: A Public Health Hazard. So far, the board has not responded to any of the brief's recommendations, including "an educational campaigns to educate the public about the risks of psychiatric drugs," and providing the public with "information on safe withdrawal from psychiatric drugs."

I know of no Canadian doctor who has volunteered to help a psychiatric survivor withdraw from any psychiatric drug. I also don't know any doctor who's read Breggin's outstanding anti-drug book. I'm thoroughly disgusted with most physicians, especially psychiatrists, for not practising preventive medicine and refusing to share some of their knowledge and power with their patients and the rest of us. I'm damn mad at Canadian doctors for having unethically, if not criminally, 'treated' thousands of us with dangerous, brain-damaging chemicals and lying about their many risks, such as tardive dyskinesia and other brain damage. I want to see those psychiatrists and other doctors who habitually administer lethal or near-lethal overdoses of the neuroleptics and antidepressants charged not only with medical malpractice but with criminal assault. These pill-pushing doctors are dangerous quacks.

Don Weitz lives in Toronto and is active in the anti-psychiatry movement.
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Title Annotation:includes articles on side effects; psychiatric drugs
Author:Weitz, Don
Publication:Canadian Dimension
Date:Apr 1, 1991
Words:5173
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