Psychiatry Has its Head in the Sand: Royal College of Psychiatrists Rejects Discussion of Crucial Research on Antipsychotics
Two pieces of research have been published over the last two years that should prompt a major reorientation of the treatment of schizophrenia and psychosis, and a fundamental reappraisal of the use of antipsychotic drugs in general. Put together, these studies suggest that the standard approach to treating serious mental health problems may cause more harm than good. Long-term treatment with antipsychotic drugs has adverse effects on the brain, and may impair rather than improve chances of recovery for some. Many people ask me how the psychiatric profession has responded to this data. Surely, they think, it must have stimulated a major debate within the profession, and some critical reflection about why it took so long to recognise these worrying effects? Sadly, this does not appear to be happening.
I have described both of these studies in detail in previous blogs. Briefly, in 2012 the research group led by Nancy Andreasen, the former editor of the American Journal of Psychiatry, published results of a brain scanning study of people diagnosed with schizophrenia or psychosis. The study found that people’s brains shrank over time in proportion to the amount of antipsychotic drugs they had been exposed to. The report concluded that ‘antipsychotics have a subtle but measurable influence on brain tissue loss over time‘(1, p 128). The study confirmed that the brain shrinkage observed in animals(2) also occurs in humans.